Table talk

« Table talk » is an important part of the game. The best players are ruthless negotiators and rely on their skill to topple the game in their favour.

Negociation

Making tactical deals with other players during the game is the heart of table talk. A lot of things can be discussed and negociated around the table. The key to successful negociation is to determine what every other player can offer and what she may desire. Then, almost anything can be dealt on a table.

Some tactical deals are fairly common:

Deals can relate to something not being done instead of something being offered. Dealing to not bleed, not block or not rush are often proposed to one's prey or predator.

The unbearable lightness of deals

They are two important things to keep in mind with deals:

Deals are a powerful tool but they should still be considered with some lightness.

Finally, on the tournament scene, table splits deals are commonplace. For this kind of deals, 2 or 3 prominent players agree upon a repartition of Victory Points by deciding who gets to oust who. This is often key in the end game.

Information, Deception and Standing

Table talk is not only about negociation, it is also about manipulation. Multiple techniques are used for deception and information gathering. A common tactic is to announce every action one as the intention to undertake before playing it. It has multiple positive effects:

Decision timing

The time someone takes to ponder wether or not they react to a play or an action is an indication of their hand content. One should keep focused on the decision timing of the other players, while trying to be as unconspicuous as possible oneself.

Another tool of manipulation is about the players standing around the table. A handful of casual comments can go a long way. The basic idea is to decide on a posture quite early in the game: which deck is a threat on the table and which is the underdog. If the other players aggree with the posture, this can have the following effects:

Of course, one should try to lay low, avoid to focus the table attention to oneself and never present himself as the threat. The posture should be expressed with a bit of subtelty and always pleasantly: an aggressive posture is very likely to drive the other players against the initiator, plus, remember, this is a game and should stay enjoyable even for your opponents.

Table strategies

Not everything around the table is about talking. Having a good sense of the table balance is essential to build an efficient table strategy as well.

The most obvious fact about table strategy is the two players « cross table » are natural allies. The grand-prey will be leaning to help against the prey, and the grand-predator against the predator. Cultivating good rapports with them is important in the beginning. As the game progress though, they can become threats themselves.

Hopping

A strategy uniquely available to vote constructs, hopping is going against the grand-prey pool before ousting the prey first. It is a good idea when the grand-prey deck has good block capacity: they do not get the chance to block the undirected vote actions until they are either the prey or the predator.

One should of course focus on eliminating its prey. However, when the predator is too threatening, some builds have the ability to go reverse, taking aggressive actions against their predator to oust them before their prey. A full reverse, taking predators down one after another for a 2 VP game win at the end, is hard to achieve: each predator gets 6 more pool out of the oust. However, going at least partially reverse during a game, ousting or crippling the predator to diminish the pressure, is a real possibility for some decks.

Predator-Prey Continuum

The Predator-Prey Continuum is a notion developped by Gregory Williams in his Basic Concepts in Deck Construction. The gist of it is that when a player applies pressure to his prey, the effect ripples around the table and, depending on the number of players, the consequences vary. See the following schematics, representing, 5, 4 and 3-players continuum, where M1, M2, M3, M4 and M5 are the five Methusalah.

Predator-Prey Continuum

If a strong (▲) player (M1) pressures his prey, then his prey (M2) has to focus on defense (△) and his grand-prey (M3) gets strong (▲) and can put pressure on his prey (M4), and so on.

In a game with an even number of players (4 players in the example), this is a stable situation: cross-table allies reinforce each other and they build up their edge. If there is an odd number of players though, the pressure comes back a turn later on M1 (turn B).

This systemic ripple effect, although not so clear-cut in practice and depending a lot on the type of decks on the table, is a good model of how the game flows. It emphasizes how important it is for one to nail his lunge move in a five or three players setup: if the lunge works, you get back to an even number and a favorable situation. If it fails, you stay on an odd number of players and have just put a lot of pressure on your prey. More often than not, this means the pressure will come back at you in your very next turn.