Wednesday, December 16, 2009

CE alien survey #30: GAMBLER

First appearance: Eon expansion #2. 

Plain-English power: Play an encounter card face down and just say what it is (often legally lying about it). 

Loved by: People with good poker faces. 

Loathed by: The insecure and the gullible. 

Three ways to win as Gambler:
  1. If you don't have that many ships in the warp, you can afford to bluff more freely. It helps if you attack with only 2 ships (then you'll only lose 2 more ships if your bluff is called).
  2. When your opponent reveals his or her card, take a moment to "do the math" before declaring what your card it (especially when you are NOT bluffing and your card is giving you a higher total). Your opponent may be more likely to call your bluff and suffer additional losses.
  3. When you play a negotiate, and your opponent reveals a decent attack card, look disappointed and then declare your card is a negotiate. You may be able to trick your opponent into calling your bluff this way as well. You'll still lose the encounter, but you'll at least sting your opponent.
I was bluffing about only three ways to win. Here's a fourth:
  1. Use negotiates early to get cards away from your opponents. It helps you if there are players that know about certain cards in your hand. If you get the 30 or the 40, you want players to know you have it. You can bluff about that for several encounters.

Three ways to win against Gambler:
  1. When you only have 1 or 2 ships in the encounter, call the Gambler's bluff, especially when he has beaten you by a small margin, or declared that he played a big attack card.  Even if he did play the 40 after all, it's good to know that is no longer in his hand.
  2. Late in the game, when resources are spread thin, Gambler is less likely to attack you with 4 ships AND bluff about his card. Maybe he's hoping to scare you into accepting the totals, but you may have to chance the extra losses yourself.
  3. Reinforcements are rarely factored into Gambler's bluffing. If you have some, you may be able to overcome his totals, even if he is bluffing.
Double bluff!
  1. Keep in mind that there are several cards in the encounter deck that are not duplicated. If one has already been played (or you are holding it), and Gambler says he's playing it, call that bluff!  These cards appear only once in the base deck:  40, 30, 23, 15, 13, 12, 11, 09, 07, 05, 01, 00, Morph.
At CE Online? No.

— Submitted by Jack Reda


Rob Burns said...

Very good, Jack. I particularly like your #4 strategy tip on "how to win as Gambler". Bluffing when others know you've got a big gun and will use it is easier than bluffing when you've got a typical semi-crappy hand. That's key.

Gerald Katz once suggested that the best way to play against Gambler is to always call his bluff - turning him into Cudgel. I'm not sure about that, and I'm definitely not sure about it if Gambler is executing Tip #4 well.

Unknown said...

Yep. Always call Gambler's bluff when he announces a winning card. You're going to lose the challenge anyway. It's annoying to lose those extra ships when he wasn't bluffing, but better that than to lose a challenge you would have won.

If Gambler announces Negotiate, it's up to you. If you don't mind losing cards from your hand, it doesn't really matter if Gambler bluffed for them. They are out of your hand, and he's stuck with them. If you really like your cards, is the insurance cost of risking extra ships worth it to call the bluff? Up to you.

Reinforcements are the conundrum for both sides. Gambler could risk announcing a losing card, bluff or not, if he has Reinforcements to back him up. The opponent can accept a winning announcement, bluff or not, if he has the back up. I'd probably just call the bluff anyway. When Gambler knows he can't bluff you no matter what, he has no power against you.

Barney said...

Calling the bluff every time is good in theory, but gets too expensive too quickly. Zombie and Masochist can call the bluff, but if you just lost 3 or 4 ships, losing twice that number may not be worth the risk.

pgocosmic said...

Gambler is of my personal favorites. In fact more fun to play than Philanthropist, which I still prefer as my "best" alien, in part because Phi's strategy is flexible enough to deal with just about any alien. And other players rarely waste a zap on it.

Unknown said...

If you don't call the bluff when Gambler declares a winning card, you 100% chance lose. If you call the bluff, you 50% chance win.

If you played a Negotiate and Gambler declares a Negotiate, unless you're Pacifist Gambler really wants to deal. That's worth accepting even if he just didn't want you to get consolation from his hand. Providing you deal you keep your ships. If you don't deal, you were going to lose the ships anyway. If you are Pacifist, it's up to you. Sure Gambler might have bluffed out a loss if you accepted, but early in the game a base for base deal isn't a bad thing. Call the bluff when you have three bases since Gambler is less likely to offer you a base. Absolutely call it when going for the win.

Barney said...

I agree if you don't call the bluff when you lost, then you definitely lose. But that's not the whole story. If you call the bluff when you've lost, and he wasn't bluffing, you doubly lose. Again, 8 ships is often too many to lose at once.
If you do call the bluff, you don't necessarily win 50% of the time. That's only if Gambler was lying 50% of the time. Gambler gets to say what his card is without showing it, even when he plays a high card and knows he's won. If you call the bluff every time, it's anybody's guess how often that's gonna work out. I think you still end up losing more than you win (because a loss is more than just a loss... it's loss plus- now with 100% more ouch).

Unknown said...

Then you are giving Gambler more power over you. All Gambler has to do is attack you where you have lots of ships. He'll attack you where you have 5 ships. Since you won't want to lose 10 by risking calling his bluff, you just lost 5.

Certainly losing 10 ships if he played a legitimate winning card will hurt. Gambler is a power. It should have some oomph. However, taking away his bluff weakens him. You change his power to Cudgel or Bully. They are nice powers in their own right, but Gambler no longer never steals a win. He only wins challenges he was going to win anyway.

The Warp said...

I reckon calling his bluff every time works better if everyone is calling his bluff and not just one player. But I have to weight a lot of factors before I call when there's 8 or more ships at risk. What card is he saying he played, and really what are the odds that he could have it? How many ships do I have left? How many colonies would I be losing if I'm wrong? A strategy of always call is only good if you can afford those odds. Gambler knows you sometimes can't afford it. This edginess is what I love about this alien.

Rob Burns said...

Jack noted: "Gambler knows you sometimes can't afford it. This edginess is what I love about this alien."

This is also what makes Cudgel, Vacuum, and even Shadow great aliens. They know that you sometimes can't afford it, and if controlled by smart players, they kick you hard right at that time. My brother-in-law is a quick study and on the first play of the FFG version, he got Cudgel. He hadn't even played Cosmic in several years, but quickly intuited that "go big or go home" was the only way to play Cudgel. And he laid down the hurt on Sorceror something fierce.

Gambler is even cooler because of Jack's comment -- factoring in all the variables, you realize, "Hey, I don't have to call Gambler's bluff." You're tempted. It MIGHT be best to just let it stand... what a great power.

(Come on FFG... let's see Skeptic again, too...)

Unknown said...

Oh no, not Skeptic! What a poor power that was. If anything rivals Skeptic as a useless power it's Pirate or even Lloyd.


pgocosmic said...

I doubt that. The Skeptic in the hands of a wiley player is a fun power. Cosmic is more than "what do the numbers add up to".

Kobold Curry Chef said...

There's a problem with forming any particular strategy against the Gambler. If Gambler knows what your strategy is, it's a snap for him to change his bluffing pattern to take advantage. If Gambler knows that you are going to call his bluff every time, then he will simply bluff and tell the truth on his card every time.

This is why Gambler is one of my favorites; it's more about playing the people than playing the numbers.

-Kobold Curry Chef

Unknown said...

Of course Gambler will tell the truth every time. That just means Gambler will only win challenges he was going to win anyway. That's the whole point. You'll accept the declaration if he declares a losing card and not lose the extra ships. If Gambler plays Reinforcements to win after all, oh well. He was going to win anyway.

Unknown said...

Although, it is possible Gambler played a losing card, Negotiate or low Attack Card, but bluffs a higher value card that still loses when you accept and then Gambler plays his Reinforcements to win. If you called his bluff and he reveals the even lower card, his Reinforcements would not have given him the win. Kudos to Gambler.

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