I have been training for World Boardgaming Championships. Since the game I am submitting for my team is Puerto Rico, I need to play a bunch of games of it to get back into fighting shape. Years ago I was really familiar with the interface on BSW, but this time I am trying it on Boardgamearena instead. I logged on and played a few games, but as you might expect I didn't do very well because of my initial battle with the interface. When you don't even know what to click on to take an extra barrel of goods it becomes hard to devote all of your faculties to winning. However, even though I lost my first three games I still gained ELO points at that point so apparently I was up against some really good players!
The question I have been asking myself though is if practicing online is actually the best way to powerlevel Puerto Rico skill. My other option is to play 4p Puerto Rico with me playing all four players at once. This has the disadvantage of requiring the setup and takedown, but has the advantage that I don't need to involve anyone else but me. I also spend my time mastering keeping track of all the money and goods on a physical board instead of getting used to an online interface, and that has real value considering I will be playing on a physical board at WBC.
Clearly a lot of the skill in PR is going to come no matter which option I go with, but I think that you can't underestimate playing in a familiar setting. Plus playing against myself at least partly mitigates the issue of ending up playing against bad players and winning despite my plans being weak. If I only play against myself I can't rely on noob mistakes giving me victories!
Swapping sides again, I feel like there is real value in playing against other good players with different skills than me. Sometimes they will expose me to tricks or strategies that I have forgotten, or perhaps never knew. You can't surprise yourself.
I guess what I need to do is pour a day into each of the two strategies and see what works. Perhaps a mix of the two will actually end up being the best overall plan - get a bit of practice with other people to shake the rust off, but spend much of my time practicing in the format I have to master against extremely consistent opposition.
Now I just have to get past my tendency to pick one side and subconsciously try to make that side win. It is a thing I have struggled with when I play against myself in games for years, and being able to master that would be a great step towards objectivity that should serve me well.