There are a lot of interactions and key cards in this set.
- Ambassador, as always, “sits” on the game by greatly prolonging the opening. Both sides are going to start off shipping Estates and Coppers back and forth, and in a 2p they will eventually get all of it back into the supply. But this means that effective engine construction will take a while, and the best engine will probably be one that you can build while slogging through all the Estates and Coppers.
- Almost as interesting as what is in the set is what is not in the set: +Buy or +Actions. This caps your engine, because there’s no point to building it to exceed $8 or $11.
- The true “key” card to this set is Warehouse, because it is a tremendous enabler of so many other cards here:
- Tunnel, allowing you to spam Golds.
- Conspirator, because it lets you filter through to find and activate your Conspirators.
- Apprentice, because Warehouse is ideally suited to big hands. Notice the neat interaction here between Warehouse/Tunnel/Apprentice: Warehouse allows you to consistently gain Golds from your Tunnels, which is both valuable in its own right as well as fantastic fuel for your Apprentices. Trash Gold to draw your other Golds, and play your Tunnel / Warehouse combo again to regain Gold.
- Ambassador, because Warehouse lets you sift through your bad cards and play your good cards more often.
- Even Counting House gets a boost with Warehouse, because Warehouse allows you to sift through all your Coppers to find your Counting House, and furthermore allow you to go through much of your deck so that even if you draw Counting House early in the reshuffle, you can still use Warehouse to get some use out of it.
- Scheme is a big boost to any engine, and especially to Conspirator. It further tips the scales in favor of “engine” instead of “money”: it’s not efficient to transition out of Ambassador into just a slow money game, especially not with Colony, and especially not when you have Scheme to get your engine going even faster.
- Scrying Pool can be borderline effective: it gives you both a little discard for your Tunnels, and will usually also draw at least 2 cards in any somewhat thinned deck.
In summary, I see three paths out of the Ambassador opening. The first focuses on Warehouse/Conspirator/Scheme, using Ambassador to quickly thin the deck. The second is with Warehouse/Apprentice/Tunnel, using the Warehouse to gain Golds with the Tunnel, and the Apprentice to trash Golds to draw even more Golds. Note that both paths benefit from a bit of cross-pollination: the second especially, since the Apprentice provides both the draw for the Conspirators as well as the Actions to help activate them.
The third path (the weird one) is to skip Ambassador entirely and go for Warehouse/Counting House, relying on your opponents’ Ambassadors to give you enough Copper for Counting House, and comboing it with Bank for mega-bucks. (Neither of us spotted this combo during the game, but we played a game this morning which suggested it would be quite viable, though very swingy, as Counting House always is. Getting an early Platinum/Bank is probably critical.)
The strategies somewhat benefit from Scrying Pool, though I think it’s probably a distraction. Scheme is more helpful for the first than the second, since its importance decreases if you have big card draw.
In this game, I go for the first strategy, and Captain_Frisk goes for the second. Because we have 5/2, he opens with Apprentice/nothing, and I open with Ambassador/nothing. He needs the Apprentice as soon as possible (since he’ll be unlikely to get it anytime soon once Ambassadoring begins), and I need to thin my deck as quickly as possible (since I won’t have big draw).
We’re trying something new with these annotated games, with screenshots of the logs instead of tables of text. It’s easier to read, though a lot longer on the screen. Please let us know which format you prefer.
Our openings are about equivalent: I get an extra play of Ambassador, naturally, but he trashed an Estate with his Apprentice. He gets a Potion/Ambassador while I get a Scheme/Warehouse, and our paths begin to diverge.
Captain_Frisk’s deck is starting to take shape, as he has almost everything he needs. Probably I would have gone for the Warehouse first, before the Scrying Pools, but this way he can keep up his Ambassadoring and Apprenticing to get into a Warehouse/Tunnel/Apprentice groove.
I’ve gotten my deck down to making Conspirators, and now I’m planning to buy one on each turn to get up to a $8 Conspirator engine. With each shuffle, Captain_Frisk is thinning his deck faster than I’m thinning mine, however. At this point it’s beginning to be clear that his engine is going to surpass mine because it can grow more quickly.
Now that he’s gotten his first Gold, Frisk can start trashing Golds with the Apprentice to re-draw the Warehouse/Tunnel to replenish his Golds. I’m Scheming the Scheme/Warehouse back on top to avoid any deadly draws.
Gaining multiple Golds at once, Captain_Frisk’s deck is rapidly appreciating in value. This is a common problem after thinning your deck: it takes too long to ramp up to Province/Colony level. His Warehouse/Tunnel trick is proving to be much faster than Conspirators.
This is the critical point in the game. I have $8 from my Conspirators and 2 Copper. Either I can return 1 Copper, buy a Platinum, and next turn have $13 for Colonies, or I can return both Coppers and try to rush Provinces now. I choose to start and hope that Captain_Frisk’s engine stalls a little more, enough for me to run out the Provinces before he can get enough Colonies. I feel like my deck is more capable of absorbing green cards than his. (In retrospect, I don’t think I could have won with either approach.)
Captain_Frisk’s Scrying Pools are sufficiently powerful now that they average out to more than a Lab. At this point, my only hope is that he somehow chokes with a terrible draw because of his lack of Schemes.
Instead, it turns out to be my deck that chokes. The game is essentially over at this point: given that my engine had a lower peak than his, it needed to be appreciably faster or longer-lasting, and it was neither.
This game is a good example of how even when one particular card dominates a board, multiple strategies can spring up around it. We chose to go for very different engines to take advantage of our Ambassador-thinned decks, and Warehouse/Counting House is yet a third strategy that could have ignored Ambassador entirely.
My engine proves to be too slow. Had I been able to get to $8 with my Conspirators a turn or two earlier, I could have rushed them out before Captain_Frisk is able to come from behind with Colonies. Instead, because Captain_Frisk is able to consistently get to Colonies just two turns later, there’s no hope for a Province engine.