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ehunt

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Notes on Castles
« on: May 12, 2019, 01:41:52 pm »
+9

Caution - This is written for two player Dominion only -- the castle ordering is different in multiplayer, and in general "dancing" tactics are very different in multiplayer.

Should I "go for Castles"?

Probably? A lot of intermediate players lose because they go for Castles, but this isn't a reflection on the strength of the Castles pile so much as a consequence of tactical mistakes.

Much like Fairgrounds, the main benefit of Castles is that it's a second province pile, which gives you more time to develop an engine, which means you'll probably win if your opponent's engine is less good than yours.

Still, any strategy that beats Provinces will beat Castles. Castles won't beat Colonies, Goons, Vineyards, etc. And sometimes the opportunity to open the Castles pile never arises -- particularly in situations that are bad for engines, like no +Buy. You can beat many opponents by ignoring the Castles pile unless the opponent opens them, in which case you can take advantage of their tactical mistakes.

What tactical mistakes are those?

The Castles pile is ordered, and the order is all-important; exposing a good Castle for your opponent can lose you the game. Also, Castles are victory cards and are typically bought too early.

So what's the right way to buy castles?

Follow these three principles!

1) Small Castle and Opulent Castle are great. The other Castles are mostly just points.

Small Castle is one of the best trash-for-gainers in Dominion -- it's the only one that can remodel a 3-cost to a 10-cost, and the ability to remodel itself is a consolation prize when you are unlucky enough to draw it alone.

Opulent Castle is a beautiful card in a green slog, especially if you have some source of draw. (It's also the only Castle that is definitively a good card for you if you are otherwise ignoring the Castle pile and plan to win on Provinces.)

2) Be very cautious about buying Crumbling Castle.

It follows from point 1 that Crumbling Castle and Haunted Castle are dangerous buys.

Haunted Castle makes up for this by attacking the opponent on-buy, putting the odds are against your opponent hitting seven. Crumbling Castle has no such risk-mitigation (and should you over-green, the Gold from Haunted Castle is much better than the Silver from Crumbling Castle -- more than just 3>2, because in general spikes are better in Dominion than smoothness).

It follows that you should probably avoid buying Crumbling Castle unless you can gain Crumbling Castle and Small Castle in the same turn.

3) Buying Humble Castle is generally safe. But that doesn't mean you should do it.

Humble Castle exposes Crumbling Castle, and we'd usually prefer the opponent be the one to gain the Crumbling Castle.

Still, a Humble Castle buy is ultimately a copper buy, plus an investment in the idea that you'll gain a bunch of castles in the late game.

It's better for your deck than a Duchy -- but not by much. (You'll often sacrifice your Humble Castle to a Small Castle anyway.)

Generally, you'll want to build out your engine to a point where you can acquire Humble Castle on one turn and then both Crumbling Castle and Small Castle on the next. With a gainer like Ironworks available, this might be the early mid-game, but usually it will be a little later, when you can expect to have 9 and two buys.

An exception is that Humble Castle is a nice buy on turns 1-2 to trash a Hovel.
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aku_chi

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Re: Notes on Castles
« Reply #1 on: May 13, 2019, 09:13:25 am »
+10

I'd like to give my own take on the Castles, which includes a lot of agreement, but some disagreement.  I'll be using play stats markus has collected to support my points.

I mostly agree with your high level thoughts on Castles.  The way I would describe in which games to go for Castles is: any game when you would otherwise buy Provinces over multiple turns.  This is a slight majority of kingdoms.  Castles are a slightly better source of points than Provinces in these games, but you'll usually want a mixed greening strategy.  Castles can usually be ignored on megaturn boards (think Bridge), boards with exceptionally strong Alt VP (Goons with support, Colonies), and boards that are going to end on piles quickly.  Castles are stronger Alt VP than Fairgrounds, and ought to be gained more often.  The winner gains at least one Castle in 58% of recorded games, and the pile empties in ~26% of games.  Compare with Fairgrounds, where the winner gains at least one Fairgrounds in 29% of games, and the pile empties in only ~7% of games.

When looking at the individual Castles, I'd like to start from the end.  You say: "[Opulent Castle is] also the only Castle that is definitively a good card for you if you are otherwise ignoring the Castle pile and plan to win on Provinces."  I think this applies best to the last three Castles in the pile, which are all Province substitutes: Sprawling Castle, Grand Castle, and King's Castle.  Sprawling Castle is worth at least as much as a Province + Estate, and can be worth 1-3 VP more depending on whether you have Crumbling Castle or get King's Castle.  Grand Castle is almost always at least as good as Province in straight points.  King's Castle is usually a 15 VP swing from one player to the other (sometimes 17 VP, rarely 13 VP or less).  Province is a 12 VP swing, so King's Castle is also often better than Province.  Gaining each of these three Castles is positively associated with winning the game.  The player who gains Sprawling Castle wins 56% of the time; Grand Castle: 64%, King's Castle: 68%!

I'm not as high on Opulent Castle as you.  In my experience, it tends to be revealed late enough in the game that I can't get great value out of it's on-play ability.  It anti-synergizes with sifting.  For all that, it is a solid card, and you'll know the games in which it's going to be unusually good.  In general I wouldn't worry about leaving it for the opponent.  The player gaining Opulent Castle wins 55% of the time.

Haunted Castle is better than you give it credit for.  The on-gain attack is great at causing a partial dud.  Even without the excellent attack, Haunted Castle is a Harem/Conquest variant, and better than both in the presence of sifting, remodelers, or any Castles synergy.  The player who gains Haunted Castle wins 57% of the time.

Small Castle is usually strong; it gives a lot of endgame control, as long as you have the +actions to play it.  Crumbling Castle and Haunted Castle are the best targets.  I would almost never trash Humble Castle over the Small Castle itself (Humble Castle is always 2+ VP and $1 if you have this choice).  Small Castle has additional synergy with cards that recover it from the trash, like Rogue and LurkerThe winner gains Small Castle 54% of the time.

Crumbling Castle is indeed the weak link in the Castle line.  It is the only Castle gained more often by the loser than the winner (48% by the winner).  Adding a money density of $1/card from a flat 2 VP is a bad deal at almost every point in the game.  Still, it has its good cases.  If you can trash the Crumbling Castle for benefit, it can end up better than a Conquest/Harem (and cheaper!).  On some Donate boards, a pre-Donate Crumbling Castle buy can be worth playing for/around.

Humble Castle is where the pile starts.  This card is powerful for its cost, but often gained too early.  The player who gains it wins 53% of the time, but the loser is more likely to gain it before turn 10.  Hovel and Keep can tempt players to open Humble Castle, but even in these cases you should strongly consider your other options.  Opening Humble Castle for Keep is especially dubious.

People tend to gain Castles too early.  Yes, the early Castles are better for your deck than straight green cards, but not better than other cards you could be buying.  In fact, because Castles will increase the amount of VP before the game ends, you might not want to get Castles until you would otherwise buy Provinces if Castles weren't there.  I agree with ehunt that getting 3-4 Castles in one turn is an excellent start to greening.  With Humble, Crumbling, and Small Castles, you force your opponent to contest by buying some Castles, which are less synergistic for their deck.  If your opponent goes off pre-cocked and picks up just Humble Castle and Crumbling Castle: grab Small Castle and Haunted Castle and be happy.  In all of these cases, prepare your deck for the extra stop cards.  Crumbling Castle, Haunted Castle, and Sprawling Castle in particular add two stop cards each.
« Last Edit: May 13, 2019, 09:15:13 am by aku_chi »
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Titandrake

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Re: Notes on Castles
« Reply #2 on: May 13, 2019, 03:52:30 pm »
+2

http://forum.dominionstrategy.com/index.php?topic=18405.msg752284#msg752284 is a Castles article I wrote from last year. It's interesting to see how the perception has changed in the past year.

Overall, me + ehunt are saying the same things and then aku_chi replies with the same comment, except this time with more stats. I think the main update from last year is recognizing the Crumbling Castle is genuinely really, really bad to pick up. It's both a weak effect and it exposes Small Castle. You want to trash your Crumbling Castle to Small Castle, but if you buy Crumbling without buying Small, your opponent buys Small Castle and you're sad.

Between 2 threads and 2 years, there surely has to be enough content to combine into a Castles article for the main strategy blog.
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ehunt

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Re: Notes on Castles
« Reply #3 on: May 13, 2019, 08:34:44 pm »
0

http://forum.dominionstrategy.com/index.php?topic=18405.msg752284#msg752284 is a Castles article I wrote from last year. It's interesting to see how the perception has changed in the past year.

Overall, me + ehunt are saying the same things and then aku_chi replies with the same comment, except this time with more stats. I think the main update from last year is recognizing the Crumbling Castle is genuinely really, really bad to pick up. It's both a weak effect and it exposes Small Castle. You want to trash your Crumbling Castle to Small Castle, but if you buy Crumbling without buying Small, your opponent buys Small Castle and you're sad.

Between 2 threads and 2 years, there surely has to be enough content to combine into a Castles article for the main strategy blog.

quite sorry -- I should have searched to see if there was already a Castles article!
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LastFootnote

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Re: Notes on Castles
« Reply #4 on: May 15, 2019, 01:13:18 am »
+2

http://forum.dominionstrategy.com/index.php?topic=18405.msg752284#msg752284 is a Castles article I wrote from last year. It's interesting to see how the perception has changed in the past year.

Overall, me + ehunt are saying the same things and then aku_chi replies with the same comment, except this time with more stats. I think the main update from last year is recognizing the Crumbling Castle is genuinely really, really bad to pick up. It's both a weak effect and it exposes Small Castle. You want to trash your Crumbling Castle to Small Castle, but if you buy Crumbling without buying Small, your opponent buys Small Castle and you're sad.

Between 2 threads and 2 years, there surely has to be enough content to combine into a Castles article for the main strategy blog.

quite sorry -- I should have searched to see if there was already a Castles article!

I don't think there's necessarily a problem with writing an additional article about a card.
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Chappy7

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Re: Notes on Castles
« Reply #5 on: May 15, 2019, 04:57:52 pm »
0

I've still got a major crush on Castles.  I thought my infatuation would die off after playing with them a bunch, but it hasn't.  I may not have the slightest clue how to play them correctly, but I just think its a fun, creative, and really interesting pile.  It also is one of the few things imo that makes 3 player more fun than 2 player. 
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Commodore Chuckles

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Re: Notes on Castles
« Reply #6 on: May 16, 2019, 11:45:18 pm »
+2

My thoughts:

I agree that grabbing Humble and Crumbling too early is a common mistake that's easy to take advantage of. If my opponent takes Humble I'll usually wait for them to take Crumbling as well before dipping into the pile myself.

I'm not too big on Small either, to be honest. (Pun not intended but still neat.) I find it very difficult to connect with other Castles, because it comes before most of the others. Immediately trashing it for a bigger one feels disappointing, even if it's not necessarily bad. Is it better to upgrade it the first time you draw it, or keep it around for a while?

Haunted is pretty good. Opulent is very good, and it's bonkers when you're drawing your whole deck.

I'm usually reluctant to get Sprawling. Getting 1 more VP than a Province is a poor trade-off for the extra stop card.

I haven't been able to get much VP out of Grand. This might simply be because my opponents often start on the Castles early, forcing me to get in on the game before I can draw my deck. I feel that unless you have an opportunity to get a big pile of VP, you should let your opponent take it and open up King's for you.
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CaptainTheo

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Re: Notes on Castles
« Reply #7 on: June 11, 2019, 04:17:50 am »
0

I'm wondering why no post takes into account the fact that there's two of Humble/Small/Opulent/King's Castle except in two-player games.

EDIT: Actually all the posts appear to assume two players, which I've never enjoyed as much as with 3-4.
« Last Edit: June 11, 2019, 04:19:11 am by CaptainTheo »
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Titandrake

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Re: Notes on Castles
« Reply #8 on: June 12, 2019, 01:54:48 pm »
+1

I'm wondering why no post takes into account the fact that there's two of Humble/Small/Opulent/King's Castle except in two-player games.

EDIT: Actually all the posts appear to assume two players, which I've never enjoyed as much as with 3-4.

In general, expect all strategy discussion on this forum to assume a 2 player game. That tends to be the setup most people play here.

The main reason is that 2-player games tend to be easier for online matchmaking, and 2-player games don't have kingmaking. From a competitive standpoint, it can be really frustrating when you lose because of someone else's decision rather than your own.

That isn't to say there's no skill in 3-4 player games, and that isn't saying 3-4 player games can't be fun. A lot of official paper Dominion tournaments use 3-4 player setups, and the winner is almost always a solid player. Not always the best, but definitely not the worst. But in 2-player, the better player is more likely to win, and that's what people like about it.
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