If you haven’t read my Nippon review then check that out for a short summary of the game, the mechanics and what you might look out for. However, if you have played the game or about to and want some ideas for strategy – here’s some of my thoughts:
During the game:
Pass and pass again: The thing is that you need to get some victory points on the board. At the start of the game you don’t score for very much, but during the game you will pass and gain bonus multiples that mean you score for more opportunities at the end. Picking these up across the game is key; anywhere between 6-8 passes over the game. Some passes won’t be worth as much as others, but it’s important to pick up points where you can and it’s important that even the lower scores aren’t zero (well except a few).
Two, three but not four: You will always have a mix of workers – two is fine, heck eve three is okay but don’t slip to four different colours. Having four colours is going to set you back most of your income and mean that you will have to pass again quite quickly (and perhaps not even get a points bonus from the pass!).
Trains & Boats: Once you have presence in the local markets you want to think about putting out boats to gain extra victory points from that region. This is important to maximise points but it will attract the attention of other players. You will need to defend that position using trains. The combination of both will keep you gaining points nicely at each scoring round!
Local Trade: While we are at it, local trade is important. Yes you can trade for money and points in the international market, but be careful. One or two players dominating across the map will collect a lot more points over the game. The international market may be important at the margin or with a smaller board presence, but you need some board presence in this game.
Factory Upgrades: These score points and improve your exporting/trading – they are a significant benefit from the start and building these out will boost the chance that you win the game. Watch out though, because you need to run the factories to recoup the benefit!
Chain Game: This is a game about a chain of actions – watch out that the order of your actions supports the increased benefits of future actions. Run our factories after upgrades, build ships in regions you can defend and go for factories once you have the ideas to build the ones you want!
Bonus Selection: Watch out for the bonus selection at the point you pass – at first ideas will have value, then coal, and eventually cold hard cash will be king. Watch out though, because this is the same for all players (roughly) and so they will be passing just ahead of you and stealing those bonuses. Sometimes passing early and getting the bonus first can be better – after all that extra turn might not get you any additional VP or a better bonus!
Blocking: You can’t stop someone taking an action, but sometimes you know exactly which one they would like – and it’s got a colour they already have. When that happens it can be worth stealing that worker if the action suits. Don’t do it just for spite, but if you are choosing between colours for that action it may be worth factoring the impact to other players.