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Race for the Galaxy: The Brink of War» Forums » Strategy

Subject: An endgame puzzle rss

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Ty Wilson
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Back when I used to be into Go and reading books on strategy and tactics, I always enjoyed the situational problems that the authors drew up to teach certain aspects of the game. I realize this isn't quite the same thing, but I have what I hope is an interesting endgame puzzle for the BoW forum that arose from a game I recently played. It's offered here by the student, not the teacher, and I'd like to hear how you'd tackle it.

In a 2PA BoW game, after 7 rounds you trail your opponent 39-44. Each of you has 8 cards in the tableau, but there are only 13 VPs left in the pool at the start of Round 8. Each of you has already used a prestige/search action. All goals have been achieved, with neither "Most" goal likely to change hands. Your opponent is flush with 11 cards (prestige leader), and you've got 8. You've also got Psi-crystal World in play and have called x2 in order to get what you expect might be one last gasp out of your C/P engine. Your opponent has called a naked Dev-x2 (i.e no consume powers yet) with 2 alien and 3 genes goods down. You've got 5 goods down, but can only consume 3 (for 6 VP when doubled) at the moment. You've got Galactic Markets (worth 2VP & 1 prestige) in hand (which would let you consume your other 2 goods if played), but also have a small non-windfall world you can settle for 2VP.

What do you call for your 2nd action?

[Edited to include information on used prestige/search actions.]
 
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mar hawkman
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how many cards does markets cost in this example? This is definately end game time, so play whatever you can.

Markets is definately a must, but what other cards do you have? you mentioned 8 cards in hand but only said what 2 of them are.
 
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Serge
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This is hard to visualize without card images, nor can we make a proper assessment without full tableaus. There is so much information that can be gleaned from the absent details.

Have prestige/search actions been used? If he hasn't, does he have a prestige?

Have you been x2/V the last few turns, i.e. he'll expect you to x2 and therefore plans to end the game on his x2 here (assuming you dev a IV power)?

With the informtion provided, i would expect to see him dev one of these:



Note also that by selectively giving us the info you did, you've primed us for this prediction, so if i'm right it means very little! :)

Depending on which he has, he'll score 53 or 56 (assuming he has 3 green worlds and no Genetics Lab). While you will score 52.

I don't think settle benefits you more than him here. You gain 4 points from the sounds of it, while he's likely to play something equal or better with his remaining large handsize.

It's hard to give you the correct play without seeing your tableau. If you have some good 6dev outs, you should probably I+5 for the 10% win or w/e it is.

A lot also depends on the skill level and playstyle of your opponent. If he'll II/X2 with Public Works here, my entire assessment doesn't really fit the game state.
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John Riston
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Worst case, opponent has Galactic Genome Project. Will be worth 6VP + 6 VP for consuming for a total of 12VP. I can't think of another dev off-hand that will give him more.

In any event, his x2 with no goods is telegraphing some sort of consume power in his develop phase, which kind of rules out Imperium Planet Buster He'll put out a 6-cost at maximum. That leaves him with 5 cards at a minimum.

GM is worth 3VP plus the extra two goods consumed makes 7VP. Add to the 6VP you can consume for already, you're at 13VP. I'd say developing GM is an obvious decision. If he has GGP, you'd lose by four points.

Settling the small world is possible but only gives you 2VP, and there's every chance the opponent can settle a better one due to his larger hand size (how much does the 2VP world cost?) In the case of GGP you're still 2VP short without his settle leech. That leads me to believe that settle is a poor choice.

I'd probably call dev to save a card in case of tie breakers. Maybe E+5 and hope for a long shot.

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John Riston
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entranced wrote:

I don't think settle benefits you more than him here. You gain 4 points from the sounds of it, while he's likely to play something equal or better with his remaining large handsize.


The OP said that it's a non-windfall world, so it's only worth 2VP. That said, I agree with your overall point.

Ty, any reason you didn't use the prestige action with the x2 call?
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BT Carpenter
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This puzzle is really not a puzzle without knowing exactly what has already been played by each player (which also tells us what hasn't been played) and exactly what 8 cards you hold in your hand.


 
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Børge N
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I agree that there is too little information to make a very meaningful decision. Have the prestige actions been used? Have any of you any military? Are there any potential high-scoring 6devs for any of you?

Like others (and in the context of Psi-Crystal World), I will assume that the opponent really wants to play a consume-dev, which is either of the two cards above, Galactic Exchange (4+3/6VP), New Economy (4+2VP) or perhaps Interstellar Casus Belli (5+0VP). These three score less than 52, so these are good for you.

So the question is, given the play style of the opponent (in this and previous games) and whether you have discarded/seen any of these other cards, which of these five cards are most likely.

Note that it is impossible for your opponent to force the end of the game (he can consume for 6VP at the max), so if you are fairly certain that Galactic Markets or Galactic Genome Project is to be played, I'd rather E+1/E+5 (depending on the explore bonuses), playing a dev without a consume power this turn (if available), consuming what I have at the moment, and call X2 again next turn. With GM, he could consume again, putting him at 58VP (incl Prestige bonus), and with GGP, he would be at 57VP. You would end at 49VP (assuming no suitable dev). It would be a long shot, but you might have a card advantage for the next turn and you could take great effect of Psi-Crystal World.

If his worlds are windfall, and yours not, it could also be possible to Produce instead of Explore for a beneficial Consume the next round.
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Buz
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This just makes me want to Play by Forum again.
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Ty Wilson
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entranced wrote:
Have prestige/search actions been used? If he hasn't, does he have a prestige?

Fair question, Serge (...and John...and Borge). I've edited the OP to indicate that each of you has already used a prestige/search action.
 
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Ty Wilson
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A few of you suggested that there was not enough information provided to make a proper assessment. While that might be true for a PBF decision, I chose to frame this as a "puzzle" because there is something in particular that I'm hoping to highlight and understand.

The problem isn't contrived and actually took place in a game, but I purposefully stripped out details that weren't important to the puzzle in order to isolate the central question. That is, accepting that all of the relevant facts are "on the table" (e.g. the only other card besides GM that is affordable and worth considering to play is a 2VP non-prod world, military strength/worlds don't matter, 6-cost devs don't factor into it), what would be your choice for a 2nd action?

To the question of your pattern of play, I did mention trying to squeeze out a bit more from your C/P engine, which suggests you've called it at least once before and probably more. In a sense, that doesn't matter because your opponent has already factored it into his decision and made the call of Dev-x2.

In any case, I appreciate that several of you have taken a stab at the question nonetheless and provided your reasoning. Synthesizing all of the responses, the options I've seen presented are:

1)develop GM & settle whatever you can to get points;
2)develop GM, but don't settle b/c it will likely help your opponent more than you given his flush hand;
3)don't develop GM this round, in order to possibly prolong the game another round, and explore +5 for a better option; and
4)develop something without consume powers to prolong the game and explore (either +1+1 or +5 depending upon your available explore powers) or produce (preparing for x2 the next round).

These are great. Does this cover them, or is there another option (not leading the witness here, just asking before I share what I did and what I learned from my decision) or have I missed something in the responses?

BTW, I found the discussion of the opponent's possible consume devs to be particularly helpful. Note to self, count all 6-cost dev discards at a minimum...and everything else, too.
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mar hawkman
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Quote:
The problem isn't contrived and actually took place in a game, but I purposefully stripped out details that weren't important to the puzzle in order to isolate the central question. That is, accepting that all of the relevant facts are "on the table" (e.g. the only other card besides GM that is affordable and worth considering to play is a 2VP non-prod world, military strength/worlds don't matter, 6-cost devs don't factor into it), what would be your choice for a 2nd action?
that's just it.... the other details ARE relevent.
 
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Serge
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buzhannon wrote:
This just makes me want to Play by Forum again.

Hehe now that Diablo 3 is out, there is no chance i will be running PBF until at least several months into Alien Artifacts. However, the process is not as hard as it looks and was laid out in full detail, should anyone wish to run one.

marhawkman wrote:
that's just it.... the other details ARE relevent.

I see the OPs point about trying to make it more of a general strategy situation. It just serves to show how important and different every single situation is. Also you can play RftG at different levels. The "just play your best dev" level. The "I+5 is automatic vs a good opponent level", etc.

IMO the only really pivotal missing details here are:

1) which 6devs have been observed
2) how many green worlds opponent has
3) how much + look we have
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Ty Wilson
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entranced wrote:

IMO the only really pivotal missing details here are:

1) which 6devs have been observed
2) how many green worlds opponent has
3) how much + look we have


1) I don't recall exactly, but I'm sure I saw a few discarded during opponent's search action. He has Uplift Code and Rebel Alliance down. (Note to self: put a star next to earlier note to self about counting 6-cost devs.)
2) He has 3: RUW, AqUR, LUG.
3) Just the +1 from Psi.
 
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BT Carpenter
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beadydub wrote:
The problem isn't contrived and actually took place in a game, but I purposefully stripped out details that weren't important to the puzzle from my perspective in order to isolate the central question. That is, accepting that all of the relevant facts are "on the table" from my perspective (e.g. the only other card besides GM that is affordable and worth considering to play is a 2VP non-prod world, military strength/worlds don't matter, 6-cost devs don't factor into it), what would be your choice for a 2nd action?


I disagree with this and have updated the words to indicate why. From your perspective, you've given the 'essence' of the question. Many (self included) have indicated that there is a lot more information available than what you have provided.

Some basic questions haven't been answered and really do impact the 'solution' to this 'puzzle' (note, I've started using quotes).

What cards are in our hand?
- besides the 2 cards you mention of Galactic Markets and some nondescript 2VP world?
What cards are in our tableau?
- so important
What cards are in the opponent's tableau?
- equally important

That's basic information needed to make a decision.

It doesn't even touch on some of the other things players can keep track of to improve their decision making such as:

How big is the discard pile?
What cards do we know we CANNOT draw to because they exist in the discard pile?
How well has the opponent anticipated our plays in the past (enabling drafting actions such as trading off of a windfall played due to an opponent's settle action)?

There are 8 turns of history leading to this static 'moment'.

What you're asking us to do is to make the call on what ROLE you pick based on 'you want to call Consume x2 (which may not be the best plan) and have Galactic Markets, a 'small non-windfall world worth 2VP' and six other cards in hand'.



In the interest of skipping to the end -- can you tell us what you did do and if it won or lost you the game? I feel like there's an interesting story here, but not a puzzle.



 
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rain
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I think you're a bunch of big whiners Sure it may not be a puzzle with an exact answer, but it still is interesting to think about what the best move is in that kind of situation, ceteris paribus. I had some fun considering whether I+5, $ or V would in general be best here for your second action. Sure, specific details could completely change the solution, but a Race problem which contained all necessary information would require a list of ALL cards seen in the game so far. That's a bit too onerous to produce and cumbersome to present.

Ty, I applaud your attempt to come up with a Race problem, and hope you don't get too discouraged by the folks here. And definitely, some of the whines suggestions here are worth thinking about for future puzzles.
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BT Carpenter
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Rainstar wrote:
I think you're a bunch of big whiners Sure it may not be a puzzle with an exact answer


Then it's an interesting story, or heuristic or a session report.

It's run it's course... I would like to know what happened because there's obviously some magnificent play here that we're supposed to anticipate or guess at.
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Ty Wilson
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Rainstar wrote:
Ty, I applaud your attempt to come up with a Race problem, and hope you don't get too discouraged by the folks here. And definitely, some of the whines suggestions here are worth thinking about for future puzzles.


Thanks for the encouragement, Piper. Folks have certainly given me food for thought when framing "position" or "situational" problems in RftG. I found them to be instructive when learning Chess and Go and figured there was some potential for something similar here.

You've touched on an important idea: ceteris paribus (or "keeping other things the same"). Hoping not to sound too pedantic here, but when constructing or using models to better understand a system/phenomenon/relationship, modelers often assign "reasonable" fixed values to parameters that they recognize are actually variable. However, by keeping those parameters fixed and tweaking the ones of interest, they can learn something about a certain aspect of the problem. Maybe I needed to provide a few more "fixed values" for some parameters in order for the model to be meaningful for some folks. Fair enough, and I hope this wasn't too frustrating an experience.

Thanks to all of you who provided feedback (positive and negative).

byronczimmer wrote:
It's run it's course... I would like to know what happened because there's obviously some magnificent play here that we're supposed to anticipate or guess at.


Agreed, the time has come, but you may be disappointed with the reveal because there's nothing magnificent about it (much like the answer to most position problems).

I chose option 1 that I listed above: select the "settle" role for my 2nd action. I figured that, since I'd already committed to x2 ("dance with the one that brought you to the party"), I should try to maximize points on what I guessed would be the final round. I thought that I stood a better shot trying to end it sooner rather than later, given that my opponent had more cards to work with in hand, not to mention 5 goods just waiting to be consumed, once he got the powers.

Not surprisingly, he played a 6-cost dev with a consume power. The good news was that it was Galactic Exchange and not an absolute killer card. The bad news was that I'd called settle. He played Information Hub for 2VP (dodged a big bullet there) and tallied 6VP for 3 kinds of worlds and 4VP for his x2, giving him a total of 56. GM gave me 2VP plus a prestige, while the nondescript small windfall yielded 2VP. Running the C/P engine on fumes one last time got me 12VP with x2 for a total of 56. He wins on cards.

Most of you figured correctly that settle would likely benefit my opponent more than me (just barely, it turned out, but I got very lucky there). Choosing the "develop" role instead would have left me with 52 VP to opponent's 51. I'll admit that I never really considered the option of not developing at all, or developing a card without consume powers, to try to prolong the game another round. Perhaps that might have worked out better, but I thought his advantage of cards in hand and goods down likely would have left me short of the mark. Either way, I got lucky with his 6-cost dev.

The take home points I got from all of this were:

1) you don't always want to maximize your points, you just want more points than your opponent;
2) especially not by trying to do so when the odds are in your opponent's favor; and
3) count all 6-cost dev discards that you see, since you may need that information to calculate the odds above.
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BT Carpenter
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thank you

Now - had you not x2 consumed, would the game have ended?
 
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Ty Wilson
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Recognizing that this is a different problem than the one posed , then I would say it doesn't appear so, a posteriori. He would have gotten 4VP for his x2, while I would have at least 3VP from my consume (and I could still have played GM and gotten 2VP more). So Round 9 would have started with something like 3-5VP in the pool after accounting for his prestige lead VP.

My question would then be, a priori, what are the odds that the game will end even if I don't call x2, given his flush hand and the fact that he has 5 goods down? Just to pursue this line of reasoning a little further, if I call explore+5, see his two choices using Psi, followed by produce instead, aren't I just giving him another opportunity to find even more points, putting me even further behind at the start of Round 9?
 
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X Topher
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beadydub wrote:


In a 2PA BoW game, after 7 rounds you trail your opponent 39-44. Each of you has 8 cards in the tableau, but there are only 13 VPs left in the pool at the start of Round 8. Each of you has already used a prestige/search action. All goals have been achieved, with neither "Most" goal likely to change hands. Your opponent is flush with 11 cards (prestige leader), and you've got 8. You've also got Psi-crystal World in play and have called x2 in order to get what you expect might be one last gasp out of your C/P engine. Your opponent has called a naked Dev-x2 (i.e no consume powers yet) with 2 alien and 3 genes goods down. You've got 5 goods down, but can only consume 3 (for 6 VP when doubled) at the moment. You've got Galactic Markets (worth 2VP & 1 prestige) in hand (which would let you consume your other 2 goods if played), but also have a small non-windfall world you can settle for 2VP.


The trains will meet at 3:20 pm! Errr...wrong
class.
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Serge
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beadydub wrote:
Just to pursue this line of reasoning a little further, if I call explore+5, see his two choices using Psi, followed by produce instead, aren't I just giving him another opportunity to find even more points, putting me even further behind at the start of Round 9?

Not necessarily, that kind of situation often comes up where it's your only chance to win. In fact here, with 3 tableau spots left each, it can be anyone's game if you stop consuming for VP chips. Though not saying i'd produce, but just that your options are wide open for oddball plays when behind. I/I, I/$, etc. If your only chance to win is to assume his large hand is all garbage, assume his hand is all garbage, and you will win on occasion where you would have lost had you played differently.
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