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Friday, June 28, 2013

Through The Ages - Cards - Alex Randolph

This is a series of blogs written about each card in Through The Ages.  To find more, simply click on "Cards" label.

Alex Randolph (Sid Meier)

History

This card is named Sid Meier in later version of the game.  However, I will defer to my version of the game and will bio Alex Randolph.

Alexander Randolph was born May 4, 1922 and died May 10, 2004.  He spoke four languages fluently and was an avid game designer.  Although born in the United States of America, he traveled extensively and lived in many countries.

Alex Randolph created several well known games, and pioneered several game mechanics which are now considered 'everyday'.  His games include: Twixt, Raj, Sagaland (Enchanted Forest), InKognito, and Breakthru.  It is almost impossible to list all the games he had created here.  However, he is recognized as one of the world's most prolific game designers, with his games having been on the selection list for the Spiel des Jahres award no less than 10 times, among numerous other awards.

Alex Randolph's philosophy involved games as a very human activity.  Games define the human animal.  It is human nature to create a way to describe the universe and to simulate them.  To him,   games are the mechanism by which humans simulate this.

However, it is also a feedback loop: the games influence the animal.  Games are what permit us to describe the universe, but they also end up shaping our culture.  Given the same core game, different cultures will modify the rules differently, eventually creating two distinct games.  These games then may become popular, imprinting and reinforcing a style of thought on those that play the game.

Game Stats

Alex Randolph is the most popular Age III leader.  Statistics seem to support choosing him as an Age III leader, given such a high win ratio.

Opinions

Randolph provides a significant boost to culture at a time when science resources are waning in importance.  The four rounds of science which Alex could generate can add up to 12 culture at the loss of 4 science.  And that is the gain/cost per lab!  This is a significant gain fora marginal cost and one which shouldn't take much thought.  Of all the Age III leaders, Alex Randolph is the only one which can be played without any hesitation with regards to the situation.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Through The Ages - Albert Einstien

This is a series of blogs written about each card in Through The Ages.  To find more, simply click on "Cards" label.

Albert Einstein

History

One of the most unique minds to inhabit our planet was born in Ulm, Germany in 1879: Albert Einstein.
 He was a talented musician in the piano and violin.  Hus family moved to Switzerland and Italy, and he graduated High School in 1896 in Switzerland.  His grades were good enough to graduate in all subjects except mathematics and science, at which he excelled with maximum scores.  He applied for ETH Zurich for advanced training later that year at the age of 16.

His goal was to attain a teaching position when he graduated, but he failed in that endeavor.  His classmate secured him a position at the Patent Office in Bern, Switzerland.  His specialty was evaluating patents for electromagnetic devices.  Many of these patents involved synchronization of timing devices using electronic signals, items which become important in his "thought experiments" when he wrote his papers.

In 1905, still at the patent office, Einstein was a landmark year.  He published 4 papers that year, one of which covered the equivalence of Energy and mass.  By 1908, Einstein was a recognized scientific leader.  It took another 7 years before Einstein finished the "General Theory of Relativity", but experimenters were quick to confirm the accuracy of his findings.  For his efforts, Einstein was given the Nobel Prize in 1921.

Einstein's equations unlocked a several secrets of the universe.  His equations permitted the development of television, lasers, and modern electronics.  It also unlocked atomic power, both its peaceful and military applications.

His personal life was one fraught with successes and failures as well.  He was married twice and had three children.  Einstein died April 18, 1955 in Princton, New Jersey.  Albert Einstein's name is recognized worldwide and has become synonymous with "genius" in many cultures.  His legacy lives on as mathematicians, physicists, and philosophers try to complete the work he started by unraveling the mysteries of light, matter, and energy.

Game Stats

Albert Einstein grants a great boost to both science and culture.  This late in the game Einstein's science will only be of benefit for a very short period of time.  Einstein has a (relatively) high first place rate, this may be the effect of already acquiring a successful culture engine rather than contributing to it greatly.  Still, Einstein's ability to get critical technologies out in a short time may contribute to additional bonus cards.

Opinions

I view Einstein, like most Age III leaders, as extraneous.  If he appears early in Age III, he might be worth the two actions required to bring him out.  Einstein's boost may be critical for completing some Age III technologies before time runs out and adjust final Bonus scoring.    Still, if he appears late in the game, actions may be better spent on other things.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Through The Ages - Cards - Mahatma Gandhi


This is a series of blogs written about each card in Through The Ages.  To find more, simply click on "Cards" label.

Mahatma Gandhi


History

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was born October 2, 1869 in Probandar, India.  At 13 he married a woman one year his senior in an arranged marriage.  Growing up he loved stories of an ideal life, truth, and justice.

In 1888 he traveled to England and studied law.  After completing his studies he failed at opening a law practice in Bombay for being too shy in court.  In 1893 he traveled to South Africa for rich Indian Muslims, but once there he found himself facing both rich Indians and those who were indentured servants.  During that time he was thrown off of trains, beaten, and subjected to other indignities for being "Indian" in a "British Colony".  Never during his stay, did Gandhi raise a fist in anger, but instead would focus on civil disobedience through non-violent means.

Upon his return to India in 1914, Gandhi brought his non-violent civil disobedience to free his people from British rule and discriminatory practices.  Gandhi joined the Indian National Congress and advocated for self-rule of the Indian nation.  He attempted to alleviate restrictions on the poor farming class, promoted the education of women, end caste discrimination, and remove religious intolerance.  Through his actions he rallied other Indians to rebel, not in violence, but through peaceful sit-ins, resigning from positions of power, and boycotts.  For his efforts Gandhi was jailed several times, but eventually India was freed from British rule.

After a lifetime serving his people, Gandhi managed to get India its self-rule.  He sat on the council which drew up the new nation's constitution.  He taught Indians to view other Indians as equals, and he removed the barrier for women to be educated.  Having achieved so much, freeing a nation and a people, the one hurdle Gandhi could not overcome was the religion.  He attempted to reconcile the Muslims and Hindus, and for his efforts he was assassinated by a fanatic Hindu on January 30, 1948.

Gandhi's legacy lives on.  India remains a country under its own rule.  Gandhi inspires the oppressed and the weak that change the world around them through non-violent means and by leading a virtuous life.

Game Stats

Gandhi has horrible game statistics.  His first place wins tie with Bach at 10%, with the only leader worse than him being Alexander the Great.  Despite these statistics, Gandhi is a popular leader, being the 3rd most popular for his Age and appearing in 60% of the games!  This makes him the most popular "bad" leader in the game.

Opinion

Gandhi is a losing player's leader.  His popularity stems from his ability to prevent culture loss from Wars and Aggressions late in the game.  Generally speaking, in many games, the player with the weakest military becomes the target of most other players in the game.  They use their advanced military to steal culture from this weakest player.  The result is the weaker player gets weaker, with the other players getting stronger.  As we have seen, these usually don't affect the outcome of the game in Culture Points as Wars and Aggressions only count for less than 10% of the Winner's score (http://gamesstrategyandtactics.blogspot.com/2012/01/through-ages-part-x-culturewhere.html).  However, most of that 10% of culture comes in Age III of the game (http://gamesstrategyandtactics.blogspot.com/2012/03/through-ages-part-xviii-military.html).  Gandhi is merely a last ditch effort for a losing player to slowdown their culture loss.

In the 10% of games he won, however, Gandhi is an interesting character.  The player with Gandhi went into Age III with a high culture generation engine and a weak military.  Gandhi arrived early and the player took and played him immediately.  The effect in this case was to prevent the militarily strong players from robbing the lead player of culture.  The lead player could then concentrate on simply generating even more culture.

Unfortunately, such a strategy seems highly unlikely, only occurring in 10% of games.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Through The Ages - Cards - Rock & Roll Icon/Elvis Presley

This is a series of blogs written about each card in Through The Ages.  To find more, simply click on "Cards" label.
Elvis Presley (Rock & Roll Icon)
Rock & Roll Icon was later
renamed Elvis Presley
History
Elvis Presley (Rock & Roll Icon) was born January 8, 1935 in Tupelo, Mississippi.  He learned to play the guitar from his uncles and a pastor.  At 13 his family moved to Memphis, Tennessee.  His teenage years were spent learning more about music, which seemed to predominate his thoughts.

In 1953 Elvis auditioned at several bands and record companies.  He was usually told he did not have the voice for singing.  He eventually found his way to Sam Phillips, who was looking for person capable of blending the musics of white and black.  On July 5, after a failed night of trying to find the right "sound", Elvis suddenly jumped up and started "acting the fool" while singing.  The members of the band joined in and Elvis Presley's singing career was born.  Elvis' musical styling made his music difficult to get played on radio as the style was different than any other existing music types.  Within a few short years, however, Elvis' music skyrocketed.

In 1958 Elvis was drafted into the military.  When he was released from service in 1960's he found, much to his shock, that his music career was not over.  He also returned from service with a taste for amphetamines.  He would go on to make 31 movies and would release over 711 recordings.

Elvis' music styling combined Rhythm and Blues, Gospel, and "Hillbilly", as Country & Western was known in the 1940s and 1950s.  Now referred to as "Rockabilly", a forerunner to modern rock music.
Game Stats
The statistics of the Rock & Roll Icon are average at best. Of the Age III culture leaders, he is the easiest to use.

Opinions
Elvis Presley, the Rock & Roll Icon, like most Age III leaders, is a last ditch effort to boost culture.  From the statistics, he is not particularly effective.  In general, it is probably better to concentrate on a good Age II leader and build wonders than plan on switching to Elvis.  However, Elvis can assist in a happiness issue, which could be beneficial if it combines with some Age III bonus events.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Through the Ages - Card - Nikola Tesla/Bill Gates

This is a series of blogs written about each card in Through The Ages.  To find more, simply click on "Cards" label.

NOTE: Bill Gates replaced Nikola Tesla in a later edition of the game.  The card effects are identical, only the image and name were modified.  I wrote a brief biography of both.  And, just to satisfy curiosity, I have the version with Nikola Tesla!
Nikola Tesla/Bill Gates
Bill Gates
History
Bill Gates was born in October of 1955.  He is a leader and innovator in business, primarily focused on electronic computing environments.  Bill Gates' founded the company Microsoft, which is the world's largest software company in the world.  Through his leadership Microsoft came to dominate the personal computer market, and within a decade came to dominate the business world.

The Microsoft Windows Operating System runs the vast majority of computers in the world.  By making the operating system relatively inexpensive, capable of running on inexpensive hardware, and allowing the free market to dictate which programs would be successful and which would not, Microsoft has shaped today's business world.  Over its history Microsoft has been both criticized for its anti-monopoly techniques, but also praised for keeping certain computing environments free, namely the Internet browser market.

Bill Gates lives on (as of the time of this writing), so it is difficult to judge what his final impact on history will be, but as of now he is one of the most influential and powerful business leaders in the world.
Nikola Tesla
Nikola Tesla (10 July 1856 - 7 January 1943) was a Serbian physicist, mechanical engineer, and futurist who emigrated to the United States to work with Thomas Edison.  Tesla is most famous for developing an alternating current (AC) system which functioned well.  AC current allows us to use electrical power in our housing in a safe way.

Nikola Tesla experimented with X-Rays, vacuum tubes, radio signals and electricity.  Much of today's modern inventions are based on Tesla's inventions and patents.  Whereas most scientific discoveries, and many of the famous scientists of the past, were based on discoveries, Tesla's work focused on inventions.  Tesla made practical use out of theories.

Despite a mechanical and electrical genius, Tesla was a poor businessman.  He would become so focused on a given project he would forget all other responsibilities, and his business would collapse.  Although he achieved astounding success in creating inventions, including later patents on tilt rotor aircraft using turbine engines, his business life was a disaster and he died impoverished. 
Game Stats
BG/NT is only the second AGE III leader.  The card's ability turns labs into an ore production center.  Unfortunately, by the time Age III occurs, the time frame is so short there is little time to use the ore gained.
Opinions
BG/NT should greatly boost ore output, but given the short length of Age IV, the player needs to capitalize on it to maximize culture point production.  For this reason, BG/NT is great for finishing a Wonder or boosting to some of the high end buildings.  Expect the game to end shortly, however, so BG/NT will not be in play long.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Through The Ages - "Where the Data Came From" comment and response

Shangliang Jiang asked where I received my data from.  The full comment is below:

"This is a really cool website! I haven't finished reading all your posts yet but the Robespierre post made me think.

What are your thoughts on the extensions? Also, I was curious how you got your data.

Thanks!"

My response is below, and it describes where my data comes from:

"I'm glad your enjoying it.

The extensions are interesting changes and keep the game fresh.  I don't believe all of the cards are as equally balanced in TtA, some Wonders are significantly better than the base set.  That said, they are fun to play, which is the most important part of the game to me!

As for my data, I have one blogs on it from January 2012: http://gamesstrategyandtactics.blogspot.com/2012/01/through-ages-increasing-sample-size.html

Originally I used 20 games, then I increased it to 100.  Not a whole lot changed with the increased set, mostly some minor jockeying for position, but there were a few changes.

The data game from the games played from Board Game Online (http://www.boardgame-online.com/) completed games.  Each game was parsed and uploaded to a database turn by turn, action by action.  Being a SQL Master, I further broke down the data into usable portions for analysis.  Data was chosen randomly with the following conditions:
* No game had the same 4 players
* No individual player appeared in more than 3 games
* I did not participate in any of the games
* No game  had a player resign
* Games had to be played to completion.

I'd like mention a special call out to a friend of mine, Brian Kowalski.  Brian and I pored over different ideas of manipulating the data and discussing the results.  He had some good insights, and we were both surprised by some of the statistics.

Thank you for reading and commenting!"

See, if you comment, or help me out, I will mention you.  From this point forward you will be showered with riches, fame, and glory!  Well, your will get mentioned on the page!



Monday, June 10, 2013

Through The Ages - Cards - Winston Churchill...Wait, I already covered him

This is a series of blogs written about each card in Through The Ages.  To find more, simply click on "Cards" label.
Winston Churchill
He is the next leader on the list.  But, I already detailed him in this post here: http://gamesstrategyandtactics.blogspot.com/2012/03/through-ages-card-winston-churchill.html

So, that makes this the shortest card blog I have written to date.  (In fact, he is the reason I began writing about all the leaders after a question from a reader!)

Friday, June 7, 2013

Through The Ages - Cards - Isaac Newton

This is a series of blogs written about each card in Through The Ages.  To find more, simply click on "Cards" label.
Isaac Newton

History
Born 25 December 1642, Isaac Newton would become one of the renown scientists of all times.  He was born 3 months after the death of his father.  At the age of 3 his mother remarried, leaving him to be raised by his maternal grandmother.  After the death of her second husband, his mother returned and attempted to turn the now grown Isaac Newton into a farmer.

Accepted to the The Kings School, Newton would make great strides in mathematics and physics.  By the time he graduated he had a formalized solution for generalized binomial theorem, established the foundations of what would become calculus, formulated basic properties of optics, and the development of the Law of Gravitation.

Newton's genius was widely recognized during his life.  So much so he received special dispensation from the King to hold the Lucasian Professor of Mathematics, a position which normally required he be an ordained Anglican priest.  Newton's views on religion differed widely from accepted doctrine, and he could not reconcile accepting becoming ordained for the sake of the Professorship.  The King accepted his argument, and the dispensation was granted.

Newton would go on to further extend his theory of gravity to celestial mechanics.  He stated the Three Laws of Mechanics and established the basis of cubics in analytic geometry.  As a reward for his service, Newton was made Master of the Royal Mint, a position which required little work and a steady paycheck.  However, Newton took the appointment seriously and gave up scientific exploration in exchange on changing the English coining standards and stopping forgers.  Like many of his endeavors, he was successful.  In 1717 Newton managed the transfer of the English economy from a silver to a gold standard.  For his efforts, Newton would become the second scientist granted knighthood.

Newton died in his sleep on 27 March 1727.
Game Stats
Isaac Newton is the most popular leader in the game. His ability to increase science is seen as a critical skill by players. However, he also has an exactly 50% chance of coming the top 2 or coming in the bottom 2 positions.
Opinions
Another leader whose strength may be slightly overrated?  My opinion of Newton is he is not as successful as another Age II leader: Robespierre.  Overall, I believe the two will bring the same "gains" in science, but Robespierre (and his new government) will yield more civil actions than Newton in the long run.  Furthermore, Robespierre will increase military actions.

The key to Robespierre's use lies in timing of government changes.  Manage a single change of government, and make it during Age II when Robespierre is in play.  This saves science and gains increased actions.  Statistically, there is a slight advantage to Newton coming first, but the overall gains of coming 1st or 2nd goes to Robespierre.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Through The Ages - Cards - Napoleon Bonaparte


This is a series of blogs written about each card in Through The Ages.  To find more, simply click on "Cards" label.
Napoleon Bonaparte
History
Napoleon Bonaparte was born in Corsica on 15 August 1769.  His family was an affluent, noble family which afforded him a better education and opportunity than other Corsican.  He studied in France to learn French in 1778, and in May 1779 he was admitted to an military academy.  With a strength in mathematics, history, and geography it was decided he would make a great naval officer.  Always
wanting the best, Napoleon considered joining the British Royal navy until he was accepted to the Military Academy in Paris.  At that point he turned away from the navy to land based artillery.  

As France erupted in revolution, Napoleon returned to Corsica to avoid the political turmoil.  He became embroiled in a three way war and overstayed his leave.  However, he was promoted to captain upon returning to mainland France as he support the Jacobins, who power was rising.  In 1793 he fled with his family to France when Corsica split from France.

On the mainland, Napoleon found himself fighting for the Jacobin Revolutionaries by laying siege to the city of Toulon.  Recognizing the heights as an important feature, he led the charge which captured the heights, and with his artillery drove out the anti-revolutionary forces.  For his actions the City of Public Safety promoted him to Brigadier General.

Napoleon successfully navigated the landmine of French politics.  He dealt directly with the Robespierre brothers, but managed to keep his head (literally), unlike so many other military leaders.  When the Jacobins fell from power, Bonaparte entered hard times.  In desperation to put down a Royalist Uprising, Bonaparte was put in charge and successfully routed them.

From there Bonaparte led successful campaigns in Italy and Egypt.  Returning to France, he was convinced by a partnership of two others the time had come to remove the current government and put in place a strong leader.  Expecting to outsmart Bonaparte, and possibly use him as a patsy if things went wrong, his partners gave him the resources he needed.  However, when Bonaparte's plan was enacted, it was Bonaparte and not one of his partners who was First Consul of France.

Napoleon would go on to become one of the most successful military leaders the world had seen until World War II.  Using his power and national popularity with the resurgence of France as a Great Power,  Napoleon would be crowned Emperor of France.  Thus Bonaparte ended the strive towards democracy which his original goal when younger.

Napoleon's military campaigns expanded throughout Europe.  His military tactics and strategies added maneuverability which was previously unprecedented.  He often defeated armies larger than his through skillful and positioning of his troops.  Unlike many other national leaders, Napoleon accompanied his armies into battle and directed them, putting himself in danger of being captured or killed.

Despite this, Napoleon was not without faults.  He stretched his army too thin.  His conquests, although militarily successful, were not capable of completely subduing the lands he marched through.  When the end came, his army was worn down from fighting and incapable of continuing.  Napoleon was captured and sent to the island of Elba.

He would escape Elba and for a "Hundred Days", Napoleon was once again the Emperor of France.  Despite a nationalist fervor at his return, his people and armies were still too worn from the earlier fighting.  At the Battle of Waterloo, Napoleon fought his final battle.  Upon its loss, Napoleon was exiled to the land of Saint Helena, where he would remain until his death 6 years later in 1821.
Game Stats
Napoleon is a popular leader, being played 81% of the time. His ability seems unusually good for a military leader, which adds to his popularity. Statistically, Napoleon shows his abilities and popularity are not a function of his usefulness. Perhaps Napoleon is used to try to bolster a weak position (beyond the scope of this analysis), but in the end this ploy is unsuccessful.
Opinions
I believe Napoleon is a highly overrated card, at least based on popularity.  Compared to Robespierre, Napoleon has significantly reduced odds of winning.  This discrepancy may be the difference between Robespierre's "hidden" science reduction compared to Napoleon's "obvious" military gain abilities.  I truly believe Robespierre is by far a better card which yields better results, yet Napoleon remains significantly more popular.

What thoughts do you have in comparing Robespierre and Napoleon?  Which do you believe is better, and why?

Friday, May 31, 2013

Through The Ages - Cards - Maximilien Robespierre

This is a series of blogs written about each card in Through The Ages.  To find more, simply click on "Cards" label.
Maximilien Robespierre
History
Born 6 May 1785 in Arras, France, Maximilien Francois Marie Isidore de Robespierre was raised by his maternal grandfather and aunts, his mother having died 6 years after his birth while his father traveled around the world.  He would take up the family business by becoming a lawyer.  Growing up in pre-revolutionary France, Robespierre was an vocal critic of the French monarchy.  He advocated democratic reforms and the ability of the people to rule themselves.

In 1782 he was admitted to the political organization: the Society of the Friends of the Constitution, also known as the Jacobin Club.  As time progressed, the older and more conservative members of the Jacobin Club left, a younger and more leftward leaning group took charge.  In 1790 Robespierre was elected in charge of the Jacobin Club and the nation was ripe for the French Revolution.

Robespierre constructed much of the original French Constitution, promoting France as a Constitutional Monarchy.  However, in early 1792 the ideals of Robespierre and the Jacobins came under attack by a political group desiring military aggression against Austria.  Robespierre opposed the war, stating that such an action would only lead to Generals gaining control and restoring the Monarchy.  Despite his arguments, the Assembly voted for War, and as the war progressed horribly for the French.  The Jacobin's managed to maintain popularity, but only by embracing the French Mobs.  The political situation in France was degenerating.

The French Revolution fully erupted in September of 1792 with the trial of the King of France.  Robespierre originally fought to keep the King as a figurehead, but sensing a shift in public opinion by and self-incriminating evidence by the King himself, Robespierre changed his argument which was used to convict the King.  Robespierre fought a losing battle against the Death Penalty, and the Kings' execution took place.

Fearing the rise of a military dictator, the Committee of Public Safety was formed with the power to execute anyone they found suspicious of attempting to seize power in the summer of 1793.  With this tool at their hand, the Jacobins began a 'Reign of Terror', in which anyone suspected of trying to subvert democracy and consolidate power was beheaded.  The Committee of Public Safety, with Robespierre at its head, would go on to kill between 30,000 and 40,000 people.  As the killings continued, Robespierre demanded additional changes to the constitution which suited his way of thinking.  Many of these concepts were unpopular with the people, and as Robespierre's power grew, his popularity waned.

Robespierre became the de facto ruler of France.  His word would cause others to tremble, even as he attempted to promote freedoms for the people.  The world of France spiraled out of control as assassinations became a normal means of promoting ideas.  An attempt on Robespierre's life was unsuccessful in early 1794.

Unable to kill him secretly, his political opponents used the very instrument he created against him.  They denounced Robespierre, targeting him as a dictator attempting to seize control of the state through political manipulation.  They used as evidence his involvement in the death of anyone who differed to radically from his ideals through the Committee of Public Safety.  Guilty just by this suspicion, Robespierre was unable to defend himself.  On 28 July 1794, Robespierre's head was placed in the guillotine and executed, without trial, by the very organization he created.
Game Stats
Robespierre has two abilities: the addition of a military action per turn, and the remarkable ability to permit a revolutionary change of government through the loss of all military actions for the turn.  Robespierre is a popular leader, and this win statistics show the correctness of his popularity.
Opinions
Robespierre's popularity comes from both of his abilities.  It is interesting that his "+1 Military action" ability is almost offset by his "revolutionary" ability.  When played, Robespierre's "revolutionary" ability is almost always used.  This goes with the fact that, although Military actions are important and the game is viewed as "a wargame", it's civilian "economics" core still reigns supreme.

Scientifically, Robespierre may be viewed as on par with Isaac Newton.  Newton (discussed later) will generate roughly about 10 science, but will also generate around 3 or 4 additional Civil Actions.  Robespierre will save roughly 7 to 13 Science through the revolution.  Furthermore, the new government will generate roughly 5 Civil Actions and 10 Military Actions.

From this analysis, I view Robespierre as both a Military leader and Science leader.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

HIS - Ottomans - Turn 2: Another Option

The Hungarian Buffer

A reader submitted an alternative Turn 2 approach I hadn't thought of and one which deserve serious consideration.  Thanks to reader Dan for this interesting look on the Ottomans!

Turn 2 - Declare War!(?)

The idea behind this approach is to prepare for a full naval and piracy assault by the Ottomans.  This is done by ignoring the ground battles, other than the taking of Szegedin, and concentrate on capturing all the fortresses through the Mediterranean.  The theory behind this is to permit the Ottoman player near undisputed control of the Mediterranean where they may commit piracy and later launch attacks against targets of their choice.

Leaving Mohacs Untouched

By leaving Mohacs alone, the Ottomans create a "buffer zone" controlled by the Hungarians which the Hapsburg player cannot enter.   This state cannot change until the Ottoman player attacks Buda.  This protects the Ottomans from attacks by the Hapsburgs over land, essentially removing the majority of their Hapsburg army from Ottoman control.

The Ottoman player then builds naval units.
If not taken, Mohacs, Pressburg and Agram act as a buffer zone.

Later Turns

Later turns the Ottoman player declares war on Venice (and probably the Papacy).  They then declare war on the Hapsburg on Turn 3 and assault Malta and Tunis.  Although slower, the loss of these fortresses and keys prepare the Ottoman player for an eventual assault on Italy.

Viability

This is not something I have tried.  The Ottoman armies are spread out among many fortresses and the cost in CP is great, but their main land territories are free from attack.  The Ottoman player will definitely have an easier time of piracy, but I'm not certain if this is a viable winning strategy.  However, they can get their piracy VP and then concentrate on assaulting Italy from the south

Has any tried this approach and, if so, what was the experience?

Monday, May 27, 2013

Through The Ages - Cards - James Cook

This is a series of blogs written about each card in Through The Ages.  To find more, simply click on "Cards" label.
James Cook
History
James Cook joined the British Royal Navy in 1755 in search of adventure.  Prior to that he worked on coal carrying boats learning navigation and mathematics. During the 7 years war he was instrumental in surveying the St Lawrence river which helped lead to the capture of Quebec.

After the war the Royal Navy hired him to lead an exploration and mapping of the planet Venus as it traversed the sun.  To get the most accurate readings, Cook and his crew sailed the Endeavour to the land of Tahiti.  Mission completed, the Endeavour then charted New Zealand and the east coast of New Holland (Australia).  He explored and mapped Indonesia and Africa before returning home.

Promoted to Captain, the Royal Navy sent him on a second expedition to find the strange "Southern Land", Terra Australis Incognita.  Cook had two ships under his command and, through his efforts, was able to conclusively determine there was no other lands in the far southern parts of the world other than Australia and New Zealand.

His third voyage for the Royal Navy was to look for the "Northern Passage", a mythical waterway connecting the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans in the Northern Hemisphere.  Through his efforts he, once again, determined it did not exist.

Cook's legacy of exploration filled in many of the gaps in knowledge about our world.  He literally roamed the world, charting his travels and recording his findings.  His efforts brought understanding of our world and what it looks like, as well as the creatures and peoples which inhabit it.  One of the few explorers recognized during his time, even when war between the American Colonies and England occurred, James Cook's ships were given special recognition as scientific vessels and were ordered to be left unharmed and unhindered.
Game Stats
All the leaders in the game have special rule bending abilities, but none may be more specialized or unique than James Cook.  Other leaders modify buildings, make costs cheaper, or generate additional resources.  Game play-wise, Cook's statistics put him on par with many other leaders.
Opinions
James Cook has a very particular strategy and effect tailored to his abilities.  The objective with Cook is to pursue Colonies, as many as possible.  The player with Cook needs to seed the Event Deck with colonies as quickly and as often as possible.  The player then forces players to bid on these colonies, hopefully Cook's ability permits the player to win the majority of these bids.

Happy citizens means fewer churches
(and more soldiers)
Cook's influence on the game can be profound.  If all goes well, the player with Cook does not need to focus on economic efficiency as strongly as the other players.  Instead, the player builds military units and uses colonization cards to win colonies.  These new colonies will bring more resources into play for the player, removing the worry of corruption.  Others will bring additional happiness or additional citizens into which allow the player to build more buildings and units without worry of civil revolts.

If successful, the player will end up with a bizarre economy consisting of many low generating mines, few farms, and still have many extra workers and extra resources.  If unsuccessful, the player ends with a functioning, if dysfunctional, economic engine which can output items, but lacks in efficiency.  Lastly, to truly work, the Age III "Colonization Bonus Scoring Card" really needs to be in the event deck.  This method is not reliable, but if pulled off can be another satisfying win.

Fortunately, even if unsuccessful, Cook as a markedly number of military aggression and wars when in play.  This is due to the fact other players will bid extra high to prevent the Cook player from winning all the colonies.  Since the players must surrender armies to win these cards, the effect is significantly smaller army sizes, which tends to keep violence low in the game.

Personally, I like to play Cook every once in a while as a lark.  This is a decision I must make early in the game, even before it begins.  If I plan to use him, I must build a second lab quickly, get two mines, and preferably an early advanced government.  Tactics cards are less valuable to me, so I may bypass Cavalry altogether this has the advantage of reducing my science requirement, and I can "toss" cards which I don't need from my military hand.  I really like to get the Great Wall and the Transcontinental Railroad, more for their defensive bonus military bonus than anything else.  Lastly, I've found the Arenas are great combinations with Cook as they provide a constant military defense allowing me to expend my soldiers colonizing land freely.

Cook, he's a tricky card to play, but after three or four solid attempts the ability to handle him becomes easier.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Thank you!

Hello Everyone.  I want to thank everyone on a great occasion.  Today this blog exceeded 30,000 Page Views.  Last Year we missed the 25,000 / year mark.  I'm hoping to do better this year.

So, thank you for reading, thank you for the comments, and thank you for the emails!  I plan to continue my blog and look forward to where this takes us!

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Through The Ages - Cards - William Shakespeare

This is a series of blogs written about each card in Through The Ages.  To find more, simply click on "Cards" label.
William Shakespeare
History
William Shakespeare was born April 1564.  He would live 52 years, but he would become, arguably, the greatest master of the English language.   of his life, he would excel at the art of poetry and playwright.

From his birth to his marriage at 18 to Anne Hathaway, little is known of Shakespeare of note.  In 1585 Shakespeare's wife gave birth to twins, the last of their children.  From there until 1592, nothing of interest was recorded about Shakespeare.

In 1592 a few of Shakespeare's plays began to appear in London.  Without a university education, Shakespeare was criticized by many of his "more educated peers".  By 1594 only one company, of which Shakespeare was a member, were displaying his plays.  His writing ability improved and by 1598 his name was a selling point on scripts.  In 1599 his company opened the Globe Theatre, and Shakespeare's reputation was firmly established.

Shakespeare's command of the English language and imagery is profound.  His works are studied by students in the secondary schools for English literature and many of his stories inspire other authors.  Perhaps less well realized is the influence Shakespeare had in formalizing the English language into its current form.  During his time, the English language was not yet formalized and his works helped to formalize its structure.
Game Stats
Shakespeare is the second cultural leader of Age II, the other being J.S. Bach.  Shakespeare is almost as popular as J.S.Bach, beating him by a single play, well within the margin of error.  Unlike Bach, Shakespeare has a stronger track record of success.
Opinions
Shakespeare is a difficult leader to get into play.  He requires many supporting buildings to capitalize on his ability.  Although he is challenging to get into play, when all falls right Shakespeare is a dominating cultural force.  In two of the games where the player who played Shakespeare won, Shakespeare was allowing them to generate over 30 culture a turn!

Shakespeare is a culture engine.  Perhaps the best strategy for using him is to focus on an early strong economy, labs and theaters.  If enough players leave you alone in the early stages and do not disrupt your economy, you may find yourself with a lab and theater built.  If all falls well, and that is a big 'if', Shakespeare can generate so much culture he can offset later military actions waged against you.

Shakespeare is an advanced card and not easy to play.  The success rate is low, but when successful Shakespeare will provide one of highest winning scores.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

HIS - Ottomans - Turn 2 Preparing for the Rest of the Game

Turn 2 - Preparatory Work

Ottoman Position

By turn 2 the Ottomans should have taken Belgrade and, once completed, ended their turn immediately, This should leave them with a sizable army and an extra card in hand to begin the turn.  They may, or may not, have pirates in play which can be used to "raid" non-war players, or as a threat to focus players' attentions to their naval units.

The question is: Now what?

Tempting Buda

Like Turn 1, Turn 2 should be a preparatory turn for the Ottomans.  Many players will immediately want to attack Buda.  It is there and seems an easy to grab target.  However, conquering Buda will place the Ottomans at war with the strongest European power in the game: the Hapsburgs.  Depending on how things are going with France, England, and the Protestants, this may not be ideal.

The Danger of an Early Buda Attack

If the Ottoman player attacks Buda on Turn 2 they have two potential routes: through Szegedin or Mohacs.  Of the two, Szegedin is the "safest" in the sense the Hapsburgs cannot access it and cut it off, permitting the armies in Buda to retreat if attacked.  Mohacs, however, provides more strategic flexibility, allowing the Ottoman player more access routes to Europe.  Both options will require 3 cp.
Assaulting Buda through Mohacs or Szegedin.  Szegedin is unassailable,
but if Mohacs is not taken, it will revert to Hapsburg control allowing for a rapid counterattack by the Hapsburgs on Belgrade
Ideally, the Ottoman player would take both cities and then capture Buda, but this requires more CP (5 cp) of movement and requires splitting the Ottoman army.  Keeping the army together is possible, but requires an even greater amount of CP (6 cp).  Even at full power the Hapsburg Power can a quick response, and stiff resistance, from the Hapsburg player.  Depending on how the battles go, the Ottoman player will find himself facing a parity in forces with the Hapsburg player and a long grinding war whose outcome is uncertain.

"Buda Can Wait" Strategy

Instead, I prefer for the Ottoman player to not rush the attack.  Instead, the player should consolidate all the Hungarian lands on Turn 2 and focus on diplomatic efforts.  If the cards in hand permit it, give up a card to the French to support their efforts, which will most likely be against either the Hapsburgs or the Papacy.  This is fine for the Ottoman player as both are direct enemies the Ottomans must face eventually.  In this strategy, the French helps wear down the Hapsburg/Papacy player without risking your forces.

If diplomacy fails, or if sufficient cards permit, the Ottoman player can assault the Knights of St. John at Rhodes.  Success means the Knights are no longer a threat and the Ottoman naval units may be moved to Coron where they may lend support by sea.

In this approach, the Ottoman player should end Turn 2 not at war with any power, in a consolidated position to launch attacks against the Papacy, Hapsburg or Buda, have 2 extra cards in hand to begin the next turn, and weaker opponents due to other player's wars.

An Ideal Turn 2 for the Ottomans.  Whom and how will the Ottoman's attack?
Buda from Belgrade?
Naval assaults to capture fortresses along the Mediterranean (making Piracy easier)?
Or Naval Assaults into Italy (against Papacy or Hapsburg)?
One other benefit of delaying the attack on Buda is the Piracy card.  The fall of Buda to the Ottomans is virtually inevitable.  In any field battle the Ottomans should be able to crush Buda, and given their special "war loss" conditions, they are easier to beat than a normal city-state.  If the Ottoman player waits until Piracy comes out, the Ottoman player will be one step closer to drawing another card, making the fall of Buda even more appealing.

The Ottoman player can even move (or place with their Home Card) armies on the fortress at Scutari, threatening a naval invasion of Italy or an overland invasion through Venice.

Conclusion

For me the Ottoman's Turn 2 seems as predetermined as Turn 1.  The Ottomans should consolidate their territory, build their army, remove unnecessary threats (knights), and threaten attacks from multiple angles.  I feel this position is stronger for the Ottomans than the direct attack on Buda.

So, for me, the real decisions of play for the Ottomans occur on Turn 3: Who and where to attack?

What is your opinions?

Monday, May 20, 2013

Through The Ages - Cards - J. S. Bach


This is a series of blogs written about each card in Through The Ages.  To find more, simply click on "Cards" label.
Johann Sebastian Bach
History
Johannes Sebastian Bach, born March 21st, 1685, comes from a family renowned for musical talent throughout the central German state of Thuringia.  His father and uncle began instructing him in the violin, harpsichord and organ.  Even among a family of musicians, Sebastian's talent stood out.

His personal life was one of tragedy.  By the time he was 9 years old he had lost a brother, sister, mother and then his father.  At 10 he moved in with his older brother Johann Christoph.  His brother was an excellent teacher and Sebastian's musical education continued.  He joined a local choir where his voice was recognized as of excellent quality.

At 15, Sebastian Bach began traveling throughout Germany.  He took esteemed positions with the royalty of Germany and with the many churches.  His talent could not be constrained by simply playing music, however, and he often modified the music to suit his tastes.  This caused consternation with his employers

By 1708 he began composing complex musical scores.  His fame spread and his talent became more recognized.  By the time of his death in 1685 his renown was unmatched, but his musical style was considered dated.  However, he inspired many of the later musical genius such as Bach, Chopin and Mozart.  J.S. Bach's impact on the musical world is compared to the impact of Shakespeare on writing and Isaac Newton on science.
Game Stats
J.S. Bach holds the distinction of having the worst track record of assisting in wins of any card in the game.  Only two other cards are less popular than Bach (Ghenghis and Barbarossa), but I believe this is more a matter of timing for them then utility of their abilities.
Opinions
 I view J.S. Bach as potentially the "worst leader in the game".  At Age II, the science aspect of his ability will only be used three times, at most.  The cost savings for building theaters sounds good, but at Age II the economy should be strong and the focus is on preparing for the end game military push.  J. S. Bach redirects resources where they are not needed for an inadequate return.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Through The Ages - Card - Leonardo da Vinci


This is a series of blogs written about each card in Through The Ages.  To find more, simply click on "Cards" label.
Leonardo da Vinci
History
On April 15,  1452, one of the greatest minds ever was born in Vinci, Italy.  Leonardo da Vinci was born out of wedlock to a young peasant woman, although he was raised by his father, Ser Piero, a respected notary.  At the age of 14, da Vinci apprenticed with the artist Verocchio.  By the age of 20 he had become a qualified master artist of the Guild of St. Luke and opened his own workshop.

His work extended beyond simply art.  He studied architecture, bodies of both humans and animals, and engineering.  He recorded his thoughts and drawings into notebooks.  Eventually these notebooks would exceed 13,000 pages.

Leonardo's mind never stopped.  He observed and thought constantly, collecting all of his notes.  Although he rarely completed projects, many of his ideas for tanks, flying machines and other mechanical systems are  mechanically sound.  Leonardo is most famous for two of his art pieces: the Last Supper and the Mona Lisa.  Both are considered masterpieces without equal.

Leonardo's peerless talent attracted the attention of many powerful people.  He left Italy in 1516 at the request of Francis I, King of France.  He was titled 'Premier Painter and Engineer and Architect to the King.'  Leonardo passed away three years later at the age of 67 at Cloux, France.
Game Stats
Leonardo is the Age I "Science Leader".  His ability to generate ore with the play of a technology card seems exceedingly useful and this makes him the most popular leader of his Age.
Opinions
Statistically, Leonardo da Vinci is roughly equivalent to Christopher Columbus.  Leonardo has a slightly improved odds of the player ending in first or second place, but Christopher grants its person a slightly higher rate of ending in first place.  The difference is marginal.

It is hard to determine cause and effect in these situations.  Overall, I believe the more advanced players realize an intrinsic benefit to Christopher Columbus and know how to better utilize him.  The result is an improved odds on Christopher.

I believe Leonardo is an excellent choice for an Age I leader for beginning players.  However, I believe Christopher Columbus provides a greater overall benefit for the more advanced player.  At most, Leonardo will generate about 2 ore.  Additionally, he generates about 12 science.  Christopher Columbus generates no additional science, but creates much more ore and/or food over the course of the game.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Through The Ages - Card - Christopher Columbus

This is a series of blogs written about each card in Through The Ages.  To find more, simply click on "Cards" label.
Christopher Columbus

History
Christofor Columbo, as his name is spelled in his Italian, was born in the City-State of Genoa (a city with enough history to fill several books!) in 1451.  He grew up in a middle class family.  His father owned many businesses from cheese shops to wool weaving to a tavern.  In his own words Christopher states he went to sea at the age of 10, which cannot be confirmed.  What is know is by 1470 he set sail as a trader.  For the next 2 decades he traveled the Atlantic Ocean making stops throughout Europe and Africa.

Columbus could read and write well, and his numerals were good.  But for the most part, he was self-educated.  He read books about astronomy, religious texts, classical sciences.  He learned to speak and read Latin among other languages.  These teachings both helped and hindered him.

Like most people of his time, he knew the world was round.  It is a misconception people of the time believed the world was flat.  However, he greatly underestimated the size of the world in his calculations, believing it to be roughly about 3/4 it's actual size.  Furthermore, his understanding of Asian geography was limited.  In any case, he convinced himself it was possible to sail to China, or at least Japan (from which he could resupply and sail on to China).  All he needed was a sponsor.

Columbus first approached the King of Portugal with his idea.  Unfortunately for him the timing for his idea was off as a competitor finally rounded the Cape of Good Hope of Africa.  He then asked for help from Genoa, Venice, and England.  All of which refused the challenge.  In 1489 he finally met with marginal success in Spain and, by 1492, was the Spanish Crown sanctioned a fleet of three ships: Santa Maria, Pinta, and Santa Clara.  Against all expectations by his sponsors and the learned men of the time, Columbus returned 8 months later with exotic plants and several natives.

Columbus was hailed as a hero.  He returned to the "New World" two more times.  He was granted title as Governor in the New World and he brought his brothers to help him.  However, he ruled tyrannically over his peoples and, in 1500 was arrested by Spanish authorities and returned to Spain.  For two years he fought in legal courts, finally being released in 1502.  He lost his titles and many of his rights, but was granted funds for a fourth voyage.  This voyage ended badly with his return in November of 1504.  Columbus died a a little over a year later on May 20, 1506 in Valladolid, Spain.

Columbus was arguably not the first to discover the "New World", but Columbus was the first to prove travel across the Atlantic Ocean was possible.  Furthermore, he inspired all of Europe to a new level of industry.  Bigger ships were necessary to traverse the ocean safely.  Colonies were established far across the ocean, and trade flourished.  Along with the positive came devastation and conquest of the people native to the area.
Game Stats
Columbus is an amazingly popular leader with a unique attribute: the shortest "lifespan" in the game.  Typically, the card comes into play and his ability used the following turn.  Normally Columbus is replaced as soon as possible with an Age II leader. All of this indicates Columbus usefulness is entirely in his one shot ability. Once used, he is easily expendable.
Opinions
"Historic" territories are the two I do
NOT recommend using Columbus ability on!
Keep to Economics
(Food, Ore or even Military)
Columbus is a highly useful card and well worth the two actions necessary to take him and play him.  For those two actions the player not only gets a territory from their hand, but does so at No Expense!  First, there is no bidding with the other players, it is just played.  Second, the player does not have to sacrifice any military units, meaning no loss of military strength or cost to rebuild.  Columbus is pure economic gain!

The only real "danger" is if the player does not draw a territory card.  Thus, the only reason for playing Christopher Columbus from the player's hand is if the player draws a territory card.  He is well worth putting into one's hand for one action and holding him until the last moment.

Given the relative inadequacy of other Age I leaders, Christopher is surprisingly useful!  His odds play out favorably, especially when compared to other Age I leaders.  Only Leonardo DaVinci comes close to Columbus' first place wins, although Columbus wins just barely.

Christopher Columbus falls behind statistically of three other leaders from Age A: Aristotle, Moses, and Caesar.  Of them, only Caesar has a truly strong correlation with winning.  Still, I would encourage all players to pick Columbus as an Age I leader, use his ability as late as possible in Age I, and then replace him with a new Age II leader as quick as possible.  For one action, Columbus is well worth the cost!

Friday, April 12, 2013

Through The Ages - Card - Michelangelo

This is a series of blogs written about each card in Through The Ages.  To find more, simply click on
"Cards" label.
Michelangelo
History
His full name is Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni, but most simply call him Michelangelo.    Born March 6, 1475, Michelangelo was born to a failed banker in Caprese, Italy.  Six months after his birth the family moved to Florence, where his father owned a stone quarry.  His father sent his son to study Grammar, but Michelangelo was drawn to paintings and sculpting.  At 13 he became a painter's apprentice.  At 14 he found himself at the court of the most powerful man in Florence, Lorenzo de'Medici.  While there he studied under Bertoldo di Giovanni, and began his career in creating art.

He was invited to Rome in 1496.  Since the Medici's were expelled from Florence in 1494, Michelangelo accepted.  By 1497 he had completed even more sculptures, including the Pieta.  The Pieta was so masterfully crafted that when it was placed in a chapel in St. Peter's Basilica, the chapel was renamed Chapel of the Pieta.  It also stands as the only sculpture Michelangelo ever signed.

Over the coming years Michelangelo would be contracted for works of art by the most powerful and influential of people in the world.  He created the statue David for the Florence cathedral.  Completed in 1504, David only reaffirmed his status as one of the greatest artists ever to have lived.

In 1508 he returned to Rome to paint the Sistine Chapel, a project which took 4 years to complete.  The list of works by Michelangelo is long and esteemed.  He traveled between Rome and Florence many times, but always working.  Besides sculpting and painting, he was also an accomplished sculptor.

His art brings with it an unparalleled aura of majesty and magnificence.  He moved among the circles of the most powerful people in the world during his life.  Indeed, they sought him out for his exceptional talent.  Michelangelo remains one of the few people whose talent and skill was as readily apparent during his life, and his work retains the power to awe people to this day.
Game Stats
Michelangelo holds a unique place in the game.  He is the first leader to hit greater than 50% in popularity.  Despite this, Michelangelo's ability to improve the player's position is minimal at best.  In fact, it may seem his best 'ability' is to grant a player the ability to draw a Wonder for one action less.  This is a misleading ability, as it takes at least 2 turns to take Michelangelo from the card row and put him into play.  Thus, if the player could take complete two Wonders and take a third, than Michelangelo pays for himself action-wise.
Opinions
I recommend avoiding Michelangelo unless the player has a strong economy already in place.  Given he is an Age I Leader, this is unlikely to be the case.  Despite Michelangelo's stature in increasing culture, he improves neither the economy nor the military, and therefore is not important at this point in the game.

Perhaps the only time for using Michelangelo is to follow him up with William Shakespeare.  Doing this means following a "culture track", which is very difficult to maintain late in the game.  However, if the player can build an imposing military to prevent attacks against him and then tries to rush the game to an early conclusion, Michelangelo may be of great benefit.  Michelangelo should not be taken lightly as a "second option", as this path requires expert play and a constant build up to choose this path from the beginning of the game.