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Episode 22: Hunting Grounds and Castles

In this episode, Adam and Jake discuss Hunting Grounds from Dark Ages and Castles from Empires.

Kingdom at the end: Castles, Fool, Ghost Town, Gladiator/Fortune, Menagerie, Silk Road, Treasure Map, Baker, Highway, Hunting Grounds

In the kingdom at the end, actions are really tight.  If you split Ghost Towns, on some turns you're only going to have 2 GTs, which is enough to draw up to 13 with actions to spare, which is enough for your starting cards, 2 ghost towns, and a silver?  But you might go for it anyway because you don't want your opponent to get all the components and build an engine that's actually good.

Plan B is Big Money with Castles.  Play Lucky Coin at every opportunity, buy money and Bakers, get Castles and eventually Silk Road.  Menagerie might be good with Castles and Lost in the Woods, although maybe silver is better.  Both plan A and B open Fool/Baker.

I'm not sure which strategy wins.  Not having any +Buy until Fortune comes out is a pretty severe limitation.  And the other thing is, you want Gladiator in the A vs B matchup, but I don't think you want it in the A vs A mirror.  You can't spare the terminal space on Gladiator, and you'd rather spend your precious buys on GT.  So, if your opponent picks up Gladiator too early, I think you can play a mirror minus Gladiator and win.  If they don't pick up Gladiator early enough, maybe you play Big Money and win.

So there are several matchups to try out for sure. However...
Quote from trivialknot on May 2, 2018, 1:33 PM

Plan B is Big Money with Castles.

I feel like if you want to go for Castles you're much better served by investing in a bunch of draw, but if you want to just play big money, you probably want to go for Provinces. I'm not convinced of this yet, but just big money with Castles seems like it shouldn't work well.

Now that you mention it, I'm not sure why I said Castles instead of Province. It's not so much that Castles are especially good here (although Menagerie is often great support).  I was just thinking you'd do everything you can to extend the game, and outlast your opponent's fragile engine as it collapses under the green they'd need to compete with your score.

But the engine isn't necessarily fragile when uncontested.  So maybe your best chance is to use your early advantage, and go for a Province rush.  On the other hand, if you lose in the long run, I think maybe you just lose.  The presence of Castles means that the engine player can unilaterally decide to extend the game.  So I'm still thinking BM/Castles has the best shot of being competitive.

Got a few games in last night with Jake -- this video is still unlisted and I need to add the details but here it is in case you want to watch it early.

I think I have a good idea of what's best here, but maybe there's a matchup or tactic we missed?

EDIT: and you also get to see what happens when the new kitten chews through my mouse cord! Update: I think the mouse may still be usable but the cursor is kind of stuck there for the whole video, which is kind of weird.

It looks like I was wrong about the kingdom.  I was thinking in terms of the draw/non-draw dichotomy, but it just takes too long to build a deck that draws, and even the non-drawing deck likes to add a few Hunting Grounds and Ghost Towns.  So there's really just one type of deck, and it's more an issue of which things you go for.

Castles looks pretty bad, for several reasons.  First, it looks like the big money deck is solid enough that it can just pick up 7-8 provinces if it needs to.  Second, you're usually drawing lots of money and being limited by buys, so getting the early castles is just wasting buys.  Third, Silk Road doesn't help either when you're buy limited.  I'm convinced.  Although if I were to try Castles, I wouldn't play it quite the same way you did.  I'd pick up castles a lot earlier, and I would not get Gladiator.

You said treasure map is bad, but Baker supports TMap!  TMap probably wins the 30% of the time that your TMaps collide in second shuffle.

Gladiator would be cool to do an episode on.

Haven is not good in a big money deck.

I think Treasure Map is uh, not trivial. Like, it can't be right, but if you collide early you can just win. This is the rare board where you actually can spin the wheel. Note that gaining the extra silver makes you a bit less likely to collide, making it even more clearly not right though. Actually, I guess there's some question about what position you're in if they collide second shuffle (like turn 6 or something). Like, I wonder if you miss how likely you are to be able to get maps #3 and 4. Probably you usually are only getting #3? If you have 4 maps going into turn 5, you are very likely to get collision turn 5-7, and not crazy to get two collisions on that shuffle? So let's say you get one collision. You have four golds at this point, and an extra garbage card or two. And in exchange, your opponent has a Baker, a Fool, and like 3 other reasonable to good cards? That's actually probably reasonably close? I think it's at least worth testing.


Anyway, I want to play more of a good stuff-y deck that goes for green much earlier. I don't think running out all the provinces is going to be so easy (maybe I'm wrong), and so I'm pretty unconvinced by trying to put Village and smithy together. I also love me some coin tokens. So I'm thinking of going something like Fool/Baker, get another baker ASAP, maybe 1-2 silver, but basically start rushing green cards. Starting with Castles, and then picking up some Silk Road. At some point down the line, get a Gladiator, because collision will be pretty darn unlikely by then, and hey, terminal Gold is pretty good. Also, I'm assuming by then it won't make sense to go for multi-prov from the opp. In general, there's a +buy problem - if it were easier to come by, then drawing would seem better.


So the question then is, how fast can you drain all the provinces with no help? Keeping in mind that Castle player can snipe one at some point possibly, too. And I really don't know what the answer is. But I think the issue with the games I see in the video where you're 'going for castles' is that you wait way too long. If you want to do that on this board, you have to play it more sloggily. But the castle deck should start castling on turn 5 or something. I'm also not entirely sure how good fool is for it - maybe you go 0, maybe you go 2, my gut is 1.


I also think that the Province-seeking deck should probably not bother with Hunting Grounds. Or villages. Just get a couple non-draw terminals, a couple golds, and go. Obviously you do need to adjust/adapt to what your opponent is doing.

I'd love to play this kingdom and show you how to slog it up 🙂 😉



I'm also game to come on the Pod basically whenever? I don't know that I'll have a ton to contribute a lot of the time, which probably means it should not be a regular thing. But there may be some topics where it would make more sense.

The forum has been eating posts. Will this work?


EDIT: I guess it did.

WW - sorry I didn't get any time to play this weekend. I'm still interested in playing this kingdom with you if you want, but I'm still not sure when I'll be able to do it.

...and you're on a short list of people I'd be excited to get on the podcast when it seems appropriate 🙂

We'll figure out a time to get this one played. And a good time to pod, assuming I can figure out my tech setup...

I see you played some games with WW.  It looks like BM+Castles wins after all.

This kingdom is probably played out enough that you won't revisit it, but I think that the counterplay against castles could be improved a bit.  Although you don't want a Gladiator in the mirror, I think you want it when you're playing a control deck against a slog deck, because Fortune is so much better for you.  And as far as contesting Castles goes, I think you were overrating Small Castle, and underrating Sprawling Castle.

Sprawling Castle is a 14 point swing, plus 1 for each silk road, plus 1 for Humble Castle, plus 2 for King's Castle.  Since WW seemed to be getting at least 4 Silk Roads, that's a 21+ VP swing.  Compare to King's Castle.  If one player has all the castles, they get 16 VP, plus 1 for Humble Castle; the other player would only get 2 VP for King's Castle.  So King's Castle is only a 19 VP swing at best.

I would say that Silk Roads is a really important part of this strategy -- if there's no SR here I'm putting my money on Provinces.

What you say about all of the rest of the stuff is all good points though. There is a chance this could be revisited (hopefully soon) so I'll keep this stuff in mind.

There will be a lot of bread in the next episode for sure (episode 25) 😛

I agree with trivialknot that Small Castle doesn't seem to be as important to me, on this board anyway, and that Sprawling is a pretty big deal. I will, of course, note that Small is effectively denying me two castles (usually), so a 7 point swing by itself PLUS another pretty significant chunk of points there; I just think that it hurts Adam's deck a lot there (both having the dead card around forever but more importantly the opportunity cost) than it does mine.

However, I'd note that in a lot of these cases, it's really not so much about denying me, because you really can't get into a position to deny me. Deny me a Small Castle? I can at least get a Silk Road. Deny me a big one? I can actually get Provinces (not every turn, but every few turns at least). So I don't like thinking so much of the denial thing here, because my next-best thing isn't that much worse than you're denying me. It's not like I'm stonewalled out of those points forever. And it makes the game longer, which I actually think isn't great, because my deck is pretty continually adding to its points total, by either grabbing a Silk Road or a Castle or a Province. You basically can't cut me off effectively, so should focus on your own plan.


Getting a Gladiator is a little interesting. I think the biggest point for it is just that Fortune is +buy, which you're desperate for here in that deck. The deck can almost/sometimes hit enough money to double province without the Fortune, it's just that the buys are pinched. But I don't think it would be a game changer here - when are you going to get it? If you go for it turn 1/2, you're letting me be Lost in the Woods, which doesn't seem like a great idea to me, plus you leave yourself more vulnerable against someone who just swaps into building the same deck as you without wasting time on the Gladiator. So that can't be good. Turn 3/4 kind of area I'd be worried about terminal collision (and slowing down your building), but this is probably the best time for it. Later, I think it's going to be too late to make an impact. If we look at getting it turn 3/4, we can expect to play it on turn 5/6, and again on 7/8, and then maybe turn 10 let's say. If you can be never blocked, then that's when you can start trying to get the Fortune, but certainly it's going to take you another turn to pay back the debt, after which point you can maybe start double provincing. But I don't think the draw is really consistent enough to do all that. You don't have any thinning (ok, a very inconsistent boon). So that might actually work out better, but to do it, you really have to wait to green until quite late (turn 12?). At which point even double provincing every turn (and again, I don't think you're that consistent) shouldn't be enough, going by the cases we see in the video. I also think you will get blocked maybe once on average?




Other notes: Small Castle isn't that great for me, because it's mostly just trashing itself for a more expensive one, which is fine but not great by any means. This is quite different from what's discussed in the episode, I think largely because I don't have any draw, which is unusual.

I can get away with not having draw because of Baker (I accumulate tokens most of the game, letting me snipe out the top ones still), Fool (some of the boons are quite good here), and most importantly Lucky Coin (really lets you shrug off the green). Take any of that out, and my deck is going to collapse a lot more often. And Silk Road are quite important. Only having Duchy is both going to be fewer points and harder to buy in a non-trivial way, which means that I'm going to have to build longer, which means I have fewer points at all times basically, and it just doesn't really work. Swapping out for like Gardens or maybe Tunnel and I think the Sloggy strategy might be ok, but it would be a lot harder (Gardens will be worth 3 by the end probably, maybe 4 if it goes long, as opposed to 4 maybe 5, which is a big deal). So really you need right about all these elements, probably plus the lack of trashing and definitely the lack of buy, in order to make this sloggy thing work.


It's also important to know that the slog/money thing can just play BM well enough that it can buy Provinces, which is pretty awkward for the other player. This came up when Adam bought King's Castle, but can come up at other points as well. Since Slogger is getting points faster to start, they often have a lead, at which point buying Provinces puts them in good shape. I think they're also favored in the long game (score more points, deck doesn't fold to green like the draw deck does), which means not getting provinces also seems good. Draw deck's only hope is in the middle, when it starts to hit its stride, but before it falls apart. There, it can province per turn, which is more points than the other deck. But I don't think the window for that is really big enough.




I do wonder a little bit about how a deck that ignore Ghost Town and Hunting Grounds altogether would do. Basically it's pretty similar to what I played, but instead of diving for green insanely early, you get a few more silver/Baker/Gold and go for provinces. It's more or less just BM. I don't think it's good enough, but it's at least something to consider.