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Too Many Words about Mage Knight (Part VI — Characters)

This series of articles cover my (evolving) thoughts about Mage Knight strategy, tactics and planning. The first article enumerates my typical caveats. This section covers character skills and improved starting cards. I’m not going to talk about competitive (“hose your neighbor”) skills; I play solo/co-op, but as of this writing I have gone 1/3rd of the way to a thousand games. I doubt I’ll ever make it, but 500 may still be in the cards….

General Notes

Mage Knight is a deck builder, But you cycle your deck ~5 times. Given a vast, random array of options you rarely build the same deck twice. Of small differences do histories diverge. A deck with spells and Crystal Mastery should not be played the same way as a deck with Into the Heat and Banners.

Character doesn’t control destiny, but affects it significantly. Your character provides two upgraded cards and the vast majority of your skills. You could choose to take another character’s skill when you level up, at the cost of having no choice of advanced action cards. If you were selecting the bottom Advanced Action card in any case, then there’s no cost to selecting another player’s discarded skill. In solo or two player game, that’s usually not great. But with 4 players, which the TaoLing and I sometimes do, then you’ll likely have an excellent skill choice from another player, unless this is your first level up.

The interesting decision is when the lowest AA card isn’t your preferred choice. In that case, I’ll still consider taking it for the skill under several circumstances:

  • If the skill reduces multiple rest turns into one, take it. The only exception? If the round is going to end anyway. But even then, consider it (because at that point you’re carrying enough wounds to need this again). If you are playing cooperative, sometimes the right play is to accept way too many wounds in order to kill some units to soften up a city / Volkare. In solo you can’t do that (well, perhaps once).
  • Ask the standard economics question — as opposed to what? Sure, the bottom AA may be your least favorite, but how big is the difference between it and your favorite option? Similarly, how big is the gap between one of your skills and the best opponent’s skill? Mind the gap. If it’s close, prefer your own skill because next time the gap may be bigger. (If you take an opponents skill now, that’s one less potential option for next time).

The skill common to all base characters is Motivation, and so deserves extra talk. Motivation lets you draw two cards (once per round) and gives you a mana token if you are at the lowest fame. Good news: in solo you are! Motivation offers two standard uses — bulking up your hand (and mana!) for a key turn and recovering from a big battle. Usually, the better choice is to take the big turn and use it to avoid suffering a loss big enough that you can only discard one wound. But (particularly against cities) that isn’t an option. In that case, use motivation the turn after you get knocked out to draw two cards and pitch one plus all the wounds you’ve got.

Motivation probably isn’t good enough to getting a second copy (the rare times that’s possible). You can’t use them on the same turn. You have to wait until the end of your next turn to do a second. Sometimes motivation doesn’t help in a round, but it often does. It lets you take risky plays like entering a dungeon when you can handle most things. If you get a reasonable draw, fine. If not, you can gamble that the next two cards may help you enough. Good early. Good late. If you already have massive hand size improvement you may consider passing on it, but you’d have reasonable games just selecting it all the time. A solid B, at least. But sometimes motivation fails you. You pays your money and takes your chances. That makes a reasonable choice, but not necessarily the best one. I think it falls in above average for all characters, and if you run a really heavy wound style, that may make it better.

Skills that provide attack (ranged or not) are good, although I’m more fond of attack two than siege one, because seige one only matters if its a break point, and if it isn’t you just have less attack later one.

For each character I’ll put their skills in rough order for the first level up choice. Late game will be more specific to your current needs.


Arythea has good cards. Battle Versitility — which replaces Rage — gives you 1 ranged attack as an option, and if you power it, you can choose from (ahem!) attack 4, block 4, fire attack 3, fire block 3, ranged attack 3 or siege attack 2. Versatile. With Lost Legion blocking with a powered Rage becomes useful; converting this to fire or a ranged attack is the typical usage. In any case, great.

Mana Pull’s basic ability to use a second die and to treat a black as any color (during the day) unlocks a stuck source die. The advanced ability to set two dice and get two different crystals is a nice boost past basic mana draw; but the basic version is quite good. As for the skills:

The Power of Pain — Play a wound sideways for 2 points? Yes, please. Your score goes down with wounds, but your ability goes up, way up. You may take the final city a turn or two faster, and that’s good. You have the option of not blocking a token to get a wound or two to finish it off. Then you worry about the wounds later. (Use a wound to get +2 to walk into a magical glade… done and done).

Dark Fire Magic — A red crystal and a red or black token is good. “Black on demand” is always welcome; this skill singlehandedly powers Fire Storm or Sacrifice or Flame Wave. Using the black for non-red spells is just as good. Even if there is black in the pool, sometimes you have two spells. And (during the day) you can get a red crystal while still powering something. Poor Goldyx, he got three Crystal + Token skills, none this good. If you don’t have any spells, then yes, this becomes mediocre, but red+red is still ok.

Hot Swordsmanship — Attack two or fire attack two is Ron Swanson. Kind of a big deal.

I won’t say the above skills are better that Motivation, but …. they are are great skills. And yes, probably better.

Dark Invocation — First of all, another way to get rid of wounds? Delightful. And it gives black mana!? Great. But the ability to chuck a card for green or white is also good (usually better than playing a card sideways).

Cooperative Skill — Healing two is good, and then the ability (on the next turn) to use a wound sideways for 3 points is also good. (And, if you have Power of Pain you can use two wounds sideways).  If you are playing an actual co-operative game (as compared to solo) this may be good to let go, just because other people will probably need more help dealing with wounds than you will.

Dark Paths — Movement is always fine.

Polarization — I rarely take this, although the ability to use gold as black (at night) and black as gold (during the day) means you’ll rarely got a locked source. In solo (three dice pool) that’s a big deal. But Athyrea already has two other ways to get black mana and Mana Pull to clean up the source during the day. This isn’t bad, just overkill.

Burning Power — Siege one is a weak skill, and Arythea has so many better combat skills (counting Power of Pain and black mana gaining as combat).

Dark Negotiations — Influence 2 (three at night) is good, not great. See Norowas’s Bright Negotiation for more details.

More than any other character, Arythea’s skills shine. Even the bad ones are solid. You can play it totally safe, but that’s not winning Mage Knight. You shouldn’t let your skills goad you into accepting excess wounds; but a few ar fine. Athyrea turns that negative around. Multiple skills that directly boost combat, excellent access to black mana, the ability to shrug off wounds, mana source unlocking, and versatility. When I increased the city levels to (11/16), I struggled mightily with Goldyx  game after game, then cruised with Arythea. Perhaps I got lucky. It may be she is suited to my style of play. But one character has to be best — I think it is her.


Goldyx two cards are the whelming Crystal Joy and the excellent Will Focus. Will Focus improves Concentration — already great — by having the powered version pump up the follow-on card by three points instead of two. Given the nature of breakpoints, that means you have six ranged attack (instead of five), or whatnot. The unpowered version can get a green crystal (concentration can get tokens of any non-green color), which means on the off chance you don’t find anything to do with your Will Focus, you get a crystal for next round.

By contrast, Crystal Joy is fine. The ability to crystalize over and over sounds great, but typically is only useful if you were already planning on spending a turn or two at a crystal mine (or magical glade) for other reasons. Crystal Joy makes some bad turns suck less, although the ability to chuck a wound with the advanced power is good. Sometimes its worth it to power it with a blue from your own crystals, just to toss a wound and get it back. Doing this when you attack a city and expect to get knocked out is great. Like a mini-motivation recovery.

Universal Power lets you use spend mana from the source for plus two (or maybe three) even when you don’t have a card that gives you what you need. Red mana turns attack two to attack four … if you hold rage. Universal Power turns <something> 1 to <something> 3 or 4, pretty much no matter what. The worst case is you play your rage sideways and a non-red mana for 3 attack instead of 2. For a long time I consider this wasteful, but Universal Power combines flexibility with might. If you already have the right mana and cards, this isn’t great but you don’t always have the right mana.

Flight is Goldyx’s signature skill. Bounce a space for free or two spaces for two points, and ignore rampaging. Simply great. Either this or Universal Power are worth considering instead of motivation, although your needs may very.

Cooperative Skill — Re-rolling a die in the source is ok. The cooperative part of crystalizing a second die is pretty good. So this is OK in solo, so-so in co-cop.

Glittering Fortune — 1-4 influence during interaction is fine (although you can’t use it during peaceful moment, etc).

Freezing Power — Siege 1 or Ice Siege 1 isn’t great. This would be the worst skill for many other characters (like Tovak), but Goldyx has a distinct lack of firepower, which turns this into a reasonable choice for him.

Colour* Crystal Craft — Gain a blue crystal and a token of the (non-blue) colour. [*Goldyx is British, obviously]. In general, the colour of the token matters more to me than how many blue cards I have, because you can save the crystal from turn to turn. It’s worth remembering that there are three of these, because its quite possible to get two of these the same level up.

Potion Making — Healing two is useful, see comments on Golden Grail. That being said, this isn’t a great skill to take. Crystal Joy already provides some wound amelioration, but if you find yourself wound heavy it’s reasonable. Still — I’d rather get something that helps me in the end game, and that is probably anything else.

Putting it all together, Goldyx has lots of ways of gaining mana and crystals, some movement, some healing, some influence. He lacks punch. Ironically, that kind of means that Freezing Power should be taken more than I suspect, because one (reusable) attack is better than nothing. You need to go out of your way to some attack as Goldyx, as a string of recent losses re-iterated.  Whereas the other three characters have a sharp glittering arsenal, Goldyx basically builds up a bankroll of extra movement, influence and mana. You need to turn that into something useful.


Norowas’s cards are Noble Manners and Rejuvenate. Noble Manners replaces influence and gives you a bonus to rep and fame. OK, not great. Rejuvenate (improved tranquility) adds the options to get you some green mana or  ready a unit (instead of just drawing cards or healing). Again, nice not great. Actually, the improved Rejuvenate’s ability to ready a level 3 unit is fairly powerful, but obviously a late game card.

Bonds of Loyalty — Arguably Norowas’s signature skill, and truly great. This gets you an extra follower slot and more choices (which could be picked off, but in a solo game not an issue) and a five discount. Yes, you can’t fire that person, but you can have them step in front of a paralyzing unit.

Inspiration — Heal or Ready a unit is big. Units are nice because they are always “in your hand,” even a lowly peasant is pretty good if you can use them twice. Yes, you can’t do this in combat, but taking an Utem Guardsman and having them block four, eat up to five points of attack, then heal them and have them eat another attack. That’s up to 14 points of attack you just ignored. Then you toss the unit away and repeat next round.

Those are the two that are better than Motivation.

Day Sharpshooting — 2 ranged during the day (1 at night) is pretty good. But it’s more often night than day (for final battles, underground, etc).

Foward March — Movement is nice, but this is variable (You get 0-3, based on readied units). This may let you fly across the board by midgame, but is highly conditional on your opening. If you can’t get an early peasant (etc), pass on this.

Cooperative skill — Lowering movement costs by two (to a minimum of one) can let you get through some nasty forests or swamps, and the secondary effect only lowers by one, but again to a minimum of one, so its always useful.

Leaves on the Wind / Whispers in the Treetops — Green Crystal + White token (or vice versa). OK, not great, typically taken if you are short on mana.

Bright Negotiation — 3 or 2 influence is again OK. You could get lucky and camp out in the green city and just take a free advanced action every turn, but honestly that’s not great unless you are tuning your hand anyway. If you really get lucky you’ll camp in the red city and get 2 Influence + 3 or 4 for city tokens + 3-4 for rep + a few a turn and get an artifact every turn. But for every game that happens Bright Negotiation turns out to be ok not great. Now, if you have heroes and have to pay to use them in an assault (a rule I just now realized I forget in my last game) then this comes in pretty hand. And influence does equal healing. So, a highly variable power one that can shine with the right setup but is mediocre otherwise.

Leadership — +1 Ranged or + 2 attack or +3 block each combat, with a follower. Awesome in theory, but in practice you only get to use this once or twice a round (even if you have 3-4 followers, because you often spend them all during a big attack in the endgame.

Norowas’s style of play is pretty obvious — followers. Some games he raises an army that makes the world tremble, but it does leave yourself open to getting a bad draw (especially in Solo Conquest where there are only 3 followers/round). He — more than other characters — suffers from feast or famine.


Tovak’s two cards are Cold Toughness and Instinct. Cold Toughness is improved Determination, and is a big deal. Ice Block 3 instead of Block 2 is nice, a point better block and against some opponents four points better. But the powered version of Ice Block 5, plus one per ability or color of attack allows Tovak to block damn near anything with one card and one mana, unless they have magic resistance (which turns off the +1/per) or swiftness. In the late game, this + a blue mana typically blocks the most annoying thing you face.

Instinct improves Improvisation by giving you the option of not discarding a second card (at the cost of that cards +1). Since you can always discard the card anyway, that’s nice. Sometimes you only need two or four points instead of three or five, or you don’t have a card, or you don’t want to waste a card. Early on, its not much of an improvement, but again in the late game you’ll appreciate the option of not discarding. As for Tovak’s skills:

Cold Swordsmanship — Attack 2 or Ice Attack 2, once per combat. Excellent. The problem with blocking is it doesn’t kill stuff. You don’t win wars by not dying, you win them by killin’. This or Motivation is Tovak’s best skill.

Double Time — Move 2 (1 at night). Remember, this list is for your first skill. On Day one, great, but this drops quickly.

Night Sharpshooting — Range 1 (2 at night).  In Solo Conquest, ranged isn’t great, but you’ll often want to take cities at night, so its still attack two then. Ranged 2 underground is useful. This is at least a half grade better than Norowas’s Day Sharpshooting.

Cooperative Skill — This gains black mana, or gains you a token and then later (in solo) a bonus.

Shield Mastery — A great early skill that commands some value in the late game. Block 3 (or Fire/Ice 2) lets you gamble a lot more on dungeons/tombs and multi-chit draws like Spawning ground.

I Feel No Pain — Turning a wound into a card will let you recover much faster (mostly). This can be a game saver, if you had to attack and got a bad draw or are just playing at insane levels of difficult. Even without that, it may improve your hand a little bit each turn.

I Don’t Give a Damn! — Once a turn play a card sideways for +2 instead of +1 (or +3 if its a non-basic card).  I have mixed feelings. A nice boost, but using a card sideways is not great. This goes up with hand size boosts and late game (where typically you’ll have extra movement and be short on block or attack, or even just spend a round at your city and turning cards into influence).

Resistance Break — Late game, this moves up. Early game, its not as worth it (remember, its only once per combat). Reducing fire/ice resistance is minor, since odds are you’ll have physical attack. Reducing physical resistance is great. For the end game this can effectively give you six attack, but in the early game its often zero or one.

Who Needs Magic? — Inferior to IDGaD, because want to use the source. Not using it is gaining +1 by giving up +2 (or a spell!)

Tovak’s many good battle skills dish out or block damage. Complement that with movement to reach the scenes of carnage you’re trying to cause (one reason I rate double time so highly for him. By comparison Wolfhawk already has movement …. so it would be marginal for her).


Swift Reflexes improves swiftness, and lets you play it (without mana) for ranged attack one, or reduces an enemy attack by 1 (2 if powered). Reducing an attack can function is slightly better block, since you can reduce a swift or ice attack. It can make the Storm Dragon’s 4 Ice/Swift attack blockable with a mere 8 regular block instead of 16. Tirelessness improves Stamina, but not by much. Adding one to your next move isn’t nearly as good as move 3, since to get any benefit you must spend another card. The advanced power adds one to every other card, so its possible to make it move 8. Wolfhawk likes Mazes, Tirelessness + any card is 6 movement.

Dueling — +1 Block and +1 attack isn’t bad (though they have to go the same enemy. A bonus fame (if you don’t use a unit against that enemy) is the icing on the cake.

Know Your Prey — I used to pass on this, because its once per round, but what an ability. Removing physical defense can save you 7+ attack. Removing fire or ice can let you target a spell.  Summoning is an ability. Know your prey is 5-6 “I am not left handed” moments. It’s a toss-up between this and dueling for best skill. These are both better than motivation, IMO, but Wolfhawk’s motivation gives some fame, which is intriguing.

Cooperative Skill — A card sidewise for 4 points (not for interaction) is not to be sneezed at. A bonus for each unassigned command token can be gross, but typically you want followers anway. Still, sometimes they get paralyzed away, and 4+ points of block or attack or move is not swiss cheese. The -1 attack and -1 armor secondary ability aint bad either.

Taunt — As discussed on the Swift Reflexes, lowering an attack is sometimes better than block because of swiftness or fire/ice. It also may let you just let it through for one less wound. Taunt also has the option to increase the attack and lower armor (after the ranged attack phase) which turns extra block into attack, or may just save you same attack (at the cost of a wound, or not).

Hawk Eyes — 1 Movement a turn is nice, and the bonus (exploring for one less at night, revealing from two tiles away during the day) are nice kickers.

Deadly Aim — Adding +1 ranged/siege or +2 attack to a card isn’t as good as just providing it — you need a card, but that does mean you can keep any modifiers (fire or ice).

On her Own — Influence 1, 3 if you don’t use it to buy a unit. A decidedly inferior influence skill.

Refreshing Bath / Refreshing Breeze — Get a blue (white) crystal and heal one. I’m not sure how I feel about this instead of a crystal and a token. I guess healing is slightly better on average, but the token can be huge with the right comination.

Wolfhawk has a fun style of play, and her skills provide some compensation if you don’t happen to get followers. Don’t fall into the trap of ignoring followers (they are almost always useful), but Wolfhawk suffers less from their absence. A dueling, prey-knowing Wolfhawk is a force to be reckoned with, but a city is still a city.


Savage Harvesting is  a march that lets you chuck a card to gain a mana (multiple times, if you pay for it). It is often useful in the first turn to get rid of an unwanted tranquility or influence. Ruthless Coercion ‘improves’ intimidation by adding influence and (when powered) the ability to ready spent units, but costing even more reputation. Krang often falls harder, faster down the reputation track. Note that you can influence away from a village/keep/etc and not deal with the reputation effects, so Krang can still coerce his followers, so long as their are no witnesses to restrain him.

Also note that Krang doesn’t have motivation!

Battle Frenzy — I won’t say I’d always take this and ignore the other skill, but it may be true. +2 attack, and +4 attack on your final battle each round (or if you are desperate) is great.

Master of Chaos — This does great things, but the timing is hard to control. You can get something every turn, and if what you want lines up with what you are doing, its great. Worth taking if you can see the next few turns and line up your starting position, and about once a round you can choose what you want. Not as good as Battle Frenzy, but probably the ‘signature’ of Krang.

Spirit Guides — 1 move and 1 block every turn. Solid.You may not use it either turn, but this is a good amount of both.

Puppet Master — Either take a token each combat or spend a token each combat for half attack or block, keeping the type. So, this is free-ish, attack or block, but only half the time. As apart from that you get some flexibility, assuming you’ve been rampaging properly.

Arcane Disguise — As noted above, 2 influence isn’t huge. But the ability to cancel a -5 (or X) reputation can be a big deal. That means getting a follower in your first city, even after you’ve burned and pillaged your way across the board. It means ruthlessly coercing your followers and still getting more.

Regenerate — Spending mana to heal is ok. It lets you use something from the source each turn, and a red mana may get you a card for a full heal. But this isn’t up to Athyra or Tovak’s skills. Mediocre but sometimes great.

Curse — Reduce an attack or armor by one. You can use this in ranged attack phase against unfortified opponents, which is nice. At worst this acts like attack one.

Cooperative skill (Mana Enhancement) — When you spend a mana (however) gain a crystal. And then someone can get a free token of that color. So this is basically two mana, making it roughly equivalent to all the “Crystal + Token” skills. BUT, you need to have the mana (either source or other means) to get it. On the plus side, you can take whatever color you need.

Shamanic Ritual — A mana token of your choice is good, and giving up an action to reset is OK but will be done rarely. The issue is that with Savage Harvesting Krang usually isn’t desperate for mana, and his other skills are great.

Battle Hardened — This lets you ignore some damage, and may save you a wound (see thread for details). In that sense, its better than block because you can use a bit, but rarely is taking one less wound taking zero. It could really help against paralyzers that you sacrifice a follower to, but that lets a little bit left. I may be undervaluing this, but I hardly ever take it.

Krang is whatever he gets. If you get battle frenzy, he’s a murderchine, if you get master of chaos, he’ll try to tap dance the best he can. Roll with the punches.


The newest mage knight has two movement based improvements. Druidic paths reduces a terrain by one (min of 2). Unpowered, this is better than Tirelessness, assuming you aren’t going only on plains. It lets you get into a hill (or woods/desert at the right time) for one card. If you are only going through plains, useless. The powered version lets you reduce all of one terrain, which is probably only one or two points of movement. One with the Land can be used for heal 1 or block 2 instead of movement (or heal 2, block X, where X is the cost of the land you are one). That’s nice. Towards the end game you often have too much movement and an emergency heal/block is nice. Flexibility is always appreciated.

Braevalar has a few good skills and a lot of OK ones.

Forked Lightning — +1 Ranged Cold Fire attack against up to three separate targets. Yes, you’ll often be saving this to the regular combat phase, but its 1-3 attack, and great against physical resistance.

Shapeshift — Turn movement into block into attack, but for basic cards only! Flexible, flexible, flexible.

Feral Allies — + 1 attack or reduce an attack by one is good, not great. -1 to explore costs provides a little bit extra.

Secret Ways — +1 movement is fine, and the mountain or lake movement can save your bacon, but its tough to tell early.

Cooperative Skill (Nature’s vengeance) — Reducing an attack by one isn’t great, but making it cumbersome (so you can spend movement to reduce it more) is intriguing. This can let you partially block, and sometimes (I’m looking at you, Storm Dragon) its a god-send. And someone else can do it agian.

Thunderstorm / Lightning Storm — Token + Token instead of Crystal + Token, but you get some choice (Green and either blue/white or blue and either green or red). OK.

Regenerate — As with Krang, but made somewhat better by the storms, which may find a use for a ‘wasted’ token.

Beguile — Like most influence items, usually 2 influence, the 4 at a the circle or 3 at a village is a mild kicker.

Elemental Resistance — As with Krang’s Battle Hardened.

Maybe its just lack of experience, but Braevalar appears to be the weakest Mage Knight. Lots of OK, nothing crushing. He can do just fine (Shapeshift and Forked Lightning are quite good), but often has to choose between two mediocre skills.  One may be much better in the current situation, but wouldn’t it have been nice to draw a rock crusher. Also note that Braevalar (like Goldyx) is somewhat short of attack, so grabbing those advanced actions is a priority (although with shapeshift you can grab whatever and then use the basic card you doubled up as attack).


Written by taogaming

July 29, 2017 at 10:40 pm

High Frontier Basic Game Strategy Thoughts

(This was originally published in incomplete form. I hit “publish” instead of “save.” Lots of updates since then).

I remember playing Fugger, Welser, Medici dand realizing the basic game was too … basic. (I later relayed this to Frank and he said “it wasn’t for gamers like us, that’s what the advanced game is for.”)

High Frontier isn’t exactly the same thing. You need at least one basic game to learn the mechanics. (I needed lots). Jumping straight into the advanced game is optimistic. Even adding only the support module ridiculously increases the number of moving parts. But even for slow people such as myself the basic game does seem too basic after a few plays.

It ends just after it gets going. Industrialize a second colony, you are done (or almost). After the first few games,  TaoLing and I played “longer” extended games to seven colonies, where you might get something like a claim on Sycorax, but our most recent 7 colony game took …. 40 minutes. We’ve started adding advanced modules.

The basic game is not without interest, so some thoughts.

  • This is a race game. Only one action a turn, but also space travel in addition. If you start your trip a turn or two earlier that can be a big advantage because its hard (but not impossible) to make up time later on.
  • One rule I was taught wrong is that you can’t bid if you have three (non-crew) cards in hand. It turns out you can bid if you have less than four (so, three is OK).
  • My big mistake in my early games: buying random cards, then trying to make something work. Most cards are good for something, but trying to figure out what is hard.
  • In general, Robonauts before Refineries. Makes sense — Robonauts prospect. Yes, you can use your ISRU 4 crew but here’s the list of ISRU 4 sites inside of Jupiter: Mars (10 gravity, ugh), Ceres (a good target, although 6 gravity probably means you’ll need your crew) and eight inconvenient size-one sites (which aren’t near anything). It’s not a great list. Even an ISRU of 3 opens up a lot of options.
  • If you only looked at the asteroid belt for your first mission, you’d probably be right. (For your first game narrowing your decision space is a good idea). If you are playing to seven (or some higher number depending on # of players, which isn’t a variant) you can start looking at Jupiter’s moons or even more distant.
  • Remember — the map represents delta-v. Sites on opposite sides of the board but in the same belt are surprisingly close (in terms of number of burns and turns). You can run from Lutetia (a 3M-3 hydration site) to Hertha (ditto) for two burns in a single turn (via Sol-Jupiter L1 burn). Think of the board as “energy bands.”
  • There is no “C” class refinery, FYI. Type D and S sites are much rare (in the basic games) so those cards are slightly less useful.
  • Weight matters, but less with good fuel efficiency. A nice rule of thumb I found on BGG states “Your wet mass/dry mass ratio will need to be roughly equal to your fuel single-burn fuel consumption (or better).” So if you have the Metastable Helium thruster (5 Mass, 5 Net Thrust * 1 fuel per burn), then your wet mass doesn’t have to much exceed your dry mass, so you can get a heavy robonaut and refinery and still go tooling around for 4 water. But if you get the Mirror Steamer (0 Mass, 3 Net Thrust * 4 Fuel per burn, Solar, Push) you are going to have real trouble if your dry mass gets above three-ish, so you’ll probably need two trips. Bid up the 1 fuel/burn cards.
  • Getting your first factory ASAP is a big deal. It provides:
    • 8 free water for refueling. Even if your robonaut and refinery can’t be built, you can take a turn to refuel and send your (now light) rocket back to LEO to pick them back up instead of having to re-boost and refuel the rocket.
    • ET production. Not only are the black side of cards better (much, much better), you get a card out there a few years in advance, save the cost of re-boosting, etc.  ET producing a robonaut to prospect for your second factory (using your on-site thruster) is a big deal. If you have a robonaut and refinery of the type you just colonized, it’s probably a winner. (With both for Vs, aim for Vesta, which at size six means you can’t fail the prospecting roll, and only has a half landing burn. Getting both Ms aim for Lutetia then Hertha, for a 75% chance of a claim. Ds and Ss

Common planning pitfalls to avoid:

  1. Can you land? Remember, your net thrust must exceed the sites size. Some ways to get around this (if your main thruster isn’t good enough).
    • Afterburning.
    • Size games. Take everything, drop a part in orbit to lower a size class (increasing net thrust). Leave the first part on the site,take off, pick up the last part. (Dropping off and picking up is a free action, but you can’t pick up in the middle of a move).
    • Use your crew to land. It costs no fuel (if there isn’t a lander burn). Vesta and Ceres with their half lander burns are reasonable. (If you have to pay a full lander burn, your main crew’s rocket may be prohibitively expensive).
  2. Will you be able to take off? (This mainly applies to aerobraking). You can easily trap yourself if you use your crew to go someplace like the moon. (If you can’t take off, you can turn your crew into a colonist and get some VP).
  3. Do you have enough fuel? Seems obvious, but don’t forget fuel for afterburns. Size tricks may cost you some fuel as well
    • Consider Demos (or some other high hydration site) for a turn or two of refueling. Particularly if you have a low ISRU, you can get a lot of fuel that way. Seeing a ‘pit stop’ at the (already busted) Demos to refuel was my first “aha” moment.
  4. Do you have the ISRU rating to prospect the site (or refuel)? (Even after ten games I’ve still just said, “Oh, I’ll go there” and then realized my robonaut couldn’t cut it because I was so focused on fuel/thrust/etc.

Sites of Interest

The training book’s guide is good and worth reading for your first few games. Some thoughts:

Planets are Hard. You can go for Mercury (North Pole) or Mars but you’ll need 11 thrust (or aerobraking rolls). But those are basically one way trips unless you can build a factory. For those, you’ll need a crew with a 10 Net thrust and afterburn. You could also just send down a robonaut and refinery, but the advantage of getting your first factory is basically negated because you can’t really ET produce or use the factory to refuel unless you have a powerful crew rocket. On the other hand, these can be a guaranteed second factory.

The moon is easier, but you’ll need a good ISRU.

Ceres is a sure thing with four hydration, requires only 7 thrust (usually within the reach of a basic game crew) and only a half burn. Depending on your thruster you may need to stop at Demos. Vesta is also a sure thing but slightly farther away and requires an ISRU of 2. (To compensate, its a V world, which is likely to score better and will have a few refineries that can be ET produced there).


In the basic game the most important thing is Fuel per burn, because lower means you can go farther. High thrust is nice (because that lets you land on more places, or maybe get there a turn or two earlier) but you often get around that by taking your crew and using it (assuming no lander burns, or maybe a half burn). In the advanced game the worse rockets are balanced by needing more supports, or worse rad-hardness, but in the basic game? Nope.

If you ordered thrusters by FPB in the basic game, you’d be close to right. (Ignoring the solar sails, because 0 net thrust is a problem).

Key is [#Mass, Thrust * Fuel per Burn (After Burn cost, Class), P = Push, S = Solar]. I’m not going to worry too much about the advanced (black) side because you won’t for your first games.

In rough order of worst to best:

Photon Heliogyro / Photon Kite Sail [0M, 0*0 (-,C) Solar] — Basically the same. Not really useful in the basic game (said the guy who almost never goes inside the earth orbit]. You could use these to get maybe a free burn if you are a small light ship, so perhaps I shouldn’t discount this.

Mirror Steamer [0M, 3*4(2,D) SP] — Zero mass, but 4 fpb. Ugh. The one thing that’s nice is that you could boost this with a robonaut and leave really early, take a pot shot at Demos and refuel. But the problem is that the mass savings from boosting are (in the basic game) a one time savings. You’ll be paying for fuel the rest of the game. Also, this can’t land too many places.

Ablative Plate [4M, 2*2(1,V) P] — Two fpb isn’t bad, but nothing else is great. High mass, low thrust. If you get the black side you get a mass reduction and a thrust increase, but its nothing to write home about. You’ll almost certainly need to take your crew to land anywhere. The rare case where low fpb isn’t great.

Cermet NERVA [2M, 7*4(1,S)] — OK, terrible Fuel per Burn (fpb), but the 7 thrust means you can land on Ceres or Vesta (which are sure things], but you are likely making two trips. If you can flip this you lose one thrust (but can afterburn) but your fpb drops to 2, which makes this pretty good.

Hall Effect [2M, 3*2(-,C)P] — No afterburn and a low thrust means you’ll need your crew, but otherwise good.

Mass Driver [5M, 4*3(-,M)P, Dirt] –This is heavy, 3 fpb isn’t great, but being a dirt thruster compensates. You can always grab 10 fuel anywhere (dirt rockets refuel at ten and ignores ISRU rating!) so you really only need to pay to get to Demos and then jaunt out. If you flip this over you go to 3M 2*0.5, which basically means you never run out of fuel, but you’ll need another rocket to land most places.

De Laval Nozzle [4M, 5*2(2,M)P] — Decent thrust, decent fpb. Can even land on Ceres or Vesta (often taking two trips).

Ponderomotive VASIMR [3M, 3*1(1,V)P] — Compare with the mirror steamer. You pay 3 more mass, but you save so much fpb.

Metastable Helium [5M, 5*1(1,V)] — The king of rockets. Yes, its heavy. But 1 fpb rules. If you flip it over you’ll drop some mass and your fpb goes to a ridiculous 1/3rd, but even unflipped its a workhorse in the asteroid belt. With 5 thrust (maybe 4 or 3 due to weight) you can often make a hohmann pivot every turn and gain a lot of time. And you save time by taking your robo+refinery in one trip. Letting this go cheaply is a mistake.


Buggys let you get a re-roll or multiple sites (on a planet), so that’s nice. Missiles have a built in thruster (Uusually with terrible fpb, but in this case you save an auction and a part, so you could buy this and start scooting around early to make a bunch of pot shot claims and then buy/send a refinery later). And Rayguns let you go for multiple sites from orbit. Unlike thrusters (in the basic game) there’s lots of differences between robonauts.

There are a few different ‘classses’ of robonauts:

  • The 4 fpb missile. These are good to grab as a first card if you can launch and run to Demos (etc) to refuel and go get a claim, planning on getting a thruster and refinery later.
  • The rayguns. These let you hit a bunch of asteroids at once.
  • The oddballs (including buggies).

A quick note of sites: C are common, M aren’t common, but there are a few good targets. There are many S targets but they tend to have lower hydration (often zero). V and

[#Mass, type-ISRU (Type) ]

In alphabetical order:

Cat Fusion Z-pinch Torch — 3M, Buggy-2 (D).  Decent mass, decent ISRU.  Turns into a higher mass ISRU 0 Missile.

Explosive Gas Dynamic Laser — 3M, Raygun-2 (S). Improves to 2M Ray-0

Flywheel Tractor — 2M, Buggy-3 (S).  Improves to 1M Buggy-1.

Free Electron Laser — 5M Raygun-1 (S). Don’t let the 5 mass worry you (I mean, unless you have a 3-4 fpb thruster). If you get the Free Electron Laser you may want to go to the Karin cluster and hope to get one of Karin-a, b or c. That’s a 50/50 shot in one turn (you can raygun produce without going onto the hazard roll). If you get the claim you can ET produce this (as the Wakefield E-beam Missile with a quite decent 4*2(2) dirt rocket, but it becomes a Missile-1.

Kuck Mosquito — 1M Missile-3, 10 * 8(2) (V). The Mosquito pairs nicely with Ablative Plate or other low net thrust thruster, in that you only use this for the landing. You save weight on crew, its mass is low. If you happen to build it on a V planet, you can ET produce the Ablative Laser, which is a 3 * 1(3, push) Missile 2 with no mass. No raygun, but it can hop around quickly.

MET Steamer — 3M Missile-2 5*4(1) Push (C). This guy is a reasonable first buy. Buy, boost, fuel, go to Demos to potshot and/or refuel. By itself it can make a run at Ceres (small size for +1 thrust, afterburn for another). You’ll need another rocket to bring the refinery, but then you can ET produce the Nanobot, a zero mass Buggy-1.

Neutral Beam — 5M Raygun-2 (S). Slightly inferior to the Free Electron Laser, but this does flip over to the a 3*1/2(1) Missile.

Nuclear Drill — 2M Missile-3 5*4(1, Push) (M). Like the MET Steamer, this can be used as an early scout, planning on bring a rocket+ refinery later. This is an odd card in that the black side has a much higher mass (5), but it does become a Raygun-0 (while still having a thruster), which means you can scout a bunch of small asteroids (like the Koronis group) in one go.

Phase-Locked Diode Laser — 3M Raygun-3 (C). A very good robonaut, because there are lots of C targets, and it flips over to 0M.

Rock Splitter — 3M Buggy-4 (V). Buggy is good, but ‘4’ is bad. You could claim 2 Mars sites, I suppose. But there has to be a worst robonaut.

Solar-pumped MHD Exciplex Laser — 5M Raygun-2 (C). Doesn’t the name just roll off the tongue and fall like lead to the floor? This is another one of the 5M rayguns, and this one flips over (Quantum Cascade Laser) to a 3 mass ray-0. Ray-0 is great, and as a ‘c’ type card, this is the easiest to get.

Tungsten Resistojet — 2M 5*4(1) Missile-3 (M). Another decent “early thruster explorer.”. This flips over to a decent 4*2(1) Push missile-1.


In the basic game, basically you just want to get one. If it matches your target, that’s nice. Mass 3 is nicer than mass four, but unless you have a bad fpb its not a huge deal.

Written by taogaming

May 28, 2017 at 10:15 pm

Posted in Strategy

Tagged with

Factorio Tutorial — Simple Production Ratios

I see a fair number of questions on production ratios (on reddit) and amazingly, nothing on the wiki seems to deal with it, so here it goes.  (This is really just a draft I plan on cleaning up and putting on the wiki).

The beginner says “Aha, I need a ton of <insert something here> so I’ll build some factories for it.” Then the factories sit idle most of the time. Adding factories doesn’t work if you don’t have the necessary inputs. So, how to figure that out? The easiest way is decide how many outputs per second you want.

For simple things (such as red science) you can build a lot of factories because the inputs (copper + gears) are either fast to make or basically infinite. (OK, not really, but if you aren’t smelting enough copper you have bigger problems). But let’s consider science pack 3 (blue science). Here’s the formula (as of 0.15):

1 Advanced (Red) Circuit + 1 Engine Unit + 1 Assembling Machine 1 (Grey) and 12 seconds makes 1 blue science.

(Thanks to Dave McW’s wonderful cheat sheet for this).

So, the easiest way to is to target some # of packs per second. Let’s say you want one. Picking round numbers makes it easy.

As the old saying goes ‘You can’t make a baby in one month by getting nine women pregnant.’

But you can average a baby a month that way.

To average 1 blue/second, we need 12 factories. (I’m ignoring the speed multiplier for assembling machines. It isn’t actually 12 seconds, depending on the factories. If you have all blue assembling machines (level 2) and change everything to level 3s, the number you get will speed up, but there will be no bottlenecks or slowdowns if they are all even).

Rule of thumb — If you want one unit output per second, you need as many factories as the time it takes.(Again, ignoring speed multipliers). If you want Z per second, you need Z times the number of seconds it takes one factory.

So, we need 12 factories producing blue packs. Now the reason to pick a nice round number like “one blue a second” is that we now know that we need one red circuit per second, one assembling machine per second, and one engine unit per second. We have to have enough inputs.

So, what does an Engine Unit take to make?

1 Steel + 1 Iron + 2 Pipes and 10 seconds makes an engine unit.

In order to support one blue science a second, we need 1 engine per second, which means 10 dedicated engine assemblers. Similarly, we need six red circuit assemblers. We only need half of an assembly one assembler, since it only takes 0.5 seconds. We can make these factories dedicated for this output (which may make sense for some objects) or we may have a big production area (for, say red circuits) so that any overflow can be used elsewhere.

Let’s look at a more complex example: Production Science Packs (purple)

1 Pumpjack + 1 Electric Engine Unit + 1 Electric Furnace + 14 seconds gives us 2 production science packs.

If we want one purple per second, we need seven factories dedicated to production (since they produce two each every 14 seconds).  Every fourteen seconds our seven factories dump out their two purple each to give us one purple per second, and every fourteen seconds they each take in a pumpjack, electric engine and furnace.

So we only need 7 of each input per 14 seconds.

We need 1/2 of a pumpjack per second (or 1 pump jack per two seconds). Ditto the other two.

Electric Engines take an engine unit (sigh), 2x electric circuits and 15 units of lubricant and 10 seconds.

If we want a dedicated line we need five factories (for 1 every other second), which will also require 5 factories for engine units (again, one every other second).  (Remember our rule, we want Z per second. Z is “one-half” and the factories take 10s, so 0.5 x 10 = 5 factories.

“It’s really easy to forget the two outputs per unit time,” he wrote looking at his current factory and suddenly realizing why there’s such a backlog of electric engine units. Ah well, I can divert some of that production and my pump jack production….In fact, there are a number of practical matters. If you only use purple science packs intermittently, you can get by with lower inputs and you’ll buffer some up while researching things that don’t require purple).

So far we’ve just spoken of production speed, but if you start getting into big numbers, you may have to worry about throughput. Maximum throughput of a yellow belt is 13.33 items per second.  If you need 15 or 20 items per second, you’ll requirea faster built (or a second belt) otherwise the first factories in your line will consume all the inputs and choke off your remaining factories. For our examples, that hasn’t been a huge concern (although technically it means that our one purple per second is actually 13.33 purple per 14s, assuming we have perfectly packed yellow belts). But if we wanted to go to two per second, we’d need to upgrade our belts (red belts are exactly twice as fast). If we wanted to go to 5 a second, that would require multiple lines (or maybe having a staggered line where we produce a few intermediates, then a few purples. But that way lies madness).

You can do this to see compare if you have enough labs to consume your science production (or too many labs) although that’s tricky because the colors you need (and times) change based on what you are researching. But typically research takes 30s or 60s (some of the early game research takes less, and some military researches take 45 and braking speed takes 35!) If you produce one (of each color per science) then you can keep 30 labs working all the time, and your 61st lab is guaranteed to sit idle (assuming you never stopped), but in reality you will stop from time to time….

I haven’t done the math on launching one Rocket Per Minute, but throughput becomes a big concern.  1000 Rocket Control Units (which are required per rocket) requires just shy of 40k iron per minute, 650ish iron per second (smelting and transport). Of course those actually have a bunch of intermediate steps, but that’s 17 lanes of express belts just for iron. (In reality, its a bunch of trains to various outposts to make green circuits, etc). And rockets have a bunch of other parts.



Written by taogaming

May 2, 2017 at 10:26 pm

Posted in Artificial Opponents, Strategy

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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

A Few Words on Colony Strategy

I haven’t played nearly enough to warrant this, and its not a hyper deep game, but I am amused. So here are my thoughts on Colony Strategy. I don’t have much experience with Attack cards, because the TaoLing prefers to leave them out (so, not much experience with Defense, either).

Upgrades — Right now I’m very consistently upgrading Construction (so you can build 2+ cards a turn OR get 2 CHIPIs instead of one unless you build). The TaoLing likes to upgrade the upgrade card. I originally scoffed at this (all this does is save you a single die when you upgrade), but the died that it saves you is a ‘1’, and there’s no way to get a one die consistently. So I still scoff, but a bit less. The problem is that you the construction upgrade allows for come from behind victories (which need multiple buildings in a turn) and it gets you extra dice. Balanced against that, it isn’t a VP, but that’s not necessarily a downside, given the come-from-behind ability to discard a card. If I have a roll for an early upgrade, I upgrade Construction (unless I can buy a good building).

I rarely Warehouse or Supply Exchange. Or Upgrade.

The dice situation — The basic cards are the “big money” strategy of Colony. If you buy a 2-6 die (the 3-5 are the cheap ones) then you get a) an unstable die and b) a VP. If you upgrade that you get to stabilize a die and another VP. These are good deals. I wouldn’t go so far as to call them auto-buys, because many of the cards that vary each game cost less for similar effect. Often you’ll want to get another die and then a blue card that can stabilize a die. (The pawn shop turns any die into a stable 5, the Recycling Bin lets you turn an unstable die into a chip, the Tweaker stabilizes a die while it adjusts a pip, etc). You can just pile on unstable dice, but some manipulation is in order. I’ve spent a game cursing my inability to roll a two.

One nice thing about the game is that I’ve seen some games where you win with just a single extra die (or so) card, using manipulation or big VP cards to score. There do seem to be a reasonable number of strategies.

Don’t be afraid to turn two dice into one that you’ll need (usually a 1,2, or 6).

CHIPIs — You can get too many of these, (especially if you upgrade construction, as I do), so I spend them somewhat aggressively in the early game.

The early lead — Because you can discard a card to get unstable dice equal to the difference between you and the leader, jumping up to an early lead isn’t necessarily good. In my last game the TaoLing grabbed up the Prize Vaults and then upgraded them for a quick lead. But I simply sacrificed my upgrade card for 8! unstable dice and used them plus a warehouse to buy three fallout shelters (already having one). Lead demolished. If you have an early lead it’s better to build up a few more dice (etc) and try to push for the win later, instead of building up an exploitable VP point lead.

Fallout Shelters — These don’t grow strictly triangular (1-3-6-9-12-16), but are basically 2 VP a pop until you get to the fourth. The problem is that you can’t really upgrade them efficiently.  Still, grabbing an early shelter can start an arms race because people do not want you to monopolize them.

Thoughts on the numbers (yes, the do have differences!)

You need a ‘2’ (or two) for every basic die producing card! You never need a ‘1’.  In fact, you always need a ‘2’ for a green cards, and only the Experimental Generator (1VP, 1CHIPI/turn) requires ‘1’.

Exchange cards (blue) all need at least a pair of ‘4s’. Trade cards (purple) need a pair of ‘3s’. Attack cards need ‘5s’ and ‘1s’. Paragon/Scoring cards (orange) need ‘6s’. Defensive cards need ‘5s’.

Thoughts on individual (non-basic) cards:

Scrap Shack — 6-2-2 gets you a 5 when built and an unstable 1. Great deal. Cheapest die in the game.

The Black Market‘s ability to turn 1 die into 2 (or three) while stabilizing and preserving pips is useful. In particular, it let you make 6=1=1=1=1 or 6=2=2=2=2 combinations to get fallout shelters. But it is expensive.

The Pawn Shop, Stabilizer, and Recycling Bin all basically let you stabilize a die. The Pawn shop turns it into a five, or lets you turn a (stable) five into whatever. The Bin makes it a CHIPI (which lets you ignore storage limits, but may be an issue if are at the limit of 3), and the Stabilizer just stabilizes anything. All useful. I like the Recycle bin because it upgrades and lets you spend all your CHIPIs each turn, and if you don’t get a great roll, you just convert them back.

I’m not a huge Transmogrifier fan. One more cost for a re-roll. But the upgraded version is nice. The Tweaker‘s ability to stabilize and modify is great.

Trade cards effectively give you a die (assuming you are in a 3+player game you’ll likely be able to trade) and give a bonus VP (2VP + 1 if upgraded, instead of 1+1).

I had a question about Gambling Den, now that I understand it I think its OK.

Time Lock Vault — First of all, any three dice gets a VP, so if this is in the game buy unstable dice if other people aren’t snapping these up. Cheaper to buy these than upgrade your warehouse. Also, this lets you build a big turn, which may let you avoid jumping out to a VP lead (or let you coat-tail an opponent).

Prize Safe — Game changers. These are nine dice (5+4 upgrade) for usually 5-6 VP, but you could get unlucky. Or you could get lucky and get 4 VP for 5 dice. Do not upgrade prematurely.



Written by taogaming

December 4, 2016 at 9:25 pm

Posted in Strategy

Tagged with

Bah — Finance Majors

Or — as we call them around here — idjits.

I mean, how else can you explain the fact that when presented with a game rigged in their favor and offered the chance to bet real money repeatedly playing the game … in any amount they choose … as many times as they could play in 30 minutes

A full third of them lost money! More than a quarter of them went broke! Some of the test subjects were making a living working in investment firms!

Idiots, I say.

Certainly not gamers.

Definitely not gamers with a background in engineering or math.

Of the 61 subjects, 18 subjects bet their entire bankroll on one flip, which increased the probability of ruin from close to 0% using [the optimal strategy] to 40% if their all-in flip was on heads, or 60% if they bet it all on tails, which amazingly some of them did.

Read the full paper (Rational Decision-Making under Uncertainty: Observed Betting Patterns on a Biased Coin) then consider where your retirement savings are.

(Mine are in index funds).

Written by taogaming

November 4, 2016 at 8:34 pm

Posted in Misc, Strategy, Thoughts about Thinking

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Mottainai Strategy

After another burst of (2p) Mottainai I’m starting to see some patterns and harmonies. As my review of Mottainai noted, my chief complaint is that the game ends right after it starts; but that’s a pretty good problem to have. Mottainai plays like Pringles, a game, then a game, then a game…

Mottainai’s similarities with Glory to Rome tripped me up for quite a while. I noticed the subtle differences, but didn’t really grok the implications until recently.

Because of similarities in nomenclature, I’m just going to use Mottainai’s terms. I considered translating to G2R, but that would be a bewildering mess.

FIRST: You release your card at the start of your turn — In Glory, you lead/follow and then the cards immediately go at the end of each turn. So — in G2R — if you play a great role the next player will play Monk and then grab it as a helper for the rest of the game.  Experienced G2R players avoid playing a great role and use sheninigans like playing groups of three roles as a wild on the turn prior, just to get you the first shot at them.

In Mottainai tasks release on your next turn, so you don’t have to worry about that.

Related — when it’s your turn to lead you can decline to play a task, which lets you pray for a card. (You can still use the other player’s tasks to craft/pray). In G2R, skipping your turn is a mixed blessing. You fill up your handsize, but you don’t get control. You miss the chance to pick a role that others may not be able to follow.

In Mottainai, following is free — everyone can use your tasks (barring some buildings).

So I figured declining to play a task was fine. You don’t control tempo as much, but nobody can leach.

But you can punish a player who consistently skips by grabbing cards from the floor into your craftbench or helpers. Normally whatever role you select your opponent could take the task he played his prior turn. But no task last turn means nothing to grab, so they have to pray. (Or craft, but crafting stone instead of using a Monk requires a stone building in hand and a stone on the craftbench, and crafting clay instead of  using a Potter (laborer) requires two clay).

SECOND — Having cards in the craftbench is even better than in G2R. In Glory, you can either use materials in your bench to finish works or sell for VP. You can do the latter in Mottainai, but sales aren’t necessarily VP. To earn VP, you must cover the sale. Having the most of one material earns you the variable backorder points for cards in hand (instead of 3VP). But once you have something in the stockpile, it isn’t used up. If you have a clothe on your craftbench, then anytime someone plays tailor you can use the action or finish any grey work. Powerfully flexible. Having two clay or metal on the bench means you can craft instead of Potter or Smith. Again, flexible. If that doesn’t end the game, then you can craft to move a good or two into sales.

THIRD — Tempo! In general, you want to put your buildings on the sales gallery, to cover your sales. These are worth more points at the end. Also, splitting your works means you can’t control the end of the game. In general, you want to end it. There’s one exception (see below), so splitting works just to double the efficiency of a helper isn’t a great deal. You can always slap down 3-4 works on the sales side then start on the other gallery. (The exception? If you need a long game, you may as well start doubling helpers now).

FOURTH — Helpers aren’t as critical as clients in G2R. You still want them, but because you can have any number (not limited be influence). Grabbing a mediocre helper isn’t a problem. And because you pray by using a helper (or task), the more the merrier. Even multiple tailors may let you craft a cloth work, then tailor, then pray for a sixth card. Yes, you have to discard the sixth card at the start of your turn, but….

FIFTH — Extra hand size (even though discarded before you can use it) is amazing. You may turn your enemies Smith into a metal work. There are only 10 metal cards out of 54, so the odds of getting three metal out of five random cards are only 3% or so. But getting up to a seven card hand nearly triples the odds. And — more importantly — you’ll be well placed to handle whatever your opponent does. Beware of playing an action that the opponent can craft on (particularly with multiple helpers) or beware the smith if your opponent has a full hand.

Incidentally, the exception about ending the game? Backorders. Like many Chudyk games, the game ends right away, nothing else, when it triggers. Which means if your opponent has a 7+ card hand, they all count for backorders. If they aren’t winning anything, fine, but if they are … particularly with a single ‘3’ card sale, you could be in for a nasty surprise.

More thoughts later, if I have any.

Written by taogaming

July 19, 2016 at 6:32 pm

Posted in Strategy

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