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Through the Ages: A New Story of Civilization» Forums » General

Subject: Lack of comeback mechanism may make this game Not For Me rss

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Miguel Duran
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So, it's strange to admit as I like or love most of Vlaada's designs, but I suspect Through the Ages may just not be for me. I've admittedly only played three times but I find that I really tend to dislike the way that the military aspect affects the game. I get that you have to build military to protect your civ, but the lack of any sort of rebound mechanism to help civs who get thrashed, lose their buildings, and then are constantly playing catch-up is a bit off-putting.

It's not fun to sink four hours into a game if two hours in, you've suffered enough setbacks to where you're certain you lose and you know the game won't let you make that up easily (in part because the winners can keep you face-deep in the mud and the manner in which wars work tend to make it pretty obviously beneficial to plunder from the biggest loser if everyone else is relatively neck and neck).

I'm open to other thoughts on the game, particularly since I really *want* to like it, but so far, it's really turning me off from even investing into further online play, much less my own copy of the new edition. Anyone got any takes that might keep me from doing the unthinkable?
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Jorge
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Play the peaceful variant. Oh, and remember to come back to complain about the "broken" Michelangelo. arrrh But yes, as in any heavy game early mistakes can sink you; Caylus, Puerto Rico, Mage Knight Board Game (apart from Tactics selection), Tzolk'in: The Mayan Calendar... take your pick. No catch up mechanisms there.

Power Grid is the only "serious" game that comes to mind with a great catch-up mechanism.
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Humulus Lupulus
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Quote:
...you've suffered enough setbacks to where you're certain you lose and you know the game won't let you make that up easily (in part because the winners can keep you face-deep in the mud...)

If you've ignored military enough to let this happen, then that's because you've chosen to continue to ignore military, despite being beaten up. In which case, you deserve to be face-deep in the mud. There are several ways to build up your military, even when suffering setbacks. They steal your resources? Then use Patriotism, National Pride, or Mineral Deposits. Not enough science to discover military techs (or they Spied on you?), then take Breakthrough or Revolutionary Idea. In other words--Yellow Action Cards!

And don't seed events while you're the weakest and trying to recover from setbacks. The events that hurt the weakest player are just going to set you back more. Be smart at bidding for colonies so that you either win them cheap, or your opponent(s) pays enough for them to sacrifice enough strength points to give you a respite.

If anything, this version is more forgiving due to being able to copy opponents' tactics. So, it's not as likely you'll be out-strengthed for more than one turn or so.

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...the manner in which wars work tend to make it pretty obviously beneficial to plunder from the biggest loser if everyone else is relatively neck and neck.

I don't think this is necessarily the case. With multiple players vulnerable to my war, I would target the one who is closer to winning before I decide who I can gain more spoils from. Sometimes, this is the weakest player (Strength-wise), but not always.
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Karl Bunyan
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The game mechanics help to mitigate bad card draw, but it's hard to escape from a death spiral if other players have sussed the game better than you have. (Speaking as someone who's been on the receiving end in this and other games.)

One thing: if you've just played online, have you only played against experience players? Because that way lies a solid thrashing.

Otherwise, I would suggest just to move on. There are plenty of games out there and however good I think TTA is is irrelevant if you don't enjoy it.
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Chris Wilczewski
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One of the things I love about TTA is that plenty of times, I've felt like I was out of the running, only to make a comeback and sometimes win. It's harder than you think to truly be out of the running early in the game, and as I've played more, I've seen ways to make comebacks I would have missed at 3 plays in.

Don't give up. It's a great game! Also, I think it's better and less military focused at 4 than at 2, so if you're playing 2p, it's a bit skewed. 3p may be the best player count tho, due to playtime reasons.
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Grant
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JaydedOne wrote:
So, it's strange to admit as I like or love most of Vlaada's designs, but I suspect Through the Ages may just not be for me. I've admittedly only played three times but I find that I really tend to dislike the way that the military aspect affects the game. I get that you have to build military to protect your civ, but the lack of any sort of rebound mechanism to help civs who get thrashed, lose their buildings, and then are constantly playing catch-up is a bit off-putting.

It's not fun to sink four hours into a game if two hours in, you've suffered enough setbacks to where you're certain you lose and you know the game won't let you make that up easily (in part because the winners can keep you face-deep in the mud and the manner in which wars work tend to make it pretty obviously beneficial to plunder from the biggest loser if everyone else is relatively neck and neck).

I'm open to other thoughts on the game, particularly since I really *want* to like it, but so far, it's really turning me off from even investing into further online play, much less my own copy of the new edition. Anyone got any takes that might keep me from doing the unthinkable?

Why would you want to play a game that you can win even after playing it exceptionally poorly?

Take a thrashing as an opportunity to learn something about the game, why it happened, and what you did wrong.

Don't make the same mistakes that you made last time.

When you do finally start to win against good players you will know it's because you actually got good at the game, you weren't just lucky, and that will be a great feeling.
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David desJardins
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grant5 wrote:
Why would you want to play a game that you can win even after playing it exceptionally poorly?


Half of players are below average. You can't design a game only for the above-average and expect it to be universally appreciated.
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TonyKR
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I've only played 3 or 4 times, but in one 3P game I barely went military at all while another player did. I took my lumps a few times, but during all that I was focusing on other aspects. I only lost by 3 points, while the person who was leading on points the whole time (not the military guy) ended in third. Totally different paths to a fairly tight finish. Part of why so many people like the game. Now if you're at totally different skill levels, well, yeah, this game punishes that.
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Jack Liu
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Picon wrote:
Play the peaceful variant. Oh, and remember to come back to complain about the "broken" Michelangelo. arrrh But yes, as in any heavy game early mistakes can sink you; Caylus, Puerto Rico, Mage Knight Board Game (apart from Tactics selection), Tzolk'in: The Mayan Calendar... take your pick. No catch up mechanisms there.

Power Grid is the only "serious" game that comes to mind with a great catch-up mechanism.


Food chain magnet

There are catch-up mechanics in this game. Military buildup, events like terrorism but most of all, PACTS. Open borders, military str pacts, trade pacts, sci coop. People don't pact with the leader (especially if they have strongest military)

But you can't skip military all game (unless peaceful variant). In TTA neglecting military is like skipping food in Agricola. It may not win you the game if you go for it but it will lose you the game if you negate it
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Dick Hunt
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The one strategy tip I give even to newbies in this game is "don't be the weak sister for any extended length of time."

It's not a forgiving game, no, but it is not especially a non-intuitive secret that having a lousy military will get you killed. Many real civilizations have discovered that over the years. In any civ-building game, having a lousy military is going to get you killed.

The thing that makes this game great is the same one that makes it hard: it gives you many balls which must be juggled. Ore production, food production, military strength, science production, culture production, etc. Ignore any of those and you're probably doomed.
 
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Mouldy Banana
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JaydedOne wrote:
I've admittedly only played three times but I find that I really tend to dislike the way that the military aspect affects the game. I get that you have to build military to protect your civ, but the lack of any sort of rebound mechanism to help civs who get thrashed, lose their buildings, and then are constantly playing catch-up is a bit off-putting.
But that's probably modelled on how civilisations work in the real world. If you're not militarily strong (enough) you will get picked on and beaten down.
 
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Grant
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DaviddesJ wrote:
grant5 wrote:
Why would you want to play a game that you can win even after playing it exceptionally poorly?


Half of players are below average. You can't design a game only for the above-average and expect it to be universally appreciated.

Is your point just that games do exist where players can play exceptionally poorly and still win? That is obviously true, but I'm not sure what it has to do with the OP or the point I was trying to make about enjoying the game more if you put in the effort to get better at it.

The question you quoted was rhetorical and somewhat tongue-in-cheek. Clearly there are people who like games they can luck into winning no matter how they play them, but I don't understand why people would want such an unfulfilling experience.
 
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David desJardins
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grant5 wrote:
Clearly there are people who like games they can luck into winning no matter how they play them, but I don't understand why people would want such an unfulfilling experience.


That's because you play with people who are worse than you, on average. Like most BGG posters. The people who are consistently below average and will never win a game like that, can understand why some people might want games that they can luck into winning occasionally.
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Walter Kolczynski
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JaydedOne wrote:
much less my own copy of the new edition.

The way this is worded, I just want to confirm that you have been playing the new version online rather than the old version (BGA only has the old version, but BGO has the new version). The old version is a little more unforgiving on the military front.
 
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Grant
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DaviddesJ wrote:
grant5 wrote:
Clearly there are people who like games they can luck into winning no matter how they play them, but I don't understand why people would want such an unfulfilling experience.


That's because you play with people who are worse than you, on average. Like most BGG posters. The people who are consistently below average and will never win a game like that, can understand why some people might want games that they can luck into winning occasionally.

That is awfully fucking presumptuous David. I lose WAY more games than I win (except at TtA, I hold my own well enough there). I know the people I play with are generally better at games than me. I play with some damn good gamers.
I enjoy gaming even when I lose (if I didn't, I'd run out of people to game with very quickly), and I try to take every loss as a chance to learn something new about the game I just played.
I take no joy in rolling dice better, or drawing cards better, or doing anything randomly better than the better gamer sitting next to me.

You need to seriously reevaluate why you think people enjoy luckless games, it seems.
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David desJardins
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grant5 wrote:
I lose WAY more games than I win (except at TtA, I hold my own well enough there).


Thus my point. If you could never win at what would otherwise be one of your favorite games, you would understand one reason some people might want more luck in the game.

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I try to take every loss as a chance to learn something new about the game I just played.


Not everyone wants to do that or can do that.
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Grant
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DaviddesJ wrote:
grant5 wrote:
I lose WAY more games than I win (except at TtA, I hold my own well enough there).


Thus my point. If you could never win at what would otherwise be one of your favorite games, you would understand one reason some people might want more luck in the game.

Your point is shit. I don't think I've ever won a game of Tzolk'in, but I love that game. And like I already told you, I made the comment about not understanding why OTHER people like those games tongue-in-cheek, but you take everything so damn seriously.

Quote:
Quote:
I try to take every loss as a chance to learn something new about the game I just played.


Not everyone wants to do that or can do that.

Yeah no kidding, man. I already acknowledged that. But you are making specific claims about ME (and "most" BGG posters), and that's what I'm taking issue with.
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David desJardins
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grant5 wrote:
But you are making specific claims about ME (and "most" BGG posters), and that's what I'm taking issue with.


Actually, you said I was all wrong about my ideas about why some people like the kinds of games that you said ("tongue-in-cheek") you can't understand why they like. In between the "fucking" and "shit" and other derision.
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Chris Wilczewski
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DaviddesJ wrote:
grant5 wrote:
Why would you want to play a game that you can win even after playing it exceptionally poorly?


Half of players are below average. You can't design a game only for the above-average and expect it to be universally appreciated.


Isn't it supposed to be "half of players are below the median"? I don't think it's necessarily true that half are below average. Assuming we express skill as a numerical value which is what I think we'd have to do to make these assertions anyway.
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David desJardins
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"Skill" is most naturally considered as an ordinal variable, not a quantitative variable, so the median is the only average available.
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Geoff Speare
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"Most naturally considered" by who (beyond yourself apparently)? Nice use of passive voice.
 
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David desJardins
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galfridus wrote:
"Most naturally considered" by who (beyond yourself apparently)?


Skill is most naturally considered as an ordinal variable because it's easier to determine that one player has more skill than another than to try to interpret that one player is 3.8 units more skillful than another. The units have to be essentially arbitrary. You can try to translate skill into quantitative form using methods like Elo ratings, but those mappings are still essentially arbitrary and so taking the mean of such ratings is still not very meaningful.
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Grant
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DaviddesJ wrote:
grant5 wrote:
But you are making specific claims about ME (and "most" BGG posters), and that's what I'm taking issue with.


Actually, you said I was all wrong about my ideas about why some people like the kinds of games that you said ("tongue-in-cheek") you can't understand why they like.

No. the very first thing you said was an assertion about me specifically and then you also lumped in "most BGG posters" (not some). I'm telling you your concept of what drives me is completely wrong and your ideas about most BGG posters are seriously flawed.

Quote:
In between the "fucking" and "shit" and other derision.

Apologies if I offended your delicate sensibilities. Are you surprised that people respond with strong language when you make wild claims about their motivations without having the slightest idea what you're talking about?
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Bill K
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alenen wrote:
I don't think it's necessarily true that half are below average.

I think it better to assume a normal distribution of gaming skill.

[Although even this is a gross simplification, as person A may very well grok the mechanisms of game X better than another person B (who has the same "average skill") does, while person B may grok the mechanisms of game Y better than person A does.]

In any event, assume person A and person B have differing skill with regard to TtA. The unforeseeable elements of the game (the order in which the cards come out, the choices other players make, how much sleep a player gets the night before) will give both players a delta above or below their expected skill performance in any given play of the game.

As long as A+/-delta overlaps B+/-delta, both players have a chance of winning the game. The bigger the likely delta of a given game design, the more the unanticipatable can lead to either player winning.

But catchup mechanisms, I think, are a different beast. It would be like playing the game of chess, and if one person falls far enough behind in material, he gains another bishop. If the catchup mechanism is underpowered, it may just be prolonging the agony. If the catchup mechanism is overpowered, then what's the use in playing the game up to the point where the catchup mechanism kicks in? (I'm not a big fan of catchup mechanisms.)

On the flipside, being behind for an entire game can be demoralizing, especially for an activity that's supposed to be fun.

Of course, if a game tends to reach a point where the leader at that point will remain the leader for the remainder of the game, then I think the game designer chose the wrong end-point for his game.

TtA has a few minor catchup mechanisms--the Action cards mentioned above, and a few of the Events. It also has several paths to victory, each of which may harvest their Culture points at different points in the game.

But I think the biggest discouragement occurs when players fall behind in military and then get pummeled. But the designers have given two ways to handle this: you can cry "uncle," resign, and start over again. Or you can make sure you don't fall so far behind militarily.
 
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David desJardins
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The only thing I said about "most BGG posters" is that on average they are better players than those they play with. I think that's pretty evident. The people who are interested enough in board games to post on board game forums, read strategy articles, etc., are going to be more into those games and play them better on average. That's it.

I simply gave one reason why some people want more luck in some games, that they don't like losing every time and they can't or won't ever improve enough to win. This is true and it happens. You said you didn't understand this, so I thought I would bring it to your attention, but it turns out you didn't even mean what you said. I couldn't have guessed that.
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