Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Labyrinth Diary, Vol. 1

When I decided to try playing Labyrinth solitaire but with the You Can Call Me Al variant (where the US begins "soft" and there is no Axis of Evil card, I thought it would also be interesting to log the game as a play-by-play diary. I'm going to put the first turn or two up here on my blog first, rather than toss it into the miasma of session reports that is BGG.

Since this is only my third game (and second solitaire game) I thought I'd leave the US nerf variants out, so I'm using the stock rules. I also chose three decks, as I think the game needs time to develop and it is *very* hard (at least at my level of expertise) to get a win in two decks. You need a couple of combos to go right, and that requires a certain amount of time to happen.

In this diary, I use a couple of notational conventions. First is in describing the card in play, which is in italics (generally), and lists the number of OPS it gives in parenthesis. For example, Quartet (US2) means the card is titled "Quartet," gives two OPS, and is a US-associated event.

For keeping track of where we are in the game, I use the format SZ, S is the side playing the card, and Z is the card play for that side for that turn. Thus, J3 means the third card play by the Jihadist AI. I denote changes in the deck and the turn number when they change (start of new turn, when you reshuffle). If the card has an Unassociated event, I leave off the side and just give the OPS number. Trying to figure out the card number was more than I wanted to do, so you'll just have to go by the title if you want to find the card.

Quite often, the Jihadist AI will call for an action that you can't do as many of as called for by the OPS number. In those cases, I will use terminology like "Plot(1)" to denote that one point of the OPS value is being used for that particular roll. I use Rad(1) to show how many points are devoted to Radicalization or to show which of multiple points are being used, which the context should make clear.

When it comes to Travel, because of the way the solitaire game implements it, I will list the countries I am traveling to, then list where they come from with their success or failure (or auto success) in parenthesis, with each to and from entry corresponding in the list (the first To country will be from the first From country).

Many events in this game are played without option. When it matters to the game flow, I will announce each card play as Unplayable or Playable.

Finally, I will try to keep the commentary out of the actual play notes, making my own observations at the end of the card play groupings (two Jihadist, two US), the end of the turn, and the start of the turn when I see my cards. I am not listing the cards I draw at the start of turn, though I may mention some at times - anyone following along can just look forward and see exactly what is in play. I do mention each action caused by the events and/or OPS. I also will say "Place a cell" which means it came from the Funding Track.

Here's the first turn, I will do two turns per blog posting after this.

This game is intended to let me try out how to play the US as Soft. Since it’s my first game doing this, I choose no nerfs and three decks. Starting hand is not terrible – only three Jihadist cards, one of which is currently playable and it won’t be that bad if Syria shifts to Poor before I play it. However, I only have two 3 cards, and one is Oil Price Spike which I may wish to use for grabbing a good discard. The other cards have good events but only if I choose to use them. Biometrics is a tricky card, but since the Jihadists will be mostly recruiting this turn, probably best to try to avoid the Radicalization it will cause with so few adjacent cells. My initial strategy is to mostly react, and to get one country moving toward Good Governance as quickly as possible.

Deck 1, Turn 1

J1: Quartet (US2). Unplayable. Recruit operation becomes Radicalization. Cell placed in Gulf States, cell travels from Afghanistan to Somalia, which tests Poor. Poor/Islamist marker to 5.

J2: Abbas (US2). Playable. Plot(1) in Gulf States, then Radicalization. Plot tests successful, marker placed, cell goes active. Radicalization places cell in Yemen, which tests Fair. Fair/Good marker to 4.

US1: Libyan WMD (US3). OPS to remove plot in Gulf States.

US2: Kazakh Strain (J2). Unplayable. Use for War of Ideas in Gulf States, -1 DRM (-1 to Good, -1 GWOT, +1 Prestige). 5 rolled, Aid marker placed.

Note: The plot forced me to be aggressive about keeping the Gulf States in good shape. I can’t afford Islamist Regimes to start popping up in this game, although I do need to start getting some troops to any country that is an Ally. Having a Good Governance country in the middle of all that will improve my odds dramatically of making more allies. I should probably have played Biometrics and FSB to try to nerf the Jihadists, but they will be doing more recruiting than anything else this turn.

J3: Patriot Act (US3). Playable. Plot(1) in Gulf States, then Radicalization. Plot fails, cell already active. Radicalization places a cell in Gulf States, then travels cell from Yemen to Somalia.

J4: Detainee Release (J2). Unplayable. Recruit in Afghanistan, fail in Somalia.

US3: Shroeder & Chirac (J2). Unplayable. WoI roll in Gulf States with 0 DRM (Aid, Prestige +1 each, To Good, GWOT -1 each). Fail Roll.

US4: FSB (US2). Unlikely I’ll use this for an event, so OPS to disrupt the Jihadists in the Gulf States. Active cell to Funding Track, Sleeper to Active.

Note: Kind of a chaotic turn. I should probably have gotten all the cells out of the Gulf States had I been a little smarter, but getting most of them out will prevent Plots, the thing I’m most concerned about. Then Somalia.

J5: “The door to Itjihad was closed.” (J3). Unplayable. Minor Jihad(1) in Gulf States, then Radicalization(2). Screwed this up in the J4 card play, I’m afraid, which should have been the same thing rather than Recruit, but that’s gonna happen occasionally. Jihad is successful. Radicalization places in US, then travels from Afghanistan to Somalia.

J6: Taliban (J3). Playable. Cells from Funding to Afghanistan and Pakistan, Prestige -3 to 4.

US5: Wiretapping (US2). Event. Cell in US removed, no cadre placed, draw card, place marker. I draw Hambali, which is good as a 3 OPS card.

US6: Musharraf (2). Event. Remove the cell in Pakistan, placing a cadre there. Pakistan becomes Poor Governance but an ally, so I will be able to place troops there, which is good. Fair/Good to 2, Poor/Islamist to 6.

Note: Not a great turn. I was going to have the Gulf States drop regardless, as it turned out, and Somalia is getting scarier. At least I can now make some inroads into Pakistan, which is the scariest part of the board because of the WMD. Also, getting to draw an extra card will help a lot too, but I’m losing ground for now.

J7: Tony Blair (US2). Playable. Plot(1) in Gulf States, the Radicalization(1). Plot is successful, place marker in Gulf States. Radicalization places cell in Israel.

J8: US Elections (3). Playable. US Posture goes Hard. Prestige +1 to 5. Recruit two cells in Afghanistan, attempt in Somalia fails.

US7: Hambali (3). Play as OPS to remove Plot in Gulf States.

US8: Oil Price Spike (3). Event. I draw Patriot Act, which is just too important to pass up. Resource spike does not trigger. Card goes to Lapsing Box 1.

Note: US elections surprised me, but I’m not sure I want to deploy into Afghanistan just yet. It may be better to try to stabilize Pakistan first, which is where I’m going with my next plays.

J9: Indo-Pakistan Talks (3). Unplayable. Recruiting in Somalia, three attempts, two are successful. Somalia now prime for Major Jihad.

US9: Patriot Act (US3). Event. Place marker, card removed.

US10: Hariri Killed (J2). Play as Reserves. Lebanon tests Poor, Syria shifts to Poor. On the plus side, the card is removed because you can’t kill the guy twice! Fair/Good to 1, Poor/Islamist to 8.

US11: Biometrics(US1). Play as OPS, using reserves to make it a 3 card. Two troops from Troops Track to Pakistan.

End of Turn: Funding -1 to 8. Prestige -1 to 4 for IR country on board. Hand size for US now 8, Jihadists remain at 9.

Note: I hope my focus on Pakistan pays out long term, because so far the Jihadists are winning. At least they'll have to get lucky to get WMD with a couple of troops holding Pakistan down. Priorities at this point are to improve Gulf State governance to Good if possible, and drive down Jihadist Funding so that they have fewer cards to play and can't recruit as effectively.


Mike Houser said...

Thanks for putting this up. I'm going to go through it as I feel I still may be making play mistakes. I'm toying with writing a program that will handle the AI moves automatically as it's still taking a ton of time for me to go through the charts especially for travel.

Dug said...

Mike - The game may not end the way you'd like, but I think it's a valuable learning tool. Stick with the flowchart - eventually it will become second nature and the game moves along quickly, although there's no question that Travel takes the longest to resolve because of the way it's done. I can get through a full turn in about 30 minutes, but most of that is me thinking about how I plan to proceed and recording my game, so I think you can get through a full turn in about 20 minutes or maybe less once you have the system internalized. I also recommend you enter your moves in a journal, even though it takes extra time, as it will focus your learning much as taking notes in a college class does.

Glad to hear you are enjoying the diary!