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Subject: Playing against opponents using the Starvation Strategy rss

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Alex N
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I just returned from an epic 3-day marathon session at the World Boardgame Championship. Two of the heats I entered were for Stone Age and I was up against some of the best players in the world. Unfortunately, to my chagrin, I lost both times to players who successfully employed the Starvation Strategy in a 4-player game. Both succeeded beating the 2nd highest scoring player by more than 40 points.

My question to all of you is how do you COUNTER an experienced player on your right who you know by the end of the 2nd turn is deliberating going to starve his workers without having to bankrupt your OWN strategies, whether it's collecting technology cards, ramping up on tools, maximizing multipliers, etc. Is the strategy any different if the opponent is on your left?

It was frustrating to see both of them (one on my immediate right in one game and another on my immediate left in the other game) collect huts with as many minimal resources as possible and continually starve their workers every single turn. All the other players were using the more traditional strategies.

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Alex Drazen
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Also block hut multiplier cards, and grab the breeding hut if you can spare food and the cards aren't good. Also drill one pile of huts aggressively. Starvation gains more power if the game drags on, so the best players will keep it to a 8-9 turn game, max. Be sure to block wildcard huts first, if they can only get 10-15 points per hut that'll slow them down too.

I had the same experience in a tournament heat, it was frustrating to see people ignore a starver. I blocked what I could, but they preferred taking farm/tool every time, and I couldn't block the love hut, wildcard huts, and the big cards all at once.
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George I.
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Best counter: play at BSW. There are a lot of German (mostly) people who aggressively go into the "Starvation" strategy.

Other tips:

a) Block building and shaman multipliers. This is where they're getting their points from. Actually, irregardless of what the others are doing, the shaman multipliers should always be taken... They are worth at least 5-10 points, as you're beginning the game with 5 workers!

b) Block cards with food on them. This is their major source of food.

c) As said, try to end the game quickly by draining a pile!

d) Mirror match; do the same.

Blocking hut, I don't find it that necessary, if you're not going into a mirror match. You'll eventually start to starve yourself.
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Andrew E
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The way to counter starvation is to correctly value cards. Starvation players are looking for hut and shaman multipliers, and those cards are great cards for everybody. You don't need to make suboptimal blocking moves to stop a starvation player. You simply need to realize that all his incredible cards look great on your board too and act accordingly.
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S R
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I just played against a pure Starvation player and lost big time.

Even when you know, he is playing a starvation strategy it is hard to stop starvation in a 2 player game.

I tried to counter him by taking the breeding hut twice in the early game and even managed to get all shaman-mulitpliers in the early game.

Taking the hut twice obviously delayed him growing to size ten by just two rounds. On the other hand I had 7 people which I had to feed, so I needed to place some workers on hunting a few times. Also in a two player game, when I take the breeding hut, he will take tools and nobody takes farm.

Since I prioritized on taking the shaman mulitpliers, I sometimes placed a worker there as first choice (before farm/tool/breeding), so he could place two workers in the village, if he was starting player. (happened twice I think).

So after some rounds he was eventually up at tribe size 10 with a considerable amount of tools (maybe 5), while I was at tribe size 7, with 4 farm and 1 tool. Having bought some huts already, he was at a net -30 points, while I was at 15. I had quite some shaman multipliers and he got some tool multipliers.

From there on he plainly outpowered me. He used his 10 people to gather resources to buy cards and huts, while I had only 7. While I stocked up on farms, he did the same with tools.

In the end game he took some farm when available (i.e. when I took tool first) which got him up to farm 5, where he managed to feed his crowd once in a while through food cards or just sending workers to hunt.

Final siutation was like this:
He: 10 people, 10 tool, 5 farm.
Me: 8 people, 7 farm, 3 tool.

He: points from huts minus feeding penalty was around 100
me: points from huts around 80

Cards:
He: Lots of points from huts and tools, a complete set plus some extra (above 64 points).
Me: Lots of points from shaman and food mulitipliers, very little from sets (16 points)

He won with 60 points advantage.
Maybe he rolled better or cards coming up in his favor, but still I felt helpless.

---

I saw his strategy clearly from ronud one and still did not stood a chance. What could I have done better?

One can block the breeding hut only very few times, because it is so costly. (unless you want to mirror him, but that is a different thing).

When blocking cards I took the shaman multipliers. In the end he still got more points through cards mostly from tool multipliers, huts multipliers and a better set. As long as he gets to buy more cards with his higher income, he will find a way to get points.

Because I tried to block breeding hut and some multiplier cards it took a while before I bought my first hut. When I started buying huts he was up at 9 people I think, from where on he also constantly bought cards. If I want to "dig through a pile" I can't afford to to anything else.
 
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James Faulkner
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I can't recall losing against a starvation player in any of my 2 player games at a variety of sites. Maybe, he just generally outplayed you or got a bit of luck.

I would be interested to know whether any of the top ranked players at the online sites use a starvation approach in 2 player or not. My guess is no, but I'm not sure.
 
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Richard Gough
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I'd have made the game last as close to 7 turns as possible.
 
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Gert Meyer
Denmark
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Actually, the real main counter to the non-feeding strategy is to end the game quickly by drilling down one pile of huts.

The strategy relies on taking an initial loss while building up your production capacity to the point where you not only overcome the -10VP penalty every round but also outproduce your opponent(s) enough that you can catch up to and eventually get ahead of them.

Blocking the love hut (and snatching Shaman multipliers) can delay this, but not prevent it from happening. What you want to do, is stop the game before he gets to that point.

That being said, in a 2P game, mirroring is actually a viable counter. While in a 3-4P game it will most likely just make both non-feeders lose.
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Eric Freeman
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http://www.yucata.de/en/Game/StoneAge/1878062

In this game, a final in a two player tournament.

He went first in the first turn and took the hut. I knew he was going to starve so on the very next turn I went hut first and did so every round. When he went 2nd he took tools, while I went farm.

This was the third game of three. He won the first using a starving strategy then I won the next two, by slowing his growth.
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Thaddeus Ryan
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In a two-player game it's easier to block the resources the other player needs because only one of you can mine/lumber/pan/dig each turn. Then it comes down to "who has more people?" because you can only block so many. I think it would really depend on what huts turn up first. You may luck out and get two top huts that require gold and stone, you can block gold when you have initiative and block hut when you don't.

We house-ruled it out; starvation = desertion. If you can't feed a worker, they leave the tribe (this was our answer to "how do we tell if there's negative points?"). On Christmas Eve my cousin asked "can I steal your workers if you can't feed them?" I think this is a great idea but probably unnecessary. One other thought was if you can't feed them, they die.

Bear in mind we were playing with a 3-year-old, a 5-year-old, an 8-year-old and a 10-year-old at one point. They're not thinking that counterintuitively.
 
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Galgor I.
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I just wonder: it is a long time ago that I've seen a successful starvation strategy in a two-player game. I don't play starvation anymore, because it is too easy to counter, and the success depends too much on luck (mainly the buildings you can buy have to be "easy" ones (no gold required for example)).

Has anyone recently won starvation against an experienced opponent?
 
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Jon Steggles
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Han Shot First wrote:
I'd have made the game last as close to 7 turns as possible.


this end the game as quickly as possible, mine a single deck of huts.
 
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