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Making Luck Episode 62: Embargo

In this Episode, Adam, Jake, and Wandering Winder discuss Embargo from the Seaside expansion.

Kingdom at the end: Embargo, Chariot Race, Improve, Golem, Mining Village, Remodel, Throne Room, Count, Ghost Ship, Royal Seal, Pathfinding, Labyrinth


Here's my plot synopsis for the meat of Episode 62:

  • Embargo is a one-shot terminal Silver, so if you don’t have much use for the Embargo token then Silver is usually better.
  • The main use case for opening Embargo is a $5/$2. Then it’s usually better than nothing on your $2 hand, and it can also be used to try to get the token on the key $5 pile before your opponent has been able to buy from it.
  • In rare cases (such as when yellow equals purple) you might want to open with something that helps you hit $5 or $6 once and then gets out of your deck. Then you might actually prefer Embargo to Silver even on a $4/$3.
  • Another case where the one-shot nature of Embargo can work in your favour (like with other one-shots) is where the trashing triggers another effect like Sewers or Priest.
  • An early Embargo can also be used if your opponent opens Potion. The idea is to skip Potion yourself and put the token on the best / only Potion-cost card.
  • This idea generalises to any situation where your opponent makes an early buy (e.g. Fool’s Gold) that telegraphs a strategy that needs a lot of a certain card or cards. You just adopt a different strategy and Embargo the pile that your opponent needs but you don’t.
  • If your plan is to play a different strategy from your opponent and Embargo his key card, you need to be confident that his strategy isn’t so much stronger than yours that it will still be better in spite of taking Curses.
  • Also, if it’s early in the game, make sure it’s less effort for you to get the Embargo and place the token than it is for him simply to pivot to a different strategy.
  • If you’re playing similar strategies and there’s no obvious card that your opponent needs and you don’t, you can still potentially use the token in a way that makes its effect asymmetric in your favour. This is most common if you’re building decks that need a balance of different cards (e.g. Villages and Smithies) and you’re building in a different order or you just happen to have a head start on a particular key card.
  • When using Embargo like this, bear in mind that you need to get the Embargo, then shuffle it in, and then find it and play it. Usually the asymmetry won’t last that long, so you’ll need to anticipate and get the Embargo pre-emptively. Because it can be hard in practice to know when the situation is going to arise, you often end up not getting Embargo at all.
  • Royal Seal, Tracker, Summon, Innovation: these can allow you to use Embargo more opportunistically as they reduce the time between deciding to get it and being able to place the token.
  • Embargo tends to be less effective in games with good trashing or, especially, Watchtower or Trader as ways to sidestep the Curses when buying the Embargoed card.
  • The presence of Embargo should push you more towards getting control of your deck and doing so early. If you get your deck under control first and are therefore better equipped to deal with the Curses, it can be good to Embargo a pile from which you both need to buy a lot of cards.
  • If your opponent has skipped thinning you can go for Embargo later to punish him, like a late Sea Hag.
  • Sometimes when there’s an important split, such as a single pile of villages, there’s a choice of whether to rush straight into buying them or to pick up a gainer first and then use that to pick up more copies of the key card. When Embargo is on the board, you can try to get to the gainer first and then Embargo the gainer, or if your opponent skips the gainer and goes straight for the key pile then you can Embargo the key pile and force him to pivot back to the gainer (which will probably let you win the split) or take Curses.
  • Occasionally the token can be used to help with a pile out, especially putting the token on Curse and then buying out the Curses with half the number of buys you’d otherwise need. With certain Landmarks like Fountain and Keep you can sometimes use this tactic to spring a surprise pile out when your deck meets the condition for the bonus and your opponent hasn’t got round to it yet.
  • Cursing attacks can effectively put a time limit on the effect of the token, so in these cases you can sometimes use the token on a pile that you’re both going for but your opponent will need sooner than you (e.g. Province if you’re spending more time building to a higher payload).
  • If you’re at a point where you seem certain to win the Province split, it can be excellent to Embargo Duchy (this is less effective if there’s a plausible alternative source of VP).
  • Embargoing Province tends to be better if you have a smaller head start on Provinces and your opponent’s win condition is to get more Provinces later.
  • Another time to Embargo Province is when your opponent is ahead but hasn’t got a Province yet. This might give you more time to build and potentially catch up.