Archive for the ‘Rants’ Category

Dominion Rant/Article: Mint Openings

I frequently find myself staring at a 2/5 or 5/2 opening, seriously considering a Mint opening. There are some cases where trashing 5 Coppers from your deck immediately can put you so far ahead that you can’t realistically lose the game, but I find those so incredibly rare that in 3000+ games of Dominion, I’ve never had it happen to me, not even once. (I’ve done it before and regretted it but I’m not counting that)

And the common wisdom out there among many people I’ve talked to (not necessarily “top players” but this article probably isn’t helping those people that much anyways) is that a Mint opening on a 5/2 is just overpowered, even with no support at all (opening Mint/Copper is pretty bad, especially considering how bad opening Mint/Silver is). This is really far from the truth, and this article aims to explain exactly why this is the case. I want to outline the few scenarios where opening Mint is good and why; then explain a few of the common examples I get told about where opening Mint is supposedly great, but I think it isn’t. Hopefully you’ll finish this article with the tools you need to decide whether opening Mint is good for you on any given board. Pro tip, if you just say “no” all the time then you’re almost there!

In general, the reason opening Mint is bad is because you have 6 or 7 cards in your deck after T2 and four of them are completely dead (3 Estates and 1 Mint). Two of them are really bad (Coppers), and your next few turns are going to be spent not doing anything useful. Many times this just loses to Big Money pretty hard. Usually it’s much better to put one or two better cards in your deck (something that trashes Estates or draws cards is best here) and hope for a Mint on the next few turns. If you don’t have a plan for what you’re going to do with your turn 3 and turn 4, and you don’t think the tempo boost you’ll get from trashing those Coppers in the opening (as opposed to a couple of turns later) will be significant enough to outweigh the very real possibility that you will be getting some awful draws and just have to pass your T3, T4, T5, etc. completely, then you really shouldn’t open with a Mint.

There is only one card in all of Dominion where if we just had the two-card kingdom of Mint and that card, I’d open Mint on a 5/2: Fool’s Gold. This is because you have an 85% chance to pick up at least a FG on turn 3, and these odds only get better for future turns. You even have a 38% chance to Mint a FG and buy a FG on T3, and going forward you have decent odds at having a FG in hand whenever you draw your Mint. Trashing the Coppers in this case doesn’t actually hurt your T3 or T4 all that much, and it’s a huge boon to a FG deck. It’s certainly better than a double FG opening, and if there is any Estate-trashing on the board the advantage becomes really big.

The next one, which is probably worth going for almost all of the time, is Page. Page/Champion are just so powerful that usually the first person to get a Champion in play has a huge advantage, not to mention the potential blowouts related to Warriors. Trashing 5 Coppers immediately accelerates your cycling so much that just playing your Page on T3 constitutes a successful turn (your chances of this are just over 70%, which I might add are pretty much the best chances you have of anything good happening on T3 if you opened Mint), and on 47 out of those 70 percents you’re also getting a second Page that turn, which is a solid addition to the deck.

Add to that the fact that Treasure Hunter quickly injects economy into the deck at this point, which you desperately need, and Warrior helps you make use of that economy, so you’re usually able to have whatever support you needed in your deck already by the time your Champion is in play. Plus, Champion needs so little of this support to be the main focus of your first few turns; a Mint/Page opening shines here almost all of the time.

Why not Peasant? Without going into too much detail, Peasant/Teacher is slower and doesn’t give you as much immediate support as Page does; you need a lot of cards in your deck for Teacher to be good at all, and the Mint opening is sacrificing a lot of that to get you a Teacher ASAP. I’m not saying it can’t work, but it needs a LOT of support to be better than playing for a later Mint instead of opening with it.

I want to be clear about this: other than Fool’s Gold and Page, every other Mint opening requires a lot of support to be good. Support beyond just the other card you get with Mint in the opening, because that alone isn’t enough.

After this, the need for support gets bigger and bigger as the list goes on, and eventually it’s just going to be not worth it most of the time.

Alms: The really nice thing about Alms is that the 2 out of 7 (about 30%) chance you have of not drawing the other card you open with and having your T3 really suck just doesn’t exist with Alms — you can always gain a card costing up to $4, so if there are some good ones, you can even get one before you shuffle! In particular you’re looking for something that can trash Estates that you can gain with Alms. The thing you have to be careful about, though, is that 5/2 with Alms is pretty good in general, so the bar you’re comparing a Mint opening against is higher. Without that Estate trashing that you can easily get with Alms, it’s going to be much harder to justify a Mint opening, especially if the Estate trashing exists but costs $5 (in that case, you open with the Estate-trasher and play towards a later Mint if there’s any draw at all).

Chapel: It’s true that opening Mint takes away a lot of the targets that you wanted to Chapel, making Chapel slightly less good. But Chapel is a really good card, and it’s the only thing at the $2 price point that can just eliminate those Estates (and yes the Mint too) lightning-fast, which is the main weakness of a Mint opening. By the end of T5, even with below average draws, you can have a deck with a Silver, three Coppers, and at most one Estate plus a Chapel. While this isn’t the best thing ever for building whatever engine you want, a lot of times it’s better than not going for the Mint, especially in the absence of a better $5 option. It’s also slightly better than the alternative for Big Money.

On top of this, you get the possibility of a huge high-roll if you draw your Chapel on T3 and are able to trash three out of your four junks and buy a Copper (about a 43% chance of this happening), giving you a deck of Chapel/Copper/Copper/Copper/Silver to start T5 with. Sometimes you can even do better than Silver.

When is this not good? Well, plan out your next few turns from there and if it feels like pulling teeth, you may be better off without the Mint. If I’m getting a T6 Market, then a T7 Gold, then a lot of my components are still pretty expensive (and don’t draw lots of cards) then you lose a lot of that pace the early Mint bought you, so many times you’re better off thinning more gradually and focusing on drawing more cards.

Why not Donate? With Donate you can just get rid of those Coppers whenever you want, so normally you want to put a few good cards in the deck and then Donate. Passing up the opportunity to put a fiver in your deck and potentially even play it before Donating, and trashing 5 Coppers immediately just doesn’t mean as much with Donate around. So don’t open Mint here.

Overlord: Let’s take that 1/6 chance of getting our “lucky” opening and chop it in half. If you have a 5/2 (not a 2/5) you can consider an Overlord opening with the right support. I’m looking at junking attacks and Estate-trashing (the kind of stuff you normally look for when you think about opening Overlord) with Soothsayer and Trading Post at the top of the pile here.

Advance: This is really only viable when you have Shelters, since you can trash your Necropolis on the turn you aren’t buying your Mint. It still requires the same kind of support as all of this other stuff, namely something good to gain off your Advance. Sure, you can pick up a crappy action for $2 or less and hope to Advance it later, but this is much worse and requires super-strong support in order to be better than “awful.”

…and as we get farther down the list, I’m now requiring 3 almost-unique cards to be in the kingdom. These are barely worth talking about, but here we go…

Steward: Needs Baker, Borrow, or some other shenanigans to work, but sure, this is a fine opening for most of the same reasons as Chapel is, but the tactics are slightly different.

Ambassador: Needs the same enabler as Steward does for the opening, but yeah if the Ambassador war is everything, this puts you in a decent position to start the game.

Let’s say you have a 4/3 and a coin token from Baker. Most of the time trashing 5 Coppers is barely enough to be worth it, so trashing 4 Coppers plus spending your opening token to do it? Ugh, this is worse than opening Baker/Silver or Baker/whatever-you-were-getting-with-your-Mint almost all of the time. Just don’t do this. Maybe you can do a Save on a 3/4 if you’re going to use some of the support I mentioned above that’s compatible with this (so basically just Alms and sometimes Advance).

Delve/Squire: Delve is usually better than Squire for this purpose but they’re similar enough that I’ll lump them together. These aren’t very good unless you have some big draw and something to reward you for having a bunch of Silvers. So basically Feodum. Just run the numbers, opening Mint/Silver is more likely to give you bad draws than good draws, hitting $4 with this deck on T3 is nearly impossible (28% with Delve and 0% with Squire) and your bad draws don’t increase the odds of this by very much very quickly. All you can realistically expect to do on these turns is get some more Silvers and Squires — if there isn’t some big payoff for that, then I’d say don’t bother.

Poor House/Secret Chamber/Engineer (5/2 only): These aren’t good. In fact, yeah I’ll just say that and end the list here. Sure, with enough support anything can be good but man, Secret Chamber isn’t even in the game anymore. You have to construct a kingdom and require like 5 or 6 cards before I would open Mint because of these cards.

So yeah, that’s about how good opening Mint is, with a lot of detail to support. Sure, you can craft kingdoms that are exceptions to these rules, but I don’t feel like talking about them. Maybe I’ll change the name of this from “article” to “rant” at some point 😛

Rant: Existing in shared spaces

When I was 6 years old I remember being able to run at full speed through crowded rooms with no problems. Later in my life, when I was a teenager, I realized that this was because other people were paying attention and were getting out of the way of the small child with little awareness of what was going on around him. When I had this realization, I knew that I had elevated to a higher plane of existence: I was a “mature adult”*. With great power, though, comes great responsibility. Now that I had reached this great pinnacle of human achievement, I knew I had to be aware of my surroundings when I was in any place that I shared with other people. No longer could I run without looking where I was going. No longer could I stand in a place where I was blocking the path of others. Those days were gone.

*The irony that I’m using the words “mature adult” to describe myself is not lost on me.

I had this epiphany when I was still in high school, but many times in my life I have noticed people much older than me who don’t seem to understand this basic concept. The purpose of this rant is to increase awareness of the obligations people face when they are in spaces they have to share with other people. Another purpose of this rant is that I like to whine and it makes me feel good.

I realize that in some situations, the problem is solved by alerting the offending the person to the fact that they’re in the way. Simply saying “excuse me” can suffice in a lot of situations. On the other hand, there are a lot of times where this is inconvenient, difficult, or even impossible to do (as you will see in some of the examples below). I believe it is important, regardless of circumstance, that every person take responsibility for making sure they are always aware of what’s around them when they are in public. At the very least it makes you more pleasant to be around; but it’s nice to not have to worry about distracting people from whatever is so important on their phones that they CAN’T PAY ANY ATTENTION TO WHERE THEY ARE WALKING OR THE PEOPLE THEY ARE ABOUT TO RUN INTO. I also won’t judge you silently and harshly if I interact with you and you’re being particularly annoying to me.

I’d like to outline some scenarios that have come up in my life where people have created situations that made me wonder if they had any awareness that other people might have been around. If you should ever find yourself in one of these situations, perhaps you will have read about it here and you can do the right thing. Even if the people there don’t thank you for thinking ahead, I thank you now for making the world a better place.

Situation 1: You’re in a grocery store aisle. The bad guy (denoted with red circles) is looking at some item on the shelf, but has parked his cart (the red rectangle) across the aisle so that it’s blocking the entire path. Innocent bystanders just trying to get through (the blue circles) now have to either wait for this person, or interrupt them and tell them to move.

Much better would be to park your cart on the same side of the aisle that you’re looking at, or to stand on the other side of the aisle with your cart and look across the aisle at the shelf until you’re ready. A move I sometimes use is to park my cart at the end of the aisle and just hop in and grab what I need, but this has its issues.

Then there are the worst type of people in the universe, who see someone they know at the grocery store and stop to chat with them for however long — while having their carts block so much space that the entire aisle is unusable. They are so engrossed in their conversation that they will never realize what’s going on and don’t respond to interruption. Ugh.

Situation 2: Now we’re in a hallway, or maybe on a sidewalk or something. If we’re on a sidewalk, let’s assume there’s snow piled up on the ends or it’s really muddy or something so it’s oppressive to leave the sidewalk. There are pair of bad guys walking side-by-side in one direction, and even when they see me walking, they will not make any adjustments so that I can get by, despite the fact that the hall is only wide enough for two people, one in each direction. Often I’m forced to come to a complete stop, while one of them brushes up against me and acts like I’m a jerk because they couldn’t be bothered to move. Where am I supposed to go?

There are a couple of variations on this situation. One where I’m coming up behind them and I want to pass them because they’re walking super-slow. If I can’t get their attention somehow, there is no way for me to pass them.

Then there’s this travesty, when the hallway is wide enough for them to still walk beside each other, but they don’t move and I still have to smush up against the wall! When people walk side-by-side like this they are always taking up space that needs to be shared with other people sometimes, so when you do this, be aware of what’s going on around you and stop getting in the way, jerks!

Situation 3: Here’s one I ran into at work the other day. A guy was walking in the building, and he presses the button for handicapped-access, which opens one of the doors in front of him. There is already judgment here because he is fully capable of opening a door himself, but he decided to press the button, and wait for the door to slowly open instead of just opening the door that’s right in front of him. Seriously, how lazy can you be? And before you ask, yes I know he is capable of opening a door because I saw him open the door right behind him, which didn’t have this button (it’s an exterior door and you have to badge in and open it manually).

Anyways, he then goes over to the left side of the hall to enter the open door as I’m coming up. Naturally, I have to stop and wait for him to get back over to the other side of the hallway. I made sure to squeak my shoes nice and loud as I had to come to a sudden stop because this guy is too lazy to open a door that’s right in front of him. And yes, the doors were glass, he could see me coming. There is no excuse.

There’s a scenario that’s even worse, though. When I was in college, there was this same scenario, only imagine instead of one person going each way, it’s a constant stream of people (people entering/exiting a building between classes). Both doors open, but the red people are not allowing the blue people to pass because they don’t want to open the door that’s right in front of them. So the blue people have to just stand and wait because not a single person in the red line has the common sense to just open the other door so everyone can get where they’re going.

There should be a license to have the privilege of walking in a public place and it should be revoked for stuff like this. Come on, people.

Rant: Kibitzing in board games

At a game night a couple of weeks ago I was playing a game of Spyfall with a group. My wife doesn’t enjoy games that involve her having to lie or deceive so she was watching this game, but she has played it before and she knows the rules. (In Spyfall, each person is dealt a card that tells you a location except for one person, who is the Spy. The goal is for the Spy to hide long enough to figure out the location before everyone else figures out who the Spy is.) I was dealing out cards to everyone and she asked to know what location we were at. Without really thinking about it, before I even looked at my own card, I showed it to her. She looked confused, then passed me the card. Everyone instantly knew I was the spy, I tried to fight it but there was just no hope.

Obviously what I should have done (and did for the rest of our games that night) was just to deal her one of the location cards we weren’t using before shuffling the ones we did use for that game. It was a reminder of how kibitzing in board games is easy to allow, even unintentionally, and the effect it can have on games (this one was totally broken, we should have just started it over at that point, even if I wasn’t the spy I would have had an unfair advantage).

What is kibitzing? It’s when someone who is not playing a game offers commentary on the game being played, such that the players can hear it. The easiest example I can think of is if a group of people are playing poker and a guy walks up to the table, sees someone’s hand, and shouts “Wow, three of a kind! Nice!” prompting everyone else at the table to fold.

The Spyfall game I referenced was a lapse in judgment on my part, I normally make a policy to never show anyone outside of the game any hidden information I have in a game I’m playing, especially social deduction games where the whole point is to read people. I have everything to lose and nothing to gain by showing this information, and in the worst case the game can be broken by information like this being revealed to other people because of something external to the game. It’s questionable that my wife should even be allowed to see a location card at all since she’s not playing the game, but she knows how I feel about this and she did close the head of her hoodie so that most of her face was obscured. It was a casual game of Spyfall so I think everyone was OK with it.

Obviously, if you’re not playing a game, revealing hidden information about that game to the other players is rude. I could argue that people shouldn’t even seek out that information in the first place. I’ve had a lot of experiences similar to this that have really soured my game experience.

I’m sure it’s a pretty common situation where I’m playing a game and we’re pretty far along and there are a couple of people nearby who are hanging around waiting for us to finish up (maybe 10 minutes away from being done? Close enough that it’s not worth it for other people to pull out a short game and play that). Maybe they just got to game night a little late, or their game finished up ahead of ours and they’re ready to join up with our group to play another game. Many times what will happen is the spectators will give advice to players, or maybe just distract them with conversations unrelated to the game. What ends up happening is that instead of our game taking 10 more minutes to complete, it takes 30 minutes, and usually people, including myself, get frustrated.

I have a policy that I never give (serious) advice on what to do in a game while the game is being played unless I’m specifically asked to by the person seeking advice. Of course I will never miss an opportunity to suggest that a player buy as many Curses as possible on their turn in Dominion, but that’s different. I may give some generic tips when explaining a game, and I’ll suggest that players take a course of action that benefits me in games where that is relevant, but these are different things. A lot of people out there would rather figure things out on their own.

But when you aren’t in a game, I don’t think it’s ever appropriate to comment on that game. Even a comment like “looks like Adam is winning” or “who’s winning?” before the game is over can affect the outcome of the game. At best it derails the game and makes it take longer (usually resulting in the people causing the distraction to have to wait longer to get in a game!) and at worst it compromises the integrity of the game.

There’s a regular game night that I often go to, and I have to arrive late. Most of the time there’s a game in progress and I have to wait for it to finish. I always bring my 3DS or something to do by myself while I’m waiting for this game to finish; many times I’ll even sit at a different table until they’re done. Yes, I enjoy the company of the people I play with, but I enjoy it a lot more when I’m in the same game as them — to me it’s about the same as them texting or being distracted while they’re playing. So while it feels a little weird to sit by myself while I’m waiting for them to finish up, I feel like it’s the best thing to do.

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