I'm referring to games like Agricola, Puerto Rico, and Settlers of Catan. But a few themes seem to pop up in each game.

One is the importance of brick/stone/wood for building. Without improvements, your farms might not amount to much.

Another is the need to keep a balance between "income" (as measured in money or food), and victory points. A third is to keep a balance between advancing your own interests, and an eye on blocking threats from others.

Also, there is the element that while some commodities are (a little) more valuable than others under "normal" conditions, if "everyone" wants the same "great" commodity (e.g. stone), that becomes less valuable, while an otherwise ok commodity thqt is "neglected" can become "great."

Are these (and other features) common between the games mentioned (and similar ones)? More to the point, if I learn to play one well (or at least to a certain level of skill), will this give me a head start on learning the others?

For instance, although the mechanics are different, knowing how to play either Monopoly or Easy Money will give you a leg up on learning the other.

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    Almost too broad a question, but I haven't voted to close. I think my answer is basically that yes, learning to play one well will help you to play the others well, but only insofar as understanding that the little details (what an action is worth now) are only part of a bigger picture (how a less flashy action now will enable me to get more victory points later) is a general skill that's useful in many, many games. I agree with user1873 that understanding corn in Puerto Rico won't help you be a good grain farmer in Agricola though. – thesunneversets Oct 15 '12 at 11:26
  • @thesunneversets: Your comment represents the kind of thing I had hoped to learn. – Tom Au Oct 15 '12 at 13:04
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    Voting to close because I see the question as being too broad and possibly subjective as well. As written, I think this would be a perfect candidate for discussion in chat; it doesn't seem to represent an actual problem being faced, and I don't have suggestions as to how to address one aspect of the question in a way that would fit well with the site. – Dave DuPlantis Oct 16 '12 at 12:30
  • @DaveDuPlantis: It is an actual problem, because I have time to learn one game, but not a whole bunch of them. On the other hand, if I can learn two or more games in "batches," for a little more effort than for one, then it would probably be worth my time. – Tom Au Oct 16 '12 at 13:24

No, those three games play completely differently. Learning how to play well in one game will not translate to another.

Settlers of Catan is a game where you don't trade VP for advancing your economic engine, it is your economic engine. While goods don't have a value per say, certain goods are better than others. This is especially true in the Knights and Cities expansion, where Paper is by far the best commodity. Everyone focusing on paper will not diminish its value, at least until each player has the City improvement that grants a free good when you don't get one.

Puerto Rico doesn't follow the value states that you say exist in Agricola. Corn is one of the highest value plantations, because it doesn't require two colonists to produce. It may or may not be valuable to focus on the same goods depending on if you are selling to the Trading House or shipping. As for balancing income and VP, Puerto Rico doesn't follow any sort of balance. In the beginning, VP is rather useless. In the end game, coins are rather useless. So in Puerto Rico, you focus the beginning game on improving your income, and the late game focused on scoring VP. There is very little balance at all, just a determination of when to switch from income to.VP. This is more like Dominion in my opinion, but realizing this and playing Puerto Rico well will not make you a better Dominion player.

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  • I disagree with your assessment that there is no tradeoff between VP and economy. There are many times where it would be cheaper in terms of VP per resource spent to build one way, but spending more (longer roads/more ships) to build somewhere else advances your economy more in the long run. There is still very often a tradeoff. – corsiKa Oct 15 '12 at 20:02
  • There are some situations where you might tradeoff VP for future economy, but in general this isn't the case. Usually, you are building up your economy (cities, or roads and new settlements). The only time you might choose a current VP bonus (like longest road), is if it wins you the game on the spot. – user1873 Oct 16 '12 at 1:23

I don't think the theme plays into it that much. It seems to me that the commonalities are more general than that, in that there are techniques that you can use to analyze just about any strategy game. These includes things like the economics of points gained per action or the trade-off of scoring points versus preventing someone else from scoring points. They also include things like understanding probability and how to manipulate it to determine how much is it worth to have twice as much chance of X happening, or what the "expected value" of a random action is. You can tie the theme around these however you want, and they're still the same concepts.

That being said, you will likely always need some experience with a game before you can apply these concepts to effectively analyze decisions. You'll be able to improve at a game faster than someone who doesn't understand these techniques, but you shouldn't expect being an expert at one game to instantly make you good at another.

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