Friday, March 2, 2012

Through The Ages - Part XVIII - Military: Aggression and Wars

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Sorry for the late post.  Writing this article took much longer than anticipated as analyzing the various Military statistics and required more in-depth study than it initially seemed.  Enjoy!
Aggression and Wars
Military options in Through The Ages are very limited.  At the start of every player's turn that player has the option to perform a single political action: either a Pact/Treaty or an Aggression/War.  Pact cards are few and from our analysis account for little in way of culture.  Aggression/Wars do generate significant culture, being the third largest source of culture after buildings and Wonders.

A Popular War:
War over Culture
Aggression and Wars differ significantly.  Aggression cards resolve immediately and only the defender is at risk.  Furthermore, the defender of the Aggression may play Defense Cards to try to meet or beat the attacker.  Wars resolve the turn after they are announced, Defense cards may not be played by neither attacker nor defender, and both players are at risk to lose.

Aggression and Wars also differ in timing.  Prior to Age II, only Aggression are available.  During Age II only 3 Wars exist, and during Age III 7 Wars exist.  Given that Age III is the shortest Age, there are fewer Wars than Aggression cards.  One thing both have in common is a Military Action "cost" to play.  This is critical only when one realizes by playing an Aggression/War, the player will have fewer Military Actions with which to build units/replacements.  In a 4-player game this can become critical as a player who has current military domination may see an opponent overtake them if they continue to use their military actions to declare War or Aggression cards.
Popularity of Aggressions & Wars
The chart below shows the overall breakdown of Aggression and Wars.
Overall, through the 100 games played, there were a total of 808 Aggression or Wars played.  This implies players should expect to see 8 military conflicts in a typical game.  The largest number of conflicts recorded was 16, and the smallest was 2.

The other item the chart above tells us is when the conflicts take place.  During Age I most players focus on their economy, and so military conflicts are rarer in Age I.  As time goes on, military conflicts become increasingly common.  In general, the breakdown of military attacks in a typical game for each Age are as follows:

Our first chart also shows the "popularity" of the different conflict cards.  More Raids and Plunders exist than other cards, so seeing them high in the play list is not surprising.  Next on the high list are the two "Culture Stealing" cards: Armed Intervention and War over Culture.  Although War Over Culture exceeds Armed Intervention in number of cards in the deck, War Over Culture suffers in number of plays because it may not be played on the last round, whereas Armed Intervention is playable on the last round.
Success of Aggression
Declaring an Aggression or War is one thing, being successful at it is something else.  Since Wars and Aggression cards have different outcomes we will look at the two differently.   As long as the attacking player doesn't sacrifices troops to increase the attack, there is very little risk in initiating an Aggression.  At most, the Aggression costs some Military Actions, but that is essentially it.  Looking at the following chart we determine the ability of an Aggression or War of succeeding.

From the diagram we can see the odds of a military action succeeding is just under 60%.  The odds of success do differ depending on the Age of the attack, however.  All Age I attacks have less than 50% odds of success.  During Age II and Age III the odds of success increase to just above 55%.  However, during Age IV the success rate increases to 70%

A Popular Aggression:
These discrepancies are easily explainable.  During Age I the players' military strengths are all relatively close together, being within 1 or 2 points.  Spending a Defense card, or even sacrificing a military unit to make up the difference is not to terrible a loss.  By Age II the player's begin to differentiate themselves both economically and militarily.  Tactics come into play which greatly influence strength.  Similarly, more advance units are researched and built which increase the military strength further.  Lastly, the cost of replacing units puts a tax on the player's economy, so player's are less likely to sacrifice military units in defense if replacing the unit will cost more than the player would lose from letting the attack succeed.

This last item is particularly true when it comes to Armed Intervention.  Armed Intervention takes 7 points from the defending player and gives it to the attacking player.  However, by the time Armed Intervention comes into player most players are making more than 7 culture per turn.  Looked at over an entire game, the loss of 7 culture is roughly equivalent to losing a single game turn.  Most players are willing to accept this loss if it means their economy remains untouched and can be increased on following turn.
Success of War
Wars carry significantly greater risk.  First, the outcome takes a turn to determine and greatly impacts the uncertainty of the outcome.  First, the attacker must have a clear numerical majority in units as the act of declaring war will decrease the number of available actions to build more units for the attacker the War.  Second, the defender has a turn to play a combat changing Tactic, research an improved unit, or build more military units.  Third, although defense cards may not be played, the defender has a clear advantage in deciding if sacrificing units is a feasible option or not to reduce the Wars effects.  Lastly, Wars go "both ways", the attacker loses something if the Defender succeeds.
For our discussion of "success" in wars, we will consider wars which were Won by the player that initiated the War.  This yields the following chart:
The high success rate of Wars follows from the above discussion: there is so much at risk for the attacker Wars are only initiated when the player believes victory is certain.  Still, roughly 1 out of every 5 Wars will not succeed for the two most popular Wars: War over Culture and Holy War.  The losses of these Wars come from three primary sources: Defender Military Jump/Leader Loss, Acquisitions, and Scavenging.
Gandhi is a leader which doesn't
cause a Military Jump, but
ends Wars immediately and
protects from them in the future.
Defender Military Jump/Leader Loss
This scenario occurred in roughly half of the losses.  Basically, the defender managed to play a tactic, build a unit, or place a leader which greatly increased the military of the defender of the war to the point the War.  In 4% of the cases the defender achieved parity with the attacker rather than exceeding the attacker's strength, counting as a 'loss' for the attacker, although neither side gained nor lost any resources.

A similar situation occurs if an Age ends after a War is declared but before it resolves.  Usually the attacking player's leader was Napoleon Bonaparte and his loss resulted in a dramatic loss of military strength, making the construction of military units capable of overcoming the attacking forces.
Acquisitions involve a territory coming up for bid after a player has declared a War.  The scenario may seem relatively rare, but accounts for a little under one-third of War losses:
  1. The War Initiator declares a War,
  2. During some other players turn a Territory appears as an event,
  3. The War Initiator wins the bid for the Territory and must sacrifice military units,
  4. The lost military units cost the War Initiator the war!
It is hard to determine if the War Initiator forgot a War was going on at the time the Territory bid came up, but the fact this accounted for a third of losses means the player made a decision which said the Territory was worth more than the war.
The last scenario where player's lost wars I refer to as "scavenging".  This scenario takes account of the multi-player aspect of Through The Ages.  This scenario is complex and seems difficult to pull of, but it goes as follows:
  1. Player A declares War on Player B.  Player B has a smaller military than Player A.
  2. Player C then declares an Aggression against Player A.
  3. To defend from Player C, Player A must sacrifice units to defend from the Aggression.
  4. This weakens A to the point where Player B then wins the War.
"Scavenging" involves attacking
a player just after they declare a war.
Consider the Tactic above, the loss of even
a single 3-point unit results in a loss
of 16 points of Military Strength!
In this circumstance usually Player C and Player A are close militarily, although often times Player C was not as strong as Player A and may sacrifice units to boost the attack.  Interestingly, the lead player rarely had a Defense card in hand to defend from this, usually because being in the lead means the Defense card is taking up space another, more useful card would occupy.  The only other last note was many times the Aggression card played was a card which attacked Player A in a significant economic or military way, such as the following:
  • Annex,
  • Assassinate,
  • Sabotage,
  • Raid.
Rarely did the second player attack with Armed Intervention, which directly steals culture, or Plunder which reduces resources.  The point here is the second player is forcing the War player to either lose critical infrastructure or weaken themselves to the point where they may lose the War.  Depending on the War played and the potential infrastructure lost, the War player is placed in a Lose-Lose situation.
Aggression, Wars and Military Strength form a major component of Through the Ages.  Overall, Aggression cards form the majority of military attacks.  Part of this is there are more Aggression cards than War cards.  Timing is critical for both, however.  Wars are more likely to succeed than Aggression cards, but both are more likely to succeed in the later Ages the card is played.  An Aggression will fail just a little over half the time, but Wars will succeed upwards of 80% of the time.  However, the attacker in Wars needs to be careful of timing to avoid end of Ages, how close the second player is to them in military strength, and be aware of the military cost of bidding for territory cards if a card is drawn.

This concludes the Military section of Through the Ages.  There are a few Odds and Ends to wrap up, but now we will begin to discuss various Strategies to improving the play.  Yes, many of these articles touched on various aspects of Strategy, but now it is come time to put them all together into a cohesive whole!
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