The Slow Build (strategy vs tactics in SotM)

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Trajector
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The Slow Build (strategy vs tactics in SotM)

A couple active threads lately, such as this one and this one, have got me thinking about a subject that basically boils down to the following:

In a typical game of Sentinels of the Multiverse, do you prioritize strategy or tactics?

A number of characters can be effective in the immediate state of the game right out of the gate. Others take time to build up to maximum effectiveness. This is a continuum where many heroes are somewhere in the middle - and so many can choose: do they take short-term actions to handle the current threats on the board? Or do they take a turn to set up?

More sticky still: let's say you have a character with a hand that could be only a little useful at the moment or for setup, but isn't loaded with the cards you need to get really going. (Say, Absolute Zero with a hand full of Sub-Zero Atmospheres but no Modules; or Argent Adept with instruments but nothing to play.) Do you go for that little bit of utility, or draw two? Do you go for that partial setup that isn't useful now, but you know you might have to do later, or draw two? And what if you don't draw the cards you wanted - do you also take your next turn to draw two? Many characters, including several of the new ones, really do have "power builds." But you're not likely to start with all the cards you need. So - setting aside the fact that the power build is possible - do you draw two until you can start it?

There are as many ways to deal with this problem as there are combinations of Sentinels games, I'm sure. I've let some higher-complexity-setup heroes concentrate on setup while others shoulder the villain and environment. I've also waited for a good game state to let all characters spend time on their builds. Though sometimes I think of giving each round to one hero to build up while the rest handle the tactical game, I've never really pulled that off. Most of the time, the determining factor for me is that a hero often does have a card that's useful in the moment, and I want all the heroes moving the game towards victory even if only a little. This is not to say I completely abandon strategy, but tactics does have a way of overriding. As a result, I don't see those "power builds" that frequently.

What do you all think? Is it better to play the ground game...or the long game?


Ameena
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I just play with whatever I've got at the time - if there is a card in my hand that can be immediately useful (even if not very), I'll most likely play it, picking the option that seems the most useful if more than one card could be played. Especially if it's someone like the Adept where I know I'm gonna want as many songs and instruments out as possible since I never know what I'm gonna end up with in subsequent turns. If my hand only consists of instruments, I'll play to set up for the "power combo" if either or both of those instruments is the Harp/Lyra, otherwise play any other one. If my hand only consists of songs and it's still the first turn (so I have nothing already in play that I can combo with) then I'll just play whatever will be most useful this turn unless I have Inspiring Supertonic in which case that's going out ;).

Anyway, speaking more generally, I never play based on "Oh, I just need to wait for this one card and then I can do these things". It's more a case of "If I can get hold of this card I can do all these things, but in the meantime I don't so I'll just do this other thing instead". And sometimes I'll have a card that could be at least slightly useful now, but I'd prefer to hold onto it later so I can take advangate of everything it can do, for example if I have a copy of Disruptive Flechettes in-hand when the villain has no horrible ongoings in play but I know they could do (eg Return with the Dawn, Apocalypse) so I'd rather hold onto it in case they suddenly play it. Unless someone else has ongoing destruction too, in which case I'd probably play it if there were a whole bunch of targets to hit and thus take most advantage of the damage. Or if it's someone like the Ennead who have no ongongs at all, in which case Flechettes becomes solely a damage card.


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TakeWalker
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I prioritize awesomeness :V

The heroes I'm most likely to skip-skip on the first turn for are Absolute Zero, Expatriette and Unity, and her most of all. Of course, it all depends on what's going on at the time, whether you're in a damage race or there's DR you can't get through or you have targets that need to be taken out now now now. But I will usually try to make myself as effective as possible on an opening hand, even if it means not playing optimally. Many's the time I find myself making the choice between "well, if I play this first, I can do some extra damage" and just doing stuff now.

I guess I can bring it back to the thing I've found playing Ra, of all people: More instances of damage are better than fewer instances of more damage, in most cases. So I'll put off playing a Staff for a while unless I really need healing or my hand's full of Flame Spikes, because I'd rather go one-shot/Pyre than a play that essentially does nothing but upgrade my base power into one of my ongoing powers.

...I don't know if that's relevant to this discussion, it just occurred to me. c.c

Dandolo
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I would say I tend to focus on the short game as well, though it somewhat varies based on villain and game state. However, if I see I have enough resources to deal with the immediate threats and allow a hero or 2 to plan further ahead I'll usually start thinking a bit more long term. I'll generally focus on setting up heroes who have part of what they need available rather than a hero who would need to double skip. This is all very general though, it really depends on game state. 

A few additional thoughts:

-Against villains with limited ongoing/equipment destruction, I often want to build up non-critical ongoing/equipment cards early to act as sacrifical cards later. So after planning out what one-shots I'll need to deal with the immediate board state, I'll spend my other early plays on this.

-Whenever possible, I like to play cards that can help with both short term needs and build towards the long game. For example, if I can deal with a problematic minion by playing KNYFE's Focusing Conduit Blade and using her base power, I'd prefer that to playing a one-shot even if the one-shot would let me deal more damage overall.

-Damage to the main villain is generally a lower priority to me early than long term build up.

-Absolute Zero, Unity, NightMist, The Harpy, La Comodora, and The Idealist are the heroes I'm most likely to prioritize the long game over the short term need whenever possible.

-The Sentinels, The Scholar, Legacy, and Expatriette are the heroes that have potental long game builds that I'm least likely to focus on the long game with.

The Mariner
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It depends a lot on the hero, but I usually find it’s more fun to play tactics earlier and strategy later.

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When playing, I prioritize dealing with immediate threats (setup destroyers, massive damage, or extra villain plays), then hero setup. I often hold out for the awesome combo just because it's fun, but it's rarely a good idea.

When choosing a team, I try to make sure at least half the team is useful right out of the gate, and if there's a setup-heavy hero or a particular combo I'm looking for, a hero that grants draw or otherwise helps get that set up.


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arenson9
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Lots of good stuff here!

Another factor for me is my mood, or why I'm playing. Sometimes I'm really interested in seeing what I can do with a character. Sometimes I'm feeling silly. Sometimes I'm playing all the heroes so just drawing cards is no big deal, because I can have my play/power fun with other heroes. Sometimes I'm really into the puzzle of how to handle a situation, so I'm really focued on min/maxing the benefits of each play and power. Sometimes I haven't got much brain power, so I'm leaning on the tactics/stratgies I know rather than evaluating the options.

After all this time I'm still finding that even with a game made up entirely of decks from the core game and no variants, I still find the choices stimulating. In fact, simply playing a solo game without Legacy is rare enough for me that it leads to lots of interesting choices.

 


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Phantom5613
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For me, it always falls between two factors: Boardstate and what's in hand.

For example: If the board is bad and AZ doesn't have any of his set-up, I don't mind him using a self-harming one-shot or two so he can help clear things out. He's built to get the HP back.

If AA doesn't have a single song then I'll either double skip or play something like Silver Shadow or Arcane Cadence if it's in hand(Hell, I may just play AC first, even if I had songs). But if he does have a viable song, then I'll put it out and hope something with a good combo makes an appearance.

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While my strategy will change in the situation in general I focus on getting everyone set up unless there's something not doing a severe amount of damage or there's something blowup up my setup, then those take priority.  If someone's setup but the rest of the team isn't then they're meant to assist the rest of them if they can.  If they can't they're probably bashing in the face of the badguy.  Keep in mind I'm the kind of guy that prefers F5 Wraith to F6 Tach.


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I think I have a tendency to prioritise set up over moving towards victory sometimes. If I’m in a stable position, I often find myself trying to continue to build ‘god tier’ characters by continuing to at extra stuff to building them up rather than saying “I have enough to win now”. 

I think the game is balanced more around the heroes not getting allowed to fully build up I think that can been seen in some really hard fights that just become simple if you live long enough to play enough set up - the classic example I can think of is Legacy vs Chairman. If you could start with all of his ongoing in play, Legacy can pretty much make your team invincible in that fight. 

I think there definitely comes a point in most games where setting up to help you win becomes setting up to win more, and I’m trying to get better at recognising when that point is, mainly so games are faster and don’t end with a slow cruise to victory. I only play the digital game solo though, so all decisions are mine to make when I play - sometimes the purpose of playing is to build a fun / powerful / unusual combo that I might not have considered, so it does depend on my mood at the time as well...

dclietz
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To me, this discussion is the most interesting part of Sentinels. Sometimes it is clearly better to play a card or use a power that deals with an immediate threat, sometimes it is clearly better to build up your board or draw or otherwise gain resources so that you can deal with future threats, but the game is most fun for me when it isn't clear. Learning how to read the board state and manage future threats to make that decision is perhaps the most important skill in the game (perhaps after learning your hero). Some posts on BGG say things like "this game has no strategy" or "you just play the best card and use your best power every turn" but I strongly disagree, and would bet those people don't win nearly as much as people who manage their resources more efficiently, at least against harder setups. 

I would guess that I tend to prioritize build up more than most, even if the team has to take some extra damage. 

 

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Furthermore, learning how to balance dealing fast and slow play within a team is a big part of the strategy as well.  Last night I was playing advanced Baron Blade in a three player game with Lifeline (mine), Hunted Naturalist, and Nightmist.  I spent most of the game dealing damage to myself and dealing with immediate threats (I was down to 2 life at the end) while my allies mostly built up to tank and reflect damage.  It worked well overall.

So in constructing a balanced team, IMO, it's nice to have at least one character primed to take out the immediate threats while others can build up to do the alpha strikes or tank in a big way, etc.

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dclietz wrote:

Some posts on BGG say things like "this game has no strategy" or "you just play the best card and use your best power every turn"

Bet you $50 they only played one or two games, and they didn't even use any heroes over a complexity 1.

Ameena
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The fact that they seem to be specifying that each deck apparently has a "best card/power" sounds rather inexperienced as well ;).


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Phantom5613
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And we all know there's only one 'Best Card Ever'.

dpt
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Phantom5613 wrote:
And we all know there's only one 'Best Card Ever'.
To be fair, that one is quite a card.
TakeWalker
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But there are two of them! D:

bluedarky
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Three actually, he even has a quote in the video game if he draws the other two using one.

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Only two copies of Best Card Ever! in both physical and digital versions.   I wish it were three or four copies. 


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ejg_dnd
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To answer the op, its really dependent on the matchup.  But I find most of the time taking the play and the power use delivers more value than sitting on cards.  Even when heroes need several cards to be setup, playing out cards immediately is often better, unless I am dealing with villains that have lots of ways to destroy them.

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If the villains do have lots of ways to break your stuff, it can be a good idea to play out a load of cards, just to get yourself a buffer of cards you don't mind getting destroyed while you put out the cards you actually want to keep. Depends on how often stuff-destruction occurs, of course, in relation to the rate at which you're putting out cards that can be destroyed...


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That really depends on the villain, though.

Citizen Dawn and Omnitron both destroy *all* Equipment and *all* Ongoings, so putting out a buffer isn't an option with them.  Later expansions, obviously, drift away from that sort of in-game punishment, destroying cards only based on (H).  

Ameena
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Yeah, I was speaking generally rather than specifically - pretty much everything in Sentinels is dependent on the current situation in terms of which decks are being used, which cards are out, etc.


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