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Monday, December 5, 2011

Through The Ages- Part I - Overview


 This will begin the analysis of Through The Ages (TtA), a board game by Vlaada Chvátil.  In general, I like Vlaada's work, it is original and funny.  Most of his games are relatively short, have "two distinct parts" (Planning and Resolution), and require quick thinking or on the spot decisions.

TtA is nothing like those games.
Theme
Through the Ages is a civilization building game.  Players manage their nation's economies to discover technologies, construct buildings, discover new lands, and manage military conquests.  Most of this is done abstractly, but no less clearly.  Up to 4 players may play a game of TtA, but a face-to-face game can take upwards of 3 to 6 hours, depending on the number of players and the degree of Analysis Paralysis.  This makes playing TtA an all day affair.

Fortunately, the people of boardgaming online have created an electronic Play By Email (PBEM) version of the game which also alleviates all the "accounting work".  This leaves the players with the strategic decision making and the low level details to the computer.
Two Types of Boards
Common (Scoring) Board
The first board is essentially a tracking and scoring board combined.  It contains all the players current important information in a glance.  This board measures the following for each player: Culture, Culture gained per turn (Culture Rating), Science, Science gained per turn (Science Rating), and Military Strength.

This board also holds the Civil cards in a "Card Row".  Players may select a card from this row by using one, two, or three of their actions, depending on the card's position in the card row.

Military Cards are placed in a pile and are drawn randomly.  Some military cards are "Events", and these can be seeded into the "Future Events" pile.  When an Event card is placed in the Future Events, the top event of the "Current Events" pile is drawn and resolved.  If there are no "Current Events", the Future Events are shuffled and become the "Current Events".

Player Board
Every player also receives a Player Board.  The Player Board contains the cards in play in an organized fashion.  Unfortunately, the Player Board cannot hold all the cards in play, so some cards will "Leak over" onto the table.  The important aspects are there, however.  From here, the player manages their workers, resources, and other important aspects of their civilization.
General Concept
Each player receives a number of Civil Actions (CA) and Military Actions (MA).  These two types of actions are spent on different things:

Military Actions Civil Actions
Build Military Units (troops) Increase Population
Declare Wars Assign Worker
Declare Aggressions Learn Technologies
Draw Military Cards into hand Retrieve card from Card Row
Controls Military Card Discards Build Wonders

At the end of the turn, the civilization generates the resources in the following order:
  • Happiness - Every population added to potential worker pool increase unrest.  If there is every more Unrest than unassigned workers, the player generates no other items.  To offset unrest, the player's buildings generate "Happy faces".  Every Temple and Theatre generates happiness.
  • Food - Equal to the number of workers assigned to Farms minus any consumption (population eats some food).  This comes from the blue "Resource" tokens in the player's bank.
  • Production (ore) - Ore is added to the player's Mines for each worker assigned to a Mine minus any "Corruption".  These also use the blue Resource tokens, just like the Food.  Corruption occurs if the player uses too many Resource tokens.
  • Science - Generates science equal to the player's science rating.  Basically, any worker on a Lab or a Library generates Science.
  • Culture - Generates culture equal to the player's Culture Rating.  Basically, every worker on a Library, Theatre, or Temple card generates Culture.
Combat Resolution
Combat in TtA is geared towards the defensive player, but will differ slightly depending on the type of conflict: War or Aggression.
Military Units
Every military unit generates a "Strength".  Additionally, combining military units in particular combinations may increase this strength if the player has a Tactics card in play.

During War and Aggression, a player may sacrifice (return the Military Unit's worker) to the player's Yellow Bank.  This unit will then generate an additional amount of "Strength" equal to its value.  If units are spent in combinations of the same type as the Tactics card, then the Tactics cards strength is also added second time.

When players declare any "sacrifices", the Attacking player declares sacrifices first.  Then the Defender.  This gives the Defense an edge in knowing what the other player is going to commit.

The standing Military Strength is capped at 60.  Players may sacrifice units to increase this beyond 60, however.

War
A war is resolved on the turn AFTER it is declared as the first part of the Attacker's turn, before all other actions.  In Wars, the player with the Highest total wins the war.  Thus, with Wars the attacker and defender are at risk.

Wars have wide ranging and devastating effects depending on the War card played.  Some may steal culture, Steal the other player's Yellow Tokens from the Population Bank, Destroy buildings, Take resources, etc.

Wars are not available until Age II.
Aggression
Similar to Wars with three important differences.
  1. Aggression cards resolve immediately when played.
  2. The Attacker, even if he loses, does not suffer the consequences of the card
  3. The Defender may play Defense cards to "boost" the player's strength and prevent the Aggression.
More Information
For more information, it is recommended to read the rules.  The next article will delve into the beginning of strategy analysis. 
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