Friday, 1 May 2015

Instructional Game #4 Clean, Clear Subtleties

Game Log


The first thing that jumps out at me here is Ironworks/Highway. Of course, in retrospect, there isn't that much support for it. In order for that to be a key or even significant part of your strategy, you need to be drawing good chunks of your deck pretty reliably. The only draw here is Torturer (a terminal with no village) and Vagrant (which doesn't help get the components together). The other way you can get to drawing that much is by thinning, but the only thinning is Counterfeit. It's possible to try to get Counterfeit to work, but it's pretty slow - and your opponent probably WILL be contesting you on Highways. So at best, that's a friendly interaction that can come up.

My opponent - again, a strong player - opened Ironworks/Silver. I actually think this is just a mistake here. Counterfeit/Highway probably should be a pretty central part of your plan, because Counterfeit thins and gives buys, and Highway leverages that pretty nicely. Perhaps more important, if you let one player get too many Highways, they might actually be able to do some pretty degenerate things. In any case, the important thing to note is that 5s are key. And Ironworks here, without a Highway in play, pretty much just grabs Silver. Now Silver is probably a reasonable card on this board, but here's where we look at the percentages: Silver/Silver is about 91% to hit at least one 5, including about 15% to get two. Ironworks/Silver is about 73% to get at least one 5, including about 1% to get two. Furthermore, if you use IW to grab a Silver in order to hit your $5, then you're not up anything over what Silver/Silver would have done unless you hit that 1% (in which case you've got an extra Ironworks). So where your real advantage lies, after the second shuffle, is in that, if you miss with your Ironworks hand in a way that you hit exactly $3 after gaining Silver, you end up with an extra Silver after that shuffle. (There's also some weird cases where your Ironworks misses the shuffle and then collides well, but these are really really fringe, and require getting Highway before Ironworks, and I really don't think you can bank on that). I in no way believe that that extra Silver can compensate for the lowered chance at hitting 5s. This thought process is what was going through my mind (not the exact percentages, mind, just the generalities) when I deferred my Ironworks until later - I want it to gain 5s, it can't do that soon, so I'd rather start my decks rolling.

Okay, so the game proceeds such that he does actually get that Ironworks leading him to $3, also hitting $5 on the other turn, equal spot, so that after the 4th turn, he straight up has an extra Ironworks compared to me. But the next shuffle is unkind to him (at this point, our shuffles become highly uncoupled due to the differing number of cards in our decks). By the end of turn 7, our decks look like this:
I have an extra Counterfeit. He has an extra Silver, Copper, and Ironworks. It looks at first blush that I might be a little ahead. But looks can be misleading - this advantage is already quite large, and he's going to need some good draws (more realistically, for me to have bad draws) in order to come back.

Over the next four turns, we can see how easy it is for an advantage like this to snowball: My deck is slightly trimmer, more efficient, and this compounds in on itself to get even sleeker (the extra Counterfeit is very nice for this as well), while picking up significant payload in a non-fattening way: the Card-neutral Highway. Thus, by turn 11, we are looking at:
I want to point out that my opponent has, given his situation, played very well here over the past few turns! His deck has lots of high-quality treasures and is set up like a quite decent Big Money deck ready for a healthy greening phase. Of course, the sleekness of my deck *ought* to leave me ahead here, but... over the next few turns, I play rather badly: I get a third Counterfeit (which I cannot support), and load up on Vagrants over Silvers. This is based on me still thinking of getting nice Highway chains capped off by Ironworks, but this is really an unrealistic pipe dream. My opponent keeps playing cleanly and hangs in the game the whole time. I make just one more good play, buying an Estate for effective $4 on turn 15 with 4 Provinces left - I am at the top of a shuffle and know I will never meaningfully see the next one, and given that the score is at all close, the point is absolutely worth it. Fortunately for me, my big early lead combines with a touch of first player advantage to overcome my later attempts to throw the game away, and I win on the 17th turn of the game.

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