Who doesn't want to spend the weekend building up a civilization, researching the internet, and crushing your friends into dust over happy faces?? In this episode we have a special guest, Smalls, who comes on to help us break down Vlaada Chvatil's civilization building game - Through the Ages: A New Story of Civilization! During this episode we dive into the strategies we use to help us become better at this incredibly heavy, satisfying game! So sit back, grab a drink with us, and learn all the ins an outs to becoming a better civ builder!
What's on our Flight (0X:XX)
Dalton is drinking: Avery Brewing's White Rascal Belgian-style white ale. Seasoned with coriander (could not pick this spice out of a lineup...) and orange peel, this mild beer is perfect for a bit of house work or recording a podcast. 3 cheers!
Smalls is drinking: Ole Smoky Moonshine Hunch Punch mixed with lemonade. This souvenir from their Gatlinburg trip is flavored with citrus juices and makes for a perfect mixed drink. 4 cheers!
Nelson is drinking: Yuengling's Oktoberfest. A perfectly acceptable Oktoberfest, not straying far from the typical flavors. 3 cheers, especially at the cheaper price point.
The main topic starts at XX:XX in the episode
We are looking tonight at an incredibly complex game ("Happy Faces, how do they work?!"). Any 4X game will generally push the boundaries of complexity, and Through the Ages (TTA) is no exception. The three of us break the game down in to several topics for analysis in our attempt to share our knowledge about this beautifully intricate and strategically fascinating game!
As one of the 4 X's ("Exterminate"), the Military portion of the game is a natural place for our analysis to start. Military production is at direct odds with engine building in the game and can seem like sunk resources. However, being last in Military strength can be absolutely devastating, both from the outcome of strength-based political cards and vulnerability to opponents' aggression. Smalls prefers to position herself as the second strongest player - strong enough to avoid negative consequences while maintaining flexibility to focus primarily on engine building. I will often position myself as the strongest military (if it is "in the cards", pun intended) and apply pressure to other players to divert resources from engine building. Either way, we discuss the need for multiple (preferably at least 4, more if pursuing a military strategy) Military Actions to provide the flexibility to build units and play aggressions while still drawing those much-needed 3 Political Cards each turn.
Speaking of Political Cards! The Politics phase can be an abundant source of resources and victory points if played correctly. This phase of the turn is where it is most important to understand the positions of your opponents. Are you generating more resources than other players? Are you the only player with a leader from this age? How will Age III cards score differently for you vs. the other players? Sensitivity to the board state here will go a long way!
The meat of the game takes place during the Action phase. Players generally get something like 18 turns over the course of the game which are spent recruiting Workers, building Buildings, creating your army, researching Technology, and playing Action Cards. Having additional Actions (both Civil and Military) available during this phase will lead to increased flexibility in a game that rewards access to great tactical decisions.
Types of Resources
Besides literal "Resources" (the effective currency of the game), there are several types of resources which players use to build their civilizations. We discuss several of these and note that it is natural to feel behind in one or more of these categories. The game is intentionally structured to generate that scarcity! One major key to doing well is learning when and where to be scarce in a specific resource, then how to efficiently cover your weaknesses and maximize on your strengths. The Action Cards, for example, are a great way to turn an excess of Actions into multiple kinds of resources. Similarly, Colonies can help a player leverage Food and Happiness to other resources, while Wonders can help cover for a deficit in Food by utilizing excess Resources and Actions.
Leaders are a major part of the strategy of the game, easily providing the largest benefits for their investment and providing long-term, asymmetrical benefits to the players that reward specific strategies. Some leaders, such as Genghis Kahn, provide a rewarding strategy to the player (in this case, a strong military). Others, such as Leonardo Da Vinci, can help cover an existing weakness in your position or turn an average attribute of your engine to a major strength. Leaders are so strong that it can quickly become losing to play a significant portion of the game without one.
We take a moment in the episode to highlight several strong combinations of cards to watch out for. Here are some of them for your reference:
Michelangelo & St. Peter's Basilica (Fun Fact: a building Michelangelo designed!)
Sid Meier & Internet
Charlie Chaplin & Hollywood
Robespierre, Strategy (Age II Military), and Republic
Mobile App vs. Physical Copy
We discussed in our Virtual Gaming episode that Through the Ages has a specifically well made mobile app and we revisited the topic here in this episode. We also talk through the single player challenges which are a favorite of both mine and Smalls. For new players, they offer a healthy growth in difficulty that will help develop the player to a more competitive understanding. For experienced players, they offer rewarding and interesting challenges that keep the game fresh even after multiple plays. We simply cannot recommend this app highly enough for anyone interested in the game!
We close out the episode discussing the differences in Smalls' playstyle vs. my own. We can't wait to play with you, reach out to us on Discord (link in the top right of the header) and we'd love for you to join us on the app for a game!