I don’t even know how many games I’ve played of Tournament of Dragons. When you’re developing a video game, obviously there’s a lot of testing - not just at the end when it’s all put together, but throughout the development process. Tweak the UI? Gotta make sure it’s still playable. Change a couple of animations? Need to watch it in the actual game to make sure it all looks good.
Luckily for me, I had willing participants to play these hundreds of games with me. Our AIs!
(And that’s the great thing about AIs! They never get tired so they’re willing to play a game with me at 2am to make sure that the size of the fonts look good in all resolutions).
Throughout this time I learned a lot of strategy, and I’m here to give you my top three tips - things I learned playing our AIs at Tournament of Dragons.
1. Bid even numbers
Sometimes you know you’re going to pass. Maybe there’s a lot of high value cards on the table, maybe one particular person is bidding aggressively for that dragon. For whatever reason, if you think you’re going to end up passing at a later time, it may be better to bid an even number of gold pieces. If you bid one and then pass, you lose one gold piece. But if you bid two and then pass, you still only lose one, and you forced everyone else at the table who went after you to pay more for their cards.
The same goes for every subsequent odd and even number, because the amount forfeited is half rounded up. When you bid three and pass, you lose two. But the same happens when you bid four!
The danger of this strategy? Bidding an even number that’s too high and ending up paying the whole lot for the highest card.
2. Sometimes you want throw-away (weak) cards
The first time I ever played ToD I ended up with a whole bunch of medium-value cards. I’m talking between 6 and 15. The problem with this is that although there are many cards out there weaker than yours, there are also a lot that are higher. Your fifteen is only so good when there are five cards that can beat you out there in the hands of your opponents.
Because of the randomness of the prizes in round two, there are usually some rounds where all the prizes are all very similar in value. Those rounds are a great time to play your throwaway cards - your worm, your toad, your mouse and so-on, and still win a pretty good prize. Sometimes the lowest card can still wriggle away with a high value. Based on what’s available in the game, the maximum a worm could take home? 8 gold.
On the other hand, when stakes are high (let’s say there’s both a 10 and a 0 on the table at the same time), it’s pretty great to have a dragon in your back pocket. So, the important takeaway here is that low-value cards aren’t necessarily a bad thing, if you know when to play them!
3. It’s all about relativity
Because there’s some luck involved in the game (especially in later arenas where not all cards will show up in every game), sometimes it’s about playing the cards on the table, which means that all cards have a relative as well as an absolute value.
Imagine that there’s a worm (1), a golem (18), a demon (19) and a dragon (20) on the table. Do you want to be the first person to pass? Hell no! The second person to pass could get an 18 for free!
In this case the relative value of the worm is so low that it’s not worth it. You pretty much have to bid, and bid aggressively. This ends up being a game of chicken - the first person to wuss out loses half their bid and ends up with a worm. The second person gets a golem for a steal. In this case, you’re in luck if someone else has a low amount of gold left in the coffer, as you can force a pass by bidding more than they have and then comfortably pass the next time it comes around to you.
On the other hand, if you have a worm (1), a toad (2), a mouse (3) and a fairy (4) on the table? Well, passing and taking the worm doesn’t seem so bad. Bidding more will only bring your card up a maximum of 3 points, and the fairy falls into the category of weaker competitors, so you’ll likely only use her when (as mentioned in point 2 of this post) the prizes up for grabs are good.
In this case, passing to get the worm isn’t a bad option. There’s really not much point in getting into a bidding war over the fairy, when it’s such a low card. It’s better to save your money and have more going into the subsequent rounds of bidding or to add to your final score.
Of course, all of these are just suggestions! Everyone here at Decisive has their own strategy, and no one ever comes out on top all the time - not even our AI. The game is just too complex for that!
Do you have strategies that you’d like to share? Drop us a line on our Twitter.