Generic Survivor question--what constitutes a winning strategy?

I am (a) a Survivor fan and (b) reasonably intelligent–but apparently not very good at game-playing. I have read (mostly here) on many occasions that Richard Hatch and Brian (from Thailand) “played the game brilliantly”, and I don’t quite get it. What did they do, exactly, that was so brilliant? To extrapolate–what is the best way to play and win Survivor? Not being argumentative–I truly don’t understand.

If I were playing, I would try to win all challenges and find a couple of buddies who would agree never to vote against me. Is that a brilliant strategy? Seems kind of obvious.

I think Rich and Brian were the best players because they never let their emotions get the best of them. They always voted logically.

Well, winning all the challenges would guarantee you a spot in the final two, but that’s hard to do. And as soon as you lose the first one, you’re an obvious target to get voted out because you are such a threat.

Also, you have to get to the final two without pissing off the last seven people you voted off. That’s the tricky part. I should amend that to say you have to piss them off less than the other guy.

The reason Brian’s strategy worked so well is that he was able to convince a core of players that he was looking out for them, while simultaneously keeping them from working together with each other. He won his share of challenges, but developed relationships that encouraged the others to be loyal to him. There were plenty of opportunities for them to vote him off, but they didn’t because they all thought he was on their side.

Finally, he made sure that he brought one of the most unlikeable players to the finals with him.

I didn’t see Survivor I so I can’t comment on Hatch, but I think his strategy was similar.

Hopefully David B will pop in here to give a better answer and plug his website, which you should check out.

The tough part is following through on this strategy after living with the people you’re trying to stab in the back for 40 days. It’s easy to talk about backstabbing a hypothetical person, but when you must do it to someone you’ve got to know fairly well, it can get too tough for some people - see season 2.

David B’s website is and contains and excellent article on “What Survivors Should Have learned” that runs down the basic strategy of winning the game. You should be able to find this fairly easily, or maybe David B will pop up and give you a direct link.

As a quick, generic strategy, how about something along the lines of:

Go in with a plan. Be flexible and know that the plan, no matter how well conceived and thought out, will have to drastically change as people and game circumstances change. And they will change in ways you can’t guess. Remember the ultimate goal and avoid being caught up in foolish distractions.

What Amazonian Survivors Should Have Learned. I see that David B even used some of my suggestions in the jury section he added on page 6. :cool:

Obviously, there’s a lot of luck involved in winning the game, but the player’s chances can certainly be improved by following those guidelines. Get quiet allies, but don’t draw attention to yourself or your allies as an alliance. Identify boot victims by consensus–the closer to unanimous it is, the better–but take steps to ensure there is always someone ahead of you in the boot list. Think ahead, consider the contingencies, and act accordingly when necessary. Drama is your enemy.

Having seen all Survivors. I would say that winning strategy is about 1/10th of the actual winning. The other 9/10ths being a lot of luck.

Both Brian and Richard did have a common element in that they kept focused, and kept their eyes on the prize. They didn’t get wrapped up too much in personal drama. Had no shame in playing the game, and realized that <gasp> deception is a part of it. (This last part always amazes me. People seem so shocked on this show that somebody might be deceptive, when its part of the stinkin’ game. Richard Hatch even mentioned it. How he thought at times he was the only one who read the motto. “Outwit/Outplay/Outlast” or something close to it.)

Coming in late here but I’ve been offline. In my opinion, Brian was the all time best player from the show. He managed to do something no other player did; control a block of votes on a personal basis. All of the previous people who have formed voting blocs did it by gathering a group or allying smaller groups. Brian was able to form a series of individual alliances with other players none of whom were allied with each other. This meant that Brian had all of the safety of being in a bloc without any of the fear of the others turning against him.

So Brian achieved the first needed goal early; he was secure inside a voting group. The second goal was to make sure his group was secure. (Season Four’s “Gang of Four” forgot this rule; they had the advantage of having the largest and most organized group but were so obvious about it they forced everyone else into uniting into a larger alliance.) Brian never had any problems here; after John was voted off on the third day, Brian’s group of four was a majority in the remaining seven (especially with Jan’s tacit support).

The next goal was to survive the merger. This came closer to foiling Brian than the previous two challenges. His tribe overall seemed weaker. But the opposing tribe became divided and the two met with a five-five parity. Although Clay was the front man, I assume Brian had a role in seducing Shii Ann’s defection. Again, well played.

The fourth and final goal was the one Brian missed. He forgot that you will ultimately be judged by the seven jury members. He seems to have not given that fact the planning it deserves. Granted he chose Clay as his partner in the final two, but Brian failed to lay enough groundwork with Jake, Ken, Penny, and Erin. From what we saw it appeared he simply dismissed them as being unnecessary in his strategy. (For example, Brian should have talked to Penny, as Clay obviously had.)

Richard Hatch booted Rudy not so much becuase he thought Kelly was disliked, but because he know Rudy was a man of his word and Rudy had sworn to vote for him. You’ve got to control votes, but you’ve got to keep your strategy somewhat flexible to account for various differnt people situations.

You’ve got to be REAL carefull being the physically strongest person after the merger. Everyone will want to get rid of you if you can.

Physical strength after the merge may not be as big a negative now as it used to be. Certainly, it used to be the kiss of death (e.g., Clarence). Colby would have been kicked if he hadn’t run off that string of immunities, I suspect. But if you’re in the majority voting bloc at the merge (or after the tiebreaker), you’re not going to be targeted for booting until you’re pretty close to F4 anyway. At that point, physical strength is a big advantage, as you can monopolize immunity over the weaker people around you. And even if you lose immunity at that point, the threat is who’s going to win with the jury, not who can run the fastest.

Besides, these days, they seem to kick the strongest people pretty early on. :slight_smile:

The voting-off-of-people seems to fall into four categories:

  1. Being pathetic and weak. Janet got sick. The 7’ tall guy wasn’t getting enough food. The guy who fell in the fire…

  2. Being obnoxious. Vessel-of-Christ lady don’t look so good, and Christy’s not doing herself any favors, either.

  3. Being too good at the game, as in, overly competitive. In the first couple shows, people who were competitive enough to go ahead and eat grubs purely on their own, outside of a challenge, to keep their strength up, would have gotten themselves voted off. The guy who fell in the fire was the guy that caught the pig, right? He would have been gone soon anyway.

  4. Being everybody’s favorite. “I’m really sorry, Barbie, but you’re just too cute and popular. I love you like a sister, but I’m not going through all this so you can win a million dollars.”

If you can avoid being in one of those four groups, from then on it’s mostly a crap shoot based off winning food & immunity challenges (I don’t know that Colby would have done so well if he hadn’t won all those food challenges, for example).

F’ing Over Everone, doing it for yourself - and no-one else.

I think if you look at Ethan, V, and Tina, a good argument could be made for flying under the radar. Not pissing too many other folk off. But at the same time, appear to be realistically contributing - at least some of the time. Avoid being involved in any high profile disputes/arguments. Don’t make your alignments too obvious and too permanent. And try to stay in the shadow of someone else, who will make a more obvious target than you.

Yeah, but I don’t attribute Brian’s success at that to his playing well, but rather to the other players just being stupid. If any of them had paid any attention or even bothered talking to any of the other players, they would have seen what Brian was doing and booted him. Brian didn’t play well, he just got lucky in getting put in with a group who played even worse.

If you really look at the different winners, it’s clear that there just is no “winning strategy”. There are things you can do to increase your chances, and there are obvious things you can do to decrease your chances (it amazes me that there are people who get on that show and still haven’t learned that being an overt bigot or having a large chip on your shoulder about something are not going to get you the million). But the biggest factor in who ultimately wins is luck.

For the record, Hatch didn’t vote off Rudy. The final 3 was Kelly, Richard and Rudy. Kelly won the final Immunity and had to choose who to vote off. She voted for Rudy. Neither Richard nor Rudy had a vote since you can’t vote for yourself.

Winning strategy?

Don’t be a jerk. Don’t be the big butt-kicking leader. Don’t openly antagonize anyone. Get your partnerships done quickly and be prepared to change them at a moment’s notice.

And pray really, really hard that it works.

Seriously. I never understood why Richard Hatch was so lionized for being this brilliant evil genuis who deftly manipulated etc. etc. I’ll say it for as long as it takes for people to get it he was lucky. Nearly all his non-alliance opponents didn’t have a damn clue in the world. He was ruthless when no one else was. He secured his position early, and he never had to shift gears because he was never really challenged. And even despite all that, one vote on three separate occasions would’ve made all his effort for naught. Notice that everyone who tried to follow in his footsteps (most notably whatshisname, the guy who telegraphed the 4-member alliance) has gone down in flames. Richard’s strategy simply does not work anymore. Likewise, if that Kucha blabbermouth hadn’t revealed Jeff Varner’s one vote to half of the friggin’ continent, there’s a good chance Tina Wesson may not have even made the jury, much less won it all. And of course, there was that sweetheart deal of a lifetime with Colby Donaldson, which I couldn’t imagine happening with anyone else who’s ever been on this show. Ethan Zohn could’ve been meat any number of times, but he won because…hmm, has anyone adequately explained this?

Like I said before, it’s a lottery. The fact that it’s decided by votes and not balls in a cylinder doesn’t change the fact that the vast majority of the game is out of your hands. Like it or not, the bitter truth is that skill and strategy count for hardly anything at all.

To a certain extent, that’s true. But it’s like being chased by a bear; it doesn’t matter how fast you’re running as long as the other guy’s running slower.

However I give Brian more credit than that. Brian was able to figure out what three of his fellow players would believe, arrange to tell all three in a convincing way, and keep everything together in a competitive enviroment where everyone was watching everyone else. No small accomplishment.

I agree with DKW that Rich’s first year victory has been overrated, in a large part by his own ongoing self-directed publicity campaign. I also agree that Ethan’s win was pretty much pure luck although ironically Ethan appears to be the only decent person who’s won the million.

Finally, if you want a rule to play by, try this: if you get to the final three, throw the endurance challenge. Consider the odds: of the five people who won the challenge, only one went on to win the million. Meanwhile, of the ten people who lost the challenge, five were picked for the final pair and four of these went on to win the grand prize.

An excellent and appropriate analogy. So you and I are standing in the woods facing each other. You see the bear first because he comes at us from behind me, and after you start running I take my time looking around to figure out why you ran, and I get eaten. Does that make you an exceptionally skilled runner? No, you got lucky because the bear came into your field of view first, and I was pretty foolish to not start running right away. You were lucky – and at least reasonably attentive – and I was stupid and not paying attention at all. Just so with Brian.

Yeah, I think it was a small accomplishment. He figured out that some of his fellow players where stupid and he took advantage of that. That doesn’t make him especially bright or an especially good Survivor player. He was just midly attentive and got lucky in being put in with stupid players.

I totally agree with you. His luck started by being in the first Survivor, wherein the other players didn’t quite realize that it was a game until it was too late. It doesn’t take any great talent to win against people who don’t even know they’re playing! His other major stroke of luck was that Susan got such a bug up her butt about Kelly. Susan despised Richard throughout the game, and if she hadn’t gotten so totally, unfairly fixated on Kelly’s one little transgression, Richard would have been second place.

When that series of Survivor was playing, a lot of people seemed to think Brian was really stupid, but in hindsight, I think Brian was just downplaying whatever smarts he does have.
He also was willing to let people talk and tell him what they were thinking, as far as strategy goes. Everyone seemed to think they could go to him to “unload.” When the Ghandi-grind-gate thing was going on, everyone ran to him to talk about it.

And when something needed to be done, he just did it.
Rather than loudly tell everyone what a wonderful fisherman he is (and then come back empty-handed and looking like a fool), he just quietly went fishing, and came back with a few fish.
Too often, people on Survivor are attention-whores, loudly telling everyone who will listen how they can build a shelter with their bare hands and start a fire with two damp sticks and catch fish with a spear, and then they look like morons when it doesn’t work.

Brian knew when to keep his mouth shut, even if it made himself look like a dummy. Part of the winning strategy is knowing when to Shut Up And Listen.