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1
Other Games / Pandemic: the coop game that's out to get you
« on: June 01, 2014, 12:05:20 pm »
I was introduced to the Co-op board game Pandemic the other night. We were at a graduation party no less. Amongst sleeping drunks was a group of us obsessed with besting the base game. Two of us had experience playing it, while the others including myself hadn't played it but have experience with board games.

After playing a few primer rounds, we decided to try winning on "Hard Mode". "Hard Mode" involves using the max number of epidemic cards and having roles randomly assigned. After at least 8 attempts and after staying up until 3:00am, we finally won with an unlikely set of roles. It felt good, especially since we were one turn away from losing by running out of time (running out of cards to draw).

I think this game is awesome when you're playing with a group in which all members can contribute to the decisions and have a sense of humour. If we can keep our group going, we might even get the expansion.

But gosh, is this game really supposed to be almost impossible to win with the hardest setup?

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Dominion Articles / Graverobber Revisited
« on: February 10, 2014, 06:41:58 pm »
I've been meaning to finish this Graverobber article for quite some time now. The arrival of the 2014 Dominion Cards List was the push that got me to finish it. There is already a (werothe)great Graverobber article right here. Nevertheless, I decided to post this article of mine because:

1) We're more or less past the "ooh! Shiny Dark Ages cards" phase (and currently in the "Ohh! Shiny Guilds cards" phase). Despite this, I feel that a lot of players have trouble using this card effectively. With the newest edition of the card rankings coming up, I'd like to spur some discussion on it as people start their rankings.

2) My article takes a more skeptical approach than werothegreat's article.

3) This is my first Dominion article and I'm looking for feedback. Comments and criticism on both the writing style and the content of the article itself are welcome.

Alright then...

Graverobber

Graverobber is a card that requires a good deal of skill to use properly. Not only is it tricky to know when itís worth getting, but itís also really important to know at what point in the game to pick up Graverobber should you decide to get it.  Itís like the big guy in your typical fighting game: slow and awkward to use, but only needs a few precision strikes to achieve victory. This article aims to outline the considerations you should make when deciding whether or not your deck can use some Graverobbers.

The Worth of Graverobberís abilities
There are mainly three ways that Graverobber can prove useful:

1) Turning Action cards into VP cards:
The first thing that will come to most peopleís minds when looking at Graverobber is ďHow can I use it to gain ProvincesĒ. While itís by no means a one-trick pony, trashing Action cards for Provinces is definitely a powerful ability that can make the difference between winning and losing. You almost certainly want to have the potential of pulling this off if you do decide to get Graverobber.

Engines with lots of $5 cost Action cards that can reliably draw themselves tend to accept Graverobbers most readily. Such decks will find the Graverobber in your deck almost immediately. They are also more likely to have Action cards that can be sacrificed for Provinces. Often, such decks prefer getting a sudden surge of VP cards towards the end of the game instead of accumulating them gradually, and Graverobber helps towards this objective. In powerful engines, you ideally want to use Graverobber to end the game on a win before you need to lose time gaining cards back from the trash.

However, engines that are less reliable are more at risk of stalling once you add stop cards like Graverobber to it for this purpose. If you end up with Graverobber and a drawing card as the only Action cards in your hand early in your turn, youíll be faced with the dilemma of either playing your drawing Action card and hoping your turn picks up or trashing the Action card with Graverobber and stopping your turn dead to gain a Province. Weaker decks might benefit more by gaining an engine component over Graverobber to simply buy Provinces.

There is inherently more risk of Graverobber not colliding with any good Action cards to trash in a deck that doesnít draw much at all. However, those decks tend to be much more content with turns where you simply trash a $5 Action card (say, Mint,) to gain a Province. The 1-Province-a-turn payoff is relatively better in non-engine heavy decks that are just rushing to empty out the Provinces before too many more reshuffles pass. Itís worth weighting risk vs. reward before you make a firm decision about including Graverobber to your not-so-ideal-engine deck.

In rare cases, you might use Graverobber to trash action cards for VP cards besides Provinces. Having actions that can be turned into Duchies can help mitigate the loss of not being able to gain a Province with Graverobber, though itís still not as good as having bought a Duchy instead. Most of the time, gaining alt-VP with Graverobber is just going to be too slow, too risky, and too costly. One exception is with gaining colonies with Peddlers, but note that you canít gain Peddlers back from the trash without cost reduction. Also, $3+ action card->Fairgrounds is conceivably useful.

2) Turning Action cards into non-VP cards
Rarely do you want to pursue a strategy that heavily relies on Graverobber expanding actions for other actions. Itís bound to be very slow. Unlike the other members of the remodel family, Graverobber is very weak in the early game, where action density tends to be very low (and there isnít much wondrous stuff in the trash). Trashing a $3 Action card for a Grand Market can be nice, but chances are youíll still miss that $3 Action if you spend a gain on it. It's better when on-trash effects come into play, but lining it up with the right cards for on-trash benefits may be harder than connecting Treasure Maps.

Trashing actions for non-VP cards is best used in the mid-game to trash early game cards that have outlived their usefulness into ones you want in the near future. Early game trashers are prime targets.

3) Gaining cards from the trash
The potential to gain cards from the trash is rather significant. The gained cards are even top-decked. This is great when youíre gaining action cards from trash, as youíll be happy to see them very soon. Itís rather awkward to set things up so that you play the gained action on the same turn though. Every play that gains a card from the trash is one that wasnít used to expand an action card into a VP card. Gained VP cards, however, would usually be better off in your discard pile, where a Rogue would put them. In the middle of the road is the gaining of Treasure cards. Gaining Gold on top of the deck is less ideal for engines, but Gold is a powerful card in its own right. Graverobber might not be able to trash it for benefit, but there are other cards that can, like Remodel, Apprentice, Counterfeit, Stonemason, etc.

This brings up another point in Graverobberís favour. Graverobberís ability to gain from the trash is a great way to maintain a source of TfB fodder, even if Graverobber isnít your primary TfB card. You donít have to discard a card, or trash a card, or gain a VP card with it, or anything like that to get expensive trash fodder.

Keep a look out for the rare occasions where there are good actions in the trash abnormally early, which turns Graverobber into a super Armory. Knights, Pillage, and Saboteur are cards that can easily create that scenario. Also, don't miss the opportunity to gain a card with a desirable on-gain effect from the trash. This mostly applies to Inn and Border Village. In fact, Border Village/Graverobber is a powerful strategy that lets you gain more Graverobbers as you regain the Border Village from the trash for TfB fodder.

When to Get Graverobber
Here are some things you should ask yourself when considering to gain a Graverobber.

1) How often will I see the Graverobber before the end of the game?
Like with all action cards, the answer should usually be ďat least onceĒ. For Graverobber though, you have to consider that it will usually compete directly with Duchy. If you only see it once, then you want to maximize the chance that it was a better deal than a Duchy on the turn you do see it. Heavy cycling or not, seeing it 2-4 times before the end of the game is a sweet spot for Graverobber. Itís early enough that you get a few good chances to trash an action card into a Province. If youíll see it 5 or more times before the end of the game, you should ask yourself whether or not itís too early to get Graverobber. If thereís a high chance that the Graverobber will have something useful to do that early, then you can go for it. This often means that there's already plenty of good stuff in the trash to gain.

2) Whatís my action card density?
Trashing $5+ cost actions for Provinces is a neat ability. A deck that seeks to use this ability should be set up so that the majority of Graverobber plays will connect with the right cards. This might simply mean you have lots of expensive action cards. Decks with lots of action cards are more likely to have Graverobber find a target and will often find the trashing of one action card less detrimental.

That being said, decks with a lower density of expensive action cards can still work if they are abundant in sifters like Cellar and Warehouse. Sifters also help you find the most expendable action card to trash. Being able to transfer action cards from one hand to the next also adds reliability to your plans despite having a relatively lower number of actions in your deck. Some examples of these include Treasury, Scheme, and Haven.

3) Do I want multiple Graverobbers?
You probably do. More Graverobbers means more chances to gain Provinces. Graverobbers also have nice self-synergy. A Graverobber that fizzles can still top-deck an expensive action card for your other Graverobber(s) to trash next turn. And when it looks it youíve run out of fuel, you can trash a Graverobber with another Graverobber to complete that final push for the Provinces.

Whatís even better is playing it with Throne Room and the like. Top-decking an action for a Province with 1 action is rather neat, and so is gaining two Provinces with one action.

4) Are there Colonies?
Colony games tend to weaken Graverobber. To be more precise, they weaken the strategies that involve trashing lots of actions for Provinces. Even if Peddler is on the board, you have to remember that Peddlers canít be gained from the trash without cost reduction, so you have to win the Peddler split first when that's the case.

Like all gainers, Graverobber can still be the card that wins you the Colony game by letting you sneak an extra Province. Also, Graverobber will still be effective if you were mainly going to use it for its trash gaining ability.

Conclusion
Graverobber is a rather heavy card in that it needs a lot of support before it can be used effectively, but doesnít reciprocate much. Once you set up your deck to accept them though, they can deliver a large payload with very few plays. When the late game comes around, remember to re-evaluate them.

Works With
- Powerful engines looking for late greening
- High density of expensive action cards
- Cards with on-trash effects
- Lots of cards to gain from the trash
- TfB cards to refuel, including itself
- Cards with on-gain effects (i.e. Border Village)
- Sifters
- Cards that can transfer across hands (Treasury, Scheme, etc.)

Conflicts With
- Valuable deck components at the same price
- Decks that lack reliability and/or action density
- A lack of cards to gain from the trash
- Colony Games

Edit:
Oh yeah, here's a sample game:
http://dom.retrobox.eu/?/20131203/log.5080bad60cf2ab2c11d065ce.1386120016347.txt

Unfortunately, Conqueror Bot's idea of conquest didn't involve getting Mercenary, which could have really hurt my strategy. Nevertheless, I feel that this game does a good job of showing some of Graverobber's potential. I also make the mistake of trying to gain Peddler from the trash on Turn 12.

Edit 2: Added the Works/Conflicts with section and expanded the "What's my action density?" section. Also made a few minor wording edits.

Edit 3:Wording clarifications.

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Dominion Videos and Streams / Dominion videos by markusin
« on: January 29, 2014, 12:59:20 pm »
There have been so many times where I wished that I recorded the game of Dominion I just played with my commentary on why I made certain choices. I mean, I enjoy watching videos of other people playing Dominion with their commentary.

With Gokodom III coming up, I finally decided to try my hand at making Dominion videos of my own. A big thank you to jsh357 for his tutorial on how one can go about this, which you can find here. I took things one step at a time, and soon enough I succeeded at recording a Dominion video.

I used Livestream Procaster to record. My biggest issue was having the video be of a high enough quality when uploaded to youtube. I ended up being satisfied with a 16:9, 1280pxx720px resolution with a target bitrate of 1200bps, with the video cropped to fit the Goko interface as best as possible at that resolution.

Anyway, here's the link to my current test video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a_ApheajqWU
And my channel is here: https://www.youtube.com/user/markusincot/videos



This is far from being the first video I uploaded, but I took the others down due to unsatisfactory video quality.

I must say, it's pretty insightful to watch your own videos. You find all sorts of places where you played sub-optimally or where you made assumptions that don't necessarily apply to the current situation.

I am aware that I speak a bit fast at times and that I sometimes slur my words because of that. You can also hear the mouse clicks while I'm recording. Any feedback on how to improve the video, both in regards to technical issues and content, are welcome.

I will of course ask for consent from my opponent if I decide to record a game. For now, I'm just hoping to record some of my games during GokoDom III for those that might be interested in catching the action.

4
Innovation General Discussion / My First Game of Innovation
« on: December 23, 2013, 03:46:52 pm »
A while back (before Isotropic Dominion closed down), I was curious as to what Innovation was all about. I read the rules of the base game, and tried out a few solitaire games. I found the rules of the game were pretty straightforward. They weren't any harder to learn than the rules of Dominion. The game seemed like it could be a lot of fun, but I wasn't ready to take in 100+ cards into my brain.

Recently, I decided to finally give it a shot. I reread the rules of the base game, then the rules for Echoes and Figures, then played some more solitaire games while taking a look at a few of the Innovation topics on the forum. Today, I was brave enough to play my first real game of Innovation. The log is here:
http://innovation.isotropic.org/gamelog/201312/23/game-20131223-123303-ce8966d0.html

I make many embarrassing mistakes. The biggest difficulty was keeping track of what my opponent was capable of doing with just the cards already melded on the board. The game already seemed to have been decided by the time I melded The Pirate Code.

I have everything to learn about this game, but it's still a lot of fun when playing with the fast isotropic interface that can handle all the rules automatically. I imagine playing this IRL can be a pain sometimes.

And so, I embark on the journey of Innovation.

Final note: I find it pretty comical that one of the cards is "Invention". For the most part, the cards can be interpreted as innovations, but a lot of the echoes cards seem more like inventions to me.

5
So I was playing a game, and then the game froze for a few seconds, then I got disconnected and logged out. When I logged in again, the game I was playing was still in session, and there were two slots with my name on it. I think I've seen other people having their name duplicated in the lobby, and I guess this is how it happens.

Has this happened to anyone else? It kinda sucks that you can be disconnected in a way that the system can't detect and forcing the game to end on timeout.

6
Variants and Fan Cards / The Reverse-Saboteur: It raises questions
« on: August 01, 2013, 04:33:37 pm »
So there is this idea that Saboteur is like an anti-remodel and the downgrade of 2 for your opponent is about the same as an upgrade of 2 for one of your own cards. However, Saboteur is not quite the reverse of Remodel as we know it. The reverse of Saboteur would look more like this:


Recreate - Action

Reveal cards from the top of your deck until revealing one costing $1 or more. Trash it and gain a card costing up to $2 more than it.


The key here is that you're not sacrificing a card from your hand to get the remodel effect. Lookout and loan also have the benefit of trashing a card outside of your hand and maybe providing some cycling at the same time.

A thought occurs when looking at this remodel variant though. If it were to cost $5, it would look much worse than Rebuild. It has no +action, no name-a-card thing, nothing. It's too bad, because this card looks like it could be fun.

Is it really that much worse than Rebuild? this card could be good in a gold centric deck and help put things together faster, but it's unreliable. If it is terrible, than what does that mean for Saboteur? Is Saboteur that much worse than Rebuild as well? Um... yeah probably, except perhaps when Saboteur is battling Rebuild itself. Kind of like the Spy-Admiral interaction in Stratego.

So I feel like Saboteur is better than this reverse-Sab thing for some reason. The Reverse-Sab is unreliable and can hurt your deck if it hits the wrong thing, though it probably adds uncertainty more than anything else. Sab on the other hand adds uncertainty to your opponent's deck, not your own. In particular, it can trash the remodel variant card of your opponent, which may be the key difference between the two.

 What are your thoughts on this?

7
With all this talk of browser extensions, simulators, and log parsers flying around, it seems like a lot of people here are computer savvy. I myself am currently studying software engineering and am working on a research prototyping project this summer.

Is there something about Dominion that naturally attracts programmers or are they just more likely to be active forum goers?

8
Dominion General Discussion / Scout in Envoy-BM Games
« on: February 03, 2013, 09:15:34 pm »
I wanted to know what your thoughts are about sneaking in a Scout or two when you're trying to go for BM-Envoy. I figured that later on in the game when you have lots of green cards in your deck, you can use the Scout to draw the victory cards before playing the Envoy so that you have less chance drawing a set of 5 like Province/Province/Estate/Gold/Copper. But is it really worth the attempt, or should the buy of Scout have just been another Silver buy?

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