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Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Through the Ages - Part XX - Strategy: Economics

Forum for this article is located here: Forum

Where to Start
When starting the strategy articles I was puzzled how to begin.  There are so many things to discuss.  Seriously, I started four articles before writing this one.  But each of those articles required a fundamental understanding of "something else" in order to truly grasp the trade offs being made.  This helped me determine the entire game boils down to one item: Economics.  It's a big item.

In order to be successful player must learn to manage the games economies.  Some will say the game is a "Military War Game", and they are correct.  Some will say it is a game of "culture generation", and they are correct as well.  Others will say it is a game of "scientific progress", and they are (also) correct.

But powering all of this is the economies.  Players who want to build armies to make it a military game will need an economy to support them.  Similarly, players that want to construct Wonders and Culture will need economies to support them.

So, to start talking strategy, one must first understand the economies at work.
Food drives Population, which comes from the Population Bank.
But, as the Population bank increases,  Consumption of food
occurs (number in circles is the lost food)
Defining Economics (in TtA)
I define economics for Through The Ages in terms of three resources: Science, Food, and Ore.  All other components of the game derive from one of these resources.  Science is needed to learn better technologies, new units, and better buildings.  Food is required to bring more population into play which may be assigned to new tasks.  Ore is the resource spent to assign workers to tasks: build buildings, become a military unit, construct Wonders.

Without either of these resources, Through the Ages is not possible as the game it is.  Similarly, any other card or group of cards can be removed, and the game "changes", but it is still playable.  Don't think it is possible, remove all the Cavalry cards, Libraries, or Theaters.  The strategies required to win change dramatically, but the game remains playable.  Therefore, it is these resources: Ore, Food and Science we need to understand.

Resource Values
The resources are not weighted equally, and their value will differ depending on actions the player takes.  For example, not building Farms will eventually leave the player "Food short", meaning the player will eventually run out of new citizens, thus limiting the number of building and units the player may build.  Each player must build their economy to meet their demands, but once built the economy becomes more difficult to modify.

Ore loss occurs due to Corruption.
However, Ore loss is based on total Resources taken from
shared pool between Food and Ore
(number in lower left circles is lost Ore)
The problem is a player can only focus on one or two of the resources early in the game.  This is due to a lack of actions, lack of ore, and rapidly increasing costs for bringing in new population.  Science is the only core resource which doesn't suffer a "Production Loss".  Food suffers consumption, based on the population remaining in the "population bank", and Ore suffers corruption determined by the amount of ore produced that turn.  Furthermore, both Ore and Food are "linked" in that they share a common resource Pool.  So, the more Food one produces, the more likely the player will suffer corruption in Ore. (vice versa is not true as Food Production is resolved before Ore production).

Figuring out a starting place point in strategy discussion was challenging, but with the basics of economics reviewed, I feel better about presenting the strategy articles.  Next week: real strategy talk!
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