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Subject: Cruel Necessity Boot Camp rss

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Wes Erni
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It is not surprising that Cruel Necessity is proving to be a "tough nut to crack", given the depth and number of its dimensions. Almost by accident during playtesting, I was quickly provided with the blueprint which built a firm foundation for all my successful play. I am now divulging my secret (actually dumb luck) training method:

Play one game without Achievements.

When you draw an achievement card -- chuck it away, When you open the rulebook, skip over anything with the word Achievement. Ignore the Designer Voices, ignore strategy advice (including mine) -- focus solely on defeating the Royalist armies, and avoiding instant (4F) defeat on the Political track.

Five months ago, I might have given this advice with venom (intense initial dislike of Achievements). Now (with a new-found love affair with Achievements), I give this tip so that other players can build the crucial foundation, that all successful Achievement strategy springs from.

My first playtest was merely a "proof of concept" game, dedicated to exposing a weakness in game balance (initially simple Military survival meant victory). Alan quickly countered with the "4F = Death" rule, and John stiffened victory requirements to 8VP (I know everyone now hates me, but wait until you go through my boot camp before sending an assassin). My second playtest was dedicated to playing the game the way John Welch intended -- and I acquired an Achievement early in the Copper. I wince now at the terrible mistakes I made, violating everything that would later form my "doctrine". After playing with 4 Action Points for nearly the whole game (with London under constant siege), I vowed to never be distracted by those Achievements again.

So I learned ways to win without them. Like a blind man, all my other senses were enhanced. The struggle for England became purely a military struggle -- even the "Political track" became other war fronts (not hard to imagine the Scots/Irish track becoming "air superiority" over those regions, the Political track = submarine warfare, the religious track = strategic bombing -- I have played a lot of WW2 games).

I complaint frequently heard (even from the designer) is that Fortress warfare "favors" the Royalists (2 Siege rolls to 1). It does NOT. The player should be getting 6 action points a turn, for the vast bulk of the game -- the poor Royalists get less than half as many "Advances".
If the Army of the North/West Sieges a "3" Fortress, they will cause one "click" on average -- which takes merely one Action Point to "heal". In open fighting, these armies require an average of THREE action points to repel. Consider the basic doctrine of letting the Royalists Advance on top of a Pillar (Hull, Bristol) -- Siege (to 8 O'clock), Siege -- (to 6 O'clock) -- then gently break the Siege, and rebuild the Fortress. On average 3 Royalists Advances are parried by 5 Action Points (instead of 9). Even the alluring: Plop down a Zeal +1 and blast back to Disordered (7 Action Points spent) doesn't compare to the basic efficiency of patience.

There are times to violate doctrine -- favorable modifier, imminent Victory check, deck cleared of Siege/Fortify cards, etc. -- but it is important to learn basic strategy first (even Admiral Nelson learned the "Fighting Instructions", before he started ignoring them).

On the Political Track -- Do NOTHING inefficiently (there are no Achievements in Boot Camp) -- just stay alive. The Godly Rule markers should live in the top of F, bottom of D zone (you don't want to know what I would do if there was no 4F Death rule). The Monarchy, and Catholicism markers should live mainly in F (the now wonderful Reaction cards are often the only improvement). Ireland is special -- either keep it in the "sweet spot" or "Zeal blast" them to the top and gain air superi... er... Military advantage over the Irish.

ALWAYS hold Hull, and Bristol. Hold Edinburgh. After taking out Oxford -- stabilize, then take Dublin and pound the Irish. Learn not to fear the Royalist minions, but to treat them like the pretenders they are. Is there victory available without Achievements? Yes, but it will only be Minor (I did have one Moderate once). The going will be hard, but satisfying in its own way.

If you want bigger wins, you ARE going to have to learn to acquire Achievements. During playtesting, they became easier, and my anger subsided -- they now are a very important (and enjoyable) part of my game. But they require an entirely different skill set, and a lot of calculation to maximize. First, I suggest you go through "Boot Camp", and then adventure into the rich world that John intended you to visit (and then be prepared to lose some games before fine-tuning your Achievement strategy).







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Dave Daffin
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Ledbury
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Thanks Wes. I realise that the game requires a large number of attempts to do well, so any help is greatly appreciated!

Most of the other SoS games play in a much shorter time so losing doesn't seem to matter so much in those because you can reset and play again, sometimes multiple games in an hour. Cruel Necessity is a much longer game, therefore facing defeat after three hours (in the campaign game - although often less when defeated in the first or second ECW) after numerous attempts, can be a little deflating. Fortunately the game theme and a stubbornness to continue until I win the game at some point in the future is keeping me going!
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D D
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GameBreaker wrote:

On the Political Track -- Do NOTHING inefficiently (there are no Achievements in Boot Camp) -- just stay alive. The Godly Rule markers should live in the top of F, bottom of D zone (you don't want to know what I would do if there was no 4F Death rule). The Monarchy, and Catholicism markers should live mainly in F (the now wonderful Reaction cards are often the only improvement). Ireland is special -- either keep it in the "sweet spot" or "Zeal blast" them to the top and gain air superi... er... Military advantage over the Irish.


Then:
GameBreaker wrote:

If you want bigger wins, you ARE going to have to learn to acquire Achievements. During playtesting, they became easier, and my anger subsided -- they now are a very important (and enjoyable) part of my game. But they require an entirely different skill set, and a lot of calculation to maximize. First, I suggest you go through "Boot Camp", and then adventure into the rich world that John intended you to visit (and then be prepared to lose some games before fine-tuning your Achievement strategy).


Not sure I understand this advice. To gain achievements you need to have your political track in excellent standing.

Me, I find I am using my zeal as water to put out fires rather than being able to have extra to throw towards achiements.
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Wes Erni
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D31277 wrote:
GameBreaker wrote:


[q="GameBreaker"]
If you want bigger wins, you ARE going to have to learn to acquire Achievements. During playtesting, they became easier, and my anger subsided -- they now are a very important (and enjoyable) part of my game. But they require an entirely different skill set, and a lot of calculation to maximize. First, I suggest you go through "Boot Camp", and then adventure into the rich world that John intended you to visit (and then be prepared to lose some games before fine-tuning your Achievement strategy).


Not sure I understand this advice. To gain achievements you need to have your political track in excellent standing.

Me, I find I am using my zeal as water to put out fires rather than being able to have extra to throw towards achiements.


Timing is everything. First, study all the Achievement cards -- what their pre-requisites are, what Era they appear in, which are "complementary" (have similar pre-requisites). There are many, many combinations that are very efficient (and even more that are not). Study the very interesting developments that occur during the change from one Era to another. If you want to do Achievements RIGHT -- this all must be done before the first card is drawn. Have a plan that can react to any order of Achievement cards drawn.

Next, master the Royalist armies (I know this sounds like the recipe for elephant stew -- first kill an elephant). But it can be done with experience -- dice luck has proven to have little to do with it (the immense number of dice tossed, tend to even out the luck).

Then, while you utterly dominate the British Isles (think of the Celtic fortresses as "stored Zeal energy") -- you find that moment to strike. When is that? A good starting point for beginning players is the moment the last Silver Era "Reaction card" has been played.

Now go crazy -- plop a Zeal +1 down, and STORM the Political Track you've targeted. Then "target another etc. Quickly, and efficiently do whatever it takes to finish a carefully planned "Achievement Run" (2 or 3 Achievements acquired in rapid fashion). If you sacrifice Dublin -- that's fine. Even Edinburgh temporarily lost is acceptable. A Pillar? Only, for great reward -- and then take it back, pronto.

After "sweeping" the Achievement track, make your "getaway" and limit the damage from Reaction burn -- and then plan your next phase.

There are numerous variations to this basic strategy (I have enjoyed some nice Achievement Runs, even in the Copper Era). The key to all of these Achievement maneuvers, is the total confidence in the basic MILITARY superiority of Parliamentary cause. I admit a really bad luck day, might completely prevent any "higher" strategy -- but with NORMAL luck, the King has little chance to militarily compete. That is, IF the player is ruthless, and machine-like in their discipline -- Do what is right, not what looks right (being a slave to "modifiers" is poison in CN -- unlike nearly every other SOS game). That's what "Boot Camp" is all about -- create a firm foundation, before learning when to be "ambitious".

Note: This is just one approach, it has limitations -- I have never won a Decisive Victory, and probably never will. But if I you don't like to lose -- I do know how to avoid that (well, almost always).
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ozgur ozubek
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sounds ridiculous but change cheap dices supplied with the game with your heavy and lucky dices.
"heavy is good, heavy is reliable!"
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Marc Maier
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+1 here for the boot camp method of learning the game. I'd been struggling to find success via achievements and had gotten a bit stubborn and ornery about continuing to bang my head against that wall. After reading this, I decided to try the game without achievements. It took three sessions of "boot camp" to find success, however:

1
The first time, I couldn't resist the temptation and went down to a 4F defeat after becoming mesmerized by a couple of achievements in the mid-game, thus putting too many zeal points into the political tracks. While I got the achievements I aimed for, the military situation deteriorated to the point where I was unable to hold both Bristol and Hull together for any length of time. Correcting this led to the political track deteriorating to the point of the 4F.

2
Swearing to totally ignore achievements this second "boot camp" go round, I successfully resisted temptation, but was done in perfect storm combination of poor card order and execrable die rolling which earned me another 4F on the penultimate card of the first Civil War.

3
Third time the charm; I steadfastly ignored all copper and silver achievements and focused on maintaining a stable military position, only putting zeal into political tracks to stave off 4F. This worked so well that by the third civil war, I was actually able to put zeal into advancing Parliament and Puritanism and grab all three gold achievements! I was lucky that these all came out in the final third of the deck, which is the only reason I even tried for them; with a relative few cards left for the Royalists to do any military damage, I felt comfortable using some zeal on the political track and spending it on achievements. This helped earn me a total of +8 VP and a minor victory by the skin of my teeth.

This is the best result I've achieved in five sessions of Cruel Necessity -- thanks Boot Camp!

Moving forward, I am now much more aware of what it takes to survive the early game and establish a stable position. I also feel more confident in prioritizing threats. You can't put out all the fires in this game, so you have to pick your spots, and the main issue I had been running into was being reactive. The beauty of this stripped down "boot camp" playstyle is that it sharpened the focus and let me learn which threats are most urgent and which can more or less safely be dealt with later. I'm looking forward to integrating more achievements into my future sessions, confident that I can do so carefully without jeopardizing my overall position.
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