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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
History
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.
Opinions
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.
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