I played Castles of Mad King Ludwig last night and was asked a tricky question at the end of it. I was in seat 4 and won the game by about 15 points or so, and the player in seat 2 asked what I thought of her arrangements of the tiles during her master builder turns. 2 had the issue that she ran low on cash in the middle of the game and felt like she just hadn't been able to make enough money.
It is tricky sometimes to figure out whether arrangements were correct when you didn't know at the time what everyone's cards were. I might look askance at a placement but if a tile has 5 bonus points on it from secret cards it really changes how you think about it, and how the placement goes. That said, I thought her placements were fine and she certainly wasn't giving up money like crazy.
So why was it that 2, who should have had more money than me because I was 4th chair, struggled with cash? Also why was it that I ended the game rich?
A big part of the answer is yellow rooms. Yellow rooms give you extra turns and you usually want to use those extra turns when you have the best selection, so most of the time you use them when you are the first player to choose tiles. Also when you use yellow rooms you end up paying a ton of money out all at once, so you really want to do that right before your own master builder turn so that going low on cash won't break you.
When I thought about this I looked at the board and lo and behold the player after me in position 1 had three completed yellow rooms and I recalled distinctly that I got paid off on the turn when he activated two of them. Not only did he buy three things, but the other players also bought stuff and I sold all but one of the tiles in front of me. That happened on turn 4 and it took me from nearly broke to rolling in cash.
Part of this was deliberate of course because I priced those yellow rooms to move. I wanted to get paid so I let people have some sweet buys to build up my bankroll. But part of it was just luck because those tiles might well have come out differently.
I think the key is that you want the player after you to buy yellow rooms. When they do that you can set it up so that they have multiple good buys and make sure that the options get scarce, which means that other players after them will often end up paying more for things than they would otherwise. Cash itself may not be that great but I noticed during the game that I had plenty of chances to pay about X money for X points and that means that if I can sell an additional tile at 8 bucks it is absolutely amazing for me and could easily raise my final score by 8, assuming I am cash limited at any point.
Getting yellow rooms into the hands of the player after you is a hard thing to take advantage of. Aside from giving away yellow rooms for really cheap on your own master builder phase it isn't exactly an easy thing to do and is highly luck dependent. I think though that it strongly emphasizes the strength of giving people good deals on your turn when they have yellow rooms out no matter which seat they are in. You don't want to give away the farm obviously but if you make sure that they are at least strongly tempted to use both turns you rate to get paid. You can't afford to let them get a deal on a tile for 1 coin but any intermediate amount is pretty solid. The trick is that they are going to spend those turns buying stuff. Once they have the yellow room that much is a given. What you can control though is whether or not those extra turns and the associated income come to you, or to somebody else.
That concept is a key thing to grasp in many games and I see a lot of players fail at it. They often see someone setting up something big and do everything they can to stop it but fail to consider whether or not that interference will actually work for the whole game. If someone sets up a big score and you know that they are going to cash in on it at some point you shouldn't desperately try to delay it; rather you should figure out how to cash in as much as possible personally when they finally do make their thing work. Making sure people with yellow rooms use them on your master builder turn to get yourself paid is a great example of this.