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Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Through The Ages-Part IV-Generating More Actions

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Civil Actions drive the economy engine of a Through The Ages empire.  Generating more actions than others provides an advantage.  From this analysis, it is important to see how to generate more actions, and what can be expected from these actions.
Ways to Generate Actions
There exist a limited number of means to generate additional actions:
  • Government Technologies: Everyone but 
  • Leader: Hammurabi
  • Wonders: The Pyramids and Kremlin
  • Special Blue Technology Cards (Civil type cards)
Expected Payoff
Bringing these cards into play requires civil actions.  Every card requires at least 2 civil actions, and several require more than 2 civil actions.  Additionally, Yellow Cards may be played to "accelerate" bringing a card into play.  The following analysis represents the best "theoretical" possibility of bringing each card into play and a more "realistic" approach to bringing them into play.  For the sake of this discussion, only Civil Actions are important for review, any other benefits/penalties a card brings are ignored.

TIP = "Turn in Play", when the card enters into play and begins generating its bonus.
Expedient: Means the fastest the unit may enter play (theoretically), through play of Yellow cards if necessary.
Efficient: Fewest Actions to bring unit in play
Expected: A realistic expectation of when the card may enter play, based on when the card will most likely appear in turn order.
Hammurabi
TIPAction CostRecipe
Expedient 22Turn 1: Take Hammurabi
Turn 2: Play Hammurabi
Efficient22Turn 1: Take Hammurabi
Turn 2: Play Hammurabi
Expected22
Turn 1: Take Hammurabi
Turn 2: Play Hammurabi
Max Benefit = 5
Analysis
Hammurabi, at least in my edition, gains 1 civil action, but loses 1 Military Action.  Being an Age A leader, Hammurabi is available to be taken on Turn 1, so is available for play on Turn 2.  Being a Leader, Hammurabi dies when Age I ends, which is on Turn 8 from our earlier discussion on game flow.  Thus, Hammurabi only benefits the player for 7 turns at best.

Hammurabi is the fastest way to increase Civil actions available to players.  However, his benefit is not long lasting.  On the other hand, the break even point for Hammurabi is the turn after he is played.
Pyramids
TIPAction CostRecipe
Expedient35Turn 1: Take Pyramids
           Take EG-A
Turn 2: Play EG-A
Turn 3: Build Wonder x2
Efficient44Turn 1: Take Pyramid
Turn 2: No Action
Turn 3: Build Wonder
Turn 4: Build Wonder x2
Expected44
As Efficient above, OR

Turn 1: Take Pyramid
Turn 2: Build Mine
Turn 3: Build Wonder
Turn 4: Build Wonder x2
Max Benefit = 13
Analysis
The Pyramids are the first Wonder available.  Being a Wonder, there is no way to stop the Pyramids beyond the "Ravages of Time" event card.  If another Age A or Age I wonder is built, than the "Ravages of Time" event gives the player controlling Pyramids the option to either remove one Action or Ravage the other wonder.

An interesting not of the Pyramids action return graph is it does not matter which way the player opts to build the Pyramids, both break even on Turn 5.  From this chart, it doesn't seem rushing the Pyramids using Engineering Genius is necessarily good if actions are needed elsewhere, such as taking cards from card rows, increase mines to 3 workers, etc.

Note the action used to Build a Mine does not count against the Pyramids construction cost.  This is because the Build Mine action does not change the turn used to build the Pyramids and it provides an additional Ore benefit for the remainder of the game.
Kremlin
TIPAction CostRecipe
Expedient 105Turn 9: Take Kremlin (3 Actions)
Turn 10:Build Wonderx3 
Efficient104Turn 10: Take Kremlin
            Build Wonder x3
Expected134
Turn 12: Take Kremlin
            Build Wonder
Turn 13:Build Wonderx2
Max Benefit = 7
Analysis
The Kremlin is an Age II Wonder, and its arrival late in the game is seen in its action gain chart.  At best, the Kremlin appears on Turn 9 and can be built on Turn 10.  If it is taken from the card row immediately, it takes 5 turns to pay off the action cost debt.

If the other players take cards from the card row to drop the Kremlin into the 1-Action cost card row range by turn 10, it is possible to select the Kremlin and pay for it all on Turn 10. In this best case scenario, the pay off is 7 additional actions.

Realistically, however, Kremlin appears somewhere in the middle of the turn, around Turn 11 or 12, and is built on Turn 12 or 13.  If the player did not build any other Wonders, Kremlin might be expected to gain 4 Actions in any given game.  Normally, most players have already built a Stage A and a Stage I wonder by this time, driving the cost to take Kremlin up by 1 or 2 actions.  Thus, the realistic gain in Actions from Kremlin is a meager 2 civil actions.

From a Civil Action Standpoint, the Kremlin is the worst of all the Civil Action Generators with the exception of late arriving Age III governments.
Conclusions
Only partway through the analysis, but already we can see some important variances between the Theoretical Maximum and the "expected" average draw.

Hammurabi provides the fastest return on investment, but maxes out with only 5 actions.  The Pyramids provide an additional 13 actions, and is the only item with this level of return available from Turn 1.  The other interesting fact is the payoff for Pyramids is the same whether Engineering Genius is used or not.

The Kremlin, if it appears immediately and is built, has the ability to eventually provide a payoff similar to Hammurabi.

We will discuss them in greater detail in a future article after discussing the other means of generating actions: Civic and Government technologies.
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