Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Through The Ages - Card - Hammurabi

This is a series of blogs written about each card in Through The Ages.  To find more, simply click on "Cards" label.
Hammurabi was the sixth 'Priest King' of Babylon and ruled most of central Mesopotamia (the modern day Iraq region).  He is most famous for his 'Code of Hammurabi', which was one of the first set of laws to be written down.  The 'Laws' were etched in giant stone columns called Stele, and many exist to this day.

Hammurabi rose to power around 1792 BC when his father abdicated the throne.  For many years Hammurabi ruled his country with a drive towards fairness, although there were many tribulations from floods and other natural occurrences.

His country was invaded by the country of Elam, but he managed to repulse the invaders.  During the war, he made an agreement with the people of Larsa to the south, but they failed to live up to their end of the bargain.  Hammurabi exacted revenge by attacking Larsa once Elam was defeated, expanding his country all the way to the sea.

Hammurabi's code of laws was discovered in 1901.  The Stele on which they were written had 282 judgements, although it is suspected this was only one of at least 6 Steles.  The laws are written in If...Then statements such as "If man steals an Ox, then he must pay back 30 times its value".

Hammurabi was not the first to have laws written down, later discoveries showed other cultures had performed the same action hundreds of years prior.  By the time these were discovered, Hammurabi's name had become widespread.  Furthermore, Hammurabi's code had written a saying attributed to him which showed he valued the concept of justice, even if there were still class differences in the laws between Freedmen, Royalty, and slave: "to prevent the strong from oppressing the weak and to see that justice is done to widows and orphans."
Game Stats
Hammurabi has what appears to be a decent trade off so early in the game: Gain one civil action for the loss of a military action.  Although it appears good, it is deceptive and is actually a very poor trade.
Strategies, Combos and Opinions
The major problem with Hammurabi is really one of timing.  This early in the game players do not need another Civil Action (CA) and they can't withstand the loss of a Military Action (MA).  Let's view it from both sides.

First, the Civil Action gain comes at a point in the game when the player has fewer resources with which to use the Civil Action.  Many times when he is played, the players end up ending their turn with an unused Civil Action.  For at least the first four turns there is an 80% likelihood the player with Hammurabi will end at least once with a Civil Action, and there is a 60% likelihood the player will pass twice with an unused Civil Action.  Furthermore, research shows players tend to choose more cards and hold them in hand if they choose Hammurabi, resulting in increased probability of "Science Lock".  So, the extra Civil Action looks nice, but is really not that useful.

Second,the loss of a Military Action is devastating.  The player with Hammurabi draws only one military card a turn.  This opens the player up to being the target of military attacks by the other players.  The odds are greatly in favor of the attacker as the Hammurabi player only has a single card, and the probability of a single card being a "Defense" card are low.  Even if the card is a Defense card, the next player in order will succeed if the first player's attack fails.

I have a gut feeling Hammurabi's trade off is ill-timed.  Perhaps later in the game such a trade would be worthwhile, but early in the game this is crippling.  The extra Civil Action proves to not be worthwhile while the loss of a Military actions stifles the ability for the nation to adequately protect itself.  In short, Hammurabi is best avoided.  The only major surprise for me was how well he performed against other leaders overall.


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