# [Review - Discussion] Princes of Florence

11 replies [Last post]
sedjtroll
Offline
Joined: 07/21/2008

About a week and a half ago I finally had the opportunity to play Princes of Florence for the first time. I had heard the name of the game, spoken with reverence among the ranks of Puerto Rico and the like, having won some award or other... In my situation (until recently) I was not in a position to get to try many board games at all, let alone a variety of them.

I recently happened upon a gold mine- a regular gaming group of people who enjoy a good strategy game. They meet every week, often twice a week, and since I've started joining them I've gotten to try many different games- some of which I'd heard of and some of which I hadn't.

In the case of Princes of Florence, I had heard of it, but when they started explaining the game I feared I wouldn't like it. It's a bidding game, which is in the end all about who was the most efficient with their money. I am terrible at bidding games and therefore figured that no matter how good the game was, I would probably be fine not playing it anymore.

I am happy to announce that not only did I find the game very fun and very good, but I also managed to score very well in my first game, coming in second, and even identifying a major mistake that could have made the difference between 2nd and 1st place.

A quick synopsis of the game (you can get a more detailed description from boardgamegeek):
There are 7 rounds, each of which begins with an auction, and ends with players taking 2 actions each. There are some items which you can get in the auction and there are others thatyou buy with actions. Finally you score points and/or income by "producing works", or playing cards which have a value based on the items you have purchased. Certain items add to the value of the work, and the minimum value to play the work increases from turn to turn. The value of the work is marked on the board and the player can choose how much of that value to take in \$100 chips, and how much to trade in for Victory Points at a rate of 2 to 1 (\$200 = 1 VP). This is where the main scoring in the game comes from. There is supplemental scoring for things like highest valued work in each round, 3vp for each building you buy, 3vp for getting a multiple of certain things you can get in the auction.

So the game boils down to who spent their money and produced works the most efficiently. The more efficient you are, the more VPs you can take per work because you need less income. The auction mechanic is interesting because each player will buy something at the auction, and it's up to the bidding to see how much they will pay. Only 1 of any given item can be bought each round.

There are exactly 7 rounds, and therefore exactly 7 auctions and exactly 7 things you can buy at the auction. You also get 2 actions a turn, for a total of 14 actions each game, to spend buying things and producing works.

Despite the fact that bidding for items is a MAJOR portion of this game, I found it very interesting. Last night I played it for the second time and ended up winning this time. I have not fully grasped different strategies yet, and I wasn't sure until the end that I was going to win.

I'd like to use this thread to discuss the play and strategies of Princes of Florence. Have youplayed it? What do you think of it? What do you like to buy in the first round or two? Or does it depend entirely on the Profession cards you start with?

Is this game 'solvable'? Is there a 'best strategy'?

- Seth

Sebastian
Offline
Joined: 07/27/2008
Re: [Review - Discussion] Princes of Florence

sedjtroll wrote:

I'd like to use this thread to discuss the play and strategies of Princes of Florence. Have youplayed it? What do you think of it? What do you like to buy in the first round or two? Or does it depend entirely on the Profession cards you start with?

Is this game 'solvable'? Is there a 'best strategy'?

I am reluctant to play Princes of Florence because, as far as I can tell, there is only one strategy - using your first seven or so actions to build up support cards, and using your last seven turns to put on works. I have won the last five or six times people have persuaded me to play by following this strategy.

Why does the strategy work? Basically, putting on works is your major source of VPs. You can get other VPs through special cards, etc. but for these, you either need to be pretty lucky with your draws, or spend a disproportionate amount of time building towards them. Why put on the works at the end? Because works at the end will score you an extra ten or so VPs more than those you score at the start because of the extra stuff you've bought in the mean time. You may need to do an early work to raise extra cash, but appart from that there is no incentive - the bonus for getting the highest work is simply not big enough to be enticing, especially since you're giving up an action which can usually be spent to ensure that you get the bonus for putting on the best work later.

How should you play this strategy? Well, you should always get a profession card - you need them for the work, and they add one point to it. Getting extra also allows you to smoothen your draw out. Jesters are great (but you knew that). So are spare profession cards (half of a jester). You want to get one or two landscapes (matching your cards), one or two freedoms (ditto), one or two buildings (ditto) - spread these out so that you maximise points across all your cards. Save one high paying one for each of the later rounds to get the biggest work bonus. If you have nothing better to do, then get a bonus build card, but ususally you shouldn't have the free actions to do this.

How can you beat this strategy? Well, you can play the same strategy against it, or you can go for extreme strategies with the bonus cards (getting the builders and filling the board, and getting bonus cards for lots of buildings, etc.). If you're lucky, you'll pull it off - if not, not. Probably not in my experience, but other players may not have been playing the strategies optimally.

Unfortuantely, this strategy is boring. By the time you've started round three, you should know all the actions you need to do in the future. From this point, the only things that can affect your actions are the auctions (and you can usually get something), and which exhibitions others put on that you can steal (and the choices there are pretty easy). The rest of the game is just seeing how it pans out, and usually carrying off the victory.

jwarrend
Offline
Joined: 08/03/2008
[Review - Discussion] Princes of Florence

I had a chance to play this game last week after only having played it once a few years back, and it really rekindled my admiration for the game. It's a beautiful piece of design, very richly themed, fun to play, and incredibly tight in its economy. This game isn't just about managing your money, but managing your small number of actions and auctions that you have -- and this seems to be a Kramer hallmark.

I found the game to be rather inelegant -- it feels like a lot of systems cobbled together in non-intuitive ways, with all sorts of weird costs, payouts, and scoring mechanisms. The result is that the game took a good 20 minutes plus to explain the other day, and I can't imagine it taking much less -- there's just so much to it. But its lack of elegance happily doesn't correspond to a lack of playability, and within a turn or two, things become pretty understandable.

I've heard the complaint that the game is multi player solitaire, but I just don't see it; the auctions are a crucial part of the game, if not the crucial part of the game. Furthermore, there's a limited quantity of everything, meaning that choosing one thing means you're probably not going to be able to get something else. I found it to be perfectly interactive.

One thing I'm curious about is how "portable" the game is between groups. Like all bidding games, there's a learning curve to know how much certain things are worth. I wonder whether these values are "group specific", or in any gathering of good players, does a Jester cost about X, a builder about Y, etc?

I haven't played nearly enough to say, but I'm very skeptical of Sebastian's claim about there being a "best" strategy. I don't think the game would be so highly rated if there was such a strategy. I strongly suspect that if you posted your strategy on spielfrieks with a title like "Unbeatable PoF strategy", you'd probably find that people could come up with something to stop such an approach, or perhaps have done so already. My guess is that beating the strategy would lie in depriving you of the things you want in auctions, or driving up your auction prices so high that you'd run out of money and would have to produce works early on to get cash. But I really haven't played enough to be able to say -- I'm sure you'd beat me quite handily!

-Jeff

sedjtroll
Offline
Joined: 07/21/2008
[Review - Discussion] Princes of Florence

What I'm seeing in the auctions, and perhaps the key to the game, is that there's plenty of stuff to go around. Rarely should you need a particular thing so badly that you should have to pay through the nose for it.

This is where the one thing I don't like about the game comes in... the turn order effect. It sucks so bad to go first, and it is so good to go last, that I worry the game isn't well balanced. That said, I did win last night while playing first in a 4 player game, which means I went 1st twice and in the last round (which seems crucial) I went 3rd.

Ideally, to maximise your score you just buy everything for 200 at the auction. This may not work out perfectly depending on what other people do, but if you can manage then you've spent as little as you could and therefore can score more for works instead of taking income. This seems to go hand in hand with Sebastian's strategy of building up for the first half and then playing works, as it hardly matters what order you build up in, so long as you end up with the right Landscape(s) and Freedom(s) when the time comes.

I think it's definitely worth getting at least 1 builder before buying buildings, as saving the \$400 seems really good. getting three is probably not worth it unless you are going to do some kind of 'builder strategy' which I suppose would involve buying 3 builders, lots of buildings, and 1 or 2 prestige cards (looking for 'most buildings' and 'least open space') I imagine you'd still purchase at least 1 freedom and at least one landscape (probably Park so it doesn't take up a lot of space) in order to do a few works, because even getting like 6 buildings plus the 2 extra builders only buys you 24 VPs, and you're not going to win with just that.

I keep thinking that a builder strategy like that would work because you could play nearly any Work, but the problem is you'd probably have to get Bonus cards to get the works over the limit. It's like I wantt hat to work, but whenever I see it it seems like it won't be any good.

What I did last night was basically play 1 work per turn, and take all or nearly all of the value in VPs. The reason I did that was because my opponents were taking most of their works in VPs and I didn't want to fall behind. By never paying more than \$300 or \$400 at auction I was able to get by with little income. I did not play a work on turn 1 because I was 'buiding up' like Sebastian suggests, but I was afraid to hold out much longer because I didn't want to have trouble meeting the limit.

I suppose if you get all the Freedoms and Landscapes you need, the right buildings, and extra Professions and maybe a jester you can easily meet the limit.

Maybe next game I'll try to get a Builder, Jester, and a Landscape or 2 in the first couple rounds of auction, buy 2 freedoms, 2 buildings, and 3 Professions before I start cashing them in... then in later auctions I could get a Recruiting card and another Jester and finally a Prestige (not necessarily in that order) and spend the remaining actions simply creating works, 1 on turn 4 and 2 per turn thereafter.

That would likely guarantee me the 'largest work' points for the last 3 rounds and like 7 to 9 VP per work (plus 6 for the buildings)... That's upwards of 60 points... with maybe 7 for a Prestige card and that's about what I got last night.

Hmm...
This is what I meant when I said maybe the game is 'solvable'...

jwarrend
Offline
Joined: 08/03/2008
[Review - Discussion] Princes of Florence

Again, I'm no expert at the game, and I hope those who are will chime in...

sedjtroll wrote:

This is where the one thing I don't like about the game comes in... the turn order effect. It sucks so bad to go first, and it is so good to go last, that I worry the game isn't well balanced.

What I found curious is that in the 5 player game, the first two players get to be the start player in the auctions one extra time each. This led me to think, not that the game was imbalanced, but that the seat order doesn't matter that much. I think the effect whereby you get to keep starting auctions until you win one is huge. It pretty much guarantees that you're definitely going to get something for \$200. I suspect that if you have an eye for what other people might want, you could start the bidding on those items first, drive up the price a bit, and then swoop in for a discount on what you're really looking for. (but you must be careful you don't get stuck with something you don't really want) I don't think there's a problem with this aspect of the game.

Quote:

Hmm...
This is what I meant when I said maybe the game is 'solvable'...

It's possible that this is the case, but I think there's a huge world of difference between "I can imagine a strategy for a game" and "the game is solvable". There are so many ways to score points with this one that I have to think that no one strategy could dominate in every situation. And I really don't think the game could have earned such accolades from the gaming community if there was an unbeatable strategy. This is argument by assumption on my part, and I grant that it isn't rigorous. Hopefully others can fill in the gaps a bit...

-J

sedjtroll
Offline
Joined: 07/21/2008
[Review - Discussion] Princes of Florence

jwarrend wrote:
What I found curious is that in the 5 player game, the first two players get to be the start player in the auctions one extra time each.

I'm no expert either, but it's been my impression in both games I played that I'd just rather not be first player. I would rephrase your above statement as "...first two players HAVE to be the start player..."

Quote:
This led me to think, not that the game was imbalanced, but that the seat order doesn't matter that much. I think the effect whereby you get to keep starting auctions until you win one is huge. It pretty much guarantees that you're definitely going to get something for \$200.

going last also guarantees you'll get something for \$200. Furthermore if you want something that gets bid on by say, player 1, then you bid \$300 (not \$400 like player 1 if they get outbid). There may be more of a chance of the items you want being bid on before you get to choose, but there's no chance of bidding on something you don't really want and accidentally getting it.

Quote:
I suspect that if you have an eye for what other people might want, you could start the bidding on those items first, drive up the price a bit, and then swoop in for a discount on what you're really looking for.

This is definitely one of the finer points of the game. But based on my experience so far (and fortified by Sebastian's comment), it shouldn't be imperitive (usually) that you get any specific item in any given auction, so if I'm smart I just won't bid if the price goes up too much.

Quote:
(but you must be careful you don't get stuck with something you don't really want) I don't think there's a problem with this aspect of the game.

I don't think it's necessarily a problem, but I'd definitely rather not be player 1. Maybe it's personal preference, or maybe it's imbalance. It doesn strike me as odd that the number of rounds is not related to the number of players (so each player 'gets to' go first the same number of times).

There's still the issue of how good it is to go last, so if you go last in the last round that's pretty big.

Quote:
I really don't think the game could have earned such accolades from the gaming community if there was an unbeatable strategy.

I'm not sure there's an unbeatable strategy, but as Seb said, there may be just 1 strategy. If everyone employs it then it omes down to what plays you make and possibly who went first as opposed to which strategy won out.

- Seth

jwarrend
Offline
Joined: 08/03/2008
[Review - Discussion] Princes of Florence

Quote:

Quote:
I suspect that if you have an eye for what other people might want, you could start the bidding on those items first, drive up the price a bit, and then swoop in for a discount on what you're really looking for.

This is definitely one of the finer points of the game. But based on my experience so far (and fortified by Sebastian's comment), it shouldn't be imperitive (usually) that you get any specific item in any given auction, so if I'm smart I just won't bid if the price goes up too much.

This may be the case, but I don't accept the premise that in all 7 auctions, you'll be willing to take whatever you can get for \$200, and this premise is a requisite for the claim that last position is the power position. (Because it means that you're basically going to forsake bidding in all 4 of the previous auctions; that also means that you're probably giving stuff to other people at bargain prices, meaning no net gain for you). In last position, you're going to have the last chance to initiate an auction, and I think that the ability to decide is what is up for auction is a very important ability. It's the presence of this ability that makes me think strongly that the game doesn't have a seat order effect. If there was one, someone would have discovered it by now. I suspect that the trick of the game is to maximize your play each turn, with an adaptive bidding strategy that takes into account where in the turn order you'll fall.

Quote:
(but you must be careful you don't get stuck with something you don't really want) I don't think there's a problem with this aspect of the game.

I don't think it's necessarily a problem, but I'd definitely rather not be player 1. Maybe it's personal preference, or maybe it's imbalance.

But after just 2 playings, surely you can't really tell? As designers, it's imperitive that we be the most patient people in the world with respect to evaluating games, because we know how it feels for someone to pronounce our games "broken" simply because they haven't appreciated some subtlety of the game. Given the accolades of this game and the resume of its designer, surely you can withold judgement for a few more plays...

Quote:

Quote:
I really don't think the game could have earned such accolades from the gaming community if there was an unbeatable strategy.

I'm not sure there's an unbeatable strategy, but as Seb said, there may be just 1 strategy. If everyone employs it then it omes down to what plays you make and possibly who went first as opposed to which strategy won out.

I just don't buy it. There are too many scoring systems in the game, and if there was a best strategy, many of these would be superfluous. As I've said, I need to play more myself to say with certainty, but I have to think that a glaring flaw either in the form of a turn order effect or a single dominant strategy that you could spot after just two plays would have been caught by now by the hundreds of people who've played the game many times. In fact, the only comments about a turn order effect in the PoF entry at BGG are from a guy who misunderstood the rules and rescinded his complaint.

Just as a general rule, I'd be careful about pronouncing any game "flawed"
after just two playings, particularly when it's a top-3 game at BGG, which is no small feat.

-Jeff

Scurra
Offline
Joined: 09/11/2008
[Review - Discussion] Princes of Florence

There is, of course, just one strategy in PoF: to finish with more points than the second-placed player. :-) And, as with many other games that work in this fashion, that is surprisingly often dictated by the pattern of the game. (Are you getting things cheap? Do X. Are they being over-valued? Do Y. Are people not taking certain lines? Do Z.)

I agree with Sebastian up to a point: the "do 7 Works at the end of the game" is a very solid, reliable approach which will always do well. However, I certainly don't think it should win as often as Sebastian is claiming* - it strikes me as one of those lines of play that is put into a game to ensure that there is always a solid "second-place" strategy that will win if the other players get side-tracked and fight each other too badly. (We actually talked about this tonight at a test session - Sebastian was there - that it's often useful for a game to have this sort of line, but that alternative strategies need to be more interesting or perhaps more "risky", but ought to win more often.)

(*I'm not suggesting that Sebastian is lying in his claim, merely that it seems that the other players may not have been alert to what he was doing. Or that they were but didn't mind.)

It's worth remembering that to put on seven Works requires recruitment cards and/or profession cards, and these should be hotly contested: in a five-player game there are very few and it is not uncommon for everyone to use an action in round 1 to grab one - and I think that leaves only one left over. This makes reaching the 7 Works target trickier than it sounds. It's not so bad with fewer players, but then everyone should reach them and you need to squeeze your points from other sources (cf St Petersberg, which is so much better with 2 players because the Nobles bonus is clearly far less significant.)

And the other routes to victory that Sebastian mentions (builders, bonus cards, prestige cards) are exactly those enjoyable "risky" routes that make the game consistently interesting to me. I like the heavy builder strategy, because it is so under-rated and thus has that "under the radar" feel about it (I've won off just 4 works, but they scored enormously thanks to bonus cards and so on.) Sure you can play the "safe" way, but I don't think you should (a) win, or (b) have much of a good time ;-)

And yes it's true that after round 3 you are pretty much set in your strategy - and I think that's where the auction can become serious fun as the things people want are more evident and other players can take advatntage of this knowledge; it's very easy to lose sight of the fact that money is still tight in the game and squeezing every last florin of value is essential - yes, you can always buy something for 200, but if the other players are paying attention, it shouldn't be what you really want.
Likewise the permuations are all listed for you so it's not hard to see where someone is going and very easy to get in their way: after all, if you know someone wants to hire the Astronomer (because of what they have bought), you don't have to use him yourself until you have to (I have won a game this way and it was most entertaining. Not for my opponent, admittedly ;-)
But, like Puerto Rico, it is perilously easy for players to lose sight of the control they do have over other players' positions and this can lead to what I think are mistaken impressions of single strategies ("buy Jesters. Win".)

Scurra
Offline
Joined: 09/11/2008
[Review - Discussion] Princes of Florence

You'll find it here

Sebastian
Offline
Joined: 07/27/2008
[Review - Discussion] Princes of Florence

jwarrend wrote:
I haven't played nearly enough to say, but I'm very skeptical of Sebastian's claim about there being a "best" strategy. I don't think the game would be so highly rated if there was such a strategy. I strongly suspect that if you posted your strategy on spielfrieks with a title like "Unbeatable PoF strategy", you'd probably find that people could come up with something to stop such an approach, or perhaps have done so already.

Firstly, I did not say that the strategy was unbeatable - people playing the same strategy but doing it better or luckier will clearly beat it - as will people having sufficient luck with extreme strategies such as going mad on the buildings, or creating stuff to appropriate to several well matching bonus cards.

jwarrend wrote:
My guess is that beating the strategy would lie in depriving you of the things you want in auctions, or driving up your auction prices so high that you'd run out of money and would have to produce works early on to get cash.

One of the reasons that this strategy works well is that that is not really possible. Pretty much everything availiable to auction is good in one way or another. Jesters give two points all works, one builder allows you to smooth your cashflow to get the two or three buildings you need without having to put on an early work for extra cash, the recruitment cards give a one bonus to all works and helps deal with running out of profession cards (particularly in a five player game). And landscape cards appropriate to your professions are also always useful.

If you were going for a builder strategy, or for a bonus card strategy, then this point would be more valid - these, however, are the competing strategies.

scurra wrote:

I agree with Sebastian up to a point: the "do 7 Works at the end of the game" is a very solid, reliable approach which will always do well. However, I certainly don't think it should win as often as Sebastian is claiming (I'm not suggesting that Sebastian is lying in his claim, merely that it seems that the other players may not have been alert to what he was doing. Or that they were but didn't mind.) - it strikes me as one of those lines of play that is put into a game to ensure that there is always a solid "second-place" strategy that will win if the other players get side-tracked and fight each other too badly.

I've usually said at the beginning that that's what the winning strategy's been for me when I've explained why I'm ambivelent about the game. And I'm not convinced that I'm likeable enough for people to simply give me the win, although it would be nice :wink:.

Essentially, I think that for a second-place strategy, it's a little too good. This doesn't mean PoF is not a game, it must be said - there's a good lot of tactical manouvering as to who can pull off the strategy best / beat it using one of the off-the-wall approaches. It's just the lack of strategies that work mean that it's fallen from a 'very good' game to a 'yet another' game in my estimation.

jwarrend
Offline
Joined: 08/03/2008
[Review - Discussion] Princes of Florence

Sebastian wrote:

Essentially, I think that for a second-place strategy, it's a little too good. This doesn't mean PoF is not a game, it must be said - there's a good lot of tactical manouvering as to who can pull off the strategy best / beat it using one of the off-the-wall approaches. It's just the lack of strategies that work mean that it's fallen from a 'very good' game to a 'yet another' game in my estimation.

But don't you think that with all of the hard-core gamers who have played this game so many times, someone else would have figured out that there's only one strategy, and would have said something about it before now? And wouldn't its ratings be lower than they are? I just continue to think that if you posted this on BGG or in spielfrieks, someone could come
up with an effective counterstrategy.

I would also point out that what you're referring to as a "strategy" (buy stuff for 7 actions, then do 7 works) is actually pretty vague and unspecific; I suspect that there may actually be many permutations of this "strategy" depending on what specific things you purchase, what auctions you're able to win, etc, and each of these might be considered a "strategy" unto itself. (e.g, getting an early builder would veer you more in a building-oriented direction whereas getting landscapes early might steer you more towards trying to get freedoms, etc). So maybe it's possible that no one has referenced this "one and only strategy" simply because it's at too far back a level of abstraction in its formulation. It feels a bit like going into PR saying "My strategy is to build some buildings, and ship some goods". Sure, of course one is going to do that, but which buildings? Which goods? One has to answer those questions before one has something that could be called a "strategy". And maybe it's the same thing here.

I don't know. As I've said, I'm clearly out of my depth here, since I haven't played this game enough. But even so, I must side with the majority opinion here, which is not to say I think the game is great simply because they think it's great; but rather, that if a glaring flaw existed in the game (like a single dominant strategy), there would be a lot more chatter about it. Of course, it's possible that you're right, but I'd rather see it demonstrated in the context of a discussion or consensus among experts of the game rather than as an assertion.

-Jeff

Sebastian
Offline
Joined: 07/27/2008
[Review - Discussion] Princes of Florence

jwarrend wrote:

I would also point out that what you're referring to as a "strategy" (buy stuff for 7 actions, then do 7 works) is actually pretty vague and unspecific; I suspect that there may actually be many permutations of this "strategy" depending on what specific things you purchase, what auctions you're able to win, etc, and each of these might be considered a "strategy" unto itself. (e.g, getting an early builder would veer you more in a building-oriented direction whereas getting landscapes early might steer you more towards trying to get freedoms, etc). So maybe it's possible that no one has referenced this "one and only strategy" simply because it's at too far back a level of abstraction in its formulation. It feels a bit like going into PR saying "My strategy is to build some buildings, and ship some goods". Sure, of course one is going to do that, but which buildings? Which goods? One has to answer those questions before one has something that could be called a "strategy". And maybe it's the same thing here.

Taking the analogy of PR, my view is that PoF is like PR if, for example, only the building strategy worked. Sure, you need to decide what buildings to buy. Certainly, you can pick up some points on the side by shipping some goods. But when it comes down to it, everyone has got to go for buildings, or hope that they're extremely lucky with shipping goods, in order to win.

What I'd want PoF to be like, is where there are questions of whether it's worthwhile to put on early works to do one thing, or take bonus cards to do another thing, and so forth. Instead, there is a swing of between ten and fiveteen VP between putting on an early and not (you loose an action that could put between one and two VP on each work from that point, and this work has no benefit of later actions that put VPs on work) which means that unless you're cash strained, putting on a work is .. suboptimal, and actions are so tight that punting on getting a bonus card is usually something that you can't afford compared to the guaranteed bonus of getting a freedom, building, etc. [If, for example, the best works bonus was a bonus of ten, then getting early works and bonus cards to push up the value would start becoming a lot more of an interesting decision. It'd probably break the game in other ways, but...]

What you refer to as strategies - getting a builder early and making effective use of him - I'd refer to as tactics. Buying an extra building rather than an extra freedom is merely looking at the works you're going to put on, and working which one gives you the better return - in essense, judging how to best turn your limited actions and money into VPs for works. Since you know pretty much exactly what works you'll be putting on, it's just a matter of totting up the points.

jwarrend wrote:
Sebastian wrote:
It's just the lack of strategies that work mean that it's fallen from a 'very good' game to a 'yet another' game in my estimation.

But don't you think that with all of the hard-core gamers who have played this game so many times, someone else would have figured out that there's only one strategy, and would have said something about it before now? And wouldn't its ratings be lower than they are? I just continue to think that if you posted this on BGG or in spielfrieks, someone could come
up with an effective counterstrategy.

Of course, it's possible that you're right, but I'd rather see it demonstrated in the context of a discussion or consensus among experts of the game rather than as an assertion.

Personally, I'd rather see it disproved :wink: . That's one reason I brought it up here - I'd like to see someone say 'no, no - that can be countered by an agressive early works strategy and then buying bonus cards at the end' or whatever.

Looking through BGG, the comments there indicate that if the other players are bidding highly enough for jesters, recruitment cards, etc, then going for a building and VP card strategy works. Except for that, most of the guides seem to be talking about how best to implement the strategy I mentioned. Maybe it's just that noone else sees it as a problem, which could easily be the case - as mentioned, it's still a game even without the strategy decision. [For ease of reference, the two main sets of strategy comments are in the threads http://www.boardgamegeek.com/article/36487 and http://www.boardgamegeek.com/article/33523.]