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

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

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

Linking to (completed!) games where Chaos Magicians 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 Chaos Magicians.

Previous Installments:
* Acolytes
* Alchemists
* Auren
 
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J S
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* Under what game circumstances are Chaos Magicians good/bad? When do you look to play them? When should you avoid them?
• Anytime both fire round tiles are in the game, especially early, is a good time to consider them.
•They can be challenging when against both Nomads and Engineers.
• Temple and Sanctuary scoring tiles round 1 are good.

* What sorts of strategies/approaches do you find effective when playing Chaos Magicians? What problems have you had that you haven't figured out how to solve?
• Generally sanctuary start seems to be the way to go, as confirmed by the opening stats. Don't be afraid to burn a bunch of power to make it happen. [url]https://boardgamegeek.com/thread/1330690/chaos-magicians-ope... [/url]
• As with other factions, Earth 1 should be prioritized. Your other 3 first round favor tiles can be flexible depending on what the round bonuses look like. I usually don't take Water 1 until my second temple (ie. Tile #5/6). I like getting Water 2 early as it can really help you in the cult tracks.
• Because you are going to be building a lot of temples, you need to think about how to manage your priests.
• I believe upgrading digging is underrated with them, at least in the games I have played (perhaps the best players prioritize it, don't know). For instance, in this league game I won last cycle digging was my key to victory after they tried to cut me off early [url]https://terra.snellman.net/game/4pLeague_S28_D7L21_G7 [/url]


* What things should one be aware of when playing *against* Chaos Magicians? How does their presence/absence affect what other decisions you might make?
• They seem like they should be easy to cut off, but in reality it's really hard to do. I think the biggest mistake people make against them is to spend too many resources trying and failing to do so.

* What other questions do you have about Chaos Magicians? Is there anything you'd like to see more experienced players discuss about them?
• I'd like to see a discussion about starting hex again. I remember a thread a while back that discussed it and the general consensus was D4 is usually best, but curious to know if thinking has evolved.


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Ryan Feathers
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I'm going to start off by saying that I'm not a Chaos Magicians expert, but hopefully some of the things I say will be useful to others.

While I suspect many other top players already know a lot of this, I think part of the goal of these threads is to help consolidate information about the strategy for various factions that has been learned over the years. To that end, here are some of the things I consider and think about when talking Chaos Magicians:

Chaos Magicians are really good (possibly too good) in 3 player games, tend to be alright in 4 player games, and nearly unplayable in 5 player games. This is largely due to the fact that the Chaos Magicians like to build up to their SA and then spread out a bit later. Like all factions you want to start near neighbors for the early cheap TP and some leech. But with many other factions in the game, more hexes will be taken and expansion will get increasingly difficult the more players in the game. As such, Chaos Magicians often like the lower player counts where their late expansion will work out.

Under tournament conditions Chaos Magicians are a niche faction. They are quite sensitive to the matchup, and there are few matchups that are particularly good for them. Add this on top of the fact they care a decent bit about the round tiles as they pretty much have to focus early on taking advantage of their double favors from TE and SA, and the number of situations where Chaos Magicians can compete for 1st in top level play is really low.

The "dream" for Chaos Magicians in tournament conditions is to get to start on D4 and open for a SA (probably with Bon 6). Then over the next round or so you want to secure E7 and E8 for a town. From that position you get 2 shipping (or 1 shipping and Bon 4) to spam dwellings--reaching G2, I5, A6, D6, D7, and A12. If that can somehow all/mostly be accomplished by the end of R3, then Chaos Magicians are well in position to compete for a win over the remaining rounds.

The problem is this almost never actually occurs. The situations where Chaos Magicians can achieve it are slim, mostly due to matchups. If you have Witches in the game they almost always will start F4 and try to take E7 on you. If Engineers are in the game, they likely start E7. They also probably start F6 and will try to beat you to D7. If Nomads are in the game they may well just start E8 on you which is annoying, plus they'll otherwise be after some hexes you like (such as G2). Essentially you'd want to see something like Darklings, Halflings, and Mermaids as the other 3 factions in the best case scenario. (You can replace Cultists with Halflings and you're still reasonably content but now have some more cult competition). In those matchups you can at least start D4, get that central town space carved out, and leverage that great early expansion off of all the nearby red hexes on the river.

If you wind up in another matchup though, then if you start D4 you're risking being cut off at E7. Or perhaps you get E7 but other factions are blocking you at G2 or D6 which significantly slow your expansion. While you won't be completely cut off, you'll have to expand more resources via shipping or spades to reach where you want to go, and that drag on your economy is likely removing your winning chances in high level games.

As such, I would personally shy away from picking Chaos Magicians in the 1st or 2nd seat as there are just too many ways for the remaining factions to be selected that tend to be quite poor for the Chaos Magicians.
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Steve Haas
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I think the key point about CMs is that they're what I think of as a "late blooming econ faction." Which, I suppose, is another way to say "up, and then out". As Ranior mentioned, they tend to build their SA early, and thus not get around to building a ton of Ds until pretty late in the game.

But more than that: since they start at a single position, they're more prone to getting cut off (or at least, forced to do expensive things to get un-cut-off) than most factions. Most factions expand out from two places on the map, so even if one gets constrained they have alternatives. And can choose to punt on connecting up if necessary. Or even if you do need to connect, you can usually do only the "cheap" part of it early, and save the expensive bit (maxing shipping or whatever) until the lategame.

But with CMs... you don't really have a backup plan. You only start from one spot, and it only has so many exits. For instance, if you start on D7 (on the base map) and Witches beat you to D6... you suddenly have a very large problem that's not going to be cheap to fix. And even if you don't specifically get cut off... needing 2 shipping to jump from E8 to G2, or from D4 to A6 to B4 to D6, is not at all uncommon, and happens earlier than you would usually like to have to pay for 2 shipping. And if any of those routes get cut off... growth can become an issue.

So: because they expand late, and because it can be expensive to secure access to territory, CMs do best with minimal competition for territory. This is why they're strong in 3 player games, and weak in 5 player games, and struggle with a color neighbors in 4 player games.

The problem, of course, in tourney rules is that with Darklings dominant, the only common matchup that has CMs and no color neighbors is Witches-Darklings-Brown-CMs, and as CMs usually rely on picking up some free cult points from all their favors, having a strong cult faction like Cultists tends to be pretty bad for them as well. Thus, the only common matchup where CMs compete on close-to-equal footing is the Halflings variant, which... absolutely happens, but leaves them with a fairly narrow niche.

(I do agree with Ranior's point that it goes a lot better if you can get E7, but as he points out, that's fairly rare).

So I find CMs to be mostly the province of the 4th seat pick. And they're totally a reasonable option in that role in the right sort of game, but... that's more a reflection of how bad the 4th seat matchups tend to be than the strength of CMs per se.

In terms of strategy: I have the best luck with an R1 or R2 SA for fav11, fav9, fav7, and either fav6 or fav8 (depending on how each aligns with the cult bonuses in the game - or both if you miss fav11). fav10 and fav12 are, in my opinion, better taken with a midgame TE. So ideally you're looking for early cult bonuses that align with that mix of favors, and lots of scoring for building stuff lategame once you finish your favor stockpile and are ready to start blobbing out over the map. I think you basically need TP/D type scoring in R5 and R6 for CMs to be successful; and because you don't have those until pretty late, bon7 and bon9 don't tend to be as strong for you as for some factions. So you're really looking for bon6/bon10 with lategame points for building wide.

Also note that, at least on the base map, your position tends to wind up pretty scattered - I think I've seen more CMs finish games with only 1 town than almost any other faction, and they almost never get more than 2. So while a lot of factions with a strong econ like late town bonuses, CMs tend to find them a bit less advantageous.
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Ryan Feathers
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I strongly agree on the town point. Chaos Magicians usually will only find room for one mildly efficient town. 2nd towns can be done, but they tend to involve a lot of digging and/or bridges, meaning you're investing quite a bit just for another town. Overall I'd prefer not to see late town scoring at all. I'm alright with R3/R4 town scoring if I think I can get that central SA town. (Requiring only 2 spades and no bridges).

I personally think too many players expend far too many resources in trying to get a 2nd (or 3rd) town out of Chaos Magicians (or many factions actually). I get it, as I used to be one of them. I tried far too hard for towns with most factions as I was getting better at Terra Mystica. It's only been in the past few months of continued learning that I've started to figure out more and more situations where leveraging the round and passing bonuses for just building more stuff can be better than sinking a bunch of resources into carving out more room for a town. I'm not saying it's always wrong for the Chaos Magicians to be aiming for more than 1 town either. I'm just saying I think it's often quite hard for them to get enough adjacent hexes to do so, and that great players usually can figure out ways to score better by investing those resources into a larger network with more TP's and D's and maybe an extra TE. Between the better network points, cult points (off of the TE favors), and the round and passing scoring for the D's/TP's I find Chaos Magicians are usually better served by going for that stuff over expending a bunch of digs and bridges to make additional towns.

Also just to be clear I am saying most of this about the base map. I don't play enough on the other maps to be able to speak to them.
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George Sprockitz
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Just to the point about towns and Chaos Magicians. We played a no towns allowed 4p game and I was able to put up 186 points.

https://terra.snellman.net/game/NoTownsAllowed02

It's a single data point, and I'm not saying ignore towns completely (obviously that 186 score goes down if the other 3 players were allowed towns), but I think spreading out is more important than carving out space for a town. You should be able to find space for your 1 town in the mid to late game...and if there are enough free cult spades maybe a 2nd town...but it shouldn't be your top priority.
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Just wanted to share this: worst game of Chaos Magcians I've ever seen. CM player did reasonably well score-wise, considering the sitaution he found himself in.
https://terra.snellman.net/game/Woozouzone2

Discussion wise, I find CM to be quite fun to play, but generally they're pretty inflexible. In wrong circumstances, the can be pretty hard to play. Generally, they have a slow start - usually ending round 2 with something akin to TE+2-3D or SA+1D. They want shipping - on both original and F&I map - and they want it early, to secure themselves some extra hexes and breathing room. They like BON6, BON4 and BON10 and early fire cult bonuses more then average faction.

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James Ataei
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In my first ever game of Terra Mystica, the players teaching me recommended I build the SH with the CM. gulp

 
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Robin Zigmond
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JamesWolfpacker wrote:
In my first ever game of Terra Mystica, the players teaching me recommended I build the SH with the CM. gulp



True story: in my second ever game of TM (and first with the CMs), I built the SH in round 1.

No, don't ask me why. I have no idea. Suffice to say the game went badly for me, even though playing against 3 other beginners also with randomly-picked factions. {Actually, I have a sneaking suspicion I might have come 2nd, but still - my score would have been well under 100.)

(Obviously building the CM SH in round 1 is plainly stupid, but I remain disappointed that it's basically never worth building at all, except perhaps in R6 to take advantage of SH/SA scoring. It seems like such a cool and potentially game-changing ability - but it's virtually impossible to fit it in early enough in the game to make a difference, given that you want an early SA, to spread out across the map, and get some TPs and perhaps a further TE for 2 more favours, all of which takes priority over the SK.)
 
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Robert
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2w income certainly beats 4pw (and let's not even talk about 2pw yuk). And please do not compare it to two dwellings, nor to the benefits which the SH of some other factions gives you.
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Steve Haas
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JamesWolfpacker wrote:
In my first ever game of Terra Mystica, the players teaching me recommended I build the SH with the CM. gulp


The first game I ever played, I wound up building an R1 SH as Darklings. Can't remember whether it was at my own initiative or was suggested by the more experienced players, but, uh, yeah. Did not go amazingly well.
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Robin Zigmond
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Steve496 wrote:
JamesWolfpacker wrote:
In my first ever game of Terra Mystica, the players teaching me recommended I build the SH with the CM. gulp


The first game I ever played, I wound up building an R1 SH as Darklings. Can't remember whether it was at my own initiative or was suggested by the more experienced players, but, uh, yeah. Did not go amazingly well.


How many workers did you convert to priests with it? (Please tell me you'd at least managed to get ACT3 before doing so.)
 
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V Vendetta
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I've tried many times doing a r1 into r2 plan involving SH->SA start with CMs... It is just doesn't work :/ .

You just can't beat the income of the SA or of the TE start, and you don't even get enough power back to justify doing it. You also can't put enough Ds down... It is indeed just horrible.

Unlike other bad SH starts, this one can't be redeemed in any way, sadly.

I like the building, but it is really hard placing it soon enough.
 
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Hubert
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The Cm's SH is a highly situational building that I wouldn't build without holding BON6 in a SH/SA round, if ever. Its true value lies in being able to take 2 strong actions in a row or pass early for an important BON.

In this D1 game (https://terra.snellman.net/game/4pLeague_S28_D2L1_G6) Sam builds it in R3, uses the double action 4 times and gets 8 pts from BON6 for it.
 
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James Ataei
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VeteranVandal wrote:
I've tried many times doing a r1 into r2 plan involving SH->SA start with CMs... It is just doesn't work :/ .


Better to go SA start into SH R2.

Start with Bon6. R1 SA 5vp with 2 fire for 1w.
Start with 8w 15c, spend 8w 15c+1pw to get SA with FAV 6,7,8,9 and a step to 4 fire for 2w added to income. Assume 6pw leech with 1pw from cults.
Income is 4w 5pw 3c. Need 1 spade or temp shipping for red hex next to another player. Bon1 is probably not happening but Bon3 is usually going to be there if you pass 1st in R1 so +7c. To get D to TP to SH need 7w 9c. The shortfall is 3w so we need Act3+Act5+ 3pw for 1w. This will be very difficult so YMMV.
 
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Chris Harris
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The sh can be valuable for late-game cult play I think. CMs can rush up cults fairly quickly (often faster than auren or cultists for instance), but can struggle to convert that to track victories, due to aforementioned lack of towns. But the threat of a double-action can squeeze out another 4-8vp by making your opponents waste cult steps.

Here’s a fun move from a game of mine for example, only d6 I’m afraid...

https://terra.snellman.net/game/4pLeague_S29_D6L27_G5/max-ro...
 
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Steve Haas
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robinz wrote:
Steve496 wrote:
JamesWolfpacker wrote:
In my first ever game of Terra Mystica, the players teaching me recommended I build the SH with the CM. gulp


The first game I ever played, I wound up building an R1 SH as Darklings. Can't remember whether it was at my own initiative or was suggested by the more experienced players, but, uh, yeah. Did not go amazingly well.


How many workers did you convert to priests with it? (Please tell me you'd at least managed to get ACT3 before doing so.)


I don't really remember. I think I got at least 1 (and I definitely wouldn't have gotten 3), but I don't remember the details well enough to be sure.

fruityharris wrote:
The sh can be valuable for late-game cult play I think. CMs can rush up cults fairly quickly (often faster than auren or cultists for instance), but can struggle to convert that to track victories, due to aforementioned lack of towns. But the threat of a double-action can squeeze out another 4-8vp by making your opponents waste cult steps.


Personally I play CMs a lot more as a "favor" faction than a "cult" faction. I'm usually aiming for favors 7, 8, 9, and 11 from the early SA, and then 10 and 12 midgame from a 2nd TE. And at least some of the early priests are going to shipping (and, sometimes digging). So while there's some amount of incidental cults, its not really the central thrust of the strategy. 8 cults from early favors only gets you so far.

And when it does come time to threaten cults lategame, the fact that you can double up the 2- and 3- step favors (on at least some of the tracks) makes you pretty scary in the late-surge department even without the SH. This isn't to say you can't amp that up further with the SH, but, ultimately... how much marginal improvement are you really getting? And how does it compare to other things you might do with the resources? I won't say the circumstances never arise, but I'm definitely in the "R5-6 with bon6 and SH scoring, maybe" camp when it comes to the CM SH.
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Robert
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I remember when I first played TM, SHs were all the rage for a lot of factions, many of which now prefer a TE opening. Though with CMs, it already back then seemed pretty obvious that a rd1 TE was the way to go - after all that's when the faction-specific advantage can be used.
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Yeah, I usually do the SA start even when I want an SH soon too.

Having more flexibility in earlier passing is niche, but it is fun.
 
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Also... CMs can be a pretty good digging faction, actually. I have some trouble timing it, but I've seen (better) players doing it.

It is not THE best (Halflings followed by Alchemists), but it is one of the factions it is worth doing the upgrades in some situations.

It would be like... The 6th best faction at digging upgrades? (Halflings, Alchemists, Yetis, Ice Maidens, Swarmlings, CMs, Dwarves...)
 
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James Ataei
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VeteranVandal wrote:
Also... CMs can be a pretty good digging faction, actually. I have some trouble timing it, but I've seen (better) players doing it.

It is not THE best (Halflings followed by Alchemists), but it is one of the factions it is worth doing the upgrades in some situations.

It would be like... The 6th best faction at digging upgrades? (Halflings, Alchemists, Yetis, Ice Maidens, Swarmlings, CMs, Dwarves...)


You forgot one... Darklings, which is probably the best digging faction.
 
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Robin Zigmond
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JamesWolfpacker wrote:
VeteranVandal wrote:
Also... CMs can be a pretty good digging faction, actually. I have some trouble timing it, but I've seen (better) players doing it.

It is not THE best (Halflings followed by Alchemists), but it is one of the factions it is worth doing the upgrades in some situations.

It would be like... The 6th best faction at digging upgrades? (Halflings, Alchemists, Yetis, Ice Maidens, Swarmlings, CMs, Dwarves...)


You forgot one... Darklings, which is probably the best digging faction.


Yes, but I believe VeteranVandal was talking about factions who like to *upgrade* digging, which of course Darklins cannot do.
 
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James Ataei
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robinz wrote:
JamesWolfpacker wrote:
VeteranVandal wrote:
Also... CMs can be a pretty good digging faction, actually. I have some trouble timing it, but I've seen (better) players doing it.

It is not THE best (Halflings followed by Alchemists), but it is one of the factions it is worth doing the upgrades in some situations.

It would be like... The 6th best faction at digging upgrades? (Halflings, Alchemists, Yetis, Ice Maidens, Swarmlings, CMs, Dwarves...)


You forgot one... Darklings, which is probably the best digging faction.


Yes, but I believe VeteranVandal was talking about factions who like to *upgrade* digging, which of course Darklins cannot do.

Darklings start with highly upgraded digging!
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V Vendetta
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Yes, I meant (and wrote) UPGRADE digging.

As for digging in general... Darklings is probably around or between Alchemists and Halflings. I'm not sure where in this range...

But then again other factions (like Dragonlords and Acolytes) would kinda complicate this analysis. Once upon a time I thought about asking what other people thought about that in a thread (there are some intricacies associated with the topic, particularly for Dwarves), but my post was getting too long, so I never completed it.

There's probably a way to compare the SA/TE (for Darklings) investiment with both upgrades for Halflings.

But I don't want to meander too much off topic.
 
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Robert
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VeteranVandal wrote:
It would be like... The 6th best faction at digging upgrades? (Halflings, Alchemists, Yetis, Ice Maidens, Swarmlings, CMs, Dwarves...)
Swarmlings? As a faction which likes digging upgrades as much as e.g. Dwarves? surprise
 
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