Recently I read where a player wrote that he tries to be aware of the weaker, "low in troops strength players," from as early as Round 02. Another player wrote where he tries to be aware of the other players' troop strengths right from the start and before and after each round. I assume that he is a lot like me in that even when it is not my turn, I read the game logs and see what each player has been up to in between rounds. But I have to ask myself if that is really all that necessary, especially in Round 02.
It's good to know at all times who is the weakest player (troops strength wise) because it can change so much from round to round, but in round 02 and 03 you have to keep an open mind, I think. If you set yourself for Blue, because we say that he is the weakest in troops strength for example, and you stick next to blue in the early few rounds and move your stacks next to his because you want to be guaranteed a shot at taking blue out when the time is right, and then Green becomes the weakest, then you're like, "Aw man, I should have stayed close to Green instead."
There is a part in this game where you also have to rely on instincts and inter-wishing. It can't always be by the book. The book is the guide and we should strive to understand why the book guides us the way it does. It's for the purpose of teaching us to learn to think strategy wise and not just to follow a set of guides. Thinking about targets comes into play later on in round 04 or so. According to the SoC Handbook...
"Now we should be able to see what the other players are up to. Before each turn you need to check and see who is the weakest player and whether or not you can take them out."
I just finished a game where the weakest player actually won the game by the way. The weakest player had like 25 troops and I had like 50 troops and the trade was for 25 troops. What the weakest player did was, by chance, he cashed in his spoils and hit the next weakest player that was actually stronger than` him by about 5 troops, but this weakest player was in a most excellent position to take out the second weakest with just the extra 25 troops.
Everyone had like 4 and 5 spoils except for me, I only had 3 spoils and the weakest player left me for last because I was only one of 2 players with 50 troops. The rest had only 30 and 35 troops but they had all those spoils in hand. I hate it when people play like that. They don't cash in right away and hold all their cards. I also had 30 troops but I cashed in mine right away to get a total of 50 troops on the board.
The point is that even the weakest of players can win under the ideal circumstances and situations. So while it is always a good idea to be aware of who is the weakest, it is also good to know the whole situation. After all, you may not be able to get to the weakest player because other players have you blocked so that you do not have access to the weakest player, but you may have access to the second or even the third weakest player. And that is the player who could be your road to victory.
I think that's what the SoC Handbook is trying to teach us with that rule of being aware of the weakest player, it's not just to aim for the weakest player but to be aware of the whole environment which begins with the weakest player. But then you calculate, "How much access to his troops do I really have?" Say you have a choice between two targets and one of them is weaker than the other, but you don't have full contact with that weaker player. Let's say he has 20 troops and you have 35, but 15 of your troops are somewhere else. You say, well I have at least 20 troops to 20 troops, but at the same time, there might be another player with 30 troops, but he has full contact with all of your 35 troops. Then, because you have 5 extra troops with the player who is second weakest, he would be a better target than the one where only 20 of your troops have contact.
So I believe that the idea of knowing who is the weakest is simply to make it a habit of analyzing the game and knowing what the full situation is all of the time. You'd be surprised how many people log on and do not really analyze the game and just play only to realize, "Damn, I should have done that instead when I had the chance!" They do not make it a part of their routine, their pattern of play, to check out the full situation, beginning with who is the weakest and then asking more questions from there.
Who is the weakest, who is the closest, who is the strongest and on and on and on until you have analyzed the entire situation. So when the rule book reads, "always know who is the weakest," I think what it is really telling us is to just make it a habit of being aware of the whole game all of the time. Don't just log on and play right away but make it a serious habit to do some serious calculations even if it takes you all day. You do have 24 hours in which to make your move after all.
But in the second round, and I may be wrong, but it is still too premature to try and stay close to the weakest player, because all of that can change by round 04 or 05. I believe that the best that you can do in round 02, is just maintain your stacks. All you really need is at least 3 good stacks. Of course 4 is better and 5 would be best. 6 stacks is just over kill and definitely unmanageable. I personally try for just 4 stacks.
The fewer the stacks (3) the more the concentration of fire power but 4 stacks gives the greater area that you can cover and the more options would you have. So the second round is more about placing or moving your stacks into more general locations, if you can, then about knowing who is the weakest and trying to stay close to that weak player. Although we should always analyze the game and know what the situation is.
Because in the end, when all is said and done; Today's weakest player could be tomorrow’s conqueror. Remember, that it was a weak, scrawny little kid of approximately 15 years of age who eventually took over his father’s plans and conquered the known world for Greece.
A very Special Thank You goes to Macbone
for his contribution to the editing portion of this article.