Thursday, February 23, 2012

Through The Ages-Part XVII - Military: Tactics Progression

Forum for discussion located here: Forum

Military forces in Through The Ages require units, which come from the population.  At first, only warriors are allowed but through civil actions and science, players may increase the strength and type of military units available.  The strength of military units is entirely based upon their Age, as show in the table below:

What makes the different types of military units important are the Tactics, which are found in the Military/Events deck.
Tactics represent how the player's nation organizes is military.  Unlike civil cards, where the player has some control on choosing if a military technology can be learned, Tactics cards are drawn at random (see The Numbers Game).  Still, players can make plans around these tactics cards and determine which ones they wish to keep/upgrade, and which to discard.  Given the requirement in science resources, military actions, civil actions and population requirements, players prefer an "efficient" progression of tactics.  The following chart displays the units, the cost to build, and the strength (for those tactics with antiquated strengths this is displayed in parenthesis).

Drawbacks of Advanced Tactics - Flexibility
Overall, the more advanced tactics provide a greater increase, but there is a drawback to them beyond their cost.  Since a tactic has no effect if a single unit is missing, attempting to control territories can become "more expensive" for those with tactics requiring more units, especially if forced to sacrifice a unit.  This is a common occurrence when bidding for territories.

Consider this as an example: Two players, Alicia and Brutus have four military units each of the same type and strength - 2 Infantry and 2 Cavalry (both minimal Age for maximum gain).  Alicia has Medieval Army giving a total strength of 10 ( (2[infantry x2] + 4 [knights x2] +4 [Tactics: 2 sets of Medieval Army] = 10) ).  Brutus has Conquistadors giving a total strength of 14 ( (3[infantry x2: One is Age I for maximum Tactic effect] + 4 [knights x2] + 5 [Tactics] = 12) ).

The next political phase a Territory appears which both players want to bid on.  In this scenario, Alicia can bid an Infantry and Knight for a combined strength bid of 5.  Alicia's final strength is reduced to 5 if she wins ( (1[infantry x1] + 2 [knights x1] +2 [Tactics: 1 set of Medieval Army] = 5) ).

Brutus' best bid would be 3 (both infantry) or 4 (Age II infantry and a Cavalry).  If using the Age 3 unit, Brutus' strength drops from 14 to 4( (0[infantry] +  4 [knights x2] = 4) ). If using Age 2 Units for a bid of 4, his strength drops to 3 ( (1[infantry:Age A] +  2 [knights x1] = 3) .  In the latter case, Brutus could simply build a Knight to gain partial us of the tactic, but this only yields 8 ( (1[infantry x1: Age A ] + 4 [knights x2] + 3 [Tactics] = 8) ).

The difference seems minor, but to restore their armies to their original strength will require more resources for Brutus than for Alicia.  Alicia's smaller unit requirements on her Tactics card gives her a small advantage in Bidding wars for territory.  Although a single bid doesn't seem to make much difference, two or three territories over the course of two rounds can cripple a player with larger unit requirement tactics as they consistently spend additional resources to restore their military.  This is a topic I hope to return to later as it is a strategy I have used effectively in several games to keep "military suppressed" by simply seeding territory cards when in a weak position.
Tactic Popularity
The final discussion for this article will be the "popularity" of the various tactics.
The results really don't come as much of a surprise.  The earlier Age techs are more popular, with the exception of Heavy Cavalry and Light Cavalry.  Most of this is due to the effects of Age I Events, and the fact Cavalry technologies are not available immediately.  Except for Conquistadors, which is a natural progression from both Medieval Army and Light Cavalry, there is a significant drop in the popularity of the various Tactics.  They still remain popular, but not overwhelmingly so.

I attempted to draw results on the final position of  a player and their chosen tactics, but the results were all the tactics were evenly spread out among the various Tactics.  Out of 100 games (400 players), only 4 chose not to play any Tactics cards.  Although not conclusive, it is interesting to note their final results were also evenly spread out.

In short, it is not "which tactic you choose", but "how you choose to use it" which makes a difference in Through The Ages.

The next article will cover the various forms of Military Aggression and Wars, bringing the Military portion of the blog to a conclusion.

Edit: Corrected the military tree image after Harald Korneliussen recognized I'd left off two arrows.  Good job of keeping me honest, Harald!

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