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Subject: tips for beginners rss

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Kevin Bourrillion
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Hi,

There's an appalling lack of strategy advice for this game. I thought I'd throw some tips out there and see if they do anyone any good. Disclaimer: I ain't no world champion. Far from it, in fact. I may try to sound like a know-it-all here, but really, you have to judge for yourself whether each of my tips is any good or not.

So with that out of the way...

WHAT IS IT WORTH?

This may seem painfully obvious, but unfortunately to many players it is not. Before you bid, take a second to think to yourself, "what actually *happens* if I win?" For example -- will it put you out of the round? (Without a civ?) Will it leave you with the lowest suns left on the table? Or with a gigantic gap in your suns, practically guaranteeing future distress? Sure, this meager lot in front of you might be "worth my 3", but if you call Ra and win it, and now your lowest sun is a 9, what future bargain opportunity might you have just lost?

Many times thinking like this won't actually change your mind, but still, it's a better way to evaluate your choice than just a naive assessment of "how much is this lot worth?"

THE VALUE OF THE SUNS

I see many decisions getting made on reasoning like, "this lot isn't great but it's obviously worth a 2", or "I really want this but 12 is just too expensive." Intuitively we think of the suns as being like money -- we think of the 10 sun as being worth about two of the 5 sun. However, this is bunk. Try relabeling your suns 1,000,001, 1,000,002 up through 1,000,016. Now you've all but eliminated this perceived relation between perceived values -- yet you haven't change the game a single bit. This should tell you something.

PACE YOURSELF

Always keep an eye on what proportion of your suns are depleted vs. what proportion of the Ra spaces are filled. If you let the former get too far ahead of the latter, you risk going out of the round early (or passing up great auctions for fear of going out early). Conversely, if the Ra track gets too far ahead, you risk closing the epoch with leftover face-up suns that earned you nothing.

OF NILES AND PHARAOHS

The earlier the epoch, the more valuable they can be. A large pharaoh win in epoch 3 might net you 5 points, but a large pharaoh win in epoch 1 could end up yielding 10 or 15 by game's end.

OF FLOODS AND CIVS

Just at the end of an epoch, before all the tiles go flying back into the box, take a quick look around the table. How many floods and civilizations do you see? In a stastically average epoch, you might expect to see maybe about 3 and 6, respectively. If you can make a quick mental note when you notice *significantly* more or less than this amount, then this knowledge may help you to reason more accurately about your decisions in future epochs. This is not an exact figure, just a very rough rule of thumb.

OF GODS

Naively, any tile worth 3 points or more to you is worth exchanging your god tile for. But this is an oversimplification. Consider two things: how likely is it that you will be able to take this lot in an auction, or a future lot also containing this desired tile? Second, how likely is it that you will get another chance to use your god tile which will be more lucrative still than this one? Check your suns and the open Ra spaces, and if these are many, you might want to hold out for something better.

OF DISASTERS

When a disaster comes up that doesn't apply to any of the tiles you've already won, but would cause damage to any of your opponents, your palms should start sweating. A lot like this can sometimes be a fantastic bargain, since its value to your opponents is lessened.

THAT SUN IN THE MIDDLE

In epochs 1 and 2, that sun in the middle of the board has real value. I wish I had a nickel for every time I won an auction, smugly raked in my tiles and then stopped short saying, "oh. shit. I've got the f--ing ONE sun for next round now!" ... don't forget to always pay attention to what's there; it's as much a part of the auction block as the tiles are.

In epoch 3 things are, of course, different. I think of the 5 point adjustment at the end of the game as being a little "consolation prize" or "penalty" that it's hard to really have much direct control over. I wouldn't guide your bids very strongly by your desire to get the +5 or avoid the -5; it's just too unpredictable.

WHEN TO INVOKE RA

Whenever, on your turn, the current lot is one that you would be happy to win with your lowest-valued sun, you should consider invoking Ra. If you opt to draw instead, you are very likely to be increasing the value of the lot, so you're essentially placing a wager that (a) you will be able to win the eventual auction (so that your draw does not enrich your opponents), and (b) when you do win it, it will be a more advantageous exchange for you than the currently offered one.

You can also invoke Ra offensively; suppose your opponent has eleven rivers, no flood, and a god tile, and a flood is up on the block. Invoking Ra might just keep the flood out of his hands. But that leads me to....

PLAYING OFFENSIVELY

Sometimes you're tempted to make a choice based not on how it helps you but on how it hurts another player. In a three-player game this might be a sound practice, but it's unlikely to be worthwhile with 4 or 5. I suppose if you are really quick on your feet and can determine that player X is in the lead, and that you are in second place, so hurting player X directly increases your own chances of victory -- well, go right ahead. Most times though I just grunt in disgust and let them have their goddamn fifth civ or what-have-you and get over it.

The same could be said of the practice of overbidding for a lot in an attempt to force your opponent to pay top dollar. Ask yourself if it's really worth the risk of backfire. (Of course, if you'd like to bid 4, but also have the 6, and your opponent has the 5 and 13, by all means overbid! Duh!) :-)

WHICH MONUMENT TO KILL?

If you take an Earthquake, it can be agonizing to choose which of your monuments (your babies, your hopes and dreams!) to discard. Clearly you should be looking at your two-of-a-kinds first, since one tile in each two-of-a-kind is currently worthless to you. If you're lucky, you'll have several of these to choose between. But which to choose? Look for the two monument types that your opponents possess the *most* of (or include discarded monuments in this total, if you're *really* paying attention!). You're unlikely to make these into three-of-a-kinds (both because there are fewer remaining and due to increased competition for those that do remain), so your second copy is doing nothing for you. Pitch them.

On the other hand, if you have to discard a monument you have only one of, you probably want to discard the one that your opponents have the *fewest* of. There will be more copies of it left, and possibly less
competition for those copies as well (debatable).

USING PSYCHOLOGY

In a future thread perhaps we will discuss how to effectively employ psychological warfare for fun and fame points.

WHAT OTHER TIPS DO YOU HAVE FOR US?

Thanks!

K
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Jim Cote
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kevinb9n wrote:
THE VALUE OF THE SUNS

I see many decisions getting made on reasoning like, "this lot isn't great but it's obviously worth a 2", or "I really want this but 12 is just too expensive." Intuitively we think of the suns as being like money -- we think of the 10 sun as being worth about two of the 5 sun. However, this is bunk. Try relabeling your suns 1,000,001, 1,000,002 up through 1,000,016. Now you've all but eliminated this perceived relation between perceived values -- yet you haven't change the game a single bit. This should tell you something.


A point I try to make often. Your "solution" is very nice.
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Jared C
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ekted wrote:
kevinb9n wrote:
THE VALUE OF THE SUNS

I see many decisions getting made on reasoning like, "this lot isn't great but it's obviously worth a 2", or "I really want this but 12 is just too expensive." Intuitively we think of the suns as being like money -- we think of the 10 sun as being worth about two of the 5 sun. However, this is bunk. Try relabeling your suns 1,000,001, 1,000,002 up through 1,000,016. Now you've all but eliminated this perceived relation between perceived values -- yet you haven't change the game a single bit. This should tell you something.


A point I try to make often. Your "solution" is very nice.


i agree, and now i appreciate a nice way to tell other players
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Mark Beyak
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Quote:
WHEN TO INVOKE RA

Whenever, on your turn, the current lot is one that you would be happy to win with your lowest-valued sun, you should consider invoking Ra. If you opt to draw instead, you are very likely to be increasing the value of the lot, so you're essentially placing a wager that (a) you will be able to win the eventual auction (so that your draw does not enrich your opponents), and (b) when you do win it, it will be a more advantageous exchange for you than the currently offered one.


I thought that when a player invokes RA voluntarily they are compelled to win the auction if possible. If that is true then the above statement should read: "Whenever, on your turn, the current lot is one that you would be happy to win with your highest-valued sun". If you are sitting on suns of value 1,2,16 and invoke RA you can be sure another player is going to put up a sun of value 3 or more just to make you play your 16 sun.

Have we been playing this wrong?
 
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Jim Cote
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Beyak wrote:
Quote:
WHEN TO INVOKE RA

Whenever, on your turn, the current lot is one that you would be happy to win with your lowest-valued sun, you should consider invoking Ra. If you opt to draw instead, you are very likely to be increasing the value of the lot, so you're essentially placing a wager that (a) you will be able to win the eventual auction (so that your draw does not enrich your opponents), and (b) when you do win it, it will be a more advantageous exchange for you than the currently offered one.


I thought that when a player invokes RA voluntarily they are compelled to win the auction if possible. If that is true then the above statement should read: "Whenever, on your turn, the current lot is one that you would be happy to win with your highest-valued sun". If you are sitting on suns of value 1,2,16 and invoke RA you can be sure another player is going to put up a sun of value 3 or more just to make you play your 16 sun.

Have we been playing this wrong?


You are both right. If no one else bids, then you can win it with your lowest Sun. If anyone else bids, you can pass. Your highest Sun is irrelevant.
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Mark Beyak
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Thanks, I guess we have been playing the game incorrectly. It really made for a tough decsion when considering RA.
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Mark Tyler
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Here are some general rules of thumb that may not be obvious to new players:

- The person calling RA (to start an auction) always has the advantage of bidding last and knowing exactly whether to take the lot without overspending. So if you are debating whether to call RA or draw another tile, I would suggest calling RA.
- If you have mostly low valued sun tiles, don't keep adding tiles to a lot that you can't win. Call RA just as soon as the lot has something you wouldn't mind winning yet might be attractive to another player. Often you can force out higher suns from other players to the point where you can win decent sized lots later in the round with your low valued sun.
- If you have mostly high valued sun tiles, keep adding tiles and hope the other players do the same. You can win the big lots so might as well get maximum value from your suns. But be careful not to pass up too many medium sized lots and find yourself with nothing if the round ends suddenly with drawn RA tiles.

Figuring out if a lot is worthwhile is kind of a gut feel thing but usually I like to use the "5 point rule." If a lot will likely earn me 5 points (most pharoahs or third different civ. or third identical monument) or prevent me from losing 5 points (civ tile) that lot has real value. The niles and monuments are valued a bit differently because they have "potential" value and not actual value until you get a flood or until you get the third of a monument set or seventh or eighth different monument.

As Kevin stated, the earlier you can start amassing a collection of pharaohs, niles, and monuments the better. Once you get two identical monuments early on, that gives you plenty of time to get a lot with that third, fourth, and possibly fifth matching monument. And even if you don't get the matching monument(s) that may mean someone else had to overbid just to prevent you from getting it.

Quote:
I think of the 5 point adjustment at the end of the game as being a little "consolation prize" or "penalty" that it's hard to really have much direct control over. I wouldn't guide your bids very strongly by your desire to get the +5 or avoid the -5; it's just too unpredictable.


I will disagree with Kevin a little bit on his point. While I agree you can't base your whole strategy around the sun tile adjustments, with a little care you can avoid the -5 penalty just by consciencely paying attention to the sun tiles in the lots you are winning in epoch 3. That -5 will often be the difference between finishing first or second. Likewise, occasionally I have consciencely gone after the +5 bonus by targeting the lots with the high valued suns. Once again this falls into my "5 point rule" strategy. I will gladly take a lot if all it contains is the sun tile that will give me the +5 bonus at the end or ensures that I won't be penalized -5 points.
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Billy McBoatface
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I have two tips; one for beginners, one for deciding what your suns are worth.

Beginners tip:

If somebody else has a higher sun than you, and the lot is pretty good so you know that you will lose it - INVOKE RA. A couple of times I've seen a beginner say, "Oh, I won't win this auction anyway," so they draw another tile.

Think about this for a moment. If you call the auction now, you'll lose the tiles to your opponent. But by drawing another tile, unless you get very lucky and draw a disaster, all you are doing is adding another tile to the auction that you will lose, making the loss that much more painful. An extra (good) tile won't magically make your richer opponent decide not to bid, so cut your losses and invoke Ra.

Sun Valuation Tip:

When wondering what you can get for a sun, look at the other ones out there. The value of a sun is always a little bit less than the next higher unspent sun, and a little bit more than the next lower unspent sun. That means that if suns 4, 5, 6, and 7 are spent, now the 3 is almost as good as the 8. Why are they close in value now? Because the most you can get with your 3 is the biggest auction that the player with the 8 won't want to spend their 8 on. If you have the 3, and opponent has the 4, and 5,6,7 are all spent, then try to call an auction when it's not great but has something that the player with the 4 wants. The 4 will be spent, and now your 3 is suddenly much more valuable!
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John Lopez
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Beyak wrote:
Thanks, I guess we have been playing the game incorrectly. It really made for a tough decsion when considering RA.


If it was causing tough decisions to be made, call it a variant and keep on trucking. Just warn new players that it *is* a variant.
 
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Crazy Bob
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m_r_tyler wrote:
While I agree you can't base your whole strategy around the sun tile adjustments, with a little care you can avoid the -5 penalty just by consciencely paying attention to the sun tiles in the lots you are winning in epoch 3.


Well not always, but many time you can look at the board and say, for example, "if I get this lot that's 12 points to me, but that obviously makes me the low tile man so I'm really geting 7. If waited some more I think I could land myself in the middle."
 
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Andrew Brannan
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Not to dig up a 5+ year old thread, but I just wanted to thank the OP. Thanks to this article, I finally feel like I have a basic grasp on what I'm doing, and I just celebrated my first victory over the iPad app (4 player game).
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Chris Berger
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pl73 wrote:
kevinb9n wrote:

THE VALUE OF THE SUNS
...

THAT SUN IN THE MIDDLE
...





You have to remember that this was written in 2006. Back in those days, you had to chisel your message into the internet with a rock and a pointier rock. If you made a mistake or wrote something that was self-contradictory, you just had to live with it, because no one could afford the time it would take to fix errors with the exorbitant rate for dial-up.
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