I love this game – I think it might be my favourite gateway game of the decade. I wish more people would talk about it so that they would do some expansions.
Come on CMON!!
Early in the game, when you do not have many pieces on the board, it is most efficient to play small bands as often as you can. Do not gamble on drawing blind unless you have to, as you will not want to risk wasting resources by discarding early in the game. Playing efficiently is very important.
Tribes that work efficiently early in the game (i.e. tribes that you can play in small bands) include Orcs, Minotaurs, Wingfolk, and Wizards.
Conversely, tribes that are more efficient later in the game include Merfolk, Halflings, Centaurs, Elves, Skeletons, and Giants.
You can steal an area from an opponent by placing a band of Merfolk in a region, then putting the bonus counter in the same place. However, the placing of the bonus token is much more powerful later in the game when there are tall stacks. I try to avoid using Merfolk early on as it is a waste of their power.
These can be surprisingly powerful. In a game I played recently, everyone was fighting over the ten point territories, wasting their resources because they were effectively cancelling each other out. The game was won by someone who hoovered up all the Dwarves that no-one else wanted, and got loads of points for playing bands of three or four of them. It was not his only strategy, but it gave him enough extra points to get ahead of his opponents.
I have seen people online be dismissive of Trolls, but I strongly disagree with that. In every game I have ever played, Troll tokens have been extremely influential – ties are so common. When someone has the six token (or sometimes even just the five) they no longer have to try to win a territory, they just have to tie for it. This can affect your entire strategy, and it often makes other players less inclined to go up against you.
Elves allow you to keep cards in your hand, so they enable you to go for getting big bands. As such, they are more effective later in the game
Similarly, Centaurs are most effective when you have lots of cards in your hand, so they are at their best later in the game.
Never discard a centaur. You should always play it rather than offering it to an opponent.
Potential uses for skeletons:
- Getting a token onto a high stack
- Getting the giant token
- Keeping a crucial card using Elves
- Getting to the next free token level on the Merfolk board
In the third age, item 1 above becomes important.
Getting a two point bonus for a single Giant is good value. Also, if you manage to win the token in Age 3, that is worth having too. Other than that however, I do not find the Giants to be particularly powerful. I would probably only go for the biggest band if the person currently holding it was my main rival.
You can play these at any point in the game; they are no more efficient at the beginning or end of the game, because the concept of wasting a big band on a region that does not need one, does not apply.
If you are playing against experienced players (or even just beginners who happen to have read this strategy guide) then it might be a good idea to go for the Halflings in Age 1, while everyone else is going for Orcs and Wizards.
As a corollary – if there is only one player collecting Halflings, they are going to get a lot of points. Don’t let this happen.
Useful early in the game to let you get your tokens where you want them, but other than that these are not especially powerful.
Since when was “Wizard” a tribe?
Well, anyway, Wizards are great early in the game – they replace the card(s) you just spent at a time when you don’t mind so much what you pick up because you can probably play it straight away. Along with Orcs, these are the ones I would choose to pick up at the beginning of Age 1.
They also have a satisfying ability at the end of any Age. If you are in a good position, and you want the Age to end as soon as possible, playing a large band of wizards can speed things up considerably. If there are five or six cards left in the draw pile, and an opponent is sat opposite you with ten cards in his hand, then playing even a small band of wizards will most likely reveal the final dragon, and break your opponent’s heart (in a good way).
These can be useful later in the game, enabling you to place a counter on a high stack without needing quite as big a band as you otherwise would. However, I also like to use them early in the game, using a single Minotaur to place the second counter on a region.
So which regions should you go for?
As with any area control game, do not try to win all of them. You will spread yourself too thin and you might end up winning none of them.
Going for regions with a big Age 3 score, but low Age 1 and 2 scores is a big risk. A better bet is a region where all three ages have good scores; if you come second or third in these at the end of the game you still get decent points.
If you want to be sure of winning a region, it is often a good idea to maintain a +2 buffer. Opponents are less likely to try to compete with you if they think it is going to be difficult to win. And if they do try, the +2 buffer will usually give you time to respond before the scoring phase.
That’s all I have to say for now, except, at the risk of repeating myself…
Come on CMON. Give us an expansion!