Friday, June 28, 2013

Through The Ages - Cards - Alex Randolph

This is a series of blogs written about each card in Through The Ages.  To find more, simply click on "Cards" label.

Alex Randolph (Sid Meier)


This card is named Sid Meier in later version of the game.  However, I will defer to my version of the game and will bio Alex Randolph.

Alexander Randolph was born May 4, 1922 and died May 10, 2004.  He spoke four languages fluently and was an avid game designer.  Although born in the United States of America, he traveled extensively and lived in many countries.

Alex Randolph created several well known games, and pioneered several game mechanics which are now considered 'everyday'.  His games include: Twixt, Raj, Sagaland (Enchanted Forest), InKognito, and Breakthru.  It is almost impossible to list all the games he had created here.  However, he is recognized as one of the world's most prolific game designers, with his games having been on the selection list for the Spiel des Jahres award no less than 10 times, among numerous other awards.

Alex Randolph's philosophy involved games as a very human activity.  Games define the human animal.  It is human nature to create a way to describe the universe and to simulate them.  To him,   games are the mechanism by which humans simulate this.

However, it is also a feedback loop: the games influence the animal.  Games are what permit us to describe the universe, but they also end up shaping our culture.  Given the same core game, different cultures will modify the rules differently, eventually creating two distinct games.  These games then may become popular, imprinting and reinforcing a style of thought on those that play the game.

Game Stats

Alex Randolph is the most popular Age III leader.  Statistics seem to support choosing him as an Age III leader, given such a high win ratio.


Randolph provides a significant boost to culture at a time when science resources are waning in importance.  The four rounds of science which Alex could generate can add up to 12 culture at the loss of 4 science.  And that is the gain/cost per lab!  This is a significant gain fora marginal cost and one which shouldn't take much thought.  Of all the Age III leaders, Alex Randolph is the only one which can be played without any hesitation with regards to the situation.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Through The Ages - Albert Einstien

This is a series of blogs written about each card in Through The Ages.  To find more, simply click on "Cards" label.

Albert Einstein


One of the most unique minds to inhabit our planet was born in Ulm, Germany in 1879: Albert Einstein.
 He was a talented musician in the piano and violin.  Hus family moved to Switzerland and Italy, and he graduated High School in 1896 in Switzerland.  His grades were good enough to graduate in all subjects except mathematics and science, at which he excelled with maximum scores.  He applied for ETH Zurich for advanced training later that year at the age of 16.

His goal was to attain a teaching position when he graduated, but he failed in that endeavor.  His classmate secured him a position at the Patent Office in Bern, Switzerland.  His specialty was evaluating patents for electromagnetic devices.  Many of these patents involved synchronization of timing devices using electronic signals, items which become important in his "thought experiments" when he wrote his papers.

In 1905, still at the patent office, Einstein was a landmark year.  He published 4 papers that year, one of which covered the equivalence of Energy and mass.  By 1908, Einstein was a recognized scientific leader.  It took another 7 years before Einstein finished the "General Theory of Relativity", but experimenters were quick to confirm the accuracy of his findings.  For his efforts, Einstein was given the Nobel Prize in 1921.

Einstein's equations unlocked a several secrets of the universe.  His equations permitted the development of television, lasers, and modern electronics.  It also unlocked atomic power, both its peaceful and military applications.

His personal life was one fraught with successes and failures as well.  He was married twice and had three children.  Einstein died April 18, 1955 in Princton, New Jersey.  Albert Einstein's name is recognized worldwide and has become synonymous with "genius" in many cultures.  His legacy lives on as mathematicians, physicists, and philosophers try to complete the work he started by unraveling the mysteries of light, matter, and energy.

Game Stats

Albert Einstein grants a great boost to both science and culture.  This late in the game Einstein's science will only be of benefit for a very short period of time.  Einstein has a (relatively) high first place rate, this may be the effect of already acquiring a successful culture engine rather than contributing to it greatly.  Still, Einstein's ability to get critical technologies out in a short time may contribute to additional bonus cards.


I view Einstein, like most Age III leaders, as extraneous.  If he appears early in Age III, he might be worth the two actions required to bring him out.  Einstein's boost may be critical for completing some Age III technologies before time runs out and adjust final Bonus scoring.    Still, if he appears late in the game, actions may be better spent on other things.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Through The Ages - Cards - Mahatma Gandhi

This is a series of blogs written about each card in Through The Ages.  To find more, simply click on "Cards" label.

Mahatma Gandhi


Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was born October 2, 1869 in Probandar, India.  At 13 he married a woman one year his senior in an arranged marriage.  Growing up he loved stories of an ideal life, truth, and justice.

In 1888 he traveled to England and studied law.  After completing his studies he failed at opening a law practice in Bombay for being too shy in court.  In 1893 he traveled to South Africa for rich Indian Muslims, but once there he found himself facing both rich Indians and those who were indentured servants.  During that time he was thrown off of trains, beaten, and subjected to other indignities for being "Indian" in a "British Colony".  Never during his stay, did Gandhi raise a fist in anger, but instead would focus on civil disobedience through non-violent means.

Upon his return to India in 1914, Gandhi brought his non-violent civil disobedience to free his people from British rule and discriminatory practices.  Gandhi joined the Indian National Congress and advocated for self-rule of the Indian nation.  He attempted to alleviate restrictions on the poor farming class, promoted the education of women, end caste discrimination, and remove religious intolerance.  Through his actions he rallied other Indians to rebel, not in violence, but through peaceful sit-ins, resigning from positions of power, and boycotts.  For his efforts Gandhi was jailed several times, but eventually India was freed from British rule.

After a lifetime serving his people, Gandhi managed to get India its self-rule.  He sat on the council which drew up the new nation's constitution.  He taught Indians to view other Indians as equals, and he removed the barrier for women to be educated.  Having achieved so much, freeing a nation and a people, the one hurdle Gandhi could not overcome was the religion.  He attempted to reconcile the Muslims and Hindus, and for his efforts he was assassinated by a fanatic Hindu on January 30, 1948.

Gandhi's legacy lives on.  India remains a country under its own rule.  Gandhi inspires the oppressed and the weak that change the world around them through non-violent means and by leading a virtuous life.

Game Stats

Gandhi has horrible game statistics.  His first place wins tie with Bach at 10%, with the only leader worse than him being Alexander the Great.  Despite these statistics, Gandhi is a popular leader, being the 3rd most popular for his Age and appearing in 60% of the games!  This makes him the most popular "bad" leader in the game.


Gandhi is a losing player's leader.  His popularity stems from his ability to prevent culture loss from Wars and Aggressions late in the game.  Generally speaking, in many games, the player with the weakest military becomes the target of most other players in the game.  They use their advanced military to steal culture from this weakest player.  The result is the weaker player gets weaker, with the other players getting stronger.  As we have seen, these usually don't affect the outcome of the game in Culture Points as Wars and Aggressions only count for less than 10% of the Winner's score (  However, most of that 10% of culture comes in Age III of the game (  Gandhi is merely a last ditch effort for a losing player to slowdown their culture loss.

In the 10% of games he won, however, Gandhi is an interesting character.  The player with Gandhi went into Age III with a high culture generation engine and a weak military.  Gandhi arrived early and the player took and played him immediately.  The effect in this case was to prevent the militarily strong players from robbing the lead player of culture.  The lead player could then concentrate on simply generating even more culture.

Unfortunately, such a strategy seems highly unlikely, only occurring in 10% of games.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Through The Ages - Cards - Rock & Roll Icon/Elvis Presley

This is a series of blogs written about each card in Through The Ages.  To find more, simply click on "Cards" label.
Elvis Presley (Rock & Roll Icon)
Rock & Roll Icon was later
renamed Elvis Presley
Elvis Presley (Rock & Roll Icon) was born January 8, 1935 in Tupelo, Mississippi.  He learned to play the guitar from his uncles and a pastor.  At 13 his family moved to Memphis, Tennessee.  His teenage years were spent learning more about music, which seemed to predominate his thoughts.

In 1953 Elvis auditioned at several bands and record companies.  He was usually told he did not have the voice for singing.  He eventually found his way to Sam Phillips, who was looking for person capable of blending the musics of white and black.  On July 5, after a failed night of trying to find the right "sound", Elvis suddenly jumped up and started "acting the fool" while singing.  The members of the band joined in and Elvis Presley's singing career was born.  Elvis' musical styling made his music difficult to get played on radio as the style was different than any other existing music types.  Within a few short years, however, Elvis' music skyrocketed.

In 1958 Elvis was drafted into the military.  When he was released from service in 1960's he found, much to his shock, that his music career was not over.  He also returned from service with a taste for amphetamines.  He would go on to make 31 movies and would release over 711 recordings.

Elvis' music styling combined Rhythm and Blues, Gospel, and "Hillbilly", as Country & Western was known in the 1940s and 1950s.  Now referred to as "Rockabilly", a forerunner to modern rock music.
Game Stats
The statistics of the Rock & Roll Icon are average at best. Of the Age III culture leaders, he is the easiest to use.

Elvis Presley, the Rock & Roll Icon, like most Age III leaders, is a last ditch effort to boost culture.  From the statistics, he is not particularly effective.  In general, it is probably better to concentrate on a good Age II leader and build wonders than plan on switching to Elvis.  However, Elvis can assist in a happiness issue, which could be beneficial if it combines with some Age III bonus events.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Through the Ages - Card - Nikola Tesla/Bill Gates

This is a series of blogs written about each card in Through The Ages.  To find more, simply click on "Cards" label.

NOTE: Bill Gates replaced Nikola Tesla in a later edition of the game.  The card effects are identical, only the image and name were modified.  I wrote a brief biography of both.  And, just to satisfy curiosity, I have the version with Nikola Tesla!
Nikola Tesla/Bill Gates
Bill Gates
Bill Gates was born in October of 1955.  He is a leader and innovator in business, primarily focused on electronic computing environments.  Bill Gates' founded the company Microsoft, which is the world's largest software company in the world.  Through his leadership Microsoft came to dominate the personal computer market, and within a decade came to dominate the business world.

The Microsoft Windows Operating System runs the vast majority of computers in the world.  By making the operating system relatively inexpensive, capable of running on inexpensive hardware, and allowing the free market to dictate which programs would be successful and which would not, Microsoft has shaped today's business world.  Over its history Microsoft has been both criticized for its anti-monopoly techniques, but also praised for keeping certain computing environments free, namely the Internet browser market.

Bill Gates lives on (as of the time of this writing), so it is difficult to judge what his final impact on history will be, but as of now he is one of the most influential and powerful business leaders in the world.
Nikola Tesla
Nikola Tesla (10 July 1856 - 7 January 1943) was a Serbian physicist, mechanical engineer, and futurist who emigrated to the United States to work with Thomas Edison.  Tesla is most famous for developing an alternating current (AC) system which functioned well.  AC current allows us to use electrical power in our housing in a safe way.

Nikola Tesla experimented with X-Rays, vacuum tubes, radio signals and electricity.  Much of today's modern inventions are based on Tesla's inventions and patents.  Whereas most scientific discoveries, and many of the famous scientists of the past, were based on discoveries, Tesla's work focused on inventions.  Tesla made practical use out of theories.

Despite a mechanical and electrical genius, Tesla was a poor businessman.  He would become so focused on a given project he would forget all other responsibilities, and his business would collapse.  Although he achieved astounding success in creating inventions, including later patents on tilt rotor aircraft using turbine engines, his business life was a disaster and he died impoverished. 
Game Stats
BG/NT is only the second AGE III leader.  The card's ability turns labs into an ore production center.  Unfortunately, by the time Age III occurs, the time frame is so short there is little time to use the ore gained.
BG/NT should greatly boost ore output, but given the short length of Age IV, the player needs to capitalize on it to maximize culture point production.  For this reason, BG/NT is great for finishing a Wonder or boosting to some of the high end buildings.  Expect the game to end shortly, however, so BG/NT will not be in play long.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Through The Ages - "Where the Data Came From" comment and response

Shangliang Jiang asked where I received my data from.  The full comment is below:

"This is a really cool website! I haven't finished reading all your posts yet but the Robespierre post made me think.

What are your thoughts on the extensions? Also, I was curious how you got your data.


My response is below, and it describes where my data comes from:

"I'm glad your enjoying it.

The extensions are interesting changes and keep the game fresh.  I don't believe all of the cards are as equally balanced in TtA, some Wonders are significantly better than the base set.  That said, they are fun to play, which is the most important part of the game to me!

As for my data, I have one blogs on it from January 2012:

Originally I used 20 games, then I increased it to 100.  Not a whole lot changed with the increased set, mostly some minor jockeying for position, but there were a few changes.

The data game from the games played from Board Game Online ( completed games.  Each game was parsed and uploaded to a database turn by turn, action by action.  Being a SQL Master, I further broke down the data into usable portions for analysis.  Data was chosen randomly with the following conditions:
* No game had the same 4 players
* No individual player appeared in more than 3 games
* I did not participate in any of the games
* No game  had a player resign
* Games had to be played to completion.

I'd like mention a special call out to a friend of mine, Brian Kowalski.  Brian and I pored over different ideas of manipulating the data and discussing the results.  He had some good insights, and we were both surprised by some of the statistics.

Thank you for reading and commenting!"

See, if you comment, or help me out, I will mention you.  From this point forward you will be showered with riches, fame, and glory!  Well, your will get mentioned on the page!

Monday, June 10, 2013

Through The Ages - Cards - Winston Churchill...Wait, I already covered him

This is a series of blogs written about each card in Through The Ages.  To find more, simply click on "Cards" label.
Winston Churchill
He is the next leader on the list.  But, I already detailed him in this post here:

So, that makes this the shortest card blog I have written to date.  (In fact, he is the reason I began writing about all the leaders after a question from a reader!)

Friday, June 7, 2013

Through The Ages - Cards - Isaac Newton

This is a series of blogs written about each card in Through The Ages.  To find more, simply click on "Cards" label.
Isaac Newton

Born 25 December 1642, Isaac Newton would become one of the renown scientists of all times.  He was born 3 months after the death of his father.  At the age of 3 his mother remarried, leaving him to be raised by his maternal grandmother.  After the death of her second husband, his mother returned and attempted to turn the now grown Isaac Newton into a farmer.

Accepted to the The Kings School, Newton would make great strides in mathematics and physics.  By the time he graduated he had a formalized solution for generalized binomial theorem, established the foundations of what would become calculus, formulated basic properties of optics, and the development of the Law of Gravitation.

Newton's genius was widely recognized during his life.  So much so he received special dispensation from the King to hold the Lucasian Professor of Mathematics, a position which normally required he be an ordained Anglican priest.  Newton's views on religion differed widely from accepted doctrine, and he could not reconcile accepting becoming ordained for the sake of the Professorship.  The King accepted his argument, and the dispensation was granted.

Newton would go on to further extend his theory of gravity to celestial mechanics.  He stated the Three Laws of Mechanics and established the basis of cubics in analytic geometry.  As a reward for his service, Newton was made Master of the Royal Mint, a position which required little work and a steady paycheck.  However, Newton took the appointment seriously and gave up scientific exploration in exchange on changing the English coining standards and stopping forgers.  Like many of his endeavors, he was successful.  In 1717 Newton managed the transfer of the English economy from a silver to a gold standard.  For his efforts, Newton would become the second scientist granted knighthood.

Newton died in his sleep on 27 March 1727.
Game Stats
Isaac Newton is the most popular leader in the game. His ability to increase science is seen as a critical skill by players. However, he also has an exactly 50% chance of coming the top 2 or coming in the bottom 2 positions.
Another leader whose strength may be slightly overrated?  My opinion of Newton is he is not as successful as another Age II leader: Robespierre.  Overall, I believe the two will bring the same "gains" in science, but Robespierre (and his new government) will yield more civil actions than Newton in the long run.  Furthermore, Robespierre will increase military actions.

The key to Robespierre's use lies in timing of government changes.  Manage a single change of government, and make it during Age II when Robespierre is in play.  This saves science and gains increased actions.  Statistically, there is a slight advantage to Newton coming first, but the overall gains of coming 1st or 2nd goes to Robespierre.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Through The Ages - Cards - Napoleon Bonaparte

This is a series of blogs written about each card in Through The Ages.  To find more, simply click on "Cards" label.
Napoleon Bonaparte
Napoleon Bonaparte was born in Corsica on 15 August 1769.  His family was an affluent, noble family which afforded him a better education and opportunity than other Corsican.  He studied in France to learn French in 1778, and in May 1779 he was admitted to an military academy.  With a strength in mathematics, history, and geography it was decided he would make a great naval officer.  Always
wanting the best, Napoleon considered joining the British Royal navy until he was accepted to the Military Academy in Paris.  At that point he turned away from the navy to land based artillery.  

As France erupted in revolution, Napoleon returned to Corsica to avoid the political turmoil.  He became embroiled in a three way war and overstayed his leave.  However, he was promoted to captain upon returning to mainland France as he support the Jacobins, who power was rising.  In 1793 he fled with his family to France when Corsica split from France.

On the mainland, Napoleon found himself fighting for the Jacobin Revolutionaries by laying siege to the city of Toulon.  Recognizing the heights as an important feature, he led the charge which captured the heights, and with his artillery drove out the anti-revolutionary forces.  For his actions the City of Public Safety promoted him to Brigadier General.

Napoleon successfully navigated the landmine of French politics.  He dealt directly with the Robespierre brothers, but managed to keep his head (literally), unlike so many other military leaders.  When the Jacobins fell from power, Bonaparte entered hard times.  In desperation to put down a Royalist Uprising, Bonaparte was put in charge and successfully routed them.

From there Bonaparte led successful campaigns in Italy and Egypt.  Returning to France, he was convinced by a partnership of two others the time had come to remove the current government and put in place a strong leader.  Expecting to outsmart Bonaparte, and possibly use him as a patsy if things went wrong, his partners gave him the resources he needed.  However, when Bonaparte's plan was enacted, it was Bonaparte and not one of his partners who was First Consul of France.

Napoleon would go on to become one of the most successful military leaders the world had seen until World War II.  Using his power and national popularity with the resurgence of France as a Great Power,  Napoleon would be crowned Emperor of France.  Thus Bonaparte ended the strive towards democracy which his original goal when younger.

Napoleon's military campaigns expanded throughout Europe.  His military tactics and strategies added maneuverability which was previously unprecedented.  He often defeated armies larger than his through skillful and positioning of his troops.  Unlike many other national leaders, Napoleon accompanied his armies into battle and directed them, putting himself in danger of being captured or killed.

Despite this, Napoleon was not without faults.  He stretched his army too thin.  His conquests, although militarily successful, were not capable of completely subduing the lands he marched through.  When the end came, his army was worn down from fighting and incapable of continuing.  Napoleon was captured and sent to the island of Elba.

He would escape Elba and for a "Hundred Days", Napoleon was once again the Emperor of France.  Despite a nationalist fervor at his return, his people and armies were still too worn from the earlier fighting.  At the Battle of Waterloo, Napoleon fought his final battle.  Upon its loss, Napoleon was exiled to the land of Saint Helena, where he would remain until his death 6 years later in 1821.
Game Stats
Napoleon is a popular leader, being played 81% of the time. His ability seems unusually good for a military leader, which adds to his popularity. Statistically, Napoleon shows his abilities and popularity are not a function of his usefulness. Perhaps Napoleon is used to try to bolster a weak position (beyond the scope of this analysis), but in the end this ploy is unsuccessful.
I believe Napoleon is a highly overrated card, at least based on popularity.  Compared to Robespierre, Napoleon has significantly reduced odds of winning.  This discrepancy may be the difference between Robespierre's "hidden" science reduction compared to Napoleon's "obvious" military gain abilities.  I truly believe Robespierre is by far a better card which yields better results, yet Napoleon remains significantly more popular.

What thoughts do you have in comparing Robespierre and Napoleon?  Which do you believe is better, and why?