$20.00
$60.00
Recommend
15 
 Thumb up
 Hide
11 Posts

Stone Age» Forums » Strategy

Subject: Are sets too weak? And if so, is it a game flaw? rss

Your Tags: Add tags
Popular Tags: [View All]
Christopher Rao
United States
Seattle
WA
flag msg tools
designer
publisher
Q:When I say "lawyer" what pops into your head? A:Someone who designs games about penguins." - Dormammu
mbmbmbmbmb
A lot of players think that collecting sets of symbols are a weak strategy - maybe so weak as to be a game flaw. There are 2 copies each of 8 different symbols, for a total of 64 (8 x 8) possible VPs (actually, if you duplicate a symbol, you can get more, but 64 is by far the most efficient).

Sets are somewhat weak, but I don't think this is a game flaw. Collecting sets is generally not a great primary strategy early because it can lock you into to feeling obligated to taking a symbol card later in the game either too expensively or too early in a turn (first placement). But because many of the symbol cards offer extremely good immediate benefits (both leaves, both tablets, one of the carts, etc.), it’s easy to kind of fall into symbols as a secondary strategy – one that can often result in winning the game!

It’s extremely important, also, to notice if someone else is specifically collecting symbols. If another player is “casually” collecting symbols – taking them late in the round, usually for no more than 2 resources – it’s fine to join in. But if either two players are casually collecting, or one is collecting in a more committed fashion, beware.

The pitfall I see most often is a player who thinks that a symbol strategy has failed if he doesn’t get all 8 (for 64) or at least 7 for 49. There is huge opportunity cost in Stone Age, and there are times late game when it’s simply not worth it to jump on a 7th (or even 8th!) symbol. For example, one game I was the only player who was collecting a lot of symbols. So on the last turn I was pretty sure that a given symbol, costing 4 resources, would give no other player more than maybe 7 or 9 points (up to 16 or 25). On my turn I instead chose a hut which allowed for 5 resources in two different types. This is a HUGE card on the last round, and could have been used to great advantage by anyone. For me, it was close to a toss up, but I was specifically removing an efficient play for all other 3 players. I also knew that there was a chance the expensive symbol might come around to me again – because players are often less aware or concerned about protecting against a symbols strategy than against a multiplier and/or starvation strategy.

In short, the key concept is opportunity cost. I have won several games where I ended up with just 25 or 36 points in symbols, in part because I 1) never paid too much for a symbol card, and 2) chose symbols that gave me a net positive immediate benefit. For example, one of the carts gives two stones. If you can get it late in a round, even if it you have to pay 3 wood for it, you’re netting one pip for your meeple, not even counting the VPs you may get from the cart itself. I do this if another player, for example, is obviously stressing symbols, but takes the card for granted because of its high cost. This way I get a minor benefit with relatively low opportunity cost and may blow a nice gaping hole in his set dreams.

Stone Age is a game with a lot of group think, and the more group think in your game, the more opportunities to exploit. If no one at your table values sets, you can often easily get 25 points very very efficiently. And if you are sitting on 5 symbols, you may have a chance to pick up another symbol or two. Even if you don't, those 25 points may have helped win you the game.

My feeling is that 25 points is the minimum required to make a secondary, efficiency-driven strategy work, and that if you end up with just 9 or 16 you've probably done something wrong. I have no math to back up this notion, but I hold it nonetheless

Thoughts?
11 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
ronaldinho @boardspace.net
Taiwan
flag msg tools
designer
mb
Re: Are sets too week? And if so, is it a game flaw?
Sound arguments. The key with cultures is to not overpay for them. Specifically, if you are only getting 5 or 6 cultures, they are only worth it at the cost of 1 or 2 lumbers on average.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Mike Pokrzywa
United States
Circle Pines
Minnesota
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
Re: Are sets too week? And if so, is it a game flaw?
I don't think they are weak at all, and can boost any strategy. As long as you look at what you are getting up front and then look at how many points you get. Examples: 1)If you paid one wood to get the second culture, it is a net of one point plus whatever you got up front. 2)One gives you 7 food and even paying 2 wood is worth it due to the points you net, and the cavemen you free up by not having to hunt for a round. I do agree that in most cases paying 1-2 resource is typical and that wood is most often used. I don't think it can ever be a primary strategy due to pure randomness and the fact that it only nets 64 points in best case. In the games I have played, 64 points is 2-3 good huts.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Randall Bart
United States
Winnetka
California
flag msg tools
designer
Baseball been bery bery good to me
badge
This is a picture of a published game designer
mbmbmbmbmb
Re: Are sets too week? And if so, is it a game flaw?
Topher, I have to play this with you.

I've only played twice, but my impression was that the low value of having a small subset (4 pays only 16) made it bad strategy to start a set, but once you are committed it can pay off in the end. The point multipliers are more reliable.
3 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Christopher Rao
United States
Seattle
WA
flag msg tools
designer
publisher
Q:When I say "lawyer" what pops into your head? A:Someone who designs games about penguins." - Dormammu
mbmbmbmbmb
Re: Are sets too week? And if so, is it a game flaw?
Sure, we'll have to find time to play down at MSG.

Randall, it's all about how much you pay, when in a turn you pay (opportunity cost) and what's on the top of the card. For example, say you're playing in a game where cards in the 3 slot are relatively undervalued compared to huts, and so far you have no symbols. With your last meeple, you manage to grab the cart that gives you two stone, and there wasn't another compelling play.

On the face of it, you've spent 9 resources to get 10, plus at least one point. But you've also managed to do something valuable with your last meeple, which is critical. It might even be worth 4 wood (if you've got them) under these facts, because you've also reduced your risk on rolling for stone. Take the same situation, but say you have no stone yet, you spend your penultimate meeple on this card, then spend your last meeple on a hut that requires two stone. Here you leveraged the card into TWO good late plays, because you've eliminated the risk of rolling poorly on stone, thus allowing you to choose a hut you wouldn't otherwise be able to take.

Yeah, I probably think about this game too much

Cheers,
topher
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Tim P.
United States
Thousand Oaks
CA
flag msg tools
Visit the Wargame Bootcamp guild
badge
Muppet !
mbmbmbmbmb
After 4 games of Stone Age, I biggest points totals have come from a varied strategy of combination bonuses from the cards.

The civ sets strategy is a fraction of the total points scores, thus I agree that you should get the civ cards if you get them cheap or if you need the bonus item on the top of the card.

The tool, house, farm and people multipliers can create higher scores that the 8 x 8 point civ cards, and they are easier to get, especially in a 3-4 player game.

Diversification is the key.


2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
ronaldinho @boardspace.net
Taiwan
flag msg tools
designer
mb
I think focus is key. That doesn't mean you shouldn't grab something outside your focus if you can for cheap. But it's more efficient to focus on ~2 ways of scoring.
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Ian MacInnes
United States
Jamesville
New York
flag msg tools
mbmbmb
In this type of game there is no such thing as "too" weak. The drafting mechanism ensures that the game balances itself. It is only a flaw if you think that going all out for a particular strategy at the beginning of the game is important for your enjoyment. In this case Stone Age is probably not an ideal game for you because it is meant to be played tactically. You make choices based on the state of the game rather than driving the game in the direction you want to go.

To play effectively you should give symbols a lower priority in your drafting order. The game is balanced enough that the cheapest two card slots are always worth more than you pay on any given turn so they will be taken eventually by someone.

I agree that symbols are less valuable in most cases than multipliers (though the ones that give two resources are quite good). Picking them aggressively early in the game is counterproductive. That said, I'll take any symbol for two wood once the village spots are taken and assuming there is not a better value card available in another slot. I will rarely first pick them (unless I already have 4 different types) whereas I commonly first pick the double multipliers. I generally play a balanced strategy so I can always go for the best value card or infrastructure piece when my turn comes, at least until the mid-late game, when I'll focus on my existing multipliers (if I need to get more tools for example) and choose multiplier cards that benefit my strengths.
3 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Stefan Lopuszanski
United States
North Wales
Pennsylvania
flag msg tools
So hear me roar! RAWR!
badge
Her Serenity, The Lady of Pain.
mbmbmbmbmb
I think they are too weak, and even though it is a drafting game it is still weak compared to other strategies. The game should have many paths to victory and each path should have relatively the same basic chance when looking at the game in abstract (modified by the outcome of the game).

The problem with set collecting, especially in a 4 player game, is that you are bound to be screwed over by someone, which pretty much costs you the game. Although you can liken it to something like "Shooting the Moon," the strategy is only subpar even if you manage to get all the culture cards. 64 points for 8 cards is not much when you can easily get more with a lot less work, resources, and planning.

I do wish the culture set collecting was improved, but I doubt it will happen anytime soon.
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Nikolai

Mainz
msg tools
mb
Stexe wrote:
I think they are too weak, and even though it is a drafting game it is still weak compared to other strategies. The game should have many paths to victory and each path should have relatively the same basic chance when looking at the game in abstract (modified by the outcome of the game).

The problem with set collecting, especially in a 4 player game, is that you are bound to be screwed over by someone, which pretty much costs you the game. Although you can liken it to something like "Shooting the Moon," the strategy is only subpar even if you manage to get all the culture cards. 64 points for 8 cards is not much when you can easily get more with a lot less work, resources, and planning.

I do wish the culture set collecting was improved, but I doubt it will happen anytime soon.

If you are screwed over in set collection and that costs you the game, you are playing the game wrong. You shouldn´t go into the game with your strategy being set collection. Rather you should take what the board gives, i.e the best choice in a certain situation.

Set collection never is the first choice but it is a good 2nd or 3rd leg to your primary strategy. Since most of the culture cards aren´t valued too high (rightfully) you can often get them for cheap. Once you get to 4-5 paying 1-2 wood plus one meeple later in the round can get you +9, +11 or +13 points which is good.
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
David F
United States
Emeryville
California
flag msg tools
Luck in games, in measured doses, is the catalyst which enables shocking game-changers that you'll remember and talk about forever.
badge
Let the Lord of Chaos rule.
mbmbmbmbmb
Meh. I read the title and clicked on this thread, all ready to wow you with my Stone Age knowledge, only to find you answered your own question in far better terms than I ever could. Good analysis.

Here's how I see it. If nobody's collecting the set, that's a no-brainer. If one person is collecting the set, it might or might not be worth it to enter the set-collecting market. If 2 people are collecting sets, don't get into it, and screw one of them out of the occasional civ card, if she is the probable winner.

Strong? Weak? That's all relative, and depends on how the players at your table play, and how they value each strategy. If they think it's weak, then it's strong. If they think it's strong, then it's weak.
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Front Page | Welcome | Contact | Privacy Policy | Terms of Service | Advertise | Support BGG | Feeds RSS
Geekdo, BoardGameGeek, the Geekdo logo, and the BoardGameGeek logo are trademarks of BoardGameGeek, LLC.