On Fri, Apr 02, 2004 at 11:37:15PM -0000, Chad Urso McDaniel wrote:
> Here's an assigment to help people get into the moratics mindset:
> Choose any two distincly different games you play over the next week
> and post to this list describing a gameplay strategy that you can
> employ in each. Try to find how this element can be used in each of
> the games.
OK, Chad, here goes, two games from Seattle Cosmic last night,
[Starbase Jeff] and [Ad Acta].
In Starbase Jeff, "space station contractors" simultaneously play
tiles in order to build a space station in the center of the table.
* The contractor with the most money at the end wins.
* The station starts as a few connected corridors. Some tiles simply
extend a corridor, some make it branch, and "end caps" terminate
* Tiles cost a certain base amount to build. This goes into a pot.
You must also pay other players $1 for every tile they have between
the tile you just played and another one of your tiles (you choose
the route, and if you have no other tiles on the board, you pay only
the base cost).
* If you finish the station by capping the last corridor, you win the
* Every tile has a priority. End caps are in the range 0-2, while
other tiles have priorities as high as 6 (the more branches, the
more costly). The highest tile is Sabotage (7), which destroys one
* Players take turns in descending priority. If two players play
cards with the same priority, the cards "bounce" and are saved for
the next round. If you have more than one card to play, you may
play them in any order.
[Dave Howell] is a Starbase Jeff shark and won twice in a row
against three of us newbies. At the end of the first game, he
predicted correctly that I would play a 0 priority end cap and bounced
with me, so we each had to save them for the next turn. On the next
turn, he was the only player to play a 7 (Sabotage) card, so he went
first. Since he could play his cards in any order, he played his end
cap from the previous turn and won the pot.
The other game I played last night was Ad Acta. Rules summary:
* Players are attempting to score victory points by filing documents,
or files, in a series of filing cabinets. Every time a cabinet
fills up, the cards in it are scored. The game ends either when
someone has reached 36 victory points (in which case, she wins), or
all cabinets are full, in which case the winner is the player with
the most points.
* Each filing cabinet has a number from I to VII. Each file has a
letter from A to G and a colour that designates who it belongs to.
There is also a series of icons along the top of each file that
designates which player, or "office", must process the file next.
When all of these icons are paperclipped, the file is "finished".
* Some filing cabinets are better than others for certain files. For
example, Cabinet II might score 7 points (the maximum) for a C file,
while Cabinet III might score only 1 point for it (the minimum).
Thus, timing is crucial. If you are "aiming" your C file for
Cabinet II, you don't want to overshoot and end up placing the file
in Cabinet III instead, scoring only 1 point instead of 7.
* Each player has an in box and an out box. Tiles are processed from
the top of your in box and placed in the top of your out box.
* Each player has three action points that let him do things like
process the top document in his in box or tell someone else to
process the top document in her in box.
* The first-player position rotates, and the first player in a round
is called the Messenger. After everyone has had a turn, the
Messenger places the contents of the out boxes into a delivery cart
on the central board, preserving both the order of the files in the
out boxes and the order of the out boxes starting with himself.
* The Messenger then takes the top document in the cart (the last
document processed by the last player). If it is complete (it has
been processed by all necessary offices), he places it in the first
available filing cabinet. If it is not complete, he sends it to the
next office listed on the card, where it is placed on the top of the
in box. He does this for each file until the cart is empty.
So, what strategic elements do these games have in common?
Superficially, not much. One is about building a nonlinear map of a
space station, the other about filing documents in a rigid linear
On closer examination, in both games it is important that you insert
objects (tiles in Starbase Jeff, cards in Ad Acta) into the right
positions in a "data structure" (a first-in first-out (FIFO) _queue_
in SJ, a last-in first-out (LIFO) _stack_) in AA).
Both games involve preemption tactics:
* In SJ, you can preempt another player's tile either by playing a
higher tile, in which case you go before they do, or by playing the
same value of tile, in which case their attempt to play a tile this
turn is completely foiled (if someone else had played a 7 at the
same time Dave did, he would not finished the space station and won
* In AA, you can preempt someone's attempt to get a card into a given
filing cabinet by making sure that there are enough completed files
_after_ his file in the turn order that they will end up higher in
the delivery cart and will go into that cabinet first. For example,
it is useful to preempt someone's file with your own if getting your
file into that cabinet will score you lots of points, or if the
cabinet in question would score _your opponent_ lots of points.
A related concept is what I will call _postemption_. Sometimes you
want other people to go ahead of you.
* This might happen in a two-player game of SJ when there are two
branches left on the space station, and you are fairly sure your
opponent will play an end cap. You could try to "sneak in" an end
cap with lower priority so that your opponent caps a corridor first,
leaving you to cap the remaining corridor and win the pot.
* Postemption in AA might take the form of trying to get into a
_later_ file cabinet that is valuable to you by completing one of
your files _earlier_ in the turn order.
Or consider Hearts: in Hearts, the cards played in a trick have a
notional order: the highest Heart card wins the trick, unless there
are no Heart cards, in which case the highest card of the suit led
wins. The player with the lead is the person who took the last trick.
Sometimes you want to lead, because it gives you better control, so
you might preempt the other cards with a higher one. However, if a
trick has a lot of Hearts in it, winning it will cost you, so you
should generally try to postempt it by "sneaking in" a low card.
Thus, _preemption_ is a somewhat more general version of the concept
of _trumping_, and _postemption_ is its complement. I suggest the
backformation of _emption_ for the general concept of inserting a
card, tile, or other game object into the right place in an ordered
set, to your own advantage.
[Starbase Jeff]: http://www.boardgamegeek.com/game/1257
[Ad Acta]: http://www.boardgamegeek.com/game/4421
[Dave Howell]: http://www.grandfenwick.net/dave/
Ron Hale-Evans ... rwhe@...
Center for Ludic Synergy, Seattle Cosmic Game Night,
Kennexions Glass Bead Game & Positive Revolution FAQ: http://www.ludism.org/
My brains are pink -- you can see 'em work!