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
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.
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.


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
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.
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
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.
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.


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
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.
 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.