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Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Through The Ages-Part VII-Culture: The Game Winner

Forum for discussion located here: http://gamesstrategyandtactics.freeforums.org/strategy-analysis-f6.html
Culture: Victory Condition
Culture is the scoring system Through The Ages uses to determine the victor.  The greatest military, the greatest Science, the greatest economy is worth nothing if at the end of the game Culture is not large enough.  Therefore, acquiring culture is the primary focus of the game.  Without it, everything else is for naught.
Ways to Acquire
There are many ways to acquire culture:
  • Direct Card play,
  • Leader effects,
  • Construct Building,
  • Create Wonders,
  • Militarily steal it from your opponents,
  • Playing Event cards,
  • Territories,
  • Treaties and Agreements,
  • Final Scoring Cards.
Each has its own risk and rewards.  We will cover Culture generation in the next series of articles, from the different means of acquiring culture and their efficiency.  The wisdom of which route is best will differ depending on the choice of strategy and when cards become available.


Final Score of 'Average' Games
After reviewing a few dozen TtA games (chosen randomly, 4-player, Full Games onl
y), I found the following interesting statistics:
  • Average Culture for the winner is 211 Culture
  • Majority of "Final Scoring" events account for changes in position 60% of time
  • Around 5% of the time does the "Final Scoring" decide the winner.
There is one important item to take away from this analysis:
  • The player with the most culture at the end of Age IV will most likely (~95% of time) win the game.
Why Final Scoring Cards Don't (and Do) Matter?
This does not mean a player should ignore Final Scoring cards. If we assume all the players played the Final Scoring Event Cards because they were logical (a big assumption, I know), then a Final scoring card is played which would provide the greatest benefit to the player that played it.  In essence, a player will not play a card which would benefit someone else more than themselves.

Looking at the games, most games had 5 Final Scoring cards played.  Each card played, per logical reasoning, benefits the player that played it more than any other player.  If each card generates the same basic amount of return (a later article will look at this in more depth), than the vast majority of Final Scoring cards 'cancel'.

In short order, if a player plays a Final scoring card which benefits them, the other players will play a card which benefits them by a roughly equal amount.  In this way, equilibrium is established: As one player plays a card which increases her score, the other players will also play a card which increases their score by a roughly equal amount.

In this way, Final Scoring card do not determine the winner, they simply increase the player's score.  Does this means players can ignore Final Scoring cards?  Certainly not, because if one player plays a Final Scoring card, then the other players all should play a card to 'cancel' the effect.

The above is simply a hypothesis, and one we will review in greater depth.

SPECIAL NOTE:
Looking at it, I did notice two occasions where the Final Scoring determined the position of players who were 'tied' in culture at the end of Age IV.  However, in neither of these occasions were the players tied for first place.
Conclusions
Very simply, going into the last Round, the player with the highest Culture will most likely win the game.  The question then becomes, how to generate the most culture?

This will be the topic of the upcoming articles. 
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