Breachproof part 3: Rock, Paper, Scissors

In parts 1 and 2, I’ve mentioned that breachproof is mostly used as a counter to something that your opponent does – often a heavy commitment to Chill or big red. In this post, I’ll go in-depth on how to use breachproof as a counter, and how to play the “rock paper scissors” (RPS) situations that come up occasionally in Prismata. I’m including this in the breachproof series since these rock paper scissors situations often (although not always) involve a breachproof strategy.

Rock paper scissors situations come up when there are three possible strategies that all counter each other. For example, take a set where:

1. A breachproof strategy is possible

2. The breachproof strategy can be countered by a standard style of play that is aimed at beating breachproof (e.g., by not making any chill).

3. The standard strategy can be countered by a Big Red – often Tatsu Nullifier

4. The big red strategy, in turn, loses to the breachproof strategy – either because the big red unit is Tatsu, which has Chill and so is hard-countered by breachproof, or simply because breachproof strategies are good at putting on pressure and don’t fall apart against extremely high damage.

The key is that there’s three different strategies possible, and each strategy counters one strategy and loses to the other. The specific strategies can change – for example, a Wincer strategy can also often beat a standard style of play but lose to breachproof – but for this post we’ll focus on the most common type of rock paper scissors situation, which is standard > breachproof > Tatsu Nullifier > standard. We’ll be using this game as an example:

Breachproof 3.3
How would you play this set?

 

Prismata is a turn-based, perfect-information game. So, although the situation is similar to rock paper scissors, our approach is going to have to be very different.

Delay Commitment By Building Up Your Economy

Breachproof 3.6.png

We’re using rock paper scissors as a metaphor, but imagine for a second that it really was a perfect rock paper scissors situation: the chill strategy would always beat the standard strategy, the standard strategy would always beat the breachproof, and the breachproof would always beat the chill. In this case, you would want to delay committing to a strategy indefinitely: you and your opponent would just keep on building up your economy (since building up your economy is the only way to do something useful without being committal) and the first one to commit to a strategy would lose since the other player would counter it.

Although in real games you don’t build up your economy indefinitely – for reasons we’ll talk about later – you do want to Drone up for longer than usual, to avoid committing too early. You can definitely get wins in RPS sets just by droning up (or Dynamo-ing up, as the case may be) for longer than usual and countering whatever your opponent does.

However, what happens if both players focus on building up their economy and avoid committing to a strategy? Do both players just wait around forever? Luckily, a real game doesn’t work the same as the theoretical turn-based rock paper scissors.  There are two major differences. One is that the balance of power between the three strategies shifts as people delay, meaning that eventually one strategy will become powerful enough to be worth committing to first. The second is that in order to remain efficient, you eventually have to partially commit to strategies, which will eventually lead to both sides fully committing.

Shifting Balance of Power

As both sides Drone up, the rock paper scissors relationship gradually breaks down, and one strategy will come to dominate the rest. For example, big red strategies get stronger as economy sizes get bigger, because their two weaknesses – overteching and a hard time defending – become less and less of a problem as your economy grows. Just how the balance shifts will depend on the specifics of the set. As a rule of thumb, though, if a big red strategy is part of the RPS, then it will get stronger over time and eventually one player should commit to the big red strategy. Also, usually the breachproof strategy will get relatively weaker over time, depending on the type of breachproof strategy available in the set. If the breachproof strategy available is semi breachproof – for example, if your plan against Tatsus is just to let them breach your Drones and try to smorc them down with Gauss Cannons –  then it gets weaker as time goes on, since you get more and more breach vulnerable as you keep adding on Drones. If it’s pure breachproof – as it is in the example game we’re looking at – it stays at about the same level of strength. And if it’s a venge all-in, it depends on the rest of the set a lot, but in general the venge all-in strategy will get stronger, since bigger venge all-ins are better.

A good rule of thumb is that while you’re waiting around building up your economy, ask yourself if you could commit to one of the strategies and win. If you think you can, go for it.

Partial Commitment

Breachproof 3.4
Gameking partially commits to a standard style of play by clicking his Asteri and making a Blastforge

Past a certain point, you won’t have enough Energy to spend all of your Gold on more economy. You could just spam more Engineers to keep Droning up, but usually this is very inefficient and clunky, so it’s better to partially commit. Partially committing is when you make a move towards one or two of the three strategies, but still have the option to change what you’re going for based on how the situation plays out. In the screenshot above, Gameking had partially committed to either breachproof or standard, by making Asteris. I responded by partially committing to a breach-vulnerable strategy – either standard or Tatsu – by making a Chrono Filter. Gameking then moved towards standard play specifically, by clicking one of his Asteris and making a blastforge. He can still go breachproof depending on circumstances, but he’s weakened his breachproof strategy considerably. Most notably, if I go Tatsus, his blastforge will be useless – any walls it makes will only be frozen.

The justification for his play is that since he’s already built up 6 attack, and since he can still go breachproof if necessary, he expects the Tatsu strategy is no longer viable – big red strategies don’t do well under pressure. So, since standard play should beat pure breachproof (thanks to Doomed Wall), and since standard play doesn’t have to worry about Tatsus anymore, he is focusing on winning a standard vs. standard mirror.

Breachproof 3.5

My response to him making the Blastforge was to commit entirely to Tatsus. I believed that with Blood Pact and Doomed Wall, as well as my big economy, I’d be able to defend my Tatsus, and the Tatsus themself would be good since they would prevent him from being able to use his Blastforge.

Although I ultimately won, the game was extremely close and could have gone either way. RPS games in Prismata are always extremely set dependent – partially committing in order to stay efficient while still keeping your options open enough that you can counter your opponent’s moves requires extremely delicate judgement.

-307th

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