[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.

[AoE II] Mathcrafting a villager gather rate formula

The following video by YouTuber Spirit Of The Law is one of those few-but-beautiful videos that is tightly targeted and site-appropriate, being chock full of great game analysis all the way through. Spirit, an Age of Empires II analyst, uses math and in-game testing to arrive at data-driven answers to strategy questions. Here he gets to work to create a useful formula for estimating villager gather rate, previously nebulously-understood. After arriving at a formula, he goes a step further, applying it to answer some otherwise-unanswerable questions:

[CK2] Get the best value from tech points

In this quick clip we hear Crusader Kings II YouTuber Kailvin muse on getting the most value from his accrued tech points:

There are actually two things going on here:

"So with no ahead penalty, it's about time." A province's level in a tech can be instantly increased by spending saved-up tech points. Each tech has a target year and a point cost. The "ahead penalty" is a percent increase to the point cost of researching a tech before its natural time. Kailvin does not want to burn points on the ahead-of-time research penalty unless he has to. We do see on this screen that he does value some techs highly enough to eat the ahead of time cost; he has nearly capped out on Military Organization and Noble Customs far ahead of time, as these techs directly improve his empire's stability.

"I hate doing it on anything that has gears turning, because we're getting that for free...we'll just steal it from the Byzantines and then put my points into stuff." The "gears turning" icon by a tech indicates the province is gradually gaining that tech over time. Having higher-tech province neighbors causes this, as does the spymaster "Steal Technology" mission. Kailvin is using Steal Technology on the Byzantines, causing his capital to gain points towards techs they have which he lacks. Kailvin looks at his cap's Siege Equipment and Shipbuilding tech levels, each nearly at level 3 with 0% ahead penalty, and thinks about spending points to instantly boost them to tier 3. He chooses not to so he can keep leeching off of the Byzantines...he can always boost later, when he has caught up to them or has immediate need.

Kailvin is getting the most out of his tech points by avoiding ahead penalties on noncritical techs and holding off on boosting techs that are still improving over time.

[D3] Quin69 analyzes the area damage weapon property in Diablo 3

YouTuber Quin69 goes into the mechanics of the "area damage" weapon property. The initial overview of the rules of area damage functionality is followed with a powerfully convincing mathematical calculation to demonstrate its efficacy relative to other DPS properties. I found the entire video both entertaining and enlightening despite not being a D3 player. I think you will enjoy it too.

[AoE2] Losing map control forces painful investment into towers

Here we have an Age of Empires 2: Rise of the Rajas match between top-tier players TheViper and Dogao, with commentary by ZeroEmpires and EscapeAoE. A few key moments in the commentary stood out.

Suffering from economic raiding, TheViper identifies cost-effective spots for watchtower placement. One tower in particular stands out as being in range to protecting three different resource patches, apparently netting good value from the wood and stone invested in the structure:

Unfortunately for TheViper, Dogao's harassment is able to continue due to a vulnerable angle and an exposed second wood patch. TheViper is forced to invest in more defensive watchtowers on a small tree cluster that will be quickly exhausted. Down the line, the opportunity cost of constructing those towers will hurt, as villagers mining stone for towers are not gathering food or gold for teching up:

[EU4] Reman’s Paradox analyzes the new institutions mechanics

YouTuber Reman's Paradox demonstrates a high level of game knowledge backed up by data in this assessment of the new institutions mechanic in Europa Universalis IV. He also takes the laudable step of making his data and code available for others to use.

Below, I've pulled out four short sub-clips in which Reman raises ideas that may be relevant to thinking about other games.
Continue reading "[EU4] Reman’s Paradox analyzes the new institutions mechanics"

[AoE2] Overview of the Aztecs

YouTuber Spirit Of The Law conducts an excellent review of the strengths and weaknesses of the Aztec civilization, backed up by tests and mathcrafting. I've included the full video here, and below it I've pulled out a couple of small clips that I may want to reference later.
Continue reading "[AoE2] Overview of the Aztecs"

[OTC] Splitting tiles for defensibility

In Offworld Trading Company, resource-producing buildings gain significant bonuses to production for each neighboring building of the same type. A great contiguous field of the same type of building has the greatest possible production power. However, high level players usually avoid this sort of base layout. Commentator Zultar explains that top players recognize the diminishing returns on adjacency bonuses, and also know that a single field of tiles is a juicy target for black market sabotage (as happens to one player in the clip). By defensively splitting tiles, you sacrifice some of one type of value (production from extra adjacency bonuses) in order to reduce the value for opponents in attacking you.

[OTC] Relative value: Getting more out of a silicon stockpile

Here we have an example of relative value in tournament Offworld Trading Company FFA game. Player RainbowIdeology has had an elemental quarry mining silicon, and now has a modest stockpile built up. He could sell the silicon to the market for cash, but doing so would lower its market price. Opponent Rhahi’s two glass kilns, each of which consumes oxygen and silicon to produce glass. Since her kilns are using more silicon than she collects, she is forced to buy silicon off the market to run them. If RainbowIdeology were to depress the market price of silicon, Rhahi’s profit margins on glass production would grow. Instead of selling to the market, RainbowIdeology constructs three solar panels, each of which costs 100 silicon and 20 aluminum. The panels will (at least for now) be very profitable with the current high power price of $198. Rainbow got more value out of his silicon stockpile by building solar panels than he would have by selling it.