I like this game and played it quite often recently. I’ve played with 2 and 4 players, with basic player board and advanced. Though base in luck of your dice roll, but there are some strategy inside it along with tactical approach at the game. Here are some of my thoughts.
1. Analyze your board
This early decision is critical for choosing strategy to implement on the game. Base on this you can choose what strategy to play, either focusing in buildings, pastures or knowledge first. The size of each regions are also considerably important which will decide in what approach you will take, which region you need to complete first. And also the synergy of your estate is depends on the balance of your development, you cannot fully focusing in only 1 type of tiles and forget the rest, there must be a balance between the ship and the other tiles.
2. Initial Castle Placement
If you play with advance boards and rules, the initial castle placement is free, you can decide where to place it. Now, this is important because this will determine you reach in the estate, in the middle of the estate seems the most logical explanation in general cases, but in other specific cases, you can determine the location by adjusting with your priority in the game based on the layout. Try to get the spot with easy access on ships and mines.
Though this is not really rewarding for your estate, it’s very critical for your game play. It’s a long term investment which would put you as the first player. This means more access to all the available tiles. This one really important during the first round of each phase. You’re not the only player who wants a specific tile available and being the first player really rewards you this privilege. But, don’t forget, if other players constantly racing as the first player, the timing on ship tile placement is quite important to make sure you’ll be the first in the start of next phase. And put in mind, if you are the first player to finish the ship regions, you’ll get the bonus tile but remember this will likely put you as the last player eventually and you cannot do anything about it. It’s a 50/50 decision, tactical based on your game condition. If you don’t want to be the last player, just wait for other players to take it before you. Keep in mind that in some cases not all players would get enough ship tiles to complete their region (4 slots x 5 phases = 20 Ships) and in addition of the black tiles draw if any, so beware.
As you can see, there are only 3 spaces of Mines and it’s very important to complete these in the early game. All or nothing, to maximize your income in each end of phase. Gain 2/3 Silverlings in each end phase really useful in the next round. If you’re the first player, you can buy a black tile first hand before other players take it. The same with ship tiles, there is not enough Mine tiles in the side depots for all players (2 slots x 5 phases = 10 Mines), the rest is luck of the draw of the black tiles.
This tiles are really powerful, most of the spaces in player’s estates are in single tile region, which led to early scoring once you place the tile and it grant you a free action. The good about this free action is it doesn’t need die value to assign. So you can freely add tiles to your storage, place tiles into your estate or even sell goods without even bother the required die value. There are 2 slots x 5 phases = 10 Castles in the side depots, beware.
The buildings are quite complex engine with chain of combos and effects that add to your benefit. The regions of buildings are mostly contain many spaces and the most spaces in your estate (12 spaces). It’s a great achievement if you can complete the regions in early rounds, which get you high VP boost. Keep in mind that no same building tiles in the same region, which lower your flexibility. But there is a certain knowledge tile that let you ignore this rule.
Pastures is a bit tricky but powerful. You need to collect animal tiles of the same type in a region to maximized the scoring. And keep in mind to place the big size tiles first, so they’ll be scored several times. Monitor the animal tiles available on each phase, if there is 2 or more tiles in the same type, that’s your cue to grab that as soon as possible. The best calculation is 4 size tile + with 4 size tile from the black tile and 3 size tile. From this only, you’ll get 23 points, exclude points if the region completed. Also keep in mind any knowledge tiles that add points from animal tiles, it’s very powerful if you consider to play all animal varieties.
Now, this is the game changer. The thing about knowledge tiles is there are 2 types, end game bonus points or in game effect. Now, in game effect are not visible during the game, it helps you a lot during your turn and could lead you to victory with all the flexibilities. In other hand, the end game bonus points are major boost in the end game scoring and could take on others by surprised. There are several combination tiles that are very powerful, over powered maybe. Like this:
Grab these tiles fast. And do the bidding. You can add huge points if you send lots of goods with complete varieties with these tiles. Not that each variety add 3 points (6 varieties means 18 points) but also sold goods count as 1 VP each. A great deal right? And if you complete the animal varieties, you add 4 points for each type (16 points in total). 2 of my games are won by this tiles presence.
The left tile gives you flexibility on completing the building regions. And it really help a lot if you have the right tile, this combination lets you to secure any building tiles and place them where ever you like. The bonus points are also packs a punch if you have many specific buildings.
These tiles combination really works for in game effect and add flexibility for you during the game. Extra workers are always welcome, this minimize your get worker actions. More actions for anything else. The modifying bonus is also great, which can maximized the use of your workers twice.
These tiles combination are very good if you play mines and take workers. You’ll rounding up Silverlings to get black tiles easily. And the workers and silverlings are worth points in end game scoring.
The good tiles are also quite good to sell in many quantity. If you can sell 3-4 tiles in 1 action then it’s worth it. 2 is the least. In 4 players game the points from goods are quite spectacular, 4 points / good sold. Unlike with 2 players just 2 points each. The ship placement timing is important in this case, look around the side depots and the stock in the left rounds. This could determine your ship timing. Although it’s heavily based on the luck of the white die rolls.
Some of the images are courtesy of BGG users