Things I Learned by Getting Thrashed on Yucata
John Farrell
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After a dismal number of plays recorded last month, I decided I needed to get my geek on and play some games on-line. This is something I do sporadically, and have played at BSW and gamerz.net. This time I decided to try yucata.de, because it seemed to have a nicer interface. Since then I've recorded 69 or so plays there, and have learned a lot of things about a lot of games, in particular strategy tips. I'll try to pass some of those tips on in this list.
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1. Board Game: ConHex [Average Rating:6.88 Overall Rank:3996]
John Farrell
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I started playing Conhex. A series of thrashings by Barticus on gamerz.net introduced me to this, and although I do OK at this, I can't hold my own with the big boys. In particular, there's a type of connection that I think is strong but is in reality weak. In the image above, I'm red. The opponent (pphh) will next go at I6 which will guarantee one of those neighbouring cells for him, and I can have the other if I still care. My false reading of that situation has cost me a couple of games.
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2. Board Game: Oregon [Average Rating:6.77 Overall Rank:1141]
John Farrell
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Firstly, I learned this is a really cool game. I'd never played it before. I could tell there was skill involved because garygarison kept beating me. So I started by placing some people and placing some buildings and kind of hoping that some points would spontaneously arise. Then I moved onto placing people where they would get some points, and that was better, but I noticed people scoring huge huge points from gold mines, so I tried placing my guys and my buildings so they would all work together and I was still getting beaten. Finally I realised I needed to place my guys to get points, and to try to place them so that later I could place more buildings and score loads more points from the same guys, and then I started winning. Still a very cool game, and I need a real copy.
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3. Board Game: Ponte del Diavolo [Average Rating:6.55 Overall Rank:2531]
John Farrell
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I have a real copy of this game which I've only played once. I got beaten by my wife that time, so I'm no expert. I started my game on yucata confidently, quickly forming an island. What a mistake! Once you've formed a 4 piece island there are a load of places you can no longer place, and my opponent took full advantage of that, gleefully setting up many opportunities for herself while I was constrained in where I could play. I sort of recovered towards the end of the game, but she had it won from the start. So, I learned that committing yourself too early makes you inflexible.
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4. Board Game: Tally Ho! [Average Rating:6.14 Overall Rank:2720]
John Farrell
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This is a pretty random 2 player game that I quite enjoy, and having played and been beaten I still think it's pretty random. Sometimes your bear gets stuck behind a tree and there's nothing you can do. I don't recall learning anything from this game. If it's not random, someone please tell me why not.
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5. Board Game: Saint Petersburg [Average Rating:7.31 Overall Rank:261]
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Finally I got into the site well enough to play a game I really do like. I usually do fairly badly at this game with 4 players, but I do have some very good opponents. On yucata it seems I'm above average, but not one of the best. It seems I focus too much on workers and not enough on nobles. I've seen some very lovely games played by my opponents where they had as many workers as I do, and several more nobles. I don't yet get how they do it, I'll have to replay some of those games and see what decisions they're making that differ from how I play. It really is lovely to be beaten at a game you think you're good at.
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6. Board Game: Six [Average Rating:6.27 Overall Rank:4235]
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This is another game I have a physical copy of but have trouble getting to the table. It turns out my opponents are right, it's not very interesting :-). Having said that though, there are definitely strategies to be exploited. It seemed to me that my opponent recognised that he wasn't going to beat me by forming any of the patterns required to win, so he played for the second half of the game where you start taking pieces off. In that part of the game, any small sections of the board that become disconnected are removed from play. I realised that I had many pieces vulnerable on the edge of the board, so tried to protect them. I made one mistake in doing that, and my opponent used his strength just inside the perimeter to form 6 in a row. Yes, there's something to this game, but I still don't go for it much.
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7. Board Game: Chinagold [Average Rating:5.91 Overall Rank:8571]
John Farrell
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This game was new to me. I've wanted a copy for a long time but it's a bit hard to get and I took the chance to play it on-line to see if it was any good. I won a couple, and lost a couple, and then I got really really badly beaten. My opponent claimed about the last 10 points and I was powerless to stop him. Suddenly I saw where the game was really clever, and realised I'd been playing easybeats. Since then I've been paying attention to nastier tactics, and doing quite well.

So, I'd better explain the devastating tactic. My opponent left a few places around the board where there were two pieces of gold both on the same river and the same island. As each piece could only be flipped with a 1 roll, and doing so would give the gold to the opponent, neither of us bothered. However, using the Flip Back rule, and a better understanding of the rules than I still have, in particular the rule about when the dice change, my opponent organised it so that for the last few turns I was forced to flip one gold and give him two points,every turn. Ouch.
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8. Board Game: Kahuna [Average Rating:6.65 Overall Rank:1011]
John Farrell
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Another one I have a physical copy of but don't play much. I played Scrabblette once and really got into it, taking all of her bridges and completely destroying her. At Yucata, my opponent started by drawing a card, observed what I was trying to do, then started a brutal attack that kept me down for most of the game. It was rather tiresome, actually. Maybe I could get into it with more play, but I don't feel the need. The strategy lesson from this one again seems to be to not commit yourself. Also, understand the rules a bit better before you play.
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9. Board Game: Just4Fun Colours [Average Rating:5.49 Overall Rank:14708]
John Farrell
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I won my first game of Just 4 Fun Colors. That goes to show that it's really quite random. If you need a particular colour and it just doesn't turn up, you're screwed. It's an alright filler, but don't take it seriously.
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10. Board Game: Masons [Average Rating:6.53 Overall Rank:1720]
John Farrell
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Another I own a physical copy of, and I'm getting into it. I understand some of the moves, but my opponent has played over 1000 times, and understood much more of it than me. In particular, she was paying attention to when the game was going to end, and I wasn't. I still think it's a good game. I think I need to pay more attention to swapping cards, scoring when I can, and matching my hand to what's on the board.
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11. Board Game: Down Under [Average Rating:5.62 Overall Rank:12835]
John Farrell
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In this path-building game, it's important to take advantage of any bits of path your opponent has left lying around. However it really didn't excite me at all, and writing that here is the only way I'll ever remember this game.
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12. Board Game: Richelieu [Average Rating:6.61 Overall Rank:2321]
John Farrell
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Somehow I got myself into a 4 player game of this. That was a mistake. Some of my opponents seem to play only once a week. The game is still going. Since then I've played 3 more times, and I understand that the little disk thingies are very imporant. It was only my 4th game where I found out at the final scoring about that, and I was very badly beaten. I'm still not so impressed with Richelieu.

BTW, you may have noticed by now that I'm so unconcerned with winning that I don't really bother learning the rules very well. If the game intrigues me they'll come eventually (see Yspahan, Finca, below).
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13. Board Game: Vikings [Average Rating:7.26 Overall Rank:362]
John Farrell
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This is one I do well at in real-life 4 player, except for that time Tyndal thrashed us, but I don't think I'd played it 2 player before. I do pretty well 2 player as well, it turns out. It was only a game against doc_adam, though, where he played very nastily that showed me how tough it could be. The game finally got stretched to its strategic apogee! IIRC, he took all the start islands. Luckily, I took all of the warriors and he get screwed over by attacking ships. My second game against doc_adam was very very close, and I continue to find tough situations to deal with in this game.
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14. Board Game: Yspahan [Average Rating:7.10 Overall Rank:509]
John Farrell
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I actually read the rules to Yspahan a long time ago, decided it was too dull, and decided not to play it. For some reason I conceded to play against Shingo, and I discovered that this game rocks! It's like St Pete and Vikings where every move is important. I've been beated using a souk strategy, I've been beaten using a caravan strategy, and just this evening while writing this list I was beaten by some sort of force of nature. I'll have to review the game to see what she did to me. My physical copy is on the way from unhalfbricking.com, so I can try to find some news to beat. I've won a couple on Yucata, but I have a lot to learn.
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15. Board Game: Carolus Magnus [Average Rating:6.83 Overall Rank:1057]
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This is another where I'm learning that knowing the rules actually helps. I knew them once before when I played my real copy, I think I know them again since I played earlier today, I wish I'd known them when I played against snoozefest.
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16. Board Game: Roll Through the Ages: The Bronze Age [Average Rating:6.89 Overall Rank:641]
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Queen Melissa recommended the iPod version of this, which I downloaded and played a few times. However that didn't prepare me for Steerpike and his dastardly ways. I got hit by a pestilence today, that he caused. I did not know you could do that. I also didn't know when the game was going to end. I have a lot more to learn with respect to how to play against other players.
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17. Board Game: Finca [Average Rating:7.07 Overall Rank:587]
 
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I played this at a con, didn't really understand it, got badly beaten but was impressed by how pretty it was. So I agreed to play again at Yucata, and soon realised I had no idea of the rules and wasn't sure what I was doing. I seemed to learn just enough just in time, i.e. the game is going to finish when 4 stacks of tiles are gone; each time a stack finishes the bonus tile is awarded; so make sure you finish the stacks where you're going to get the bonus tile. There's also some pretty brutal manoeuvring on the rondel, which seems more interesting with 2 players than with 4. Next time I play I'll read some more of the rules.
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18. Board Game: Atoll [Average Rating:5.67 Overall Rank:13604]
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Another one that's new to me. Yes, I've played a lot of new games this month, and I've played Oregon, St Pete and China Gold at least 10 times each. Atoll is another Hex variant, with a nicely organised board. I thought my opponent knew what he was doing, but I used my mad Hex skillz to beat him off. Sadly, my mad Hex skillz are kinda beginner level. I'd play this again, but it's going to be one of those games where the Molnars and Twixters of this world totally wipe the floor with mere mortals.
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19. Board Game: Just4Fun [Average Rating:5.81 Overall Rank:7174]
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Finally, a game that I played for the first time and got beaten at while writing this very geeklist. So far, I have no inkling of strategy. I'd like to think my skill at adding small numbers will give me the edge, but there was no sign of it this evening. I think it's less random than Just 4 Fun Colors, but I'll need to play some more.
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