This week in Seafall I decided to strategize.
It’s not like I go into the game with zero strategy. I’ve been in the lead since the first game, so there’s got to be a little more than dumb luck involved, right?
My strategy to this point is two fold:
- Go for anything that gives me an advantage in future games. Stickers are permanent upgrades on the board that will persist throughout the campaign. This means I should try to win each game (not a super secret strategy) and also that I should try to get whatever unlocks I can. Of course, there are some random explorations and such that give stickers as well, but you can’t count on those, so they just come up when they do.
Although that does lend some credit to doing exploration more…I also went pretty heavy on… well, without spoilers, I can’t say. Let’s just say there’s a twist that comes out in the first couple of chests that allows you to basically have access to easy glory in future games. That’s not particularly the intent, but that’s the way I saw it, so I committed fairly heavily to those.
- Adapt to the mission at hand. As the Prince, I’m forced to go last every game. That means I can’t count on the good advisors being available, or the right ship upgrades being there for me. As a result, I need to remain flexible. If I see an option left open, I go for it. I generally haven’t competed in areas for others. If a couple of people are exploring–I don’t fight them for it, and instead go a different route.
One thing I haven’t really done is pre-planning. I’ve had some vague insights as to what I was planning to do in future games based upon the resources I had and the twists that had been revealed–but I’ve never really put a lot of thought into how I’d play the first couple of turns–and that is probably a mistake.
I know that Sam basically won game five because he had planned out at least the first couple of turns (it really sounds like he had a pretty solid plan for the entire game)–and he took a commanding lead in that particular game. So maybe I need to focus a little more.
So that’s what I set out to doing. Only, there are so many options and variations on what could happen, that I became overloaded. I planned out a couple of strategies that involved either taxing or building on the first turn, but neither was optimal unless I could somehow start with additional cash. I could do that by winning a game (and thereby upgrading a field) or finding a way to get access to a mine early in the game. So that was my plan…
This is the part where the spoilers start.
Don’t continue reading unless you want to see spoilers…
So yeah, my strategy involved around either taxing first turn (+3 gold) and then using that money to try to buy both an upgrade and a building on turn 2 (but that also involved sailing to an island that sold upgrades, and those upgrades would need to still be available on turn two. To give you an idea, the only island that meets that qualification on our board sells yellow upgrades, and the past few games those have gone really quickly as people lean heavily upon exploration).
The other downside there is that taxing before I build a building nets me -4 gold. This is because one of my colonies has the +4 tax icon. So, I can alternately build on the first turn and then tax later. The downside there is I only had 14 gold, so I couldn’t afford to activate two colonies and buy two upgrades on turn two. There was a chance that I could wiggle in something extra if one of my colonies has a mine–but the only one that does have one is the colony that I want to build on–so it needs the good on it.
Then you factor in which advisers are available, and what the first four players did (did they already buy the yellow upgrades? Did they buy the building I wanted? Did they sail forward and take out more resources?
What seemed really basic quickly spiraled out of control. So, instead of planning everything, I figured I needed to start the game with more gold. To do so, I planned on doing one of the following:
- Discovering a mine on one of my other existing colonies
- Establishing a new colony on an island that already had a mine
- Winning the game and putting a +2 fields sticker on my board
My guess was that option #2 was going to be the easiest solution. #1 was also possible, but that’s really luck based, so I was better suited to option 2. Number 3 was obviously a goal, but it involves winning. Of course that’s a goal as well, but it seemed less dependable than the other two.
Sadly though, I wasn’t able to accomplish either of the other two goals. So, I think my goal for the next game will be to create that new colony after all. It’d be nice to start off with another extra 3 gold.
Both games were very fast, each lasting until the first turn of the second year. Frankly, my plan to use stickers as upgrades has helped dramatically. After the second Winter, I wind up pulling in 16 gold from my main fields, and 8 more gold from my colonies (before mines). I can use that 24-27 gold to activate my last colony, buy a treasure, and then build a building and an upgrade (each of which I could have an available +1 VP spot for). That winds up being somewhere between 3-6 victory points for that turn, plus any additional I might earn from buying a bigger treasure. And, at least in the past two games, that was enough to end it.
Sadly, it takes me a while to get going in order to acquire enough goods to get out and build my colony, so it would’ve taken me at least two more turns to do so. And then, I’m at risk of losing the game.
But at this point, I don’t think that’s so bad. I’m ahead of Albert (in second place) by 30ish points. I’m nearly 70 points ahead of last place as well–so maybe I shouldn’t be trying to win so much. Instead, I should probably just slow play and let others build up and enjoy themselves.
That leads me to another point. Back in game 4, I discovered the strange map in the research deck. I’ve not bothered to explore it because there were just so many ways to earn victory points already on the board (particularly through milestones/unlocks) and I felt that unlocking it early would spread myself thin and reduce my chances of staying ahead. Well, at this point, we’ve unlocked all of the existing milestones except this, so it’s time to unlock it. The thing is, I’ve been playing dumb with everyone this entire time. I’ve had the card but didn’t want to tell people I did–for fear that they might find some way to take it away (to date, there doesn’t seem to be a way to take away research cards).
But now, I have to go find the island and then tell everyone “oh yeah, I’ve been sandbagging on this for five games now.” I think it was a sound strategy for me, and it appears to have worked out rather well–but I’m sort of dreading the notion of telling everyone that I’ve had it all along. Yeah, the reason why the game hasn’t progressed? Well: because I didn’t want it to. I was instead trying (successfully) to milk the game of all of it’s experience before unlocking it.
I really dug my own hole here.
By the way, my ships have gotten quite good at exploring at this point. I was able to find two relics in tombs. The first allows me to heal damage as I sail (not really a big deal to me), but the other lets me count all major successes as extra successes when exploring–and it doesn’t spend itself when using it. It’s just active all of the time–and that seems crazy powerful. So, yeah, I’m an explorer again. Couple that with my predilection towards buying the structure where I can spend 1 gold to clear out the advisors–and thereby actually have a chance to get the advisor I want, helps cement my role as an explorer.
Better yet, if I don’t win the next game, I’ll actually be able to keep an adviser that’s worth a damn. As it stands, Albert always keeps “Firoz” who has a gold value of 4 and explore +6! Likewise Sam has taken to keeping my old standby “John Stone” (the Foreman) who gives a combined -11 discount off upgrades/building. That leaves me keeping a +2 adviser, which isn’t very good. In fact, I’m generally scrambling at the end of the game to find a cheap adviser that I can retain (because a bad one is better than no adviser, right?)
P.S. We just realized that research cards are supposed to be kept face up in the treasure room. So I guess people could’ve raided my strange map in an earlier game?