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

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Steve Haas
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In this third installment of the series, we're discussing Auren. Some questions to shape the discussion:

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

Linking to (completed!) games where Auren 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 Auren.

Previous Installments:
* Acolytes
* Alchemists
 
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Caveat: I'm probably weaker player than most people here (bieng around 1220 on snellman.net) who hasn't played a lot of Auren games, so take my opinion with little grain of salt

Auren are usually viewed as suboptimal faction in most circumstances, and well - with no faction-specific ability and okeyish SH ability - it's not hard to see why.

The main problem lies, I think, in their lack of flexibility. Auren are considered cult-dominant faction, but (unlike e.g. their rival the Cultists) need both temple and stronghold to out-compete an average faction on cults. Still, building both stronghold and temple early represents a significant strain on Auren's economy (often requiring ACT3 or BON6 to work). Not building both, however - is even worse - forfeiting literally only competitive edge Auren have over other factions. This would be akin to i.e. Halflings not upgrading their digging or Dwarves failing to tunnel.

So, Auren strategy is usually simple. Construct SH and TE early (ideally by the end of round 2), boost your economy with strong cult bonuses and gain lots of cult-points in general. Any other strategy (late SH or no SH) means you've picked the wrong faction and would have been better off with Witches.

In one of my recent snellman.net games I've chosen Auren in what are probably close to best possible conditions:

- F&I map, side 2 (friendlier to green factions than the original map)
- no color neighbors
- all four scoring BON tiles present
- strong cult bonuses though the game
- TE+3D opening with SH immediately following in round 2

It turned out to be fun and successful game, but most of the time game circumstances won't be nearly as good, and Auren will stand much less of a chance of being a competitive option. Hence me not picking them often.
 
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Juho Snellman
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The number one question about Auren is always going to be: "why not pick the Witches instead?". In practice there is no good reason to pick the Auren, it's probably the biggest failure of faction design across both the base game and Fire & Ice. There are objectively weaker factions, but at least they are much more distinct from the other faction of the same color.

One interesting thing is that even after the map VP variant spotted the Auren 8vp compared to the Witches, putting them at least on par and more likely a bit ahead, players still pick the Witches more often.
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Steve Haas
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I'd like to unpack that logic a little more.

The issue with Auren relative to Witches, specifically, is that the only thing Auren get that Witches don't is their SH. So any game in which one picks Witches must have a reasonable expectation of the SH being more valuable not only than then 5vp/town that Witches get, but also whatever the Witches are going to build with the resources Auren are spending on their SH. And thus, necessarily, any Auren strategy that has any hope of being better than what you could with Witches must involve an early SH.

And the problem with that is: in the early game, the Auren SH isn't better than a temple. Both give a favor; both give 2 cults per turn (either directly or via the intermediary of a priest). The Auren SH also produces a bit of power, but not enough to make up for the fact that a) it costs more than a TE, b) early priests are sometimes worth 3 cults, and c) priests have other uses.

So basically: it seems the only reasonable way to use the Auren SH is as a replacement for a fast 2nd TE. And in theory, this isn't a crazy notion - part of what makes engineers good is the fact that they get something more useful than a 2nd p/turn from their 2nd TE, so can build it very early and have 2 favors all game long. So in theory, the notion of building TE R1 and SH R2 (or *maybe* vice versa) could provide the basis for a strong economy and cult presence.

This was, basically, the theory behind this game. You can imagine a world in which one goes R1 TE, R2 SH, capitalizes on all the cult digs, finish 2 towns (and not much else) on R4, and then spams Ds for all of R5 and R6. And if you actually pull this off, I'm not convinced it isn't as strong as anything Witches can do in this circumstance.

You will also note that in practice, this did not happen. This was partly due to poor execution on my part - I didn't come close to hitting the R4 towns, so had to do them in R5 and R6 instead of buildings Ds, which was just a disaster - but its not entirely clear to me that this is an approach that can never work even in theory. If I took a more economic favor instead of fav11 R1, and/or didn't have engineers gobbling up cheap hexes, and/or didn't get my townspace on Darklings Island trashed by nomads, might this have worked? Maybe, maybe not. Will take a few more attempts (and failures) before I give up on the idea entirely.

All that said: at the very least, we can say that Auren are an extremely niche faction - even assuming there are games where they're better than what Witches (which is not totally clear), its only going to be a tiny fraction of all games where the stars align such that you can make Auren work. Which is, indeed, a shame.
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V Vendetta
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I still think not having a unique power is part of what generated what happened with Auren. It is the thing I dislike the most about the game.

That said, as far as I'm informed, they do well in double water cult games, for instance. Shipping for dwelling spree seems like the best opening, which is shared with Witches.
 
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Greg W
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They need double water cults and round 1 or 2 SA/SH vp to be worth it, on top of everything else that makes witches good. Priest bonus in particular is nice because Auren will be able to use it better than other factions, having gotten fewer priests on average (and ideally late enough so that the SH does its job to get auren up to the 8 track on water).

I still can't believe they didn't get ANY special ability in the game design...seems like that would have been one of the easiest fixes for game designers to make. But in any event, yeah I like to play around with auren and showcase when they can work well, but honestly it's a pretty limited set of situations where it's even worth trying. Also, the extra 2 coins for the SA just adds insult to injury.
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Guillaume Pilote
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Steve496 wrote:


And the problem with that is: in the early game, the Auren SH isn't better than a temple. Both give a favor; both give 2 cults per turn (either directly or via the intermediary of a priest). The Auren SH also produces a bit of power, but not enough to make up for the fact that a) it costs more than a TE, b) early priests are sometimes worth 3 cults, and c) priests have other uses.


That's not far from the truth, but needs to be qualified somewhat: the SH will leech more and make it easier to build towns, but the most important difference is that the 2 cults the SH gives/turn is an action, which means two important things:
(1) you get to use it in the same round that you build it - and that can make a difference. Once, for example, I went with SH first turn on a SH+w/2air turn; I sent a priest to air and took fav8 with the SH. It gives a 4w boost. Taking fav8 also somehow makes the +2pw from the SH more significant. If there is another air-cult bonus coming, that can be an interesting strategy.
(2) in the late game, the Auren SH still lets you climb 2 steps on cults that get full of priest, while others can take only one step. Again, that can make a difference, and is also makes it less comfortable fighting Auren on cult track.
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Per Olander
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for most parts, I agree that Witches almost always outshine Auren.
But another niche case could be this:

SA/SH in round 1 - opponents are factions who will try and start with SA, not SH, so darklings, CM, a third faction that justifies you taking green.

Since the others will start out with favors, if you want a shot at fav11, an Auren SH start will give you this opportunity, that a Witches SH start will not.
 
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Steve Haas
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Zoras wrote:
(2) in the late game, the Auren SH still lets you climb 2 steps on cults that get full of priest, while others can take only one step. Again, that can make a difference, and is also makes it less comfortable fighting Auren on cult track.


Sure, lategame the fact that its unblockable is an advantage, but until R3 or so that doesn't matter, so eventually it becomes clearly better than a TE... but that's not a reason to build it R1. Building it R4 would work just as well for that, but there's no way you get 5vp/town benefit out of it building it that late.

The point about it being usable the round you build it is valid, though. I still don't think its enough to justify building a SH instead of a TE in the opening, though - its still a supplement to an early TE, not a replacement.
 
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Peter S.
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I think it's obvious that Auren were intended to be the "most vanilla" faction in the overall design space (i.e., the one with the least rules overhead - even their stronghold power is very simple and straightforward).

It's a shame, thus, that they need a slight boost to be generally competitive.
 
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Space Trucker
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Other points that favor witches:
- Auren Sanctuary is more expensive
- double Air cultsteps are - in my opinion - stronger than mixed water/air (1 Step is not sufficient for Auren to reach 4 for a spade or priest with the SH or fav8, it basicly requires a three step priest from BON/ACT to be really usefull early on, as fav10 and 11 are not really an option as first favor, also SH step + fav11 is not enogh to get the earth bonus spade)
- Witches SH is not a bad building and gives extra flexibility


One of things in setup that help Auren the most compared to witches is Cluster Scoring. If Witches aim for the 3 towns they usually wish to have, they definitly have to forget about points from cluster scoring (at least if the opponents care the get them).
So if we only build maybe two towns (or even one), then the witches faction ability is shrinked to 10 (or 5 vp).

jsnell wrote:
One interesting thing is that even after the map VP variant spotted the Auren 8vp compared to the Witches, putting them at least on par and more likely a bit ahead, players still pick the Witches more often.
I suppose the reason is mostly the lack of a competetive metagame with the VP variant? Players are used to playing witches.

With vp variant and cluster scoring I guess I'd often prefer Auren.
 
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David Jones
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SpaceTrucker wrote:
With vp variant and cluster scoring I guess I'd often prefer Auren.


This is an interesting comment. I have to admit that I don't think I've played TM since Gaia has come out, but a friend of mine recently got into a game where he chose Auren based mainly on the idea that the cult passing tile was not in the game and they had extra starting VP. We had a bit of a talk together about what strategies to use and the value of SH vs temple that basically followed what everyone else here has said. To be fair, I don't really know what the relative skill level of the players were. I can't remember if he won or took 2nd, but I do remember the final scores were only a few points apart, so the VP did make a difference. But to my question, does the starting VP difference really make Auren more attractive? Most of this thread seems to be focused on why witches are better, but to be more specific, are witches only eight points better or is the difference in ability worth more or less than that?
 
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Space Trucker
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davypi wrote:
But to my question, does the starting VP difference really make Auren more attractive? Most of this thread seems to be focused on why witches are better, but to be more specific, are witches only eight points better or is the difference in ability worth more or less than that?

In terms of competetion I'd say yes, 8VP are quite a lot and can to some degree mitigate the huge advantage that witches have with the usually 10-15 VP from their very strong faction ability, especially under circumstances when 3 towns (which means 15 vp from the faction ability) are either unlikely or come at a trade-off.

In term of call character / excitement... Probably no, I mean they are still an almost vanilla faction.
 
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James Ataei
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Giving Auren an extra key would certainly help. What if they got a 3rd favor from their big buildings?
 
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Steve Haas
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I was kind of wondering what would happen if they got a favor every time they finished a town. My gut is that its probably too strong relative to witches (if somewhat more niche), but its hard to say for sure.

That said: I kinda think we're better off leaving this as a strategy thread rather than all peddling our various ideas on how to fix things. Not saying there isn't an interesting discussion to be had about how to improve faction balance, but I feel like its a very different discussion, and it seems like it'd be better to keep the "practical discussion of how to use the faction right now" separate from the "wild theories about how they could makes things better", particularly since its pretty clear the no changes of this sort are ever going to see the light of day.
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James Ataei
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I guess that's fair as this discussion doesn't seem to include any expansions not on Snellman.
 
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Chris Harris
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I had a bit of an epiphany about Auren recently. Apologies if this is super-obvious, but no-one's mentioned it yet so here goes.

As mentioned above, building your SH before you build a temple is nearly always a bad idea. However:

Building the SH is usually better than building a second temple

With your second temple you risk either running out of priests (if you build it too early) or missing out on priest spaces (if you build it too late). The SH has neither of these problems.

It also has the other advantages listed above - most importantly, getting you one step closer to a town, enabling you to take the coveted tw6.

It follows, then, that in a game where the cult bonuses are particularly bounteous, you can make the most of them with a TE R1, an SH in R2 and a town for TW6 in R3, by which time you'll have a total of 20-25 cult steps and two keys.

This works particularly well with late TE scoring

Not only can you happily delay your second temple to score it on that round, but late TE scoring also engenders a cult race as everyone starts placing priests for the coin and taking favour tokens. And with a bit of luck, it's a race you'll already have won, having secured at least 2, ideally 3 of the cults.

My ideal Auren setup

- Round scoring: SA/SH R2, TE R5 (or 6), and another SA/SH somewhere in between. A mid-game town scoring might be nice, but not if it inspires others to compete with you for tw6.
- Bonus tiles: Bon6 is a must. Bon1 and Bon3 are also useful. Ideally bon4 and not bon10, so you can focus your priests on the cults initially
- Cult bonuses: coins, workers and spades, ideally doubled up - e.g. the coin and spade bonuses on earth, which go very nicely with fav7 and fav11 as I'm sure we're all aware

My ideal Auren matchup

They don't play particularly nicely with Mermaids and Engineers, but neither of them like early SH scoring, and even if they do come out you can salvage something by building tall (see below).

The real risks are Cultists and Chaos Magicians, who may well come out if the cult bonuses are looking nice. The stats don't bear this out, partly because the presence of cultists/kmags indicates some friendly cult bonuses. But also because you should be able to beat them to a lot of the cults - especially if Nomads are in the game as they will slow them both down.

Auren points:
Overall: 1.97
With Cultists: 1.70
With Kmags: 2.00
With both: 1.57

Auren points w/o Nomads | w Nomads |w Nomads and Darklings
with Cultists | 1.58_______| 1.70_____| 1.75 (small sample size)
with K-Mags | 1.80_______| 2.26_____| 2.52

R6 scoring

You definitely don't want Town scoring last, and you'll already have build your SH and SA. So there are two cases I think (bearing in mind we're looking for TE scoring on R5 or R6):

TE or TP: This suggests a "build tall" strategy, get dwellings as and when you can throughout the game, and score points by upgrading to TPs and TEs when appropriate. You may still want fav11 but you definitely want fav10, probably via your SA in R3/4.

D: this is the high-risk high-reward option. Secure fav11, get down to 3 or 4 dwellings by the beginning of R6, then advance either shipping or digging for fun and profit (and indeed network points). Doesn't work well with colour neighbours, *does* work well with late worker cult bonuses and hefty use of bon6 (and to a lesser extent bon7)

Hope this has been an interesting read! I've only tried it out a couple of times myself so very interested to hear thoughts/refutations/caveats.
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Robert
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TE in round 1 and SH in round 2 requires 10w+17c. That's doable if you don't do much expansion in rounds 1+2, but if you want at least four buildings at the end of round 2, you need the right power actions (along with enough leech) and/or bonus tiles with worker income. It's an interesting consideration whether SH+TE+2D by the end of round 2 can be considered a "decent position", and assuming that it is, this requires 2w+4c extra (some of which may be income from a rd 1 D), and -more difficult- two or even three spades.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that for Auren (as for most factions), rd 1 TE + rd2 SH isn't easy, if you also want to stay in the race for expansion.

P.S.: as Juho already hinted at, there's always the question why not pick Witches. Actually, some guy started a lengthy thread about this topic in this forum.

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Chris Harris
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So the way I managed it recently was act5 + bon1 in R1 for TE + 3D, then bon6 and 4c from power in R2. Which seems challenging but not totally unreasonable.

I also think this setup/strategy answers the question "why not just pick witches" - you're getting a bunch of income from the cults, plus getting 24-28vp from cults that your opponents are also investing fairly heavily in (via the late TE scoring tile)

 
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Chris Harris
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DocCool wrote:
P.S.: as Juho already hinted at, there's always the question why not pick Witches. Actually, some guy started a lengthy thread about this topic in this forum.



Thanks for the link, I've read large parts of that thread and I didn't see anyone explicitly compare Auren SH to a *second* temple, the benefits of which I've detailed above. Perhaps this is an original insight after all :-)

You also split the discussion between "SH R1" and "SH R3+" fairly early on. I don't think getting an SH in R2 is that painful really, you can do it in the way I mention above, or you can get fewer dwellings if there's worker bonuses to be had on the cults (you could get 3 workers from the fire track in R2 for instance, if you take fav9). Alternatively, everything I've said above still applies to building an SH in R3 (again, assuming there's late TE scoring)
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Simon Agner Holm
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When I play my physical copy I always play with the house-rule that Auren just starts with the "Tree of Serenity" ability (4 points every time they advance to space 10 in a cult track). This seems to do the trick balance wise, and adds a nice bit of tension to the cult-track-race.

Insistently this also works out great for me when playing with the Special Landscapes as I can then use my own version for the Auren tree, which I just find to be tons of fun to play around with!
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Rue Sailmana
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I will not pretend I understand the game nor will I pretend having a strategy, but seeing everyone seem to think Auren are subpar I wanted to show you I just won with Auren


Replay: https://en.boardgamearena.com/#!gamereview?table=49450529

Not sure what did it, but I díd built the Stronghold in turn one, not a temple, although mostly because that would give me 5 victory points early in the game.
I accepted all power via structures and used the power actions a lot (which I normally don't do as much).
But I think the thing that helped me most was the mini expansion which has the town tile with 2 keys which I used for water and air.
I made the mistake that I thought it was enough to have the sanctuary to get a town tile with a three building town in the future, but I still got that third key and fire (although that was probably due to a mistake/oversight from the CHaos Magicians who could have taken fire earlier than I could)
 
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James Ataei
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Ruesailmana wrote:
I will not pretend I understand the game nor will I pretend having a strategy, but seeing everyone seem to think Auren are subpar I wanted to show you I just won with Auren


Congrats on your win.
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Recent division 2 game just featured Auren first pick...and Auren win.

https://terra.snellman.net/faction/4pLeague_S29_D2L1_G7

So I'd like to ask experts here what did, in their opinion, made Auren (obviously justifiable) worthy of first-pick material in this game? What made their game and enabled them to win? R1 SH scoring? Double water and air cult bonuses in first 4 rounds? Good selection of round and bonus tiles? Favorable faction matchup?

 
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Anders Füchtbauer
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Boat on a River wrote:
Recent division 2 game just featured Auren first pick...and Auren win.

https://terra.snellman.net/faction/4pLeague_S29_D2L1_G7

So I'd like to ask experts here what did, in their opinion, made Auren (obviously justifiable) worthy of first-pick material in this game? What made their game and enabled them to win? R1 SH scoring? Double water and air cult bonuses in first 4 rounds? Good selection of round and bonus tiles? Favorable faction matchup?



I was considering making a post with my analysis when I find some time, but now I will definitely do it! Stay tuned...
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