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Subject: Belfort Strategy Guide - Buildings rss

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Adam O'Brien
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No strategy threads have been posted for Belfort yet, so I thought I'd start one for one of the critical aspects of the game - buildings. Basically I wanted to go building by building, and discuss which ones are good, and in many cases, when they are good. So here we go.


Photo courtesy jtemple

Early game (ones you'd like to see in your opening hand) -

Tower - This one is as good a first or second building as you can hope for. The ability to save 2 bucks per gnome for the rest of the game is huge. Cheaper gnomes make all of your other buildings better. It provides 1 gold income. And it is one of the cheapest buildings to build. Value diminishes in later turns, but I'd say turn 4 or earlier it is well worth it. Could be a little less important if the Recruiter's Guild is in play, but still a first-pick.

Inn - Very strong. The discount on worker recruitment is great, and will likely more than pay for itself despite not having a direct "income". Cheap to build. To me, the biggest advantage of the Inn however is the flexibility to "cross-breed" by using elves to recruit dwarves and vice versa. This can add a bluffing mechanic in scoring rounds as players don't know which worker you are gaining (for purposes of majority scoring) and adds flexibility in balancing recruiting and resource collection. For example, if you need to collect wood but also want to recruit an elf, you can send a dwarf to the Inn while leaving all your elves available for wood cutting. Could be slightly less valuable if the Recruiter's Guild is in play, but still very solid.

Library - This is a very powerful building as it basically produces 2 gold a turn (one for income, and one for the free card draw). Its activated ability is occasionally useful, but its Gnome ability is awesome. It is a little more expensive to build (one of 4 buildings with a 2-metal cost) but is definitely worth it. It could be slightly less valuable if the Librarian's Guild is in play, but still a great value.

Early game (Guild Dependent)

These ones are good, but can become less valuable based on which Guilds are in the game. I will put the value-depreciating guild in parentheses.

Blacksmith (Miner's Guild) - This is a nice source of both metal and income, but becomes somewhat devalued if the Miner's Guild is in play as it makes metal generally easier to collect. The other slight problem with this one is that it is a little harder to build without the 4 stone guild. A good building overall, but more conditional than the three above.

Market (Banker's Guild) - Money is tight in this game, and the market can produce 3 gold a turn. However, it is a 2-metal cost building and the gnome locks are not especially useful (compared to other buildings). The Banker's guild makes money more available in the game (and at the same exchange rate, a worker placement for net 2 gold). Not a bad building, but not top-tier either.

Mid-game -

Pub/Garden - Upgrading to the Master versions of your workers is nice, but any given Master is really only likely to gain you another 5 resources or so in the course of the game. Which isn't bad, it just isn't as game-breaking as it might seem (especially if it costs you 3 gold to place the gnome, as you only really net 2 resources). You are almost always better off gaining another worker instead of upgrading an existing one as another worker helps both for scoring rounds and for getting the bonus resource during collection time. The principle advantage to these buildings is a) they are very cheap to build and b) they provide an income. Dropping a gnome on them is almost an afterthought, and may not even be worth it if you don't have a Tower.

Bank - In my opinion, the weakest building in the game. Compare to the Market, which doesn't require a gnome lock to be good and can produce 3 gold a turn (admittedly requiring a worker placement). The Bank just doesn't really do anything. If you pay 3 gold for a gnome to staff it, it is three full turns before you turn any profit from it. The 4 wood to build it can also be a tall order if the Sawyer's Guild isn't in play. To me, the bank is always a last choice.

Guilds - These are hard to rate because of the variability of guild abilities combined with player mentality (in regards to guild use). Overall I don't think they are a great value, as I think I'd always rather have a Gatehouse, Library, or Market for the same or similar building cost. They are likely to generate you some money over the game, and even better it is money you can spend during the placement phase, but I think the biggest value they offer is giving you a free plank to place a worker (as again, money is tight). It is nice that they don't require a card to build. But if you think about it, if you build a guild in the first turn that is used every subsequent round, you will only net 6 gold from it (either paid to you or virtual from your free placement). You are probably just as well off building a Pub/Garden and saving yourself 2 metal.

Scoring Round Buildings -

Keep/Gatehouse - I lump these together because they are essentially the same thing, two houses for one building card. They are both awesome, the Gatehouse less so because it requires a Gnome to be optimal. Dropping either of these in a scoring turn is huge. I'd say that while they are not as useful as some other buildings, they are possibly the most valuable of all the buildings. I strongly recommend drawing them whenever possible, even if it is just as a "hate draft" as you really don't want someone dropping a keep in your district.

Walls - Our games have not seen a lot of Walls built, but in a scoring round (particularly the last scoring round) they can be a life saver for breaking a stalemate in a district. In general, you are always better off using a building card, but Walls will do in a pinch (for example if there are no empty spots matching your cards in a district you need to get in).

Well, I hope that is helpful and gives you something to think about. Feel free to comment or dispute me, as haven't played as many times as I'd like to, and may have missed something.



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Josh Cappel
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Wow, that was very well thought out!

So many conversations with me, the designers, the developer and the publisher about this game as we were making it. (Of course, most of the building effects and the tweaking to their strengths happened long before I was in the picture.) It is always a strange (but very very good) feeling when people unconnected with a game's creation start weighing in with analysis and opinion about the various elements.

And you've done a very good job of it here! I like the way you broke it down into early/mid/scoring buildings, and how you matched 'em up with value-depreciating guilds when appropriate. Very clever way to present them. You seem to have gotten a very good handle on the strengths and weaknesses of the various structures very quickly... I can't wait to see how yourself and other gamers continue to evaluate the buildings as strategies develop. Nice work, and thanks!

~Josh
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Aaron Bohm
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I don’t know if I agree with your assessment of the bank building. What you say is partially true based on cost of investment and min-max type thinking however one of the crucial aspects of the game is in when you take your actions vs. when you have to play your buildings and eventually end your turn. For example during a scoring round it is often advantageous to build your buildings later to see where everyone goes and capitalize most on where you can build to get victory points (with the downside that the places you may want to build may already be taken).

Therefore, players are each going to take arbitrary actions as often and early as possible to delay when they have to build. Here, the bank is brilliant. Not only is it the only building in the game that gives a free non-turn-ending action (without requiring the player to either use a worker or pay) but it gives this and 1 gold. Assuming you pay full price for a gnome (and assuming you unlock it the first turn) the bank pays for itself with profit after the second turn (you can use it the turn it’s unlocked) at the resource cost of 1 more wood than the inn (a wash if say you figure you had to buy that wood for 1g) with an additional 10g profit throughout the game if built on turn 1. That's actually pretty impressive, a good early buy.

For an exchange rate in the game, I would probably say that 1 worker > 1 gold > any resource and so I tend to rank buildings and actions with this in mind. Also, when I think strategy I think of which base buildings I want to take advantage of and any possible synergistic effects.

You mention towers for example which are pretty good starting buildings. But to use their abilities it’s an initial investment of 3 gold, plus a use cost of 1g and 1 worker. Now are 1 worker and 1 gold > 3 gold? I don’t know. It does allow you to put out more than 1 gnome per turn which can get you points for the most gnomes. It also allows you to unlock a building in the event that you don’t have 3 gold (which is a difference of 1g, since you could have saved a gold by not taking this action as well as earned a gold by using that worker to collect 1).

Your choice of Inn as a strong building is a tad baffling, I find it’s merely an okay build. To use its ability you need to pay the customary 3 gold and use cost of 1g and 1 worker to get an additional worker your next turn. So when you use it, you start at -1 worker. Assuming you use both next turn, you are now even worker-wise (and down 4 total gold) and if you built and unlocked it on turn 1, used it on turn 2 and made up for the net loss of workers by turn 3, then you are basically getting 4 free actions/resources/ect (plus maybe some points). Which is not terrible. However, compare that to building any building that gives you income and just buying a worker at the recruiters desk. Turn one you would build any random building with a gold income and recruit (-2 gold and -1 worker). Turn 2 you would use both workers making up for last turn’s loss and by turn three you would have extra actions with said extra worker plus the +2 income you received in turns 2 and 3, a net difference of 1 turn more with the extra worker and 4 gold better (-2 cost +2 income vs. -3/-1 cost). Now the inn does allow the flexibility of being able to buy more workers and with any type and also allows you to buy them without getting blocked by other players and also if you have less than 2 gold before taking resources. Otherwise the recruiter’s desk, if available, seems like a better place to get workers and the inn seems like a so-so building.

I would put gardens and pubs a notch higher as while their ability is admittedly not as good the inn’s for getting points or extra actions, it’s as good at getting additional resources and you can get it without having to commit that initial worker. Also, I like income producing buildings vs. non income producing buildings and these two are the cheapest to make in the game. A pub/garden strategy could be interesting to see.

Also, just because certain guilds are in the game doesn’t necessarily make similar buildings less valuable. For one, you could always take both actions (IE after taking the guild action the building action still might be better than your other choices) or you might get blocked by an opponent.

For strategy too I think I would like to hear your thoughts on maybe some comprehensive building strategies. Something to the effect of starting with a base building strategy and then how to build off it. For example a tower strategy and how to capitalize by getting buildings to place the gnomes on etc. I find gardens and pubs work well with this. I think someone could build a base strategy around the blacksmith as well as it seems like a powerful building. The inn might work well if used cumulatively but you again would need to figure out what to surround the inn with to make it work well (for example maybe the market which earns extra gold in exchange for that worker you just made). Something to be said to add to the effect that certain buildings might be ok on their own but when combined with others are greater.

Anyway nice thoughts, overall well done.
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Never Knows Best wrote:
I don’t know if I agree with your assessment of the bank building. What you say is partially true based on cost of investment and min-max type thinking however one of the crucial aspects of the game is in when you take your actions vs. when you have to play your buildings and eventually end your turn. For example during a scoring round it is often advantageous to build your buildings later to see where everyone goes and capitalize most on where you can build to get victory points (with the downside that the places you may want to build may already be taken).

Therefore, players are each going to take arbitrary actions as often and early as possible to delay when they have to build. Here, the bank is brilliant. Not only is it the only building in the game that gives a free non-turn-ending action (without requiring the player to either use a worker or pay) but it gives this and 1 gold. Assuming you pay full price for a gnome (and assuming you unlock it the first turn) the bank pays for itself with profit after the second turn (you can use it the turn it’s unlocked) at the resource cost of 1 more wood than the inn (a wash if say you figure you had to buy that wood for 1g) with an additional 10g profit throughout the game if built on turn 1. That's actually pretty impressive, a good early buy.

I think that either you or I are playing the bank incorrectly...

"Once per turn" really means "Once per Action turn" - hopefully that wasn't an oversight in the rules that will cause any confusion, because otherwise the rules are the best I've ever seen!

Similarly, the Library provides its card draw at the end of your Action turn (not each time it's your turn during worker placement!)

The Inn is strong because (a) there are only so many Village spaces, (b) nobody can block you from using your own Inn, (c) you can send an Elf and recruit a Dwarf, and (d) it's cheaper than using the Village.

You have a point that "cheaper than using a Village" only applies once you've paid money for a Gnome, but don't forget that Gnomes are also a scoring condition.

I'm glad to see this kind of strategic analysis of the game! Thanks for posting
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sedjtroll wrote:

I think that either you or I are playing the bank incorrectly...

"Once per turn" really means "Once per Action turn" - hopefully that wasn't an oversight in the rules that will cause any confusion, because otherwise the rules are the best I've ever seen!


No, we do it during the action phase, but you should still be able to use the bank on the same turn you unlock it since that happens on the action phase (IE the gnome placement is a net -2 gold).

When I say delay I'm actually refering to a varient I guess we came up with (we've played it a lot that way so I forgot the original rule) where we also take actions in turn order so forget that part.

But still net 10g without having to use any workers past the inital resource cost in a game is huge, again considering my opinion on how much gold is worth in the game. I guess that's the main reason I thought your assesment of the bank as the "weakest" building was a tad odd.

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Seth Jaffee
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Never Knows Best wrote:
sedjtroll wrote:

I think that either you or I are playing the bank incorrectly...

"Once per turn" really means "Once per Action turn" - hopefully that wasn't an oversight in the rules that will cause any confusion, because otherwise the rules are the best I've ever seen!


No, we do it during the action phase, but you should still be able to use the bank on the same turn you unlock it since that happens on the action phase (IE the gnome placement is a net -2 gold).

This is accurate - you can use the Bank the same turn you Gnome it, because you can do actions in whatever order you wish.

Quote:
When I say delay I'm actually referring to a variant I guess we came up with (we've played it a lot that way so I forgot the original rule) where we also take actions in turn order so forget that part.

This could be fun, but it's definitely an entirely different game! If you want to place your buildings last, you should visit the King's Camp and ask him to swap your turn order crest with player 4 or whatever

- Seth
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So we've got an unboxing video, a handful of reviews, and this in-depth analysis of the gameplay... how about some info on when it's shipping to the rest of us?
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Seth Jaffee
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Daverman wrote:
So we've got an unboxing video, a handful of reviews, and this in-depth analysis of the gameplay... how about some info on when it's shipping to the rest of us?

The latest news is that the games have been loaded onto containers and are scheduled to leave the Chinese port tomorrow (Wednesday). The estimated arrival date they gave us is Sept. 26. That is everything we know.
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Adam O'Brien
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Never Knows Best wrote:

But still net 10g without having to use any workers past the inital resource cost in a game is huge, again considering my opinion on how much gold is worth in the game. I guess that's the main reason I thought your assesment of the bank as the "weakest" building was a tad odd.


Except that it isn't a net 10 gold compared to any building with an income, it is 10 net compared to not building at all.

Compare the bank to the Garden (most similar building cost, and has an income). If you build the Garden on turn 1, it will produce 6 gold over the course of the game. If you build the Bank and pay 3 gold to Gnome it on turn one, it will produce 13 gold over the course of the game. Minus the three to pay for the gnome. minus the one gold from the difference in the cost of 1 stone versus 1 metal in the building costs.

So in reality, the Bank produces a net of 9 gold over the course of the game, versus 6 for the Garden. So it really only produces 3 more gold when built and gnomed on the same turn. The Garden with the option of a Master (who will in turn gain extra resources and/or gold) seems way better. Or compare it to any other building with an income, and see if the extra 3 gold (or 6 if the other building needs gnomed) is better than the bonuses granted by the other buildings.

Compare to the Tower. A first turn Tower will produce 3 gold over the course of the game (6 minus the cost of gnoming it). In addition, it produces a pseudo-gold every time it is activated PLUS enabling a special ability on another building PLUS likely earning VPs in scoring rounds for Gnome scoring. Lets say you play really conservatively and only use the Tower 3 times in the game. That means that over the course of the game the Tower has produced: 3 real and 3 pseudo gold for a total of 6 gold, 3 gnomes (which is likely enough for a minimum of 3 vps over the course of the game, assuming you timed it well enough to at least get second place scoring), and has activated the lock abilities of three other buildings (giving you master workers, an extra gatehouse, extra card draw from libraries, whatever.). The bank has given you 9 gold, and nothing else. How is that even close?

As to your comments about the Inn, they are completely at odds with your comments about the value of gold and about the value of workers. You save a dollar per worker, and it is one less dollar you have to have during the placement phase when money is tightest. And per your own logic for the guilds, the Inn allows you to recruit where you can't get blocked out of, and/or recruit a second time. How is that not really good? I am not sure how many players you normally play with, but those village recruitment spots can get full pretty quickly. And it isn't even a question of its lack of income, because it gains you one dollar per recruitment, plus you could theoretically send that worker to the gold mine every turn, so even if you only use it once it still produces almost as much gold as the bank, with a much higher upper limit (multiple workers produced at Inn and sent gold mining, better chances of bonus money while gathering resources since you have more workers, VPs for workers).

The Bank doesn't suck because money isn't valuable, it sucks because it doesn't do enough. If it were errata'ed or house ruled to have a second gnome lock that also produced a dollar, you might have something.

Never Knows Best wrote:
For an exchange rate in the game, I would probably say that 1 worker > 1 gold > any resource


This is patently ridiculous. Metal is very obviously worth more than gold, just look at the trading post and the resource gathering spots. If you want to compare gold to the two basic resources, I'd still hesitate to give gold the nod solely based on the fact that gold is easier to get (from building income, and less restrictive worker placement as it doesn't care which worker type is there). It does have more uses than the basics, I'll give you that.

Workers are no more a resource than buildings are, as in both cases they cost resources, score VPs, and enable more efficient actions/turns. Comparing workers to resources is comparing farmers to apples.
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3dicebombers wrote:
Except that it isn't a net 10 gold compared to any building with an income, it is 10 net compared to not building at all.

Compare the bank to the Garden (most similar building cost, and has an income). If you build the Garden on turn 1, it will produce 6 gold over the course of the game. If you build the Bank and pay 3 gold to Gnome it on turn one, it will produce 13 gold over the course of the game. Minus the three to pay for the gnome. minus the one gold from the difference in the cost of 1 stone versus 1 metal in the building costs.

So in reality, the Bank produces a net of 9 gold over the course of the game, versus 6 for the Garden. So it really only produces 3 more gold when built and gnomed on the same turn. The Garden with the option of a Master (who will in turn gain extra resources and/or gold) seems way better. Or compare it to any other building with an income, and see if the extra 3 gold (or 6 if the other building needs gnomed) is better than the bonuses granted by the other buildings.


Right, but it does also net 10g vs. buildings that do not earn gold at all. The blacksmith, Inn and Gatehouse all don't make any income, which would put them at a disadvantage when compared to buildings that do. Specifically I was comparing the bank to the inn and stating that it wasn't, in my opinion, the "weakest" option. Personally I find the gatehouse, the guilds or maybe even the library the weakest.

True the bank doesn't seem to do a lot but you also don't have to do a lot for it. Compare it to the market for example where you have to use 1 worker to get 2 gold. For the bank you spend 3 gold to unlock the ability which, if done in turn 1 will earn you +10g in the game. To get +10 gold from the market you would need to build it on turn 1 and use it twice throughout the game (it would make 6 income +4 from using it twice) but that would also cost 2 workers. Are 2 workers > 4 gold? On the bankers guild 1 worker is worth exactly 2 gold, for resource collection 1 worker = 1 gold. Maybe the market is a tad better (it also does cost a bit more in resources). Again, I'm merely patitioning that the bank is not a bad building, certainly not the worst.

And what you say about the gardens and pubs are true too, hence why I think I tend to like these buildings more than the OP

3dicebombers wrote:

Compare to the Tower. A first turn Tower will produce 3 gold over the course of the game (6 minus the cost of gnoming it). In addition, it produces a pseudo-gold every time it is activated PLUS enabling a special ability on another building PLUS likely earning VPs in scoring rounds for Gnome scoring.


Right, I like the tower and think its a good building. I would however say that you're confusing getting "psuedo gold" with just a straight discount on gnomes. You don't have to buy gnomes to win the game, I've seen high scores without a single gnome purchase. My wife uses the same argument when she sees a sale at a store that it "saved" us money. Well, not really, you didn't really have to buy it in the first place. Compared to the bank the tower might still be better (gnome scoring is kind of neat and I like the synergy with opening up other building slots), but I don't think that in itself makes the bank a bad building.

3dicebombers wrote:

As to your comments about the Inn, they are completely at odds with your comments about the value of gold and about the value of workers. You save a dollar per worker, and it is one less dollar you have to have during the placement phase when money is tightest. And per your own logic for the guilds, the Inn allows you to recruit where you can't get blocked out of, and/or recruit a second time. How is that not really good?


I never said it wasn't "really good," I just disagree with it being one of the stronger buildings. I think it would be helpful if you 1st read my whole post and 2nd took your own advise a bit. I am not comparing building and using the inn to JUST using the recruitment desk, I'm comparing it to building and using the inn to building and using some other building and using recruitment desk.

Let's compare building the inn vs. building the bank. 1st turn player A builds the inn, player B builds the bank for 1 more wood and uses the recruitment camp paying 2 using 1 worker. Both players spend 3 gold for a gnome. On turn 2, player B gets to use his extra worker during the placement phase. Player A uses a worker and pays 1 gold to place his worker at the inn (player A has now used 4 gold).

During income player B gets 1, player A gets 0 and during the action phase player B gets an additional 1. So player B has spent a total of 5 gold, 3 for the gnome 2 for recruitment, and player A has spent 4 gold but player B has gotten 3g income as well as his worker for an extra turn for the cost of 1 extra wood. Now is 1 extra gold plus a worker for 1 turn > 1 wood? Yes. That is the disadvantage for the inn (I can use other buildings that create an income for an example too and the inn still doesn't do "better"). Each turn an income producing building is going to do exactly one gold better than the inn.

The advantage, as I stated and agreed with the OP earlier, is that it means you can't be blocked and you have the flexibility to hire what you want. Is the disadvantage of the inn not having income worth this ability? I don't know. I don't think it's an awesome ability (if it was free maybe or if the inn cost less resources or had an income) that's why I simply say the inn is an okay building. True, during the first and second turn the recruitment desk is pretty full, by the third there is usually an opening. After that it's pretty empty. During a 2 or 4 player game you have a 50% chance of guarantying you get a spot here (based on random turn draw), in a 5 player game its a 60% chance and in a 3 player its a 33% chance.

I do believe the inn is a building that's best used cumulatively over many turns, and there is probably a breakpoint between when it starts to overtake it's initial disadvantage. Maybe using it twice isn't enough but after 3 times... for example. I also never said it wouldn't work well as a combo, building the inn first turn and the market on turn two for example seems very powerful... your first 2 turns are going to suck but the market makes up for the disadvantage of gold the inn presents and the inn makes up the disadvantage of requiring a worker.

But you also don't need to hire any workers to win either (okay, maybe highly unlikely) and at the very least the inn should be on the OP's list of buildings that aren't as good with a guild hall (the recruiting guild would seem to make this less valuable even further according to his rationale).

3dicebombers wrote:

Never Knows Best wrote:
For an exchange rate in the game, I would probably say that 1 worker > 1 gold > any resource


This is patently ridiculous. Metal is very obviously worth more than gold, just look at the trading post and the resource gathering spots.


No need to get fiesty, its a theory I'm working on and I believe I said it was my opinion (is the game even in stores yet?) But okay, let's play around with this a bit. Let's look at the resource market, you can sell 1 metal for 1 gold. Interesting. Now, you do need 2 workers to get a metal, that's true. However, at the beginning of the turn if you have 3 metal and I have 3 gold, I am way more flexible with where I can place than you. If, through poor management, I don't have enough gold during taxes I lose 1 victory point per gold needed.

The game does suggest that metal is otherwise worth a tad more. The miners guild gives 2 metal and the banking guild gives 3 gold. I wouldn't be opposed to a theory that 2 gold = 3 metal. But I currently am going to go with gold in that it is needed for many things, as metal is either used for building or to get 1 gold. I would love someone with time to do a write-up of an alternative ratio, so long as some thought is put behind it.

3dicebombers wrote:

Workers are no more a resource than buildings are, as in both cases they cost resources, score VPs, and enable more efficient actions/turns. Comparing workers to resources is comparing farmers to apples.


I disagree, workers are a resource (you're not an HR director by any chance?), buildings are not. Buildings are the goal (which may or may not provide some useful effect other than vps). Wood, stone, and metal are resources and so is gold. Additional workers cost gold and a worker, but additional resources can cost a gold and worker too. At either rate, there is definitely an exchange value to # workers = x = building. I don't see what the harm is in trying to figure out what the best rate of exchange for a worker would be and we all do this a bit naturally otherwise everyone would simply put all of their workers toward resource collecting every turn.

Managing workers is, in my opinion, way more important than managing anything else. And workers are also a possible source of victory points. It's possible that 1 worker = 2 gold = 2 resources / 1 metal but don't quote me on that. I would definitely be interested in someone's thoughts on a truer conversion ratio or a strategy of worker placement to maximize vps. But if you believe workers are not that important, it would again make the inn less important.
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