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This card kind of has me stumped. In my experience, the vast majority of games deplete the Province or Colony pile before any other, ending the game. Which means in most circumstances, this card is basically an overpriced Village, which isn't a very strong card to begin with.

It seems to me the key is knowing when Supply piles are likely to run low. Are there any things to look for in the setup of 10 Kingdom cards to help predict when this might happen? Or are you better off waiting until it actually does happen before investing in this card?

+1 Card; +2 Actions; If there are one or more empty Supply piles, +1 Card.  If there are two or more, +1 Coin and +1 Buy

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I don't have the Prosperity set, so it's probably clarified in the rules - but the effects are cumulative, right? –  idan315 Nov 10 '10 at 15:30
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@idan315: "If there are two or more empty piles, you both draw another card, and get (1 coin icon) to spend and an extra Buy to use in the Buy phase." So... according to the rulebook, yes. –  Powerlord Nov 10 '10 at 16:16
    
Doesn't the game end once a 3rd supply pile is emptied? If so... the full uses of this card may not be realized very often... I'm guessing. –  Liggy Nov 11 '10 at 3:06
    
@Liggy - yep, that's one of the big drawbacks to this card. It's quite powerful, but only for a short time, if at all. Though it takes 4 piles to end the game in a 5 or 6 player game. –  keithjgrant Nov 11 '10 at 4:43
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Don't forget that you don't need two exhausted piles for City to be good: with just one exhausted pile, it's better than Laboratory. –  Jon Dec 19 '10 at 14:38
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5 Answers

up vote 9 down vote accepted

More supply piles tend to go in 5 or 6 player games.

Cards that synergize with themselves tend to get bought out quickly - like Caravan, Treasure Map, and Laboratory. Extra buys also seem to increase the rate at which Kingdom cards get bought out.

Terminal actions (ones that do not give you +1 Action) tend to get bought less frequently, as each player would only consider 1-2 copies anyway. It seems lower cost cards (2 and 3) aren't bought out very much. 4-5 costs appear to go fastest.

I have noticed City itself is frequently the first one to get bought out if any will, and that immediately boosts all of them. Generally I tend to wait on City until I notice people are grabbing Kingdom cards, but I also generally lose to the guy who bought 5 of them.

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If you try hard enough in a 2-player game you can buy them all yourself, even. But it's risky. –  lilserf Nov 10 '10 at 5:54
    
My group has only played with City twice. One game it was pretty much ignored, the other game no one wanted to finish off a second pile to give the extra coin and buy. –  Powerlord Nov 10 '10 at 16:20
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Or are you better off waiting until it actually does happen before investing in this card?

No, you're not better off. If you're going to invest in Cities, waiting for a pile to empty first is too slow.

Timing

If you can load up on Cities and run two piles out, you'll dominate. I generally do go for cities. The most important rule for cities is: if you're not the only one buying cities, don't buy the last one. In a 4-player game, I wouldn't buy either of the last two. Don't empty any piles unless you're confident of your lead and of ending the game soon. When a player empties the city pile, it greatly helps the next player with cities, and you don't want to give anyone else head start. Conversely, if you can manage to gain the last card in a pil on your turn which some actions left (perhaps with a Remodel-variant, though there are plenty of other options too), you get the head start if you can follow it up with a deck's worth of cities.

Whether or not to buy

Since they start as villages, Cities work really well with +cards. If there's no other good card draw, you can probably safely skip them. If there is good card draw, you definitely need to consider them. They'll be most valuable in a game where you think there will be a fair amount of time between a pile emptying and the end of the game, e.g. often when Platinum/Colony are in play. As others have pointed out, if there's another card in the set that's very popular in your play group, then you can expect it to sell out quickly, in which case Cities will activate quickly. An activated City is an excellent card for its cost, so you may want to largely ignore the other popular card and just focus on Cities.

Countermeasures

Aside from the obvious curse/discard attacks to slow down a City strategy, use the piles. The City-player wants to kill 2 piles, and then have a few ridiculous turns before the game ends. A conter-city player wants to wear down piles evenly, so that as soon as one is killed, 2 others can be quickly killed depriving the City player of the chance to go off. This often isn't very hard. Pick a couple decent, non-terminal, cheap cards, which you should be able to buy more frequently than a City player can buy cities. Work in some points (a Duchy here and there goes a long way, or a Province if you get 8), so that when the game ends all of a sudden you're on top. Extra buy or gain cards help immensely with this (e.g. Ironworks, Bridge, Goons).

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The general rule is to buy Cities early if you see cards or card sets that may cause piles to empty early.

Some such sets are:

Single cards:

  • Curse-giving cards - Causes Curse pile to empty
  • Village (Base) / Fishing Village (Seaside)
  • Swindler (Intrigue) - Has a tendency to cause Duchy pile to empty.
  • Lighthouse (Seaside)
  • Treasure Map (Seaside)
  • Pirate Ship (Seaside)
  • Forge (Prosperity) - Has a tendency to cause mid-cost card piles to empty as fodder for forging Colonies. Duchy in particular.
  • Trader (Hinterlands) - causes Silver pile to empty... may depend on the player group, though.

Two cards:

  • Island (Seaside) and Saboteur (Intrigue). Causes Island pile to empty (to protect Victory cards).
  • Mine (Base) and Platinum (Prosperity). Causes Platinum pile to empty, although this is slower due to needing to go through Golds first.
  • Defense cards and destructive attack cards. Causes defense card pile to empty.
  • Tunnel (Hinterlands) and any card that lets you discard cards (Hamlet, Horse Traders, Inn, Oracle, Oasis). Causes Tunnel pile to empty, the other card pile to empty, and Golds to empty more quickly than usual.

Three cards:

  • Peddler (Prosperity) and +Actions/+Cards cards (or Duration cards) and +Buy cards. Causes Peddler pile to empty (Peddlers go down $2 for each action in play). Province / Colony (Prosperity) cards will also empty more quickly if Expand (Prosperity) or Forge (Prosperity) are also in play.

There may be others, but they likely depend on the players you're playing against.

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Maybe it's just the people I play with, but Cities are quite useful if there are cursing cards sitting around (e.g. Witch or Sea Hag). In my experience, especially with four players, Curse piles can empty pretty quickly, even if Provinces are going at a decent rate and no other pile is close to emptying. Of course, the best defence is a good offence, so considering the cost it may be more worth grabbing a Witch than a City, but nevertheless they can be worth a punt in a Curse-heavy game.

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Keep in mind that the number of Curse cards is directly proportional to the number of players (10 Curses for 2 players, 20 for 3, 30 for 4, 40 for 5, or 50 for 6.) –  Powerlord May 18 '12 at 15:54
    
Ah yes, noted, though more players also means more people potentially cursing, so the piles can still go down a little faster. Again, this may just show what kind of people I play with... –  Johno May 21 '12 at 8:40
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I can see some synergy with Treasure Map, which tends to disappear fast. alt text

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I don't think I've ever seen Treasure Map disappear fast enough to make Cities viable. –  lilserf Nov 10 '10 at 5:03
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@lilserf: My group buys up Treasure Maps rather quickly. I've seen them gone by the end of the third round in a 5+ player game. –  Powerlord Nov 10 '10 at 16:18
    
Agree with @Powerlord. I, myself, am a sucker for the treasure maps. –  Liggy Nov 11 '10 at 3:09
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