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Subject: Lets Talk About... Acolytes (A Strategy Discussion Series) rss

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Steve Haas
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I proposed the idea a while back of doing faction-by-faction strategy discussions/brainstorming to a) try to get a bit more activity on this forum and b) (hopefully) build up a strategic resource for each faction. The idea seemed reasonably popular, but unfortunately I got too busy for a while to execute on it. But, its the holidays, and I finally have time to get things started, so... lets try it, shall we?

For lack of a compelling reason to do otherwise, I figure we'll go by alphabetical order, which means we're starting with Acolytes.

---

In this thread, we're discussing Acolytes. As some questions to shape the discussion:

* Under what game circumstances are Acolytes good/bad? When do you look to play them? When should you avoid them?
* What sorts of strategies/approaches do you find effective when playing Acolytes? What problems have you had that you haven't figured out how to solve?
* What things should one be aware of when playing *against* Acolytes? How does their presence/absence affect what other decisions you might make?
* What other questions do you have about Acolytes? Is there anything you'd like to see more experienced players discuss about them?

Linking to (completed!) games where Acolytes did notably well (or poorly) for purposes of discussion is encouraged, as is referring to any existing threads/posts/other strategy resources you may have found useful or interesting with regards to playing Acolytes.
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V Vendetta
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I like to play Acolytes when there is a lot of cult spades (or with BON1 and 2), edge scoring, spade scoring not in the game (except first round) and 6th and 5th TW scoring rounds. They feel decent at scoring distance and network as well.

I avoid them with spade scoring in third and fourth rounds, when the scoring is S? distance (their SA+SH is expensive), when I feel I'll have problems with income or leech in the game.

I like taking FAV6 (round 1 or 2) + either some income favor that is convenient (generally aligning with the cult income) or FAV11 (if there are 2 rounds with D round scoring) or FAV10 (this is not always easy to choose, tho). I like playing them with BON8 in the game and a bit more workers on the BONs. Taking the "3 priest spots" with them is helpful. The SA or BON8 starts are interesting. Another opener I like is TE+3D (maybe I dig once more if I think I'll have contention in hexes). ACTs 2 (important for 3 spots and some cult income), 3 (important to improve their lack of worker income) and 4 (because it is just that good) are very important. Once or twice in a game you might block opponent terrain directly if the hex is very essential. I also like taking towns with cults or priests if possible. I usually (but not always) pick an initial dwelling in the center of the map and one to the side, not very far from each other (I don't want to waste too many priests with navigation If I can help it).

Managing their income (and 4th and 8th dwellings) and scoring with them is somewhat the thing I find difficult. I think that deciding how to do that is somewhat challenging. It is also somewhat hard to manage their cult tracks. I usually have the impression my scoring is related to round and town scoring more proeminently. I also find their SH quite optional, rarely building it (while very desirable in the last round, since it gives double bumps)...

Playing against Acolytes you should be aware about their shipping. They can block your expansion and make expansion be more dangerous for all others.

I'd love to understand how to form 4 towns with them "easily", since I hear they should be... Allegedly an easy faction in making towns, but I never managed more than 3 towns with them and I'm not sure what I'm doing wrong in my planning (maybe I'm not using enough spades). I never really entirely got how to play with them (I have a very hard time picking FAVs in the game, And I feel that is a counter intuitive facet of them).

I think this is what I generally do. I don't know what I'm doing wrong, but I should be doing something wrong since I think I struggle with this faction more than the other factions on average.
 
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Steve Haas
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Its interesting that you like cult spades and bon1 for acolytes; honestly, I seek to actively avoid them. The logic being: yes, a cult-up is nice for me, but its a third of a dig for me and a full dig for everyone else, so my relative advantage is larger without it.

Additionally - and I think I first saw this idea in a post by Xevoc, although I'm failing to locate the post at this point - it also relieves pressure other key resources. A game without bon1 and cult digs is a game where your opponents are more often taking act5 and act6, and thus devoting less power to act2, act3, and act4 - which lets you take those things more. And that, plus the extra (non-dig) cult econ you pick up, means you can build an econ that's very strong relative to the other players.

Hence, I'm usually looking for a game with as little other digging as possible - no bon1, no cult digs, and ideally opposing factions that will be forced to rely on act5 and act6 (as opposed to, for instance, Darklings or Giants, who mostly get their digs from other means).
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Per Olander
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bons:
Like: 2, 6, 8
Dislike: 1

round order:
optimally, r1+2 in the same cult color, r3+4 in the same cult color, maybe mix in the p->2c one, so you have two colors completely missing. this makes it easier to utilize bonuses, before dumping those steps into spades afterwards. spades can be okay, since its easier for you to get to eg. 8 and maintain the edge in the next color coming up, but the fire combo of power+workers is quite good for acolytes compared to many other factions. Air with r1 SA/workers + 2r TP/spades also fits well into the fast SA+2TP, twn5 strategy described below.

extra scoring:
avoid SA/SH distance, SH is rarely built. like DL, nomads, and giants, edge is one of the best ones. clusters can also be very good.

twns:
get the first SA twn ASAP, so you dont get too low on cult steps. its much more efficient to cycle the cults from 7 to 4, than from 3 to 0, due to power gains when going up again.
I would take fav6+fav11/10 with the SA, and then twn6, if possible in r2, but no later than r3. this requires 2 spades, and I would try not to use more, before I have twn6, and likely 1 or 2 priests at the 3-spots.

r6:
delaying actions can be key! don't dig+build as one action, unless you are racing for a key hex, a specific town, or something else. being able to take a few actions after everyone has passed is valuable for all factions, to design your moves around that extra +1 in network, a single cult step, etc., but as acolytes you will be able to utilize your spades much more effectively, if you are 100% sure that noone else will gain a single step from their current position.

I am by no means an Acolytes expert, but I do have 17 wins out of 22 games - though I think a lot of them is 2-3 player games, where especially delaying fav11 is much more efficient. (and against friends I usually have an edge over)
Acolytes have a delta of +62 to my rating, with only 6 counted games.
I also think there are some shuffle-series games in those 22.

my last 3 Acolytes wins, I havent checked to see if I actually followed my own guidelines above I see that I have twn6 in all of them, but quite lategame in most of them.

https://terra.snellman.net/game/PHGS24
https://terra.snellman.net/game/PHGS35
https://terra.snellman.net/game/PHGS36

edit:
and DONT be afraid to dig aggresively on opponent colors in the mid-late game! when playing against dragonlords, you can be quite certain that they will not spend 2 tokens on one of your hexes, unless it can greatly affect something else overall, but with Acolytes, especially if it takes you down from 8 to 4 instead of 5, or from 10 to 6 instead of 7, for that extra power gain when going up, the cost gets minimal for the Acolyte player, and it can be a death blow to your opponent.
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V Vendetta
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Steve496 wrote:
Its interesting that you like cult spades and bon1 for acolytes; honestly, I seek to actively avoid them. The logic being: yes, a cult-up is nice for me, but its a third of a dig for me and a full dig for everyone else, so my relative advantage is larger without it.

Additionally - and I think I first saw this idea in a post by Xevoc, although I'm failing to locate the post at this point - it also relieves pressure other key resources. A game without bon1 and cult digs is a game where your opponents are more often taking act5 and act6, and thus devoting less power to act2, act3, and act4 - which lets you take those things more. And that, plus the extra (non-dig) cult econ you pick up, means you can build an econ that's very strong relative to the other players.

Hence, I'm usually looking for a game with as little other digging as possible - no bon1, no cult digs, and ideally opposing factions that will be forced to rely on act5 and act6 (as opposed to, for instance, Darklings or Giants, who mostly get their digs from other means).


Yeah. This makes sense, so I'd guess this is one of the things I'm doing wrong. So only BON2 and 8 for the steps and no spades would be better indeed. Explains one part and a half of the struggle with them, since this will also mean more cult income in other areas. Still doesn't invalidate all of the rest I wrote hopefully.

I searched for some games and BON1 appeared in quite a few of them. This isn't a sample of all games so it might be a coincidence (because I took it from very few players, and I wasn't consistent in the playcount).

https://terra.snellman.net/game/PleasePlayQuickly19
https://terra.snellman.net/game/5pFireAndIceTestS1D1L1G1
https://terra.snellman.net/game/Novariablefactions8
https://terra.snellman.net/game/FireIceLadderW011G6
https://terra.snellman.net/game/RigelSectorP3G207
https://terra.snellman.net/game/STMapTest26
https://terra.snellman.net/game/terateratera7
https://terra.snellman.net/game/FjordsTestingAllOpt04
https://terra.snellman.net/game/RigelSectorP4G177
https://terra.snellman.net/game/RigelSectorP3G350
 
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Dhrun
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No time right now (little spare time I have currently goes into Great Western Trail), but delighted to see these exiting activities, keep TM/Snellman going strong, hope to be "back" soonmeeple
Off again, happy New Year
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George Sprockitz
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Round Bonuses...the cult bonuses are critical. double water can work well especially with a later TE round (for the P = 2 coin action). even better than double water is D round for priest bonus (getting yourself to 8 on water in round 1 with a priest and fav6) followed by the midgame TE/2c per priest bonus. Double fire to open works really well too. Really in either order this can give you a strong early econ. Double SA/SH to open also works as you can build up worker income from cults early. Plus you want an early SA & Town, so having that in round 2 or 3 is nice. Spade bonuses are the weakest for you, usually don't want more than 1 in the game.

Final Scoring: Really anything but clusters. With clusters most base factions prefer 1 or 2 towns a lot of dwellings/clusters through shipping to their own color. Since acolytes don't have any free locations via shipping this puts them at a disadvantage. The easier 3rd town evens it out when you aren't in cluster scoring, but for acolytes you have to chose between the 3rd town and competing on clusters. SA/SH distance can be okay, bit of a drain on resources but can work well with later cult bonuses for money (R4 TE is very nice) and workers (R5 SA/SH).

Passing Bonuses: BON2 and BON8 are nice. BON6 is nice as early SA seems to work best. BON1 & 4 usually aren't great, but not really game breakers. A setup where you expect to start the game with bon8 is very nice to put you in position for a quick 6 on the cult of your choice. BON2 is also a reasonable opener
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Ryan Feathers
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I'm really glad to see these starting up! When I first was getting into Tera Mystica there were plenty of resources for helping beginners get into the intermediate playing range, including very basic breakdowns of factions individual strategies. But I found it relatively harder to make the intermediate to expert type jumps in skill, partially due to a lack of good strategy articles or resources for that type of stuff.

Sadly, Acolytes are one of my worst factions and I don't think I have many insights, so my contributions to this one will be a bit low. Hopefully I'll be able to help a bit more with some futures ones more so.

As for my thoughts on Acolytes, about the only things I do feel fine saying is that I find Acolytes to perhaps be one of the most unique factions in the game, and playing them well requires quite different strategies, particularly if you're just used to the base 14. In my experience winning Acolyte players tend to get to an early TW6, often have Fav6, and frequently are milking cult bonuses that reward workers and coins and are sparse on spades. Acolytes struggle to score both network and cults and usually seem best served by seeking something like 1st/2nd in network with 1 cult win and a 1st/2nd in whatever expansion scoring tile is in the game (if any).

 
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James B
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Acolytes are the only faction I've never played before but after reading this thread I'll definitely be looking out for an opportunity to give them a try. I was looking through the games posted by veteran vandal and i noticed some differences between the play of the experts in these games and what I've seen before.

The first thing was FAV choice, i see a lot of people rushing FAV6 however in these games it tended to be placed on a much lower priority than scoring favours and was only taken at all in 5/10 of the games. Thinking about this Acolytes have no natural scoring which means FAV11&10 are probably highly valuable and then by the time you can pick up FAV6 after getting these you aren't likely to be able to get a lot of cult steps out of the extra action. No doubt FAV6 is still good, taken in half the games, but i would recommend lessening its value for most people and carefully considering how much the action will benefit you in games with weak water cult bonuses. The next thing i looked at was the endgame scoring in these examples, i only looked at the games with expansion scoring which ended up being all but one. I looked at the number of points on offer for each category divided by the number of players in the game. In this selection of games this came to 9.3 points/player for Expansion and Network scoring and 14.4 points/player for cult tracks, the Acolytes scored on average 14.3 points for expansion scoring, 17.3 (out of possible 18) for network and 11.6 for cult tracks. This indicates the faction should be looking to use as many of their cult steps as possible to build and then sweep the other categories, this type of strategy also increases value of FAV11&10. Lastly i figured that build wide strategies benefit from scoring bonuses so i looked at the whole selection again and there were 3.3 scoring bonuses per game when the expected number in a random sample with these player counts would be 2.75.

I must embarrassingly admit i expected Acolytes to focus more on competing in cults than they should. I will be looking out for games with strong late game round scoring and 3+ scoring bonuses and trying to play them similarly to alchemists.

I'm curious how experienced Acolytes players rate the spade round tile in rounds 1-3? obviously you can't score anything but it provides one of the best cult bonuses imo.
 
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George Sprockitz
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Lower priority on FAV6 is something I noticed too in the most successful games. For a generic faction it is the weakest income cult bonus. If you don't need the steps in water for the priest cult bonus you are really only gaining an extra two-thirds of a dig out of it in the near term, 2 more digs throughout the game, and a bit of control over cult bonuses and power manipulation...easier to move from 4 to 7 with priest + cult step then back to 4 with a dig. FAV7 seems really nice with R1 or R2 spade scoring/coins for earth as you get a nice worker boost from the favor and a nice coin boost from the earth steps. FAV9 with fire worker bonus is similar in that it gets you both a coin and worker boost.

One downside to FAV6 that I often overlook is that it makes effective passing more difficult. Do you skip the cult step to pass now and get the bonus you need? Acolytes are already pretty solid with delaying passing if need be as they can safely separate dig and build actions or pre-dig for a future round, so having another action does little to help them.

For cult step advancement TW6 is much more critical than FAV6. FAV11 & TW6 versus FAV6 & TW5 is a blowout for the former. You get 3 less total cult steps but net 16-18 extra points as your round 1 temple. +24-26 for FAV11, -6 for town, approx -2 on cults
 
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Steve Haas
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I think its a mistake to boil down fav6 to the number of digs it gives. That's what makes fav6 more interesting to Acolytes than it is for anyone else, but its still going to provide the normal benefits - namely, being able to optimize one's cult econ - as well. You should be able to use it to get an extra worker, a couple extra coins, and maybe 4pw or a p as well.

Granted, that's not enough to make it the best starting favor in most cases - usually, you'd still rather have fav11. But I do think it makes it an unusually compelling 2nd favor. If one is going for a quick double-TE or SA opener over the first 2-3 rds, its not clear to me that fav11 + fav6 isn't the right choice in the plurality of cases.
 
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V Vendetta
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I tend to think that Acolytes seem to like forming towns a bit more than the average faction and like both Network and edge/distance scoring because of their relative higher control of digs. Unfortunately I don't know how to dig the data out of snellman directly, so I'll have to rely on another source for my data :/ .

I was trying to see if I could dig some stuff out about the faction in the data, but the samples might be a bit small... So the conclusions might not be all correct. So those are all conjectures. Feel free to mess with the sliders and see what you guys think.

(it takes quite a while to load, be patient)
https://tinyurl.com/yau74z2q

I personally love the SA opener with them (but I found less than... 10 games for some reason, I might have filtered my results badly). Unfortunately it seems to not be that common of an approach, so I couldn't find a way to check if it is as good as I feel it seems to be (having 2 FAVs makes you just do the FAV6/7+11 combo). 2TE could do functionally the same. I think a popular opener is TE+3D, or so it was the time I checked before making this post...

So it seems that, :
- in the first round, they prefer R1 Spade scoring, aka S1 (which feels a bit weird for me), and the blue tile that gives priests back and 2vp per D, aka S3 (which I expected);
- in the first round they prefer BONs 8,2,6 (as expected - but it seems that BON5 is not that good for some reason...);
- in the first round they prefer FAVs: 7, 6 and 11, which one could expect, but... (For some reason it seems FAV8 could be good - but almost nobody cared to take it, so this actually would need a lot more testing - and FAV11 seems to not as much in terms of improving the scoring?; I have no idea why that would be and on this I'd need some help to figure it out).
- It seems they like all extra scoring except clusters (which sound somewhat natural if town scoring was important for them).

I guess this could add something of substance while I'm trying to learn about the faction.
 
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George Sprockitz
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VeteranVandal wrote:

- in the first round, they prefer R1 Spade scoring, aka S1 (which feels a bit weird for me), and the blue tile that gives priests back and 2vp per D, aka S3 (which I expected);


I think R1 Spade scoring is great because of the cult bonus. Acolytes are setup to get 6-7 coins at the start of round 2 with this bonus. Most other factions will average ~2.5 points and ~3 coins. At a rough valuation of 1 coin at the start of round 2 is worth 2-3 points, S1 is 3.5-6.5 points better for acolytes than the average faction. It also means no R3/R4 spade scoring which would be a general negative for acolytes.

Edit: I realize that comparison is versus other factions not versus other cult bonuses for acolytes, but I think it remains valid though the exact points versus other bonuses may fluctuate.

I think another benefit is synergy with 3D + TE and synergy with a R2, SA/SH (extra money helps with the SA, and you can rely on free workers to start round 3 to supplement your worker income) or D scoring (you likely no longer need the brown cult steps so that's 2 digs that don't hurt your future cult bonuses).
 
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V Vendetta
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Yeah, I figured the amount of coins was going to be significant, but I didn't expect that to be better than most other first round scorings. It is interesting, tho, since the faction has a lot of income problems and this really helps doing the SA in the second round.

I'm still wondering if the SA start is good...
 
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George Sprockitz
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VeteranVandal wrote:

I'm still wondering if the SA start is good...


Since you start with 5 instead of the normal 6 workers, I think reliably getting an SA is difficult. I don't think sacrificing everything to end with an SA & 1D really helps you. It likely means 0 priests to cults, and whatever income tile you get is likely worse than +2w from ending TE & 3D

If you can get BON6 in an SA/SH round I think it's quite good. Ideally want act3 and act4 as well, but can get by with just 1 (prioritizing act3). If you get good leech and know nobody wants act4 in round 1 you can take act4 late and end with SA + 2D which would be quite strong. This requires 10 power leeched (8 if you take fav 6/7/8 first) which while possible is far from guaranteed. You also can do it without act3 or 4, ending SA & 1D, but by getting to 4 in fire/air you'll get 2 cult bonus workers to compensate for lack of round 2 worker income. I think the +9 points makes it worth the slower economic start (versus the generic scenario in paragraph 1).
 
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Robin Zigmond
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While I'd be the first to admit the Acolytes are a faction I've never managed to "figure out" (same goes for all the Fire and Ice factions actually), I feel quite strongly that an early sanctuary is a mistake. I just don't see any benefit, and this is for all factions except the obvious 2 - Darklings and Swarmlings - who not only get additional income from it but in the case of Swarmlings are kind of naturally led into it anyway.

But in the particular case of Acolytes, with their need for regular cult advances, and need to get as many cult priest spots as they can, I can't see how to play them without an early second temple. The Sanctuary gets in the way of this aim while also doing nothing for income. I just don't see the advantage.
 
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Per Olander
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robinz wrote:
While I'd be the first to admit the Acolytes are a faction I've never managed to "figure out" (same goes for all the Fire and Ice factions actually), I feel quite strongly that an early sanctuary is a mistake. I just don't see any benefit, and this is for all factions except the obvious 2 - Darklings and Swarmlings - who not only get additional income from it but in the case of Swarmlings are kind of naturally led into it anyway.

But in the particular case of Acolytes, with their need for regular cult advances, and need to get as many cult priest spots as they can, I can't see how to play them without an early second temple. The Sanctuary gets in the way of this aim while also doing nothing for income. I just don't see the advantage.


I hear you - but one of the main reasons I often go early SA with acolytes, is the ability to form a town with only 3 hexes / 2 digs, making it possible to get twn6 asap, before moving too many spades down on cults. this gives you a much better power flow, when you are constantly fluctuating around 4-7 on each cult, instead of going to zero on 2 or maybe even 3 cults in r1-2.
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Steve Haas
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I think the other aspect is that a 2nd quick TE eats 1w of your income, and workers can be in short supply in the opening - you have no inherent w income, your 4th D produces no w income, and building too wide too early reduces both your power gain from cults directly and the amount of cult econ you receive. And I'm not convinced Acolytes can afford to send 2p/rd to cults for very long anyway (at least, not without their SH so they can spend them in renewable fashion). So I can definitely see the argument for going for a quick SA and scrounging up an extra priest or two via bon8 and act2 as preferable to doubling up on TEs and needing to scrounge up enough workers to continue growing. Particularly when combined with the aforementioned benefits in racing for TW6.
 
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Steve Haas
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Aside: I found this thread which has some good Acolytes discussion - my post says pretty much everything I want to say about the faction (although I don't claim to be a particular expert with them), and the posts by fruityharris and Xevoc have some good stuff in them as well.
 
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Robin Zigmond
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Thanks for the insights guys. I definitely know the value of TW6 for Acolytes, and I suppose if an early SA is the best way to get it then fair enough.

But I'm surprised at the argument regarding lack of workers. Granted they have a weaker worker economy than standard factions, but a bit like the dragonlords, they have the ability to spam dwellings pretty quickly, particularly if they can keep getting cult advances. [Edited to stress that I totally agree with staying at 4-7 for power flow, rather than dropping to 0 - that's another reason why I like to go up with priests before going down, and ideally avoid going down until after the cult bonus for that cult. Yeah TW6 is great for this, I'm just not convinced the SA is always the best way to get this early ]

Totally agree though that sending priests to cults quickly becomes unsustainable (without the SH which nevertheless feels generally weak) - but I would argue that this makes it even more critical to get 4-5 priests in good cult spots as quick as possible.

Like I said, I'm terrible with Acolytes so I'm certainly not saying I'm right. Just trying to understand better how to do well with them.
 
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Steve Haas
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robinz wrote:
Thanks for the insights guys. I definitely know the value of TW6 for Acolytes, and I suppose if an early SA is the best way to get it then fair enough.

But I'm surprised at the argument regarding lack of workers. Granted they have a weaker worker economy than standard factions, but a bit like the dragonlords, they have the ability to spam dwellings pretty quickly, particularly if they can keep getting cult advances. [Edited to stress that I totally agree with staying at 4-7 for power flow, rather than dropping to 0 - that's another reason why I like to go up with priests before going down, and ideally avoid going down until after the cult bonus for that cult. Yeah TW6 is great for this, I'm just not convinced the SA is always the best way to get this early ]

Totally agree though that sending priests to cults quickly becomes unsustainable (without the SH which nevertheless feels generally weak) - but I would argue that this makes it even more critical to get 4-5 priests in good cult spots as quick as possible.


I guess I view Acolytes as more of an "up, and then out" faction relative to (say) Dragonlords. Dragonlords can go super-wide super-early and not really worry about the consequences of doing so; I think Acolytes tend to get themselves in trouble by doing this. I'd argue that for a surprisingly large portion of the game, you want to have exactly 3 Ds - as less than that gets you into serious worker troubles (2w/rd is not enough), and more than that takes you through the non-producing D, which is inefficient. You need to do it eventually, but, like, ending R1 with TE+3D, and R2 with SA+3D, and R3 with SA+2TP+3D is not at all an unreasonable trajectory. And even there: 3D/rd is not a lot. Even with that you're probably needing to supplement with cult workers, act3, etc.

Moreover, if you're going for a 2nd TE R2... that priest isn't landing until R3, which is often too late to catch a truly critical cult position. I think you do want more than 1p/turn in the opening, but I think you want them faster than a 2nd TE can get them for you. Getting 2 extra priests from act2/bon8/water cult on R1+R2 probably does more for you securing critical cult steps than a 2nd TE R2, and if you're already down to 4 priests remaining by R3, is a 2nd priest/turn really the priority?

To be clear: this is somewhat theoretical - I haven't played Acolytes a ton, and I'd categorize my results as more "solid" than "exceptional". But in my experience so far I like the flow of an early SA better than an early 2nd TE.
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V Vendetta
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I guess we could summarize everything we discussed so far in one post here (hopefully the others don't mind) just so we don't have to reread everything and to guide possible future discussions about this faction (this is actually more so I have a quick summary for the future, hehehe). Of course I couldn't condense everything here, but this seems to be the most relevant info (but I'd accept suggestions for edition of this monster of a text).

TLDR: "Up and then out". As FEW rounds with income CULT SPADES as possible. No BON1. Yes BONs 2, 6 and 8. FAV11/10+FAV6. Typical opener: TE+3D. Stay with 3Ds for a few rounds (typically the 1st, 2nd and 3rd). Make an early town (or 2) for TW6 and/or TW5. Try winning network and aditional scoring (if it is in the game, you prefer edge and distance). Use digs to delay actions if necessary (BON control, hex control). Take the as many "3 priest spots" as possible.

Now for the extended version...

*Under what game circumstances are Acolytes good/bad? (Incidentally answering the other two questions.)

Good: all cult income that doesn't involve spades. Good first rounds are either S1 or S3 (respectively, Spade scoring and the blue D scoring with priest income - 4 steps -> 1p) in the first round followed by R2 S? scoring. 2-4 scoring BONs besides BON2 and BON8 (or a favorable combo). "Doubled cults" in the first and second rounds is desirable (for income), but not strictly necessary. Additional scoring edge and distance.

Bad: Spade scoring in the 3rd or 4th rounds. Presence of BON1. Presence of more than 1 spade from cult income.

Another tip: Acolytes SH should usually be avoided until late (r5 or 6) game which is when it might be useful if you need it to build your last town and to allow using your priests in more economical manner. Use delay of actions, AKA, dig without building to manipulate BONs and hexes.

*What sorts of strategies/approaches do you find effective when playing Acolytes?

"Up and then out": either with SA+D (or SA+2D (!)), or TE+2D (S? first round with 1 extra step for cult w income, one spot with dig without building) or TE+3D (the safest opener on average for most circumstances). Get a cult town (for cult income, spades, etc). Early (r2 or 3) TW for TW5 or 6. Stay with the 3Ds for ~3 rounds (r1, 2 and maybe 3) - expansion beyond the 3rd D is for rounds 3+. Grow cults to (and beyond, if possible) 4-7 region for power. You can afford aggressive digging of "other player hexes" (sometimes including native terrain); for this shipping is also important (1 or 2 upgrades by the midgame - r3 or 4). Try to take FAV6 (which is quite stronger for Acolytes than it is for other factions) and FAV11/10. You'll likely only win 1-2 cults with this approach.


*What things should one be aware of when playing *against* Acolytes? How does their presence/absence affect what other decisions you might make?

Be aware of their shipping and overall digging key of hexes. They can and are encouraged to screw you in some of them. Maybe you'll have to rush some digging. With expansion scoring, be aware of edge and distance scoring.

Important stuff that wasn't mentioned (probably thought to be more trivial): avoid the usage of ACT5 and 6, Acolytes is better against Fire and Ice factions.

*Aspects not yet discussed deeply:
- Besides FAV6, which other income FAVs could be taken? Looks like FAV7 could be is pretty good (since it supplements the w income that is lower - on average - for this faction).
- How many towns? Prioritize towns or screwing other players? How to make this decision?

Sample games (not all with 4p... Sorry):
Games with 4 towns (typically 2 early-ish towns and 2 later towns, typically TE+3D opener, typically with both SA and SH built)
https://terra.snellman.net/game/Jan237
https://terra.snellman.net/game/PleasePlayQuickly19
https://terra.snellman.net/game/Kuha03
Games WITHOUT either SA or SH or both, since they are expensive (more typical games):
https://terra.snellman.net/game/RigelSectorP3G207
https://terra.snellman.net/game/STMapTest26
https://terra.snellman.net/game/terateratera7
https://terra.snellman.net/game/FjordsTestingAllOpt04
https://terra.snellman.net/game/RigelSectorP4G177
https://terra.snellman.net/game/RigelSectorP3G350
https://terra.snellman.net/game/5pFireAndIceTestS1D1L1G1

I found a good SA opener example but I lost it and they are somewhat rare...

Anything I forgot or got wrong?

I'd like to add Acolytes isn't very heavily played (or at least they seem to be the second least played faction of all), so (I at least felt) there are some gaps in the knowledge of its properties still. Maybe a bit of further empirical work needs to be done to clarify stuff further - such as openers and FAVs. It's playstyle seem very particular and intricate, honestly.
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Steve Haas
United States
Mountain View
CA
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VeteranVandal wrote:
It's playstyle seem very particular and intricate, honestly.


I think this is really the key point about Acolytes - they require a lot more attention to detail than most factions. The need to build enough Ds but not too many. The need to send enough Ps to cults but not too many. The need to hit certain cult breakpoints before digging. The need to hit certain (different) breakpoints to optimize cult econ. The need to secure certain power actions and towns in a timely fashion. And so on.

A lot of factions can be played pretty effectively with the simple heuristic of "more is better" - all other things being equal, if you can build an extra D this turn or not, you're usually better off if you do. Acolytes... aren't, necessarily. They rely on having the right things at the right time, and while eventually you want to wind up with as much stuff as possible, the way to get there often involves postponing stuff for later if you don't need it now. And in particular: they tend to have a lot of extra constraints on when they do things relative to other players - for most factions, building a D and then sending a P to cults is equivalent to the other order - its just a question of which is more likely to be blocked by an opponent. But for Acolytes, the order matters. And that extra constraint of needing to do things in the optimal economic order in addition to beating your opponents to key things can lead to a very subtle balancing act.
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Guillaume Pilote
Canada
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So I've decided to give Acolytes a try, mainly after seeing Fujiwara playing them - he makes them look very strong, and I would recommend anyone who is interested in this faction to look at his games. Not sure I will be able to do as well though

This thread has been very helpful to grasp the basic principles of this faction. One obvious thing seems to be missing however (unless I just missed it).

Acolytes (as Dragonlords) get to pick their color after everyone does, and I think that is huge. In both games I tried Acolytes, I came in as first player, and being favorite (rating-wise anyway). Not only picking Acolytes makes it very hard for other player to block you later in the game, it also make sure that you will not be trapped in a bad color configuration right from the start, and even let you pick an optimal color for the position. In both of my games, I felt that this flexible positioning also gave Acolytes a significant advantage for expansion-scoring (for edge and distance at least). Thus, though it is true that Acolytes are more complicated and require more precision than other factions (to me, that makes them very fun), my early impression is that if you're ready to dig into it, they are a relatively safe pick, as long as the early cult-bonus are at least ok for them.
 
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V Vendetta
Brazil
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I remember an old thread discussing how diverse factions react to being sandwiched, and I THINK I remember both Dragonlords and Acolytes kinda being encouraged in being sandwiched. But I can't find it and do not remember the sample sizes too, so...

Picking later is indeed an advantage. As far as I understand it, they like picking 1 centralish spot, but are very flexible in initial placements.
 
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