Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Egizia - how to teach

[Lifted from BGG]

Author: adam.skinner
This article is intended to act as a template for game instructors teaching Egizia. While not exhaustively comprehensive, it touches on every core component of the game, and introduces them in a way that will flow naturally. By the end of this script, you and your listeners should have a fairly firm grasp on the core components and, more importantly, how they interact with one another. Use it as a guide, and illustrate this text by pointing out the relevant sections of the game board as they are mentioned.


In Egizia, each player acts as the manager of a construction crew. During your 5 day work week, you pole your way down the Nile river, picking up workers, dropping your crew members off to work, and maybe making pit stops along the way to do some R&D.

Of course, your workers need to be fed every day. They also need to be provided with raw materials to work with in their construction tasks. To this end, as you travel down the Nile, you should make stops to ensure that your production of food meets the needs of your workers by taking Field cards. To ensure your workers have enough raw materials to work with, you will take Quarry cards, which will increase your supply of stone every day.

As your ship floats down the Nile, you will stop at various docks. On one side of the river, there are 10 docks that have cards placed on them. When you stop there, you take the card at that dock. This card may by an additional Quarry or Field, may give you more workers, or may give you special immediateanytime, or permanent effects.Permanent effects alter the basic parameters of the game for you, allowing you to break rules or giving you certain other passive advantages. Immediate cards give you an immediate benefit, and must be acted upon when you take the card. Anytime cards are just like immediate cards, only they can be used at any time.

On the other side of the river, there are docks with set effects printed on the game board. Most of these do one of two things: add workers to your construction crews, or put your crews to work.

Construction crews

Each player has 4 different construction crews, each differentiated by the color of their uniform. One of these 4 crews acts as a floater (also known as the Joker), and helps out one of the other crews each day as needed. There are a few set stops on the Nile that allow you to add workers to your crews. One stop may add a blue and a yellow worker, while another may add a brown and a yellow worker. It behooves you to increase one of your construction crews more than the others, since you can only drop one crew off at each work location on the Nile.

It's great to have lots of workers, but if you can't feed them then you start to lose victory points each turn. And if you don't have enough stone to supply them with, then they can't do their job.

Construction sites

Speaking of their job, there are 3 sites along that side of the river for them to work at: the Graves & Obelisk, the Temple & Pyramid, and the Sphinx. If you drop your workers off at the Graves & Obelisk, they can work on both the Graves and the Obelisk as much as they like. But you can only assign one work crew to work there, and they can only do so much in a day. As their manager, you also need to think about how you're going to allocate your limited resources of stone to them: you may not have enough stone to do everything you'd like to do at all of your work sites. The floating crew may accompany any of the other crews, but may not operate by itself.

The Graves is a set of burial mounds, each requiring a certain amount of stone to complete. Grave tiles must be built in order, following the arrows on the board, and are randomized and placed face down on the grave sites. At the strart of the game, the first 4 are revealed. Each time a grave is completed, the next unrevealed grave tile is flipped over, so that there are always 4 revealed grave tiles in play. When you complete a grave, you score victory points according to the amount of stone you used to complete it and take the grave marker. At the end of the game, you may score bonus points depending on how much stone you used at the Graves site.

The Obelisk is the secondary location at this build site. It allows you to use excess stone to contribute to increasing the size of the obelisk. Each level requires one more stone that the level prior to it. By using this in combination with The Graves, you can be more efficient with your workers. There is no bonus associated with building at the obelisk.

When building The Pyramid, you build from left to right along each level, scoring points depending on the amount of stone you contributed to build each block. To build a block on the higher levels, both blocks immediately below it must be built. In this way, you may build higher levels without completing lower levels fully. However, when a level is fully completed, the player who completed the most blocks on that level scores bonus points according to the number of blocks that he completed. So on the first level, if you contributed the most blocks by completing 3 total blocks on that level, you score 3 extra victory points when the level is completed. Since there are fewer blocks on each level as the pyramid gets higher, the bonus decreases, but the amount of stone increases per block, making the higher blocks more valuable by themselves. Ties are broken in the Pyramid by looking at who placed first on that row. 

The secondary location at this site is The Temple. There are no bonuses associated with this site. The outside walls must be completed from bottom to top, and both of them must be fully completed before the central pillars can be worked on. As with everything else, you score victory points based on the amount of stone you contribute.

The Sphinx is a little different from the rest of the build sites. Contributing stone here allows you to draw a number of Sphinx cards equal to the amount of stone you contribute (max 5). You get to look at all of these cards, each of which may score you bonus points at the end of the game if you fulfill their conditions. You may keep one of the cards, and return the others to the bottom of the pile. You then score one victory point for each card returned. Sphinx cards are very important, because they can give your play a direction. Fulfilled Sphinx cards score you victory points at the end of the game, as opposed to immediately. This is important because it allows you to hang back on the scoring track, which directly influences turn order.

If you build at the construction sites on a given day, you will get bonus points as follows:

1 site: 1 point 
2 sites: 3 points 
3 sites: 6 points 

Additionally, you may dock at a build location as a "prospector". There will always be one less space to build than the number of players in the game (so in a 3 player game, only 2 players can build at a given location). However, if you decide to prospect, if one of the other players decides that they do not want to build, you may build there. This is essentially "calling their bluff".

Turn order and the river

The player who is farthest back on the scoring track goes first when selecting where to dock. This added tempo is not insignificant, since competition can be fierce for both cards and build sites. Your choice of where to dock is directly influenced by where you expect the other players to go, since only one person can dock at each location per day. Additionally, *you can only move downstream*. So if you stop at the 7th dock on the first turn, only the 8th and beyond are available to you thereafter; you have forsaken the docks prior to that for today. This makes dock selection delectable and unpredictable, to a certain extent, since you don't know for sure where they other players will be going, especially if there choices are being influenced by unknown Sphinx cards.

There are 3 decks of cards used to fill the card side of the river: a deck for days 1 and 2, a deck for days 3 and 4, and a deck for day 5 (the last day). These cards grow increasingly more powerful as you move from deck to deck. Some of the cards are removed from each deck at the beginning of the game, so you never know for sure what's going to come out. And since they're in a randomly assigned order on the river, they can heavily impact your decision on where and when to dock.

When scoring points, the person who's ahead scores first, and then other people stack behind him if they land on the same place on the scoring track. The person at the back of this stack gets preference for turn order and final scoring.

Feeding your workers

One thing I haven't spoken about in detail yet is feeding your workers. Each of the 4 crews has a certain number of workers, and you need to feed them every day. This is done by acquiring fields from the card side of the river. There are 3 classes of fields: lushnormal, and dry. There's also a water ring marker that indicates the level of irrigation on that day. Lush fields are always irrigated, and hence will always provide food. Normal fields need to have the irrigation marker on the normal or dry space to be irrigated. Dryfields need to have the irrigation marker on the dry space to produce food for your workers that day.

So how does this irrigation marker get moved from one space to another? Well, there are two docks on the non-card side of the river that allow you to move the marker one space in either direction. They both do the same thing (move the irrigation marker and increase your floating laborers by one), but one is mid-way down the Nile, and the other is at the very end of the Nile. In addition, the permanent card which allows you to place your boat on an already-taken space doesn't work on this last space (so getting there first can be quite powerful in screwing others/preventing screwage).

And what happens if you do get screwed and can't feed your workers? Well, we have a food track for that, and where you are on that track tells us what your penalty is. It ranges from losing 3 victory points for each worker you cannot feed to losing 1 victory point per worker. When you get to the bottom of this track, you score 2 victory points. Any time you move down from there, you score an additional 2 victory points. You can move down on this track by building in the Graves & Obelisk area, by selecting a card which gives you that effect, or by selecting the first space of the non-card side of the river (the "Edfu" space), which moves you down one space on both the food track and stone track.


As I mentioned earlier, stones are the resource your workers use to contribute to the various construction works. Each turn, you accumulate stone according to your production. By claiming a stone card, your production of stone will be increased each turn by that amount. You can also increase your stone reserves by moving to the last space on the stone track (which gives you 3 stone immediately) or by selecting the "Increase any work crew by one and gain 2 stone" space on the non-card side of the river. Moving down on the stone track when you're already at the bottom of it yields 3 stone as well. Please note that when you build in the Graves & Obelisk area, you can choose to move down on the stone track, which can potentially give you more stone to build with in the Pyramid & Temple work area. Stone is held over day to day, unlike food. You can accumulate up to 24 stone at a time during the course of play.


You accumulate victory points by:

* having your workers build at one of the construction sites
* scoring bonuses at the construction sites
* scoring bonuses for building at more than one construction site per turn
* moving down the food track
* having leftover stone, provided you're far enough down the stone track (2 stone yields 1 vp then)
* meeting the conditions of a Sphinx card
* choosing a card that gives immediate bonus victory points (like the dry field cards)

To build at a construction site, you need both workers and stone.
You get stone by claiming stone cards, by moving down the stone track, and by docking at the "Alyi" dock.
You get workers primarily by using the non-card side docks, though some cards allow you to increase workers too.
You feed workers using field cards, which are dependent on the position of the irrigation marker.


* There is a clear relationship between the number of victory points you acquire through building and the amount of stone you spend. This is basically 1:1, though bonuses may increase this slightly.
* Workers and stone are your basic "engine" for this game. The more of both of these resources you have, the more you can build in a turn, and the more victory points you can acquire.
* This engine is supported by your food supply. Shorting yourself on food is generally a bad idea, but if you put your workers to full use you may come out ahead via building and end game bonuses.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Saint Petersburg - A Redux

Lifted from BGG:

Author: CrankyPants

[The previous post is] A very nice summary that addresses a lot of the complexities of the game. Beginners seem to view this game as very random -- but repeat playings reveal subtle strategies. Winning is not about making a grand dramatic push for victory but is about making a lot of little, correct decisions that compound on one another.

One thing you didn't go into was hand management. I find this a critical consideration and something often overlooked and incorrectly used by beginners.

Do take upgrades into hand instead of buying them outright. You earn nothing at the end of the Upgrade phase and will need your money going into the worker phase. 

Don't play a card from your hand out of phase. Example: Don't play an aristocrat from your hand during the building phase. You might find that the money you just spent could be used to get you a better aristocrat when the cards fall and if not, then you can still play it before it's scored.

Don't pack your hand. Put cards into your hand that you know you can play within the next round or two. Only fill your hand to 3 cards if you plan on playing one within the next phase or 2. Yes, that Mistress of Ceremonies sure is gorgeous but if you can't know with certainty that you can play her next round you will spend the game missing other opportunities waiting to get her out. When you have a full hand, you have lost one of your key resources -- card management. 

Do pick up cards that help you get a card in the next phase. If you're playing 4th in the next phase and there's 3 open card slots on the board, pick up something cheap to give you a chance at a card. This is especially important going into the worker phase. Likewise, if you choose first, try to set yourself up with 2 choices by opening up one card slot more than the number of players.

Do pick up aristocrat upgrades. Buy them outright if you can but the key to getting a lot of aristocrats is to buy duplicates of the basics and then upgrade. Use your hand to ensure that you have upgrades available to you. This is a particularly tricky one to handle since you need to consider the other aspects of hand management. Picking up the Czar on round one is probably a bad idea since you've resigned yourself to two open slots in your hand for the majority of the game -- however, there is a correct time to pick up the czar for an endgame play. Experience is all that can really teach you that.

Do buy the warehouse if it comes out early. Unless the 2 rubles is critical to you this turn, the extra hand space is invaluable.

Don't be afraid to discard a card that you draw with the observatory. It's one of the hardest things to do. You'll think, "I sacrificed a VP to draw this and it's mine exclusively!" If that card violates the other guidelines stated above, you'll regret it. Play it or chuck it.

There's obviously room to debate these assertions and exceptions to them all but I've found that they serve me well.

Saint Petersburg

Lifted from BGG

Author: SebastienBoisson
Okay, I might not be an expert, but I'm hovering between twentieth and fiftieth on BrettSpielWelt. I wanted to reply to some people that are struggling with improving at this game.

I noticed that many of these "strategy" guides consist of a list of rules. The problem with rules is that you will never play really well using them. You'll never play better than the person who discovered them. I believe that rules kill creative, intelligent play and the sense of discovery. You'd just be stuck applying rules you don't understand.

Instead of rules, I'm going to try to explain the key ideas behind the game, and then relate those to actual gameplay. This kind of analysis is still useful when you become an expert. And while you get there, hopefully they get you thinking about what's going through my head while I play.

Key ideas:
1. The beginning of the game is about maximizing income; the end of the game is about maximizing victory points.
- that's why you must try to get as many workers as possible in the first two rounds
- that's why you should avoid building buildings in the first two rounds--even a 1-ruble pub can cost you the game!
- that's why you want to build big aristocrats in the first round (but ask yourself: does this aristocrat mean I'll get to build one less worker? Will this aristocrat produce as much income as the worker I'll lose?)
- Early in the game, the best upgrades are those that increase your cash flow. Late in the game, you want those that increase points. I don't understand why some players don't value a first-round bank -- it is usually the best upgrade.
- On the second last turn, you will usually focus on buildings because that's when you're getting a great deal: 3 rubles for 2 points, and those rubles can't really be used to generate much cash.

2. How many buildings to take in the first round of a 2 player game.
- Notice how this is my second point-- it's a very important point that even good players don't get right.
- The first thing to check is whether you're going to draw the first worker in round two-- if so, you want to expose an odd number of nobles, otherwise you want an even number.
- If you are drawing nobles first, you must expose at least one noble, but you would like to have as many exposed as possible. That means, if you expose one, and your opponent exposes a second, you should consider exposing a third, but never bother exposing a fourth.
- If you are drawing nobles second, you usually want to expose another noble (the case where you might not is where you will draw the first worker and the first upgrade). Almost never draw a fourth.
- Make sure your hand doesn't get too full. If you exposed a card by just building a pub or a warehouse, then you have freedom to expose more cards. This is why the warehouse is a great first round building (potemkin village is better unless you know you will want to take a lot of cards)

3. How many cards to take in the first upgrade round of a 2 player game:
- This is another bit of opening strategy that is critical
- The main goal is to get more workers than your opponent or at least as many
- If you know that he has in his hand a bank, or mistress that he wasn't able to build, you would like to delay allowing him to build it in round 2 by forcing him to buy two workers instead of one
- How do you accomplish these goals? Figure out how much money he has. Get used to doing this and you will be able to do this quickly in your head.
- This part can be very probabilistic: e.g., if he is picking workers first and has 6 rubles (common after building a mistress with the 6,7 workers) and a full hand while you have 12 rubles, it's a good move to expose three workers; he might get 2 while you get 1, but it's very unlikely. Get used to taking chances. If he has hand space, you'll need to expose another worker or else a good player will just take un-buildable workers in hand.

4. The transition between the "beginning" and "end" of the game depends on how many turns the game will last.
- you should try to end the game early if you are at a victory point advantage but an income disadvantage -- and conversely, you should prolong a game in the opposite circumstance.
- similarly, end the game early if you have a noble advantage that will be eroded, or a noble deficit that will be exaggerated.

5. Observatories
- In three and four player, observatory is usually the best card because it is much harder to get nobles.
- In the two player game, the observatory is not as important:
-- If your opponent builds an early observatory (or two observatories at any time), then he will probably be short on cash, so focus on building your cash flow and use it to build buildings later on to get at nobles.
-- If you have an observatory or two, then one strategy is to focus on getting your ten nobles and try to end the game before your opponent can catch up. Another strategy is to starve him of noble upgrades, so that no matter how long the game lasts, you'll have ten nobles, but he'll have fewer.
- Don't use an observatory unless the value of using it is more than one victory point. If your hand is pretty full and you need the room for the next two stages, there's no point in using the observatory. Yes, I know it's exciting to draw a card.

6. What you can learn from the workers that have come up.
- If you and and your opponent have cheap workers at round three, then you can expect the expensive ones to come up later. Since no one wants to build many expensive workers in the last round then you can you usually expect a longer game-- and vice versa.
- Also, you can use the cost of the played workers to estimate how much money you need to save for the green round. A rule of thumb is to save 5 rubles per worker you expect to buy (in the two player game). If you have built some expensive workers, then you can expect to spend a little less because of the bulk savings and because cheaper workers are bound to come up.

7. And the buildings that have come up....
- If the cheap buildings came and went in the first couple rounds, then expensive buildings are up ahead. Those are hard to build, so you won't be able to get many nobles as easily -- observatories are worth more! And vice versa.
- Also, if there are a lot of markets left over, then an early market is a good investment since it will allow you to pick up the later markets for cheaper. (Same idea for the 8-cost buildings)

8. Properly valuing the tax man
- The tax man is usually only worth building once you have five workers down
- The tax man is a very good card in two player, but not so important otherwise.
- The tax man is not as good as other upgrades in the last round of the game unless you are using him to build extra aristocrats that you would not normally afford

9. Winning difficult games
- Throughout the game, ask yourself what the opponent wants and what you have that he doesn't. More income? observatory? more nobles? more upgrades? more vp production? both pubs? Then, figure out how to leverage that.
- Conversely, to seal a victory make it so that you win regardless of what your opponent does-- make it so that if he tries to exploit one of your weaknesses, he opens up to one of your strengths. A common mistake is to seal the long game completely only to be beaten in the short game.

10. Manners
- Never complain about your opponent's luck. You might as well be saying "You don't deserve to be winning." You knew going in to the game that there would be some luck. Always play your best and be polite.
- Be modest in victory and loss.

I'll add more to this thread if people are interested.... Have fun, and remember not to play too much! Go outside!