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Author Topic: article: a diversity strategy for 7 Wonders (cross-post with BGG)  (Read 4118 times)

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Brando Commando

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(I went to type up some notes for a friend and realized I might as well write an article on how I play 7 Wonders. This article doesn't get into any expansions in particular but holds well for any combination of the game, I think.)

Generally, the diversity strategy is based around the idea that in Age III, a successful strategy will be able to use many different kinds of cards to generate maximum points per turn.

The key goal of this strategy, then, is to develop a tableau (my word for the sum of all your built cards and stages) that will be able to make use of military and science in Age III so you are not limited to blue and purple cards to generate points. I focus on Age III because itís when most of the points are earned; at least some part of Age II and most of Age I should be focussed on developing a position that will allow you to exploit Age III. (I think this should be true of most strategies but is especially true for this one.)

Of course, everyone would love to be strong in every category. I suppose what Iím suggesting is that it is better to be weak in military and science than to be strong in only one or the other, or certainly better than focussing on blue and purple cards instead.

If it seems strange to you that it might be better to be weak (but not entirely out of the race) in two things than to be strong in only one, consider that playing military and science cards, even when they are marginal for you (3 points, etc.), can often rob an opponent of points if they are focussed on science or military themselves. Moreover, if you completely ignore one or the other, it opens great possibilities for your opponents.

This is one of the most deceptive things about military especially. With military cards, not only are you building up your own threat by playing military, but you are denying opportunities to your opponents. In this light, you can think of a military victory in Age II (for example) as worth more than 3 or 6 points to you, and even more than the -1 points you can serve to your losing opponents: By winning even one conflict (of the two you engage in), you have also ensured that at least one of your opponents canít get 3/6 points themselves (by definition, since only one of you can win the conflict). I suspect this is why military tops out at 18 points possible for winning all conflicts, even though on paper this is less than what you can get by focussing on science; if military were any stronger, it would just be too powerful.

This is all based on my experience and some reasoning, so some readers are bound to disagree with my points, but I think itís a fairly coherent system and Iíve done pretty well by it in a rather competitive group that plays 7 Wonders almost exclusively these days.

For details, Iíve come up with a few principles I tend to follow, along with justifications for each.

1. Donít get locked out of any one resource, but donít build too many resources.

This might mean you have access to one of every manufactured good (gray) and two or three of every natural resource (brown). But by attempting to build more, youíll be wasting turns on resources you wonít use. A special warning, though, is that if any of your stages require 3 or 4 of a single resource, you could easily find yourself at the end of Age II unable to build your stages. In that case, you might want to make a conscious decision not to bother spending a turn building resources that you will only use to build one of your stages.

2. In Age I and II, try to find a balance between building your own resources and building cards that allow you to buy others for cheap.

Again, too many resources means youíve wasted turns building resources you wonít need and no one will need to pay you for. On the other hand, too many commerce cards (yellow cards and the Clandestine Docks cards) mean you wonít ever get paid for your resources and will still have to pay some (albeit reduced) amount to get resources. Also, keep in mind that while a discount card (a trading post or clandestine dock card) can be great, youíll need some source of money to use it, money you wonít be getting from a resource you might have played instead.

3. In Age II, you should only play a double-resource card hesitantly and with great purpose.

In my experience, you wonít need many of Age IIís double-resource cards if youíve done Age I correctly (following the principles above). Instead of a double resource in Age II, I would almost always play either the Caravansery or Forum instead (any brown resource or any gray resource), get some cash from another yellow, or build up science or military, unless maybe I had no access to the resource provided or knew I needed to build a stage with 3 or 4 of the same resource.

4. Age II should be as much about getting into military and science as possible.

Yes, Age II could be a time to fix any resource problems left over from Age I, but mostly I think you ought to focus on developing both science and military in Age II, so that you can be a threat to others in these areas. You may need to turn to a yellow card for cash flow, however, or for a weak hand, a blue card could also be an alternative.

5. Toward the end of Age II, consider building your stages with bad hands.

You might find that you seem to have no better play than those double-resource cards in the second half of Age II, but that means it might be a great time to build your stages. If you wait to build your stages in Age III, youíll most likely be passing up some cards that could give you 3 or more points, whereas at the end of Age II, youíll only be passing up the opportunity to play resources you donít need anyway.

6. In Age III, especially early on, play big blue cards.

This might seem puzzling given that I just recommended becoming a threat in military and science. But if you focus on the high-scoring blue near the beginning of Age III, youíre denying those cards to people who canít use military or science cards. The Palace (8 points) is great for anybody who can build it, but only some people are going to get 5 or more points from another science symbol or military card. So deny them the high-scoring blue card, knowing that the science or military card might well come back to you anyway later in Age III. This strategy is only really possible if you did the work of building science and military in Age II, however.

7. In Age III, look at purple cards and do a quick analysis of how much like a big blue card they are.

Purple cards are harder to eyeball and make a quick decision on. But just remember, if itís a 5 or 6 pointer for you but an 8-12 pointer for somebody else -- especially somebody who looks strong -- consider playing it. (Iím not sure about those numbers in particular, but you get the idea.) As a bonus note, consider that by being diverse and not having a lot of any one color, itís less likely a purple card that relies on big mono-color buildups among its neighbors will be valuable to your opponents.

8. If you have too much coins, you might be doing something wrong.

Consider that the coins score relatively little at the end of the game, so if you have more than 5 at a time, theyíre not doing you much good. It might mean you built too many resources or cash-producing yellow cards. In Age III, sometimes a rich neighbor will flood you with coins, so maybe youíre not doing anything wrong, although if you can anticipate this at all, that might mean you can forego a turn devoted to getting coins.
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Tables

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Re: article: a diversity strategy for 7 Wonders (cross-post with BGG)
« Reply #1 on: January 28, 2014, 03:51:43 pm »
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A few thoughts of my own (I assume this is written with purely base game in mind. It's been a long time since I played base only though, so take this with a pinch of salt, but I'll only talk about base):

1) Coins. Coins are always worth a point per 3 coins, but early in the game, you can usually expect them to be more than that. For example a hand with the Tavern in is one which I won't be too disappointed by. Later on, those extra coins can be useful for getting expensive cards you didn't have the resources for, or at worst just becoming 1 point per 3. Cards which give coins in age III I usually just think of as VPs, but sometimes you'll be strapped for cash and that might mean you want a little more.

Science: Science is one that's always pretty tough to balance, but I agree going for a little is often a good idea. It requires lots of manufactured good and has good chains, so if you want to do some science, snatch up a few extra Grey cards compared to normal. If not many opponents appear to be doing science, I'll often go for one science set, for a few reasons. Firstly, it denies a few cards from the few opponents likely going for Science, which might cut into their scores. Secondly, one set can usually be managed easily from just Age I + II cards, and is 10 points PLUS any chain effects - which is usually good enough as it is. Third, it opens up the option of going for a second science set, if I finish the first early enough, or I have a hand where another science card is the only real option. Two science sets is 26 points and even if I need 1-2 Age III cards to manage that, I'm scoring pretty well out of it. In the base game, I wouldn't recommend aiming for a third science set (unless you're Babylon, in which case it's worth considering), but just remember, each science symbol you play in age III is 5 VPs. Not great, but a decent backup option.

Military: My golden rule for military is that I like to beat the person I'm passing cards to, but don't worry too much if the person passing to me is beating me. The main reason for this is about card control. The person passing to me knows if and when I have military in hand, and if they get a hand with just a single red card, they can deny me from having it, if that's advantageous to me. Now there's lots of potential exceptions to this - in small games you can probably track where military is and know what the person on your right has. And if they desperately need e.g. Green cards, you can probably get away with putting military pressure on without them fighting back. And obviously, if you take a huge lead, they shouldn't fight it (some people still do though, ugh). Now similar logic all applies to the person you're passing cards to, but with positions reversed.

Resources: The Age I double raw material cards are some of the strongest cards in the age. Early on you obviously want resources, and getting a choice of one is powerful, especially for a cost of only one coin. I had one game where, due to a combination of funny shuffle luck and people on my right going for other things, I got four of the double/choice resources. I played them just thinking it'd be funny, and to annoy the people sitting opposite me who never saw one, but then I proceeded to win, by quite a margin.
The age II double resources are often underrated, but they can be very strong for shoring up a resource deficit, or enabling various Guild plays (a decent number of guilds need 2-3 of certain resources). if you have none of a specific resource, then it's always worth considering building a double resource in that type. There's often better things to do, but don't overlook those resources - especially playing as Gizah or Rhodes, who need lots of a few resources.

That's about the summary of my thoughts. You've got some good thoughts here, so hopefully these add to them.
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...spin-offs are still better for all of the previously cited reasons.
But not strictly better, because the spinoff can have a different cost than the expansion.

liopoil

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Re: article: a diversity strategy for 7 Wonders (cross-post with BGG)
« Reply #2 on: January 28, 2014, 03:58:02 pm »
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For example a hand with the Tavern in is one which I won't be too disappointed by
wow, I've always thought that card is really weak... maybe I should try it sometime.
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Re: article: a diversity strategy for 7 Wonders (cross-post with BGG)
« Reply #3 on: January 28, 2014, 04:13:05 pm »
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For example a hand with the Tavern in is one which I won't be too disappointed by
wow, I've always thought that card is really weak... maybe I should try it sometime.

I wouldn't say it's a strong card. Just that Tavern is rarely a play that will leave me feeling like I wasted a turn. It's probably better than most of the age I Blue cards for example (definitely better than Altar and Statue, likely better than Pawnshop, probably not as good as Baths).
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...spin-offs are still better for all of the previously cited reasons.
But not strictly better, because the spinoff can have a different cost than the expansion.

Brando Commando

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Re: article: a diversity strategy for 7 Wonders (cross-post with BGG)
« Reply #4 on: January 28, 2014, 04:16:46 pm »
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For example a hand with the Tavern in is one which I won't be too disappointed by
wow, I've always thought that card is really weak... maybe I should try it sometime.

I wouldn't say it's a strong card. Just that Tavern is rarely a play that will leave me feeling like I wasted a turn. It's probably better than most of the age I Blue cards for example (definitely better than Altar and Statue, likely better than Pawnshop, probably not as good as Baths).

I think it has a lot to do with where you are money-wise; running no money whatsoever is probably bad, but having a ton isn't very useful. So Tavern might be your chance to refill on cash, especially if you get it with a bunch of cards that don't do much for you.

One of the good things about 7 Wonders, much like Dominion, is that many cards can be useful to you given the right circumstances.
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Re: article: a diversity strategy for 7 Wonders (cross-post with BGG)
« Reply #5 on: January 28, 2014, 04:43:39 pm »
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For example a hand with the Tavern in is one which I won't be too disappointed by
wow, I've always thought that card is really weak... maybe I should try it sometime.

I wouldn't say it's a strong card. Just that Tavern is rarely a play that will leave me feeling like I wasted a turn. It's probably better than most of the age I Blue cards for example (definitely better than Altar and Statue, likely better than Pawnshop, probably not as good as Baths).

I think it has a lot to do with where you are money-wise; running no money whatsoever is probably bad, but having a ton isn't very useful. So Tavern might be your chance to refill on cash, especially if you get it with a bunch of cards that don't do much for you.

One of the good things about 7 Wonders, much like Dominion, is that many cards can be useful to you given the right circumstances.

Hm, yeah I think playing Leaders and Cities regularly probably does bump up my evaulation of cards like Tavern. With those two, you often want 6+ coins at the end of each age to play your next leader and not be poor at the start of the next age, often you want more like 10+. And since there could be some debt going around you want even more than that. But even outside of that I think having a decent pool of money is useful. Money becomes resources becomes points.
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...spin-offs are still better for all of the previously cited reasons.
But not strictly better, because the spinoff can have a different cost than the expansion.

eHalcyon

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Re: article: a diversity strategy for 7 Wonders (cross-post with BGG)
« Reply #6 on: January 28, 2014, 05:38:50 pm »
+1

Your analysis is OK, but a bit too general, I think.  I feel that 7 Wonders is extremely tactical, making strategy guides less useful.  Another big thing is that the game changes a lot depending on the number of players.  Nonetheless, it is possible to come up with general guidelines.  I'll consider some of what you've written here, then offer some of my own thoughts.  Maybe both at once. :P

As a note, I should mention the "Complex Strategies" article on BGG.  I don't agree with everything in it, but it is really good.

First, on your points:

1. It's extremely important to get access to at least one of everything, and usually 2 of each brown, 3 if you can swing it.  It'll depend on what your wonder is and what cards are important for your strategy.  I haven't memorized the card costs so I don't get to take that into account as much when playing IRL, though I did it all the time when I played online here in the forum.  Without extra consideration, Stone and Clay are usually more important to get 3 of. 

Note that "access" includes neighbours and yellows, and not necessarily what is already on the board.  If your neighbours are competent, you can often predict what resources they'll build and give you access to.  In one of the games I played on f.ds, I was able to pass on a resource I needed because I knew my neighbour needed it too, and it would be his last chance to get it.  I counted on him to build it, and it paid off. 

But it can be more general than that.  If I'm next to Rhodes or Giza, I can expect them to build more browns than usual.  If I'm next to Alexandria and Ephesos, I'll probably have to build more browns of my own.  That gives me a sense of what I need to do at the very start of the game, and I'll adjust as the game progresses.

It's also nice to keep track of the resources from the others' points of view.  It doesn't always come up, but sometimes you can really hurt opponents by denying them a key resource card.  It really hurts Rhodes and Giza if they can't build their final wonder stage.  That's also something to keep in mind when playing those wonders yourself -- don't let yourself get locked out.

2. I feel like this is too variable to make a point out of.  I've won games with only 0 or 1 resource cards played, but I've also won games where I built enough that I never ever had to buy from a neighbour.  The first scenario is probably most likely with Ephesos, where you have good money income even without others paying you.  The latter scenario can happen if your neighbours don't have enough resources and can't afford to pay you.  It's just so variable though.

3. I have mixed feelings about this point.  Generally speaking, I also prefer to play browns and greys in Age I and avoid resources in Age II.  However, there are absolutely scenarios where I wouldn't hesistate to play the double resource cards.  The most common situations I can think of are in science heavy strategies.  The Age I science cards are extremely valuable because of their chaining, but hand distribution means that snagging one might mean skipping an important resource.  The browns in Age II can help a lot here.

4. I completely disagree on this point.  I will elaborate on this later, but I would say that (in general) you need to get your foot in the door on both Science and Military during Age I, if you plan to pursue them at all.  Military could come up late, but that's a thing of opportunity rather than actual strategy.

5. That's something to do in Ages I and and III as well.  :P

6 and 7. These could be incorporated into a larger (and more generally useful) rule of thumb -- consider how much cards are worth to you and how much they are worth to others.  Work to maximize your own points while minimizing those of the other players, with focus on whoever is in the lead.  If the player to your left is struggling, it's perfectly fine to pass them big blues if they can build them.  You can take the card worth more points to you, and they will keep the big blue out of the leader on their left.

8. Mostly agreed with this.  The main thing I would check is if I built more resources than necessary.  Related rules of thumb -- you should be discarding for coins as little as possible.  I usually consider it a failure if I have to do it more than once in a game.  However, sometimes having lots of money is a sign of success... my favourite victory involves Midas, Gamer's Guild and coins out the wazoo.





OK, here are some of my own general thoughts:

Science

Most of the time, my decision to play Science is based on my wonder.  I always consider Science when playing Babylon or one of the grey wonders (in the base game, that would be Ephesos, Halikarnassos and Alexandria).  Starting with a grey resource is a big advantage because it lets you get started on Science cards ASAP.

I mentioned above that I feel like you need to commit to Science early.  There are two reasons for this.  First, every science card you get is a science card that someone else does not.  Seems like a tautology, but it's important.  The Science strategy is most successful when there is little competition.  Playing a Science card early will discourage others from joining in on the race.

Second is because of how Science points accumulate.  The BGG article I linked suggests a general principle of point value in each age.  While I don't agree with the author's specific tiers, I think the concept is sound.  Age II is usually too late to start on Science because they're simply not worth it at that point.  One Science set is nice if it's built in Ages 1-2, but pretty bad if built Ages 2-3.  If I do start Science in Age 2, it's probably because absolutely nobody else has built any Science and I'm already in a decent position for it (i.e. already have access to all greys on my own or with a Marketplace).

Military

Part of this is based on my wonder as well.  If my wonder is well-suited to science, I'll put less priority on military cards.  If I plan for military to be a significant part of my VP total (e.g. Rhodes), I'll place more emphasis on getting early red cards.

The thing about military is that you do NOT want to get into an arms race with your neighbours.  That would be a losing proposition.  As with Science, early military plays can discourage neighbours from following suit, letting you win more easily in later ages.  You want to play as few military cards as possible while staying ahead.  Similarly, it's preferable to play the reds in earlier ages because there is less opportunity cost (e.g. skipping Altar vs. skipping Palace).  If you can get a big enough lead early, you don't need to play as much red late.  If I know my neighbour will recklessly pursue military victory, it's better to let them have it.  -6 is not that bad.

That said, you should watch out for special opportunities, especially after Age I.  It can be a strong move to re-take the lead with just one red card, especially late in the age when there's less chance for your neighbour to catch up.  This is especially true if you can track where all the red cards are.

So in Age I, my decision is largely based on my wonder/overall game plan, as well as opportunity.  In Age II and III, I will play a defensive red early if I'm already in the lead (to discourage neighbours from trying to catch up).  If I'm behind, I will usually skip it unless it's late enough that I can get a surprise win.

All of those decisions are also influenced by turn order, as Tables mentions in his post.

Blues

In Age I, the only Blue I want is Baths.  If I play one of the others, it's because that hand was really bad.  Baths is great because 3VP is good for Age I and it provides a chain to Aqueducts.

Age II is more murky.  Aqueduct is awesome but also extremely expensive.  3 Stone is nothing to scoff at.  Temple depends on whether anyone needs the chain to afford Pantheon.

Age III is a lot of calculation.  Generally speaking, only Gardens is weak, but it all comes down to VP value.  In Ages I and II you have to weigh immediate VP against set up for future turns, but Age III is pretty much going for broke.  You can figure out how much each card is worth to you or your neighbours pretty easily and pick the best card from that.

Wonder Stages

Highly depends on the specific wonders. 

Some you want to build early, like Alexandria, Babylon and Rhodes.  Rhodes you want early to discourage opponents from joining the race, though it can be hard to do because of how expensive the stages are.  Babylon is nice to have early to take advantage of the extra card you get at the end of each age.

Some should be built Age by Age.  Halikarnassos is usually best to build on the last turn of each age, so you get the full discard.  Giza goes age by age because of opportunity cost -- it's not really worth it to use an Age III card for your first wonder stage.

Ephesos is an "anytime" wonder.  There isn't any real pressure to build the wonders early, so it's easy to save them for when you need the money or there is a card in your hand that really needs to be buried.

Olympia is just weird. ;)
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