Saturday, February 25, 2012

Through The Ages - Card - Great Wall

Forum for this blog is here: Forum
This is a series of blogs written about each card in Through The Ages.  To find more, simply click on "Cards" label.
Great Wall
Construction on the Great Wall began around 770 BC, when six Chinese states arose and warred with each other.  To defend their individual kingdoms, each began construction of thick walls along their various borders.  Eventually the state of Qin rose above the other 6 states around 300 BC to 220 BC despite the walls.  The first emperor of China ordered the Northernmost walls become joined to defend from the Mongols, while the other internal walls were dismantled.

Construction and maintenance of the Wall varied throughout the remaining dynasties.  Some dynasties maintained the wall, others expanded it, and some simply let it fall into disrepair.  In fits and starts the Wall continued to grow and shrink in length.  At one time it was nearly 6000 Km in length, but later eroded away to under 3300 Km.  However, it was up to  Ming Dynasty (1368 to 1644) to finish the Great Project.  Prior to the Ming Dynasty the Wall had a length of around 3200 Km , upon its completion the Wall was just short of 8,852 Km (5500 miles).

The Great Wall stands as a testament to human sufferings and efforts.  The wall took millions of lives to construct.  Despite failing to prevent the Mongols from invading China, the Wall did preserve Chinese culture and architecture in its design.  Today the Great Wall still stands, but it once again begins to shrink in size due to erosion, natural causes, and human use.
Game Stats
The Wall does not provide a huge culture benefit, but most people probably build it for its secondary benefit: increased Military Strength for every Infantry and Artillery unit.  The other benefit of the Great Wall is an increase in Happiness.
Strategies, Combos and Opinions
Military Domination
The Great Wall combines easily with the Military domination strategy.  If used in this regard, the player should most likely construct Infantry and Artillery units, and supporting Tactics: Fortifications, Defensive Army, Fighting Band, Legion, and Entrenchments.
St Peter's Basilica
St. Peter's Basilica doubles the Great Wall's happiness benefit.  Although it is rare to be able to build both, it can be done.  Out of the 40 games involving the Great Wall, this was accomplished once.  However, the player only achieved third place.

Michelangeo as a leader provides an extra Culture for every happiness on the Wonder.  This doubles the Great Walls' culture benefit while Michelangelo is in play.
I find the Great Wall a useful Wonder, although not the best Age I wonder.  If I am going for an Military Strategy I try to include it.  I find having the Great Wall in play permits me to focus my science and resource efforts more narrowly.  If I manage to get the Great Wall, I forego Cavalry technologies and aim for one of the Tactics indicated above.  This reduces science costs by removing cavalry from the equation.  Similarly, it saves population and resources which can be put to other uses in increasing the economy.


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!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Through The Ages - Card - Taj Mahal

Forum for this blog is here: Forum
This is a series of blogs written about each card in Through The Ages.  To find more, simply click on "Cards" label.
Taj Mahal
Built in honor of Mumtaz Mahal, third wife of Shah Jahan, the Taj Mahal of Agra stands as a beautiful monument to this day.  At the age of 14 Shah Jahan met and fell in love with Arjumand Banu Begum (changed to Mumtaz Mahal after marriage).  It would be 5 years before they were married in 1612.  During her marriage she birthed 14 children to Shah Jahan, the last one being the cause of her death in 1631.

Long the favorite of Shah Jahan, he wanted to do something to commemorate her.  The crowning achievement of his devotion would become the Taj Mahal.  Construction started the year of her death in 1631, but it took 22 years, 22,000 laborers, and  to complete.  Shortly after its completion Shah Jahan was deposed.  Upon his death Shah Jahan was entombed in the Taj Mahal along with the remains of his wife.

The Taj Mahal we see today is now a mixture of Western and Eastern styles.  Over time the semi-precious stones and gems inlaid were stolen and sold.  In the 19th century the British Viceroy Lord Curzon began the restoration of the Taj Mahal.  The building architecture remains of Indian influence, but the grounds around it follow British designs.
Game Stats
At 39 culture, the Taj Mahal represents the wonder which produces the greatest amount of culture during play.  As seen in our previous article (Culture: Wonders), the Taj Mahal's minimum seen culture generation exceeds that of 7 other Wonders.  Additionally, the average Taj Mahal culture generation beats the maximum culture generation of all but 2 other wonders: Eiffel Tower and First Space Flight.

Despite this, the Taj Mahal remains an unpopular choice.  This is because the Taj Mahal does not provide any economic benefit.  Unlike the other wonders, it is difficult to make assumptions about the Taj Mahal because of the few times it is played.  If constructed, the Taj Mahal provides a great culture generation system, particularly if it arrives early.
Strategies, Combos and Opinions
Culture Generation
If going for a Culture Generation method, the Taj Mahal should be considered as an important piece of this strategy.  For its cost, the Taj Mahal provides an excellent return.  To generate similar culture would require the Theatre building: Opera.  Opera costs 7 science and 9 resources.  For this extra cost, the Opera will provide a single Happiness.
Because of its singular focus on culture generation, the Taj Mahal does not combine well with other cards.
My opinion on the Taj Mahal is mixed.  Should the Taj Mahal appears early and the player has excess resources, I believe it is a great investment.  If building the Taj Mahal, the player needs to be sure to focus on other aspects of the economy: such as science buildings, and religious buildings for Happiness. Military strength becomes important because many events impact the player with the greatest culture, and the Taj Mahal ensures the player will be towards the top of the culture generation.

The Taj Mahal is one of two Wonders which suffer a penalty from Ravages of Time.  Ravages of Time destroys an Age A or Age I wonder's normal benefit and generates 2 culture per turn for the remainder of the game.  For most other wonders there is a trade off, loss of an ability to gain an increase of 1 culture per turn.  The Taj Mahal experiences a pure loss of culture.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Weekly Updates

For the past few months I have maintained a feverish pace of three blog postings a week, with a special post on Saturdays.  I have enjoyed it, but analysis is time consuming.  Since I recently lost my job, I need to concentrate more on my job search.  As a result I will be scaling back to just two posts a week: Wednesday and the "special topic" update on Saturday.

That said, I do have some exciting news!

Upcoming Items:
1)  I'm hoping to bring about a surprise for all my readers in coming months, something I believe gamers would  appreciate!

2)  What game(s) would you like to have analyzed next, after Through the Ages is complete?  I play all kinds of games, but I'm looking for suggestions of what would interest you.

3)  To the right is a poll which asks about what type of information in the gaming world you would be interested in learning about.  I hope to have some "guest" editors who may provide articles from time to time.

4) Lastly, if you know of any IT Management or software sales jobs in the Greater Denver Metro Area, please let me know.  I am currently out of work and looking hard to get on with a good company.  OR, if you need some IT Security Contract work performed, drop me an email or give me a ring (,  720.379.3821)!

Thanks for reading!

Friday, February 10, 2012

Through the Ages-Poll Results-Worst 4 Player Starting Position

Forum for this entry is located here: Worst 4-Player Starting Position

Favorite Position Polls
I have read many results regarding favorite start positions.  Similarly, I've seen many polls concerning this same question.  I wanted to go a different route and see what position everyone felt was most likely to lose.  I then compared this to the list of games.
There are several results to show.  First, I collected (from boardgamegeek), the list of everyone's favorite position.  I also show the results of the poll taken here which was: Which position was least likely to win the game.  Lastly, I show the results of the games

From the poll results (admittedly there were few votes), it appears everyone suspects the Second place is most likely to lose.
Game Results
From the games there does seem to be a slight trend indicating the fourth position may be at a slight disadvantage.  Getting "mathematical", most of the positions are less than 1 standard deviation from the average and very close together, indicating there doesn't seem to be any advantage.  However, the fourth position is over 1.4 standard deviations away.  Although this is by no means conclusive proof, it does seem to provide evidence the fourth position has a disadvantage.

So, what do you think of the results and why you believe the fourth position has this indication?  Do you believe this trend will continue for 3-player and 2-player games?  If you want to vote, I've created an continuous "unending" poll on boardgamegeek here:

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Through The Ages-Part XVI - Military: A Numbers Game

Forum for discussion located here:

Military Actions and Military Cards
Players have more control over their civil actions than Military cards.  The cards may not appear at opportune times, but through manipulation of the card row, players can choose to pick cards from the card row before other players.  It may cost more civil actions than the player would prefer, but the player has the option to take the card or not.  Military and Event cards differ in that a player's options are limited to what the player draws randomly from the military deck.

A player can pursue a military domination strategy, but there is no guarantee the player will draw the military cards to support the strategy.
Understanding Odds
The possible combination of odds is nearly impossible to figure out in any usable form.  Instead, it is possible to show the different odds of drawing a card(s) under various conditions.  Important to note is that in a 4-player game the deck of event cards will most likely be reshuffled.  In Age I a reshuffle is almost guaranteed.  The turn of the reshuffle will differ depending on the number of military actions the players manage to develop, but it is important to realize any cards which are discarded will become available later in the turn.

A second item to take note of involves when Military cards are viable.  Military cards are not drawn until Turn 2.  Furthermore, any military cards drawn on the last turn of the game (Turn 20 using our example) will not be played, with the possible exception of Defense cards.
The Baseline
The following diagram provides a baseline of drawing a single specific card each turn if no player modifies their original 2 Military actions.  Thus, on the third turn of a game there is only a 4.26% chance of drawing Barbarians by the first player. Using only Age I as our example, we can see a general trend upwards in odds as time goes on.  Overall, this gradually increases for each player, until turn 6 when the odds reach 10%.  After this point, the increase rises dramatically.
We can also see how each player later in the turn has improved odds of drawing the specific copy of the card over the player earlier in the turn order. It doesn't seem greatly significant until turn 7. By turn 8 it is guaranteed that if a card was not drawn, it will be drawn by Player4 as there will be only one card left in the deck to draw. Additionally, in this scenario, Player 4 will reshuffle the discarded cards and draw one of them into their hand.

There are two things which we will deviate for comparison purposes.  First, we will deviate the odds if one player draws an additional military card starting on turn 2.  This is possible with Julius Caesar, a popular leader.  Second we will modify the number of copies of a card available in the deck: such as Medieval Army.
Increasing Military Actions
This next chart involves modifying the military actions of the first player while holding the other three players at 2 actions each, the first player sees a noticeable increase in their odds.
Three things become very clear.  First, the "reshuffle point" moves forward as the number of cards drawn increases.  This impacts decision making only if a player discards a card which they later "want back".
Second, the increase in odds is slightly less than doubled, until the last turn.  From our examination of the baseline, these odds would only be greater for those later in the turn if they increase their military actions. Similarly, the military actions decrease the odds of the other players, but only by a
Increasing Copies of Cards
The second variable to review is the increasing the copies of cards in the Military Deck.  Through the Ages Military cards have four levels of occurrences.  Most cards are singles, like Events and Treaties, with only one copy of the card in the deck.  Aggressions have two to four copies of the cards, based on the Age.  Tactics cards have from 1 to 4 copies, depending on the Age and the card.  Lastly, there are 6 copies of the Defense/Colonization cards in each Age.
From this data, the following graph was formed to represent the odds of drawing at least one (or more) of the cards each turn depending if each player only has 2 Military Actions.
Wars don't appear
until Age II, and even then
they are Rare until Age III
Military cards really are dependent on the "luck of the draw".  Players can still manipulate that luck, to some degree.  First, increasing Military actions greatly improves the odds of drawing a desired military card, although the odds remain relatively low until later turns.  This as the effect of decreasing the time required for a "reshuffle" of the deck.  This may not seem very important, but if a player discards an undesired card early, the card may make a reappearance later in the turn.

Secondly, depending on the number of occurrences of the card, the player's odds increase.  Overall, the increase in occurrences has a greater impact than the increase in Military actions.  Players only have control over their Military Actions.

Although interesting, I'm not sure the information is very useful.  Having more Military Actions provides options, which is one reason Julius Caesar is popular.  But there is little control over what appears and when it will appear.  However, many events depend on Military Strength, so military cannot be ignored.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Through the Ages - Part XV - Culture: Buildings

Forum for this blog is here: Forum
Culture- Leaders
I plan on covering Leaders separately in a later article separate an unto themselves.  Their various abilities make analyzing them difficult.  However, they are not the topic for today.
Culture- Buildings
Buildings and Leaders represent the largest source of culture in Through The Ages for the majority of players.  The winning player will generate around 118 points from buildings and Leaders in a game.  Like much of the game, the majority of these points come from later age buildings.  Some Leaders will boost these points upwards, but the majority of points need to come from the core structures.

One advantage of buildings is a player may have more than one of a given type.  Depending on governments, this number can be as high as 4.  However, analysis of the games shows it is not until late Age II when the third building of a given type tends to come into play.  The fourth version of a building just doesn't come into play very often.
Culture Building Types
There exist three cultural buildings: Theaters, Temples, and Libraries.  Each building comes in three levels (Age I, II, or III).  Each building provides an additional benefit beyond culture.  Players tend to focus on two of the three types of culture buildings.  This usually comes from a lack of resources.

The following chart shows the average culture gained from the different building types.  The difference between the various buildings is relatively small, 6 points at its greatest.  Despite this, certain patterns emerge which are discussed in detail below every item.
Every Temple provides a single culture point per turn regardless of the Age of the temple.  Temples are easy to analyze from this perspective.  Temples are the cheapest building and are the first built.  Temples generate 27 culture over the course of the game for the winning player.  Players build either theaters or temples to resolve the happiness problem in most cases.

Players tend to build temples as happiness is needed to solve the discontent issue.  From the diagram, these tend to occur early, near round 3 and again round 9.  Players tend to upgrade temples roughly half the time rather than build more temples.
Libraries provide science and culture in equal parts.  Each Age increases the building's return of each of these attributes by 1.  Libraries generate an average of 31 culture points per game.  The first library is built around turn 9.  The second library is built usually within two turns after the first building.

Unlike the other culture buildings, players tend to build three libraries during games.  Players also upgrade libraries rather quickly.  These additional buildings and upgraded buildings drive the culture gain of libraries.
Theaters, like temples, provide happiness.  Only a single happiness is provided per theater, but the culture gain increases as the upgrade cost goes up.  On average, theaters provide 32 culture over the course of a game to the winning player.  Unlike the other building types, most winning players only build theaters of a single Age.  On average 2 Theaters will get built.  However, if the player chooses the Age I Drama theater, there is a tendency to build slightly more of the buildings.
The diagram above shows the culture depending on the Age of building chosen.  The early Drama buildings generate 40 culture.  Operas and Movies generate more culture per building per turn, but the lateness of their build doesn't make up the difference in culture of the earlier buildings.

Monday, February 6, 2012

News - WWII aircraft seekers in Malaysia

I recently read this article about a group which hunts down WWII aircraft wrecks in Malaysia (  Their efforts are to be applauded.

(Very) Brief History
Courtesy of
Before WWI the Malaya Kingdom (now Malaysia) provided the world with 60% of its Tin and 40% of its rubber.  Most of these resources went to the United States, although it was a British controlled colony.  Malaya is also strategically positioned between oil rich Borneo, Java and Sumatra.  All three of these resources were critical to Japan's growing economy...and its war efforts.

It was important enough to be included in Japan's "Outline Plan for the Execution of the Empire's National Policy" framework.  On December 8th, 1941, the same time of the Pearl Harbor attacks in the United States (it was Dec 7th in US: having to cross the international date line), Imperial Japanese forces invaded Malaya and captured the working airfield there.  In response, the British sent the battleships Prince of Wales and Repulse.  The British aircraft carrier Indomitable was undergoing repairs, so the battleships had no fighter protection.  Alerted of the oncoming ships by the submarine I-58, the battleships were met by over 1000 aircraft.

The outcome is obvious in hindsight: both battleships were disabled and sunk by the aircraft within 3 hours of the engagement.  The combined loss of life for the British ships was 800 men, while the Japanese lost 3 aircraft
This defeat removed the last of the British large ships from the Pacific.  Over the course of the war many aircraft were downed in and around Malaya.  Although approximately 15-20 sites are known, the dense foliage prevents easy access and identification.  There are probably many more machines and pilots who were downed in Malaya to be discovered.


The Pacific Campaign: The US-Japanese Naval War 1941-1945, Dan van der Vat, 1991