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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.

Challenges

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.

Cards

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.

Timing

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.

Conclusion

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.
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