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Sunday, January 29, 2012

Through The Ages - Card - Hanging Gardens

Forum Entry for this card is located here: Forum

This is a series of blogs written about each card in Through The Ages.  To find more, simply click on "Cards" label.
Hanging Gardens
History
The Hanging Gardens was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.  The suspected patron for the construction of the Hanging Gardens is either Queen Sammu-ramat, King Nebuchadrezzar II, or King Sennacherib.  The reason for their construction remains a mystery, although it is rumored to have been built for a homesick spouse.

Accounts put the giant terraced garden from 400 feet square and may have rose up to 320 feet in height in a series of 80 foot high levels.  Often portrayed with the gardens "hanging" over the sides of the structure, the translation may have meant the terraces were "overhanging" and extended beyond the supporting wall.  Constructed around 680 BC, the Gardens were suspected destroyed around 2 BC.

Or were they?  The only accounts of the Gardens come from Greek texts.  Babylonian cuneiform describing the gardens don't exist, and no archaeological evidence of them has been found.  Did they exist at all, or were they an figment of Greek imagination?
Game Stats
Hanging Gardens provides two Happiness and 1 culture.  The culture is nothing spectacular, the same as most other Age A wonders.  The two Happiness seems to be a fairly good trade.  It means the player would not have to build religious structures or drama, and therefore has more population to spend on military.  In reality, this is equivalent to gaining two extra population for the cost of 6 resources and 4 actions.  It seems like a good deal.

However, analysis of the Finishing positions shows Hanging Gardens provides no major benefit.  Odds of winni
ng, whether Hanging Gardens are built or not, are roughly 25%.  There does seem to be a minor drop in achieving last place with the Hanging Gardens, but not in winning. 
Strategies, Combos and Opinions
Strategies
General
The Hanging Gardens seems to go with any strategy.  The population saved in resources can be put to any other use: military units for Domination, labs and libraries for Science, Mines for increased production.  In short, every strategy benefits from increased population.  If the cards fall right, Hanging Gardens can reap great benefits for the Culture Generation strateg, as described below in "combinations".
Combinations
St Peter's Basilica
St Peter's Basilica doubles the benefit of all Happy faces generated.  When combined with St. Peter's the player should have no happiness troubles, essentially gaining 4 extra population to put towards military or economic reasons.  The population Bank reduction which occurs at the end of Age I & II should not cause too much concern for this player.
Michelangelo
Michelangelo provides 1 additional culture per Happy face generated by Hanging Gardens.  For just two additional actions (taking and playing Michelangelo), the player can improve culture generation by 2, essentially increasing the maximum culture generation of Hanging Gardens to 41.  This would account for almost one-third of all culture generation
Michelangelo & St Peter's Basilica
This combination can be hard to pull off given the fact so many cards are required.  However, if successful, it will bring in an average of 85 culture.  For just three cards and 14 ore, this is an amazing amount of culture.
Opinion
Hanging Gardens seems to be a great card, but statistical evidence points otherwise.  It may be the way in Hanging Garden is used and the counters to it.

First, the culture gain is challenging to get into play.  Another player can take Michelangelo to prevent you from taking it.  Given many of the Age A leaders are beneficial and the Age I leaders are somewhat only marginally better, this makes a great denial strategy.  Another common counter is Ravages of Time.  If Ravages comes into play it will destroy either St. Peter's Basilica or Hanging Gardens.  The loss of either of these represents a greater loss than any other Age A or Age I Wonder.  The loss of these can put the empire in turmoil as the player must now make up for the lost Happiness or suffer Civil Disorder, stifling the economy.  Lastly, a successful Assassination will put an end to the culture mechanism for Hanging Gardens.

A second possibility is the Hanging Gardens are easily countered by other buildings: Drama, Temples, or Arenas.  Drama provides 1 Happiness and increase culture gain, while an Age I Temple provides same benefit.  Arenas don't provide culture, but they do increase military strength.  All of the above will require a worker, a worker which the player would have to leave unused if not for the Happiness.

A third possibility is the free 'Development of Religion' event allocates a free Temple for the cost of a discontent worker.  This generates the culture, and delays the need for Happiness for several additional turns.

Lastly, the player can simply ignore the Happiness issue for as long as possible.  Simply leave discontent workers there and let them "take up space" until something better comes along.  Happiness can be ignored for a little while, although it may cost some culture if events are played.

So, what is everyone's opinion on Hanging Gardens?  Do they live up to their Popularity (2nd most popular Wonder in the game).  What would you do with the extra workers available to you: Military, Economy, other?
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