Annotated Game #6 Preview

Below is a 2-player game (not played by me) on Isotropic, without Colonies or Platinums.  I will post the annotated game on Wednesday, March 23.  You’re welcome to comment on the set (how you think players should open, what cards to go for) and try it out for yourself.

After you’ve decided on a strategy, there’s a special bonus question for this game: suppose your opponent opens Thief.  How should this affect your play?  How should the Thief player play in order to optimize his strategy?

Loan, Watchtower, Bridge, Militia, Wharf,
Lookout, Workshop, Envoy, Thief, Harem

Annotated Game #6

(Click for enlarged link at

If you have interesting sample games that you’d like to submit for annotation, we’d love to hear about them. Criteria for annotating games include:

  • Reasonably skilled play by both sides
  • An interesting set where the Kingdom cards are important (as opposed to Big Money Smithy games)
  • Diverging strategies taken by both players, especially in terms of openings
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56 Responses to Annotated Game #6 Preview

  1. kn1tt3r says:

    Looks like a money based strategy (incl. Harem) – the only cruicial question is which and how many terminals you get. Usally I’d start with Lookout/Silber or Lookout/Envoy (Lookout/Loan is also an option), looking to get mainly Wharfs as further actions.
    If my opponent opened w/ Thief, I’d skip the trashers, start with Milita and/or Bridge and get a Thief myself during midgame.

  2. chesskidnate says:

    without knowing about the theif purchase I’d probably go militia silver and just buy big money and a wharf on my first 5. after around three provinces are depleted harem would probably be a good choice. the impact thief would have would be making me want to open lookout-militia and ignoring wharf, getting a second and third militia when I have the cash

  3. chesskidnate says:

    and I would probably avoid harems entirely if my opponent chose theif

  4. Epoch says:

    I’m baffled.

    There’s no +2 Actions cards, and the only +1 Action card doesn’t combo terribly well with itself. So… no significant card combos.

    Wharf is a solid card, but it’s hard to see any way to play it particularly well. The set has lots of +buy, including Bridge, but since there’s literally no way to get multiple Bridges down, and there’s no platinum, and there’s no way to build up a giant hand size (due to the aforementioned no-combos), and Thief discourages big treasure buys, I don’t see enough money to really use the +Buy from Wharf and Bridge. Sure, you can get 3 buys at -$1 to all the things you buy, but… so? You have $1 in play at that point and 6 other cards. You aren’t going to be doing anything super-crazy with it.

    Harem looks like a bad buy if your opponent goes Thief.

    So… if it weren’t being showcased here, I’d be inclined to just go sort of “medium money,” start Silver/Militia and maybe err a bit more towards Silvers and less towards Golds if my opponent bought a Thief. Is there anything else to do?

  5. play2draw says:

    This is a difficult set of cards. The lack of +actions makes the obvious “4xVillage, 4xBridge, workshop a province” strategy impossible. Regardless there is still a clear path to victory here.

    In this case you want to start with two workshops (or on 5/2, workshop/copper). Keep buying workshops if you can afford them. If not, buy estates or copper. Workshop and buy all of the estates and loans. Try and get an even amount of estates and loans, as you want to maintain a strong number of treasure while you load your deck with points. After those piles are cleared out, use your workshop machine to workshop the rest of the workshops. Hopefully by the end of the game you might have snagged a couple of dutchies along the way; if this is the case, victory is most assured.

    Also note that this strategy is impervious to the thief’s attacks, as this does not rely on treasure. Therefore, this strategy is simultaneously the best offense and best defense.

  6. Trantor says:

    I’m really interested how this will turn out, as the setup doesn’t look that interesting to me, to be honest. I’d start with Lookout/Militia. After that, buy a lot of money and a Wharf or two, maybe one Thief in the midgame. I’d only buy Harems in the very late game because of the Thief.
    If my opponent opens with Thief, I wouldn’t change much. I’d probably buy a Thief of my own a bit sooner, and maybe a second one if my opponent hits me hard, but that’s about it.

  7. Yaron says:

    I would want to use Envoy’s drawing power. This means I’d have to limit myself to treasure only: Silver -> Gold -> Province, and the one Envoy. I usually prefer Lookout to Loan, but in this case I’d take one Loan (and no Lookouts), because Loan can be usefully drawn with Envoys. Once I got into Province territory, I’d take Harem over Gold, and later Duchies.

    If my opponent opened with a Thief, I’d thank them for their trouble, and skip the Loan (taking a Silver), trusting in the Thief to do my Copper trashing for me. I might also delay the Gold->Harem switch.

  8. susie says:

    If it weren’t for action scarcity, I’d open lookout/bridge, but as it is I think I’d open lookout/silver and get a wharf as soon as I could. Perhaps lookout/envoy would be better, but I don’t normally go for envoys. I know I should more often though as it has cost me some games…

  9. chwhite says:

    I think the standard response would be to open Silver/either Lookout or Loan (probably getting the other on Turn 3 or 4 to speed up trashing), and aim for 2-3 Wharves and Big Money otherwise- lack of actions makes Bridge mostly worthless here. First-turn Envoy is also a possibility, but Wharf is less frustrating in the long-term and more than a few terminals is bad here.

    The only thing Thief does, I think, is dissuade one from buying Harems.

    I might try something a little different, actually- buy a couple of Watchtowers instead of extra Wharves, using them mainly in the midgame to put my just-purchased Golds on top of my deck. Lookout wold probably be preferable to Loan as the early trasher, in this case, since I’d need more to get rid of estates and less to race to five ASAP.

    • chwhite says:

      The more I think about it, the more I like loading up on Watchtowers as my main card-drawer, since they defend well against the Militia too.

    • tlloyd says:

      This gets my vote as the new, surprisingly strong strategy. Watchtower both defends against Militia and accelerates your deck development. Unlike standard money strategies, this will probably allow you to buy comparatively few silvers and move quickly on to golds. That might make this strategy vulnerable to the Thief though.

      • tlloyd says:

        Just a solitaire game, so no accounting for the effect of Militia (although it’s been pointed out that, if I have Watchtower and VCs/coppers in hand, your playing Militia might help me), but opening Lookout/Watchtower got 4 provinces in 16 turns.

      • tlloyd says:

        Watchtower/Watchtower was a little more tricky. Tried it twice and got to 4 provinces by turn 18.

        Watchtower/Silver (followed by Watchtower/Silver in the next two turns) got to 4 Provinces and 2 Duchies by turn 17.

        Does anyone with the actual skills/tools to do a simulation want to give us a more reliable gauge on the Watchtower/Money strategy?

        • Yaron says:

          According to simulations posted on BGG by myself and others, Big Money gets to 4 Provinces in 17 turns on average. One Envoy reduces this to 14 turns (more Envoys do more harm than good). This does not take into account the effect of opposing Militias.

      • tlloyd says:

        A little more tinkering and I think I’ve got a winning strategy: open Envoy/Silver. The next couple turns should allow you to grab a watchtower and a gold. From that point you will start churning out golds, with probably another watchtower and maybe one more silver. There were many times I would play an Envoy, draw a Watchtower with some money, then buy a gold and slap it on my deck. As always the trick is figuring out when to transition to buying Provinces over Golds. Watchtower makes this a bit trickier, since you can use the gold on your next turn.

        I think the only difference the Thief makes is when you would opt for a Harem over a Gold.

  10. castrock says:

    Since this is a 2p game and there is no TR or KC I wouldn’t care about the Thief. I only need to ignore the Harem a bit longer or maybe completely. Moreover, if I’m the 2nd player and my opponent starts with a Thief I would skip a trasher (Loan, Lookout).

    4/3: I’d start with Militia, even as the 2nd player. Trashing with Lookout, it trashes my estates as well. Buy Gold, get a Wharf and a probably a second to ensure province later on when I have already some provinces and duchies. The + buy might help as a tiebreaker
    5/2: Starting with the Wharf, maybe Militia. I’m not sure.

    It doesn’t look very complicate. Did I miss something?

    • castrock says:

      Now I got what I missded. Watchtower defends against Militia. Thus, it really looks like a Big Money deck with support of Wharf/Envoy.

  11. icesphere says:

    If anyone is interested in trying various strategies against an AI, I’ve added the annotated games from this site as an option when selecting which cards to play with. There is a BMU (Big Money Ultimate) AI, and a random based AI (still a work in progress). Anyway if you want to check it out the website is

    • rrenaud says:

      If you want some suggestions for kingdom servegame…

      Treat any click on a card as an action, rather than just a click on the bottom. I was very confused initially, I didn’t see how to make any changes.

      Making the UI less modal. Re-use the hand interface element for cards that interact with your hand (chapel, vault, etc).

      Give the opponent action log more space.

      Good work, I am glad to see isotropic having some competition :).

      If you create a log index page (or some other easy convention or mechanically downloading log dumps) and json (or xml, but that’s not as nice) log format, I could add it to the councilroom stats site.

      • icesphere says:

        Thanks for the suggestions, I’ve been wanting to move to a single click UI, but I haven’t got around to it yet. I haven’t really thought about re-using the hand interface, but I think that would make for a better user experience, so I’ll look into what it would take to change that.

      • icesphere says:

        I’ll look into creating a log index page, what is the best format for the page?

        • rrenaud says:

          Just something like an apache directory listing with a list of links to log dumps would be fine.

          This is what an individual game looks like in my database. To the degree that your format includes that much (or more) information in a similar format, the easier/quicker I can get your data into

          To be clear, it would be best if you provided a periodically updated big, compressed file, which un(tars|zips) into individual files with games like these, or just a json list where each element is one of these things.

          • icesphere says:

            I currently have log files of each game, but I’m not currently tracking most of the information you have in that json file. I suppose it could be extracted from the log files, but I’m guessing it would be a lot easier if I started tracking the information, and then gave it to you in json format. So I’ll add it to my list of things to do, and I’ll let you know when it is ready.

    • Geronimoo says:

      Great work!
      I would skip having to click “end turn” when you have no more buys.
      Improving the AI would be nice, but I realize from my own efforts that’s a very hard thing to do.

    • Leshrac says:

      Looks good. A couple bugs I encountered so far:
      – The BMU AI just hangs when you play Envoy. I’m guessing it doesn’t know what to pick.
      – KC/KC produces some strangeness. If you KC/KC/Ghost Ship, the Ghost Ship gets played once and then the loop just ends (i.e., I don’t get to choose another card to KC). Also, KC/KC/Masquerade with no cards remaining in hand doesn’t work as it should.

  12. guided says:

    Militia/Lookout, probably add a Loan, maybe a 2nd Militia, Treasure, green cards, call it a day.

  13. DG says:

    I suspect that silver/loan getting 2 wharves and treasure will beat most thief decks. It could just buy through getting two silvers instead of gold if needed. Loan/ Envoy is probably accelerates faster but could get snagged badly by the thieves as the treasure density drops. I’m not sure an envoy deck could be recovered easily; taking wharves or thieves may help but they are always likely to be one step behind. Militias can hurt a deck filled with silver and harems.

    The thief player has to trash rigorously as the deck will expand with better treasures. Maybe add a wharf to the thief deck at the end to convert the treasure to vp.

  14. Captain_Frisk says:

    As P1, I would probably open lookout / militia, and as others said, ride it to medium money (thinning with lookout, buying bigger treasure, maybe a wharf in there in the middle). Watchtower is a semi counter to this, but I’m still feeling pretty good about getting off to a head start with early gold. I would never even think that my opponent might open with a thief.

    If my opponent opened with thief, I would smile, jump for joy, and open Silver / Militia. I’ll let the thief trash my copper, and certainly I don’t want to accelerate the process of the thief causing real damage. If it is starting to look bad, then bridge or wharf to double buy silvers, but it’s been a long time since I’ve played a game in which the thief has really been a problem. Like others said, I’d probably switch to harems a little bit later than normal.

    That said, the fact that someone chose this game probably means it is going to teach us something about the usefulness of thief, but as far as I can see from council room, thief is a terrible opening buy, and only gets up to “medium-bad” late. It has none of the things that would possibly make me want to buy a thief (power treasures, throne rooms, kings court, excess actions, platinums, gardens) with the exception of maybe harems.

  15. Epoch says:

    Okay, so since this is an annotated game on DominionStrategy, let’s assume that straight up big money is not going to be the way to go.

    What about a power-thief strategy? Since the set is already so strongly biased towards big money, what if you don’t just get one Thief, but maybe three or four? No other terminals. Maybe a Lookout or two, to get through your own coppers & estates, and do things like split up the Thieves if you have two of them in your top three cards. Given the lack of effective counters to Thief in this game, could something like that actually shut down your opponent’s ability to get to Provinces at all?

    • Epoch says:

      Actually, maybe toss in one or two Watchtowers as well. They defend against Militias, which big-money-player is probably going for (and which they might go more strongly towards once your Thief strategy is revealed), they combine okay with Lookouts, and they mean that when you do steal useful treasure, you can use it prior to reshuffle.

      I don’t know, it doesn’t sound viable to me, this whole train of thought. But I can’t think of any other way to actually make this set worthy of an article here.

  16. guided says:

    A couple things:

    1. Watchtower is a mediocre defense against Militia. It’s not nearly as good as Library for that purpose. If you don’t get attacked, it’s slightly better than a Moat (only in that it gives you the option not to play it for its other benefit if you already have enough coin in hand). If you do get attacked, it’s……… probably slightly better than a Moat, since you could discard green cards and hope to draw treasure to replace them.

    2. All of you trying to find ways to defend against Thief, please come play me because I would absolutely love for you to buy Thief against me on this board, or really most any 2p board 😉

    • Epoch says:

      I guess that the argument for Thief with this set is:

      1. If you’re going for Colonies in this set, that means buying lots of Silver and Gold — you simply can’t reliably get $8 in any other way. Hell, you can barely get $8 in any other way even unreliably!

      2. There’s no defense against Thief in this set.

      3. There is decent thinning in this set via Lookout and Loan, so Coppers disappear relatively quickly anyhow.

      4. There doesn’t appear to be a good alternative to buying Colonies. Buying Harems is arguably worse, if your opponent is going Thief. Duchies? Buying Duchies in this kind of slow set would clog your deck to uselessness extremely rapidly. Estates via Workshops? That’s pretty absurd.

      So: if you have to get a deck which generates $8 per hand almost entirely via Treasure, consistently (actually, more than $8 per hand, since when you start buying Colonies, you’ll run down your deck quality), then you should reliably have a Gold or Silver in the top 2 cards of your deck. One or two Gold thefts will be a big deal for you.

      • guided says:

        If you’re spending terminal actions maybe possibly stealing a Gold or Harem from me once in a while, and I’m spending them busting you down to 3 cards while buying all the Gold and Harems I can eat, I’m going to win. Thief does not look strong in this set, and indeed it’s very hard to find a set where Thief is strong in 2p. Maybe if you go Thief it tilts me away from Harems toward Gold, but that’s really the only change I have to make.

        • rrenaud says:

          Maybe a say, turn 8 Thief could be useful against a Yaron style Loan/Envoy opening into big money?

          I agree that opening Thief is just dumb and that Thief is probably the card that benefits most from an increase in number of players, but I am not convinced it would never be useful in this set.

          • Epoch says:

            Yeah, I have to agree that I can’t see any reason to buy a Thief turn 1 or 2. Maybe psychological games? It’s hard to imagine that using a Thief turn 3/4 is ever going to be even remotely beneficial.

            • rrenaud says:

              It’s not hard to imagine that it will be beneficial.

              I point a gun at my self that is going to kill me 5/6 times, but you’ll give me $10 if I shot at myself and still live. That’s going to be beneficial 1/6 of the time.

              Opening Thief will be beneficial when the Thief steals your opponents opening Silver. It’s just got a terrible expected value early in the game.

              • Epoch says:

                I was just waiting for someone to quibble that. 😛

                Yes, fine, it’s not hard to imagine it’s beneficial, it’s just much less likely to be beneficial than otherwise.

      • DG says:

        The argument for a thief in this kingdom is that you’re second player and your opponent has bought an envoy.

  17. Jeremy says:

    If going with a Thief strategy:

    It’s a little riskier, but I probably would open Bridge/Watchtower with a 4/3 split, then get Thief on turn 3, maybe 4, too. I’d try to get Thief and Watchtower in the same hand to gain money I steal on the next turn. Bridge with Watchtower in hand would be nice to get two money cards on the next turn, too.

    A different strategy I’d consider is opening with Watchtower/Envoy, then trying to get big hands with Watchtower to keep my bigger money cards in my next hand. This essentially defends against Militia and Thief. A Bridge or two would be okay, but as several people already have pointed out, not having +actions makes that a risk. Wharfs would be decent mid- to late-game for the extra buy as an alternative. Normally I’d go for trashing, but Thieves would help take care of that for me.

  18. ksf says:

    Standard opening would be Militia/Lookout, and go for Wharf later.

    With a Thief, I’d open with Bridge/Lookout to double the Silver buying power to swamp any impact of the Thief. Then transition to Envoy when there’s enough money.

    As for maximizing the impact of the Thief, other than crashing your deck fast with Lookouts, I don’t see any way you can force the issue other than by nailing enough Gold to get them pissed off and rage-quit.

    • ksf says:

      Thinking about it more, getting down to a 5 card deck with lookouts so that you are playing your Thief every turn might be somewhat viable. Even if it means dumping the silvers you took, it could get to the point where you’ll start picking off Golds – and slowing your opponent’s ability to grow their buying power to keep up with the drain.

  19. Carsten says:

    I would go for a big money strategy, and open Militia/Silver, or just Militia in case of a 2-5 gold draw. I would do the same in case of a opposing thief.

    Reasoning: I can’t see any killer combos that will explode in the endgame. There are no +2 actions or action multipliers. The absense of cursing or rubbish donating cards rules out a deck polution strategy. So big money seems the strongest option. The question is how to build the most effecient buying power engine, that at the same time can play arround obstacles such as the Theif. As I see it there are three ways to improve buying power: Get more money (draw cards), Get better money (going for gold), Make things cheaper (Bridge). All three approaches benefit from trashing, however card drawing seems less dependant on trashing. A way to play arround the Thief could be to fill the deck with silver and card drawing. Finally I would be careful not to get too many actions as most are terminal. This is also why card drawing/bridge wouldn’t work together.

    My strategy would be big money combining card drawing, Trashing and Gold hunt. In case of heavy thieving I would limit the gold buys.

    When looking at the opening: Militia is an attacking Silver that cannot be stolen, so I would go for that. I did consider buying Wharf in case of 2/5 gold draw, but Wharf doesn’t improve my chance of a golden buy in round 3 or 4 much, and it doesn’t attack.

    On the following turns I would go for card drawing (Envoy, Wharf), Thrashing (Lookout, not Loan), and Gold.

  20. Jorbles says:

    I can’t see a Thief strategy doing too well unless the opponent does something stupid like going for all Lookout/Loans and then Harems, but as it’s implied that someone is going to be playing that in this game my bet would be that someone opens Thief and then doesn’t use it until the other player has thinned their own deck a bit. A bit of a psychological game could play in here as the non-Thief player might want to work towards a less treasure heavy deck and buy Bridges and Militia which aren’t strong sources of money in this Action-less game.

    Wharves and Envoys are strong here, but Wharves are probably better than Envoys and I feel they pair better with Lookouts, (Play the Lookout, thin out the crap, play the Wharf) although the flipside of that is that Loans tend to pair a bit better with Envoys as someone noted above.

    My suspicion is that Militia will be ignored as Watchtower counters it a bit too nicely.

    • Nathan B says:

      The psychological benefit of thief may be significant. It you open thief lookout or thief loan and don’t play the thief you have two useless cards once you’re done trashing. If it causes your opponent to forgo trashing he has however many extra useless cards he would have trashed. Since lookout is self replicating you only have one extra useless card until you stop using it, putting you ahead as soon as the opponent hypothetically scared out of deck thinning by your thief has gone through two or three shuffles without buying a lookout or loan.

      The number of people saying if the opponent opened thief they’d take a silver instead of a lookout/loan may indicate this would work at least some of the time.

      • Epoch says:

        Maybe, but that’s a hell of a gamble for relatively little benefit. I mean, you get a Thief turn 1/2 with the intention of not using it during the next, say, two reshuffles? So, compared to buying a Silver, you’ve reduced the buying power of two hands by $2, for yourself, in the hopes that your was counting on your trashing two Coppers of his own, and thus doesn’t buy a trashing card?

        But by that point, presumably your opponent realizes that you aren’t playing the Thief and just buys his own trashing regardless (if he still wants it). And he didn’t throw away a crucial early buy. And all this assumes that he even fell for your sophisticated double-bluff, which isn’t certain. It just doesn’t seem like it’s worth two hands which likely were $2, $3, or $4 instead of $4, $5, or $6.

    • Carsten says:

      Watchtower is terminal, and you have to play in order to activate the card drawing. So defending against Militia with watchtower will just end your turn with 6 card on your hand. The other terminal card drawers will get you more cards, and thus are a better defence.

      The tower works best as defence against deck polution, and in combination with +2 actions where you play it after using all the other actions in your hand to “fill-up”. In the current set-up it seems too weak compared with the other options.

  21. Ninjabus says:

    Has anyone considered the possibility of comboing thief and watchtower? When you steal a treasure, you can put it directly on top of your deck and start playing it straight away. Hit a gold, buy a gold, you’re probably staring at a province next hand.

    • Captain_Frisk says:

      Thief + Watchtower + 3 cards that can buy a gold, would be able to buy a province if either the thief or a watchtower was a silver instead.

      I’m really looking forward to seeing how thief is a good play in this set.

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