Age I Wonders

A recent discussion on BoardGameGeek has prompted this post, which considers the various Age I wonders in relation to each other and the general game state. So let us remind ourselves what they do:

Taj Mahal: Cost 2/4/2. 3 Culture per turn.
Great Wall: Cost 2/2/3/2. 1 Culture per turn, 1 Happy Face, +1 Strength for each Infantry or Artillery unit.
Universitas Carolina: Cost 3/3/3. 1 Culture per turn, 2 Science per turn.
St Peter’s Basilica: Cost 4/4. 2 Culture per turn, each Happy Face (but not Unhappy Face) counts double.

Taj Mahal

Not a Wonder for which there is much love, and for good reason: it improves neither your infrastructure nor your military strength. It can net you 40 or so Culture over the course of a game, which might win you the game… or might make you the target of somebody else’s War Over Culture.
Synergies: None.

Great Wall

A more interesting one. Its cultural impact is practically meaningless, but its other two abilities are nice. In particular, the happy face may allow you the option of diverting more workers to military than you otherwise would, for a good self-synergy. The main drawbacks of this Wonder are that it meshes badly with cavalry-heavy tactics, and it takes four stages to build (so you might want to get Masonry).
Leader Synergies: Any leader who gives you actual (Caesar, Napoleon, Robespierre) or virtual (Barbarossa) military actions on which to use your military strength.
Non-Leader Synergies: Masonry/Architecture for building it. Also any blue warfare tech or advanced government (except Republic); its military strength is useless without military actions to use it on. It also combines well with those Tactics cards that require investment in Artillery or Infantry – Legion, Defensive Army, Modern Army and Entrenchments being the optimal ones for combining with it.

Universitas Carolina

My personal favourite of the four, and a great complement to an early Science-heavy strategy; its effect can be to net you 20 or more Science over the course of the game.
Leader Synergies: Aristotle (for playing all the tech cards you’ve brought into your hand with his power), plus the play-tech-for-benefit three (Leonardo, Newton and Einstein).
Non-Leader Synergies: Combining this one with an early Alchemy can get you a very fast research rate.

St Peter’s Basilica

Doubling your happy faces goes the full range from priceless to worthless, but it’s generally nearer the former. It’s one of the few cards that , and it can also be combined with the Hanging Gardens to essentially solve your Happiness problems for a very long time. Its main drawback is that it is seriously vulnerable to the Ravages Of Time event.
Leader synergies: Michelangelo’s synergy with the Basilica is famous, and there’s no doubt that this combo will earn its owner plenty of Culture. Of course, this is subject to the usual vulnerabilities. Its affinity with Theatres also makes it a good mix with Shakespeare, Bach or Elvis.
Non-leader synergies: Temple, Theatre and Arena techs. The Hanging Gardens and Great Wall wonders.

Strategic points on building Age I Wonders

An Age I Wonder is quite a hefty investment, costing 8 or 9 rock (which is 3 turns’ production at the time it arrives). And usually it will go behind one’s second Philosophy in the queue, as well as some military investment, and it will necessarily go behind an Age A Wonder you’ve picked up. The result of this is that you’re not usually going to complete an Age I Wonder in Age I; you’ll be going into Age II with it still under construction. Thus these Wonders have a tendency to interfere with strategies based on taking a particular Age II Wonder (especially as they raise the cost of taking one).

This doesn’t necessarily mean taking an Age I Wonder is a bad idea, but it’s certainly not the automatic decision that the Pyramids or the Hanging Gardens tends to be. As with many things in this game, it’s situational.

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Urban Building Technologies: Theatres

Technology: Urban Building – Theatre

Drama: Cost 4 science, 5 rocks; 2 Culture per turn, 1 Happy Face
Opera: Cost 7 science, 9 rocks; 3 Culture per turn, 1 Happy Face
Movies: Cost 10 science, 12 rocks; 4 Culture per turn, 1 Happy Face

A recent thread on the BoardGameGeek strategy forums asked why one would build Drama. In order to answer this, it’s necessary to be clear about what Theatres do, and what they do not do.

What they do not do is provide protection against Revolts. A worker working a Theatre does not cover any more unhappiness than he would sitting in the unused worker pool. (However, he does have a beneficial effect when it comes to Rebellion, or Impact of Happiness, or anything else that looks at your Happy Faces rather than your net Happiness.) If you’re looking to cover unhappiness with urban buildings, you need Arenas or Temples.

No, the main reason to build Theatres is their other ability: their supply of culture per turn. This is not usually an ability that is of much value in the early game, but is tremendous in the late game – and this fits in with the games I have played so far, in which Movies is very commonly taken, but Opera and Drama are much more marginal, and very rarely taken without card support.

Cards that support a Theatre-based strategy

The following cards can all make a Theatre-based strategy much more playable, usually (but not exclusively) by making Theatres even more culturally valuable. A word of warning with these: they can give you a huge Cultural lead, but if you don’t have the right supporting infrastructure, it can come crashing down very easily. (I have only listed these cards’ Theatre-based abilities here. They mostly have others.)

Moses: Age A Leader. A marginal case here, but his ability to produce cheap workers can give you the workers you need to build the Theatres in the first place.

Michelangelo: Age I Leader. Makes Theatres produce +1 Culture per turn.

J.S.Bach: Age II Leader. The one Leader who requires investment in Theatres – unlike all the other Leaders listed here, he has no effects other than those relating to Theatres. He decreases the cost of Theatre techs by 1, decreases their building costs by 1, and increases their Culture per turn by 1.

William Shakespeare: Age II Leader. Makes every Library-Theatre pair produce +2 Culture per turn.

Elvis Presley: Age III leader. Makes your highest-era Theatre produce twice as much Culture per turn. (Thus: 2 if it’s a Drama, 3 if it’s an Opera, 4 if it’s a Movies.)

St Peter’s Basilica: Age I Wonder. Makes Theatres produce 2 Happy Faces instead of 1. This is the only way to make Theatres actually produce net, as well as gross, Happiness.

Ocean Liner Service: Age II Wonder. See earlier note to Moses – same reason.

Hollywood: Age III Wonder. Immediately grants 2 Culture per level of Theatre. (Thus, 2 for each Drama, 4 for each Opera, 6 for each Movies.)

Masonry/Architecture/Engineering: Blue techs – reduce the rock cost of Theatres (and every other urban building – including Libaries for a Shakespeare or Hollywood strategy, and Temples for a Michelangelo strategy).

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Age I Leader: Leonardo da Vinci

Leonardo da Vinci

Age I
Your highest-era Lab or Library produces +Science per turn equal to its level. Every time you play a technology card, you produce 1 rock.

Leonardo is one of three leaders (Newton and Einstein are the other two) who have this ability pairing: a bonus to Science based on his best lab or library, coupled with an effect that activates whenever he plays a tech card. This is, naturally, a useful self-synergy.

So how good is he as a leader? That depends on a number of things:

  • Age A Leaders: A major point with all the Age I leaders except Columbus is that they are stronger in the situation where you have not taken an Age A leader. This effect is mitigated somewhat with Leonardo, because two of the stronger Age A leaders – Moses and Aristotle – can actually be used as part of a decent combo with Leonardo. The former can be used to create cheap workers to then man an Alchemy or Printing Press, the latter to get bonus Science points building up a hand of tech cards, which Leonardo can then get bonus rocks spending.
  • When in Age I he appears: Like most cards that have continuing effects, Leonardo is stronger if he appears early than if he appears late.
  • Alchemy or Printing Press: The first part of Leonardo’s ability only has any effect if his Science is coming from something more advanced than Philosophy.  Beware of taking him if you don’t have one of these techs.
  • Age II leaders: Not something you can really know too well when you take him, but whether to switch to an Age II leader can be a non-trivial decision when you have Leonardo – are the abilities of these leaders worth giving up his ability for? (This issue does not arise so much if the Age II leader you go for is Robespierre, because his ability is a one-shot that you will often happily wait for the end of Age II to activate.)

Cards that work well with a Leonardo strategy:

  • Lab and Library techs: My favourite is Alchemy in Age I and Journalism in Age II, although Printing Press in Age I and Scientific Method in Age II is also playable.
  • Library of Alexandria and Universitas Carolina: These Wonders are the only Wonders in the game that produce Science per turn, and Leonardo is all about Science per turn.
  • Breakthrough and Revolutionary Idea: For those short bursts of Science that may just bring in a little extra rock from his secondary ability.
  • Monarchy and/or Theocracy: These governments allow for an early third lab, other circumstances permitting. Also, the steep Science cost is less of a burden with a leader who provides extra Science.

So is he worth taking? Sometimes, sometimes not. But in the absence of a clear reason not to, I’ll usually take him at 1CA, and sometimes at 2.

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About this blog

This blog is a strategy blog for Through The Ages: A Story Of Civilization. I will be adding entries as and when I feel like it.

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