The Tao of Gaming

Boardgames and lesser pursuits

One way to win … c’td

It would be more revealing to say that Puerto Rico’s way to win (as compared to Le Havre’s) is front-loaded. What you have to do is defined in the early game, after which you are relatively free to do what you want. Whereas Le Havre’s is endgame based. You are relatively free in LH, for example, to muck around with a variety of early strategies (with some constraints) as long as you load up on the coal once that starts.

I see no reason to consider Le Havre a “multiple paths to victory” game. So (contra Larry) I see no reason why moving this critical path to the front (and the corresponding freedom to the end) magically relieves Puerto Rico of the same charge. My gut is that Through the Ages is similarly front loaded.

If you want to say that PR isn’t ‘one way to win’ because my description is too vague, that’s a different charge. (“Focus on getting early income, usually via a high value trading good” isn’t nearly as specific as “stockpile cole, convert ship”). Also, PR and TtA give you a greater percentage of “non-scripted” actions … its not a binary decision.

I feel that LH gives you relatively few unscripted actions, in comparison. Certainly the fact that after 10 games of PR I was in no way tired of it speaks that it is more free-form.

And all those games are still interesting if everyone knows the secret.

As for the other comments, I’ve no idea if Automobile really falls into this category, or is just a pure tactical optimization game.

Update: The lesson, as always, is to “smoke the crack” to get comments flowing.

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Written by taogaming

September 28, 2009 at 5:50 pm

Posted in Strategy

Tagged with ,

5 Responses

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  1. The problem I still have about LH (or any game with this “feature”) is: what’s left once everyone understands this? For LH, it’s weak as a 2p, because it’s entirely a question of minor efficiencies and timing decisions (that is, entirely tactical). I’m not inclined to explore that space, but I can see how some people enjoy it.

    But in 3+p, even though things open up somewhat (as it’s viable to run somewhat counter to the main line, as long as both opponents are contesting that line), there’s almost a Kill Doctor Lucky factor at work. Who gets to break? Why am I bound? But if you defect, the mainline player wins. Again, I can see how some people enjoy this, but it’s pretty shaky ground, esp. for a game that last this long.

    Jon Waddington

    September 29, 2009 at 10:45 am

  2. Building off what Jon said, I think a key distinction is what happens when multiple people pursue the same “winning” strategy. If they gain from synergy, it’s a bad thing, driving out other strategies. Ideally, they compete and slow each other down.

    alex s.

    September 29, 2009 at 5:39 pm

  3. That’s a great point, Alex. There is a dance that can develop between two players, where even if it’s not quite synergistic, is certainly not directly competitive. And it’s in their best interest to get “in rhythm” asap. The game helpfully mitigates this a bit with the 7/n turn order mechanism, but the third player (if he defects, and he might not) has to knock the others around some.

    Jon Waddington

    September 29, 2009 at 5:59 pm

  4. That’s a great point, Alex. There is a dance that can develop between two players, where even if it’s not quite synergistic, is certainly not directly competitive. And it’s in their best interest to get “in rhythm” asap. The game helpfully mitigates this a bit with the 7/n turn order mechanism, but the third player (if he defects, and he might not) has to knock the others around some.

    Jon Waddington

    September 29, 2009 at 5:59 pm

  5. I dont think that Puerto Rico just moves the critical path to the front of the game. It is possible to overcome an opening deficit by outplaying someone in the midgame. Each phase of the game is probably somewhat less important than the previous, but I dont think the effect is so large that an early mistake cannot be recovered from. (StP is different). Of course, if you make an early mistake and the opponent doesnt make a mistake, you lose.

    There are tons of tactical opportunities at all stages of the game, and the tactical depth makes the optimal strategies that you are attmepting to execute very difficult to master.

    Alexfrog

    September 29, 2009 at 7:22 pm


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