Revolt to Theocracy

A blog dedicated to strategy discussion of Through the Ages: A New Story of Civilization.
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International League Season 7 Post-Mortem

Elli Amir
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I had a blast participating in this past season of the International League. First of all, many thanks to pajada for his excellent organization -- wrangling 140 players (and 140 games of Through the Ages!) is an inordinate amount of work and he did a splendid job making sure everything goes smoothly.

The league is organized into houses of seven players each. Each house plays seven games (four 4p games and three 3p games). I’m proud to report that I’m first place in my house, which means I will get promoted to the next division in Season 8:

From gallery of IirionClaus


Major kudos to Gardir and henrymerrivale, both of which were very close to the top (I actually tied Gardir, breaking the tie since I was ahead of him in two of the three games we shared). And ggs to Manish05, krull007, Zeclion, and PinkrAnger, it has been a pleasure to play with all of you.

I recorded two of the 4p games, you’re welcome to spectate them here and here.

Going into the league, my main concern was the 4p games. Most of my experience comes from 3p games, and indeed my performance there was strong (2-1-0). However, I played a total of four or five 4p games in my entire Through the Ages history, and was completely unprepared for it. I learned three main lessons from the four 4p League games I played.

The card row is much less predictable than 3p. I did some theorycrafting coming into 4p and naively thought that the card row advances in about the same speed. There is one more player, but only one card per is discarded from the end of the row (unlike two cards in 3p games). While the math is correct, I neglected to factor in two important points. One, there is one more player who reaches out to the center of the card row, which means key cards such as Alchemy and Napoleon are more likely to disappear. Two, the variability around the number of cards is higher. I expected 6-7 cards to go away per round, while that number actually fluctuated between four and nine or even ten. This variability is especially critical when trying to assess how many turns are left for a given age, as it makes the calculation less accurate.

Military is critical. To put it bluntly, you cannot stay last on military in a 4p game for more than a turn or two. It is much more likely one of the other players will have the right combination of Tactic and Aggression cards to attack you. Furthermore, if you fall too far behind and two players are targeting you with Aggression cards, your game is probably over. Even if Aggression cards are not a concern (let’s say you’re one strength behind everyone else!), you are going to see more Event cards between turns. Military-based events are compounded if two (or even three!) hit together. Therefore, military has to be prioritized much higher than in a 3p game. Swordsmen and Knights especially are critical technologies that should be taken for two or three civil actions.

The game will be decided by the mistakes of the weaker players. Through the Ages is a difficult game. Everyone makes mistakes, and oftentimes the winner is decided by the mistakes of others. For example, a recent BGG thread discussed the timing around picking technologies from the card row. Less experienced players often take too many technologies that they will not be able to research. If you counted on that last Scientific Method or Irrigation and another player suddenly takes it for three civil actions and then discards it at the end of the following age, well, they probably misplayed, and you need to scramble to figure out a workaround. This is even worse when military is concerned. To give an extreme example, in game 1a Manish05 timed out (this was when the expansion was released, leading to connectivity and notification issues). The AI ignored its military while henrymerrivale did an exemplary job chaining Napoleon into Churchill and pounding it with two Wars that a human player could have defended more gracefully.

To clarify, I’m sure that I was guilty of this as well. Check out gm 5a, where I played very poorly. I’m sure I caused Manish05 and Gardir much consternation as they were duking it out for first place!

Overall, the League was an amazing experience -- I already registered to the Intermezzo League (which starts this coming Sunday) and I’m looking forward to the next season of the International League. I think that my gameplay is slowly improving and playing in a competitive environment is a tremendous motivation boost.
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