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Patience isn't Always a Virtue

June 27, 2007

Patience is normally a virtue, whether in gaming or not. You don't want to commit those meeples until you draw the right tile in Carcassonne. You certainly want to save your cards in the Commands & Colors series until they'll be most effective. You've got to time your Bonus cards just right in Princes of Florence to use them on the correct work. However, this is a list of games where patience is not always a virtue. These are games where you're given one, and only one, chance to use an ability that will give you the opportunity to decimate your opponents, but it's clear that if you waste it too early then you won't maximize this ability's potential. However, the lesser known side of this equation is that if you wait too long to use such an ability then you won't get to use it at all! This is my problem. I treasure such abilities even more than their great worth and end up never finding the "perfect" opportunity to use them, and consequently often end up not using them at all (which is certainly worse than using them too early). What on Earth am I talking about? Perhaps a few examples will make it all clear...

What powerful game abilities are you often stuck with not having used at the end of the game because you waited too long to find the perfect opportunity to use them and ended up not using them at all?

Ra - 13 Sun - Since this phenomenon first manifested itself in a game of Ra, it's known in my group as the "13 Sun" (since we play 3-player more often than not). So anytime another game has something analogous, it's called the "13 Sun." Am I the only one who overvalues the 13 Sun and often ends up not using it for an entire round when I have it (and consequently prefer to have the 11 or 12 if possible even though they're empirically worse) or are others prone to this excessive patience?

China - Fortification Tile - The second time this cropped up was with the Fortification Tile in China. I actually didn't play this tile in any of my first 4 or 5 full games of China because I never could find the perfect time to play it! Obviously I lost all of those games horribly. I always wanted to use the Fortification Tile when it would count double for a road and a region majority, but waiting for the perfect opportunity can also mean waiting too long for any opportunity, which I learned the hard way, over and over again!

Tigris & Euphrates - Catastrophe Tile - Knizia strikes again! I usually associate the 13 Sun and the Fortification Tile with this phenomenon, but looking back over other games that I've played in thinking about this list, I realized that a number of games have abilities that fall into this category that I hadn't thought of before. The Catastrophe Tile from Tigris & Euphrates was the first other game to come to mind because figuring out when to use those precious two catastrophe tiles is essential and very difficult. I usually worry that I'm "wasting" one and end up saving them for far too long, hopefully I'm not the only one.

Blokus - Single Square Piece - An abstract makes the list. The single square piece in Blokus is your best to chance to escape from being blocked in, but if you're like me then you'll have plenty of chances to try/need to escape because you'll be getting blocked in more frequently than you'd like.

Shear Panic - Ewe Turn & Sheep Leap - An abstract in sheep's clothing makes the list. The rules themselves even encouraged me not to waste these two abilities, which certainly wasn't necessary because I'm so miserly with such great/unique abilities that I'd have been too hesitant to use them even if the rules hadn't warned me to prize them.

El Grande - 13 Power Card - 13 must be unlucky, as it makes another appearance on the list. When you figure out you really want one of the five action cards during one of the nine rounds then it's time to break out the 13 Power Card... but you never know if there'll be an even better action card in the very next round, so unless it's the 9th round, I'll never be sure of myself when laying down the 13 Power Card.

Settlers of Catan - Monopoly Card - A classic, and one of the classic blunders... It's always a joyous occasion when you happen to buy a Development Card, expecting a Knight (or I suppose Soldier if you're playing the newer version), and instead get a Monopoly. The scarce resource may vary from game to game, but there's always some resource that is unbelievably scarce, so stealing from everyone else simultaneously (and not having to pick-and-choose and get lucky like with the Robber) is nice indeed... unless you're like me and can never build up the nerve to commit and actually use it.

Samurai - Figure Swap - Make it a Knizia trilogy! It's not the Knizia Tile-Laying Trilogy or the Knizia Auction Trilogy, but instead it's a brand new Knizia Trilogy for games where indecisive people do poorly because they can't commit to using the most important abilities. The Ronin and the Tile Swap are certainly tricky, but the Figure Swap takes the cake for me because it seems to have such great potential... if only I could figure out when to use it.

Java - Extra action points & Special tiles - Kramer shows up again... and my indecisiveness not only prevents me from using the special ability, but also from deciding which special ability to list here! I have trouble actually using up all 3 bonus action points by the end of the game, but I also rarely use both of the single city tiles, all three of the single rice field tiles, and all five of the double tiles. I'm usually left at the end with a bonus action point or two, and a handful of special tiles, knowing that if I'd managed to us them I would've certainly garnered a few more points along the way. I'm sure I'll never be able to actually commit to using all of the special tiles, so I can only hope that the difference in points won't be small enough for it to make a difference.

Dune - Thumper, Cone of Silence, Weather Control, or Family Atomics - Another one where I can't quite decide which belongs most... There are so many amazing cards in this game that I'm not even sure which one is the most difficult to figure out when to use, any thoughts?

Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation - 5 or 6 card - If you play me in this game, you can be pretty sure I won't bust out with the 5 card (if I'm Light) or 6 card (if I'm Dark) anytime in the first half of the game... and that will certainly be to your advantage!

Nexus Ops - Scattered Rubium - I'm always sure I'll have one more territory at the start of the next turn... but it never seems to work out that way, go figure.

Kreta - Villages & Forts - 13 must really be unlucky as this is the 13th entry on the list, following upon the 13 Sun in Ra and the 13 Power Card in El Grande. The buildings in Kreta are so powerful that I'll never want to actually use them, anyone else hanging on to the Baumeister card longer than they really ought to?

(See this GeekList for this article plus additional comments on it)

(See Boardgame News for an edited version of this article plus additional comments on it)