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Subject: You Do Not Get It rss

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ronaldinho @boardspace.net
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So instead of posting the same reply everytime, I will just link to this thread from now on.

We are talking about Small World here, and in particular 2er Small World. Yes the rules are simple, yes the gameplay is straightforward. It all comes down to number-crunching after all and if that is boring and unfun for you, I can see that.

However, if you find the game lacking in depth or replayability then you don't get it. For example Chess and Go can also be boring and unfun, but they definitely aren't lacking in depth--we all agree on that--Small World is the same. The winning strategy is not obvious; the best move is not easy to spot. I am the world's best Small World player and even I don't spot the best moves on most of my turns, so how can you? (Hint: you can't.)

I know the packaging and presentation is all cutesy; I believe you when you say that you won by 30 points using an "obvious" strategy; I also believe you when you say that you lost because your superior strategy notwithstanding, you fell victim to other players' whimsical attacks.

I say, respectively, this: Small World is wolf in a sheep's clothing, don't flatter yourself with the notion that you are a "gamer" playing a "gateway" game; pray tell against whom, you won't beat me in a 2er game; play 2er.

Yes you can play Small World multiplayer for the diplomacy/metagaming/collusion aspect, but that is not solely where the game's depth lies and it is not the answer to a player levelling the accusation that Small World is too "obvious." The depth of the game is in the two-player game, the answer is to learn how to play the two-player game better. If you think the only answer to Small World depth and replayability lies in the multiplayer options, then you don't get it either. It's like answering the complaint that Go is too simple with the reply, play multiplayer Go. Why? The answer should be: 2er Go is hardly simplistic, what the hell are you talking about?

There was this whole hoolabooloo about whether Small World was a wargame or not. Now I don't know if it is a wargame or not, but I know it should be played like one. Eurogamers with their strategies prescribed for them in the forms of worker placement games are thinking in terms of just VPs and not outside the box: it's not just about the VPs, but also the token count. It's funny because in many games, like Twilight Imperium or Imperial, the common mistake is to focus too much on the wargame part, and not enough on the VP part of the game. Many gamers have this knowledge so ingrained in their intelligence that they have a hard time unlearning it when the opposite mistake is made: in Small World people focus too much on the VP part, and not enough on the wargame part.

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It became a very simple game of taking as many low cost territories as possible for exactly 2 turns, then declining. It was like clockwork. Every single player did it.
If everyone is using the same strategy, then whoever used that strategy the best will win. That's not saying much. What is far more enlightening is the promise I am about to level at you guys here: I will destroy, absolutely obliterate anyone using that strategy in a 2er game, and probably in a multiplayer game as well.

There is a thing called "presence" on the board and in the latter half of the game, if you haven't been watching your token count I will be totally abusing you, picking on you with twice as many tokens (counting in decline ones), earning 10 points per turn versus your 5. It won't even be fair.

Maximizing points in the current turn is a very myopic strategy. If I can set up a bigger "presence" than you in a two player game, and correctly phase/time my declines to immediately follow yours, shadowing your new active race with another one of mine, it is game over.

Expansion is hardly the only factor. Early game in a two player game it's not even close to being the biggest factor. Presence and phasing can be very game-deciding and it is very hard to balance presence versus turn to turn scoring.

If I am confusing you by all these talks about "presence" and "phasing," then you don't get it. Read on. The following real-life examples are very enlightening.

I lost a game because I opened with a good decline race (Ghouls), and followed with a good blitz race (Commando Orcs), and played the latter as a blitz race (spread myself too thin). In hindsight I should've maybe still picked the Orcs, but used it more as an enduring race: abandon everything and conquer new regions every turn. That way I'll get a bit more points from sacking, but fewer points from holding regions. Holding fewer regions means I can defend them better. It might be worth fewer points in the first couple of turns, but it may average more in the long term.

As was, I ran out of steam, had to decline my Orcs and score ~2 coins on a turn, and went into the last third of the game really weak.

On the flip-side, I actually won a game because I failed all my reinforcement rolls, which saved me from spreading myself too thin. (I rolled for it anyways because I was a noob.)

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Then, on your second turn, you have to choose whether to decline. This is based on how much expansion you have left to do, and you have to take into account how long you expect your declined race to remain around. If you're holding 3 places with your trolls and could expand to 6, it's probably worth it because the points you sacrifice now will be more than compensated for by the points that the extra declined trolls will earn later, since they have good staying power.

Not strictly. Perhaps in a 5 player game it's more like that, but in a 2 or 3 player game hardly. More specifically, I would not think: I could immediately get 4 more regions with a new race, but I could get 9 more points with 3 more Trolls in 3 turns that they stay on.

In a 2er game I played, my opponent started with Tritons and got 6 regions--a mistake, he spread out too thin. I followed with Amazons and sacked 4 regions of his. On turn 2 he immediately declined. Now I am sitting on 4 regions only, with 10 + 4 Amazon tokens to use, and Berserk. In other words, I could get 5 or 6 more regions on one turn, and then decline. But I declined immediately on turn 2 also, just so I can "shadow" my opponent's moves.

I made the same mistake of not declining in similar situations in 2er games before, with Trolls, and I paid the price. Basically, when you are second player, and you don't shadow your opponent's moves, they can just "seize control" of the board and you are done for. They have two turns to wipe out your first race, before you come back on with a decline. So when you do, you are facing two races with one. You can fight one on one with his active on equal footing, perhaps, depending on the specific races. But then you are doing this all while he has an existing decline race, while you do not. Or if you hit his decline race, he'll hit you with his active, and his active will beat yours because you aren't spending full strength hitting his active.

This is still signficant in 3 and 4 player games, though to a lesser extent.

If anecdotes don't convince you that you don't get it, then maybe theorycrafting will. (I doubt it, but what ever stopped me from trying?)

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I will use an economic analogy in an attempt to make my view of this game clear:
Let the race tokens equal buying power or money. Let territories equal commodities or investments. Finally, let the victory coins earned equal a pay out or a return on investment.
In every case I can imagine, it is always better to try to maximize your buying power, ie choosing a race which gives you the maximum number of tokens. Likewise, since each territory or 'investment' yields the exact same return regardless of the cost, it is always better to 'buy' the cheapest ones.
This, as far as I can tell, is the winning strategy.
That is hardly the entire picture. Let me spin some other numbers for you if we want to talk economics.

In a typical game, you will get roughly 3 races or 30 tokens. With these, you will buy 100 points. That is more than 3 points per token. If I hold back from expanding this turn, it might cost me 2 points, but it might also save me 1 or 2 tokens, which will net me more than 2 points in the long run.

More specifically, the fact that you can reduce your opponent's buying power (by attacking him), and your buying power reduced by him in turn (by him attacking you), pretty much throws the entire premise that the all-out expansionist strategy is based on out of the window (each player buying the cheapest points possible in a vacuum).

Instead of all-out expanding, sometimes you want to hit strength with strength. Reducing enemy token count while preserving your own can be very important. If instead you just expand, you are leaving the door wide open for your opponent to completely seize control of the token count for the rest of the game, and in a 2 player game that is game over.

And to that aim, I probably abandon regions voluntarily in at least half of my non-decline turns. I often voluntarily score fewer points than I could've in order to gain a token count advantage.

Abstracts, wargames and Small World reward players who are creative. If you are not abandoning regions then you don't get it. If your scores for 2er games are consistently higher than the 60s then you don't get it.

And even in multiplayer games, the metagaming can be more subtle than just pure diplomacy.

Quote:
Then, you choose where to go on the board. I would argue that in a multi-player game, it's better to get land for yourself rather than focusing on eliminating your opponents at this point. If you hurt yourself and one opponent, then someone else will come out ahead, so it's better to focus on getting points and a strong position for yourself.

But sometimes it doesn't hurt to attack an opponent. As my friend put it nicely, I like to attack strength with strength. Sometimes, I want to hold only 3 regions, even when I can get 5. Given that, I have some leftover tokens for conquests anyways, so attacking an opponent doesn't really cost me anything. I often leave my regions 2 or 3 stacks deep. Sometimes more. And I give up regions to do it.

You may say well if the two of you are doing this to each other, then someone spreading out as much as possible will win. But you won't be doing this to each other. You will both be attacking the guy who spreads out the thinnest, and he will pay the price for it.

Quote:
Now you come to the unavoidable decision of which opponent to attack. Since races with staying power often just want to sit on a particular kind of terrain, you probably won't be picking them up every turn (though of course there are exceptions, like Orcs and Skeletons). This means that you won't be hurting all your opponents equally, but you may be hurting one of them a lot. If someone foolishly spread over an area rich in magic sources without realizing that Wizards were coming up, then you'll attack them. Or if one player seems to have a strong lead, maybe you'll attack them.

It's hardly as simple as picking on the leader, or avoiding farm regions when there are Humans around.

I abandon regions on almost every turn. I choose very carefully where I come onto the board in my entry turn, and where I move towards on later turns. If you do it right, you can force players to go a certain direction that you want them to go. Or make it so that if they attack you, they will also end up attacking someone else just as much. Etc etc. There is a lot of room for manipulation here. A lot of possility to be more creative.

In short, it's not as obvious as maximizing the regions conquered every turn. Defense and being able to preserve token count is important. Or, deciding when token count is important, and when it isn't (going into decline next turn anyways), is crucial. If I hold 6 regions this turn, I might have trouble holding even 5 on the next turn. Whereas if I hold 5 regions this turn, I'd be comfortable holding 5 again next turn. And that's not even going into the nuances of the variances in racial powers. As mentioned, timing is important, and the type of race you choose, the way you use them, and the timing of your decline must all work together. You play differently if you are trying to blitz, endure, or set up a good decline. And not all regions are equal. Sometimes it's good to abandon two regions to conquer just one other to avoid being attacked, get bonus coins, for better board position, or whatnot. How fast to decline. How thin to spread out. Which regions to occupy. All of this depends on what your next/previous races will be/were, and your opponent's.

Quote:
Again, there are technically six choices (for race selection), but you can eliminate half of them because you're looking for a race that will last a long time (unless your first race had the Spirit power, in which case you repeat your first selection process).

3 choices is still a lot. Oware, one of the deepest games, only has 6 possible choices per turn, and often only 2 or 3 real choices on any given turn.

I will put it this way in the form of a mathematical problem. Assume a simplistic game of Vanilla Small Worlds, where every race is flat-out 10 tokens with no special abilities, and no Reinforcement Die either. Even played that way, I don't know what the optimal play would be. I doubt it is the strictly expansionist strategy.

In fact I just did a mock game with myself. The first player favored taking 3 defense regions (mostly opponent's declines), then 2 defense regions (empty regions); the second player attacked the first player's actives and declines, many with 4 defense. After 10 turns, the second player won 55-53. If the first player had favored empty regions over attacking the second player's single tokens, it'd have been worse.

Anecdotes, theory, mathematics, simulation, my own pedigree and the aura of infallibility that comes with it, all point to one and only one conclusion: Small World is not a simple game. The evidence should be clear really: show me a solution to the optimal play for Vanilla Small Worlds. It's not trivially simple. Maybe it is a boring excercise, but it is neither simple nor obvious. And that's without adding in the factors of racial powers and the spatial element of the board.

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Michael J
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Re: You Don't Get It
Uh... OK I thumbed it.
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BT Carpenter
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drunkenKOALA wrote:
I am the world's best Small World player and even I don't spot the best moves on most of my turns, so how can you? (Hint: you can't.)


I understand everything else you wrote, and am even willing to believe it in spite of the above quote.

Do you have proof that you are the world's best?

Thumb for admitting that Small World is a wargame.
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Was George Orwell an Optimist?
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Re: You Don't Get It
drunkenKOALA wrote:
I am the world's best Small World player and even I don't spot the best moves on most of my turns, so how can you? (Hint: you can't.)

Screw Small World - I want to see you and Magic Gecko play Wrasslin' on Pay-per-View TV. You'll both be in spandex, of course, and Vince McMahon will be on hand to deal with rule disputes.



I'm thinking in should be a live broadcast from a major game con. Don't let me down.
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ronaldinho @boardspace.net
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byronczimmer wrote:
drunkenKOALA wrote:
I am the world's best Small World player and even I don't spot the best moves on most of my turns, so how can you? (Hint: you can't.)


I understand everything else you wrote, and am even willing to believe it in spite of the above quote.

Do you have proof that you are the world's best?

Thumb for admitting that Small World is a wargame.
The tone was deliberate, for narrative purposes.
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"Just 'cause a record's got a groove don't make it in the groove."

- Stevie Wonder
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Paul
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drunkenKOALA wrote:
[i] I am the world's best Small World player and even I don't spot the best moves on most of my turns, so how can you? (Hint: you can't.)


I'm just going to go ahead and say I have a pretty good record against the "the world's best Small World player" and I do mean 2er.
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Alex Jets
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Dear Greatest Small World Player in the World,

Excellent article and accurate on all points except one. In a 2 player game you mention that it is best to "shadow" your opponent into decline. I also used to think this was always the best strategy until this game happened.
http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/542771/2-player-game-top...

I think that you should now always shadow your opponent unless pillaging kobolds/ratmen are available for your opponent to choose.
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Alex Jets
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Actually you can probably add pillaging goblins to that list as well
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ronaldinho @boardspace.net
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Jets wrote:
Dear Greatest Small World Player in the World,

Excellent article and accurate on all points except one. In a 2 player game you mention that it is best to "shadow" your opponent into decline. I also used to think this was always the best strategy until this game happened.
http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/542771/2-player-game-top...

I think that you should now always shadow your opponent unless pillaging kobolds/ratmen are available for your opponent to choose.
Yes. It depends on the situation.

My point was mainly that timing/phasing is something you should consider, in addition to maximizing points per tun.
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ronaldinho @boardspace.net
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Hiko Bunta wrote:
drunkenKOALA wrote:
I am the world's best Small World player and even I don't spot the best moves on most of my turns, so how can you? (Hint: you can't.)


I'm just going to go ahead and say I have a pretty good record against the "the world's best Small World player" and I do mean 2er.
But not a winning record, am I right? It was pretty close, and many games came down to 1 or 2 points.

But yes, anyone not getting it in the bay area should stop by Berkeley to get it from Hiko Grandmaster Bunta.

(You didn't close the italics.)

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/50352/item/1155644#ite...
http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/47671/item/1078762#ite...
http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/44801/item/1003370#ite...
http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/44000/item/982378#item...
http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/42899/item/950821#item...

Donna and Mak on certain occasions are pretty decent as well.
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Andrejs Klavins
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Heck, this is the Smallworld we're playing!

Not 2er, but 2 vs 2 version, which still proves to be tremendous fun, and most of the things mentioned here apply in it.

Definately thumbs up, because I often, when people are dissing this game as "simplistic and without much strategic choices", I have this feeling that I am playing something completely different and that they are missing a huge piece of strategic decision cake.
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Nicklas Brandefelt
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Hi and thanks for an interesting article. I have a question as a non-expert. I have always felt that the 2-player games are more strategic but have recently noticed a problem. As attacking grows more important the balance are tipped in favour for attacking contra economics and sometimes there are no good enough alternatives for the second player. This becomes extra true when skeletons are out to begin with. If he gets +5 skeletons the first player has a 50% chance of getting 2 more in the first round. Now there arn't that many options that can stand up against the skeletons. They will grind you down by leaving the map every time. If you attack back the skeletons stay the same number while you diminish. If you let them be they grow in number and you stil diminish. If you try to go into decline the skeletons will not leave much of your in decline race and will probably have as many or more skeletons compared to your new race. If you play with leaders the skeletons are even stronger. Am I missing something?

are there a good defense against starting skeletons in a 2-playergame?

(I assume there are one or two combos but you would want there to be an acceptable defense in at least 90% of the games)

best,
Nicklas
 
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ronaldinho @boardspace.net
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nbrande wrote:
Hi and thanks for an interesting article. I have a question as a non-expert. I have always felt that the 2-player games are more strategic but have recently noticed a problem. As attacking grows more important the balance are tipped in favour for attacking contra economics and sometimes there are no good enough alternatives for the second player. This becomes extra true when skeletons are out to begin with. If he gets +5 skeletons the first player has a 50% chance of getting 2 more in the first round. Now there arn't that many options that can stand up against the skeletons. They will grind you down by leaving the map every time. If you attack back the skeletons stay the same number while you diminish. If you let them be they grow in number and you stil diminish. If you try to go into decline the skeletons will not leave much of your in decline race and will probably have as many or more skeletons compared to your new race. If you play with leaders the skeletons are even stronger. Am I missing something?

are there a good defense against starting skeletons in a 2-playergame?

(I assume there are one or two combos but you would want there to be an acceptable defense in at least 90% of the games)

best,
Nicklas
I don't have an explicit answer for that. Sometimes the order that the races come up can be pretty decisive and prone to luck of the turn order. I am not sure if the Wealthy Ghouls followed by Pillaging Skeletons is beatable in 2er.

If the first player picks the Skeleton as his first race, it's not that good because he's operating on only one race. The same with the second player picking it as his first race.

If both players are greedy and leave it up for their second race, presumedly the player who gets it hastily declined his first race sooner than he wanted. It depends on what's available, but the other player's leverage is the option to run a 3+ race strategy and make up for the token count that way.

How much and where to spread out, and the phasing of your decline can be really important. You are very vulnerable when you decline, but if you time it correctly you can make it inconvenient for the opponent to hit you and avoid a crippling blow.

But yeah if the first player opened the game with Commando Amazons and spread out all over the map and is ready to decline on turn 2, and pick the Skeletons on turn 3, then the second player might be pressed to pick the Skeletons as his first race and be forced to make-do with a worse opening race. That's why the turn order and the race order can be biased and "unfair," but that's that. It depends on what's available usually it is more or less balanced, but sometimes certain ordering can almost give the game to one player or the other.
 
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Nicklas Brandefelt
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Thanks for your answer,
there is actually almost no penalty for not having two races in our games as races usually get almost wiped out and with skeletons increasing in number for every time they are soon more than two races. There are however some combos that can stand up but not so many in my experience. Important being to have some advantage when going in decline like stout or fortressess or gouls combined with some attacking capability. Remember the skeletons always leave the map and therefor do not spread so wide. The effect is enhanced when playing with leaders as we where doing.
I will keep trying to fight those skeletons!
best,
Nicklas
 
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ronaldinho @boardspace.net
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Quote:
as races usually get almost wiped out
That could be alleviated by good phasing, and taking advantage of the spatial element of the board (although it is harder with the smaller 2er board).

And you might not want to play the attrition game with him because you can't win that battle. As a game ending race Merchant Halflings is a guarenteed 6 unconquerable points plus some per turn; with all his tokens how many can the Skeletons score? Commando or Amazons or Tritons can spread out real fast, let the Skeletons hit them for two turns (the first of which you will have defensive deployments so with correct spatial play you shouldn't be losing too much) and still have enough left when the new active race enters the board.

Timing is very important. There's no simple answer. Granted in some situations the race combinations available is just insurmountable.

I don't know about the leaders. That might be the problem.
 
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Jacob Russell
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I want to assume that the level of arrogance contained in here is a joke, if only it was funny, since it's not all I can conlude is that the OP is full of himself. If I didn't like the game this article would ensure I never play it again.
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JonJacob wrote:

I want to assume that the level of arrogance contained in here is a joke, if only it was funny, since it's not all I can conlude is that the OP is full of himself. If I didn't like the game this article would ensure I never play it again.


I don't know how you could have possibly gotten that impression... shake
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ronaldinho @boardspace.net
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JonJacob wrote:

I want to assume that the level of arrogance contained in here is a joke, if only it was funny, since it's not all I can conlude is that the OP is full of himself. If I didn't like the game this article would ensure I never play it again.
So you would stop playing a game because someone else is arrogant...to spite them? Real mature.
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djgutierrez77 wrote:
JonJacob wrote:

I want to assume that the level of arrogance contained in here is a joke, if only it was funny, since it's not all I can conlude is that the OP is full of himself. If I didn't like the game this article would ensure I never play it again.


I don't know how you could have possibly gotten that impression... shake
I agree I am arrogant. But even when I am arrogant I stay on topic and I don't remember past incidents. One thing I don't do is stalk other people's posts to make non-constructive/off-topic comments on their persons because I remember what happened in another thread.
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Dave G
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drunkenKOALA wrote:
djgutierrez77 wrote:
JonJacob wrote:

I want to assume that the level of arrogance contained in here is a joke, if only it was funny, since it's not all I can conlude is that the OP is full of himself. If I didn't like the game this article would ensure I never play it again.


I don't know how you could have possibly gotten that impression... shake
I agree I am arrogant. But even when I am arrogant I stay on topic and I don't remember past incidents. One thing I don't do is stalk other people's posts to make non-constructive/off-topic comments on their persons because I remember what happened in another thread.


I was referring to this thread, sunshine. I'm not sure what other thread you're referring to, but if you think you were arrogant there too I accept your apology.
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ronaldinho @boardspace.net
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Regardless, please stop posting gratuitous/off-topic comments on my person/posting history in the future:

Quote:
To be fair to Koala (who may or may not have any basic social skills at all, you'd have to ask him), your post sounds more like someone complaining about needing to "fix" something that's not broken.


Quote:
I think if you read enough of the forums that Koala posts in you'll find that his...unique...way of interacting with people is pretty consistent...


Quote:
Isn't there a thread we can link to where you and I and several other people have had this argument a million other times?...I'm sure you're the greatest two-player Dominion player since the dawn of time and all the continents of the world cower in fear at the mere mention of the mighty Chapel deck of DrunkenKoala the Bold....I still don't think it's a dominant strategy with more than two players.
 
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Dave G
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Those were all pretty on topic far as I can see?
 
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ronaldinho @boardspace.net
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djgutierrez77 wrote:
Those were all pretty on topic far as I can see?
Was the topic my person, posting history, or something else (games)?

In other words, I'd appreciate it if I don't hear any more commentary on my person. Let me know if you think I have made any commentary on anyone's person.
 
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