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.

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.

Ascension Strategy: Knowing the Deck

By Brian Durkin

The only monsters with the Fate effect.
In a game of Texas Hold ‘Em you have two hearts and two more hearts come out on the flop. Assuming no one else holds any hearts, what are your chances of making your flush by the river? You must learn the answer to these types of questions in order to improve your poker game. The same concept applies to all card games. Predicting what cards most likely will show up in the center row can give you a big advantage in Ascension, but what cards should you pay attention to?
Monster Mash
If you play with Chronicle of the Godslayer, Return of the Fallen, and the suggested amount of promos (1 Vedah, Sage of Swords, 2 Pathwarden, 2 Deep Drone, 2 Rat King, 1 Kythis, the Gatekeeper) the center deck will equal 125 cards. Fort-eight of that 125 will consist of monsters; monsters make up approximately 38 percent of the deck. A continuous run of monster cards hitting the center row will normally prove rarer than cards you can acquire, but it can happen. Gauge how many tokens will remain after the current onslaught of monsters. This will help you decide when to convert to power and start dashing for honor tokens versus waiting for those key constructs to appear, because the game may never last that long. A large supply of monsters early on will shorten the length of the game and hurt any player gaining the majority of their points from cards in their deck instead of tokens. Besides knowing the distribution of card types, you pay attention to specific card effects.

Destiny Draw

Return of the Fallen adds cards with the new keyword fate. Learn these cards and what each fate effect does. Askara of Fate allowing you to draw an extra card could change what you can acquire or defeat. Be careful not to lay down your entire hand because you could draw a Temple Librarian off of Askara of Fate and now you cannot use it.

The two heroes with Fate and
the two constructs with Fate.

Same goes for Arbiter of Fate. Playing Militia just to play it could cost you the opportunity of banishing it out of your hand. Stone Circle usually will help you decide which card in the center row to banish with an effect, because your opponents could use their Mystic before you with an effect to draw extra cards. Keep in mind that when acquiring constructs you might put one of them into your hand if Reclamax comes out.

All of the fore mentioned heroes and constructs typically promote accelerating the center row. The more cards that come out of the center deck, the better your chances to hit one of these fate effects. Ravenous Gorph’s fate effect helps this strategy; however, be mindful that his appearance could foil your plans on acquiring or defeating a particular card. If you need certain cards to stay in the center row for a while as you build up to acquire or defeat them, try not to accelerate the board too much. Monster effects like Mephit and Mistake of Creation give opponents the opportunity to banish the card they know you want. Another way to block players from the cards they want also involves a monster card: Rat King. The Giant Rat tokens force players to keep some power in their decks. The rats possess the potential to derail a player’s plans to acquire or defeat cards on the board. Try to evaluate how devastating a Rat King will affect your turn and plan accordingly.
How Many Times Will This Stuff Matter?
Including the Rat King as a card with fate, this effect only constitutes about ten percent of the deck. Some people might argue that planning around these cards will hurt you rather than help because the odds of hitting them do not justify expecting to see them. I say you should never expect to hit a ten percent chance event all the time, but you should stay aware of the possibility. Planning for Reclamax might accelerate you so much that you can catch up to your opponents, or put you so far ahead that no one can catch you. Acquiring cards in the right order can prevent the Rat King for disabling your ability to acquire the most important cards for your deck. The lesson: know the odds of certain special events happening, whether or not your want them to happen, and what you will do about it when they happen.
Today’s Challenge
Snapshot of your opening hand and center row
for Today’s Challenge
 
You go first in a two player game opening with two Militia and three Apprentice.
The center row consists of the following cards:


Mechana Initiate
Hectic Scribe
Wolf Shaman
Battery Monk
Arbiter of Fate
Rat King
Would you banish a card out of your hand with Arbiter’s fate effect (you do not know what your opponent decided yet)? What cards would your acquire and which Giant Rat(s) would you defeat? How does your opponent’s potential opening hand affect how you play out your turn? How does the probability of cards remaining in the deck affect your decisions?
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

Fluxx 4.0 Strategy: The Top Ten Action Cards

 

Fluxx 4.0
 
The best offense is a good defense. Or is it the best defense is a good offense? Either statement fits when playing Fluxx. Some cards provide such broken effects that going offensive will win you the game in no time; however, the existence of these broken cards may force you to do whatever you possibly can to prevent your opponents from winning. To win you need the right combination of keepers and goals, and action cards facilitate your search for these cards. In your pursuit to win or prevent others from winning, which action cards provide the best benefits?
Below includes a list of the top ten most powerful action cards in the latest printing of Fluxx. This list also includes promo cards compatible with Fluxx 4.0.
10) Let’s Do That Again
Let’s Do That Again has the potential to reactivate any other card on this list. It theoretically can have the same power as the best card. The balance of this card comes from its dependency on a good action card or rule card in the discard pile to retrieve. Unless someone plays It’s Trash Day or you draw this card early on in the game, you will usually play it immediately for a huge effect. In either case I would just hold onto it for a few turns. Someone will play one of the following cards. Just hope they do not play the next card on this list.
9) Rotate Hands
This card punishes a neighbor for loading up on cards and not playing them. If you trade a bad hand away, Rotate Hands works best if you can keep the rules for playing cards to a minimum. It can also start a comeback by providing you with a whole new hand. This card also provides a lot of information knowledge the turn you play it, giving you more data to evaluate whether or not to play cards like Taxation. Information knowledge can help you decide whether or not you want to play high risk high reward cards.
8) Draw 2 and use ‘em
Although high risk, the ability to play multiple cards in a turn without a rule in place gives a player a huge advantage. Even with the ability to play more than one card in a turn, this card provides straight card and tempo advantage. Unlike a certain other card with a similar effect, Draw 2 and use ‘em forces you to play what you draw; this can backfire with Rotate Hands coming up when you like your hand or putting a goal into play that gives an opponent the victory. Try to play this card when players possess few keepers and cards in hand because it minimizes the potential for it to backfire.
7) Trash Something
Want to destroy a pesky keeper? Trash Something does the job better than anything else. It sets up better odds for Draw 2 and use ‘em, as well as prevents an opponent from winning from some of the goals in the deck. The ability to destroy a creeper puts you back in the game, making this one of the most powerful destroy cards in the deck; the key phrase is “one of,” because Trash Something ranks third in removal effects.
6) Zap-A-Card
You cannot ignore the power level of removing rules or goals from play with Zap-A-Card. Goals create the win conditions and rules usually facilitate a player in winning faster. Trash Something cannot provide every type of protection of preventing opponents from winning before you. Zap-A-Card not only removes the card from play, but allows you to play it again. The allows you to really abuse powerful rule cards. Its only drawback comes from its ineffective way of dealing with creepers. You Also Need a Potato will help mitigate the drawback of destroying the Radioactive Potato with Zap-A-Card, but you could use Zap-A-Card to just destroy that rule.
5) Rules Reset
Try to save Zap-A-Gap for something other than a rule if you hold Rules Reset in your hand. This powerful action card brings the game back to its basic level. Usually a player will combo off thanks to powerful rule cards like Play All and Draw 5. Rules Reset disables these effects if you feel behind and do not want your opponents to pull ahead. Do not forget to end the rules after you abuse them. For example, playing Rules Reset as the last play during a turn where you took advantage of Play 4 and Draw 5 will significantly push you ahead of your opponents. They can only hope to restore the chaos that rule cards can bring with the second promo card on this list.
4) Pandora’s Box
This powerful effect does a lot for one action card. It allows you to put three cards into play by only playing one card. Since you put the rules into play, Pandora’s Box allows you to take advantage of them first. The drawback to Pandora’s Box comes from the randomness of what you receive. Count the cards already played to better predict your odds of what rules or types of rule effects you can generate with Pandora’s Box. Finally Pandora’s Box fills the discard pile. This means it enhances the power level of cards like Let’s Do It Again, but it also potentially takes away key cards. Pandora’s Box could allow you to discard that missing keeper or goal that an opponent needed to win. If you put into play great rule cards for yourself as well as take away cards your opponents were looking for then Pandora’s Box hit the jackpot.
3) Jackpot!
Draw three cards. To use Magic: the Gathering jargon, you just “Ancestral’ed yourself” (the term drives from a card with a similar effect). To draw this many additional cards from one effect or card with no drawback creates a huge advantage for the player. In a game like Fluxx where card advantage can usually dictate the winner, very few cards can compare to Jackpot! The card does not win games immediately when you play it because it provides no built in way to play additional cards. Without rules to play more than one card a turn, players can recover from this huge increase in card advantage.
2) Take Another Turn
Another card with an MTG equivalent (Time Walk) that suffers from playing only one card a turn, Take Another Turn provides one unique benefit over Jackpot! It grows exponentially with each additional play allowed each turn. Play 4 allows a player to play Jackpot! and the three cards you draw from it. Play 2 allows the same amount of additional cards played if you play Take Another Turn. You draw two less cards over the two turns compared to the Jackpot! example, but your opponents do not receive the bonus of playing upwards of four cards as well. The more cards someone can play and draw, the better chance that person stands at winning. Take Another Turn and Jackpot! provide great combos with other effects, but one action card does not need a combo to produce amazing results.
1) Draw 3, Play 2 of Them
You draw as many cards as Jackpot! with a built in play extra cards attached. All of this power coming from one card frees up your actions for playing even more cards if the rules allow you. The ability to discard the remaining card keeps you from putting a card into play that may hurt you. Overall nothing can truly match Draw 3, Play 2 of Them without combining with other cards in the deck. This one card combo takes the prize as the best action card in Fluxx, and possibly the best card in the game.
Do you think Draw 3, Play 2 of Them deserves the top spot? Do you think drawing cards versus taking an extra turn leads to more victories? Does Zap-A-Card’s drawback make you rank it lower on your list? Comment below on what you think of the top ten action cards and provide us with your own list.
Let us know what you think.
Additional Information
 
For more information about Fluxx check the product page on BoardGameGeek.com.
Interested in purchasing a copy of Fluxx? Try the following links.
Amazon:Fluxx 4.0
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.

Tichu Strategy: How to Pass the Dog

By Brian Durkin
The Dog
Aaron Fuegi writes, “The Dog is a bad card for the player who has it but a great card for his partner. It is one of the very best tools you can use to support your partner’s Tichu call. If you have quite a good hand and are considering calling Tichu (or have already done so), pass the Dog to your partner. Passing the Dog to an opponent who calls (Grand) Tichu before the pass will hurt that player’s bid but could lead to their side going out 1st and 2nd.”
You can find the full article here: Tichu Strategy.
So do you keep the Dog or do you pass it? If you pass it, who do you pass it to? Aaron attempts to answer this question as best as possible. But like everything else in Tichu, how you play the Dog all depends on the situation; therefore, which situations warrant a different action with the Dog?
The Bark is Bigger Than the Bite
A new or lesser skilled Tichu player who does not want the ball should ironically stay with the Dog. If your drive to win surpasses your ability to make it happen, then pass the figurative ball to Lebron and let him score for the team. Keeping the Dog while partnered with a great teammate will make your opponents feel like they played two-on-two against Michal Jordon and Scottie Pippen. A great player can carry a team with help from his or her partner. That partner aids the superior player the most when he invests in the Dog.
Do not forget that you can take this stock play and “short” it. If the opposing team demonstrates a clear difference in skill level between the players, keep shipping the Dog to the stronger player. It can hurt the better player’s hand, but most importantly it forces the weaker player to lead and control the game. Be careful to avoid a pattern of passing the Dog with either of these methods because the opposing team might adjust their passing strategies to expect it. Do not fret too much about this fact. “Nothing can stop the Juggernaut,” and sometimes the same holds true for a hand in Tichu.
The Bite Surpasses the Bark
I agree with Aaron when he puts the Dog in the top eight most powerful cards in the deck. The best possible opening hand consists of Dragon, Phoenix, Dog, Mah Jong, and four Aces. Do not hesitate and call Grand Tichu. Starting the game with the Dog enhances the power level of your hand because it gives you a lot of information. After the pass you will know who possesses the Dog and which player might receive the lead again from a partner. If you want to set up a (Grand) Tichu hand, you usually pass the Dog to your partner for insurance that you will make your call. When your hand reaches epic power levels, keeping the Dog so you can end with it allows the lead to stay within your team. If an opponent calls (Grand) Tichu before the pass and you do not think you can over call him or her, send that player the Dog. Most of the time this hurts their hand because a player who calls Tichu wants to control the lead as oppose to give it away. Be careful with this play. You do not want to give the Dog to a player that might hold a hand so good that he or she will end with the Dog. But when do you know if you can take this risk? You need to ask yourself another question.
Who Collected the Most Bones?
The score always affects my decisions because it determines a lot of factors. Besides the score representing the obvious winning or losing game states, the closer a team reaches one thousand the sooner the game will end. If your team approaches the finish line with a big lead over the other team they will start calling (Grand) Tichu calls to try and make up the point difference before you end the game. I do not like giving the losing team the Dog in this situation. Depending on how many points your team leads by, you may not care if the opposing team makes their (Grand) Tichu calls; you need to prevent the opposing team from going out one-two. Going out one-two keeps your team from scoring, giving your opponents the best chance at a come from behind victory. I once won a game in two hands from a 225 to 975 deficit. The leading team kept passing me the Dog when I called Grand Tichu. I made my calls and the Dog aided my partner in consecutive one-twos to win the game by 50 points. I understand this example feels extreme, but it can happen to you. In Tichu, the game isn’t over until it’s over. With a big lead like 975 to 225, just keep the Dog and try to score 25 points to avoid a one-two.
Today’s Challenge
You picked up your opening 14 cards and prior to the pass the player to your right called Grand Tichu. You have the following cards:
 
2, 3, 3, 4, 6, 7, 7, 8, 9, J, K, K, A, Dog

You drew the following cards:
2
, 3, 3, 4, 6, 7, 7, 8, 9, J, K, K, A, Dog
How would you pass? What score, if any, would affect your decision? Explain your decisions by commenting below.
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.

Thunderstone Strategy: Abusing the Destroy Effect

 

All the cards in the base set with some type of destroy effect.
When I worked construction for a brief time with a friend of mine we used to build decks. I did not care much for the job; however, it did provide one task I still enjoy: Destroying stuff. The first day on a new job we had to demolish the old rotted deck in order to build a new one. Good demolition clears the way for a bigger and better structure, and you can apply this same concept to building exceptional Thunderstone decks.
Why Would I Want to Destroy My Deck?
Would you rather add on to an existing but old and rotted deck, or would you rather build something new and strong? An obvious answer, but one you should always remember. Destroying the starting cards will help build a more efficient deck to compete against the monsters of the dungeon and other players. Stronger monsters will come out as the game progresses, and the card quality of your deck will improve as you purchase new cards and level up your heroes. A card like Militia just does not cut it when you face down Lord of Death. You need to draw your better cards more often and with other equally powerful cards in order to defeat difficult monsters. Your starting deck’s wood will eventually rot out, so you need to destroy it.
How Should I Destroy My Deck?
Take advantage of the rules of Thunderstone. Unlike most deck building games, Thunderstone allows a player to destroy cards as part of his or her turn. A player can take a turn off from purchasing new cards or fighting monsters and choose to Rest, which allows the player to destroy a card in his or her hand. I recommend exercising this option any time you do not have enough attack to defeat an important monster or money to purchase an important card. In the base set of Thunderstone three cards allow the player to destroy cards outside of resting.
Banish
Banish
Allowing you to remove any type of card, Banish provides the most consistent way of destroying cards. Its other effect to disrupt the dungeon makes it the perfect card for controlling who can fight which monsters. Banish allows you to improve the card quality and power of your deck while denying other players the monsters they want to fight. Effective use of Banish will force other players to visit the village in order to improve their deck.
Pawnbroker
Pawnbroker
Nothing helps you add new cards to your deck better than Pawnbroker. Even after you destroyed your entire original deck, Pawnbroker self destructs into more gold. Prioritize this card because it allows you to purchase those big and expensive cards in the village much faster than any other player. Opponents can only keep up with your ability to purchase by using their own Pawnbrokers or by leveling up their heroes.
Trainer
Trainer
Usually a player needs to defeat several monsters in order to take advantage of the experience point game mechanic. Trainer accelerates this normal waiting time, allowing a player to level a hero all the way to its third level before ever entering the dungeon. Similar to Pawnbroker, Trainer destroys itself for Gold when you run out of uses for it. I recommend using only experience to add new heroes to your deck when playing with Trainer. Do not purchase the first level of a hero. Just use the experience mechanic on one of your remaining Militia. This way you can spend your gold to purchase something else, giving you the effect of adding two cards to your deck.
What Other Tools Help me Build My New Deck?
Although Barkeep does not destroy cards in your deck, it does allow you to purchase more than one card when visiting the village. After several visits, you can remove Barkeep from your deck. Town Guard also possesses this ability. Instead of allowing you to purchase multiple cards, Town Guard draws you extra cards in hopes of adding more Gold or good Village effects to your hand. I really like Town Guard’s ability to draw through your deck faster than usual. It accelerates when the new cards you have added to your deck will show up in your hand. The fact that both of these cards remove themselves also aids the strategy of improving the average card quality of your deck and minimizing the useless cards. Once you feel ready to face the Dungeon, all these cards destroy themselves; therefore, they make your deck as efficient as possible when preparing for the dungeon. The tough part comes when you must decide which of these cards you want for your deck at any given time.
Today’s Challenge
Below includes a set up for a four player game.
Village
Village cards in addition to basic cards for Today’s Challenge
  • Banish
  • Pawnbroker
  • Trainer
  • Barkkeep
  • Town Guard
  • Battle Fury
  • Feast
  • Fireball
Heroes available for Today’s Challenge
  • Iron Rations
  • Torch
  • Dagger
  • Militia
  • Selurin Magican
  • Reblade Killer
  • Feayn Archer
  • Outlands Warrior
Dungeon
  • Ooze
  • Doomknight
  • Undead – Doom
Monsters in dungeon for Today’s Challenge
How would you build your deck? What cards would your prioritize? What game plan will not only effectively defeat monsters in the dungeon, but provide the most efficient means of reaching high power level before other players?
Let us know what you think.
Additional Information
For more information about Thunderstone check the product page on BoardGameGeek.com.
Interested in purchasing a copy of Thunderstone? Try the following links.
If you live in the tri-state area, consider stopping by AU to pick up a copy and play with the staff. Although not many staff members know how to play this game, I always want to play more. Interested in playing at AU? Drop Next Level Card Games a line. Contact us at info@nextlevelcardgames.com. Use the subject line: Playing Thunderstone at AU. Let us know your schedule and we will try to set up a time to play together.