Revolt to Theocracy

A blog dedicated to strategy discussion of Through the Ages: A New Story of Civilization.
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The number of turns in Through the Ages

Elli Amir
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Fort Lee
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There are many moving parts to address during a game of Through the Ages:
When is the time to convert mines to military? Will Selective Breeding get you three or four population? How many points is a card worth?. More often than not, the most important question that underlie these seems deceptively basic: when is the game going to end?

The game rules are simple enough. Endgame is triggered when the Age III deck becomes empty and “The game ends when the last player (the player to the right of the starting player) finishes his or her last turn.” Statistically, the game has 19 turns on average. Empirically, that number seems right but the variability is high. In order to make the optimal decision at any given point it is crucial to make a good guess over the different ages and refine it as the game nears its closing. To give a straightforward example from a recent game, I was pondering whether I should get a late Chaplin + Movies, and I needed to assess whether the combination will net me 16 or 24 points. I ended up guessing wrong, and lost by three points.

Here is an easy starting point for your calculation: 19 turns on average are about six per age. If you’re considering the Eiffel Tower midway into Age II, there’s around 3 turns left in Age II and 6 more in Age III, so it should net you 36 points (or 32-40). This assessment is fuzzy early on and becomes more accurate the closer you are to the finish line. You can revise this number by counting the cards in the deck, assuming each player takes 1.5 cards on average. If you’re the first player in a three-player game and there are 23 cards in the Age III deck, assume 10.5 cards are removed every turn, so there should be around three turns left in the age (plus the Age IV turn, don’t forget that one!) Finally, factor in your plans, the hands of the other players, and what you expect them to take. Using the same 23-card example, if you’re planning to take three cards this turn, maybe there are only two turns left in Age III. On the other hand, if all the players already have a hand full of technologies and yellow cards, or if their civil action count is low, the three turns guess seems stronger.

The later a player is in the turn order, the more they can influence the end of the game. In fact, I think that this is one of the only aspects of Through the Ages where going last is an advantage. Looking back on my Chaplin + Movies example, where I might have won with another turn -- Did I guess wrong? What I did not mention is that I was the first player and that the third player took a whopping five cards from the card row on what became the last turn of Age III. He knew that I have the higher culture generation and elected to sacrifice his civil actions to finish the game a turn earlier. Try to factor that option into your assessment, whether you’re first or last. It is also beneficial to remember that in the context of losing leaders, especially at the end of Ages I and II, when a player is still on an Age A or I leader, respectively. Losing the civil action from replacing a leader is painful. Additionally, if a player relies on Genghis Khan or Jan Žižka for military, you might be able to throw off their transition timing.

As my Through the Ages gameplay improves I find myself using these type of assessments more often. There are many dilemmas that can be simplified by taking stock of the remaining number of turns. Transitioning to Constitutional Monarchy is much less exciting when Age II is almost done. Picking up Fast Food Chains makes more sense if my production times the amount of turns left is higher than its cost of 16 resources. Next time you’re deciding whether to build an Opera or upgrade a Computers, do some quick math and decide whether you’re getting enough science to do something meaningful, or maybe you should go for more points.
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