Dominion Strategy: World Board Gaming Championship – Intrigue

By Brian Durkin
The World Boardgaming Championship takes place all this week in Lancaster, PA. I hope to see you at the Lancaster Host Resort for some gaming. If you would like to know more about this event, check out the Boardgame Players Association website for information about the WBC.
The Dominion tournament at WBC continues to draw huge crowds as one of the most popular events for non-collectible card games. If you plan on playing in this event, you need to learn the format ahead of time. This single elimination tournament will only use Kingdom cards from Intrigue for the first two rounds, so your survival depends on your ability to play with these cards. What cards should you look out for in this format?
Tribute
10. Tribute
Limited only to the Intrigue expansion, this card earns a higher ranking than usual. The potential Kingdom set up could benefit a player from adding this card to his or her deck with all the split action cards in Intrigue. If players begin to build Scout decks or buy Nobles just as a Draw/Action engine, Tribute will feel like a Grand Market. This card depends on a lot going right and might not deserve a spot on the list compared to other cards; however, in this format you should reconsider its power level. 

Pawn
9. Pawn
Almost every deck will benefit from a Pawn. The biggest advantage comes from how the modes keep this card relevant regardless of the game state. Early on it helps draw cards and or provide actions, but later in the game it can provide an extra buy if you really start producing a lot of money. Do not over extend on purchasing this card. Playing several Pawns in a row just tortures everyone for wasting time, because you still will just end on one terminal. Unlike Ascension not every card adds points to your score.
8. Torturer
Torturer
Smithy is good. Smithy is better when all your opponents must discard two cards or take Curses. This terminal can do a lot of damage. Torturer does not give your opponents any good options unless they possess trash effects. Torturer’s power level diminishes in this format because of several cards deal with Curses. Do not avoid a Curse strategy. Certain boards will allow this to succeed; however, even a mediocre card like Upgrade can mitigate the power of Torturer. Actions that trash make Torturer essentially just a Smithy, so seek out cards that provide multiple actions. Multiple actions allow for more card drawing and you distribute more Curses. More than one Torturer can create a situation where most trash effects cannot keep up.
Shanty Town
7. Shanty Town
Need to juice up the power of Torturer, Shanty Town does the trick. This card screams, “Combo with me!” Shanty Town’s presence on the board boosts many other cards, such as Conspirator. This set provides an incredible amount of good terminal actions, so Shanty Town will really take your deck to the next level. Of course many times you will not draw off of the first Shanty Town. Who cares? No real loss when you now can play two Torturers. The next card on the list can even help set up Shanty Town’s additional bonus.
Courtyard
6. Courtyard
This card will benefit every player. In decks without multiple actions, it allows you to put a terminal action card on top for next turn instead of discarding it with no effect. In Shanty Town combo decks you can set up what you need. Courtyard digs three cards deep to find more actions if you already earned extra actions. You want to find these powerful actions as soon as possible and Courtyard makes that happen. A great complement to any deck considering four of the top five game warping cards for an Intrigue game include terminal actions.
Swindler
5. Swindler
Swindling first will put you far ahead of your competition. It enables better purchasing power and probably floods your opponents’ decks with Curses. Although many cards in Intrigue minimizing the effect of Curses, Swindler does not need to hit a Copper in order to do damage. Sometimes taking away a player’s Torturer to give him or her a Duke will solidify your lead. Only one other attack card surpasses Swindler on this list, but first you must remember the most powerful ability when playing Dominion.
Trading Post
 
4. Trading Post
Trashing cards out of your deck enables all degenerate decks and combos. No other effect with accelerate your deck’s power level like removing the lower quality cards. Trading Post removes two bad cards from your deck and allows you to acquire a good card, not to forget the fact that this does not count as your buy for the turn. With one play you can trash two Coppers, gain a Silver, and buy a Swindler. Not bad. Trading Post diminishes the power of cards like Torturer and next card on the list.
Masquerade
3. Masquerade
It sends a bad card to your neighbor. It draws you cards. It trashes. Enough said. It creates another reason why Torturer does not make the top five cards. Masquerade even competes with Courtyard’s ability to smooth out your draw. Masquerade changes every game it appears because even a card like Swindler now does not do as much damage. Masquerade still cannot protect you from one attack card.
Minion
2. Minion
Ever play against a Minion deck before? If you said yes, did you want to kill yourself after watching your opponent destroy your hand and proceed to play four more copies of this card? If you said yes then you know you need to pilot the Minion deck as oppose to feel its wrath. No other card self combos as well as this attack. You play several copies for money and then use your last copy to refill your hand. Look out for cards like Mining Village and Bridge because they synergize well with Minion. Most Minion decks need  trashing to reach crazy levels of power.
1. Steward
Nothing trashes better than this card. At a cost of three, you do not fall behind when someone opens with five Copper and beats everyone to Trading Post. Trashing two cards at a time helps fight any player distributing Curses. After you finish trashing all the bad cards, it still provides a relevant effect of either drawing cards or giving you two dollars. You need to build a deck around this card every time it hits the board.
Steward
What cards do you love to add to your Steward decks? Do you think you would build a different strategy if Steward appeared on the table? What other cards shine when playing with only Intrigue cards? Do you think a Duke strategy can work or will most players race for Provinces?
Let us know what you think.

**Special Thanks to Vishu Doshi for his input on this list.


Additional Information

For more information about Intrigue check the product page on BoardGameGeek.com.
Interested in purchasing a copy of Intrigue? Try the following links.
If you live in the tri-state area, consider stopping by AU to pick up a copy and play with just about anyone. Many gamers know how to play this game and enjoy playing with anyone.

Tichu Strategy: How to Play the Dragon

By Brian Durkin
The Dragon
If I had to pick one card I would love to open with I would pick the Phoenix; however, I will never complain if I draw the Dragon instead. His ability to win any single trick creates crucial information knowledge for you and possibly your team. With great power comes great responsibility. Do you keep it for yourself or pass it to your partner? Do you bomb your own Dragon for the points, or do you let the opposing team take the points in the trick? Which opposing player will receive the Dragon trick? Considering these questions will improve your ability to maximize the Dragon when your team controls it.
Who Gets It?
You can answer almost any question about Tichu with just one simple phrase: it depends. In the majority of tricks you win with the Dragon you will pass it to an opposing player. Only someone with an amazing hand or reckless player will bomb their own Dragon for points. Convention suggests passing the Dragon trick to the player on your right. The theory argues that if you go out the lead passes to the left, if each person goes out once they receive the lead then the player to your right will go out last. Follow this convention when in doubt, but you should consider some other factors. Count how many cards each player holds. If the player on your left still holds ten cards while his partner only possesses two cards, then you probably should give the Dragon trick to the player on your left. Try to study each of your opponent’s play styles and skill level. If the player to your left appears new to the game you may benefit from exploiting his or her lack of experience.
Standard American Convention
New players and most seasoned players will follow the most common Tichu convention: pass the Dragon to your partner. The Dragon will benefit the team no matter who holds it, so the theory suggests passing it so your team will know each hand which team holds the Dragon. With such a common convention popping up in almost every partnership, you should learn how to meta game this strategy (using imperfect information and projections about future events as a basis for decision making). Count how many hands you know you can win and afford to lose since your team does not possess the Dragon. If your team does not follow this convention you will need to pick up on tells to figure out who holds the Dragon. If the opposing team follows the convention and knows they control the Dragon, one of the them might play a single Ace with authoritative confidence; confidence you can pick up on and infer that your partner did not keep the Dragon for himself.
You Don’t Follow the Convention?
Do not forget to assess your partner’s ability and play style. When playing with a new partner or new player the information knowledge of the Dragon or passing the Dragon may not benefit the team. Some players do not feel confident to call Tichu or just assume the opposing team always monopolize good cards like the Dragon. Playing with a timid teammate could change your mind on whether or not to pass the Dragon, but building up his or her confidence with the traditional Pass the Dragon convention might benefit that player’s growth. Assuming you allow players on your team to keep the Dragon, you usually want to keep it in any hand if you feel you need it to win a (Grand) Tichu bet. Even without a Tichu call, one player on the team will hold better cards and the other player will end up facilitating their partner’s goal of going out. Keeping the Dragon in a lesser quality hand that contains low single cards or the Dog could help your partner if he or she ends up in trouble. You can steal the lead from the other team and your next play will help pass the lead back to your partner. The Dragon also guarantees that you will interact with the table. Some hands contain all combinations but none that provide a good way to win the more popular types of tricks. The Dragon allows you to enter the game and start playing the types of combinations you need to see in order to empty you hand.
Today’s Challenge
You opened the following fourteen cards after deciding not to call Grand Tichu.
Dog, 3, 3, 4, 4, 5, 5, 7, 7, 7, Q, Q, Q, Dragon
How would you play the hand above? What do you pass to each player? Would you ever consider calling Tichu under any circumstances with this hand? If an opposing player calls a (Grand) Tichu before the pass, does that change which cards you pass? Do you try to play a supportive role on the team or do you take a position of trying to go out first?
Let us know what you think.
Additional Information

For more information about Tichu check the product page on BoardGameGeek.com.
Interested in purchasing a copy of Tichu? Try the following links.
Amazon:Tichu.
The above link provides the first edition. For red card backs, use the Amazon link with the picture to the side of this information.
If you live in the tri-state area, consider stopping by AU to pick up a copy and play with just about anyone. The entire staff and most of the MtG community knows how to play this game and enjoys it.

Ascension Strategy: How to Win Solo Games

By Brian Durkin

Snapshot of Today’s Challenge

“The bickering that came in war’s wake must end. A Godslayer must take up arms a second time. The Fallen has returned.” – Ascension: Return of the Fallen Rulebook
Are you ready to fight once again? Are you prepared to do this journey alone? In order to tank a god you will need to know what support cards will allow you to slay the mighty Samael. Before entering the ring with The Fallen, draw upon your experience for guidance.

Arbiter of the Precipice
If It Works Then Don’t Fix It
Minimizing your deck size still pays off during solo play. Samael can acquire points fast, so banishing alone will not make your deck degenerate; however, you still need to see your best cards as often as possible to keep pace with The Fallen. If banishers do not present appear try acquiring constructs or heroes that draw cards. This strategy at least keeps your deck from theoretically growing. Building your deck this way will exploit a powerful hero and allow you to defeat a god.
Find the Achilles Heel
In order to defeat any enemy you must know his weaknesses. In solo play, Samael suffers from his inability to choose which cards to defeat or acquire. Take advantage of his tunnel vision by planning on cards to come back to you on future turns. For example you may need to prioritize acquiring Arbiter of the Precipice in a game with other humans, but Samael cannot take Arbiter until it finds its way to the end of the center row. You might find it difficult to break your normal habits of play at first, but remember that taking on a god requires some new ways of thinking. You need to exploit every advantage, especially anything that involves the center row and what Samael will defeat and acquire.
God Complex
Askara of Fate

If you can manipulate what cards Samael will take at the end of your turns you put yourself in a great position to win the game. Prioritize cards like Seer of the Forked Path and Askara of Fate. Effects that banish cards from the center row allow you to control everything in solo play: what cards Samael acquires, what monsters Samael defeats, how long the game will take to play. Assuming you do not defeat monsters yourself, preventing Samael from defeating monster through banish effects extends how long the game will last. This puts you in a great position to acquire better cards than Samael and ultimately score more honor tokens.
When to Let Samael Tap Out
Combining all the fore mentioned strategies can create degenerate scenarios. If you banish your entire starting deck, acquire only constructs and heroes that draw cards, manipulate the center row so no one defeats monsters, and earn more honor than Samael through acquiring cards you could theoretically continue the punishment forever. Of course eventually the deck or center row will consist of only monsters. You might find yourself in a situation where the last honor tokens must go to someone; however, that does not mean the game will end. Hopefully through your expert control of the board and deck building you assembled a deck that can take infinite turns. Do not know about this combo? Check it out.
Infinite Turn Combo
  • Banish Tablet of Time’s Dawn
  • Hedron Link Device or play Dimension Diver
  • Use Reclamax’s effect
  • Replay Tablet of Time’s Dawn
  • Repeat


You can insure the combo works on a consistent basis with other support cards. Rocket Courier X-99 makes it so you do not need to draw Tablet of Time’s Dawn and replay it because it will start in play again. Any player able to take infinite turns will usually pilot a deck that draws itself every turn as well. Lucky for you the almighty Samael just consumes and does not understand which cards he should take away from you. Punish his ignorance by taking the banish effect cards. With a deck that decreases size over time and controlling the board you will end up in a position where you might score infinite honor tokens. Be the better god and mercy rule Samael. You need to finish up that game somehow so you go tell your friends about it.
Today’s Challenge
You start a solo game. You open with the five Apprentices and the center row contains the following cards in order from their distance from the center row.
  • Arbiter of the Precipice
  • Askara of Fate
  • Wolf Shaman
  • Snap Dragon
  • Hectic Scribe
  • Tablet of Time’s Dawn


What would you acquire first? How do the cards Samael will acquire affect your decisions? What do you acquire on your second turn? Do you play in a way that attempts to prevent Samael from acquiring Tablet of Time’s Dawn?
Let us know what you think.
Additional Information:
For more information about Ascension: Return of the Fallen, check the product page on BoardGameGeek.com.
Interested in purchasing a copy of Ascension: Chronicle of the Godslayer? Try the following links.
You can purchase Ascension: Return of the Fallen from here:
If you live in the tri-state area, consider stopping by AU to pick up a copy and play with the staff. Almost every staff member knows how to play, and most of the MTG community that hangs out in the store enjoys playing pick up games as well.

Alternate Universes – Ascension

7 Wonders Strategy: Leaders Analysis Part II

By Brian Durkin
Leaders who provide victory points
without any additional requirements
Did not read yesterday’s post? No big deal. Thanks for returning to the site, but you should start with Leaders Analysis Part I before continuing. Some of the jargon and measures of comparing the leader cards may confuse you without reading the first part.
You can find the article here: Leaders Analysis Part I
Four Cost Leaders
Although plenty of leaders fail to beat Cleopatra, a select few surpass her. Many of the best leaders in the game come from this category because of the points or strategies they enable. Most players plan on constructing every stage of their wonder. Unless you play Roma side “A” or Colossus side “B,” Amytis should equal six points. Tomyris played before Age I will also translate to six points (saving you from taking six defeat tokens). She really shines in how she warps the draft at your end of the table. With Tomyris you can just ignore one of the card types and your neighbors earn fewer points for taking the red cards you feed them. Archimedes provides a similar game changing effect. He enables free construction for Age I scientific structures; Age I scientific structures, free construction for Age II green cards; Age II green cards, free construction for Age III scientific structures. With Archimedes alone you possess the power to chain into all the scientific structures without any access to manufactured goods. Since green cards grow exponentially he will give you more points than five if you draft science. His only drawback comes from the fact that the scientific structures must come your way Age I. Bilkis can enable the same strategy as Archimedes with the cost of some more gold. The trade off for spending gold enables the player more flexibility because you do not commit to only discounts on green cards. This flexibility makes a player controlling Bilkis dangerous because he or she can access many more cards.
Leaders costing four gold piecies

Hypatia will need their help in order to score more than five points, putting her behind the William at her cost level. Nebuchadnezzar requires a less difficult structure category to collect in order to rack up points, but you still need to spend a third of your picks on blue cards to make him better than Cleopatra. Remember the definition of a William? Plato fits the latter part by essentially providing no effect or ability. Collecting every color could disrupt your ability to take the best card which in effect will hurt your score. Demanding a guild puts a lot of pressure on you to put yourself in a position to play several different guilds, not to mention the fact that playing only one green card sucks. Gold luck if you plan on turning Plato into an epic fourteen point play. Assuming you abandon constructing your wonder, which I do not recommend, you can only afford four picks in the entire course of the game to not fit Plato’s requirements for scoring fourteen points. Plato needs friends to help him. Halicarnassus and Babylon both provide effects that will support a Plato strategy. Solomon providing an extra card will help fill the gaps like Halicarnassus. You could also turn to the most expensive leaders to help mitigate the problems of tracking down matches in science or guilds.
Five Cost Leaders
If you really want to go Plato-finite then you should consider taking Ramses as well. His ability to allow you to play any guild that comes your way will help activate Plato’s effect. Ramses by himself though does not do much. He requires that not only do you see several guilds to play off of him, but those guilds actually generate a significant amount of points for you. Who cares if you can play Workers Guild for free if Town Hall gives you twice as many points? With Pericles you can take military structures throughout all three ages to boost his value. Although expensive at six dollars, he does provide a type of insurance when fighting your neighbors. You do not mind entering an arms race because each military structure does not generate the same diminishing return as it does for your neighbors; Pericles makes each red card worth at least two victory points. If you really want your leaders to support your military strategy then you should seek out Caesar. Providing two shields really puts you far ahead of your neighbors, especially if you play him before Age I. If you take another military structure in Age II you most likely will win every conflict up until that point. Caesar enables you to earn eight points, signal to your neighbors to stay away from fighting because of your commanding lead, as well as free up picks for other cards because you do not need to spend them on red cards. Do not hesitate to go to a gold playing Caesar as your first leader. Euclid, Pythagoras, and Ptolemy can wait until as late as Age III to join your civilization. Although expensive at five dollars they can provide a lot of points. If either of them completes a match then the leader essentially earned you at least eight points. If you played a three of a kind in a science symbol the matching leader adds nine more points to your score.
Most expensive leaders that focus around military
Would the Real Big William Please Stand Up?
Cleopatra ends the cycle of Williams, but you can extend the pattern. A leader should earn you one more point than the amount of gold you spend on it. All the leaders providing a scientific symbol can translate to more than six points. Caesar should earn you at least six points, not to mention freeing you up from taking a military structure in one of the ages (note: the leaders providing a scientific symbol do not provide this additional effect because you want to collect as many symbols as possible because they grow exponentially). Ramses requires a lot of luck and the right board position to generate more than six points. I think certain players will find him useful, but do not take him as your first leader when drafting. Pericles should earn you at least six points, but usually more like eight or ten. I like the encouragement he gives to keep fighting in military, but he does not surpass the William benchmark with flying colors. I think a military player should enjoy the opportunity to play him, but do not feel like you must have him when playing a military strategy. I would rather draft Hannibal or Caesar every time over Pericles.
Hannibal
Would you also take the leaders that provide military strength over the other red card themed leaders? How do you rank the leaders in the expansion? Which leader do you take first pick over anything? Do you agree or disagree with comparing each card to the Williams?
Let us know what you think.
Additional Information

For more information about 7 Wonders check the product page on BoardGameGeek.com.
Interested in purchasing a copy of 7 Wonders? Try the following links.
Amazon: 7 Wonders.
If you live in the tri-state area, consider stopping by AU to pick up a copy and play with the staff. They make up my play test group. We play usually every Monday Night.

7 Wonders Strategy: Leaders Analysis Part I

By Brian Durkin

All the leaders that provide victory points
with no conditions attacched
William
[will-yuh m]
Noun
A card in a strategy game that possesses no powers or effects, or essentially provides no relevant ability without the aid of another card or effect.
Origin:
The VS System trading card game released a new keyword called Willpower in the Green Lantern set. Many characters with this keyword had no additional abilities. Willpower by itself does nothing; other cards interact with it. Cards or characters that fit these descriptions earned the nickname William in the gaming community.
Nobody likes playing William-dot-deck. How could a deck filled with cards containing no effects ever succeed? Believe it or not, but some cards actually manage to provide worse utility than a vanilla card. Although not exciting, you know vanilla ice cream delivers every time. The real question comes from deciding whether Mint Chocolate Chip, Chucky Monkey, or Strawberry Blonde Rendezvous will better satisfy your taste buds.
With the new Leaders expansion for 7 Wonders you must decide which leaders will give the most bang for your bucks. Comparing a card against a William creates the simplest benchmark to determine the profitability of an effect. Sell high and buy low, so let’s take a look at the cheapest leaders.
One Cost Leaders
Every leader that costs a single gold besides Sappho (this category’s William) provides an effect that improves your cash flows. Nero and Vitruvius can potentially earn you at least nine gold pieces (equals more than two victory points). I believe Nero provides even more utility. If you declare more incentive to win military struggles it signals to your neighbors that they should dig in for a difficult fight if they want to compete in red cards. Tavern, excuse me. Croesus provides you with a boost in gold that can allow you to play other important cards. The flexibility to spend the money however you want proves difficult to compare to Sappho. If you expect a cash crunch, then take Croesus over Sappho. Same goes for Maecenas; however, his theoretical gold comes from saving money playing Leaders. He only really shines if you expect to play the most expensive leaders. You should not take Maecenas over a William if you draft a lot of the next cost category.
Leaders that cost a gold to play
Two Cost Leaders
Hannibal surpasses everyone in this category. One military structure can win a contest against both neighbors in Age I. Starting off with strength puts you in a great position to win military struggles in Age I and for the rest of the game. If he alone allows you to win two military conflicts then he provides you with four points (plus two instead of negative two). From my experience I find it rare when I cannot play a military structure because of resources, especially if I lose military when I strategized to earn victory tokens. If you set out to go on this strategy you would secure access to the resources anyway. I find it difficult to associate points to Leonidas, especially compared to Hannibal at the same cost. Hammurabi will never give three points from saving you from purchasing resources, but enabling you to play Palace or Pantheon does translate to a lot of points. Civilian structures demand the widest range of resources next to guilds, so I like the flexibility Hammurabi provides. He should allow you to play cards you might not play otherwise, which will translate into direct points. Leonidas cannot guarantee points because you could still lose in military strength to a neighbor. Xenophon and Hatshepsut both strengthen players who rely on commercial structures and or purchasing resources. Unfortunately the gold they provide will almost never account for more than three points alone.  Try to secure other synergistic cards with these two leaders otherwise you will turn out playing a leader worse than a William.
Hannibal
Three Cost Leaders
With about one third of the leaders costing three, you need to identify which ones provide a good investment. Nefertiti, the William, beats out six other leaders in her category. Midas requires you to end the game with at least fifteen gold pieces. Alexander requires you win almost all conflicts in order to surpass four points. Hiram demands you spend at least a third of your Age III picks on guilds, assuming these guilds provide a sufficient amount of points to justify taking them in the first place. Aristotle requires two scientific matches to surpass four points. Unless grabbing a key scientific structure, how often will Solomon convert into more than four points? Essentially all these leaders suffer from high risks that either do not give the player good enough payoffs or warp your draft in a negative way. You do not need to build matches to score well in scientific structures. Hording gold could prevent you from playing cards with better marginal utility. The three cost leaders worse than Nefertit require support from other leaders to really boost their effects. I find it tough to justify taking a risk on Alexander or Aristotle without Pericles or a leader who provides a scientific symbol.  A card like Pericles will provide you with a significant amount of points without little effort or luck; therefore, the best leaders that cost three give you points based on different color cards you play (excluding Hiram). Taking enough raw materials, manufactured goods, or commercial structures to equal or surpass four points should never prove difficult. Justinian might appear hard to maximize but do not let him fool you. If you play military structures, you usually want to play one every age. If you play scientific structures, you want at least three of them (build three of a kind or a match). Civilian structures come in all kinds of cost requirements, making every player capable of playing them. Justinian can reach nine points without diminishing returns to the rest of your picks, making him worth more points than the most expensive William.
The best three cost leaders
 
Who overthrows Cleopatra as the best four cost leader? Which leaders without a William comparison justify spending the gold to play? Find out tomorrow in Leaders Analysis Part II.
But do not forget to share your opinion. How do you feel about the leaders who cost three dollars or less? Do you agree or disagree with the analysis above, and why?
Let us know what you think.
Additional Information

For more information about 7 Wonders check the product page on BoardGameGeek.com.
Interested in purchasing a copy of 7 Wonders? Try the following links.
Amazon: 7 Wonders.
If you live in the tri-state area, consider stopping by AU to pick up a copy and play with the staff. They make up my play test group. We play usually every Monday Night.

7 Wonders Video Coverage: Playing Roma Side “A”

By Brian Durkin
Roma side “A”
Still new to playing 7 Wonders? Could you use more experience with Leaders? Check out the videos below. They cover a six player game of 7 Wonders with the Leaders expansion. Pat Coyle and I sit down to discuss my picks throughout the game, as well as other basic 7 Wonders strategy. Enjoy the Leaders pack and Age I below.
Part One – Leaders and Age I
 With Age I complete, what cards will I focus on in the second age to prepare myself for Age III? Check out my decisions below in the second part of this video series.
Part Two – Age II and Basic Strategy
With twenty-two points going into the final age, I stand a great shot at winning the game. See how Age III unfolds as Pat and I discuss my decisions throughout the game. 
Part Three – Age III and Final Thoughts on Total Scores
What did you think of my picks during the game? Would you play Roma “A” a different way then I did? What specific picks do you think I made a mistake on? Do you agree or disagree with our commentary and strategies for playing the game, and why?
Let us know what you think.
Additional Information

For more information about 7 Wonders check the product page on BoardGameGeek.com.
Interested in purchasing a copy of 7 Wonders? Try the following links.
Amazon: 7 Wonders.
If you live in the tri-state area, consider stopping by AU to pick up a copy and play with the staff. They make up my play test group. We play usually every Monday Night.

Haggis Strategy: How to Play Going First

 

Haggis
The successful strategies for a game change when playing against one opponent to playing against several opponents. When facing a single opponent you compete with one person to make a bet; however, a larger Haggis makes it difficult to guess what cards your opponent holds. While behind in the score, you must act first. Learning how to play this position will prove essential to winning any game of Haggis. In order to win the deal, what should you do first in order to build a successful strategy?
Organize Your Hand
When you pick up your fourteen cards separate out the point cards right away. This method of organizing informs you on what, if any, bombs you can make as well as your opponent’s potential for making bombs. Since each player receives three wild cards, I find breaking up a hand to form a bomb usually pays off. You can fill in the sets and sequences you lose by forming combinations with the Jack, Queen, and or King. Out of hand bombs really mess up an opponent’s ability to plan for the future, because it will take away the lead on a trick that your opponent normally would consider a win. After reviewing your bomb potential, try to build sequences over small sets. Small sets usually do not hold up because of the wild cards available to your opponent. Sometimes your hand will force you to play small sets. Try to make the best of it. Use your wild cards either to boost these combinations into larger sets (four or five of a kind) or to build a higher valued three of a kind to back up a lower value play.
Using Your Wild Cards
When organizing your hand you should start factoring in how the wild cards will make certain combinations. You want to think many tricks or plays ahead before you make your first move. Planning out which plays might need wild cards can inform you whether or not you can afford to bomb a trick with your face cards. Do not avoid pairing all your wild cards with combinations in your hand, essentially forfeiting a face card bomb. Until you use your second wild card, your opponent will not know your plan; therefore, he must factor in the possibility of you bombing one of his or her plays. The threat of a wild card bomb provides a lot of power and forces players to play a different way. With your hand planned out you just need to answer one question.
What Should You Play First?
What combinations you can form will give you an idea of what cards your opponent holds. Try not to rely too much on this assumption because with an eight card Haggis a considerable amount of imperfect information still exists. A safe play includes leading something you can back up. For example, you play a three card run of 4-5-6 because you also hold 8-9-10. Starting a trick you can back up or starting off with a strong combination in of itself (example: five of a kind) really makes it difficult for your opponent to take the lead or interact. If you can keep this pace you should consider betting. Unless you feel confident you can win the lead back, avoid a first play of a single card or pair. Your opponent might consider betting with a hand he or she normally would not bet with because you provided an easy outlet to dump bad combinations. Sometimes leading a single card makes sense because you want to save your bigger combinations for later. This gives your opponent a false sense of how soon you will go out. I recommend leading single card or weak pair only when you can back it up with tens or a king.
Today’s Challenge
You lead this hand with the following fourteen cards.
Green: 4, 5, 6, 7
Brown: 7, 9, 10
Red: 2, 3, 4, 5
Orange: 5, 8, 9
 
Today’s Challenge Hand
2
, 3, 4, 4, 5, 5, 5, 6, 7, 7, 8, 9, 9, 10
What combinations do you assume you will play during the course of the game? Would you bet with this hand? What score would change your decision to bet? What combination would you lead with? What play do you hopefully save to go out on?
 
Let us know what you think.
Additional Information
 
For more information about Haggis check the product page on BoardGameGeek.com.
Interested in purchasing a copy of Haggis? Try the following links.
Amazon: Haggis
If you live in the tri-state area, consider stopping by AU to pick up a copy and play with the staff. Most of them make up my play test group. We play usually every Monday.

Nightfall Strategy: Using Diplomacy to Win Games

 

Brian (Left) and Summer (Right) playing a game of
Nightfall against other people
Have you played a game of Risk were the group did not stop the one player who dominated the table? Did you ever trash talk so much in a game of Hearts that someone went out of his or her way to screw you over? Were you ever the first person eliminated from a game of Commander because everyone at the table hates your general?
If these scenarios happen to you then you need to review some basic tips about how to play a game involving multiple opponents. Succeeding at multiplayer games requires a certain set of transferable skills that will help increase your ability to win; furthermore, Nightfall plays best with more than two people, making it a great game to use as an example. As everyone remembers from Survivor, you need to make alliances to survive.
Common Enemy
The easiest way to make friends comes from helping one player take down another player; however, the player that you help gang up on will not forget who you allied with. Try to make sure the opponent you gang up on either does not pose a real threat to you or demonstrates clear signs of pulling ahead of everyone else at the table. When picking on the leader, other players will support your alliance and consider it not as threatening. Always keep an eye on your perceived power level and score because the rest of the table might find you as the common enemy.
Brian (Left) and Summer (Right) discuss how to take
down an opponent’s army of minions
The Little Red Dot
Nobody ever wants to see one of those on their forehead. If you start smashing on everyone at the table, they will all aim their rifles at you. Sometimes you need to avoid a battle to win the war. Staying quiet helps your chances at placing high among a group of people. If you do not show up on their radar, they will not think of attacking you. Do not take an oath of silence, especially when players ask for your help. This could violate the common enemy principle. People who play multiplayer games do not forget who screws them over and who chose not to help. Pick your battles wisely and try to learn which conflicts you can afford to act as Switzerland. Try not to abuse this strategy either. Some people will attack you just for appearing too quiet, as if your opponents sense a storm brewing.
Brian (Left) hopes that Summer (Right) does not notice
his five minions in play
Attention Versus Power Level
Anyone who can master this relationship will succeed in weathering the storm of multiplayer games. You need powerful cards to defeat multiple opponents, but powerful cards could force the table to gang up on you out of fear that you will grow too powerful. In Nightfall, I advise not advertising or developing the best combo at the table. In the first few turns all the players will notice how everyone’s decks will turn out. The group will come to a consensus on which player they believe poses the most dangerous threat and the group will make an extra effort to attack that player. Make sure the cards in your deck can help you survive, help other players when needed, and can deal damage when opportunities present themselves. The increased power level of cards in Nightfall appears to generate a diminishing returns affect depending on how many players you play with.
Brian (Left) reacts with fear as Summer (Right) resolves
an impressive chain that includes three Tag Team Takedowns
Nightfall does not allow players to count how many wounds each player’s deck contains. Unless you can count cards well, you need to guesstimate the approximate score of the players. Most people factor into this guess what they think the scores will look like in future turns. This evaluation hurts players who sprint into first early on in the game. Players who cannot count every single card between four or five players tend to overcompensate attacking or hurting the perceived leader. You can win many games of Nightfall with subpar cards if you stay quiet, help your opponents to build alliances, and seek out less devastating combos.
Brian (Left) celebrates a victory as Summer (Right) sits
confused how her powerful deck received so many wounds
Do you feel diplomacy plays a big part in Nightfall? Do you think the best cards always win or will the best politics prevail? Share your thoughts about how table talk and other outside the game strategies affect the outcomes of multiplayer games.
Let us know what you think.
Additional Information
 
For more information about Nightfall check the product page on BoardGameGeek.com.
Interested in purchasing a copy of Nightfall? Try the following links.
Amazon: Nightfall.
If you live in the tri-state area, consider stopping by AU to pick up a copy and play with the staff. Most of them make up my play test group. We play usually every Monday.

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Tichu Strategy: Going First

By Brian Durkin

Mah Jong
“Who has the Mah Jong?”
Anyone who plays Tichu can testify to hearing or asking the previous question. When you answer this statement by revealing the Mah Jong, what will you lead?
“You Can Lead Something Other Than the Mah Jong?”
Yes! Leading something other than the Mah Jong (or a straight including the Mah Jong) sometimes can benefit you later in the game. Usually a player will do this if he calls Tichu. A Tichu hand usually includes many plays that will give the player the lead, but sometimes a player can play a hand multiple ways depending on what he thinks the opposing team holds; therefore, playing a few tricks first to gain more information knowledge can aid your ability to wish for a more devastating card.
“Do You Have Any … Sixes?”
Pay attention to what you pass the player on your left. This allows you to always fish your wish when naming a card for the Mah Jong. This traditional play keeps the player to your left from benefiting from your pass card, no matter what you pass them (assuming you do not pass them any animals: Dog, Dragon, or Phoenix). Besides naming the card you passed, you can try naming something else you think will break up his or her hand. I like this play if you need the player to your left to lose a high card early, if you want to start the single card count high, or if you did not see a particular low card in the pass. For example, maybe you needed a three to make a straight. If no one passes you a three, then maybe the player to your left needed it to enhance his or her hand. Of course wishing without perfect information runs the risk of hurting your partner, because the player on your left could pass to force your partner to satisfy the wish (assuming the player on the left cannot satisfy the wish); however, unless he or she holds a two, this forces the player on your left to not make a play in order to set this up. Making successful wishes based on imperfect information comes from practice and knowing how your opponents like to play.
“Why Do I Have to Have the Mah Jong?”
Because someone passed it to you (hopefully not because they know you hate it) or you did not pass it away. When should you pass the Mah Jong? I recommend giving up the Mah Jong any time you feel like your wish for a card will not hurt an opposing player’s hand or going first on the first trick does not provide the most advantageous position. If you feel that most of the pass cards will not combine with the cards you already hold, you can pass the Mah Jong to the player on your right. This play bets on the opposing player wishing for the card he or she passed you, which you assume will provide marginal help given what you already hold. You can pass the Mah Jong to the player on your left any time you want to act last on the first trick of the game. This can provide you more time on whether or not you want to call Tichu. Passing the Mah Jong to your partner not only gives you more time to decide on a Tichu call, it also gives your partner the first chance to call Tichu. Do not assume that when your partner calls (Grand) Tichu before the pass that he wants the Mah Jong. Try to learn his play style in determining whether or not he will benefit from the Mah Jong when he or she calls Tichu.
Today’s Challenge
You decided not to call Grand Tichu and opened up the following 14 cards:
Mah Jong, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 9, 9, 10, 10, Q, Q, K, K
Mah Jong, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 9, 9, 10, 10, Q, Q, K, K
How would you pass? Do you keep the Mah Jong, and if not who do you pass it to? What do you wish for, if anything? Assuming you will make a wish, how would the cards you receive affect your choice of which card to name? What cards would you need to receive to call Tichu?
Let us know what you think.
Additional Information

For more information about Tichu check the product page on BoardGameGeek.com.
Interested in purchasing a copy of Tichu? Try the following links.
Amazon:Tichu.
The above link provides the first edition. For red card backs, use the Amazon link with the picture to the side of this information.
If you live in the tri-state area, consider stopping by AU to pick up a copy and play with just about anyone. The entire staff and most of the MtG community knows how to play this game and enjoys it.