Saturday, January 26, 2013

Through The Ages - Card: Hollywood

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


Hollywood is a neighborhood in the state of California.  Prior to 1911 it was a farming community.  In 1903 it was incorporated into its own city, but due to issues over water rights, it had to annex to Los Angeles.

Drawn to a warm climate and plentiful area, a few entrepreneurial people decided to start a film studio in 1911.  The new industry exploded in popularity, and with it the area of Hollywood exploded in growth.  The area rapidly changed from a planned community to one of rapid growth.  The new industry demanded skills not found outside its area, so new studios opened up in the area, further compounding the need for more skilled labor.  Soon the neighborhood of Hollywood became synonymous with the film industry.

Today many studios remain in Hollywood, although just as many have moved away.  Still, to make it in the film industry within the Western World seems to require a presence in Hollywood.  Although countries outside the United States have a thriving film industry, and some, such as India is even larger than the United States, the film industry took its initial roots in a small area of California.
Game Stats
On paper Hollywood doesn't look too bad.  In gamer's opinion, it is dead last.  It is the least preferred Wonder.  Appearing in only 21% of games, this Wonder is not popular in the least.

Hollywood does generate a decent amount of culture for a Wonder, but on average it fails to live up to its full potential. Hollywood is

Furthermore, when the following chart is reviewed, it becomes even more obvious Hollywood is used as a last ditch scoring mechanic by those without better options.  Specifically, if your building Hollywood and not another Wonder, your fighting for 2nd place.

Strategies, Combos and Opinions
All Age III wonders score based on the construction of other buildings, and they only provide culture bonuses.  Therefore, there are no "strategies" or "combinations" which work with these cards beyond the obvious: build their buildings.

Hollywood fails in so many areas compared to the other three Age III wonders.  Firstly, the construction of libraries and Theaters are costly in terms of science and resources.  Most players have a few libraries and very few have theaters.  Unless a player were to actively pursue a Theatre-Library Strategy (the William Shakespeare route), Hollywood will provide only a marginal-at-best culture return.  This is exemplified in the chart directly above which shows Hollywood is at best a 2nd place card and not a winning card.


Saturday, January 19, 2013

Through The Ages - Card: Transcontinental Railroad

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

Transcontinental Railroad

The second "transportation wonder", Transcontinental Railroad is a powerful and useful card.  In History, Transcontinental Railroads were similarly powerful and useful.

By technical definition, Europe, the Orient, and Asia all have a transcontinental railroad.  But it is in the United States the railroad had its most profound effect, and for which the Transcontinental Railroad is named.  

Prior to the railroads, travel across land was by wagon trains pulled by horse or oxen.  Travel speed was roughly 10 miles a day, sometimes less.  Furthermore, unknown obstacles barred the way.

In 1869 the "Silver Spike" was driven at Promontory, Utah, joining together not only the Union Pacific and Central Pacific railroads, but also joining together the two coasts of the United States.  Although railroads were important throughout the world, in the United States the railroads were critical.  They opened up the interior of the continent to colonization, and they permitted rapid transportation of goods from West coast to East coast.

This usefulness was exemplified in the wars which were to come.  The American Civil War was an "eastern US affair", but the use of rails there showed how they could quickly transport troops.  For the first time larger numbers of troops could be amply supplied to fight an operate.  By the time of World War II, the ability to transport goods to where they were most needed, both in the United States and in Europe, were critical to the war efforts.
Game Stats
Transcontinental Railroad is the most popular Age II wonder, edging out the Eiffel Tower by one vote.  Its popularity is easy to see: a significant increase in Military Strength and improved Mining capability.  Requiring relatively few actions and all at a moderate cost, the card is easily constructed.  It makes an average appearance on Turn 13, the earliest of all Age III wonders.

Perhaps most telling is from the chart below.  Although its construction does not guarantee a win, it almost guarantees the player will not be arrive in last place.
Strategies, Combos and Opinions
With a focus on both Military and Production, Transcontinental Railroad greatly benefits any strategy.  For those needing a late built Wonder for increased Culture, TR will provide extra resources.  If you need population, the extra Ore can be used to build more or better farms.  Science has the same effect, resources to build it.  For the Military minded there is the double benefit of direct increased military strength and increased Ore for new units.

Mines, at least one mine, should be an obvious combination.  Outside of these, there are no real combinations which work with it.

Transcontinental Railroad provides more military strength than any single unit of its Age and counts as a free Worker of the best quality.  The equivalent construction of Age II mine and a comparable amount of Military units would cost would use 16 resources, require at minimum 3 actions, and use 3 population, it is easy to determine Transcontinental Railroad's value.  Having the Transcontinental Railroad will not guarantee a win, but it does greatly shift the balance of power.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Through the Ages - Card: Eiffel Tower

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


One hundred years after the French Revolution, the nation of France was to hold the World's Fair.  France wanted an item which showcased both the fair, and the achievements of man (with some benefit to themselves).  A competition was set and over 100 submissions were gathered.  In the end, the honor was granted to the engineering firm Eiffel et Compagnie.  Although the tower was eventually named after Gustave Eiffel, the owner of the company, it was Maurice Koechlin who envisioned and designed the work.

Maurice was a french structural engineer who worked on the Statue of Liberty.  Most likely it was this experience in working with building large iron structures which powered the desire to build an even larger construction.  Thus, the groundwork was laid for what would become perhaps the most iconic symbol of France.

Construction began in January of 1887 and was completed in time for the fair in 1889.  When completed it stood 300 m tall with three levels of observation for guests.  Oddly, the tower was met with much controversy.  Some viewed it as an incredible achievement, others viewed it as an eyesore.  At least it was only temporary.

Or so they thought.

In the early 1900's the Tower was to be dismantled, having served its purpose.  But in 1909 the government realized its great height and iron structure made it perfect for radiotelegraph.  During The Great War (WWI), the Eiffel Tower intercepted enemy communications, alerting to zeppelin movements.  During Germany's Occupation of France in WWII, the tower's lifts were damaged so the german soldiers had to use the stairs to replace the flag.  During the liberation, it is said Hitler ordered the Tower (and Paris) to be destroyed, but neither occurred.

Since that time the Eiffel Tower has become inextricably linked to Paris.  It is estimated over 7 Million people visit the Tower every year, making it the most visited monument in the world.

Game Stats

The Eiffel Tower maintains its popularity in Through The Ages, and its easy to see why.  It's expected culture generation, for both action and resources is excellent.  The benefit of a free happiness simply adds to its attractiveness.  There is only one Age II wonder which outranks the Eiffel Tower in popularity (Transcontinental Railroad), and just by a single game.

The Eiffel Tower requires only three actions, and by the time it arrives the player's economies should be well established. In most of the games analyzed the Eiffel Tower was completed the turn after it was placed.  This means the Eiffel Tower's middle cost of 7 Ore is large, but not insurmountable.
Strategies, Combos and Opinions
The Eiffel Tower's benefit is almost totally cultural.  It can make up a great deficit quickly and economically.  The Happiness is nice, but almost entirely a side effect.
St Peter's Basilica
The double happiness of St Peter's will complement the Eiffel Tower.  Furthermore, with St. Peter's culture benefit this comes to a whopping 6 culture per turn for an expected 6 turns.  If player's were to focus on only these two culture generating Wonders, they would account for 54 Culture, 24% of the expected total.

Taj Mahal
The ultimate Culture Wonder combination!  If both of these are built by the same player in a game, the player could expect a gain of 67 culture.  This constitutes 30% of the required Culture generation.
Not much to add from the analysis.  The Eiffel Tower is a solid wonder and one which should be built when it comes available.  Like most Wonders, the earlier the better!


Saturday, January 5, 2013

Through The Ages - Card: Ocean Liner Service

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

Ocean Liner Service

Ocean Liner Service is the first "transportation related" wonder.  Today, it may not seem much of a "wonder".  But in the context of time Ocean Liner Service had a tremendous impact globally.

Prior to the 1800s, nations grew only conquering neighbors or having children.  The ability to expand was limited.  Even during the "Age of Exploration", from the 1500s to the 1800s, travel via wooden ships was hazardous.  "Colonies" were founded with less than 100 people.

With the advent of powered ocean travel and metal hulls, Ocean Liner Service changed the ability to transport people safely and quickly.  Many of the American Population Booms were the result of people fleeting some national or economic tragedy.

From the discovery of the Americas in 1492 to the 1840s, fewer than 1 Million people traveled across the Atlantic Ocean to settle.  From the 1840s to mid-1930s, over 36 Million people made the same voyage.  Despite its "mundane" appearance, the impact on the population shift from the Old World to the New was dramatic.

During World War II many of the Ocean Liners were pressed into military service, pushing soldiers from the Americas back to Europe.  Many liners did not survive.  After World War II the Ocean Liner Services found themselves displaced by a new mode of travel: Airlines.  By early 1960's, the last Ocean Liners were built.  Today, only one Ocean Liner remains in active service: the Queen Mary II.

Game Stats
Despite an interesting history, Ocean Liner Service is completely Lackluster in its value to players in Through The Ages.  The benefits of Ocean Liner Service is simply the discount on food production, which permits the player to gain population easily.  It is, almost, a free civil action, but only for increasing population.  Many people find this benefit to be unwarranted for the cost, particularly in Actions.  Requiring 5 actions and 12 resources, it is an expensive investment for little return.  Yes, population is nice, but along with it comes the necessity to feed the people in the first place or suffer Civil Revolt.
Strategies, Combos and Opinions
If a player needs population, Ocean Liner Service would provide the needed boost.

Given its very focused ability, Ocean Liner Service has no good combinations.

By the time Ocean Liner Service arrives, most people will have their population well allocated.  Farms should be in full production, and Farm technology cards would more efficiently provide the same type of benefit for roughly the same action cost.  Consider, the player taking OLS must spend 6 total actions (minimum) to take and build.  If it is completed on Turn 14, as Age II wonders usually do, then the player will be able to use it 6 times.  Action wise it breaks even, but the loss of 12 resources to this would be hard to justify.

In conclusion, OSL is mostly a filler.  Other Wonders are much more appealing.  Why OSL isn't dead last on the list, I'm not sure.  There may be in game situations which justify it, but they do not readily appear from this analysis.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Through the Ages - Part XXII - Strategy: Military Domination

Getting back to Business!
At Last, We are BACK!  I plan to finish off the TtA discussion points, and then move on to other games.  There are only a few more articles to finish this subject.  I will continue the "TTA Card" reviews as I enjoy them quite a bit.

So, picking up where I left off, we are at the strategy portion, where I'm talking about various strategies used in the game.  I will mention the approach of each strategy, the challenges associated with the strategy.  Its effectiveness I leave up to the player's to discover, although previous articles provide insight into how effective a particular strategy or group of strategies might work.
Strategy Overview
Military Domination involves building a larger military strength than your opponents and then beating them into submission.  It is the direct and straightforward approach to winning.  However, it is a long term strategy, requiring multiple decision points by the player and maintaining flexibility until the end of the game.


There are three challenges to building the military:
  1. Population & Resources,
  2. Cards,
  3. Timing

Population & Resources

A sufficient population is necessary to provide the army units for building.  Similarly, resources and science are necessary to build the army units.  In short, the game in its early stages focuses on Economics (discussed here: Economics).

With the Military Domination strategy, however, the player focuses less on culture generating buildings.  In fact, this strategy could be a great excuse for choosing Arenas over Temples.  The Arenas are not there to provide a culture boost, but to maintain efficient Happiness, thereby freeing population to allocate towards army units.  Unfortunately, every science point put towards the Arenas reduces the science to put towards military units.

Similarly, military players need to focus on Ore generating buildings to afford to pay for the military units.  Again, every Science spent on improving these Mining technologies is a point not spent on improving armies. However, the construction and improvement of Mining buildings are necessary.
Cavalry units (of any age) form the
Backbone of most Tactics cards

Exactly how much to allocate to mining, population, and science is left as an exercise to the player.  There is most likely an "optimum", but determining that optimum will vary based on when cards become available, the players actions, and decisions made earlier in the game.


Players have the most control, and the least control, over their cards.  For the Civil cards which can benefit them, the player can always choose to play extra Civil Actions for the cards they absolutely need.  This is great for getting the specific Military Technology cards (units) needed.

The challenge comes with drawing the needed Tactics and Military Actions.  Overall, this becomes a game of 'playing the odds' (see: Military-Numbers Game).  Tactics form a big portion of a player's military strategy, thus the player must understand the Numbers Game particularly well.

Another item to understand is the chart from the Military Tactics discussion.  Players should strive to maintain a flexibility in their choice of Tactics so as to maximize their upgrade options.  In particular, a Medieval Army or Light Cavalry is probably best.  Both of these provide great cards for advancing to later tactics and a decent strength improvement.  Become familiar with the cards available and when to stop pursuing a particular tactics card is critical.


Lastly, the player must understanding timing.  The timing element involves when to strike.  Ideally the player pursuing this strategy leads in military strength throughout the game, but reality is the difference will fluctuate as the game progresses.  The player must determine when to strike and when not to strike to maximize the odds of success.  This article covers the general odds of winning a particular aggression or war.

Secondary Challenges

Two other secondary challenges exist which affect Military Dominators.

A Tempting Distraction card, if
focusing on Cavalry Units
First, other players.  Once one player begins building military units, there is usually a military escalation among all the players.  Perhaps the worst situation is when two players pursue the Military Domination strategy are playing one after the other.  In this case, the player who plays second has a strategic advantage over the player before them.  When the first player plays a military action against a player, the second player should follow suit. Ideally, the first player will force the target of their attack to use any Defense cards in their hand to prevent the attack.  This will leave the target more vulnerable to an attack from the second military player.

Second, avoiding distractions.  The player needs to focus on their strategy and its goals.  The largest distraction to this can be Colony cards.  If a player "wastes" military units settling Colony cards, the player loses their military strength.  Unless a card directly benefits in such a way to outweigh the loss of the military unit(s), the player needs to avoid these distractions.  Unfortunately, these distractions may play into providing other players with improved economies which may increase their ability to build military units.  Another common distraction is a Wonder which draws resources away from the needed economic engine and provides a dubious benefit to support the strategy.


Player's following the Military Domination strategy need to fully understand how to manipulate and control their destiny.  The player should focus on both their economy and their ability to draw Military Tactics cards.  Leaders like Julius Caesar can greatly ease that requirement.  But leaders which provide an early focus on economic boosts (Moses, Aristotle), can also work.

Most importantly, the player needs to understand timing.  Although the later Ages provide improved odds of winning an engagement, the player cannot wait too long or not enough turns will remain to make up any culture deficits.

Despite all the elements involved, Military Domination constitutes a great strategy.  Being the third largest source of Culture, Military Domination is not to be ignored.  Despite this, it is required the player have some secondary source of culture to support Military Domination if they are to win.  Fortunately, with the way Through The Ages is designed, Military Domination may be combined with almost any other Strategy.