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WanderingWinder

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Contraband
« on: June 13, 2012, 10:50:37 pm »
+7

The name of the game with Contraband is options. Well, use of the buy, too. But mostly options. In, say, a standard big money deck, contraband is pretty bad. Early on, they can pin you off of gold, and later, they pin you off of province, which just makes it very difficult to win. And indeed, in any case where you're really needing one card, it's not going to be good for you. It's also rarely good in multiples, because if one thing doesn't totally block you, two much more likely will - they can pick different things, people. It's weird - contraband tends to be best in engines, because those tend to have the most different cards that can help you, can make use of the buy, and proscribing just isn't as big a deal.

Because of the enormous complexity of choices, the card doesn't simulate so well. So unlike most of my articles, there's no sim data backing this stuff up. But lots of thought and experience.

Before we go any farther, I think it's important to note a couple of tactical items about playing contraband. The first is that you don't have to play it! Many times, in the ending, you need to be buying a particular card - say a province. Well, if you can afford the thing anyway, just don't play the contraband! Second, if you do play the contraband, you pretty much want to play it first, before your other treasures. The less information you give to your opponents, the better, as they can't know what to proscribe nearly so well. This leads to the corollary that Contraband is not so good with the handful of cards that reveal your hand to your opponent. Menagerie might be the biggest exception here, especially when it goes off, but even it can have some weakness. Moreover, it's pretty bad with hunting party, crossroads, etc. - really anything that gives your opponent a good guess at what you've got in your hand. This means that draw-your-whole-deck probably makes playing contraband a bit of a bad idea too.


Playing with Contraband:
The biggest thing is that you need here is, as I said, options. So big things here are nobles, harem, hoard, goons... the de facto anti-contraband strategy early on is to block gold every time, so any time there's something you might well want more (which usually means a 6, as a 5 you would have bought over contraband in the first place) is good. And anything that you want almost as much is also fine. Of course, later on, the main thing to block is province, so alternate VP can help a lot too. The important thing here is that you need to maintain some flexibility. If you're so locked into your duchy/duke strategy, for instance, they cn block duchy all the time early, duke all the time late, and your ability to buy province or gold doesn't help you so much. Of course, even so, you have SOME options here - duchy or duke, as we're assuming you can pull off a good number of one or the other on your non-contraband hands anyway - so it's not as though Contraband is a super terribly BAD card here.

I'd like to draw particular note to fairgrounds here. Not only is it a nice $6 target, and a good source of alternate VP, which can lead you to have them only block one of your 6 VP targets in the endgame, leaving another free, but you also want most every card here. So no matter what they block, there's going to be something else for you to pick up. It also makes pretty good use of the +buy in this way. Here is a game where I use contraband with a bit of an engine, mostly a big potpourri of stuff, to pump up fairgrounds and help me win a long game against ddubois. Of course, it also features Nobles, so it's really a model game for contraband being a nice card.

The other nice kind of card to help you is a trash for benefit card. Stopping you from getting gold is pretty good in the early game, but the real drawback is the endgame blocks. I mean, usually, you're able to pick up a couple components to help you if they block that gold - two silvers at least. Being able to get some benefit out of it later on, particularly with its 5 cost, is thus very nice. Salvager, apprentice, Expand (very nice because 7 cost cards give you options just like a lot of 6s do), I'm looking at you. Also upgrade effects (dark ages leads to increase in contraband usage? You heard it here first.)



Playing Against contraband:
The big thing here is to get a read on your opponent, and what it is that they're most wanting to buy. Now, at the very basic level, this is most often gold, then province later on. But this is very very often not the case. For instance, some other card can be more powerful than gold early on, you may need to cut them off from the KEY card they need in their action deck (the only source of draw or buy (well, other than contraband), or even more wonderfully sometimes, the only source of +actions). But most often, the story changes here in the endgame...

If you have a lead against a contraband player, you can do some very cruel things to them. If they need to buy provinces, first off, you can block them - this works pretty well from behind, too. But more importantly, there can really come times where provinces don't cut it, and they're going to need a lot of duchies. Block them from duchy. I cannot stress enough how important this can be. If they're going to need lots of silk roads to come back, block them from that. In a great twist of events, if they've played six goons, you probably want to block copper.

Here's a game against -Stef- where he uses a contraband together with his apothecary engine as... basically his entire economy (mine is not so much stronger). (Note: apothecary is very very fast, doesn't have tons of staying power). So, note what I do here. Early on, I prohibit gold, which seems pretty standard. However, I continue doing this for quite a while - indeed, there were multiple occasions where he drew his ENTIRE deck, played contraband, and I knew he was holding $10p, and I prohibit... gold. Now, why did I do this over blocking him from province? Well, I knew that eventually, if I needed to, I could block provinces later on. Because all the money in his deck was 10p, and 3 of that was tied up in contraband, I knew that he couldn't possibly by a province without one. Indeed, instead of province+apothecary, probably one of these times he should consider province+copper. Anyway, I have that in my back pocket, but more importantly, I'm expecting that he will start to stall out at some point, which in fact he does. If he never stalls, I'm probably just dead, because although I have a lead (which was really important too), I will almost certainly stall as well (and I do). Then we get to the really interesting part of the game, where I start blocking him on... duchies. Thing is, he's behind, and he needs to get duchies to come back, so this is actually fairly well a no-brainer. (I do make mistake in this game on turns 17 and 21 at least by not buying copper). But check out the key moment on turn 22. He plays 4 apothecaries and 3 caravans, of which I know he's drawn at least 3 coppers from the apothecaries, and some other specific stuff. He plays contraband, and I sit for a good while, thinking over what to prohibit. It was a very close call, but I didn't think he had the cash, and blocked duchy. Indeed, at least as important as that, I thought that if he DID have the cash for a province (which would have been game-winning), I was very likely to lose anyway, based on all the other goodies he'd be able to buy there. This is another important principle of what to prohibit: if there's two choices, leave the one open which, if they have the money for it, puts you in a worse position either way. I.e., if you need good luck to win, play for that luck.

Also, playing from behind, in a situation where they can three-pile end, you absolutely need to be able to use that contraband prohibition on cards from a pile for them to run out. I'm pretty sure I've blocked curses before (though it's very hard to look for that kind of log). In these situations, you're very often lost either way, but you need to at least give yourself a chance.

Keep your wits about you (this is a bigger problem on isotropic than IRL) - if they remake 2 cards, play contraband, well, they only have 1 card left in hand, and if it's early enough in the game, there's a good chance you KNOW they don't have a gold - so don't prohibit a 6-cost, as you already know they can't buy it. Similarly, if they reveal their hand, for menagerie, for a bureaucrat, for whatever, pay attention. If they put back a card, pay attention to what that is. Pay attention to where they are in their reshuffle, and what they've already played/discarded. Most important, pay attention to what's in their deck. You want to know what they have, so you know what they're capable of, and you want to know what they want to get, so you can stop them from getting it.





Overall, it's not a very good card, but a lot better than the plague some people tend to think it is, in the right circumstances. And the kind of game it can create is a lot of fun, and can make for quite a lot of skill, and a kind of skill you don't get out of many other dominion cards.

Works with:
Flexibility!
Apprentice
Upgrade
Salvager
Hoard/Harem/Nobles
Fairgrounds
Expand
Alternate VP
Goons (ish)
Engines where you aren't drawing your whole deck and you aren't stuck to needing one particular component

Doesn't Work with:
Hunting Party
Menagerie
Crossroads
Getting Stuck needing one thing (a la a lot of big money strategies)
Venture (which can force you to play it at an inopportune moment)
« Last Edit: June 14, 2012, 08:15:42 am by WanderingWinder »
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Robz888

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Re: Contraband
« Reply #1 on: June 13, 2012, 11:24:00 pm »
0

http://councilroom.com/game?game_id=game-20120228-153923-affa5152.html

This was my favorite Contraband game I have ever had. Essentially, I was against 2 other people, and got 5/2 start on a weak-ish board with Cartographer and Contraband the only $5s. I end up using Contraband to pursue a Vineyard strategy, and pulled it off. Obviously I had a lot of other things working in my favor--2 opponents meant a longer game and time for my 9 Vineyards to really take off--but the Contraband was nice. (Note that even so, it was a close game. I didn't take the lead until Turn 23 of a 26 turn game. My opponents, who were both beating me, couldn't end it.)
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HiveMindEmulator

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Re: Contraband
« Reply #2 on: June 14, 2012, 12:25:02 am »
+4

The biggest thing is that you need here is, as I said, options. So big things here are nobles, harem, hoard, goons... the de facto anti-contraband strategy early on is to block gold every time, so any time there's something you might well want more (which usually means a 6, as a 5 you would have bought over contraband in the first place) is good.
Also you should mention buying multiple cheap engine pieces. If they block the expensive piece, you just get 2 of the cheap piece.
It also helps to think that even if you have to buy something only $5 with a $6 hand including Contraband, it still passes the "Silver test", since Contraband+$3 bought you a $5 card. And the times when you didn't even hit $6, you bought a $5 card with Contraband+$2.
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WanderingWinder

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Re: Contraband
« Reply #3 on: June 14, 2012, 08:17:29 am »
0

The biggest thing is that you need here is, as I said, options. So big things here are nobles, harem, hoard, goons... the de facto anti-contraband strategy early on is to block gold every time, so any time there's something you might well want more (which usually means a 6, as a 5 you would have bought over contraband in the first place) is good.
Also you should mention buying multiple cheap engine pieces. If they block the expensive piece, you just get 2 of the cheap piece.
It also helps to think that even if you have to buy something only $5 with a $6 hand including Contraband, it still passes the "Silver test", since Contraband+$3 bought you a $5 card. And the times when you didn't even hit $6, you bought a $5 card with Contraband+$2.
I do, in a couple places - the last line of the first paragraph, a hint at it in the third sentence of the last 'playing with contraband' paragraph, the last 'works with' line... but maybe I should make this more prominent, it's own mini-section

Forge!!!

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Re: Contraband
« Reply #4 on: June 14, 2012, 08:45:45 am »
0

My favorite Contraband game with cheap engine pieces:

http://councilroom.com/game?game_id=game-20120207-151844-57591dc9.html


It's one of my favorite cards, so I'm glad to see this solid article about it =)
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pingpongsam

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Re: Contraband
« Reply #5 on: June 14, 2012, 09:05:41 am »
0

It may seem obvious to the seasoned but it should be noted that contraband should be the 1st treasure played so that the remaining treasure pool is not revealed to the opponent allowing them to make a more educated proscription.
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WanderingWinder

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Re: Contraband
« Reply #6 on: June 14, 2012, 09:06:34 am »
0

It may seem obvious to the seasoned but it should be noted that contraband should be the 1st treasure played so that the remaining treasure pool is not revealed to the opponent allowing them to make a more educated proscription.
A point which I make in the third paragraph of the article.

DG

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Re: Contraband
« Reply #7 on: June 14, 2012, 09:25:34 am »
+4

I think it is worth mentioning exactly why an opponent should often prevent a contraband player from buying gold. As long as gold is prohibited the player remains dependent upon the contraband for coins and might find it difficult to buy essential cards whilst the contraband is essential currency. As soon as a player has gold the contraband is no longer essential currency.

It might also be worth mentioning how careful you need to be when using two or more contrabands. If your first contraband is giving you problems then you're not going to solve them by buying a second contraband!
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ksf_

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Re: Contraband
« Reply #8 on: June 14, 2012, 09:27:12 am »
+3

Doesn't work as well on Isotropic, but there is the bluff with contraband where you "accidentally"play all of your treasure at the same time to try to manipulate their proscription choice, but actually hold additional in your hand.  As in lay down 5 (contraband and 2 copper), they block lab,  then drop the extra copper and grab the gold. Did this to my wife IRL (played up the"oops" and everything ), and occasionally against weaker players online. Only works once, though, so make it count.
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jomini

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Re: Contraband
« Reply #9 on: June 14, 2012, 09:57:50 am »
+1

Another big source of flexibility are haggler and border village. Being able to buy golds or BV and get a free duchy gets around the contraband blocking. With 7's or plats you can also get around gold, fairgrounds, nobles, etc. blocks. Haggler does compete on price, but with only cantrips out it only competes at the first 5 coin hand. Haggler will force them to more quickly block province, but nabbing gold + something you can spam (e.g. market, oasis), etc. is still strong and you are more quickly going to be able to not play the CB or pound out multiple duchies.

This also brings up another source of added flexibility, black market. BM adds 3 choices for them to consider blocking and as importantly, in an engine you can keep playing for more cash after getting your contraband out. Something like menage/village/BM can mitigate the effects of contraband quite heavily as village -> BM -> CB can leave them with no clue what your cash total will be in the buy phase.
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DG

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Re: Contraband
« Reply #10 on: June 14, 2012, 10:16:51 am »
+1

Quote
It may seem obvious to the seasoned but it should be noted that contraband should be the 1st treasure played so that the remaining treasure pool is not revealed to the opponent allowing them to make a more educated proscription.

So as a consequence, contraband may be weaker in decks where coin is provided through actions since the opponent has better insight into potential spending that turn.
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ednever

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Re: Contraband
« Reply #11 on: June 14, 2012, 11:31:59 am »
0

I just played a really fun contraband game: http://dominion.isotropic.org/gamelog/201206/14/game-20120614-082509-5fd5f9e5.html

I picked up not 1, not 2, but 5 contrabands. Preferring Contraband to Gold in fact.

It was a Familiar/Garden's board (with Colony and Duke). There was also City, Quarry and Island.

I figured while my opponent went Familiar I could build up my economy and get a few Contrbands. Then be flexible picking up two "Somethings" every turn - and Gardens when he didn't block them or when I didn't draw a Contraband. He would run out the curse pile for me. I would run out the Gardens  (which he helped) and start on Cities.

Pretty soon he got nervous on Cities (Level two Cities would have super-powered my Gardens) and started dipping in himself (a mistake I think). Ended it on piles with 50+ cards in my deck.

Worth looking at the choices he made to block on Contraband. I don't think he always made the right choice - but if I were in his shoes I don't know if I would do better. HE would block Gardens and I would pick up a Colony. He would block Gardens and I would pick up 3 Islands and a Contraband (with a Quarry), etc.

Very different than any game I've ever played.

Ed
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AdamH

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Re: Contraband
« Reply #12 on: June 18, 2012, 01:30:16 pm »
0

I played an IRL game with Gardens, Bureaucrat, and Contraband. CB was the only source of +buy (other than Bureaucrat's on-gain effect). I won quite effectively just buying as many cards as I could. I never bought Golds, just Contrabands. I was even able to get a few provinces on hands with three contrabands, because the game was close to ending on piles that there were much more attractive proscribing targets.

I feel like there is a nice synergy between Gardens and Contraband...
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WanderingWinder

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Re: Contraband
« Reply #13 on: June 18, 2012, 01:59:24 pm »
0

I played an IRL game with Gardens, Bureaucrat, and Contraband. CB was the only source of +buy (other than Bureaucrat's on-gain effect). I won quite effectively just buying as many cards as I could. I never bought Golds, just Contrabands. I was even able to get a few provinces on hands with three contrabands, because the game was close to ending on piles that there were much more attractive proscribing targets.

I feel like there is a nice synergy between Gardens and Contraband...
Wow. It's really surprising to me that there are THREE targets more proscribe-needing than province, especially when on the third contraband, they KNOW that you can buy a province. I'm guessing the game was largely already won for you by then, if they are this scared of eminent three-pile endings.
I would think contraband is good for such a board, for sure, but getting so so many is almost never good, as having lots in hand typically doesn't help you that much. I wonder how what you did would hold up against an opponent who basically goes B-crat gardens, getting contrabands on exactly $5 after 1 or 2 B-crats, but buying golds on 6, and eventually (pretty soon actually) transitioning into greening of course. Probably there's one or two cases where Contraband>gold will help you there, but a persistent preference being optimal seems unlikely to me. I could be wrong of course.

AdamH

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Re: Contraband
« Reply #14 on: June 18, 2012, 02:15:24 pm »
0

A couple of points:

1. My opponent probably wasn't playing optimally by not proscribing provinces, and the game was pretty much won by that point, yes, but it seemed very possible to get $8 hands even without playing more than one contraband or so...

2. I believe my strategy in that game was to get 2 or 3 B-crats as soon as possible, then buy 4 or so contrabands or so before going for gardens. I'm not going to claim that it was even close to optimal, but I'm wondering how much you can improve on B-crat/gardens by adding in contrabands, and how exactly it could best be done.

3. Part of why I was wanting so many contrabands in that particular game was because once the gardens were out, the two other piles closest to being depleted (other than provinces, of course) were B-crat and Contraband.

However, I still think that no matter how many are already in your (massive) deck at any point, I would still have preferred contraband to gold simply because it's a +buy that doesn't mind colliding with itself.
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GendoIkari

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Re: Contraband
« Reply #15 on: June 18, 2012, 03:07:29 pm »
0

Before we go any farther

Further.[/grammer nazi] ;)
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WanderingWinder

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Re: Contraband
« Reply #16 on: June 18, 2012, 03:18:29 pm »
0

Before we go any farther

Further.[/grammer nazi] ;)
I reject your grammar, and substitute my own!

Also, the source I find says that in a case like this, it really don't matter.



(Yes, that's purposefully not a 'doesn't').

HiveMindEmulator

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Re: Contraband
« Reply #17 on: June 18, 2012, 03:28:49 pm »
0

(Yes, that's purposefully not a 'doesn't').
You mean "that purposefully ain't a 'doesn't'".
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Kuildeous

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Re: Contraband
« Reply #18 on: June 18, 2012, 04:06:42 pm »
0

(Yes, that's purposefully not a 'doesn't').

*rages*
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dan11295

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Re: Contraband
« Reply #19 on: June 18, 2012, 09:04:15 pm »
0

An interesting situation is Contraband in a Possession game. Do you always block Possession once your opponent has a few Silvers, assuming you proscribe Gold initially? If there are there other potion cost cards in the game is it better to block those instead? This requires an assessment of how important Possession is in the kingdom. If it is important Might be better just to proscrible it then aim to try to possess him. Then you basically get a cheap gold to play with on those turns.
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chwhite

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Re: Contraband
« Reply #20 on: June 20, 2012, 12:24:31 am »
+3

Here's another example of how it's important to be aware of things when you're playing against Contraband:

http://dominion.isotropic.org/gamelog/201206/19/game-20120619-204543-da3f8807.html

A lot of the game, I'm just blocking Gold and Forge; the existence of Forge does make "correct" decisions a good bit more difficult, and there's definitely a point where I start to think that I ought to have picked up one myself.  The important thing to look out for is at the very end, Turn 20.  Going in, I'm up 43 to 36, and there are two Colonies left.  So, when my opponent plays Courtyard and then a Contraband, I block Province instead.  This is key, because if my opponent double-Provinces (and he had the money to do so), he'd be up in a PPC situation, but instead he takes the penultimate Colony and a Duchy, leaving me free to buy the last one instead.
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andy

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Re: Contraband
« Reply #21 on: July 18, 2012, 10:53:24 pm »
0

One more source of flexibility I'd add is Grand Market. Contraband is a cheap way to contribute towards buying GMs, but when it is in play your opponent can only pick one proscription between Gold and GM. I imagine in most cases GM is a better proscription, but that still means you'll be able to get Golds quickly.
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zahlman

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Re: Contraband
« Reply #22 on: July 19, 2012, 03:33:41 am »
0

An interesting situation is Contraband in a Possession game. Do you always block Possession once your opponent has a few Silvers, assuming you proscribe Gold initially? If there are there other potion cost cards in the game is it better to block those instead? This requires an assessment of how important Possession is in the kingdom.

Contraband being in the kingdom makes Possession more important all by itself, since while you possess the opponent, you can play Contraband and proscribe irrelevant things and get the full benefit of the +Buy.

One more source of flexibility I'd add is Grand Market. Contraband is a cheap way to contribute towards buying GMs, but when it is in play your opponent can only pick one proscription between Gold and GM. I imagine in most cases GM is a better proscription, but that still means you'll be able to get Golds quickly.

And then the Gold helps you get GMs anyway.

OTOH, if GM is reasonably attainable, the +Buy on the Contraband quickly becomes superfluous...
« Last Edit: July 19, 2012, 03:35:41 am by zahlman »
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eHalcyon

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Re: Contraband
« Reply #23 on: June 21, 2013, 02:32:56 am »
+5

Necro!

Anyone think coin tokens should go really well with Contraband?  Contraband likes flexibility.  Coin tokens add flexibility.  Moreover, I think each coin token card works pretty well with Contraband itself.

Candlestick Maker -- cheap but decent; can be bought with CB when other things are blocked
Plaza -- you can always discard a CB you no longer want to play
Butcher -- you can chop a CB you no longer want into another Butcher (or whatever) and get bonus coin tokens for your trouble
Baker -- guaranteed $5 opening lets you start with a CB
Merchant Guild -- wants to pick up cheap components anyway, and the extra +Buy and $3 from CB gives you more opportunity to get value while picking up coin tokens

Generally speaking, coin tokens should be nice with CB because it becomes harder to ban against it.  With regular money, a good ban might mean a lot of it goes to waste if the things I want that aren't banned come up to an awkward total cost.  But with coin tokens, the money just gets saved for a turn without CB.

Does all this verge on combo territory, or is it general but unremarkable synergy?
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kn1tt3r

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Re: Contraband
« Reply #24 on: June 21, 2013, 03:22:19 am »
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Once again great article.

What I missed a bit though was the mention of Colony games, where Contraband tends to be way stronger. This is probably sort of covered by your flexibility argument (in terms of treasure AND victory cards), but I think it needs to be in there explicitly.
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