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Random Initial Strategy Thoughts on Jump Drive

My credentials.

General Thoughts

Jump Drive is a (mini)-game of combos.

Income is good, but since Jump Drive is so short (6-7 turns) it is easy to over-prioritize. This isn’t Puerto Rico (or even Race!) where early throughput dominates early VPs.

The reason early VPs count? Apart from game length early VPs are VP income. (VPs/turn), not one time items.

Income can trump VPs if you can convert them.

Jump Drive is short enough that delaying income (to explore for a big play on the following turn, or by only playing a single card, or by putting down a big VP card) pays off. Delaying income to make a good scoring play is fine. Better than fine if that also gives discounts.

In particular:

  1. Spending everything for early income may work out well. Or the draw may miss you. Saving income for one turn to hold a great card often pays off. I’m surprised how often I drew 14 cards on my last turn and only had plays worth <5 points. (You can win those games if your prior turn was great).
  2. Playing only one card may cost you a point of income but it saves you a card (or rebates one) which balances out for a single turn. If the card you saved combines you’ll ramp up faster than many blind draws.
  3. Exploring nets you 2 cards plus income and digging lets you find/enhance a combo. Ideally you drop a big Dev or some other huge item to start scoring (or catch back up in income while getting points, or overtake income). I haven’t seen a double explore win … yet. I suspect it can happen.
  4. Discounts can be as good/better than income, particularly on a final turns. All the income or military in the world won’t let you play a 9 dev and a world, but investment credits may let you play two cards. A -1 Dev discount is equivalent to 1 card a turn, if you play a dev every turn. But if you don’t have cards lined up to take advantage of the discount, or have low income in general, you’ll run out of cards.

Remember — Jump Drive doesn’t limit you to one for each type of development (or world). In my first few games I automatically discarded duplicates, but you know what? Investment Credits means my next Investment Credits is free, even if I play a world! Cards self-combo!

Jump Drive is a geometric(ish) growth game. I had one game where it was nearly perfect. 1-2-4-8-15-31 .  Naturally, that means that my eyes gravitated towards cards that do not have a fixed VP, but score 1 per something. That means when you slap down a card that triggers it, you get the new card’s VPs and boost your existing cards.

You don’t need to focus on that. Cheap cards score 0-1 (maybe 2) points, mediums score 3-6, and the big devs score 10+. You’ll get a geometric-looking progression with arithmetic cards. Don’t discount dropping some Alien world for 5-7 points a turn ASAP.

The question is “will the game go six or seven turns?” Obviously if you can break 50 on T6 aim for that, but if you can’t or it will take a lucky draw, gauge the other tableau(s). With more players, the odds that someone will go out means you may want to take the higher risk/reward path and hope for a lucky draw.

If you are wrong, well, it’s a fast game.

I had assumed that T6 wins would just scrape fifty, but you can blow past it with a good combo or a bit of luck.  (The few five turn wins I’ve see scrape 50. Turn six scores can be large). It’s not too early to start thinking about VP on turn 2 or 3. After that, score score score!

There’s a time value of VP, since they score per turn.

A card that scores 10 VP a turn on your last turn is roughly the same as 2VP a turn on turn 2. A card that scores 10 VP a turn on your penultimate turn is equivalent to 5 a turn two turns earlier.  As with income, you can delay VP for a good deal. Giving up 5 this turn for 10 next turn is equal if the game ends next turn. If it goes on, well, that’s a no brainer.

The opening

Survey Team isn’t a consolation prize. +1 Military and $1.  Its great, particularly holding a 1-defense world. Survey team effectively saves a card (you still pay a card, but you get that from the game, not from your hand). Discard a weak card, plop down your 1-defense world, keep 3 cards, and draw two more (assuming your world gives 1 income). With two defense 1 worlds in my opening (there are seven in the deck, I think), this is solid.

As I’ve stated, don’t discount an explore. You’d end up with seven cards (from ten) which means you could drop something like Lost Species Ark World (2VP/$4) or a combination like Mining Conglomerate (-1 cost for brown, 1VP/brown world, $1) and a decent brown world. Both respectable starts and if you have a terrible opening (one about every ten games, roughly) its probably better than keeping three directionless cards and hoping you draw your future.

I’ve seen a decent mix of Survey Team openings (typically with a miltary world), single dev, single world, dev + world, and a few explores. (Like you would expect from Tom, all roads are viable).

Look for a combo. Preferably one that either gives you good income or sets up a guaranteed play next turn (ie, you can play a card you kept, only switching out of something better comes along). As I always say of Race “I just do what the cards tell me.”

Opening Cards of Note:

Galactic Advertisers are solid opening, with $2 a turn and a discount for Galactic Trendsetters (which score double the square you have) and a few other bonus’s trigger if you have an advertiser. They will often have a combo in an opening hand and even if you don’t have a combo in hand, you’ll likely draw one, because something like 1 card in twelve has one.

Uplift Researchers — These score $1/chromosome and 1VP/per, and provide a chromosome, and there are three of them in the deck. Typically these are turn 2 card (playing a chromosome world T1) and you are off. Again, there are enough chromosome worlds that even if you don’t have a combo in hand, this provides enough money you hope to get one … and it’s a geometric card. It’s too expensive to play of T1 (unless I have the 0 cost two chromosome world to play on T2). I’ll chuck this if I don’t see how I’ll play it on T2 or T3, but Uplift Researchers shows up in winning tableaus frequently, possibly because this is a fine mid-game card for many random military builds just aiming to drop anything that scores or gives points.

Consumer Markets is a cheaper version of this for novelty worlds, but it isn’t a novelty world. So you can’t just plop down two+ consumer markets and have them buff each other. (Still, the TaoLing’s biggest win was 2x Consumer Markets, Free Trade Association, and blue worlds).

Survey HQ — similar to Uplift Researchers, but instead of chromosome’s its pairs of explore icons. And, what do you know, Survey team gives two. It’s a slower growth, but same idea.

Space Marines — I spend a few dozen games automatically tossing these into the discard. No VP. No Income, just two military, when I can get one military from Survey Team? Well, the road from +1 military to +3 isn’t nearly as easy as I’d hoped, and to get to the big worlds you’ll likely need this or a Drop Ships.

War Propaganda — +1 Military, 3VP & $1 a turn, but it moves to whoever has the biggest military each turn before scoring. Not be scoffed at since it’s cheap. Play this on T1, conquer a +1 Mil world (or the +2 military world, if you have it and a good target next turn). Not much income but with a few more worlds to conquer you can make that up and a huge start on VP. In fact, this card is one reason to keep Space Marines.

Comet Zone — 3 cards a turn income is not to be scoffed as a turn one play (and you’ll get a rebate). If you can play this and keep a mining conglomerate or some brown combo (or just a big VP card that you can play after getting T1 income + Explore + T2 income) that’s fine. Playing it and hoping to draw a combo or target is certainly viable.

Trade Pact — In a 4er game, I’d be tempted to gamble on this hitting and letting you drop a 5 cost card on T2. Or you could play this and a small world. The VP/turn is a nice bonus, which may push you over fifty on T6.

Replicant Robots — No income, so you presumably are planning on using your discount next turn for a world that provides it. Also, 2VP a turn gives you a good shot at hitting T6.

Mid/Endgame

Obviously in the endgame you ignore income considerations entirely. Big cards are key. And they can be be big. Galactic Federation scores 2VP per dev for you and 1 for an opponent. Costs 9 (8 if you don’t play a world, which is typical).  This can average 10-15 pretty easily on the last turn. But a Galactic Salon (6 cost, 5VP a turn, -1 Dev discount) 2-3 turns earlier, that’s the same, and it provides a discount.

Endgame cards can be mid-game cards with an explore to save up. If your opponent plays “Your” development and can score it as well, then that’s probably it. TaoLing dropping Galactic Imperium to score all his 1-2 defense uplift worlds and the worlds my 9 military conquered was ugly.

Written by taogaming

February 17, 2017 at 10:33 pm

A long session

Played a poker session where I won a small and big blind on the first hand, then went down to 40% of my buy in for most of the night, and then went back to 110% right before the game ended. Then I came home and wasn’t quite sleepy enough to go to sleep despite the hour, so I played “just a bit more” of my factorio (air quote) speed run (air quote). I had a fair amount of of rocket units and low density structures built before I finished my silo so I quickly got up to 40% ready to launch within a few minutes of the silo’s completion, but the remainder took two hours, so I didn’t get to bed until … just before dawn. Still, under twelve hours.

Played a game of Magic Realm with the TaoLing. Actually, I mainly let him play, I was sketching out some player aids (literally sketching/drafting. I’m taking a drawing course and since I couldn’t find the graphics I wanted I figured I’d just hand make them for practice). Had a relatively safe, boring game of -6 (elf) and -9 (dwarf) game. Jr’s, Witch found the Altar right away, Absorb Essence’d the Demon, and then used that to a) defeat a bunch of creatures with little/no risk and b) read runes and search the Enchanted Toadstool with no chance of a curse. Actually, the latter part may be wrong. I should check.

Then finished the day spending a few hours exploring the post-launch part of the game. Aidan enjoys managing this (although he mainly just sits and offers advice), and had been asking to continue past the launch. I’m personally more fond of the mid game (the first 10% of the game is pretty much hand-crafting). I’d already built a logistics network (in my first, 35 hour launch game), but now I’m going to try the blueprint system and modular armor and possibly start a mega-base. For a while. I actually took a screen shot of my launch at the five hour mark (T-7H) and then another screen shot at the T+2H mark. They are remarkably similar.

Base at the Five Hour Mark

Base at the Five Hour Mark

Base at the 14 hour mark

Base at the 14 hour mark

They are remarkably similar.The main addition was the intermediate + advanced circuit production (and speed modules) that were added in the gap above the copper smelting. A lot of expansion happened outside the main base — improved steel production to the north east, a new oil field to the south west (plastic production was my bottleneck and I probably lost an hour before I realized that) and a giant (post launch) solar field to the north west that you can somewhat see. I’m going to test my blueprints out on that and deforestation (to get to more oil).

I mainly put these pictures in to see if anyone else thinks they look like circuits.

I also managed to knock a few games off my “Games you should play soon” list, including my first game of Phoenecia in over a thousand days. It turns out that the GYSPSTYO list is a Top 20 list, so I guess there will always be twenty games on it. But I’ll just try to get the number of games with 1000+ days to zero.

And after a week’s respite, I’ll probably get in a few games of Jump Drive soon.

Written by taogaming

February 5, 2017 at 12:14 am

Posted in Magic Realm, Session Reports

Tagged with

Tiny Malevolent Lifeforms

Got my copy of Jump Drive (note to local game stores. I’m willing to wait a week or two after I see “I got my copy at my FLGS” to buy it, but when you aren’t even willing to admit the game is out, that’s when I go online and buy it).

Anyway, it’s good, but not great. Then again, is the game really meant for me? I’m reminded of the time I told Frank that Fugger, Welser, & Medici’s basic game seemed simple and solvable.

“Yes, by people like us. We play the advanced game.”

It has a lot of depth … for a 10-15 minute game. But now I feel what others did when they said Race was over before it began.

Rating — Suggest, but not as good as Race. Then again, few are.

Edit — “Suggest, but not as good as Race” is probably true. My (80 hours later) thought is that it’s closer than I originally thought. I played the City (which isn’t as good as Race, or Jump Drive, IMO) nearly 100 times and that had a language barrier I had to sell.

Since it is new my de-facto Jump Drive rating is Enthusiastic (but I assume that’s temporary). There are more subtleties than I expected in it (even knowing who designed it). I’m playing it a lot right now. I mention this because the idea of my ratings is objectivity (actions speak louder than words) and my actions rate this higher.

BUT — It was typical for me (time and opponents willing) to play a game 4+ times in a weekend if it was hot, and those were long (Euro or Longer) times. In the same amount of time, you can really crank up Jump Drive’s play count. Given the TaoLing I can come home, play a game, start some soup, play a game while it cooks, take it off the stove to let it cool, play a game, etc.

I’m averaging a game every three hours since I got the game.

Written by taogaming

January 25, 2017 at 8:50 pm

Posted in Race for the Galaxy, Reviews

Tagged with

Design for Effect — Entangled systems

I’ve played a few more Magic Realm games …. we play for an hour or two after dinner and split a game across nights.

In one game my Black Knight used the Alchemist’s Mixture (one M*** missile attack every round for one combat and the Black Knight rolls only a single die for missile attacks)  coupled with the Potion of Speed and a few rogues to kill the Tremendous Flying Dragon and six goblins, taking no losses.  But before I found the Lair the Dragon’s wife showed up (a monster roll during regeneration day) and ate everyone while the Knight executed a hasty retreat, since he no longer had the ability to damage it. Our last game had four deaths in the first week (Bats are the undisputed Pound for Pound champion in the realm. Just call them “mini-dragons” and be done with it).

I’m pondering why I’m so attached to this game.Well, I like good games, but Magic Realm is an odd definition of ‘good,’ and this just begs the question.

Do I have a type? A taste? I like experience games, but after a dozen games of Combat Commander the ‘like‘ was more theoretical, less of a ‘Hey, I’ve played this game for 20 hours this month’ nature.

I’m wondering if its the entangled systems.

Consider bridge. You have a very interesting (to me) bidding problem. Then play. But a revealing auction may allow an alert defender to find the killing defense. A stone placed in the upper right corner threatens an opponents group but also serves as a ladder breaker for a stone across the entire board.

Puerto Rico isn’t just a “take an action, one at a time” game. You manage your action and your money. You don’t need money for everything, but you can get money a few ways. You need buildings to match your plantations. Actions and money blend. Buildings tie into the various systems.

Race isn’t just spend X cards for Y. Sometimes you spend cards for military, to get Y. Race has numerous subsystems and powers. Caylus has workers, but also money, favors etc.

Now — in general any game that isn’t a single system will have entangled system (and single system games like Chess and Go entangle the pieces position). Again I I wonder if I’m not begging the question.

So I started looking at games I rate a ‘6’ and see what’s lacking. Lots of these are simply mediocre, but let’s see what separates them from similar good games, so I’ll just look at games I’ve played at least a 3-4 times.

Anno 1503 — I may be misremembering, but the lack of a board reduces the dimensions of this (as compared to Settlers).

Ascension — Because of random purchase, you can’t plan out your combinations like Dominion.

Bang — I think this may just be too long for what it is. But it doesn’t feel like there are many entangled systems. (The ‘take that’ vs the ‘who goes there’ probably counts, though).

Battlestations — I liked this, but it’s simply too long.

Beowulf: The Legend — Hm. A meh game. I guess this does have entangled systems, but honestly for a game I’ve played 9 times, I’m not sure I remember it well enough to know.

Le Havre — Felt like a much sparser Agricola, due to the missing occupation/improvement cards. Definitely think there’s a subsystem missing.

Innovation — One of the Hall of Fame “I’m not even sure how I feel about it” games, but it has lots of subsystems (points grabbing things for the win, the alternate victory conditions).

London — Wallace is interesting, he usually has a few subsystems (money, ‘misery’ or some such, time) and I want to like his games, but they don’t grab me.  Not sure why.

Pax Porfiriana — Hm. Eklund has subsystem linkage just as much as MR. Lords of the Sierra Madre was one of the first experience games I really got into, although its way too long.

Meh, I don’t see a pattern. (Other than the fact that 4 hours for a game of Magic Realm isn’t ‘way too long.’ Partially that’s because I’m effectively playing two player and it may be a fixed fun game, whereas I played Lords of the Sierra Madre (say) with six, and it is also a fixed fun game. Hm. Perhaps I should solo/co-op some Eklund games.

I feel like I’m groping towards a point or thesis, but I can’t articulate it. There’s something about linking subsystems that intrigues me, but I can’t put me finger on why some games do and others don’t. Perhaps its that the entangled systems feel ‘organic’ to me in some games. Magic Realm would never be something that people would argue could be discovered independently by other cultures or even species (a claim made about Go that is fairly easy to imagine being true), but its design for effect composition leads to a world that feels alive, despite being mostly a simple interaction of a few numbers, makes me wonder if ‘organic’ rules are better than.

In other news, I noticed an interesting VP variant. I may try it out. I like the idea for giving characters starting bonuses and then making them get much more difficult VP conditions as an option, but even just simplifying the VP may be useful for new players and I agree that once you get a feel for the game there’s probably a ‘best formula’ for VPs, which this solves.

Written by taogaming

January 21, 2017 at 6:51 am

Posted in Magic Realm, Ramblings

Tagged with

A Dark Day in the Realm

The Witch, Pilgrim and Captain had teamed up to go into the Borderlands to the Vault. There was a Demon and two vipers lurked in the Vault, and also the rotting corpse of the Sorcerer. The Witch had been cursed by the Imp to Ill Health, so she couldn’t rest. For a spell caster, this was devastating, so she’d offered her services to any group that could get her to the Chapel, but that required going through the Borderlands.

And the Borderlands contained the Lost City, which meant that (in addition to the aforementioned monsters), there were already Dragons present, and possibly other things.

The Pilgrim had the cloak of mist so he had an extra hide. The Captain had gotten the Living Sword, so while he couldn’t deal with tremendous (or heavy and armored monsters) by himself, the vipers were slow enough to pose no threat. At least, not a single viper.

It was a good plan. Certainly better than the original Druid’s plan, which involved risking his life on a single hide roll.

A 1/6 chance of death in Magic Realm is closer to 50/50. That Druid died on day 3.

But this plan was good, The Witch and Captain recorded “Follow Pilgrim” and the Pilgrim recorded.

Hide — Hide — Hide — Move — Move. We’d end on the Shrine hidden. If nothing untoward happened, the Witch would absorb the demon’s essence and the pilgram and captain would each ambush a viper.

No risk combat. If another monster appeared we could decide to risk it or just leave on the next turn. But that wasn’t a massive risk, because the Pilgrim had cast Peace with Nature. Most of the chits would not trigger.

The monster roll meant the Shrine’s guardian (the Troll) would appear. The Vault and Shrine were on the same space. That put a wrinkle into things. Failing all three hide rolls put a massive wrinkle on them.

New plan — panic!

Second plan — The Witch lured the Tremendous Troll. It was slow, so she could cast her spell and absorb it. The Captain lured a snake and the Demon and the Pilgrim lured a snake. The Demon’s curse thankfully only hit the Captain, rusting all his armor (ugh), so the Witch was free to absorb the troll. The captain and Pilgrim killed their vipers (as planned) and then the Captain had to dodge the Demon which was on him, hoping the Troll could grab the Demon.

Nope. The demon killed the captain and next turn grabbed hold of the troll, which meant that the result was a forgone conclusion. The Pilgrim ran away to avoid seeing the horrific final death.

Chance of failing three hide rolls = 11/36 ** 3 = 2.9%

Chance of failing three hide rolls and having a monster appear = 3% * 1/3 = 1%

So, it was about fifty-fifty.

One of the faster games of Magic Realm (for me, anyway).

Written by taogaming

January 16, 2017 at 2:35 pm

Posted in Magic Realm, Session Reports

Tagged with

The Magician’s Final Day

As the Magician spent the last day of the month meditating to prepare his Remedy spell (which would be used to lift the disgusting curse he’d gotten the prior day), the sounds of Dragons — plural — announced a problem.

He was hidden, but casting a spell would alert the Dragons to his presence. On a normal day, he’d just run away. But today wasn’t normal. Tonight he needed to cast a spell to finish his triumphant month in the Realm.

It was time for a risk. The Magician snapped the Withered Claw in half and asked for a wish, despite knowing a twinned curse would come. There was a risk since he could lose all his magic, but he Wished for Strength and the curse had no effect — he couldn’t be more disgusting than he already was. That was why he needed to cast Remedy in the first place.

The Magician quietly Transformed one Dragon, using his final purple essence in the process. If he transformed it into a squirrel (say), then he could quickly stab the other Dragon and kill it — thanks to his wish. Then the magician would finish off the squirrel (or not) and cast Remedy in peace. A triumphant end.

Sadly, the transformation turned the Dragon into … a lion.

(Lions are basically faster Dragons).

The Magician did kill the (untransformed) Dragon but that used up the wish and he did not escape from the Lion.

In hindsight, I should have cast Remedy on Round 1 to remove the curse. I would have become unhidden, but I could have used my purple magic (which I spent on the Transformation) to power the flying carpet and escape before melee in Round 2.

I missed that option. And honestly, once the wish roll worked I had something like a 75% chance to kill both Dragons and then remove a curse in the final night of a combat.

On a side note — I’m watching The Magicians on Netflix and (apart from being totally unrelated to Magic Realm) its pretty good. I liked the first book by Lev Grossman, but haven’t really gotten into the second. Probably read it during my beach trip later this year.

Written by taogaming

January 15, 2017 at 11:18 pm

Posted in Magic Realm, Session Reports

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Got in another game of Magic Realm

That seems to be standard for the TaoLing and I during a long weekend (he has Monday off of school, and some appointments, so I’m taking Monday off, too. My arm was twisted).

It was an interesting setup: Wood’s Girl, Druid, Elf and Wizard. The Girl and the Elf both took Peace with Nature as their starting spell, and the first turn the Druid enchanted a wood and both characters cast their spell, so suddenly 3/4 of the characters did not summon monsters (except from treasure chits).

But the treasure chits were brutal. The Wood’s Girl died to the Demon (she could have run away, but we had a mental error and didn’t notice until later). (Since it was early, the TaoLing took the White Knight as a replacement). The Druid should have had an easy time with the Imp, but he got hit with a Wither curse, which fatigued something like eight or nine of his chits, including his auto-kill. He managed to kill the Imp, but multiple Dragon’s had shown up so he had to regroup. The Wizard took a risk going for the Alter in a Cavern and got murdered by a Demon for his trouble. (No replacement).

The Elf had a slow start, he went to the Cairns but left after the Spider showed up, then went to the Altar and worked around the Demon, but for little gain). Eventually he sold the White Knight some information for gold, and then went off and cast Persuasion (his other spell) to befriend the King’s Guards, whom he hired in the last week.

This let him go back to the Cairns (since the Guardsmen could lure Tremendous Spider and actually kill it, which they did), and I got a few more treasure, then raced to the Wizard’s resting spot and killed the Winged Demon and managed to loot a treasure right as the game ended. The combined gain from the final kill and treasure meant I eked out a score of +1 VP. The White Knight wound up with zero, but then realized that not selling a few things would mean losing 1-2 gold VP but gaining more fame/notoriety. Since he’d looted a ton of stuff, he ended up with around 5 VP.

The Druid had managed to learn 5 spells, because he had to (he’d put Spells as VP condition) and lucked out because he got the Good Book, which had Exorcise, and he had a source of White Magic. The net result meant that the 3-4 curses the Druid took could be easily removed. We’ve started to realize that reading runes is something non-spell casters should probably do a bit more of, at least if they have a source of the right color magic. The Druid really missed his gold requirement, and ended with -20 points in Gold, so finished negative (but not as much as you might expect).

We may very well play another game this weekend (since the set is out).

Written by taogaming

January 14, 2017 at 6:26 pm

Posted in Magic Realm, Session Reports

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