My playgroup had a nice chunk of theorycrafting ahead of the expansion’s release and during the first few days following it. Similarly, there have been numerous posts ranking the new cards (here is one example which lead to an interesting discussion). Theorycrafting is a nice exercise. It is also often wrong. Here are the cases where my personal assessment underestimated a card.
Roman Roads. I keep blanking on the fact that this Wonder costs a measly five Resources. The Age I bonus means you can delay your mine for this and the other bonuses trigger at exactly the right time. Furthermore, the additional tokens are fantastic. Yellow tokens have ramifications regarding Happiness and food that trickle throughout the game, and the expansion pushed the “blue tokens matter” theme well.
Nostradamus. The card that triggered the writing of this post. I was not excited about Nostradamus when first reading the text. However, now that I played with him, he gets a lot done. The +3 Strength provides needed flexibility around Strength in the early game. The ability to foresee upcoming events allows you to prepare very well -- especially with cards such as Rats and Dark Ages, which could make-or-break the game. Finally, Nostradamus gives a steady stream of three points per turn, which can translate into 21-24 points if picked up early.
Saladin. I initially imagined Saladin as Hammurabi’s older brother, which is not an exciting description for an Age I leader (even if Hammurabi is one of the stronger Age A cards). I completely missed the utility of switching between Strength and a CA. Similarly to Nostradamus, the flexibility bonus is powerful, especially during the early-game.
Louvre Museum. I was impressed when the card was first revealed on Facebook. The Eiffel Tower is a favorite base game wonder of mine, and the Louvre seemed like a similarly-priced points bomb. Imagine my surprise when I discovered it’s even stronger than I expected. The Louvre can single-handedly carry your points in a low-points game and the ability to cash out in the late-game makes attacking you very scary. Finally, the disadvantage of blocking three of your blue tokens is easier to manage than I thought.
Pierre de Coubertin. Pierre de Coubertin increases the value of earlier Arenas due to his amazing payout. He boils down to this simple benefit: de Coubertin is worth a lot of points, and the 8-point Olympics payoff means he’s worth these points even if you get him later in Age III (and even if you don’t have a single Arena!). Nabbing him early in Age III will often translate to 30+ points, which is incredible for a single card. The ability to fine aggressors is a nice touch, though I rarely see it influence the game.
International Red Cross. The Red Cross is a surprisingly adversarial Wonder -- especially considering this expansion brought us the Manhattan Project! Most games, it will have a reasonable points payoff while forcing your opponent(s) to spend CAs and Food at inopportune moments. Age III is often compressed with tricky decisions, every single one of which could lead to significant point swings. The Red Cross throws a monkey wrench into your opponents’ plans for one painful turn. Alternatively, if you prepare correctly, you might just nail all five steps in a single turn for one of the biggest Wonders in the game, all the while saving precious Resources for military and other point sources.
With the exception of Pierre de Coubertin, the connecting thread through all of the above cards is flexibility. I think this might explain why I underestimated all of them: flexibility is incredibly hard to assess in isolation. For example, Nostradamus has a set of abilities each of which is intriguing but not necessarily thrilling. Only when experiencing together, as part of a game with two or three other players, does his full utility emerge. I’m looking further to getting more experience with the Random set of cards, since I suspect that card interactions harbor similar secrets for players to uncover.
A blog dedicated to strategy discussion of Through the Ages: A New Story of Civilization.
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