The Case Study: A New Dominant Strategy?

If it’s not one thing, it’s another. 😉

Adding rescues to Over the Next Dune also added sacrifice plays to the game’s strategic repertoire. One simply protects a group of player tokens by putting one of them in front of a searcher. The searcher catches that player and stops, leaving the rest of the group unscathed. Everyone else then makes the rescue next turn.

None of that is especially objectionable, though it is “gamey.” So long as it’s better to avoid being caught entirely, it’s OK to include letting someone get caught as an emergency backup plan. Prior to adding tracking to OtND, I felt that that condition was met; once every so often the sacrifice play was useful, but in general it was better not to get caught.

The tracking mechanic may have changed the power balance between those two strategies. It enables one player to use his or her track to create a “wall” that protects the other players. Searchers encountering the wall will chase after its maker, never going after the other players. As a result, those players are free to make low-risk rescues. If this approach works to its best effect, it would allow a single player token to serve as the sacrifice over and over again. That would make things pretty boring; one player’s job would be limited to moving forward while getting captured, and the other four would be in no significant danger of ever being caught.

The searcher will hit the "wall" and capture the sacrificed player token; the rest of the players will be fine, and can attempt a rescue during the sneak phase
The searcher will hit the “wall” and capture the sacrificed player token; the rest of the players will be fine, and can attempt a rescue during the sneak phase

I haven’t yet determined whether this strategy is too good. Eliminating direction markers as searchers move over them will help by disassembling the wall; the next searcher to come along won’t be fooled. However, it might be that the wall provides enough safety to keep the end run going strong. I’m testing it, and will report back with the results.

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