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shark_bait

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Snowballing
« on: July 13, 2012, 07:32:43 pm »
+4

Snowballing

Imagine standing on top of a mountain.  You see some nice white fluffy snow.  Absent mindedly, you pick some up and make a nice round ball.  As you wave to your friend down at the foot of the mountain, you accidentally drop your snowball and it starts to roll down the mountain.  To your horror, you watch as it grows bigger and bigger, gaining speed and momentum and eventually bowls over your friend and buries him in a mountain of snow. 

The situation above represents the term called “snowballing”.  In Dominion, this term represents a small advantage being used to generate a larger and larger advantage that eventually leads to victory.  The tricky part about snowballing is using the knowledge of it to give yourself an advantage.  The real finesse in snowballing is recognizing the kind of boards that can result in snowballing.  It’s these kind of boards where giving yourself the best chance to snowball can give you the best chance for victory.  In regard to snowballing, there are four main ways it can happen.

Sheer Dumb Luck – Okay, so the first category doesn’t really include any strategic insight.  The insight is that you simply need to be aware that certain cards have large luck elements that can lead to victory.  For that reason, it is often of paramount importance that these cards are included in your strategy.  After all, it is impossible to snowball with these cards if you don’t buy them.   The main cards in this category have interaction between players.  The interaction for one player can be advantageous in such a way that the other player can not respond. You’ll notice that the main culprits are cards than can give curses to other players but also have the potential to miss for one player but not the other.

•   Sea Hag
•   Mountebank
•   Swindler
•   Young Witch
•   Familiar (Luck of hitting $3P)
•   Treasure Map
•   Tournament
o   These games are often decided by a few things which are incredibly luck dependent.  There is the acquisition of a Province and the connection of said Province with a Tournament.  In games like this, you generally want to purchase a Province as soon as possible.  For that reason, engine building via trashing and subsequent build up different than in a normal game.  You need to gauge the strength of an engine against the power of the Follower's attack.  An engine with heavy trashing like Chapel, Remake or Steward (semi) can often get running smoothly enough that losing a few Prizes won't make a difference.  However, in games with a viable engine only acquired through light trashing (think Lookout/Loan) the delayed benefit of those trashers is often not good enough to offset the damage done by losing the Tournaments.

Cards You Want More Of – Here, you see the cards where one player has an advantage due to an advantageous split of 6/4, 7/3, etc…  A key feature about these games are that going first is a huge advantage.  The advantage of going first is two-fold.  First, and most simply, you have the first opportunity to obtain these cards giving you an inherent advantage.  The other FPA is a little more subtle.  By going first, you can make a 1-turn detour for an important card other than the card of interest and still maintain an even 5/5 split.  For instance, in a Minion game, you can take a different $5 first if it will inherently help your deck in the long run (Jester w/ village support, Upgrade, etc).  Or consider a Fool’s Gold game where the first player can open with some sort of trasher and still earn a 5/5 split.  But because of opening with a trasher, they have a slimmer deck that has a higher probability of FG collision.

•   Peddler
•   Fool’s Gold
•   Minion
•   Ill Gotten Gains
•   Hunting Party
•   Gardens/Silk Road
•   City (If piles are depleted, an advantage in these can be game winning)
•   Grand Market (They are hard to rush, but have the property that the first purchase makes all subsequent GM purchases easier, thus snowballing)

Cards You Want First – These are the cards where you want them ASAP.  The flip side is that these cards are often more expensive starting at $6 and increasing.  With cards at a price tag like this, it is important to look at the other kingdom cards.  You want to ask yourself whether any of them can assist in getting that other key card as early as possible.  Some cheaper cards include (but is not limited to) things like Baron, Coppersmith, Tactician, etc. which provide the opportunity for large payouts in very early turns. 

•   Platinum
•   King’s Court
•   Goons
•   Forge (think sheer dumb luck of turns 3/4 getting $7)
•   Grand Market
•   There are many $5 cost cards that you want ASAP.   However the strategy in acquiring them is not as large due to the significantly easier price tag.

The Little Engine That Could – Picture two roller coasters.  They start at the same height and travel the same distance.  The first is a simple flat decline.  The second starts with a steep incline and is more flat at the bottom.  Anyone with any sort of general common sense will know that the second roller coaster will finish first.  In Dominion, engines are the same way.  When one player’s engine gets started before another players, it is almost impossible for the opponent to make up those lost turns. 

The take away message from this is to look for ways to accelerate an engine.  As with all of snowballing, luck can be a contributing factor, but it doesn’t have to be the only one.  Strategic engine snowballing can be very subtly lead to victory for one player.  Will trashing be necessary for a coherent engine or should I just start going straight for the engine components?  Is there a way that I can disrupt my opponents engine to a greater extent than picking up this card would do to mine?  Is there a way that I can ensure repeated good hands?  What is the correct order to buy my engine components so that it runs as smoothly and quickly as possible?   Correctly answering and responding to those questions can result in your engine snowballing a turn or two earlier than your opponents.

I recently played an engine game where the key cards were Fishing Village, Council Room, Rabble, Cutpurse and King's Court.  This board also had Lookout for trashing.  I opt to skip the Lookout and instead focus on FV/Cutpurse eyeing that King's Court.  Although the Lookout for my opponent did trash and make a slimmer deck.  My ability to get to KC earlier in a board with huge draw potential offset the small gain by trashing a few extra cards.

Consider this masterpiece put together by olneyce.  His early buys of FV and Watchtower were perfectly distributed to maximize his engine's potential.  His utilization of a 2nd potion on turn 7 allowed for his Alchemist to be played more often as well as providing more opportunities for Golem purchases.  He continues to push his advantage for an eventual 3-pile victory.

Conclusions - To wrap things up, snowballing can be a very frustrating or gratifying result of Dominion games depending on where you are on the mountain.  However, one thing to remember is that you can’t snowball very easily if you don’t recognize the situations where snowballing can occur.  It is therefore beneficial at the start of the game to recognize if snowballing can occur and do the best you can to ensure that you’re the one rolling the little ball of cute white fluffy snow down the hill into your opponent.

Comments/Questions/Critiques are welcomed and encouraged!
« Last Edit: July 16, 2012, 08:37:23 am by shark_bait »
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Young Nick

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Re: Snowballing
« Reply #1 on: July 13, 2012, 07:56:33 pm »
0

An interesting article, but I think the engine-snowballing needs some fleshing out. Maybe an example game or two would help a lot. Personally, I would add more emphasis on Tournament. It is THE snowballing card. Having said that, the other cursers are up there. I think Familiar should also be in the "Cards You Want First" section, too.
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timchen

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Re: Snowballing
« Reply #2 on: July 13, 2012, 09:29:30 pm »
+1

IMO:
(1) the description of tournament vs. trashing/engine is probably wrong in my experience. Tournament/BM is never a good idea; while you can get a province in reasonable time usually you need some luck to connect them. It is not uncommon that the best way to get the tournament prizes is through trashing/engine. Also if the engine is strong enough sometimes even followers doesn't hurt.
(2) what do you really mean by snowballing? I don't think the card split issue really counts. For one thing the advantage is kept throughout instead of magnified. One classic card for snowballing though, is grand market. But that is on your Cards You Want First list.
(3) in that particular list, I think forge and expand can be crossed out. Those are cards that I usually don't really mind my opponent getting it early. Maybe forge can be put into the sheer dumb luck category...
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shark_bait

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Re: Snowballing
« Reply #3 on: July 13, 2012, 11:36:09 pm »
+1

IMO:
(1) the description of tournament vs. trashing/engine is probably wrong in my experience. Tournament/BM is never a good idea; while you can get a province in reasonable time usually you need some luck to connect them. It is not uncommon that the best way to get the tournament prizes is through trashing/engine. Also if the engine is strong enough sometimes even followers doesn't hurt.
(2) what do you really mean by snowballing? I don't think the card split issue really counts. For one thing the advantage is kept throughout instead of magnified. One classic card for snowballing though, is grand market. But that is on your Cards You Want First list.
(3) in that particular list, I think forge and expand can be crossed out. Those are cards that I usually don't really mind my opponent getting it early. Maybe forge can be put into the sheer dumb luck category...

1.)  You're probably right.  I think it depends partially on the trasher available though too.  For instance, a heavy trasher like Chapel, Remake or Steward would be significantly better than the likes of Loan or Lookout.  In cases of lighter trashing, the benefit of additional trashing is probably not worth it if it cost you that early chance at a province.  But I completely agree with you that if you can get that engine going fast, you want to do that.

2.)  I guess by snowballing in a general sense, I mean that it is an advantage that can be used to bring you to victory.  I agree, the split itself probably won't magnify any advantage, but it will definitely increase you probability of winning the longer the game goes.

As for GM, I actually put in on both lists (Want 1st and Want a lot of).  I say you want it first b/c of it's inherent nature to make subsequent GM purchases easier.  For this reason, things like Baron/Silver and Quarry/Quarry/Quarry... become ideal in there ability to quickly obtain that first GM.  And once you get started buying the GM's, it just so hard to stop  :)

3.)  Ha ha... you raise a very valid point.  I suppose I put Forge in that list because unless you have a great drawing deck, the trashing becomes worse as the game progresses.  As for Expand, you're probably right.  Unless you've got great $5's that you want to turn your Estates into, Expand is probably a better mid game buy.

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qmech

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Re: Snowballing
« Reply #4 on: July 14, 2012, 03:35:51 am »
+3

It is not uncommon that the best way to get the tournament prizes is through trashing/engine.
The fastest roller coaster dips below the target point. 
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DG

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Re: Snowballing
« Reply #5 on: July 14, 2012, 06:10:43 am »
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From one perspective, mountebanks and swindlers don't snowball since their attacks becomes less effective the more often that they are played. Ambassador and torturer keep hurting though the more often they are played and they can build up momentum until the game is won.

Horn of Plenty can also be a snowballing card, as can hoard maybe, highway, and haggler.
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meow

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Re: Snowballing
« Reply #6 on: July 14, 2012, 06:26:12 am »
0

From one perspective, mountebanks and swindlers don't snowball since their attacks becomes less effective the more often that they are played. Ambassador and torturer keep hurting though the more often they are played and they can build up momentum until the game is won.

Horn of Plenty can also be a snowballing card, as can hoard maybe, highway, and haggler.


I'd call swindler a "strong snowball enabler" largely by the possibility of an early key $5->Duchy (or $6->Fairgrounds/Farmland), and to a lesser extent swindler to undesirable $3. 
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pingpongsam

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Re: Snowballing
« Reply #7 on: July 14, 2012, 09:27:51 am »
0

Cards you want more of:

Hunting Party

Bank

Colony
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hobo386

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Re: Snowballing
« Reply #8 on: July 14, 2012, 09:37:30 am »
0

From my experience, tournament performs very well with trashing and cycling, even if it is weak trashing like lookout.  Actually, especially with cards like lookout that let you trash an estate and then set up your next card to be a tournament or province or whatever you need.
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ehunt

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Re: Snowballing
« Reply #9 on: July 14, 2012, 09:46:41 am »
0

Young Witch has a double snowball effect. Let's say the bane is something like loan. We both open young witch, loan. Turn 3: I play my young witch while you have no loan in hand, yay, you get a curse. You play your young witch, haha, I have an loan in my hand. Now,

1. I'm way ahead for the rest of the game, just like if I had played a witch on the second shuffle and you hadn't,

and

2. the probability that you have a loan in your hand on any future occasion in which i play YW is lower than the probability that I have a loan in my hand on any future occasion in which you play YW, because you have a curse in your deck.

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jayarsea

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Re: Snowballing
« Reply #10 on: July 14, 2012, 01:52:00 pm »
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I think the Embargo makes sense as a card which causes snowballing. My opponent opened 5/2 on a board where the 5 of interest was margrave and also bought an embargo. I opened 4/3 (in the 2nd player spot) and was locked out of the margrave when my opponent embargoed it on turn 3 (no trashers in this game either).
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eHalcyon

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Re: Snowballing
« Reply #11 on: July 14, 2012, 02:42:01 pm »
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I think the Embargo makes sense as a card which causes snowballing. My opponent opened 5/2 on a board where the 5 of interest was margrave and also bought an embargo. I opened 4/3 (in the 2nd player spot) and was locked out of the margrave when my opponent embargoed it on turn 3 (no trashers in this game either).

Don't be afraid to buy a card that is embargoed.  If you really need that Margrave, take the curse.  It's only one curse.  If he embargoed it more than that, then it's a different story.
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gman314

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Re: Snowballing
« Reply #12 on: July 14, 2012, 05:33:55 pm »
+1

A major luck-dependent snowball card in a sense is Treasure Map. One can beat a stronger player by getting the sheer dumb luck of a quick Treasure Map collision, especially on a board which isn't actually very good for Treasure Map.
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ksf_

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Re: Snowballing
« Reply #13 on: July 15, 2012, 01:31:29 am »
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We need a reference to the apocryphal Einstein quote about compounding interest.
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clb

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Re: Snowballing
« Reply #14 on: July 15, 2012, 01:38:41 am »
0

We need a reference to the apocryphal Einstein quote about compounding interest.

Will this work for you?
http://www.snopes.com/quotes/einstein/interest.asp
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pingpongsam

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Re: Snowballing
« Reply #15 on: July 15, 2012, 09:36:59 am »
0

I think the Embargo makes sense as a card which causes snowballing. My opponent opened 5/2 on a board where the 5 of interest was margrave and also bought an embargo. I opened 4/3 (in the 2nd player spot) and was locked out of the margrave when my opponent embargoed it on turn 3 (no trashers in this game either).

Don't be afraid to buy a card that is embargoed.  If you really need that Margrave, take the curse.  It's only one curse.  If he embargoed it more than that, then it's a different story.

This!!

Don't get psyched out so easily when a key card is embargoed.
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dondon151

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Re: Snowballing
« Reply #16 on: July 15, 2012, 11:36:42 am »
0

I'm surprised that Ambassador tennis has only been mentioned once thus far?
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popsofctown

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Re: Snowballing
« Reply #17 on: July 15, 2012, 11:55:08 am »
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The engine snowballing example was really just an example of high-cost-card snowballing.

You should add Quarry to the list of cards that is good for high cost card snowballing..
« Last Edit: July 15, 2012, 11:58:24 am by popsofctown »
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carstimon

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Re: Snowballing
« Reply #18 on: July 15, 2012, 12:20:44 pm »
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A major luck-dependent snowball card in a sense is Treasure Map. One can beat a stronger player by getting the sheer dumb luck of a quick Treasure Map collision, especially on a board which isn't actually very good for Treasure Map.
I feel like this is a non-example.  Yeah, colliding your treasure maps takes luck, but it doesn't help you get more treasure maps connected or anything.  Compare this to the example where your ambassadors flow well turns 3/4, and then you can ambassador much more going on.
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gman314

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Re: Snowballing
« Reply #19 on: July 15, 2012, 09:55:04 pm »
0

A major luck-dependent snowball card in a sense is Treasure Map. One can beat a stronger player by getting the sheer dumb luck of a quick Treasure Map collision, especially on a board which isn't actually very good for Treasure Map.
I feel like this is a non-example.  Yeah, colliding your treasure maps takes luck, but it doesn't help you get more treasure maps connected or anything.  Compare this to the example where your ambassadors flow well turns 3/4, and then you can ambassador much more going on.

No, it doesn't help you get more TMs connected. However, it helps you flow immediately into Province-buying mode. (It's less powerful in Colony games). If your deck consists of 4 Golds, 7 Coppers and 3 Estates, then you have a very awesome big money deck.
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carstimon

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Re: Snowballing
« Reply #20 on: July 16, 2012, 12:45:46 am »
+1

Yeah, sure.  But if you want "snowballing" to mean anything besides just sheer luck, connecting treasure maps should not be what you want it to mean.

Consider dominion with only copper,silver,gold,estate,duchy,province, and one of these extra rules:
Rule A:
At the beginning of your turn, role a die.  If you roll a one, gain 4 golds.
Rule B:
At the beginning of your turn, role a die.  If you roll a one, you may reveal a gold. If you do, gain 4 golds.
Rule B exhibits the phenomenon of snowballing.  Rule A does not.
« Last Edit: July 16, 2012, 12:58:21 am by carstimon »
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DStu

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Re: Snowballing
« Reply #21 on: July 16, 2012, 05:26:02 am »
+2

It is not uncommon that the best way to get the tournament prizes is through trashing/engine.
The fastest roller coaster dips below the target point.

I'm pretty sure that depends on the relative position of starting and endpoint...
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zahlman

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Re: Snowballing
« Reply #22 on: July 16, 2012, 06:11:35 am »
+1

It is not uncommon that the best way to get the tournament prizes is through trashing/engine.
The fastest roller coaster dips below the target point.

I'm pretty sure that depends on the relative position of starting and endpoint...

Yes; it depends on the slope of the line connecting those points.
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qmech

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Re: Snowballing
« Reply #23 on: July 16, 2012, 01:30:57 pm »
0

It is not uncommon that the best way to get the tournament prizes is through trashing/engine.
The fastest roller coaster dips below the target point.

I'm pretty sure that depends on the relative position of starting and endpoint...

I agonised between adding "sometimes" and hoping it always held (checking was not a serious option :P ).  Looks like I made the wrong call.  In retrospect the "sometimes" would have helped the (already tortured) analogy anyway.
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