Greenfield: a Supply Chain Strategy Game

I like to have projects that work on different parts of my brain. That way, when one part of my brain is tired, I can work on something else that strengthens another part of my brain.

I’m finally ready to reveal one of my more recent projects. I suggested to my manager a few months back an idea to develop a board game to teach Supply Chain strategic thinking. That project has since come to fruition.

With a small budget and a percentage of time from an artist and a graphic designer, we developed a board game that meets the following criteria.

  1. Fun to play
  2. Simulates reality (OK, so it isn’t perfect, but it gets the idea across.)
  3. Teaches people how to think about supply chain strategy
  4. Looks great

It is not quite finished, but I think we have accomplished just that.

Tim Kamarul is the artist for the box and the Distribution Center Tokens. I’m really happy with the colors and especially like the truck.

Jimbo Raleigh designed the board and the cards and did an excellent job dealing with my frequent requests to tweak one thing or another.

Greenfield5

 

Stay tuned, I’ll continue to post updates as things move along.

 

Footnote: a Greenfield in a supply chain is when you need to build a new Distribution Center, and you can put it anywhere you want. It is a green field.

Onirim Strategy

Have you ever had a bad dream that you can’t wake up from? For me, it is always me trying to run, but not being able to move. I have found that my arms still work in these dreams, so I am able to drag myself along to try to escape. This cooperative game is based on that kind of dream.

In Onirim, you are trapped inside a dream and have to figure out how to escape by finding keys, doors, and matching locations to unlock enough doors to escape. The game is very fun to play, but it is also very hard to win. The deck is stacked against you. Additionally, you are going to have to shuffle those cards a lot, so if your shuffling technique is 52 card pickup, this is not the game for you. (Fortunately, they just released an app version of the game that shuffles for you.)

Here is my strategy, but you will still lose 50% of the time, roughly.

  1. Discard your keys to gain information and kill the nightmares
  2. Target all the same color so you can safely discard the remainder
  3. If a Nighmare card appears, do the following if possible.
    1. Use a key
    2. Lose 5 cards if you have a set or moon cards in your hand
    3. Discard your hand if you don’t need the cards there.
  4. Calculate the remaining cards so that you don’t discard something necessary

Discarding Keys

The game allows you to do a few things with keys.

  1. If you have a key in your hand and draw a door, you automatically unlock it
  2. If you draw a Nightmare, you can kill it with a key in your hand
  3. You can discard a key to rearrange the top five cards of the deck and discard one.

I like to use the key to rearrange the top cards because you usually will remove a Nightmare card, and you can arrange the cards to get exactly what you need in the order that you need them. Additionally, if you draw cards you don’t want, but there is a door, you can put that first in line to give you a chance to reshuffle to get what you need.

There are a few caveats to this.

  1. Don’t discard a key if it is the only way left to open that color of door
  2. Don’t discard a key if you already know what the next draws are, wait until you actually need it
  3. Don’t discard the key for the color you are focussing on.

Target a Color

In your initial draw, you will have more of one color. Start with this one and try to open all the doors of that color. If you do, it gives you significant leverage for the rest of the game in discarding those colors of cards. There are more Red and Blue cards than Green and Brown, so consider going for Red or Blue because you have better chances. (That being said, don’t discard your Green and Brown, or you won’t be able to complete the in the end.)

The caveat to this is that you don’t want to completely ignore the other colors. Take advantage of whatever appears to maximize your chance of winning.

Nightmare Appearance

Almost always kill a nightmare with a key if you have one, unless it is your only chance to open a door. If you don’t have a key, you have to decide which is worse. If you have the cards you need to open a door, and especially if you have moon cards, you are better off discarding from the top of the deck. If you don’t need the cards in your hand, discard them instead.

Calculate Winning Needs

There are 16 red, 15 blue, 14 green and 13 brown cards. Each set of cards only has 4 moons, so don’t discard them if you can help it. If you know you have already used or discarded all the moons, you know you can’t discard the keys for that color. Often, you will know that the game cannot be won before you get to the end of the deck.

Have fun, I hope your dreams come true.

What other strategies have worked for you?

Pandemic Strategy (Guest Blog)

I’ve invited my brother-in-law Joseph Erickson to post his thoughts around Pandemic strategy. Cooperative board games are great to play with kids because you can lead them along. One of the best is Pandemic. Joseph discusses it below, but I want to add that one of the keys to cooperative games is to let people play. Don’t dominate the game on your own, allow everyone to participate, even if it means a sub-optimal move. You can give suggestions, but if you are the game controller, people will leave with a bad taste in their mouth. Now to Joseph.

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Do you always seem to win at board games? Or perhaps you feel you are consistently on the losing side when you play? Maybe board games often result in fighting. If you’ve had any of these issues, then I would recommend playing a cooperative board game. Your friends become your teammates and your foe becomes the game itself. High on the list of great cooperative games is Pandemic.

When I think of possible outcomes for Pandemic, one “blonde” joke comes to mind. There was a redhead, a brunette, and a blonde on an island. They decided they would take their chances and swim the 50 miles back to the mainland. The redhead swam 20 miles and couldn’t go any farther and drowned. The brunette swam 30 miles, but met the same fate. The blonde swam 49 miles and decided she was too tired, so she swam all the way back to the island. Pandemic can be just like this. Either you will die trying to win, or you will spend a lot of energy “swimming” but forget what the actual goal is.

Pandemic is about saving the world. There are 4 different diseases that are spreading each turn. Your job is to find the cures before time runs out. There are many ways to find the cures, but there are also many ways where the board game beats you.

This brings me to the first key to the game – remember what it takes to win. Every time someone has a turn it is a good idea to ask, “Is this helping us get a cure?” Four cures is all you have to do to beat the game. There can still be many disease pieces on the game board.  You can have several outbreaks. While it is important to keep tabs on the many ways you can lose to the board game, focusing on getting the cures give you the best chance to win.

The next key is to maximize. This game is a good lesson in basic economics because every turn has trade-offs. You can choose to remove disease pieces or trade city cards or move to another city. While most of the time doing anything is helpful, there is usually a better choice to stay on track for the win. As often as possible use all 4 moves that you are given. Perhaps remove a disease piece before moving the three times to your intended city.

Another key to Pandemic is to understand and utilize all special powers. Each player will be given a role card that has a particular power. Use this power often. It is a valuable advantage. There are also event cards. Don’t forget about these after they’ve been drawn. These cards have kept me alive or made a big difference in winning many times. All these powers are there to give you an advantage because the game can be pretty impossible without them.

The final key or strategy for Pandemic is communication. This is a cooperative game, so work together. Ask each other for ideas and openly discuss what should be done every turn. Not only will this bring out the best ideas, but it will also make the game more fun.

Lord of the Rings: Confrontation Strategy

This is my all-time favorite two-player game. The complexities of strategy along with the simplicity of play make it accessible but extremely satisfying.

My brother and I had been playing this game one night many years ago. It was the day before he left on a two-year mission for our church. He ended up sneaking in a win at the last part of the game. At that point, it was pretty late, so we went to bed. I kept playing the game over and over in my mind, and an hour or two later, I went to his room and tried to get him to play one more time. He refused flat out!

This gave me the opportunity to think about how to beat him for two years. When he did finally return, we had our fated rematch and I came out victorious! My family still reminds me about this every time the game comes out.

The game itself has the fellowship of the ring fighting to get Frodo into Mordor while facing hordes of overpowered servants of the dark lord Sauron. You move pieces around like Stratego on a grid and face off in battles. It is quick to learn, and each game can be completed in 15 minutes.

lord-of-the-rings-characters

Strategy

The strategy for LOTR: Confrontation is very complex. There isn’t one great thing to do because once your opponent knows your strategy, it is completely obsolete. Refer to my post on what to do when people know your strategy for tips on other games, but in this game, you can’t have one set strategy. What you can do is know the strengths and weaknesses of each character and take advantage of them as much as possible.

I will lay out the strategies for each character on each side, and then talk about general strategies.

lord-of-the-righs-fellowship

The Fellowship

Unit Good For/Against Bad Against
Gandolf Sarumon
Cave Troll
Flying Nazgul
Black Rider
Orcs (Watch out for Orcs when trying to bring out Gandolf the White)
Boromir 5 point characters Warg
Legolas Flying Nazgul All others
Gimli Orcs All others
Aragorn Sarumon Level 5 Units
Merry Witch-King All others
Pippin Scouting only Warg
Sam Staying with Frodo With Frodo, no one
Frodo No One! Run away! Everyone!

Your goal early on should be to kill as many of Sauron’s minions as possible while preparing a path for Frodo to sneak through.

Gandolf is your main killer. He has an advantage over almost everyone, but don’t get tricked into sacrificing him to the Orcs. Use Pippin to test for weaknesses and attack characters with less than 5 with Gandolf. Eventually, you will end up getting killed by a 5 character, but then prepare to come back as Gandolf the white.

balrog

Sauron’s Minions

Unit Good For/Against Bad Against
Balrog Protecting the tunnel
All Characters (but Boromir)
Noble Sacrifice
Boromir
Shelob All Characters (but Boromir) Warg
Witch-King All Characters (but Boromir and Merry) All others
Flying Nazgul Scouting
Frodo
Legolas
Gandolf
Aragorn
Black Rider Scouting
Frodo
Gandolf
Aragorn
Saruman Rushing past Gandolf and killing all weak characters Gandolf
Aragorn
Orcs Gandolf Gimli
Warg Pippin
Frodo
All others
Cave Troll One free kill Gandolf

Sauron has a distinct military advantage, but the fellowship can whittle away at your army until you can’t stop Frodo. If you can sneak past Gandolf, Saruman can do some excellent damage to the Fellowship. Use your 5 characters and sacrifice yourself to Gandolf. Guard the Gandolf the White space to ensure he doesn’t return.

You want to kill enough characters that you can force Frodo to move towards you. Whenever you attack Frodo, you open yourself up to him sneaking through, so if you can trap his movements and require him to attack you, you can usually win.

 

This is a great game. I suggest you pick up a copy and play often.

 

 

King of Tokyo Strategy

This is a top 3 game for my 8-year-old girl. She loves taking a big handful of dice and shaking them out. She also loves the giant monsters and the powers you can gain.

Here is the strategy:

  1. Get in Tokyo early
  2. Collect energy in early turns
  3. Choose a winning strategy and focus on it
    1. Kill everyone
    2. Risky Tokyo points
    3. Extra turns
    4. Sneaky slow ramp up with a quick ending.

Get in Tokyo

Anytime throughout the game, when your points are higher than 7 or 8, you want to get into Tokyo. Early in the game, this is very useful because opponents have not acquired high attacking powers and they are often trying to get energy. You can usually get 5-7 free points before you have to make a retreat.

Depending on the other players’ upgrades, you want to exit Tokyo when your points drop below 4. Anything less than that can lead you to an early demise.

Energy

To win the game you really need to upgrade your skills. Collect energy in early turns to prepare you for the future. If you are getting the points from being in Tokyo, you can spend the rest of your dice trying to get energy.

Win Strategies

Choosing your winning strategy depends on the available cards to purchase. You really won’t know what you will be able to do until you see what is available.

Killing everyone

This is my favorite strategy because it ends before people know what hit them. Stay middle of the pack, attacking here and there and collecting energy and cards, but purchase the upgrades that give you extra attacks and multiple player attacks.

Once the game gets going and you have enough offensive upgrades, attack relentlessly against the players with the least life. The other advantage of the attacking strategy is that you will often get extra points by being in Tokyo, so if you need to back away from the attacking strategy, you could still win on points

Risky Tokyo points

Another strategy that can sometimes work is to try to stay in Tokyo as long as possible. You can squeeze just a few more points out of Tokyo and exit around 2 life points.

Collect upgrades that give you advantages in Tokyo: healing, extra attacks, defense, etc.

This strategy can pay off well but often leaves you vulnerable to the killing strategy.

Extra Turns

You can also win just by having a bunch of extra turns. Target the cards that give you extra turns for your roles. Play as normal, but take advantage of the extra turns to take the lead.

Sneaky Strike

All your strategies should employ some elements of the sneaky strike. If you get ahead in the game to0 quickly early on, the other players will collude to eliminate you. You need to be in the middle of the pack, slowly collecting points and upgrades until you are ready to make your move.

Collect a lot of energy and stay alive in the game. Purchase cards that will increase your chances of getting points later in the game. Cards that increase the value of your rolls, give you more dice to roll or change your roll scoring conditions are all great cards for the sneaky strike.

Then, when you feel you are close, buy up any victory point cards and hope for the right roles.

In all of these strategies, you need to keep the target off of your back by staying close to the pack, but preparing for the end.

 

What other strategies have you used?

 

 

 

Star Wars X-Wing Miniatures Review

I got a text yesterday to see if I wanted to play a game last night. I was free at 9 PM, and I figured that I would be done by 10:30 or so. This was a gross underestimate. X-wing, it turns out, involves choosing ships, upgrades, and characters before the game even starts. This being my first time, and following my own Strategy For your Strategy blog, I had to read through a huge stack of cards to come up with a strategy as well as learn the rules.

We finally started the game around 10, and it lasted until a little after midnight. It may sound like I didn’t enjoy it, but the funny thing is, I loved all of it! A lot of the fun was figuring out what combination of cards will work together, and then try to implement the strategy while keeping track of what everyone else is trying to do.

In X-wing, you play the side of the Empire, the Rebellion, or the Scum (bounty hunters, etc). You choose ships and go through phases of movement and attacking. The ships move in the way regular ships should move, and if you don’t plan your flight path, you could find yourself crashing into an asteroid.

It has been awhile that I have had a hard time sleeping because my brain was trying to figure out the strategy for a game, but last night, I couldn’t stop. I love this game.

My only issue is the length of play. Now that I know the rules, I think it could be completed in an hour and a half with 20 minutes of prep, but this isn’t going to work for some people.

You can even modify the game to play with kids by removing the upgrade cards. It is fun to play and will teach them spatial reasoning skills and some planning and strategy. Additionally, the sweet space ships make the game awesome to play.

x-wing-review

 

Splendor Strategy

Splendor was the 2014 Golden Geek game of the year. It is very polished, easy to learn, and fun to play.

The strategy is relatively simple, but the execution is difficult. Summary below.

  1. Reserve the cards you want early on
  2. Take 3 chips in early turns
  3. Reserve cards that cost all of the same color
  4. Choose two colors that you will own, and buy them up
  5. Choose two nobles that have overlapping requirements and target them early in the game
  6. Calculate what it will take to win, and win quickly.

First Turn Reservation

In the first turn, look at the playing field and decide what your longer term strategy is. You don’t want to waste chips on expensive cards early on, but you still want to target cards that fit into your final strategy.

Reserve cards in your first or second turn to give yourself the best chance early on.

The idea here is to optimize each of your turns. Some cards are just easier to get, and you want to remove those from other player’s grasps, and place it into yours.

Maximize Chip Draws

You often want to draw 3 chips. It is ok if it takes an extra turn to get something you need if you can get more chips to help you later. The caveat to this is when you are targeting high-value cards. You may want to take two chips to get you closer to your goal.

Early in the game, everything moves a little slowly. Your whole goal is to prepare yourself for the later parts of the game. Gather as many cards as you can by using them to buy other cards. Points still matter, but getting cheaper cards earlier will help you down the line.

The cards that can be purchased with all the same color are a great bet in getting to 15 points. I like to take the 5 point 7/3 cost cards in the color I’m targeting. Additionally, I may even choose to target those colors on purpose. Reserve these cards early, and almost always draw a chip in those colors. Eventually, you’ll buy them and have a significant advantage.

Optimize Purchases

Initially, look at the lay of the land. Are there a lot of cards that need the green gems? Go for green! Collect cards that will give you the most buying power. The playing field will guide you in the choices.

It is very valuable to own 4 or 5 of the same color. This allows you to snatch up cards that are out of reach for the other players. (One defense against this strategy is to just reserve the cards that you know they are looking at, even if you don’t plan to purchase them. Reserving cards you don’t need works better in a two player game. With more players, you won’t have turns to spare.)

Also be aware of scarce resources. If a lot of cards need green, but there aren’t any green out there, snatch any up quickly that come into play.

Target Nobles

An easy way to get the points you need to win is to capture a few nobles. Once again, look at what is available on the field, and look for synergies among nobles. Does one noble need 4 whites and 4 reds and another noble need 3 whites, 3 reds, and 3 browns? Go for the whites and reds, but if it is difficult to get them because of the playing field, consider going for a different noble.

Advanced players walk a line between getting high point cards and capturing nobles. It is ideal if the high cards you are capturing line up with your noble acquisition strategy, but you just have to do whatever it takes to get to 15 points. I have often had to change my strategy late in the game because a color I want is inaccessible. That is OK.

All along the way, keep track of your points and keep an eye on the field. Figure out what cards on the field it will take to win the game. The game moves slowly at first, but then the end will sneak up on you quickly, so make sure you are the one determining the end game.

 

That’s it! I love Splendor because of the ease of play, but there is an art in knowing when to make your move.

What strategies have worked well for you?