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Saturday, January 15, 2011

In the Year of the Dragon

In the Year of the Dragon is a management game, where players attempt to assemble a population to overcome certain disasters.  The game challenge comes from having to manage ones population (which determines turn order), housing (how many people can be held in your 'village'), cards (people available to hire), money (what can be bought) and the upcoming disasters.

I've played this game several times and I have more words of advice for new players of the game.  These are simple guidelines and not hard and fast rules, but they should help:

First play
Play the first game as desired, learn the mechanics and what happens.  Have fun, but expect to lose.  In this stage the mechanics are being learned.  The rest of these guides should help improve the score.

Build at Least One Palace Floor Early
This will help with the next two steps.  Building a floor early relieves the population pressure quite a bit.  It doesn't have to be in a separate palace, but so much the better since every palace is a point.

Planned Obsolescence
Expect to lose people.  It is almost impossible to keep everyone alive.  Therefore, expect to have people replaced by others.  There is no reason this can't be planned out.  For example: the physicians are good, but after the last plague they are of no use.  If required to lose someone, lose the doctors after last plague.  Another version of planning is to not put all doctors in the same house.  If required to lose people from drought, having both doctors in the same house means you can only lose one of them at most.

3-Turn Rule
Look forward 3 turns to see what is coming up.  Try planning for it if possible, picking up the person (people) required to meet that objective, then work on the next objective which should be 3-turns out.

Going first is nice, Winning is better
Population decides the order of play.  Going first is a definite advantage, but it may only be a temporary advantage.  When choosing an action, always have two or three available options to choose from.  If the player before you chooses the first choice, it is unlikely all the options will be chosen.  This is another area where working 3-turns out, gives some advantages.  Trying to get rice the turn it is needed is too late.  Instead, start thinking 3 turns out.  While the other player(s) spend actions on increasing population, spend time doing something useful by gaining rice, money, research, etc.

Privileges - Timing, Money, and Efficiency
I've seen games won where people concentrate on Privileges.  Similarly, other games were won where no privileges were chosen.  To review, early privileges are better than late privileges because it provides more turns to score points.  But look at timing as well.  Spending all 6 starting yuan on the first turn for a 2 Privilege equates to 24 points at game end.  However, spending 2 yuan on the first two turns to purchase 2 1-value Privileges yields 23 points at game end.

Get Offensive
Be vicious.  Look at opponents' weaknesses and strike.  For example: If the opponent is short Rice, consider taking Rice, or its paired action, even if personal supplies are good.  Losing people may not hurt much if the opponent placed people correctly in the palace, but the loss will limit their options

Let Others Do the Dirty Work
When playing a multi-player game, consider choosing actions which will force others to take an action another player needs.  Again, this requires looking at what opponents' need and then choosing actions that make one item seem more valuable than others.  For example: using the rice situation above, if rice is secure, and the opponents both need it, consider taking a different action which one of them needs, but not at the moment.  One of them will then choose Rice, leaving the other to suffer the effects of Drought while keeping to the "3-turn' rule.

Looking at this game strategically in the above fashion will improve the game.  That said, like any advice, there are always times to ignore the rules.  After a few plays those times when to break the rules should become easier to deduce.
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