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Subject: Foiling the early Catacomb blitzkrieg rss

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Christopher Rao
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Q:When I say "lawyer" what pops into your head? A:Someone who designs games about penguins." - Dormammu
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I have a natural bias towards games with variable end games that can be manipulated by the players. With all due respect to Kramer and Ulrich (who occupy the #6 & #7 rank on BGG with El Grande and The Princes of Florence), I just feel confined by knowing exactly how many turns and actions I will have (much as I love Leonardo da Vinci, it bothers me there as well). Perhaps it's not completely accidental that 3 games with variable endings, Puerto Rico, Power Grid, and Caylus - currently occupy the #1, #2, and #5 ranks on BGG (true, Power Grid is not truly a variable end condition in the same way, but it affords tremendous player control in ending the game).

One of the great things about Glory to Rome are the multiple ways to end the game 1) deplete the draw deck; 2) deplete the local building sites; 3) complete a Forum with all 6 types of clients in tow (for an automatic win); or 4) complete the Catacomb.

The Catacomb provide 3 VPs do not otherwise help the player win. Rather, starting a Catacomb is a handy way to trigger a quick end game when you think you're ahead (or that completing the Catacomb will put you ahead). For me, it's just right on the player control:chaos spectrum. That is, it can feel chaotic at first, but the more you play you more you see ways to combat it.


courtesy cambridgegames
click to see a bigger view - it's in the bottom right corner

One recent three-player game saw the Catacomb come out on the 3rd or 4th round - very early! The player (Birch) who played it had built a 1-point building or two, one opponent (me) had a 1-point building, and the other (Jose) had no buildings yet complete. It was obvious to me that Birch had the three stone in hand to complete the building, and could likely do so in a couple of turns.

One obvious preventive measure was for Jose and I to not play Craftsman, which would just help Birch end the game. The move that I didn't see was to play a legionary (I too one stone in my hand) and ask for stone. This is a subtlety to legionary that didn't occur to me until later. Jose, however, had one (and just one) resource in his stockpile - but it was one more than Birch or I. So he simply played Merchant, and moved the resource to his vault (I think it was a 2-pointer, either concrete or brick). As no else had any materials in the vault, this gave Jose 5 points, which meant that Birch could no longer end the game as planned.

Birch's attempt at a quick victory was bold, but cost him dearly - once you have spent 2 or 3 early actions to begin a Catacomb, then can't finish it, you're really stuck, because you have to abandon the building and try something else. Of course, you still have the threat of ending the game, but you've already likely fallen behind.

Jose too had fallen behind. He had 5 points, but no buildings and no resources. I, on the other hand, was merrily working on my second building. The rest of the game details are less interesting to me - suffice it to say that I won by leveraging my early building abilities into more and more useful actions.


courtesy jamesmattbob

The blitzkrieg Catacomb strategy is much like the quick Catan win where you build exactly 5 roads and 3 robbers. If it works, great. If it doesn't you're at an immediate disadvantage (usually one player goes after most robbers and another after most roads, and you may end up getting neither).

A common dynamic in many games is that one player stops the leader from winning while a third player builds momentum for the win. In many games turn order affects this greatly (think Railways of the World and preventing the last building from being added to the board by Industrializing). Another popular dynamic is to pressure the player in closest proximity to the leader to carve away at the lead (as in war games).

In G2R, this dynamic is executed beautifully, pressuring both the player preceding the leader as well as the player who may be most able to stop the leader because of that player's special abilities.

At first I thought the asymmetry of the Forum and Catacomb end conditions was a design inelegance. The more I play, the more I appreciate these distinctions.

More on the Forum end condition soon....

cheers,
topherr
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Dan Schaeffer
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The Catacomb rush worked out for me in my first game. (2P, both brand newbies.)

My opponent, Dave, had a Craftsman-crazy clientele and was building away. I was behind and had only two clients (neither of which was helping me build). I did have a Legionary client, though, and had built a Bridge, so I was able to collect resources fairly effectively. I started a Catacomb, but delayed finishing it because I was too far behind. But then I managed to put a marble into my Vault, and suddenly the Catacomb looked a bit more useful... if I could finish it before Dave could put anything in his Vault.

I don't remember the actual final play sequence exactly, but when the dust settled, I had built the Catacomb to end the game; I was 4 or 5 points behind in influence, and the 6 points from the marble in my Vault (3 for the card, +3 bonus chip) gave me the game.

Hold on a second. I just saw this in your note:
Quote:
The Catacomb provide 3 VPs do not otherwise help the player win.


Is that in the rules somewhere? Why wouldn't you get the 3 VP from the building? (If those 3VP don't count, then we played it wrong last night, and I have to put an asterisk next to my W....)
 
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Anthony Goodwin
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Glory to Rome » Forums » Sessions
Re: Foiling the early Catacomb blitzkrieg
I think he was just stating that the Catacombs ONLY give you 3vp. They do not give you a guaranteed win like the forum does. So they do give you points but if you are still behind you will make yourself lose.
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