[OTC] Concentrated value is stronger than distributed value

Pressing an object with a blade’s edge does more than the same force used to press with the flat. In much the same way, and in many games, concentrated value has greater impact than distributed value. We’ve seen this rule of thumb crop up before and we will no doubt see it again. Today’s post on distributed vs concentrated value is the third and final in a series that looks at cross-game strategic ideas raised in coverage of an Offworld Trading Company match.

(14:57-15:21) Player Portia earns a moment of critique by commentator philothanic as he spots her buying a little bit of stock in each of the other players, rather than buying a lot into one player or using the money on buying production efficiency upgrades at her Optimization Center. Focusing on threatening one player can create actual windows for a buyout on the target which in turn results in income from a subsidiary. Investing in optimization upgrades increases the rate of resource production and therefore would also result in greater income.

(18:41-19:05) Philothanic later revisits the pitfalls of Portia’s earlier distributed stock purchasing as opposed to focusing on a single person. The distributed stocks still paint something of a target on Portia’s head, as anybody who acquires them as a subsidiary will also pick up their stock holdings. Fortunately for Portia they went largely unnoticed, underestimated, and unpunished this game. Strong player Rhahi noted in the video’s comments, “Portia’s play was suboptimal, but the suboptimal play seems to have dissuaded others from attacking them. The market also was in favor of the things Portia was in: water, power, electronics. If those market died, Portia would have stalled out (which didn’t happen).” Well put. Portia ended up taking this game, but made plays that in some ways deserved a punish that never came.

[OTC] Same move, different value. Context matters!

Today’s post returns to the Offworld Trading Company FFA we drew on earlier this week. This time, we’ll be looking at how three players’ superficially similar plays (of constructing an Offworld Market) vary in value due to differences in the players’ situations.

(12:23-12:40) Commentator philothanic tracks down DeathTacticus’ (DT’s) Offworld Market as it is under construction. DT selected the Nomadic HQ type at the start of the game, which means he uses silicon instead of steel for construction. He also has the Transparent Aluminum patent, allowing him to use aluminum in place of glass for buildings. All told, his Offworld here takes 100 aluminium, 600 silicon, and 100 electronics rather than the standard HQ cost of 400 steel, 100 glass, and 100 electronics. Looking at the market prices at this spot in the game we see that aluminum (~$20) and silicon (~$50) are much, much cheaper than steel (~$190) and glass (~$125). As Philothanic points out, the low cost of DT’s Offworld Market construction compare favorably to the currently high profit margins on the offworld shipments it enables. DT’s Offworld will pay itself off quickly. This is a rarity, as most Ceres games have high onworld prices that both pump up Offworld Market construction costs and eat into offworld shipment profit margins:

(13:31-13:55) Adorfield is researching the Thinking Machines patent, which gives partial protection to buildings adjacent to one’s HQ, especially useful with super high value buildings such as Offworld Markets. His choice of patent signals his intention to build one. But Adorfield has a Robotic HQ and so must pay the standard steel/glass/electronics construction price which will run him a whopping $153k, much pricier than DT’s $87k:

(15:57-16:44) Third to join the Offworld party is Hexapus. As the game’s second Nomadic HQ player, he too uses silicon instead of steel, but without Transparent Aluminium he is forced to build with glass rather than the much cheaper aluminium. It costs him ~$81k, making it a reasonable choice. DT meanwhile starts construction on his second Offworld for just $53k, which philothanic notes will pay for itself in just 1.25 uses:

As you no doubt realize, the superficially-identical choice by each of these players to investing in an Offworld Market (or two) is not in fact the same at all. With the Nomadic construction resource of silicon costing much less than steel, the nomad players DeathTacticus and Hexapus have a major leg up over Adorfield. And DeathTacticus’ Transparent Aluminum patent gives him an additional advantage in the relative value of his Offworlds as compared with the other players, even over the other nomad. No matter the game, you’ll see the same theme: every play must be considered with its context to be evaluated and understood.

[OTC] Tourney match featuring aggressive pressure against lategame potential

Here we have the best of 3 Offworld Trading Company (OTC) match between players blackmagic and DeathTacticus with excellent commentary from philothanic and Zultar. In this match, we see cross-game ideas such as the strength of controlling the center as well as a race between early and lategame strategies.

Game 1. It's best to search for ways to get in your opponent's way while advancing your own gameplan. Here Blackmagic cancels an iron claim to the east and instead takes 2 iron tiles adjacent to DeathTacticus's base. This play does not lose as much tempo as it would seem, as he could not claim those 2 tiles earlier as they were protected by the timeout from DeathTacticus' own found there. These two tiles stifle the expansive opponent's options, walling DeathTacticus off from the open space northwest of his base and reducing his options for later building placement. Expansive colonies have a large tile footprint that can make it especially difficult for them to design their bases in tight areas. They face the competing incentives, wanting to connect production to the base to avoid shipping but also wanting to avoid over-clustering of buildings that increase the value of the opponent's EMPs and Power Surges (both of which randomly spawned for this game's black market):

Both players are in the top center of the map away from many of the map's resources. Zultar discusses one attractive alternative found location nearer to the center that went unused. Controlling the center of a game map (LoL mid tower, chess center squares, etc) is very strong because occupiers have the shortest average travel distances to other points on the map. In this case, reducing shipping distance to every other point on the map would help because shorter shipping lanes are cheaper to operate. Playing to shorten distances is as important here as in other map-based games, as we saw with Planetary Annililation. By founding in a particular spot, players make a (mostly) static choice about shipping costs for the map's resource patches:
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[OTC] Opening tactic of temporary chems investment: a good idea poorly executed

In this clip from an Offworld Trading Company tournament, player adorfield recognizes that the neutral colony’s modules are consuming chemicals, gradually increasing the market price. Adorfield bought 60 chemicals early, knowing that he could sit on them for a period and then sell them at a profit.

This is, on its own, a sound plan. However, the plan should have been aimed at selling the chems as soon as the profits were enough to let him buy the HQ level 2 upgrade for additional tile claims. Instead, adorfield did not sell his stockpile, locking up thousands of dollars that needed to be used to jump start in the critical moments of the opening. The plan actually delayed his development rather than accelerating it.

Meanwhile, an opponent with unstifled development was able to use their faster HQ level 2 claims to snatch away the high aluminum tile adjacent to adorfield’s base. In this moment we can see how the error snowballed against adorfiel and seriously hampered his opening. Yes, the price of those chems will continue to rise, which does provide some benefit, but waiting for the price to rise further came with an enormous opportunity cost of upgrading later than his opponents.