Friday, March 16, 2012

Through The Ages - Card - Wonder: The Kremlin

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This is a series of blogs written about each card in Through The Ages.  To find more, simply click on "Cards" label.
The Kremlin
Some Good, Some Bad,
but how Ugly?
In 1147 the Grand Duke of Kiev, Yuri Dolgoruky, had a wooden fort, or kremlin, constructed where the Moskva and Neglina rivers joined.  People flocked to the new fort, which soon became a thriving city.  By the 1300's stone buildings formed up around the city, and in 1326 the Russian Orthodox Church moved its seat to the city of Moscow.  Since that time, Moscow has become the center of Russian culture and politics.  Even when Moscow was not the capital of the Russian state, it remained the cultural center of the nation and was the place where all Tsar's were crowned.

The Moscow Kremlin has been damaged and rebuilt many times during its existence.  In the 1400's the wooden structure was enlarged and replaced with brick and stone.  In the late 1700's Catherine the Great destroyed several surrounding buildings and began another expansion of the fortress.  Napoleon attempted to blow it up for three consecutive days before his retreat from Russia, but despite extensive damage the core structure survived and took decades to rebuild.  Reconstruction was completed in 1851, and the Kremlin remained relatively untouched until the Bolshevik revolution in 1917.

At that time the new regime transferred the government's seat of power back to Moscow from St. Petersburg.  It has remained in Moscow ever since.  Only government officials were permitted until 1955, when parts of it were opened as a museum.  The Kremlin dates back nearly 1000 years from its origination as a wooden fortress.  The many reconstructions of the buildings brought together many architectures and styles of various times: Italian renaissance masters, early Russian style architecture, neo-gothic, and baroque structures all make an appearance.  These unique blends of art set the Kremlin apart from other Kremlins.  Today the Kremlin continues to undergo preservation of its styles, but it continues to function as the central power of the Russian state.
Game Stats
Among the Wonders of Through the Ages, The Kremlin is unique in that it has a "negative" associated with it when built.  All other Wonders have all benefit, but The Kremlin causes 2 Unhappiness upon its construction.  In return, the Kremlin grants an additional Civil Action, Military Action, and 3 culture per turn.  It is the only card, besides governments and Hammurabi, which affects both Civil and Military Actions.

The "Unhappiness" caused by the Kremlin has an interesting effect on the final tally, or bonus points, as I calculate it, it causes the score to decrease by 1 point in final scoring.  Put briefly, the bonus points distribution consists of the "contribution" of the card to the overall Impact points earned, the odds of the Impact card being played, and the average culture gained from the Impact card.  In the case of the Kremlin, the two Unhappiness causes a loss of just under 8 points, while its governmental bonuses add up to just over 6.  Thus, the "final bonus" for the Kremlin is negative by 1 point.

Strategies, Combos and Opinions
Military Domination
The Kremlin's additional Military and civil action is nice, particularly for those who are Ore rich, but science poor.  However, the Military action comes late compared to other means, such as government switches, code of laws, or Warfare.  Additionally, most Wonders don't require population, but The Kremlin does require some offset to its Unhappiness.  This means the player building it must build an additional Religious structure, effectively using increasing the cost of the Kremlin by one or two population.

Hanging Gardens
Hanging Gardens +2 Happiness directly offsets the -2 Happiness of The Kremlin.  The danger here is the Ravages of Time could destroy the Hanging Gardens, leaving the player with a sudden Unhappiness factor.

St. Peter's Basilica 
Like Hanging Gardens, St. Peter's Basilica offsets the Kremlin's negative Aspects.  It still requires the use of a population to generate a positive culture, but is quite effective.
A rare recommendation for Arenas
(and only just barely)

Arenas (Bread and Circuses, Team Sports, Professional Sports)
I usually do not recommend Arena's over religious buildings.  Arena's increase happiness and Military strength, but normally the Military gain is minimal in comparison and I believe there are far better things to spend science than Arena buildings.  However, for those who want to try to use The Kremlin I do recommend building an Arena first.  A single population placed on the Bread and Circus would cancel The Kremlin's negative aspects.

I'll admit that I want to like The Kremlin.  Its culture gain is high, and in fact it ranks near the top 5 culture generators of the wonders (see Culture:Wonders) when built.  However, I would rank The Kremlin as the single Wonder requiring the most Skill and preparation to use properly.  The player must understand how to offset the Happiness loss and have the population and structures in place to make it happen.  It is not a Wonder for the beginning player, and in fact if the game is not gong well, it isn't the Wonder for an expert player.

The additional actions provided by The Kremlin tend to come at a bad time.  Usually the game is 3/4 over by the time it is completed, meaning it will only provide about 5 extra actions in total (see Actions: Generating More).  I will go so far as to say that if The Kremlin does not make an appearance within the first full round of Age II, do not take it from the card row.  There are far better options with far fewer risks available.

What is everyone else's experience with The Kremlin?
1. Michael C. Paul, "The Military Revolution in Russia 1550–1682", The Journal of Military History 68, No. 1 (January 2004) .
3. Fletcher, Banister; Cruickshank, Dan, Sir Banister Fletcher's a History of Architecture, Architectural Press, 20th edition, 1996.
5. Klein, Mina. The Kremlin: Citadel of History. MacMillan Publishing Company (1973).

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