Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Through The Ages - Part XIII - Culture:The Arts

Forum Entry for this card is located here:

Yellow Cards
Easy topic this time: Yellow cards and Culutre.  There are 5 Yellow cards which add to a player's Culture score.  Four of them are "Works of Art", one for each Age.  The other is an "Endowment for the Arts", which only occurs in Age IV.
Endowment For the Arts
Endowment provides a variable amount of culture depending on the number of opponents with more culture than the player with the card.  In a 4-player game, it is 2 Culture per player.  Thus, the maximum gain is 6 culture.

Overall, it would take 2 actions to take and play this card, but the card will only make a difference if the game is very close.  In a typical game, Endowment for the Arts will not make a significant culture difference to any player.

Works of Art
The four Works of Art vary in strength depending on the Age of the card.  As the Age increases, the culture gained from the Works of Art decreases.  These are simple one time gains.  If a player were to gain all four of them and play them, the culture gain would look something like the following:

The following table compares the Works of Art to the expected culture/action generated for the turn and the overall culture generation.
Works of Art for Age A through Age II all exceed their expected Age's Culture per Action generation  (explained here: Typical Game).  At Age III, the Works of Art no longer meets the expected return per action.  Effectively this means spending actions on Works of Art before Age III should generate more than the average, making them "good buys".

At the beginning of the game Actions are very limited.  If both Works of Art for Age A and Age I are picked up, they will account for all of the expected culture gain by the end of Age I.  Furthermore, there is usually one or two turns somewhere during Age I when the player lacks resources to spend and playing a Work of Art may fit nicely into this pattern.
Several risks associate them with the playing of Works of Art.  One event negatively affects the player who is leading in culture: Barbarians.  If pursuing a Work of Art in the early game, this may seem to put the player at risk to losing a population.  There are several ways to counter the risk of Barbarians:

  1. Start a Military Strategy - Several events improve the position of the player with the largest military.  Playing Works of Art puts the player in position to force an early military escalation and meets the expected culture generation.  Military Actions, which are used to build military units, are not needed to play Works of Art which use civil actions.  This makes playing Works of Art very complimentary to the Military Domination strategy.
  2. Play Works of Art Later in the turn - There is no need to play the Work of Art immediately when drawn.  The Age A card can be kept until round 5 or 6, when the Civil deck begins to run low and the possibility of Age II starting early occurs.  By this time either Barbarians has come out, or another player will not play it because they lead in culture.
  3. Concentrate on building Farms.  The 'loss' of a population is not as devastating as it seems.  Building a farm allows the player to make up the loss relatively quickly.  Furthermore, choosing farms (or mines) allows a quick recovery costing only 2 ore and an additional action.
Early Works of Art are an easy way to gain an quick jump in Culture.  They permit the player to concentrate on infrastructure projects without having to worry about falling too far behind in Culture generation.  Age A and Age I Works are most valuable in this regard, but this rule of thumb remains valid  into Age II.

Even if the Work of Art is not played it denies it to the other players.  Although the card may take up a position in your hand, it only took one Action to bring the card from the card row.  This essentially denies a player 4 to 6 culture for the cost of 1 Action.  If you are so busy with the remaining actions the card never gets played, it may still be worth the action to prevent another player, especially late in the game.

An important point is the Works of Art are only valid if they are low in the card row, near they 1 Action cost range.  Age A and Age I Works remain profitable into the 2 Action cost location, but usually there are better things to do with these actions at this point in time.  A very Late Age I Work of Art may be worth 2 actions, particularly if the player has more Actions from Code of Laws or some other action generating mechanism.

Lastly, if you find Endowment for the Arts is profitable, you are probably fighting for 3rd or 4th position, unless it is a remarkably close game.  
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