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endless

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Running out of steam
« on: November 17, 2011, 09:55:45 am »
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Hey everyone, new to Dominion but I've learned the basics, trying to move on to more advanced aspects of strategy. I always seem to open strong and get a Province before my opponents in Province games, but I tend to lose in the late game as my opponent builds an engine and draws 8 every turn while I end up drawing dead. I have a much easier time in Colony games for whatever reason.

1. With the absence of trashing cards, how can I keep my deck running smoothly without wasting time on a +Card/+Action engine? I tend to lose if I try to move on to a +c/+a engine in the midgame instead of trying to make sure I have around 6-8 available each turn.

2. I've lost multiple games to Alchemist-heavy decks. Should I race my opponent to the Apothecary? I can't cope with the amount of draw if they're top decking 8 Alchemist each turn.

3. I like Minion strategies, but I seem to lose if I try to go after Gold AND Minions. Should I run a treasure-light deck if I'm already investing in Minions?

4. In a Province game, should I delay buying a Province if I have 8 in hand by turn 5? What if I have no source of +Buy?

Any help on these subjects would be appreciated.
« Last Edit: November 17, 2011, 10:30:56 am by endless »
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rod-

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Re: Running out of steam
« Reply #1 on: November 17, 2011, 10:25:14 am »
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1) Buy more money than you think you need.  1-2 golds with 8 coin is acceptable if you're expecting the game to go long (for example, if your opponent does not buy provinces).

2) I assume you mean alchemist:  On alchemist boards, it's a good low-level idea to race them.  A mid-level strategy is to just be faster, particularly if there are not +buys available to allow the alchemist player to use >8$/turn.

3) With minions, you do not want to buy gold.  You want to keep the density of minions as high as possible.  The only non-minion buys you should make should be actions that give +actions and +coin (lighthouse, conspirator, etc)

4) Your third shuffle is usually too soon to buy a province, but not always.  +buy rarely figures into the equation - it is a matter of how fast the board will be.  If you're just playing big money strategies, you should probably aim for another gold.  If you're playing tournament, you should definitely get the province.    In general, you're better off aiming to buy a province every turn from 9-14 (and probably missing once for 1 duchy) than having 1 extra province clogging your deck for 3+ shuffles.
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mathguy

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Re: Running out of steam
« Reply #2 on: November 17, 2011, 10:36:51 am »
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3)...The only non-minion buys you should make should be actions that give +actions and +coin (lighthouse, conspirator, etc)

I agree with rod on most of the points above, except this one. This deck he is describing (minions,lighthouses, conspirators) works fine, but there is another option

If you manage to pick up a +2 actions cards (festival, bazaar and border village are likely candidates) then you can also include a nice (terminal) payoff action card (like outpost, mountebank, goons, etc.). If you deck is thin enough, during your minion cycling you will find your village, play it, keep cycling and get your payoff action (then keep cycling if you need). This isn't always the type of deck you want, but sometimes it can make the difference in a bad minion split.
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Geronimoo

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Re: Running out of steam
« Reply #3 on: November 17, 2011, 10:49:29 am »
+1

If you started with a money strategy, stick to it. If you started building an engine, stick to it.

An example: you open Envoy/Silver and your opponent Envoy/Village. You buy a few Golds and your opponent starts getting more Envoys, Villages and Horn of Plenties clearly working towards a mega-Horn turn. Mid game you've already collected 2 Provinces while your opponent is drawing his entire deck and gaining lots of cool actions with his Horns. You draw your next hand and have $3 and decide you want some of that yourself so you buy a Village... BANG... you're dead!

What will likely happen after that is you'll play Envoy, reveal the Village which your opponent will be happy to let you keep. Now you can't buy the 5th Province but have to settle for a Duchy and next turn your opponent plays his mega-turn and gains 4 Provinces and 2 Duchies with his 5 Horns and some left over money to steal the game.

The other way around is even worse: you're building the Horn deck and you see your money-opponent buy his first Provinces very early. If you panic and try to get to Provinces before your mega-turn, you'll likely kill your deck.
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popsofctown

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Re: Running out of steam
« Reply #4 on: November 17, 2011, 10:51:21 am »
+1

What he said, but I can't believe he forgot Minion's favorite village: Fishing Village.  Village will often use its draw and hit a treasure, Fishing village just gives the money straight to you.
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ehunt

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Re: Running out of steam
« Reply #5 on: November 17, 2011, 10:58:18 am »
+1

Don't go minion/gold is important advice, but it's advice that needs to be taken with a grain of salt. If the minions split 7-3, you're set. If they split 5-5 or 4-6 in your opponent's favor, you will need gold to buy provinces.  I often fall for the trap of trying to build a really tight minion deck, not getting enough minions, and then losing for not having money. Another common trap (for me) is the following: the statement with the star is true, but it does not imply the statement with two stars, which is false.

* In games with curses, it's not possible to rely on a nice minion engine.
**In games with curses, obtaining minions is unimportant.
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DG

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Re: Running out of steam
« Reply #6 on: November 17, 2011, 11:10:06 am »
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Quote
With the absence of trashing cards, how can I keep my deck running smoothly without wasting time on a +Card/+Action engine? I tend to lose if I try to move on to a +c/+a engine in the midgame instead of trying to make sure I have around 6-8 available each turn.


There are any number of ways to go about this. A salvager or remodel type card can convert deck assets more directly vp. A couple of terminal drawing cards can keep your spending high and you can choose to have no villages supporting them. Warehouse type cards can deal well with green cards clogging up your hands. Cards that sustain your treasure density, such as hoards, can also help. You also shouldn't rely on card combinations by the end game since they are less likely to be drawn together.
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Karrow

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Re: Running out of steam
« Reply #7 on: November 17, 2011, 11:19:34 am »
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4. In a Province game, should I delay buying a Province if I have 8 in hand by turn 5? What if I have no source of +Buy?


For this one, based on simulation of big money vs big money, the optimum I've seen is do not buy your first province until you have around 18$ total coin value in your deck which is around turn 7.  Playing this way against a big money that buys a province as early as possible give you a whopping +3% odds of winning.  So to me, in real life, it's not worth the effort to keep track for +3%.  And of course no one plays straight big money, so this isn't even really accurate in most cases.

At the basic level, always buy a province with 8 unless you have a damn good reason not to.

The hard question is, "what's a good reason not to?"  For real play I just go by feel.  If it looks like it may be a fast game, like a 3-pile multiplayer, or Council Room/Village, buy a Province at any chance you get.  If I've trashed my estates, I know I can handle one green so buy the Prov.  If I've trashed my coppers and still have Estates, 4 greens early in a thin deck is going to hurt.  It's usually better to get the thin deck where I want instead of an early Province.  If it's going to be a painful long game like Ghost Ship/Sea Hag, I may hold off on the early Province unless of course it's going to be a non-Province 3-pile.  If I'm building a heavy cantrip deck with only +1card/+1action cards, drawing a province is a dead draw so think hard about buying an early one. 

And lastly, I think one area I fail to consider as often as I should is predicting when your next shuffle is.  If your draw pile is empty, the card you buy could be in your next hand.  If you discard is empty, your buy will be offset by a couple more buys before getting to the next shuffle.  I'm not to this level of play yet, but I think this consideration for every buy is probably important for top level play.
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matiez

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Re: Running out of steam
« Reply #8 on: November 17, 2011, 11:26:24 am »
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1. When I lose games badly, it's typically because there is a lack of trash. I have yet to figure out the intrecacies of Remodel-like decks. Typically, though, the advice of "buy more treasure than you think you need" is fairly solid. I've been burned too many times to count on attempting an engine that can consume my starting deck (I fail at Cellar and Warehouse).

2. I've also lost a ton of games to Alchemist. Typically, an Alchemist deck can't get it's engine going until the 3rd or 4th shuffle. Use this time wisely! If there are strong potion cards (Scrying Pool, Familiar), it's a good idea to attmept to split the Alchemist. If Alchemist is the only good potion card out, look for strategies that move faster. You're opponent is wasting time with that Potion, use the time wisely.

3. I never buy Gold when running Minion-heavy decks simply because I never want to stop my Minion train just because I have a Gold in hand. Minion and Action Chaining is the best buy when running heavy Minion decks. Attempt to stay away from terminals, even when there are sources of +2 actions. It's never a good thing to see Minion/Terminal/Junk/Junk/Junk. (This advice subject to change after my next Minion game).

4. Personally, I won't buy a Prov until I have at least 1 but usually 2 golds. With an Engine, I won't buy provs until I run my engine twice. To me, it sounds like you are greening too early. Try waiting until your opponent buys their first Prov before you buy yours. Let them set the pace for the game. Not sound advice, but something I've done in the past.
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witchwitchwitch

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Re: Running out of steam
« Reply #9 on: November 24, 2011, 04:07:50 am »
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#4 I would definitely not buying a Province at round 5.
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Kuildeous

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Re: Running out of steam
« Reply #10 on: November 28, 2011, 03:06:59 pm »
+1

You draw your next hand and have $3 and decide you want some of that yourself so you buy a Village... BANG... you're dead!

For some reason, I read that in Christopher Walken's voice.
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Manto

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Re: Running out of steam
« Reply #11 on: November 28, 2011, 08:26:58 pm »
+1

A good way to know if you are running out of steam is to estimate your average $ per card.  This is an idea that came from my friend hggc on Isotropic first, and I haven't seen people talk about it much - but here's a good way to keep track if you need some more $ or you should keep race for VP:

* Basic Premise

- Each card is given an estimated value in terms of $.  For the trivial example, Copper is 1, Estate is 0.
- Your initial deck has 7 Copper and 3 Estate.  So a random card from the deck has average value of 7/10 = 0.7.
- When you buy a silver (which has a value of 2), random card from the deck now has average value of 9/11 = 0.82

This can be hard to keep track, but for this technique to provide some value, you only need to keep track of
1) An estimated running total of $ - start with 7, silver +2, gold +3, festival +2, for example
2) An estimated # of cards - easier on isotropic where you are fed these numbers, in real life you can get a good feel for it when you handle cards and shuffle. You can also get a sense of this by the # of turn since you probably gained 1 card per turn, and guess some amount of adjustment with curse / trashing / multi-buy.

* What about cards with +Card?

Suppose I bought 3 silvers and 2 gold since my initial deck.  Now my average card value is $7*1 + $2*2 + $3*2 / 15 = $17/15 = $1.13

Say I bought a Smithy next.  Smithy, when played, basically turns into 3 Cards, which can be estimated to be $1.13 * 3 = $3.4

Or if you bought a Peddler - that would yield you $1 and 1 card when played, which can be estimated to $1 + $1.13 = $2.24

There is the issue of playing +Card that draws into other +Card that you can't play because you're out of action.  All I would suggest here is do your best to maintain a good ratio of Action and +Card, and overtime you can develop an intuition on how much to discount the estimated value from +Card.

Cards like Warehouse also requires a good deal of intuition to figure out an estimated value.  The additional 3 Cards is easy to figure out (like Smithy), but you will have to also estimate the value of the 3 least valuable card in your entire hand.  I don't have a good way of explaining of my thought process during a game, but when I do I'll add it to part of a larger post on this topic.

* What about cards with +Buy?

This is sort of outside the scope of avoiding "run out of steam" in a province race, but if you want, you can keep a running tally of +Buy you have in the entire deck and estimate the total # of +Buys per hand.  This will come in handy when you are battling for the tiebreaking VP.

* What about cards with +Action?

If they don't provide $, they are not worth anything in this avg. value per card estimation.  Beginners could benefit from this realization and see why overstocking on villages is generally a losing strategy.   Unused actions at the end of a turn is like leaving money on the table.  Imagine what you can buy instead if each action is converted to $1.

* What about special attack cards or cards like Minion, KC

They each need their own simplification to be accounted for in a manageable yet still useful manner.  During game I can get some very rough intuition for how much they are worth in my given deck, but I have no idea how to explain here.  When I do, I will attempt to write a larger post with that information. :)

----

So now, to apply this estimated value - let's look at the simple example earlier, where you picked up 3 silvers and 2 gold, reaching an average card value of $1.13.  Drawing a hand of 5 will yield $1.13 * 5 = $5.65 (I'm drawing with replacement here to simplify the math), which tells me that MOST of the time I wouldn't be able to buy a Province, but I can likely afford a Duchy on most turns and sometimes Gold.

----

There are a lot more ways to apply this general "estimated card value" accounting that one can do in his or her head, and while it has served me well during games (I was at Level 35-36 before the 30 day cutoff kicked in), I am still working on ways to better presenting and explaining how to apply the strategy.  But I hope this helps!  And as for the experienced players, please give me your thoughts or criticisms on this technique!
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Fangz

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Re: Running out of steam
« Reply #12 on: November 29, 2011, 02:33:59 pm »
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Don't forget the one best friend of the Minion player: throne room.
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Robz888

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Re: Running out of steam
« Reply #13 on: November 29, 2011, 04:23:00 pm »
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4. In a Province game, should I delay buying a Province if I have $8 in hand by turn 5? What if I have no source of +Buy?
Unless I received my early $8 hand through an incredible stroke of luck (Baron/Silver and Mining Village/Silver can do that on Turn 3, for example), I usually buy the Province. If you don't spend $8 when you have it, you aren't spending your money efficiently. It's fine to spend inefficiently sometimes--especially when you absolutely need your share of certain cards like Minion, Wharf, Hunting Party--but I try to avoid it, especially at the $8 level. If you got $8 before you started greening, your deck is probably good enough to generate a hand of $6 in the next turn or 2. Why not buy the Province now, and the Gold then?
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rod-

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Re: Running out of steam
« Reply #14 on: November 29, 2011, 04:46:35 pm »
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4. In a Province game, should I delay buying a Province if I have $8 in hand by turn 5? What if I have no source of +Buy?
Unless I received my early $8 hand through an incredible stroke of luck (Baron/Silver and Mining Village/Silver can do that on Turn 3, for example), I usually buy the Province. If you don't spend $8 when you have it, you aren't spending your money efficiently. It's fine to spend inefficiently sometimes--especially when you absolutely need your share of certain cards like Minion, Wharf, Hunting Party--but I try to avoid it, especially at the $8 level. If you got $8 before you started greening, your deck is probably good enough to generate a hand of $6 in the next turn or 2. Why not buy the Province now, and the Gold then?
Buying a dead card on turn 3(5) is decreasing the buying power of every subsequent turn you draw it on, the number of which can depend massively on your deck but is almost always going to be greater than 1/3 turns (barring cursing attacks or other forms of deck bloat).  If your province could've been a gold every time you draw it, and you're going to draw it 3 or more times in your 14 turn game (pretty much a given), you have to be pretty sure that you will be able to buy a province either 1) Most every other time when you don't draw it or 2) Despite having drawn it.

It is not a cut and dry decision either way, but "spending efficiently" is not the goal of the game.  It's getting more points than the other guy(s).  The timing of your shuffles, buys, and the endgame are all factors to consider when you draw 8$ early on.  (Even a deck as cash light as smithy+silver CAN get an 8$ turn 3/4.  If you're about to draw 3 estates and shuffle your deck, you're going to be lucky and have an almost-guaranteed 6-8$ on turn 5 even if you buy the province.  If your 3 estates are already in the discard and your smithy triggered a shuffle, you're going to have a poor turn 5 and then a turn 6 where your deck consists of 4/12 green cards, and nothing bigger than silver.  You may not get to 6$ until as late as turn 10 in that case.

My general motivation, barring big engines, is to buy green when i still have 2-3 turns of deck before my shuffle and i know that my deck can manage a few more decent/good turns in the interim.  If i'm going to shuffle after this buy, i'm extra-motivated to make the buy non-green, almost without regard to the current score.
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Manto

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Re: Running out of steam
« Reply #15 on: November 29, 2011, 05:44:06 pm »
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I agree with rod- that looking at the reshuffle situation is important.  If you are close to a reshuffle, I'd lean towards Gold, and if not, Province.

Getting a province as the first hand off a reshuffle means you won't get hurt by that dead card till you run through your deck, which is probably in 3 turns (assuming you'd have a deck size 15-20 by this time).  For the same token, you could be buying a Gold but end up not able to draw it for a while.

Another thing to keep in mind is being the first to green can put pressure on your opponent, especially if you are going 2nd.  The 1st player will lose if he finishes the game on a tie by buying the last Province, and that's a powerful equalizer in VP races.
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pooka

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Re: Running out of steam
« Reply #16 on: November 29, 2011, 10:12:15 pm »
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I went through a struggle with timing my province buys, and I mostly go with my gut.  Early on I'd buy a province with any $8 I could scrape together.  Then I experimented with waiting, and often waited too long.  I'm getting to where I can feel the difference between a Province game and a Colony game.  Sometimes I'll go 3 $8 hands before I hit provinces, because I don't feel like I have a solid $8.  But if I feel like my hand value is based on what I can typically expect, I'll proceed to the endgame.
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Fangz

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Re: Running out of steam
« Reply #17 on: November 30, 2011, 11:56:02 am »
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It depends on what sort of strategy you are running. If you have a rush plan (for example, with remodel or salvager), then that province can be a good buy. Generally you are better off getting a gold, though. If you are that early in the game and got a $8 hand, then that's pretty bad luck, really. It means your other hands this shuffle must be *horrid*.
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