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WanderingWinder

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Pace
« on: August 16, 2011, 01:05:00 am »
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Pace is one of the most important factors in any game of dominion. The player whose deck is better suited to the pace of the game is in incredibly good shape to win, and her opponent must catch a good bit of luck to beat her. The question is, then, how do you get that?

There are two general concerns here. The first is controlling the pace. There are a few different ways to do this. If you're trying to speed it up, often the best way is to just build the fastest engine to get to 50% of the VP. But there are other options as well, such as gainers which can help you run three piles out, and trash-for-benefit cards (I'd like to call them sacrificers or saccers for short), i.e. using a salvager to trash a province and then buy a province.

There are also several ways to slow the pace down. The most obvious of these is attacks. Almost every attack will slow the pace down. Curse-givers will make every engine, even a big money engine, sputter. Handsize reducers do the same. The Spy attack speeds you slightly whilst slowing your opponent slightly (though because of opportunity cost, spy may not actually speed you much at all). But there are other ways of slowing the game down a little bit as well. If your opponent is going for provinces, you can slow the game down considerably by not buying any. This usually more than doubles the amount of time it takes them to run the pile out, as their deck is probably better suited to grabbing 4-5 provinces than it is in getting all 8.

Besides controlling the pace, the other major factor is knowing (and controlling) the pace your deck wants to run at. Now, as always, every deck is a little bit different, but by and large, most cards can be separated into groups based on the pace they want to play at. The essential short term cards are victory cards. The player with the VP lead has, in the vast majority of circumstances, the has the short term advantage - if the game ends quickly, they're likely to win. However, there are a number of other short-term advantages as well - having a bigger hand (usually due to hitting them with a handsize-reduction attack) or a better deck (due to chancellor or some kind of sifting), having a pin (like the infamous deck-killing masq pins), and even just having stronger cards in your hand right now are all short-term advantages.

There are also forms of long term advantage. One of the most obvious of these is VP-token generation. Every time you play one of these cards, you gain points with no cost in deck clogging, ergo the longer the game is, the more you can play them, the better it is, therefore they play well in the long run. Deck thinning, usually through trashing, is another common, key form of long-term advantage. Engines of just about any kind are long term advantages, even big money - the caveat is that if your opponent has a better engine than you do, they're going to have the long term advantage, not you.

But the different engines you can build have different speeds. In general, there's  trade-off between being faster and being better suited for the long haul. This produces a sort of characteristic curve for that strategy, and its the combination of these curves between different decks that determines the contour of the game.

So let's look at some concrete different cards and the paces they play at. Philosopher's Stone is perhaps the longest of the long term ccards. It takes a long time for it to pay off, since it requires an investment of going for potions, and as the game goes longer, it only gets stronger and stronger. Apart from basic victories, something like salvager is close to the quintessential short-term card; it gives up your long-term assets for tangible short-term gains. But most cards are more complicated than these.

Chapel is a great long-term card because it trashes efficiently, which makes you a little weak in the short term. However, if you're just going chapel/money, you're going to be susceptible to clogging up (ironically) if you green too soon. So it's a fast-but-not-long card, generally. Bishop gives you some short term dividends - generally the lead when you play it, but it tends to accelerate your opponent even better than you, since they aren't wasting time buying bishops and can choose to not trash when they need the critical money. Then late game, its short-term benefits show up again, as the extra VP it gives become huge. Gardens is an interesting card in that it is very good in fast-paced games, as it's quick VP and can often be part of a quick 3-pile, classic gardens. But it can also be good in the extreme long term, as you build up a huge mass of cards. However, it isn't so hot in the mid-rage, where it tends to be about a duchy, or often a little worse.

Just about every other card has these kinds of dynamics as well, some simple, some less simple, but its all about having the short term advantage when the game comes to an end. And if you ever find yourself at both long- and short-term disadvantage, that means it's time to roll the dice - for instance, by breaking the PPR.

Davio

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Re: Pace
« Reply #1 on: August 16, 2011, 04:13:30 am »
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I would like to add to this that good players know how to use the pace of the game as determined by the supply to their advantage.

In a game with only 1 Buy and no other possibility to gain cards (and no Cursers for simplicity's sake), the best a player can do on each turn is buy 1 Province / Colony.
When a good player finds himself ahead by some Provinces (say 3-1), and he has $7 and is maybe close to a reshuffle, he may feel that there is no rush to buy Duchies just yet and choose a Gold. In this case, he just has to worry about getting 1 or 2 more Provinces and focus on that mission instead of on early Duchies which clog his deck.

When you have a "lock" on the game, you don't want to waste it with neadless risk, you want to make sure you can end it safely in your favor.
If you get to 5 Provinces, your opponent will need at least 3 Provinces and 5 Duchies to win. That's 3 more cards than you needed and thus 3 more turns. Besides that, the PPR may be in your favor and your opponent can't even buy the last Province before he has those Duchies, giving you some opportunity to snag that last Province.

On the other hand, in a fast Minion game I played some days ago, I picked up an early Estate with only $2 just to come out ahead if we split the Provinces and we did. I won by 1 point. Recognizing these opportunities is key.


It gets trickier with +Buys in the Supply and if you can play them, these may be real handy to pick up, especially early (you don't want to waste a late-game $6 for a simple Woodcutter). Just make sure you can play them often enough.
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HiveMindEmulator

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Re: Pace
« Reply #2 on: August 16, 2011, 01:52:04 pm »
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I think there are always 4 elements you have to look at before the start of every game to understand how the pace of the game could go.
1. Attacks, as you mentioned.
2. Victory cards. Obviously colonies make the game longer, but the existence of stuff like fairgrounds, vineyard, or even nobles also allow you to delay province purchasing and make up the points with these other cards. In the absence of other forms of VPs, it's more important to race to half the provinces.
3. Trashing. Good trashing makes otherwise slow strategies faster, since it allows you to get to critical densities of critical cards.
4. Buys/gains. Early on, these can help get the extra cards to build an engine faster, plus they allow you to delay going green since they let you get multiple green cards per turn.
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painted_cow

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Re: Pace
« Reply #3 on: August 16, 2011, 07:36:39 pm »
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I liked the fresh ideas / new concepts of this article. Not that they were entirely new for me, but it gives beginners/intermediates more insights on game theory.

Maybe an example of a really good 3-pl-game I played some time ago. I saw, that I cant go on with buying Provinces/duchies cause my both opponents got a better start. After I realized this I denied buying any green cards for very long time. Ofc this is only possible when there are other VP gaining cards, like VP chips, duchy/duke etc.

http://councilroom.com/game?game_id=game-20110630-082702-7bb972d7.html
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timchen

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Re: Pace
« Reply #4 on: August 16, 2011, 10:46:31 pm »
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Interesting perspective, but not yet useful.

Interestingly, whenever I chose a different pace strategy in a game which I am not entirely sure whether it is the right play, I often end up losing.
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Willvon

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Re: Pace
« Reply #5 on: August 16, 2011, 10:48:27 pm »
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I really enjoyed this article and replies.  It gave me some goodinsights on how to control the pace of the game better.  I think I understand most of these things, but  I find myself at times ignoring the pace too much and I go too late for the victory points. 

If your opponent is going for provinces, you can slow the game down considerably by not buying any. This usually more than doubles the amount of time it takes them to run the pile out, as their deck is probably better suited to grabbing 4-5 provinces than it is in getting all 8.

I found this comment about provinces to be especially helpful.  This happened just the other day when I was playing a Colony game with my wife.  I forget the cards that were in the layout, except that I had Monument, and she didn't go for any of them.  My wife got way ahead of me early with 3 Colonies and I was still stuck with buying $4 and $5 cards and my draws were definitely not coming up optimally.  But then her deck started clogging up and my engine got going.  I left the Colonies alone at first and went for the Provinces.  I ended up losing the Colony race 5-3, but had 3 more Provinces and the victory chips from Monument.  I ended up winning by 1 point.  When she got so far ahead early, I thought it was over.  However, by not helping her to empty the Colony pile right away, I gave myself time to catch up.  This is something I have to watch out for more often if I fall behind early.
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danw132

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Re: Pace
« Reply #6 on: August 18, 2011, 09:25:12 am »
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I think pace may be the most important thing in the game of Dominion. Control of pace either by pushing the pace faster or clogging the game is the key to victory. This is a fantastic piece.
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WanderingWinder

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Re: Pace
« Reply #7 on: August 18, 2011, 09:56:18 am »
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Interesting perspective, but not yet useful.

Interestingly, whenever I chose a different pace strategy in a game which I am not entirely sure whether it is the right play, I often end up losing.
Well, I tried to make it as useful as I could, but admittedly it's mostly here to introduce some of the concepts (long term vs short term cards and advantages, ways to extend the game including not buying the provinces/colonies) so that I can use them in future analyses.

ksf_

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Re: Pace
« Reply #8 on: August 21, 2011, 09:25:11 am »
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Don't forget about using pace to annoy an opponent in resignation.  I suggest 8-9 pawns, at 30 seconds each to check the appropriate boxes.
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Captain_Frisk

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Re: Pace
« Reply #9 on: August 21, 2011, 10:01:36 pm »
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Don't forget about using pace to annoy an opponent in resignation.  I suggest 8-9 pawns, at 30 seconds each to check the appropriate boxes.
Other fun ones:
- Revealing Moat or other reactions - over and over again - every 10 seconds or so.  (Not sure if isotropic punts you for doing this, i'm not rude enough to try it myself)
- Excessive Minioning (like pawn, taking a while to decide for each minion)
- Take 30 seconds to respond to every Torturer, vault or bishop
- Spy, Scrying Pool
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PetterTB

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Re: Pace
« Reply #10 on: August 24, 2011, 05:44:38 am »
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*pokes the peope above him with sharp sticks*
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Superdad

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Re: Pace
« Reply #11 on: August 24, 2011, 02:30:16 pm »
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Indeed, slow-playing just for the sake of annoying someone... in a game where nothing is on the line and nothing is to be gained by such an immature action... and posting like it is a "good idea" ...

I can only retort with one thing:

http://forum.dominionstrategy.com/index.php?topic=64.0;topicseen

(please go find another game to play. You may enjoy Pokémon)
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rinkworks

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Re: Pace
« Reply #12 on: August 24, 2011, 02:56:35 pm »
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I read those suggestions as sarcastic.
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michaeljb

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Re: Pace
« Reply #13 on: August 25, 2011, 02:07:39 am »
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I read those suggestions as sarcastic.

Seconded.
(anyone else wish this forum had a thumb feature like BGG's?)
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danw132

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Re: Pace
« Reply #14 on: August 28, 2011, 12:56:37 pm »
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I read those suggestions as sarcastic.

Seconded.
(anyone else wish this forum had a thumb feature like BGG's?)

Thumbs up.
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