I won’t claim to be the best Manoeuvre player (still sitting at 4 wins and 5 losses), but the fact that this game baffles me a bit has me thinking about it a lot. One of the critical elements to master is proper hand management. Unlike many other card-driven games, your Manoeuvre turn starts with a discard phase in which you can ditch up to your entire five-card hand to pull new ones from your deck. This element is made more interesting by the nightfall rule. If one player fails to kill five of his opponent’s units, the game ends when the second player exhausts his deck. The first, once he’s cycled through everything, just reshuffles and keeps going. If you add the optional “experienced/optional” rule, then there’s even more to consider; you get to run through your deck at setup and pick your starting hand.
All of this begs the question: is it usually better to play your hand conservatively, letting the cards dictate your movements on the board, or is it better to play the hand aggressively, and discard often to pick up the best cards? After reflection and discussion with Mike, Dad, and Joe, I don’t think this is really an either/or thing. Instead, it’s dictated by the situation and what country you’re playing. Certain countries are more defensive in nature, and it seems best to set up good defensive positions and hold onto cards for those units. On the other hand, there are countries that really benefit from aggressive play and lots of discarding (the Ottomans, specifically, with all their cavalry and pursuit rolls). With these considerations in mind, here are a few of my thoughts:
- Early Game: If you’re playing with the “pick your starting hand” rule, pick a hand that will allow you to knock out an enemy unit quickly. This offers you more options while making some of your opponent’s cards worthless. Once you’ve done that, usually it’s time to discard quickly and set up a few more nasty assaults with your strong units.
- Mid Game: If you find yourself ahead on the unit kill count, continue to discard aggressively and go for the attrition win. If you’ve suffered some losses, slow it down and discard more carefully. If he over-extends himself, it’s time to discard aggressively again and counterattack.
- Late Game: Much like the mid-game, if you find yourself ahead by quite a few units, go for the attrition win. However, if it’s a close run thing, position yourself to control the most squares; this usually means not discarding as much. If this is the case, this will allow you to control the end of the game (when, as the second player, you reach the bottom of your deck).
There is also a strong relationship between hand management and initial placement. This was pointed out to me in a BGG thread; essentially the author’s strategy is to place weaker units in the back row and discard any of their cards when they come up. This strikes me as sensible–less agonizing over what to discard early on. I’d love to hear comments on this–Manoeuvre is definitely a game I’m still learning.
(Edit: Cross-posted at Board Game Geek)