Making Money in Polythreme

I just hopped back on my ship after a two-week-long stay in Polythreme, and thought I’d share some data I gathered during my stay there. Polythreme’s distance from London makes it an unappetizing destination for grinding; but since most people will travel there sooner or later in pursuit of their Ambition or other cases, there may be some interest in making the most of your time there.

Bottom line up front: by carefully managing my opportunity deck and keeping track of my progress, I was able to earn an average of 1.75 echoes per action over my long stay there, and sail away with ample supplies for a future run at the Fidgeting Writer.

Before going into details, I should mention that I am deeply indebted to Urthdigger’s comprehensive guide to Polythreme’s mechanics, which I heavily relied on for my own trip. Polythreme’s mechanics are very interesting: they are luck-based, but since they depend mostly on drawn opportunity cards from a very limited deck, luck will determine how quickly you can complete a profitable cycle, and not whether your cycle is profitable or not. Unlike the Screaming Map or Fidgeting Writer, where each outcome either succeeds or fails, Polythreme will eventually succeed, after some indeterminate time. Whenever you don’t draw the correct cards, you can avail yourself of the standard grinding storylets, which offer a respectable 1.2 echoes/action.

Each cycle through Polythreme takes 12 actions. You’ll spend 1 action on the storylet Begin your Polythremic Promenade, which also grants 1 echo of Memories of Distant Shores. The next 10 actions will come from your opportunity cards, which you will use to raise Investigating or Fascinating. The final action will be spent on the storylet Spending your Time; with an Investigating or Fascinating of 13, you will earn 25 echoes of rewards. So, each cycle will give you 26 echoes over 12 actions, for 2.17 echoes/action.

It doesn’t really matter whether you focus on Investigating or Fascinating; I did the former because of my other business in Polythreme, so I’ll use those cards as my example, but you can use the corresponding ones for Fascinating if you prefer. In order to get to an Investigating of 13, you need 91 CP of Investigating. We have 10 actions to reach it, so we can get the reward if we get 10 CP with each of those actions. We can still get the reward if a single one of those actions gives at least 1 CP. We cannot reliably get the reward if any one of our 10 actions gives zero CP.

We’ll assume you have a 4-deck hand. The Priest at the Temple and At the Market will never give any Investigating, so keep those in your hand at all times. The Wax Wind Comes and The Masked Man will give zero Investigating if we’re unlucky, so keep one in your hand, and discard the other whenever it appears.

That leaves three cards. Fractious Furniture is our best choice: it’s a skill-based challenge, and always gives 10 CP, so if we play this card each time it appears, we can reach 100 CP with no problems. Next is The Temple. This is a luck-based card that also gives 10 CP on a pretty-good-odds success, and still gives 5 CP on a failure. So, whenever I started a new cycle, I would always play The Temple whenever it appeared, until the first time it failed. After that, I would switch to only playing Fractious Furniture. This gets us to 95 CP, still enough for the best reward, and lets us spend more actions on the cycle than if we were only waiting for a single card to appear. Finally, The Ruin is a bit odd; it’s an even-odds card that gives 15 CP on a success, and still 1 CP on a failure. I generally discarded The Ruin, unless I was at the last step in the cycle and hadn’t yet failed at The Temple.

Any time you discard a card, you can use the action you would have spent on that card to Lurk in the Eaves, earning 12 Romantic Notions. Note that you’ll want 2 actions available at the end of a cycle so you can play the two storylets to end the current cycle and start the next one.

I’d decided to stay on Polythreme until I had ground 7500 Romantic Notions. By the time I had done so, I had acquired 690 Stolen Kisses and 138 additional Memories of Distant Shores. My total earnings from the visit were 2546.50 echoes. During my two weeks, I had spent 828 actions completing 69 cycles, and 625 actions harvesting Notions, for a total of 1453 actions. On average, I earned 1.75 echoes per action during my stay.

While I’m quite pleased with these results, I suspect that there might be some additional refinements available. I haven’t been able to work the math on it, but it might be beneficial to play The Ruin more often than I did. It’s essentially a trade-off between potentially being able to spend more actions on the highly profitable cycle, versus the risk of failing at The Ruin and not being able to play the better-odds The Temple when it next appears. Also, because the Opportunity Deck is so crucial, you’ll do best if you can flip cards every hour, instead of waiting for 10 or 20 actions to accrue.

On the whole, I think Polythreme offers a lot of potential. My favorite aspect is that the less-profitable part of the process yields Romantic Notions, which are currently considered one of the best sources of materials for the Fidgeting Writer. Also, it’s notable that the 2.17 echoes/action that the cycle yields does not require any investment, and compares very favorably to the return on Fidgeting Writer once you account for acquiring materials. So, even if you’re in Polythreme specifically to gather Notions, it can still be worth your while to ride the cycle.

The downside to this method: it does require you to keep track of whether you’ve experienced a failure yet in the current cycle. You can sometimes, but not always, deduce this from your current progress in Investigating versus your Unnatural Exuberance. If keeping track proves difficult, you may want to use some token to help remind you of your status; personally, I’ve found that donning a Ridiculous Hat works wonders.

[color=rgb(194, 194, 194)]This post has been really useful to me in my own Polythreme grinding. It’s still completely up to date apart from the fact that it was written before 5 card hands came in.[/color]

[color=rgb(194, 194, 194)]That makes a difference because it means that if you are building Investigating, you can keep ALL of the non-helpful cards in your hand and prevent them from being drawn (previously you could only keep 3 of the 4, meaning that one could still turn up each time you flipped a card).[/color]

[color=rgb(194, 194, 194)]In terms of playing The Ruin more often, I think it can be helpful. The thinking is as follows:[/color]

[color=rgb(194, 194, 194)]- if you fail at The Temple as your first card, you require 86 CPs over 9 actions, meaning 10 CPs per action is required. That rules out playing either The Temple again (as failure gives only 5 CPs) or The Ruin (as failure gives 0 CPs)[/color]

[color=rgb(194, 194, 194)]- the same applies if you fail at The Ruin as your first card - you would then need 90 CPs over 9 actions, meaning 10 CP/a[/color]

[color=rgb(194, 194, 194)]- however, if you succeed at The Ruin as your first card, you need a further 76 CPs over 9 actions. The effect of this is you can actually afford to fail The Temple two more times - first failure would leave you with 71 CPs over 8 actions, second with 66 CPs over 7 actions, both of these are achievable with the guaranteed 10 CPs from Fractious Furniture (again, assuming your stats are high enough).[/color]

[color=rgb(194, 194, 194)]- not only that, but if you succeed at The Ruin as your first card, you can also afford one Ruin failure and one Temple failure. The first Temple failure would leave 71 CPs over 8 actions, then a Ruin failure would be 70 over 7 actions.[/color]

[color=rgb(194, 194, 194)]I have no idea if it’s even possible to cover all the permutations of successes and failures. I suspect that if enough time were spent a flow chart could be crafted that would tell you whether or not to play a card depending on whether you’d already failed others and how many more CPs you needed. But for the moment I hope that the above expansion on the excellent original post is somewhat useful.[/color]

Threads like this deserve to be stickied in an &quotAdvice for Advanced Players&quot kind of thread.

If one knew the relevant percentages (percentages of card daws and percentages of success/failure) it would be trivial to write a Monte Carlo simulation and only slightly more difficult to simply derive the optimal policy. Alas, I don’t think we have those.

But suffice to say, dedicated play on Polythreme with a five card hand can be quite lucrative, if you’re willing to stay long enough to offset the trips to and from. The only reason I have not purchased an Overgoat is because I prefer to keep cash on hand for emergency holiday spending. When I return to grind out a second goat(*) I’ll try to remember to record my daily earnings.

  • Poor goat

imo, polythreme is more useful for grinding certain resources rather than echos. not as risky as fidgeting writer for sure, but a little bad luck could still ruin your echos/action rate. iron republic is ironically (bad pun , yes) more predictable, and the more cycles you go through in iron republic, the better your echos/action rate.
edited by rebelanarch-82 on 1/22/2015

I just flipped over about 30 cards in Polythreme without getting Fractious Furniture (trying to build up investigating). I assume I’m just having a bad run - but just in case - is anyone else not seeing it anymore?

*Perhaps I should mention I’m playing with a four-card deck.
edited by Ginneon Thursday on 11/7/2014

Did you start up the storylet that unlocks the card?

Ah. I imagine that would come in handy. Thanks!

How exactly does one come across the “A Little Spy Work” storylet?

It’s among the other Polythreme storylets you can see when you don’t have any Unnatural Exuberance.


[quote=Ginneon Thursday]I just flipped over about 30 cards in Polythreme without getting Fractious Furniture (trying to build up investigating). I assume I’m just having a bad run - but just in case - is anyone else not seeing it anymore?

*Perhaps I should mention I’m playing with a four-card deck.
edited by Ginneon Thursday on 11/7/2014[/quote]

I actually meant to revisit this thread to make that very point. You need to have started the Spy Work story but NOT finished it for Fractious Furniture to show up. If you complete the story by making your report, you’ll have to start it again before the card will reappear.

We can see the Frequency of cards now, so chances of cards drawn are no longer unknown. I’m not in Polythreme right now(on my way), but I suspect they are weighted evenly.

As for the percentages of success&failure, this chart is or was being used to map success data:
I can’t find the Polythreme options themselves, but looking at the tests with lots of data, Pretty Good seems to be a chance in the range of 60%-70% and Either Way a chance in the range of 40%-60%. The exact value of course depending on the challenge. Could we, for the sake of a simulation, assume 65% and 50%, respectively? (I know very little about statistics)

That could possibly give a ballpark answer but its not a range that averages out–the probability is constantly at one of those numbers, and it could potentially have significant impacts on the outcome. (Like, 60 vs 60 is going to be completely different on whch card is good than 70 vs 40 …altho i think your numbers are wrong because I’m pretty sure the descriptions won’t hae multiple possible difficulty descrptions for the same level.)

Well, I don’t know which description starts at 60%; I do assume that the probability for each challenge is constant. The numbers aren’t wrong, though maybe outdated.

All I wanted to know if &quotaiming for the middle&quot of the range of possible probabilites will horribly falsify the outcome, to which you gave a very vague answer, thank you.
edited by HinterDemGlas on 1/24/2015

these are the odds from the wiki

&quotStoryNexus luck challenges seem to only work for multiplications of 10%&quot
*A sure thing. Or is it? - 100%
*How can you fail? - 90%
*Pretty good odds - 70-80%
*It could go either way - 50-60%
*The odds are against you here - 40%
*The odds are strongly against you here - 20-30%
*A long shot…but you might win - 10%

this grind however has one major drawback: you need to flip cards every hour which is increadibly annoying. also, if you dont get what you need you are left with sinking actions into that one storylet for 1.2E/A. there is however, the very tempting idea of going for I8/W8 instead of I/W13. itd let you use two cards you saved from the last run. but i need to do the math on this idea. accurate number on win/fail would help

€ how can i subscribe to topics? i cannot for the life of me find a button to do that. dont tell me this is disabled in the ‘free version’
edited by sathanas on 1/26/2015

I don’t think there’s a subscribe button on this particular forum, unfortunately.

[quote=sathanas]€ how can i subscribe to topics? i cannot for the life of me find a button to do that. dont tell me this is disabled in the ‘free version’[/quote]There is an rss symbol with a link right after the topic title at the top of this page. I’ve never used it though.

I’m actually there to grind my abysmal Shadowy! Lurking in the Eves is a reasonably diffcult challenge that has a decent cash turnout and doesn’t give any menaces. And doing the Fascinating… grind at the same time gives a little more Echoes per action (I’m impeding my Shadowy too much equipmentwise for the Investigating… grind to be sensible)

Still, after doing that for a little while, I’m starting to feel like a robot. I guess I’ll head back to London as soon as I hit 100 Bazaar Permits and just Lurk Around with other players.

I thought I’d close the loop on A B Nile’s reasoning and work out a decision tree which I think captures the optimal play. As per the previous discussions, I’m assuming you are going for Investigating and have Fractious Furniture in play, but there is an exactly symmetric tree for Fascinating (just use the analogous cards). Find the decision aid here:

I then ran some simulations using this tree to see what the final EPA would be compared to Seberin’s excellent heuristic of doing The Temple as long as it is successful and afterwards doing only FF. This discussion assumes you have five card slots available, though you can still use the decision aid if you only have four (just always discard the fourth useless card, but of course your EPA will be lower), and that your FF plays are 100% successful.

I ran 10 million trials on each approach, assuming luck at 50% / 70% for either way / pretty good odds. Results (including a strategy to minimize actions spent in promenade by just playing each card for 10 cards per promenade, which doesn’t guarantee 91+ points and so may mean poor payouts):

Just Play Each approach: EPA 1.556
Seberin’s approach: EPA 1.684
Decision tree: EPA 1.709

If I tweak the odds to 60% / 80%, EPA for the decision tree approach is 1.762 (vs. 1.722 for Seberin’s approach), which is rather closer to Seberin’s reported EPA of 1.75, though deviation around the expected EPA will be large without a whole lot of trials. As per the above discussions, this is only the EPA for the full promenade alone (including Begin Your Polythremic Promenade and Spending Your Time); it doesn’t factor in getting to Polythreme or acquiring the FF card, so bear that in mind if you are comparing grinds.

Note that the gains are very small, mainly because they rely on a succession of many Ruin cards, most of which have to resolve successfully. So the original approach of Seberin is actually pretty good. If you aren’t doing a lot of grinding here or you don’t like the complexity of the decision aid, you aren’t losing much at all by keeping it very simple (I estimate just 5 actions out of 100 will be wasted).

If you want to squeeze every last echo out of your actions, then you might want to give the tree a whirl. Print it out and put a coin on the upper left RT9 circle when you start your promenade. Then move the coin around based on your card results. Since you can and should always flip Fractious Furniture (just play it and stay in the same spot on the decision tree), I’ve mostly left it off other than as the final sink for the decision tree. (You’ll end up in this box 99.9% of the time, and will rarely get below the first couple of levels.) If you are on an RT circle, you can and should flip any of the three in-play cards. Please note if you are on the single T circle (T6), you must discard Ruin and not play it or you lose the guarantee of 13 Investigating at the end of your promenade. If you are on the FF box, always discard both Ruin and Temple.

As a very unlikely example, consider the card flip sequence (where RS = Ruin success, TF = Temple fail, etc.) of RS RS RF RS RF RS TS TF R? TF T? R? FP. The decision aid sequence would be, starting on RT9, RT14 RT19 RT11 RT16 RT8 RT11 RT11 T6 discard-R FF discard-T discard-R FF. You can verify > 90 points (+15 +15 +2 +15 +2 +15 +10 +5 - +5 - - +10 = 94). Note that if you use Seberin’s approach, you are at 20 pts with at least 8 FF actions to go. Remember though this is highly contrived and generally you’ll be basically following Seberin’s approach anyway (which is essentially beginning the promenade at T6).

The simulation spent a percentage of its time in each state as follows. RT9: 7.28%, RT14: 4.84%, RT19: 1.78%, RT24: 0.59%, RT29: 0.16%, RT34: 0.04%, T6: 4.80%, RT11: 0.61%, RT16: 0.32%, RT21: 0.10%, RT8: 0.07%, and FF: 79.42%. So don’t expect to traverse much of the tree; the top third of the tree covers most cases rather thoroughly, and you’ll be sitting in FF about 80% of your plays.

The average number of cards played during a promenade was 20.8. The most cards played during 10M runs to complete the promenade was 89, so in theory (you know that RNG) you could be drawing cards a long time! In practice though 18.7% promenades were done at 10 draws, 51.4% by 20 draws, 85.2% by 30 draws, and 97.7% by 40 draws.

Final notes on the decision tree: the sequence would continue further levels down, but I truncated it after you would reach 5 Unnatural Exuberance by remapping to upper nodes since the added levels wouldn’t gain any more useful states (and the odds are vanishingly small down there anyway). The numbers in the circles (e.g., RT14) are mainly just bookkeeping, but basically represent the available pool of points over 91 (or more strictly a lower bound on that given the bottom-level remappings).

Apart from the EPA optmization, I’ve found the decision aid actually livens up the grind a tiny bit more than the simpler rule. I find myself actually hoping (it springs eternal!) for The Ruin at lead to try and get into some of the lower parts of the tree, so it definitely spices things up a bit! Happy promenading!
edited by Shaerys on 3/2/2017