More than any of our other games, I think strategies for New England will differ, which to me is always a sign of a good game. With that in mind, I welcome your debate over how to play this game.
Bid Low & Buy Two Items
Whenever possible, bid low enough so that you can get two auction items. Because the starting money is only 4 coins and the game has a minimum of 3 players, at least one person is always getting short-changed on the first turn and that cannot be helped. Taking this point one step further, you should try to ensure that on next turn you will have enough money to make 2 purchases on the next turn.
As the primary mechanic of the game is bidding, increasing your income through the purchase of Pilgrims can be a key to victory. Getting them early in the game will increase their income output.
Many players will adopt a "Pilgrim Heavy Strategy" as they also give you a Victory Point (VP), a 4 VP bonus if you have the most Pilgrims at the end of the game, and in addition to the boost your income each turn. The shortcoming of this, and also going heavy on Ships or Barns, is that Pilgrims take up a plot of land that cannot be developed with a Land Development Card. As the Development Cards earn 3 VPs for a 2-land development, 6 for a 3-land, and 10 for a 4-land, each plot of land can earn, respectively, 1.5, 2, and 2.5 VPs. This makes the Pilgrim Strategy a weaker return when you consider that without the bonus, Pilgrims only earn you 1 VP per land occupied. Even with the bonus, 3 pieces of land tied up by a Pilgrims with the Most Pilgrims Bonus only gets you 1 VP more than if you used the land for a 3- land Development Cards and the VP to land used ratio gets smaller as you invest more in it. This is not to say that Pilgrims are bad but they will not necessarily net you the most VPs.
Settlements, Pastures, & Farmlands
If you are going to favor a land type go with the brown Settlement lands. The fastest way to gain VPs is through the 4-land Development Cards and they come only in Settlements. Giving 10 VPs, they are valued and using two is even better but challenging to do. There are only 4 of them in the deck so keep a count on them. Should the first turn bring up one or more of them, this will increase the competition for them as it is unlikely they will get used because the only way to get one would be to bid 1 or 2 on a barn, place it on one of your starter tiles, and put the card in the barn for future use; A questionable and land-wise an expensive play on turn 1. Once you get in get the 4 Settlement Lands in a 2x2 square for the 10 VP Development Cards, you will want to conserve your income so that when it comes out you have the ability to seize it. Between purchasing Pastures (Green) and Farmlands (Black) I advocate balance instead of favoring one or the other.
Managing the board so you have space is not so much an issue with a 3 player game but can be crucial in a 4 player game. If you are doing manual board set-up, you will have to place starting tiles one at a time and compete for starting places. My only advice is to give yourself enough space and make sure you have reasonable access to the ocean for your Ships. I like to be 1 off the edges of the board so you will be off to the side but still have a secure corridor for growth that will unlikely be squeezed.
Family Notes when using the standard board set-up: Annible can have a tough time getting shore land for Ships as they are kind of squeezed in the middle, even in the 3 player game. Howe, only used in 4 player games, needs to expand its Settlement quickly lest it have a big challenge setting up a 2x2 square for the 10 point Development Card. Palmer needs to manage the left side of the board effectively as the starting Pasture and Settlement pieces are close together. Winslow I think is the best off with the standard set-up but has the disadvantage of moving last.
Watching the Scores
As the game progresses, watch the score carefully. In particular watch the bonuses for the Most Ships, Pilgrims and Barns at the end game. Knowing who is benefitting from which bonuses can enable you to protect your lead or cut down an opponent’s lead. As the bonus is friendly (shared between all who have the most), keeping up with the leader can be good points. As the game end is near, think about making a break to take the sole lead for a bonus from either the game leader or if you are the leader, 2nd place. Even if you are 1 behind for a bonus, it keeps you within striking distance to buy 2 of the same token in a turn and take the lead which can be a significant swing of points as you not only go up but decrease the previous bonus holder. If it is in the Pilgrim category, it can be 10 point swing with 2 points for the Pilgrims themselves, 4 for your bonus, and another 4 taking away a bonus!
When making the selection for the auction block, take your time to review the whole game. What do I need more: land or development cards? What do my opponent’s need more? Do I want the game to end because I am in the lead or do I want to prolong the game to give me a chance? The last question can also sway the decision to use the Most Ships Ability to add additional items to the auction pool as it will speed up the end of the game.
Last edited by RobEng
on Wed Feb 06, 2008 1:01 pm, edited 1 time in total.