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Thursday, January 26, 2012

Through The Ages-Part XIV-Culture: Wonders

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Wonders and Culture
Wonders represent a major source of culture income in Through The Ages.  So, there are several questions to ask about Wonders:
  • Which Wonder generates the Highest Return?
  • Which Wonders do winners build more often?
Highest Return
We start by reviewing the chart below which lists the total Culture generated in the analyzed games:
Notes:1-"Minimum" indicates the minimum culture when the Wonder was built.  2-Ravages of Time is factored into the above

From the diagram we can see the relative "worth" of each of the Wonders from a culture perspective.  A few general observations can be made:
  • Wonders from later Ages generate more culture than earlier Ages,
  • The Taj Mahal, an Age I wonder, generates the most culture.
Popularity Of Wonders
Next we review Wonder Popularity, how often each wonder is built.

The most interesting take away from these two diagrams is the wonders which generate the most culture are completed less often than those that which produce more culture.  Most players tend to focus on economy over pure culture gains early in the game.  This helps to explain the increase in culture in later Ages as the early focus on economy helps the player's resolve the costs associated with building military units, upgrading culture generating structures, and completing late stage wonders.
Age I and Ravages of Time
Ravages of Time (RoT) is an event which, if played, forces every player to make an Age A or Age I wonder to "ruins".  The Wonder loses all other effects, but it generates 2 Culture per turn.  Overall, Ravages appeared in about a quarter of games (24 of 100).  Secondly, the average turn the event arrived was around turn 16.  The general effect on culture from Ravages of Time was negligible.  Even the Pyramids, if chosen, generated an average of 5 culture when RoT arrived.
Other Interesting Facts
In 7% of games no Age III Wonders were built, while in 3% of games two Age III wonders were built.  For the games where no Age III wonder was built the focus of the players was on military domination.  Those concentrating on wonders were unable to complete them in time usually due to raids, or armed conflicts which destroyed the wonders.
Ineffective Cards (or Just Underutilized?)
Three cards were just not chosen much by players: Taj Mahal, Hollywood and Kremlin.  The question is if they are underutilized or just not good buys.

Good Card offset by
Negative Effects
Hollywood seems to have poor statistics.  It ranks towards the bottom culture return chart and so it appears to be justified in its unpopularity.  Although it has an impressive maximum gain, its average culture  just matches that of Universitas Carolinas.  Hollywood also seems harder to pull off as an effective card.  Unlike the other three wonders which generate off science or population gains, Hollywood requires expensive drama buildings.  However, in the three games where two Age III wonders were completed, Hollywood was the second Wonder.  This card appears to be largely ineffective.

The Kremlin has a decent return, but it suffers from a serious penalty, namely the loss of two Happiness. If properly planned for, the Kremlin will give its builder the number 5 position in culture gain.  Planning for this draw back seems to be an issue, however.

The Ultimate Culture
Producing Wonder
Lastly comes the Taj Mahal, which is in the number one in spot in culture gain, but remains just as unpopular.  The Taj Mahal is a dichotomy as it provides the best average return in culture once completed of all wonders.  Even the Taj Mahal's minimum seen culture gain exceeds the average culture gain of all other wonders.  Despite this, it is not chosen in the majority of the games, being the second most unpopular reason.  The reason for its unpopularity may support the argument of Economy Over Culture.

Hollywood has a poor return and its completion is either a desperation move, or one of the players with a good economy builds it as a "second Age III Wonder".    Kremlin has negative repercussions players need to plan for, so again its low standings is explainable.  But why Taj Mahal?  Despite its impressive return stats, it has an abysmal record.  Are its gains being undervalued by players, or does it just appear at a bad time when people are concerned about focusing on other aspects of their civilization?
Coming Up Next
There is one more article on culture upcoming: buildings.  After that will begin an analysis on the military aspects of the game.
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