Top 5 Keys to Convention Preparation

We give our top 5 tips for convention preparation from the designer and publisher perspective. We also cover these topics:
– Smaller conventions vs. bigger conventions
– Should we go to non-gaming conventions?
– Matching conventions to your theme
– Reusing signage and supplies
– How many copies to bring?
– Packing for a con

Audio/Podcast Version: http://traffic.libsyn.com/theforbiddenlimb/FLP025.mp3

 

 

 

 

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Suburbia Strategy Primer

This is a strategy primer for Suburbia, by Ted Alspach. This only specifically covers the base game. Check out the video version immediately below or the text version that follows.

In Suburbia, your goal is to build up 3 locations to best play your investment markers. The game can be broken down into an Early Game, which is when you go through the A stack of tiles, the Middle Game, which is the B stack of tiles, and the Late Game is the C stack. You usually want to build up a good Income base in the early game, then switch over to a focus on Reputation in the middle game, then finish it off with getting Population any way you can in the late game.

High Level Strategies

The three high-level strategies I recommend are Residential (with Civic and Schools), Industrial (with Airports), and Commercial (with Condominiums). Choosing which one you use will depend almost completely on the goals you get because completing those goals will be extremely important when you’re calculating your final score. The only goal not worth achieving is the Fewest Investment Markers. Next, I will go through the 3 best strategies I have found, discussing the ideal borough layout for each one along with a walk-through of what you want from each stack.

Residential/Civic/Schools

First Investment Marker: Landfill, Farm, or Mint

Second Investment Marker: Stadium

Third Investment Marker: University or Museum

Critical Tiles: Casino, Stadium

Goals: Most Residential, Most Civic, Most Contiguous Civic, Least Income, Fewest Industrial, Highest Reputation, Most Lakes, Most Contiguous Lakes

Stack A: You will want a lake on each side of your Heavy Factory and Community Park. Start building a residential circle with any Homeowner’s Association tiles that appear. The Mint can also help give you a boost of 3 Income early and then $2 every time you build a new Civic building, which will help for all your schools. Although the money from the two lakes and possible Mint will help, you’ll still need to get either Industry or Commercial tiles to gain income, probably in the form of Fast Food Restaurant, Landfill, and/or Farm. You need to get some cash to buy some critical tiles that are coming up in stack B.

Stack B: You badly need the Stadium and the Casino in this one. A museum will be very nice as well. You are continuing to build your circle of residentials to go around the Stadium. You can also build a circle of civic tiles to go around a Museum. You will be grabbing any school you see, so you should have plenty of civic tiles. You can use Burg Von Alspach in the center of your residential circle if you are unable to get a Stadium.

Stack C: University, High School, and Middle School will be very nice additions to your borough, but others are decent too, like the Boutique and Bed & Breakfast. If you have been building schools, everyone will want that University tile when it drops, so make sure you can afford to grab it for $25, if needed.

Industrial/Airports

First Investment Marker: Municipal Airport

Second Investment Marker: Community Park

Third Investment Marker: Recycling Plant

Critical Tiles: Recycling Plant

Goals: Most Industrial, Most Airports, Fewest Lakes, Most Money, Most Reputation, Fewest Commercial, Fewest Residential

The airport part of the strategy is great because it gives you what you need when you need it. It gives you Income with the stack A airports, then adds Reputation in the stack B airports, and both in the stack C airports. Even if you don’t end up with 3+ airports by the end of the game, they will still help you, plus, other people buying them can help you as well, so you can benefit from them without even spending one of your turns on it. The Recycling Plant is extremely critical to this strategy as a source of Reputation.

Stack A: Municipal Airports are the most important in the A stack, but you can also grab Heavy Factory and Community Park. You can build an oval of Industrial for a future Recycling Center and Community Park. Go ahead and throw down an Investment Marker on the Municipal Airport right away so you can take advantage of its bonus throughout the whole game as it will keep growing with airports in every stack.

Stack B: Domestic Airports are the most important B tiles, but Power Station and Casino are also very good.The Recycling Plant is so critical to this strategy that you will want to make sure you have $27 saved up as soon as the first C tile hits the table so you can buy it immediately.

Stack C: You need the Recycling Plant. The PR Firm and International Airport are both exceptional as well. The Local EPA Office is decent, and the University will likely be very lucrative if someone else has been building schools.

Commercial

First Investment Marker: Community Park

Second Investment Marker: Office Building

Third Investment Marker: Condominium

Critical Tiles: PR Firm, Condominium

Goals: Most Commercial, Most Money, Most Income, Least Reputation, Fewest Civic, Fewest Industrial, Highest Income, Fewest Lakes

This one will get you started with some high Income tiles, build up a lot of cash, and then cap it off with Population boosters at the end. It’s hard to get a lot of Reputation in the end game with this strategy so, if you fall behind in Population, you won’t be able to easily catch up. Because of this, you will want to keep your Reputation above 0 by buying a Community Park and/or putting an early Investment Marker on your starting Community Park so you can make some steady progress in Population throughout the game. It is also possible to splash in some airports or even switch over to residential midway through if you can grab a Stadium since you will be building Condominiums and Apartments anyway.

You will want to choose once side of your starting tiles to build on and the other side will not be used, except for maybe utilizing the other edge of you starting Community Park or building Housing Projects. There are a lot of Commercial tiles that give you bonuses for adjacent Commercial tiles, so you’ll want to build a large oval instead of a small circle so you can clump more of your Commercial tiles together.

Stack A: Get Business Supply Stores and Office Buildings to start building your commercial oval. Feel free to create a lake on the side opposite your commercial oval because you’ll be able to use that as a barrier for Housing Projects later anyway. You can also put an Investment Marker on your starting Community Park and/or an Office Building.

Stack B: This is the only strategy where you can skip the Casino because you will have no money trouble and the negative 3 Reputation will hurt you too much, but the PR Firm will be extremely critical because Reputation will be hard to get. Your Income and cash options will allow you to buy it as soon as it drops. You can also get Housing Projects if you have a spot for it.

Stack C: You need that PR Firm because you will be greatly boosting your Population and will want to avoid hitting -5 Reputation. You will want to grab any Apartments and Condominium tiles that appear to go into your commercial oval. A Chip Fabrication Plant is nice, but they are expensive. You could also grab the University or International Airport tiles to get Reputation for another player’s airport or school-building efforts.

Forbidden Desert Strategy Primer

This is a strategy primer for the game Forbidden Desert, by Matt Leacock. Each time you sit down to play it, you have a monumental challenge in front of you, and if you are able to achieve victory, you have earned it. I will be covering a high-level strategy that I recommend and then a discussion on how to avoid each of the three losing conditions. Check out the video immediately below or the text version that follows it.

High-Level Strategies

The game can be separated into 3 phases, divided by the excavation of each well. I will call these Early, Game Middle Game, and Late Game.

Early Game

This phase involves splitting up the team to excavate in different directions while planning to end on the first well tile when water gets low. Hopefully someone finds a Terrascope so you can be sure everyone is heading to a well and not a mirage. Decide on one of the wells to be your first meeting spot right away and confirm it if you find a Terrascope. No one needs to excavate near the meeting point because everyone will be there soon to help with that.

Before you go, have first player excavate the helicopter spot and distribute the equipment where it makes sense, since you all begin on the same spot. For example, you wouldn’t want the Archeologist to have the Dune Blaster, or if it is a Jet Pack, it should go to the person with the most water so they can go to the furthest corner without worrying about making the return trip on foot.

Your goal is to excavate as much as you can while making it back to the meeting spot for the first well excavation. The number of turns you take before meeting depend on the difficulty level, the number of players, the canteen capacity of team members, tunnels found along the way, and how early Sun Beats Down cards are drawn. Each game will be different so stay within 4 squares of the meeting point after your first couple turns.

Middle Game

Everyone should all be back at the meeting point with at least 3 drinks of water to begin the middle game. Assume that you will need to excavate every tile before the end of the game and be happily surprised if you find everything earlier. With that in mind, decide on your next well meeting point and head to the places that still need to be excavated. Again, stay within 1 turn (usually 4 spaces) of that meeting point so you can run back to excavate the well if you run low on water, but if you can end your turns in tunnels, you may be able to skip this meeting point. But with the storm meter rising, if you are not able to end your turns in tunnels, you won’t have as much time before your canteen begins running dry, so do not stray too far from the meeting point unless you have a Jet Pack. If you find a Terrascope, you can use it to confirm the location of the last well to better plan for your meeting point.

End Game

Each game is so different that the game state during this phase need to be analyzed before deciding on how to finish your remaining objectives, but there is one key piece of advice I can offer. During this phase, at the beginning of each player’s turn, take a look at the 3 possible ways you can lose and assess your risk of them occurring. This will help you mitigate this risk and buy you as much time as possible. The next section will help with this task.

Risk Mitigation for Loss Conditions

The most important key to Forbidden Desert is improving your understanding of where you are compared to the 3 loss conditions. When you lose, note how you lose so you can work on preventing losing in that way in future games. You can run out of sand tiles, run out of water, or lose from the storm meter, and learning how to avoid them all is like learning how to juggle. It’s easy to avoid one of them, and even two isn’t that hard, but juggling all 3 is a formidable challenge. If you lose by running out of water, figure out how to use tunnels, water trading, and wells so that doesn’t happen anymore. Then you’ll start losing in another way, which is OK, because you can then start figuring out how to avoid that one.

Thirst

This is the most annoying way to lose because it can happen even if you play perfectly. You are only as hydrated as the person with your smallest canteen. Take note of who that is at the beginning of the game since they will determine how long you can go and how far you can travel before filling up. But if the 4 Sun Beats Down cards happen to be the first 4 in the deck when you start the game, you will lose immediately if you have someone on your team with a canteen capacity of 3. Because of these kinds of scenarios, you have to accept some risks concerning water.

The most important key to avoiding this loss condition is to use tunnels effectively. Those with the least water in their canteen should stay around the tunnels and end their turn there whenever possible. This is even more important with more players because ending a turn outside of a tunnel means you are exposed for more draws of the Storm Deck before you can move again.

If you get a Terrascope early in the game, you will use it on a well so you can better plan on where the wells are so you can stay loosely tethered to them. If you get a Jet Pack early, you can explore a far corner and still jet back to a well before it is excavated by your team.

Keep a close eye on how many of the 4 Sun Beats Down cards you have drawn and how many are left compared to the number of cards remaining in the Storm Deck. This will give you the percent chance of drawing one as you draw on each turn.

Buried

If you lose because you run out of sand tiles, you simply need to spend more action points on the Clearing Sand action. If you have an Archeologist on your team, make sure they know it is their primary responsibility to ensure the team does not lose because of this condition. Having this role will allow you to focus more on avoiding the other two loss conditions. If you do not have this role, each player will have to spend some of their action points on the Clear Sand action. It’s usually a very acceptable use of an action to clear sand on an unexcavated tile, even if you do not plan excavate it any time soon.

Swept Away

If you lose because of the Storm Meter, you are likely just not being as efficient as you need to be. You may be spending too many action points to end your turn in tunnels, not taking the shortest path between two points, or not taking advantage of each player’s role as frequently as you could be. If you can avoid the other two loss conditions, this one will just take experience to find ways to become more efficient.

Conclusion

Again, Mr. Leacock has created an extremely difficult challenge when he created this game for those playing on the Legendary difficulty, so losing is expected sometimes, even if you play perfectly. Improving your chances of winning is a logic puzzle that will likely take you MANY playthroughs before you feel like you have mastered it.

Carcassonne Strategy Primer

This is a strategy primer for the base game of Carcassonne. A lot of the ideas in this analysis relate to the expansions, but this article is focused on the base game to make it the most applicable to the majority of Carcassonne players. Check out the video version immediately below or the text version that follows.

The key to Carcassonne is being able to look at the game state and the tile you draw and decide whether to use it defensively, use it to collect short-term points, or use it for long-term-points. You want to reduce risk and maximize point expectations with thoughtful tile placement. The game does have a lot of luck involved in the tile drawing, so even the most elite Carcassonne player drawing too many road tiles can still lose to someone who just learned the rules and drew a bunch of monasteries.

High-Level Strategy

Below are three high-level strategies that you can utilize in a game of Carcassonne. I recommend against using a single strategy every time and expect to win consistently because you do not know which distribution of tiles you will draw. If you plan pre-game to go for one strategy, your tile drawing may not match it and you will likely lose miserably.

Small Cities (and Farming)

In this strategy, you keep to yourself, build a bunch of small cities for short-term points, and then place followers in nearby fields to farm long-term points for you. Road tiles are used to turn roads away from your corner of the board so they do not interfere with your cities or fields, and also used defensively to send them towards your opponents’ cities, fields, and monasteries. The small cities and roads will get you your followers back quickly so they can be used again and the field placements will allow you to cash in on the large number of small cities around the map as a source of long-term points.

Big Cities

This strategy is basically the opposite of the previous one. Here you work with your opponents to build massive cities and share the points. You will abandon field farming and hope large cities dominate the map so that those who choose to farm will not get many points from it. Basically, when you get a city tile, you put it next to an already-started large city with your follower in it or bridge one of your other cities into an existing city. When you do this, you can assume you will never get your follower back as those large cities tend to get out of control. It is also easy for someone to block its completion by building roads near it.

Opportunistic (Mix)

In the opportunistic strategy, you forget about pre-game strategies and just make the decision of where to go each time you draw a tile based on the current game state. It’s your best bet if you have a mind for game theory and can accurately weigh the utility of going for short-term points versus long-term point potential with each tile you draw. The other two strategies allow you to avoid having to weigh all of your options and just go heads-down in a direction that will score you a substantial number of points. As you play more Carcassonne, you will start drifting away from the others and settle mostly on this strategy.

Tile Placement

Each tile placement in Carcassonne is very critical, so take your time when deciding where to go. The more players you have in a game, the more it will be left up to the luck of the draw and the more liberal you can be in placing those followers in places where you will not get them back right away. In a 2 player game, you have 35.5 turns, 23.7 in a 3-player game, 17.75 in a 4-player game, and 14.2 for a 5-player game. You can see the Turn Advantage column below that shows which players get to take an extra turn.

player_table

Monasteries

Monasteries are BY FAR the best tile you can get in the game. It gets you a significant number of points, it’s fairly easy to complete to get your follower back, and you can build cities and roads next to it to double-dip on points. If you get a monastery early game, always place your follower on it, but if it is very late in the game, you may find it more effective to put your follower on the field spot to get points from completed cities near it or by using it without a follower to extend the field of one of your existing farmers. These are the main reason you need to always have a spare follower in your pool because, if you draw one of these and you are out of followers, you will miss out on a lot of points.

With monasteries, let your opponents help you complete them. You can’t realistically spend 9 turns placing tiles around it, but if you put it next to cities, roads, and monasteries in which your opponents have already invested, they will complete much of it for you. You can encourage their help by putting long, open roads or unclaimed cities that may be too juicy for them to pass up, even if it means giving you points.

Roads

It’s always sad when you draw a road because they won’t score you many points and placing followers on it still run the risk of them getting stranded, but they are the most effective way to block your opponents by using them defensively. It is extremely valuable to block them by preventing them from completing a road, city, or monastery through creating a set of sides that will not appear in the remaining draw tiles. It will greatly diminish their ability to score points throughout the rest of the game and improve your relative standing. For example, in the image below, the road/city tile green placed kept my blue monk from completing his monastery and stranded my blue thief on the road. One tile severely hindered my ability to score points throughout the rest of the game.

Fields

If you are going for fields, be very careful with your mid and end game placements because it is very easy to connect fields to opponent farmers that can lose the majority for you or give a bunch of points to an opponent. Farmer placement in the end game is an art form and your skill in this will improve over time. Do not get obsessed with farmers early in the game, especially in a game with fewer players, because they are a huge investment in forever stranding them and you need your followers to stretch over more turns the fewer players there are in the game.

Cities

The biggest city you want is 5 tiles if you hope to complete it, otherwise, assume you will not be getting it back for the rest of the game and chalk it up as a long-term investment. When you see an open city “cap” piece on the board and you draw another one, you almost always want to complete it as a 2-tile city with your follower inside to grab a quick 4 points that has no risk of stranding a follower.

General Tactics

Try to always be working on a single road and a single city so you can make use of each of those types of pieces. Do not attempt to work on two of either of them because others will likely steal points from you or block you on one if you split your attention and that will result in stranded followers.

Don’t use your last follower until your final turn. There are exceptions here, like if you draw a monastery or you can put a follower in a field that you expect to get you 20 points, but make sure you have a few “outs” to get followers back into your pool in the very near future if you empty your pool. Part of this is playing a game where you aren’t stranding your followers everywhere and instead you are focusing on completing roads, cities, and monasteries to get them back and re-use them.

Always have a rival in mind that you determine to be your biggest threat, which you will try to thwart when you get a chance. This rival may change (and probably will) throughout the game. For those who are not doing well point-wise, you can avoid wasting your energy complicating their game and just focus on scoring your own points.

Coup Strategy Primer

Success in Coup depends on the cold, hard skills of probability and deduction along with the fluffy, social skills of deceiving and lie detection. It’s about choosing which roles to pretend to be while challenging at the right time. To keep this short, I will mostly stay away from talking about the social skills and focus on the math. Check out the video immediately below or continue on for the text version.

Strategy Progression

Unlike most games, there isn’t much of a middle game because games of Coup are so short. I am characterizing high-level strategy in terms of Early Game and Late Game. Overall, you can feel free to claim to be anyone you wish in the early game because the only people who will likely challenge you are those with a pair of the character you are claiming. Once you get into the late game, players have much more information about the characters remaining, so you need to be careful about making false claims about your character.

Early Game

In the early game, you want to be the Duke so you can gain the coin advantage. The Assassin can be nice to knock opponents down in influence early and the Contessa can help to block early assassination attempts as well. If you are none of these, you may want to take the Ambassador action and exchange your cards with the Court Deck.

Do not take foreign aid in the early game. There will likely be many others claiming to be the Duke and taking 3 coins so it will not be much of a risk to also claim to be the Duke to block your foreign aid.

In your first few turns, pretend to be the Duke, even if you are not. Getting 3 coins per turn will be extremely helpful later in the game. It will not be worth it for your opponents to challenge you unless you do it every single time. It does make you a bit of a target if you have more coins than anyone else, so do not be afraid to use them early to assassinate someone.

Late Game

The best late game character is the Captain to steal and block others’ stealing and control the cash flow. The Contessa can also be nice if someone attempts to assassinate you and the Assassin can be good for a final assassination for 3 coins instead of 7. If you are not one of these after the first player is exiled, you may want to take the Ambassador action to exchange cards with the Court Deck.

Once you get into the late game when there are 1-2 opponents remaining, taking foreign aid can force others to give you information or allow you to get 2 coins each turn. 2 coins and information may be more valuable late game than getting 3 coins with the Duke.

Stealing with the Captain gets to be far more valuable in the late game as your number of opponents decreases. If you have a single opponent, taking 2 coins from them means +2 for you and -2 for them, resulting in a 4 coin swing in your favor, and likely securing an uncontested Coup in a matter of turns.

If you and an opponent each have 1 influence, it comes down to who will be able to get up to 7 coins first. You usually have three options here: steal with the Captain, tax with the Duke, or assassinate with the Assassin. If you do not have any of these characters, you better start faking it as the Captain or the Duke until you have the coin advantage or you will lose.

Challenging

After you play a bit with the same group, you will run into a situation where someone always says they are the Duke. Should you challenge them? Well, maybe you have a good read on them and can tell when they’re lying, but let me explain the odds. When you are given your initial hand, you have seen two of the fifteen cards. If none of them are the Duke, the chances that this opponent’s Duke claim is honest is 6/13 = 46.15%.  I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t want to bet my influence on almost a flip of a coin. BUT, if you have a Duke card in your hand, the chances that they are also the Duke falls to 4/13 = 30.77%. This becomes more reasonable to challenge them on it. If you have a pair of Dukes, it drops to 15.38%.

As the game progresses past the initial hand, you’re on your own. There are only 15 cards in the whole Court Deck, so you can do some quick probability calculations every time someone takes a character action to get a feel for the likelihood that they are telling the truth. Use that, along with past character actions and any tells they may have to help make your final decision about when to challenge.

Assassinations

If you have 2 influence, NEVER:

  • Falsely claim to be the Contessa when you are being assassinated.

  • Challenge an Assassin who is assassinating you. (unless you have perfect information that they are not the assassin)

If you are wrong about either of these two, you are exiled. You will be ridiculed and then left to sadly sit and watch the rest of the game with an embarrassed look on your face. It’s far better to just accept the assassination and live to fight another day.

A corollary to this is that you can pretend to be an assassin and assassinate someone with 2 influence and your opponent is less likely to challenge it.

General Tactics

Use pairs to your advantage. When your opponents claim to be a particular character, they do not expect someone to have 2 of them, so this is a good time to challenge them. Just keep in mind that there are only 15 cards in the deck so there is still a good chance they have the other character card unless it is already face-up. Also, if someone is closely watching your claims, you can try to trick them by continuing to claim you are someone even after you lose an influence, especially if you make it look like you acted very quickly and possibly overlooked the fact that you lost that character when you lost your influence. If you do not see any opportunities to use your pairs to your advantage, you may want to use the Ambassador action so you can get two different characters.

It is very unlikely someone will challenge whether you are the Ambassador because it doesn’t immediately hurt them and is not guaranteed to help you, so feel free to falsely use this action if you do not like your current hand.

Once player A steals from player B using the Captain and player B allows it, anyone else can safely steal from player B. This means that you need to be careful when you allow anyone to steal from you because others may pile on and it means you should feel free to get in on that action if someone else allows it.

After you have played with the same group for a few games and they improve their bluffing skills, you will want to begin making most of your decisions on perfect information, or at least deducing which information is highly likely to be correct based on the face up cards, the cards in your hand, and their past claims. People get harder to read with practice.

The Manhattan Project Strategy Primer

The Manhattan Project is an awesome worker-placement game that appeals to a very wide audience. Hard-core gamers will be fairly challenged to build their bomb-production engine faster than their opponents while others will find it to be a very easy-to-use gateway, worker-placement experience. The theme is beautifully woven into the gameplay and the graphic design makes the moderately complex decisions seem simple. This analysis is focused on the base game, but most of this applies to the expansions as well. Supplemental data used during this analysis can be found here: manhattan_project_data. Also, you can check out the video version immediately below or the text version that follows it.

High-Level Strategies

The three possible high-level strategies are:

·         Go for Plutonium – cheap and quick, but lower points mean more bombs are needed… this may involve testing a bomb first.

·         Go for Uranium – expensive (requires coins as input) and slow to produce, but higher points on bombs means fewer are needed.

·         Mix and Match – this requires more micromanagement and effectively requires both a Reactor and Enrichment Plant in your building menagerie.

Each strategy is quite viable where the best one for you in a particular game depends on the bomb designs you are able to acquire, the buildings you are able to construct, and the number of players in the game since more players means the fewer the points you need to win. Going the plutonium route along with testing a small bomb first is usually the best plan, especially with fewer players (because more points are needed for winning), but if you are able to acquire 2 uranium designs that add up to the points you need to win, that will be the quickest and easiest path to victory. Plutonium is twice as easy to produce and doesn’t require coins as an input for the Reactors like every uranium Enrichment Plant does. Plutonium bombs do not require twice as much plutonium for the same point value, so if you are able to construct buildings with plutonium output and grab plutonium bomb designs, go heads-down plutonium and don’t look back.

Strategy Progression

Early Game

Your focus right away is on training your workers and constructing buildings. All of your workers should go onto either the scientist University, engineer University, or Construction spots for the first few turns. You need to get yourself up to a full workforce expeditiously so you can optimize your efficiency for the rest of the game. Buying University buildings is extremely fruitful on your first few turns if they are affordable. You will also need an early Mine or two, and if you can grab a Factory that has an output of coins, it will serve you extremely well throughout the game. If you cannot use all of your workers on your turn, you know that you need to build more buildings, and if you have vacant buildings at the end of your turn, you know you need to recruit a larger workforce.

Mid Game

Next, your focus turns towards manufacturing yellowcake in your mines, getting a reactor/plant for plutonium or uranium, and placing on the bomb design board space. This will get you a goal to work towards and get you two bomb designs to use for your planning. More designs will come from opponents designing bombs where the designs you choose depend on whether you can produce uranium or plutonium. Continue constructing buildings when you see Factories with coin output, Mines, or your type of Reactor/Plant comes up so you can utilize your entire workforce every other turn. Ideally, you are placing your entire workforce on your buildings one turn, then recalling them all on the next. Occassionally you have to place two turns in a row before you recall because there is a valuable spot open on the board like Espionage or a University you need, but try not to make that a habit.

End Game

Now you are fairly locked into your high-level strategy and will have to keep an eye out for another Reactor/Plant that produces your needed resource type and be ready to buy it at a high price before someone else snatches it up. You want 2-3 Mines plus 2-3 sources of plutonium and/or uranium on your buildings in the early part of the end game to churn out that bomb material like mad. This is where it is particularly important to not lose focus on what matters: getting the points you need to win the game. Don’t worry about building planes, doing airstrikes, and making materials that are not required for the bombs you need to win. If you do not need anymore yellowcake for your last bombs, don’t bother making it.

Building Valuation

The effectiveness of each type of building differs greatly in this game, so you can give yourself a significant edge by choosing the more efficient producers over the less efficient, but do not over-think it because, if you need yellowcake, just grab a Mine, even if it isn’t the best one you’ve ever seen. Note that I am not taking into account the worker/time investment required for each, although you should consider it when you make your building selections to ensure you have enough workers to match its input needs. For purposes of evaluating resource input compared to output, we will use coins as the common denominator, where the value of each resource is shown below.

resource_values_cropped

This was determined based on an average cost of resources in each way they can be acquired. Again more details can be found here: manhattan_project_data

Mines

Below is a list of each mine with its input, output, and value. You can see that there is one ultimate Mine, where a single engineer can produce 3 yellowcake! The other Mines with a value of 3 are also very good, so keep an eye out for all of them and happily pay a premium for them if they appear on the building market.

mines_data

Plutonium Reactors

As you can see below, just like with the Mines, there is a standout plutonium Reactor where 1 scientist and 1 yellowcake gets you 1 plutonium. If you can get that in the early game, you have no excuse for not being victorious. The 1 uranium for 3 plutonium Reactor is an excellent deal as well, but requires that you have a source of uranium. You don’t want to waste your board placements on uranium or plutonium if you can help it, but that conversion ratio may make it worth your while if you grab that building. Keep an eye out for the other two with resource values of .444 as they are very nice as well.

plutonium_data2_cropped

Uranium Enrichment Plant

Uranium Enrichment Plants are similar to Mines and Reactors in that there is one exceptional prospect in the bunch, this one being the 5 coins and 2 yellowcake for 2 uranium. The .235 and .22 resource value Plants are worth having on your radar too in case they come up on the market.

uranium_manufacturing2_cropped

Universities

These are very good in the early game and steadily go down in value as your workforce expands throughout the game. Even in the late game, it’s nice to convert a standard worker for a contractor that is a scientist or engineer to help with your more worker-expensive buildings and bombs. You should get at least one of these in the early game, even if you have to spend a little extra on the building market for them.

Factories

These are only useful when their output is money, but that is extremely good. The one with the engineer as input and 5 coins as output is one of those ultimate buildings that you should buy almost no matter the price on the market.

General Tactics

Long-term benefit is better than short-term benefit in the early and mid-game. You want to train workers and construct buildings, even though you may feel your opponents are getting out to a big lead. This is just fine because you don’t want to be a target anyway. Having a full workforce and a wide array of buildings on your mat will be far more beneficial. Only place on the main board Mine, Reactor, or Enrichment Plants in the end game to get your final points to win, otherwise try to stick to your own buildlings for these resources.

Focus on the goals that matter and do not be distracted by everything else! You will be tempted to build fighters, bombers, go on assaults, or place on board locations that only give you short-term benefit instead of constructing buildings and training workers for long-term benefit, but you must resist. Just know the points you need to win, acquire designs that will get you to those points, and then focus entirely on getting the resources you need to build those bombs. When calculating your point needs, add 5 points for each bomb you plan to build because you will almost always load them… also, do not forget about the bonus points you get for testing if you plan to test a bomb. If you can find a small bomb to test, it’s often well worth it.

Do not just build bombs whenever you can because bombs on the table mean you become a target. If you can get 2 big bombs, try to save up all resources required to build them and load them so you can throw them down at once, or in close proximity. Of course, if your bombs require too many workers to build to get you to the victory total, build a smaller one but don’t load it before doing a late game recall so it’s on the table and you can use your fresh set of workers to build your final bomb(s). You might as well only load your bombs at the very end so you are less of a target and you can use the bombers to threaten players even though you know you would never waste them in a bombing run, although that does come with the slight risk that someone will shoot down your bombers with their fighters before you can load your bombs, so be careful.

Stay away from fighters, bombers, and air strikes. They waste resources and time that you need to be the first to build the bombs required to win. Only build enough bombers so you can load each of the bombs you plan to build and do not build any fighters unless your opponents are very aggressive. If you get bombed, it’s OK, just repair. That time and money will be cheaper than building up an airforce and wasting time using it.

Use espionage whenever it is available. Espionage is amazing. You get the benefit of your opponents’ buildings while significantly reducing their ability to manufacture resources. You’re going to place your workers on your own buildings anyway so why not place them on opponents buildings first and choke up their capabilities while freeing up your own buildings? This is one time where delaying your recall and placing multiple turns in a row may be worth it to leave your workers on opponent buildings or valuable board spots so others cannot use them.

Money is very powerful in this game. Before taking money from the factory board spaces, check to see if there is anything in the bribe pile because that is frequently overlooked.

Know who the leader is in the game, if it is not you. Try to get others to team up against them, hopefully by using few/none of your resources to do it. When using espionage, try to use their buildings first to slow them down.

Words with Friends (and Scrabble) Strategy Primer

This is a strategy guide for the game Words with Friends. It is based on the basic game, 2-player game, but much of what this contains can be used in 3-4 player games, other variants, or in Scrabble. Keep reading the detailed text version below or view the brief video version that immediately follows this sentence.

The biggest misconception Words with Friends players have is thinking that the best players are the ones who make the biggest words or have the largest vocabulary. That is extremely inaccurate. The most important keys are:

  • Know all the 2 letter words. They are:
    AA, AB, AD, AE, AG, AH, AI, AL, AM, AN, AR, AS, AT, AW, AX, AY, BA, BE, BI, BO, BY, DA, DE, DI, DO, ED, EF, EH, EL, EM, EN, ER, ES, ET, EX, FA, FE, FI, GI, GO, HA, HE, HI, HM, NO, ID, IF, IN IS, IT, JO, KA, KI, LA, LI, LO, MA, ME, MI, MM, MO, MU, MY, NA, NE, NO, NU, OF, OE, OF, OH, OI, OM, ON, OP, OR, OS, OW, OX, OY, PA, PE, PI, QI, RE, SH, SI, SO, TA, TI, TO, UH, UM, UN, UP, US, UT, WE, WO, XI, XU, YA, YE, YO, ZA
    (Note that V and C are not included here, which makes them excellent blockers to prevent opponents from playing two letter words in order to stretch over to a Triple Word Score.)
  • Play defensively. This is EQUALLY important as playing offensively. If you say to yourself, “I’ll play here and just hope my opponent doesn’t have a (something),” abort that plan and find another place to play.
  • Recognize prefixes and suffixes. Realizing you have something like “ing” or “tion” is far more important than having a large vocabulary.
  • Understand the value of your play options in a very basic way. See the Playing Words section below.

Playing Tiles

Step One: What are the best spots on the board? In order of average value:

  1. Triple word scores. This is by far the most valuable tile, making even a simple word into a decent score.
  2. Triple/double letters next to vowels. This allows you to play a larger point letter on it perpendicular to the vowel so you can score it twice, along with the double/triple bonus.
  3. Playing on top of or next to a block that will give you multiple words. This is commonly used to get rid of low-point letters, especially vowels. A strong knowledge of three-letter words helps tremendously in this endeavor.
  4. Double word scores. These can add up to serious points, especially in conjunction with a double/triple letter score. Be careful not to leave your opponent with a high-potential place to play when using them though.
  5. Adding a letter on to the end of an existing word. If you can play a word that adds a single letter onto an existing word to make a second new word, you can score a decent number of points from the existing word. Since you do not get bonuses for the existing word, this type of play is not one of the most valuable options, but still better than only getting points for a single word.

Step Two: What will this play leave for my opponent?

The potential point opportunity for your opponent is of almost equal importance as how many points it will get for you, especially when you are playing a WWF player of advanced skill. When deciding on the word to play, take into account both your word score and your opponent’s scoring potential given the state of the board you leave for their turn. Pretty much never leave them with access to a Triple Word Score or a Triple/Double Letter Score next to a vowel.

Tray Management

When you’re looking for words to play, try to identify parts of words that are commonly used. What you want:

  • Things like ing, ed, er, ite, ide, ine, tion, etc. You can string these together to form words that use all 7 tiles or just stretch a long word over to a Triple Word Score. If nothing else, organizing the tiles in your tray so these letter combinations are together help visualize the words you can form.
  • A roughly 35%/65% distribution of vowels/consonants. No one likes to have mostly/all vowels or mostly/all consonants and the naïve WWF player will tell you it’s all luck of the draw. It’s really not. It is worth using a slightly less valuable word to leave yourself with a better balance of consonants and vowels for next turn. For example, leaving yourself with TIAE is way better than leaving yourself with IIAE, even if it means a few less points.
  • Avoid repeating letters. I would MUCH rather have an A and an E left for next turn than two As. It’s not as bad to have OO or EE because they frequently show up together, but II or AA is terrible.

Part of your tray composition is luck, but you are often faced with fairly even scoring word options, where you may be able to lose a point or two in order to have a more favorable combination of letters for your next turn. These really add up throughout a game.

Ending the Game

In a very close game, end game tactics may be the deciding factor. If you can leave your opponent with some high-scoring tiles left when you go out, the point swing can be significant. Simply, you want to go out first, so:

  • Do not take exactly the remaining tiles left in the bag. For example, if there are 4 tiles left in the bag, do not make a 4 letter word. Either leave a couple in the bag so your opponent cannot go out next turn, or make as large a word as possible (hopefully 5+ letters) so you get the advantage in going out first.
  • Also, once you get down to less than 7 tiles left in the bag, start planning out your final few turns so you can go out as quickly as possible.