The Tao of Gaming

Boardgames and lesser pursuits

Towards a derivation of Roll for the Galaxy Strategy

I read – with interest – the recent article on the Math of Roll4tG. I have some quibbles, but let’s get to the core…

In short, the player who moves the most dice from his Citizenry or the general supply to the cup will generally win. Every $ you spend will generally give you another VP at the end of the game. This is in many ways similar to RtfG, where the player who drew the most cards in the games is usually the victor.
I turned this wording over in my head several times and said “I prefer the phrase ‘the velocity of dice,'” but the idea is basically the same. You roll a die, you do an action with it, it goes to the citzenry, you put it back into the cup. That’s the velocity, and that definition captures that idea.
The 1$ = 1VP is obviously just a short hand, the actual ratio is lower, but the idea seems sound.
Consider the explore-gain credit action. You spend a die exploring and put two dice back in the cup. In effect, each explore gains you one die back plus itself. So the spent die’s action is “Rescue another die.” You might not put the literal die back that you used — choosing to put back a better color. That’s a quibble.
The leader “Eye+$” action is actually twice as good as regular, since it puts back two dice + itself.
The starting tile that lets you get four credits for a yellow die is 3x a regular explore, etc.
Similarly, selling a novelty good gets you three credits, but costs two dice, so its similar. Selling an alien good is 4x as good (it returns 6-2=4 other dice). Of course, in both cases you also give up 1-3 VPs as opportunity cost, but if you take 1 VP and it makes you have 3 dice sit out, you’ll probably lose it earlier.
Velocity helps analyze the Dictate ability. The dictator die doesn’t really go to the citizenry but it does perform a useful action before diving back into the cup: moving a die from a meaningless task to a good one. If you dictate a useless produce/ship to an explore (or dev or settle) you may get an extra credit (etc) and the dictating die counts (somewhat) towards velocity. Instead of having two useless dice that you toss back into the cup, you toss back the dictator die, the die you moved to explore and one more die.
Not optimal, you’d have much rather just rolled a fistful of explores (etc), but an improvement. This is like a half-efficient explore.
Rule — Tossing dice unused to the cup doesn’t help velocity, because those dice did literally nothing.
Putting the final die on a development or settle may let you activate on an ability earlier and  (or get extra dice/credits earlier) which is worthwhile. Dictator turns a useless die into a useful one, as you’d expect. Later on you may (particularly with the right colors) leave dice on Produce/Ship (or Settle/Dev) to leech instead of dictating for a minimal boost.
My earliest strategy was simply: Get lots of dice. That would often work but sometimes I’d spend in a burst of building, and then I’d have ~2 dice in my cup (one purchased and one from my new world, say) and my velocity  plummeted. If I rolled “Exp + Any” then I’d be OK. Grab four dice and then be (roughly) back in it, but if I rolled two non-explores … death. I could place a die on explore, but unless my other die traded, I lost a full turn. The word “Race” isn’t in the title, but it’s still there.
Now I’m careful to not sacrifice velocity. Better to roll 4-5 dice each turn instead of 8 then 1. (Of course, if you roll 8 dice you are likely to only be able to use 5, which effectively makes it a 4-5 then 4-5. Ironically, often I’d murder myself when I yahtzeed and burned all/most of my dice on a huge development/settle orgy. (On the final turn, you want to do that, although dice in the cup are a tie break, it’s worth sacrificing that all for one extra VP).
How to judge # of dice? Extra dice boosts your max velocity, but you mainly need them to maintain a reasonable velocity while letting dice sit on a partially completed tile (or as goods), while you take another turn to finish. It’s nice yahtzee and just finish that alien world (that conveniently provides 3 credits, so you don’t stall out). Realistically you need a few spare dice, otherwise you may miss and not roll many settles. So you place a die on settle then dictate.
Next turn, roll and select settle. Now you’ve finished your world, but several of your dice sat there (slow velocity) and you still have half your dice sitting in the citizenry next turn (again). But with a few spare dice, you would
  1. Finish faster because you’ll probably roll an extra settle
  2. Also be able to leach an explore/ship (or even other dev/produce)
 So — Velocity.
A shallow insight, perhaps, but deeper then my early “Get dice at all costs.” More dice improves velocity, but you can actually do just as well with decent abilities. For example, some devs (like Minor Research Labs) effectively give you dice and, since they trigger each phase, effectively toss them back into the citizenry. Having the right color (blue dice for novelty worlds) makes your dice more efficient (shipping for 3VP is much better than shipping for 1).
The velocity of colors — Trying to take this to a non-obvious level, getting better dice helps velocity beyond just having more dice. The right color dice (red if you are trying to build, color/purple if you are shipping) makes your dice more efficient. Military dice will explore and build, phases you want. Blue dice will produce/consume (phases you want) and provide VP efficiency. Shipping with Red dice? Disaster. Those dice are terrible, mainly of value for leaching. Ditto building with Blue.
Consider Alien dice. No matter what you want to do, they’ll roll that phase (as wild) half the time. You can always set one die, and dictate another, but if you had 6 yellow dice, you’d be ridiculously unlucky to not get 4 dice on a phase you wanted (more, if you wanted a phase that a non-wild side showed). Five dice would be reasonable, and all six wouldn’t be that rare.
Alien dice are fast.
The impact of phases — A “Dev only” or “Settle only” strategy has a bonus, you only need to call that phase (and the phase you call to buy dice back). Shipping (or mixed dev/settle) requires produce & consume, you need some implicit collusion. That can happen, and is sometimes obvious when one player needs goods and another wants to ship, both phases will happen.
But (I think) the number of different phases affects velocity, and this is probably where the subtleties start appearing. I’ll leave that for another time.

Update — For some reason this post is screwing up whitespace, and doesn’t want to be fixed. Sorry.


Written by taogaming

November 10, 2015 at 10:57 pm

Posted in Strategy

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  1. This is exactly why I think development-based strategies are better than others. There are lots of developments which give passive income. If you can generate 3$/turn in passive income, your velocity is very high. A few worlds come with passive income (mostly aliens), but that’s a one-shot. A few developments produce passive income for settling or shipping. Passive income for developing, however, feeds back on itself, since you can do the phase that gets you the income and the phase which gets you the VPs at the same time.

    Free dice (Alien Research Ship) are infinitely fast. Those are typically given by developments.

    Developments increase your velocity the most. Non-six-point developments are about as good a VP source as anything but 3x shipping. Six-point developments are the best VP source in the game. That suggests to me that going all-in on developments is the best approach. If you can do it.

    Development-based strategies don’t always win, of course. You have to play the tiles you get. But heavy development-based approaches seem to be best if you have a choice, and they tend to win a disproportionate amount of the time in our games. Of course, we tend to play those strategies the most, so there is a groupthink effect. It just seems theoretically and practically best.


    November 11, 2015 at 7:24 pm

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