(cross-posted at Boardgame Geek)
My wife has decided to work on mastering the Buka. In particular, she is attracted to the mind games that you can play with the bluffing ability. So, on Sunday, we had a strategy discussion about the Buka and then sat down to play. To make it straightforward, I decided to use the Vulca. High Fire values (to counter the Earth slant that the Buka have) and lots of denial cards, but no “tricksiness”. We were also going to play to five crystals
I was massacred.
One of the things that I’ve found that people miss about “bluffing” is you have to use it as part of the larger metagame. You have to set up expectations that extend beyond the current game. Crystal understands this instinctively. For the last couple of outings, she has only used matching bluff cards, which has driven me off from calling her bluffs. I’m sure that she will now start slipping an empty in, from time to time, because she can.
The upshot of this approach is that Crystal picks up the occasional dragon by drawing me out into calling her bluff. Then, beyond this, she establishes her bluffing “space”, which will actually give her more freedom to use empty bluffs in the future.
Also, based on a couple of previous discussions, Crystal finally connected with the idea that the game has auction elements, a la Shannon Appelcline’s article. This produced skillful play on her part, as she forced me to expend four or five cards on one-dragon fights on a regular basis.
We had also discussed how the Buka are a really fast deck that rarely gains a two-dragon win. So, she quickly hit upon the strategy of attracting a dragon or two then blitzing through her deck quickly, both through the occasional bluff and through quickly loading her ships. This was frighteningly effective.
For myself, it was horrifying to be on the receiving end of the Buka. Certainly this is not a deck that plays itself, but seeing Crystal’s developing skill with the deck was scary. I always felt like I was under attack from two directions. On the one hand, I had to fight the actual battle in process. But, invariably, there were ships that were filling up at the same time. There were several fights that Crystal would slow-play, keeping the power level low, just so that she would have more time to fill her ships. There wasn’t really anything that the Vulca could do to stop it, either.
Pandemonium was nice, as it prevented the play of support cards, which pretty much guts the Buka deck, and Cast Cataclysm was an effective nuke on the bluffs, but, in the end, the Vulca could not stand up to the rapid-fire assault of the Buka. After our third games, Crystal stood at eight crystals, while I still had not earned a single one.
Next time, I’m bringing the Pillar. I think that the disclose ability could be quite handy against the Buka. I’ll report back….