Several years ago I started watching Texas Hold ‘Em tournaments on TV. I was fascinated with the decision-making process that the poker pros went through. I loved to watch players try and bluff. There was nothing quite as satisfying as watching someone with 7-2 offsuit (statistically, the worst poker hand in Texas Hold ‘Em) bluff his way through a hand and cause players with better hands to fold.
Bluffing may not be as important in Redemption as in games like Poker but good Redemption players will recognize the need for it in the right situations. Sometimes, the best thing you can do on your turn is attack with a hero that you know your opponent can block successfully. The key is knowing when bluffing is the smart move and when it is a bad move.
First, let’s identify some parameters. Believe it or not the first distinction we need to make is whether we are bluffing on offense or defense! Yes bluffing while blocking with an evil character IS a real thing.
1. Bluffing on offense
2. Bluffing on defense
Let’s talk about bluffing on offense first since this is much more likely to occur in a normal game. Here are the big reasons why it might make sense to bluff by attacking with a hero that your opponent can beat or for which you have no support:
1. To use a special ability (this almost always refers to your hero abilities but can include cards like The Throne of David or House in Bethany)
2. To force your opponent to burn cards (evil enhancement, artifact, dominant, etc.)
3. To force your opponent to make a choice, with a chance of them making the wrong one
Reasons 1 is not pure bluffing. As an example for reason 1, attacking with The Angel Under the Oak and exchanging with Jair to draw 4 total cards when your opponent has Foreign Wives in his/her territory can’t really be called a bluff because you get the benefit of 4 new cards. You have to weigh those 4 cards against the “cost” of giving your opponent a sure block against you and the possibility you draw more Lost Souls for them to rescue. (Now, if you happen to play Judges/Canaanites and you have Sword Against Sword and Stone of Thebez in hand, you are definitely not bluffing – you are hoping to bait your opponent’s Foreign Wives into battle!)
Reason 2 is also not a pure bluff. As an example, if you draw The Strong Angel in your opening hand and there is an available Lost Soul to attack for you are going to push TSA into battle no matter what. Even if you have no good dominants or silver enhancements a 10/8 angel that prevents evil characters and evil enhancements is tough to beat. You have no idea what your opponent has but if they have a way to stop you it’s probably going to cause them to burn a card to do it, such as a CBP or CBN battlewinner, or maybe Christian Martyr. If they were fortunate enough to get an evil character with 11 on defense, good for them. You still want to attack with a semi-bluff. Often this strategy lets you gain benefits that help you win a longer game or a game where your opponent’s defense is set up well.
Reason 3 is the most fun because it is a true bluff! In this scenario your knowledge of your opponent’s cards tells you that your opponent can definitely beat you IF they make the right decision(s) in battle. Don’t forget that (usually) your opponent will not know what is in your hand. If they assume you have cards in your hand that you actually don’t have they might misplay the block. I’ve attacked with Samuel without Samuel’s Edict in hand and been given a free soul because my opponent assumed I had Edict and didn’t want to sacrifice an evil character at the time. Small purple heroes like James, Son of Alphaeus are excellent bluffing heroes. Authority of Christ can be so destructive that sometimes it’s better to not let your opponent play it even if you must give up a free soul.
So when do you bluff on offense? The biggest reason to bluff is if you can’t win without bluffing. If your opponent will win on his next turn, or if you are behind and your defense is breathing fumes, bluffing might be your only way to catch up. Another big reason to bluff is if you are playing with an aggressive or offense-heavy deck. If for some reason your cards don’t draw well and you don’t have good enhancement or dominant support for your heroes it may be wise to continue the attack. Your opponent might not have much to stop you and getting them to burn an evil enhancement (or make a mistake) could keep your deck as the aggressor and your opponent’s defense on the ropes.
Now let’s consider bluffing on defense. The strategy here is a bit simpler in my opinion:
1. Force your opponent to play a good dominant (Angel of the Lord or Grapes of Wrath) on your evil character (only applies to blocking low so that your EC is losing)
2. Force your opponent to misplay his/her good enhancements or burn cards to win (only applies when the hero has first initiative)
3. Use an evil character’s ability
Bluffing via Reason 1 above is dangerous as your opponent just needs to pass initiative to you for you to lose the battle. But that is why they call it bluffing! Getting your opponent to burn Angel of the Lord or Grapes when they don’t need to can be huge. One time I was playing a ROOT game against a Fight-By-The-Numbers offense. My opponent attacked with Simeon/Moses, using AUtO to band the two. I blocked with Goliath and kicked them out of battle. My opponent then presented Heldai. I granted him initiative and he played David’s Triumph thinking it would be CBN because it was played against a Philistine. The only problem was, DT can’t be negated by a Philistine but Moses was trying (successfully) to prevent DT. So that made Heldai 14/7 versus my 10/10 Goliath. I pointed this out and then asked for initiative even though I had no black enhancements that could win the battle. My opponent immediately played Angel of the Lord thinking I wanted to play something nasty that he couldn’t stop. This is why I always ask for initiative when blocking even if I have nothing to win the battle. Every now and then your opponent might drop a dominant that they could have saved. Similar to small purple heroes on offense, a small brown character on defense can threaten Haman’s Plot.
Bluffing via Reason 2 above is less risky. First, you might already be stopping a rescue via stalemate or outright winning. It’s hard to call either of these “bluffing” since the only way your opponent wins is by playing a dominant or good enhancement. Nevertheless, the fact that you blocked and passed initiative to your opponent will make them consider their options. If they think you have a negate in hand they might play their cards differently, possibly to your advantage. If it’s a mutual destruction and you have nothing to back up your evil character it’s more of a bluff; if your opponent plays an enhancement to win the battle they basically healed their hero as the only difference in battle outcome is that the hero didn’t die.
Bluffing via Reason 3 isn’t really a bluff if your defense is strong enough to stop the heroes. If you gain the benefit of using an evil character’s ability and your opponent has to burn a good enhancement to win that can be a good trade in the long run, even if you lose the battle. Banding to your opponent’s defense can make this even better.
So when do you bluff on defense? That’s a tougher question. The best time would be if you can’t win without successfully bluffing, just like bluffing on offense. But this implies that you are (temporarily) winning the battle by having high enough defense; that’s not really a bluff, especially if it is your only option. Another good time is if the odds are good that your opponent has Angel of the Lord or Grapes of Wrath in hand. Suppose your opponent (in a T1 game) has 10 cards left in deck and hasn’t played either one yet. Odds are good that he/she has Angel of the Lord and/or Grapes in hand. But don’t ever forget that you can only give up 2 redeemed souls via regular battles before you are in danger of your opponent dropping Son of God/New Jerusalem.
I hope this article has inspired you to consider the pros and cons of bluffing in the game of Redemption! Often, games of Redemption come down to whoever makes the fewest errors and bluffing (if done correctly) can cause your opponent to have more opportunities to misplay their cards.
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