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
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.
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

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.
"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.
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.
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.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

HIS - Ottomans - Strategy - Piracy

Piracy is the Ottoman's "special VP ability".  As abilities go, it is useful but with serious drawbacks.  It is best to gain at least a few points in Piracy.  Furthermore, piracy threatens three of the other players in the game with possibly ill effects, leaving only the Protestants and England untouched.
Must be played by Winter of Turn 3

When Does Piracy Begin

Piracy begins when the Barbary Pirates mandatory card comes into play.  At its earliest this is Turn 1.  At the latest is the end of Turn 3.  Its entry into the game should have no impact on the plans for Turn 1 (see Ottoman's First Turn).

I believe Turn 2 or 3 is an ideal time for Barbary Pirates to enter play.  This gives the Ottoman player plenty of time to Capture Belgrade on Turn 1.  Turn 2 should be spend either consolidating territory, removing the Knights of St. John.  Preferably, the Ottoman player should do both on Turn 2, leaving Turn 3 as the big decision point as to where to proceed.  More on that in the next article.

Drawbacks of Piracy

Piracy comes with two drawbacks.  The first is the temptation to dive into piracy if it arrives early on Turn 1.  Many players dealt Piracy on Turn 1 will play it right away.  It is tempting to begin immediately spending CP on Piracy or build corsairs.  The Ottoman player must overcome this temptation and instead concentrate on taking Belgrade.  Yes, the gain of Algiers immediately gives the Ottoman's an extra card, but as long as Belgrade remains in Hungarian hands, the Hapsburg doesn't need to worry about a possible attack from the Ottomans, and one of the goals is to keep the Hapsburg player worried about as many things as possible.

The second draw back of piracy is its unpredictability of results.  When it is successful, the target of the piracy gets to determine the rewards: a random card draw, target loses a naval unit, or Ottoman's gain a victory point.  The Victory Point option is most common, until the chart begins to reach high levels, then the player's would rather lose naval units.  This means timing and target of Piracy can be critical to success.
Julia Gonzaga
Italian Noblewoman who famously
avoided capture by Barbarossa

Timing Piracy

Ignoring Julia Gonzaga, who gives a 1 VP bonus if Piracy is successful, timing who and when to pirate can be critical.  Ideally, the target of Piracy should be a player who has no remaining cards available to give should the Piracy be successful.  Furthermore, if the player has no adjacent naval units, then every successful piracy will yield a VP.

France makes a great target for this type of approach, particularly since the French player only has a single naval unit and is likely to have fewer cards than you.  The Papacy makes another great target as they have few cards beyond their two home cards, which they can't give you.  If possible, threaten the French with Piracy if they don't yield to your demands during the Diplomatic phase.  The same tactic may work with the Papacy, but be careful as you will need them to keep the Protestants from running away with the game.

The Hapsburgs is the other, and the most likely, target of piracy.  Your piracy on them will be a major threat.  They are much more difficult to threaten, however, as they can easily force you into a land war rather than a sea war.  Furthermore, many of their forts and sea units can actively work against your piracy and force the loss of corsairs, which must be replaced.  When push comes to shove, you must yield your naval activities to defend against a Land War.

Max of 10 VP from Piracy
At the cost of 2 CP, plus cost to move and build the corsairs
Diplomatic Status

You may commit piracy without declaring war.  Ideally, you remain at peace (not at war) with all players, leaving you free to commit piracy.  If, however, war is declared against you, focus your corsairs against your wartime enemy.  Your wartime enemy always gets to attack your pirate ships, even when they are not the target of the piracy.  Gaining a VP can become an expensive option if this is not followed.  In the worst situation, Hapsburg and Papacy both declare war on you.  In this scenario, expect to lose corsairs at an alarming rate.

How Many VP from Piracy?

In general, I believe most Ottoman players will receive around 5 points from Piracy.  Any more and players will begin to destroy their naval units rather than give out VP.  Many players will also keep a card in their hand which is "not great" or is unimportant to their plans in case they are pirated.  Thus, they lose little of value while costing the Ottoman's 2 or 3 CP.

Success Rate of Piracy

Piracy has a good success rate, as long as the Ottoman is rolling at least 2 dice.  The odds of success are detailed below:


The Ottoman player must be prepared to lose and replace corsairs.  The Ottoman player should expect an enemy "At War" with them to engage their fleet.  If the fleet does not have an escort of regular naval ships, expect to lose large portions of the fleet.


Piracy is an important Ottoman ability but not to the point everything else should be ignored.  Piracy should complement the player's strategy, not become the sole means of gaining VP.  When combined properly with land assaults, piracy forces the enemy to choose between building expensive ships or confront the land units.  I rarely see the Ottoman's gain their full potential of 10 VP from Piracy, but it can constitute a respectable 5 or 6 VP.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Through The Ages - Card - Joan of Arc

This is a series of blogs written about each card in Through The Ages.  To find more, simply click on "Cards" label.
Joan of Arc
France and England haée tactics had devastated the French economy and strong French leadership was missing.  This was the state of affairs in France when Jehanne D'Arc (Joan of Arc), an illiterate farm girl of no particular fame, began receiving visions from God.
d been waging war since 1337, with some truces within that time.  Over this time England slowly had gained the upper hand.  By 1427 France was badly mauled.  Morale was low, English chevauch

In 1428 the English besieged the city of Orleans.  So desperate was the situation when Joan approached the heir to the French throne, the Dauphin of France Charles VII, he did more than listen to her.  He let her travel with his army and, after they were donated to her, let her wear the equipment of a knight.  Joan's presence transformed the French view of the war from a simple fight against the English, to one of religious fervor.  The French army's vigor was renewed with her speeches and her sermons of success by the will of god.  When they met the English army outside Orleans in 1429, the English were defeated.

Joan's actual role in the battle is not known.  It can be confirmed she at least bore a standard, but whether she commanded any troops is not known.  Just her mere presence, however, was enough to inspire the French to fight with renewed strength.

After Orleans Joan convinced the Dauphin to give her co-command of an army.  Furthermore, she proposed a bold move to take a series of bridges deep within enemy territory to reclaim the city of Reims, where she said Charles VII would be crowned King.  From the 12th of June to the 16th of July the French recaptured town after town, most of it without bloodshed.  The battles which did occur were completely one-sided in the favor of the French, and Charles VII became King of France at Reims.  By December of that much of France, including the capital city of Paris, were back under French control.

In one short year, Joan's visions had come true.  France was a nation again.  However, in 1430 she was captured by the English.  She was tried as a heretic and, despite displays of incredible oratory talent, she was condemned.  Evidence suggests her English captors put her in a position where she was forced to break the law.  In any case, she was sentenced to death and burned at the stake.

She was 'retried' for her crimes in 1455, and found not guilty in 1456.  She became a symbol of the Catholic church.  In 1920, nearly 500 years after her death at the age of 19, Joan of Arc was canonized to sainthood.  
Game Stats
Joan of Arc seems like a good leader to permit a player to continue building culture while maintaining military strength.  Unfortunately, her statistic indicate she may have saved France, but at best she is more likely to result in costing the player the game in Through The Ages.
Joan of Arc suffers, like almost all Age I Leaders, suffers from "Not Good Enough" syndrome.  Basically, there lacks a compelling reason to 'upgrade' to an Age I leaders.  Perhaps Joan's best use is as a deterrent.  Her play at least gives compensation for a player who is being attacked by all the other players.  She therefore buys some breathing room for the player to rebuild their economy.  Otherwise, far better leaders exist than Joan of Arc.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

HIS - Ottomans - Strategy - Knights of St John

While the Knights of St. John remain in play there is a constant possibility of another player playing the Knights of St. John card.  If the Knights of St. John are in play when the card is played, the Ottomans will lose 1 card from their hand.  Additionally, after Piracy is played, the Knights roll 1 die to sink corsairs if the piracy is in an adjacent sea zone.

The odds of the Knights appearing in an opponent's hands is roughly around 30% or less.  Thus, the Knights results in the loss of three cards per game on average.  The problem here is they can seriously disrupt any plans the player attempts in the middle of the Ottoman's turn.

Dealing with the Knights

The main way to deal with the Knights is to assault their position take over Rhodes.  Removing the Knights effectively requires a full two impulses and 4 cp:
  • Move ships to a sea zone - 1 cp
  • Move 5 troops, and a leader, to Rhodes - 2 cp
  • Assault Rhodes - 1 cp

Consequences of Removing Knights of St. John

Removing the Knights adds a degree of certainty to the Ottoman's turns.  It makes it easy for the Ottoman player to ensure any plans they have will proceed as expected.  Additionally, if a player wants to bring the Knights back into play it will cost the player 2 cp.


In my opinion, I prefer to remove the Knights rather than have them remain in play.  If played against the Ottomans, the loss of a card can seriously disrupt the Ottoman's plans.  This can leave the Ottomans in a seriously weakened position at the most inopportune time.  It is possible to leave the Knights alone throughout the game and they may have no effect.  But their threat is something to consider.