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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.


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

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

Xeno-phobia? -philia? -TooEarlyToTellia?

So I picked up the R4TG Xeno expansion and banished Alien Artifacts back to the orb from which it came. Unlike some people, (such as the distinguised gentleman E___ B___) two base sets of Race is enough for me, thanks. AA was fine, but I didn’t care for the Orb game and in any case it’s easier to disassemble the the full Arc #1, so away it goes).

So far I’ve only played one (non-Invasion) game, but it seems fine. Lots of cards, so the built in “Mix explores with your hand” will go a long way. But I’ll be pushing this at game night, so more games soon. This year marks (for me, I think) the 10th anniversary of Race (since I played it at conventions); I’m glad to see a new expansion.

One problem is that I stuff the game in the (smaller) expansion box (to make sure which version I grabbed, since the first arc is in the main box) but that means that I don’t have the cheat sheets, which don’t fold and are too big for the box. But I suspect I’ll have non-new players for the most part.

I didn’t pick up the new Eclipse expansion, because I’m in no rush and also: I worry about adding yet more stuff to it (even thought it’s modular) will push it over the brink. Yes, it’s a varietal expansion, but Eclipse games pretty much “throw everything in.”

I’ll pick it up eventually, though. I’m still hoping Eclipse is one of the Fifty by Fifty.

Written by taogaming

January 14, 2016 at 11:10 pm

Thinking about Roll — Supposedly Minor differences

Roll for the Galaxy reminds me of a cover song. It’s like Johnny Cash singing Hurt. OK, not that good (what is?) so we’ll say, Johnny Cash covering Rusty Cage. You recognize the melody, but the tempo is different and the instruments are totally different. But you recognize it anyway.

So I approached the first few games of Roll with the default mentality. And sometimes it worked and sometimes it failed horribly. I couldn’t put my finger on the problem (I’m not sure I’ve got it, but that’s what this is for). Minor differences have huge implications.

First, decoupling of economy and choice. In Race, it’s simple. If you get lots of cards, you’ll have lots of cards to choose from, and you’ll have the economy to build them. Herel you may have a lot of dice and few (or no) tiles to build, or plenty of tiles but just a few dice. Race is (to quote … Alexfrog?) a game of inconvenient plenty. You want to build everything in your hand, but some of it has to be spent. But in Roll you have multiple dimensions of scarcity. You want more dice. Or you have dice, but want more credits to move them from citizenry back to the cup. And you want tiles to develop & settle.

Second, roll has degrees. In Race, you either developed or you didn’t (assuming someone called develop). You settled or not. You consume as much as possible. Each phase was all or nothing, but if a phase is called, each player was all or nothing. Binary. Sure, you might have a better world or development, but it was on/off.

Consider that staple of an early RftG ‘aha’ moment — the naked trade. (Everyone remembers their first time, right?) You call trade. people look at you funny since you have no goods. But, lo and behold, someone else settled and you’ve stolen a march. Anyone calling settle has given you the opportunity to settle as much as you can afford. But if someone calls settle in roll, you need to have the dice available to settle. Sure, they don’t get a privilege, but their call of settle gives you absolutely no tempo. If you need three dice to settle your next world, you need three dice. At best, if I told you that someone else was calling settle, it may let you call a different phase to make sure it happened as well, but if you need the world, that’s three dice either way.

In Roll, would you really  ship and pray for the settle? Maybe, if you were desperate and you could get the dice to work that way (you rolled all settles, perhaps). But now by doing that you risk given tempo to the consumers (who maybe called produce and placed a ship or two just in case, or couldn’t reassign and figured they’d trade it if possible, toss it back into the cup otherwise). Because one die in shipping is a big deal (3-6 credits) but 1 die in a settle probably doesn’t get you a planet.

If it does, should anyone else be calling settle unless they are staring at a bunch of “O”s?

Your privilege bonus is using dice. Having a two dice phase and seeing others leeching with 2+ dice is a bad result. (The power of lots of dice in the cup is that you probably gain more for a phase than whoever called it. As the player with less dice, I’m starting to wonder if I shouldn’t be trying to reduce the number of phases).

There’s weird economy ebb and flow, thoughts about the different dice, but I don’t think I’ve internalized these two implications. They are throwing me off.

Admin Note — I’m grouping Roll posts under Race. Shrug.

Written by taogaming

February 12, 2015 at 9:26 pm

Alien Artifacts Orb Game

The Orb Expansion strangles Race. No, it waterboards it — instead of squeezing the life out it just dunks fun for 2-3 minute bursts. It takes a simultaneous psychological tableau builder, and demands that you get to wait for each player to take their turn. It adds map building and visualization. It makes Race a fixed fun game, and mercilessly fixes the fun at “Not enough.”

A full first arc game is faster than this. Non-orb for me.

Written by taogaming

January 13, 2014 at 8:33 pm

Feelin’ Malevolent

It’s out, baby!

I got in four (non-Orb) games for the Alien Artifacts Expansion

Hopefully I’ll get in some orb games before the New Year. I’m not sure if the game feels swingier than after a single expansion in the base arc. It may just be because I got New Sparta, Uplift world, Plague World, Genetic Labs, Uplift World, Uplift World and Pan Galactic League as the first seven cards in my tableau last game. You can’t plan that kind of synergy, but the deck seemed loaded with Uplift, to be sure. (And I pulled Alien Uplift World for the end-game insult). Probably just one of those things.

Written by taogaming

December 24, 2013 at 12:51 am

Race — Terraforming Engineers

I always say “Since I haven’t done one of these in a while” and then I always pick a Terraforming card. Terraforming, Changing towards Stability! (Copyright Terraforming, Inc.)

Terraforming Engineers (Development) — Cost 3, 2 VPs

  • Phase 1 — Look at an extra card
  • Phase 3 — Planets cost one less
  • Phase 3 — May replace (at no cost) one (non-military) planet with a 0-3 higher cost (non-military) planet of the same kind to gain one prestige. [This is not a settle action and cannot be combined with settle powers]
  • Phase 4 — Consume a good for a VP

There’s a lot to like here. I’ve warmed on this card as I play numerous games against Keldon’s AI, and I didn’t exactly start off feeling cold. The settle discount isn’t bad in it’s own right, the consumption is sometimes useful (although sometimes not) and looking at extra cards is a nice perk. But the replacement ability, oh the replacement ability. Apart from simply upgrading your worlds to better scoring worlds towards the endgame, look at the tricks:

  • Switching a windfall to a production world (rarely, vice versa, if You have the Guild)
  • Switching out an early game consumption world (like New Vineland) for a late game VP generating world (Galactic Bazaar, or Galactic Studios, or even Alien Tourist Resort).
  • Making a lot of mediocre worlds playable as a discount stepping stone. (Settle, drop expanding colony or Deserted Alien World for free and upgrade another world, then next settle you transform the expanding colony to, oh, Federation Capital or Tourist World and drop another stepping stone). If you actually get some use out of your stepping stone, so much the better.
  • Plague World, Lifeforms Incorporation, or those Uplift Gene Breeders can be swapped out for the Gene Developers in the late game, making early “Economic low VP cards” into powerhouse engines at little cost. Really every color has combinations like these, but the gene worlds have quite a few middle cost, almost no (or negative!) VP worlds.
  • The engineers work towards a fair number of 6-devs and goals (3 explore powers, and it covers 3 phases by itself).

Finally, there’s the prestige.  The engineers, combined with almost any other form of discount or settle rebate let you do a non-military “Settle Rush” (usually via stepping stones, but directly if you have a few discounts). You’ll be a few VP behind a development rush, but you’ll also be generating prestige at a nice clip, which make be enough to get you a few bonus VP/cards.

It’s not quite a strategy in a can, but Terraforming Engineers combine well with most diversified strategies (since you’ll have more targets to upgrade if you are working multiple colors).

Written by taogaming

October 23, 2010 at 3:30 pm

The Brink of War

Now that The Brink of War has been out for a while, a few thoughts:

  1. I have two sets of Race, a fully expanded set, and a base-set (for teaching). The thought of teaching new people the full game gives me the willies. I’m in the same position I was in a decade ago with 18xx … I’d like to have opponents, but I’m way up on the learning curve so everyone involved has to accept that The crushing will commence if I play. An odd situation. Not terribly pleasant.
  2. I have been playing Keldon’s AI, though. I enjoy the game (any game where I can play in 10% of the time? Done.) and I think I’ve got my hand around the prestige issue. That being said, I’m mainly playing the AI at “Look at my tableau, glance at the Opps and ignore them). The AIs have their groupthink, to be sure.
  3. Prestige, like military, is a path. You just have to recognize it. It’s an interactive path (much like takeovers), which does lead to the “I’ll play my prestige world on turn 1. Oh noes! So did you!” In that case, the player who didn’t play a prestige world may be winning. I suspect this (indirect) interaction annoys people, but it’s always been there. (“I played mining conglomerate with my two mine worlds … and hey, you just played Lost Species Ark World.”) It’s implicit collusion (leaching) and implicit competition (prestige fights). An odd dynamic.
  4. I agree that the game can’t be expanded. Even now, many wins are vast crushinations.  You’ve always been able to get a big “Engine” but just to keep each engine running you have to have a few complementary cards. Getting an 8+ military in the base game lets you take an outpost, but now you could get the outpost, monolith, etc etc. There are now 3 “Green” 6 devs, two “Blue” 6 devs. A few Alien triggers, etc. (And that’s not counting the goals). Yes yes, planning helps. But the variance. I think searching and exploring reduce it, but still.
  5. Between the variance and the learning curve, I think a new arc of expansions is a good idea. Reset everyone, build a new strategy space.
  6. But I’m in no hurry.

Written by taogaming

October 3, 2010 at 4:52 pm

Der Webbenstuff

Gamasutra has an interesting outsiders (well, perhaps “Not quite as insider as those of us who read/write boardgame blogs”) point of view of classic games. I don’t have any particular quibble with any of those. (I assume D&D wasn’t included because most videogamers are well aware of it and it’s tropes). Incidentally, if I were discussing influential RPGs, I think Paranoia and Call of Cthulu are quite reasonable (from a setting, not mechanical, standpoint).

Personally, I’ve done my most recent RPG-ing in the Legend of the Five Rings universe, but a) it’s been a while and b) “Like Kurosawa I make mad films, ‘k I don’t make films, but if I did they’d have a samurai.” The Onion’s AVClub has a good primer on Kurosawa. (In fact, I’ve had “High & Low” on my instant queue for a few months … once I finally watch it I’ll have seen all of  “the essentials” they list).

Despite understanding all the tropes involved, I still find the XKCD Agricola comic surreal. (Although the tooltip joke amuses me). And instead of Porngricola, who’s up for Wookie Scrabble? (Now that I think of it, I suspect that within 30 days we’ll see an “Agricola, XXX deck.” Internet, make it so!)

Apparently adding Meepletown to the blogroll was the kiss of death, since they stopped posting the same day.

The new Race AI is out. Buh-bye.

Written by taogaming

August 13, 2010 at 4:23 pm

Recent Gaming

Incan Gold — I have a variant for this I rather like. At the start of each day, each player gets gold equal to the day. This does a few things:

  1. It means that an early disaster or small amount means a decision.
  2. A slight catchup mechanism.
  3. I also (personally) like the change it makes to risk/reward for leaving.

Got in my yearly game of Princes of Florence. Would have done better if my last privilege card gave me five non-scoring choices. (Technically one of them could have scored, if I’d chosen not to score my other early card). My suggested strategy is to not do that.

A few more “Brink of War” games. Despite having beaten the early privilege leader in one game, I’m still not sure how to do it consistently. I trust that the game is balanced, but I’m not sure if I’ll be able to prove that to my own satisfaction via playing. Will I get to 50 games of TBoW? Probably … eventually … but not as fast as I did for Race (by a long shot).  Somewhat disconcerting.

Enjoying my new Dominion set (w/expansions). Bought 100 of those 9-sleeve pages for folders, that’s probably the best way to store it in terms of easy access/sorting (assuming I don’t want to print up labels. Even then, probably a wash).

New XBox Game — DJ Hero. Only played for an hour or two, but I like it so far.

Written by taogaming

July 5, 2010 at 11:10 pm