So we've talked about engines, what their strengths and weaknesses are, how to build them, etc. The next couple of articles, I want to talk about my favorite ways to beat them. This time: by playing a slog.
One of the great strengths of engines in general is that they are going to win the long game, and they can twist things to try to make the game go long. They have inevitability. Playing a slog seeks to flip this on its head. Classically, the slog player is looking to get a matrix of victory points so large that the engine opponent won't be able to overcome it, potentially because it's over 50%, but often actually because the engine can't support having the number of green cards necessary while maintaining its draw-ability. Sometimes, though, the slog player can leverage pressure on piles to squeeze the engine player's options.
What You Need:
Generally you need some kind of VP pile that will work well for you (and less well for an engine). The best here is Duke, since that makes you need to get lots of Duchies, and it's worth a zillion points. Silk Road is also good, since you need other green cards to make it work, and engines often can't afford to get lots of those. Gardens is decent, but it's not as good as the others, since an Engine often ends up with LOTS of cards just from getting lots of components.
More importantly, what you really need is for your engine opponent to actually care about the bloat that will happen in their deck. This means you need them to not be able to get to all the points in too efficient a timespace. Things like strong trashing and megaturn ability are not your friends here. Against a megaturn, you need your own strategy to be very fast in order to get enough points before they can fire off their megaturn. Another thing to watch out for is their ability to go back over the top of you - if there's VP chips available, in most cases Vineyards or Colonies, and sometimes Fairgrounds, they will be able to have inevitability, and the onus flips back on you to be able to end it, which isn't really where you want to be.
A good point to look at is what form of +Buy is available. If it's something terminal and dead, like Woodcutter, that is going to be very favorable for the slog player, who can just get a few and not worry too much about getting other cards to support. If it's something like Market on the other hand, it's going to be a lot more helpful to the engine player - he can build pretty easily towards one or two very big turns, because he doesn't have to add tons of extra draw power and reliability to get his payload off the ground. Ultimately, this is what the engine player is trying to do - build build build and go for VP at a spurt.