Got some fun facts from the first step of the Inaugural BGA Barrage Tournament
You can check my work here
(note the second tab with the Excel-generated data. I've not used a lot of Excel sharing before, in a public way, so let me know if this does not work for you.
I want to open with the caveat that I am neither particularly good at Barrage, nor particularly good at Excel, and while the analyses are applied automatically, they are subject to a number of errors where they can't factor in what was available against what was chosen, since only in country choice are we dealing with exactly 4 choices that can be chosen in order 1-4. My hope is that will smooth out over different rounds, especially if people provide useful feedback. All of the data was collected manually, using shorthand derived from what BGA and the game itself use; if you're confused about which basin is which number, start going left to right, and then consider position. So Basin B8U is the leftmost basin in the plains, upper (paid) position, and Conduit C7L is the rightmost hills basin, left conduit. And so on. You can see on the form the information I intend to collect as games end, in order to see what's what in this first round.
So, some thoughts:
Average ELO at start of contest is 143, and the greatest frequency (10) is between 0-20 and 200-220. Most others are pretty even around 3-4 representatives per ELO band. This presents challenges for the Swiss system, as I understand, which I set to favor comparable ELOs; I would have thought in the first round we'd have some all ELO 0 matches, for instance, and so on, but I guess I don't get the system that well. I don't mind, personally, but then it's not an absence of masochism that makes me a fan of the game!
Not a lot of surprises here. Out of 4 countries, Italy, France, and Germany split being picked first pretty evenly, and USA has a dominant 11/16 4th picks, 4 3rd picks, and 1 2nd pick, with an inspiring 0 picks 1st. I expect that would get a little more messy if the Netherlands expansion faction was in the mix, but for now I think it's safe to say that whether it's a bias of the meta or a reflection of the actual imbalances in the game, USA is not well-regarded as a faction. This is, incidentally, part of the reason why when I play in person, I like to make the number of countries to choose from Player Count +1. Again, I fully expect great players to leverage going 1st and that sweet 4th base income to absurd effect, but I think it's an unreasonable expectation for most average or new players, and the player power is frustratingly hard to manage in a lot of situations.
It's why, much moreso than wanting more maps, I've wanted to get another faction that feels directly competitive with the top 3.
One of the many places we'll get murky; for one thing, it's tied to country choice, so we can't be sure that it's the decisive factor. This works backward to country choice as well, of course, if people are choosing on the basis of XOs (which I suspect is the reason why USA gets any 3rd or 2nd picks, but I digress). For another, there are more XOs in the pool than will show up in a single game, so the frequency is going to be affected by random player setup conditions.
That said, Jill McDowell appears to be very popular, and it makes sense, since the ability to build Conduits with 1 Mixer/power multiplier is intuitively useful to less experienced players, and can be leveraged straightforwardly by more experienced players. She's the frontrunner 1st pick 7 times, followed by Viktor Fiesler (all production is at least 4 EN) as most frequent 2nd pick, and then Wilhelm Adler (all bases cost 3 EXC) and Graziano Del Monte (Fill max ELV dam with 4 drops instead of 3), and Mahiri Sekibo (temp. copy another XO) bringing up the 4th position. From my perspective, I would expect Solomon Jordan to be less popular because 3 cash to sub for 1 machine just seems straightforwardly worse than Jill, but the fact that Anton Krylov's excellent power (duping a tech) is also behind them suggests to me there's a role for random game setup variance in these results. For me, both Sekibo and Jordan are the hardest to use, so I tend to avoid them just on that premise; again, the mileage of actually good players will vary significantly. If you are good at budgeting either engineers or money, I can see them working out great.
XOs are where a lot of variety in the game comes from, and I am glad they have provided us with more non-Leeghwater-board XOs, because that is what really makes the early choices in the physical game come alive for me.
These are 4/4 choices and a free choice after country, and it's pretty straightforward. 4EN=2$,1EX/MX is a clear frontrunner, chosen first 11x, and second 5x, and 3EN=2$,1Wheel turn inverts that as 1st choice 5x, 2nd choice 11x. The same pattern follows with the next two: 3EN=2$,2-> gets picked 12x as 3rd choice, 4x as 4th, and 2EN=3$ gets picked 4x as 3rd choice, and 12x as 4th. I don't see this pattern changing, and it seems fine to me. Perhaps the last one could use a little boost, but I guess that's where Solomon Jordan might disagree.
A couple of clear trends here: Buy Patent, Elevation_1 is the most popular first move and the most popular second move of the game, by a good bit, and as far as I can tell, never goes unpurchased if it is for sale. It's followed not that closely by Conduit_1's patent, although that fares better as we get to the 3rd and 4th moves taken in the game. So I guess we have a whole of of USA players hammering those Elevation wheel spins out there! The Wild Patent is next in overall frequency, and then building B8U's base, followed by some lower basin powerhouse builds.
After that, well, you can see that things get a lot messier with some conduit builds, and then we have some very spicy first plays of contract purchases, where contracts that permit free builds are popular. The last two, both done 4th in the move order, are a single purchase of Base_1 patent, and a single build of Powerhouse P7_0 (the 0 is the zero cost space for powerhouse area 7).
I think it's pretty commonly-accepted knowledge that Patents are a strong first move, and this outcome reflects. Rather than reduce the existing ones, I would go with the conventional wisdom advanced by more experienced players, that the real problem is that several of the Base techs are rather lackluster in comparison to the competition.
Anyway, I look forward to seeing how everybody does in this step of the game, and I will try to make sure I set aside enough time for both the setup of step 2 and the end of step 1, when they come.