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Subject: Is TtA just another euro game (eg a deluxe St Pete) - but with a civ theme? rss

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For some time I've been on a quest for the ideal medium weight civilization game, and Through the Ages seems to be one of the leading contenders. Judging from reviews and comments, the main criticisms seem to be: 1. too fiddly and too much spreadsheet accounting; 2. too long for what it is; 3. too much downtime; 4. multiplayer solitaire and not enough interaction; 5. warfare is too abstracted; 6. poor quality components.

I think I can live with these things, but I have a more important question: is Through the Ages really a civilization game, or is it more just another euro game with a civilization theme? This review, for example, suggests that it is really just an advanced version of St Petersburg, and that at its heart it's just a typical euro game about managing and optimizing resources and victory points. To what extent is it a true civilization game, for example, with random events? Or is it rather just a euro game with an economic engine, and dressed with a civ theme? If it's the latter, this would account for the high ratings from eurogamers on BGG.

Full disclosure: I'm looking for a civ type game with a real civilization feel, and not just another euro game with a thin civ theme, so any discussion on this point will help me to decide whether or not to scratch TtA from my wish list, or whether it's a must-have.
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Eric Brosius
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Ender, this is a real civilization game. The hundreds of cards and detailed turn sequence make it more like one of the older American games, and less like a true Euro. The random events are random in the sense that you draw them from a shuffled military card deck and "seed" them into the event pile---or not, if you think they will hurt you. Thus, there is an aspect to manipulating the situation based on what you have seeded, while at the same time being subject to the randomness of what others have seeded.
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Anye Freer
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Well, everyone has their own tolerances so any criticism starting with "too" is going to be subjective. TtA is fiddly, but not in a way that bothers me. It is both bits fiddly and rules fiddly though, so be prepared to get several rules wrong in your first (few) playings. I don't think it is too long for what it is - when played with 2 or 3. I won't play it again with 4 because of the downtime. The downtime with 2 is very manageable, with 3 isn't horrible.

I don't think this is multiplayer solitaire at all. First, I have to consider which cards other people will want/need when I pick mine. Something I really, really want might not be available my next turn if I don't grab it, but if I look at what other people have and guess that I probably want it more than they do, it might be. Additionally, the event cards and use of military keep it from being solitaire. You have to make sure you aren't the weakest always and often times you want to be the strongest, otherwise anyone's event cards can hurt you. You also have to pick and choose which event cards you play based on how you think your position will be relative to other peoples' later in the game, and then tailor your own play to match what events you've populated the deck with.

Warfare is very abstracted. If you're looking for a tactical combat experience, this game isn't for you. That said, we haven't had wars in any of the games my honey and I have played. We slam each other in other ways but the actual wars have been pretty much not used.

The components aren't great but I've seen worse. They haven't detracted at all from my experience of the game though.

The events are only somewhat random - you draw event cards into your hand and choose whether to put them in the stack of cards that will be played. If you do, you get VPs, but since the events aren't resolved immediately - if the card has a positive effect for some and negative for another, you are betting that when the card comes up you will not be the one negatively affected. This usually but not always depends on relative military strength. There is some randomness though in that not nearly all of the possible event cards will get used in any given game.

There is also some randomness in what order the civic cards come out. One thing that has definitely affected the play and "random" feel is when the government upgrades, mining upgrades, and farming upgrades come out. If some players get them early and the rest don't come out until much later it can be a real pinch. This is an encouragement for people to spend more to buy these cards when they do show up rather than waiting for them to get cheaper (which is mainly only viable in the 2p game anyway).

To me, this game feels a lot like the computer game Civilization. Not exactly like, but a lot like. Certainly more like it than any of the other civilization type games I've played. It has a Euro feel to it, but I don't think Euro is a bad word (I also don't think Ameritrash is a bad word). My honey, who in general prefers Ameritrash to Euros rates TtA as highly as I do. At my house this game is getting lots of play. Your mileage may vary of course.

So anyway I can't tell you how you will receive the game, just try someone else's copy, or take a risk.
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Jim Cote
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EndersGame wrote:
...about managing and optimizing resources and victory points.

Name a game that isn't.

EndersGame wrote:
To what extent is it a true civilization game...

What constitutes a true civilization game? I'm not trying to be argumentative or debate semantics. I'm really just trying to prompt a discussion. I've played Antike and Vinci, but have never played Mare Nostrum or Civilization.
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The mechanics of Through the Ages are certainly those of a euro; that was the designer's intent. But I find the theme much more involving than that of a typical eurogame. In fact, to me it has more of a civ feel than Civilization itself. Civ is, at heart, a fairly abstract game. It's got a nice historical basis, but production, warfare, and especially the civ advances are very mathematical. In TtA, though, the effects of the advances, the leaders, and the wonders are extremely varied and often fit their real-life subjects perfectly. Moreover, the scope of the game is wonderful. It's not hard to feel your civilization evolving though technological advances, the effects of your leaders, or the ups and downs of military campaigns. I think the game has a strong civ feel and that's one of the reasons I enjoy it so much.

I suspect how much this applies to you will come from the importance you place on the presence of a board. Some gamers can't get over the lack of a map in TtA and thematically, it does take a bit of getting used to. But I find the rest of the game so engrossing and thematic that it doesn't bother me at all. So it may come down to which appeals to you more: Civilization, where you get to see how your people spread out over the land, but where their infrastructure and scientific advancement is handled very abstractly; or Through the Ages, where there is no geographic element and territorial acquisition is a very abstract concept, but where the infrastructure, leaders, and advancements are richly thematic.
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Anye Freer
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ekted wrote:
EndersGame wrote:
...about managing and optimizing resources and victory points.

Name a game that isn't.

EndersGame wrote:
To what extent is it a true civilization game...

What constitutes a true civilization game? I'm not trying to be argumentative or debate semantics. I'm really just trying to prompt a discussion. I've played Antike and Vinci, but have never played Mare Nostrum or Civilization.


Vinci is very abstract and to me doesn't feel like a civilization game at all despite the use of the word civilization in the rules.I can't remember how abstract Mare Nostrum is but I remember it feeling more like area control than civilization. TtA is not abstract and mechanically is very different from Civ the board game but as I said above feels like the computer game.
 
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Chris Rudram
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Through The Ages is about managing a series of events, while trying to put together a long time strategy. You may have a plan, but an event, or an opportunity may arise that changes those plans.

It feels like Civ the computer game, sans map. It has Euro mechanics (drafting, action points, tokens) but the cards and technologies make each game very different in feeling. It's a different kettle of fish from Avalon Hill's Advanced Civ and Mare Nostrum (both of which I've enjoyed). These rely on the spatial aspects. TtA has no map (as stated), so is more about the economics of your civ.

The comparision's to St Petersburg aren't actually too off the mark. If you add longer playing time, more tactical and strategic choices, good intergration with theme and plenty of player interaction (through wars, aggressions, colonizations, events and drafting).


(Vinci is a meta-civilisation game )
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The false dichotomy of "Euro game or civ game?" is bugging me.

Civilization is a Euro. Not merely because it was designed and first published in England, but because - particularly when you compare it with American games of the time - of the simplicity of its rule set (the complexity is in the maps and tech tree), its strong bias against direct conflict, and its paucity of random elements.

Through the Ages and St. Petersburg can only be meaningfully compared by omitting any notion of what playing them feels like. That seems like a flaw in the plan, to me.
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'80' maxlength='250'> </td> </tr> <tr> <td width="15%" align="right"><b>Avatar OverText</b></td> <td width="85%"> <input type="text" name="overtext[avatar]" value="Train Game anyone?
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ekted wrote:
EndersGame wrote:
...about managing and optimizing resources and victory points.

Name a game that isn't.

EndersGame wrote:
To what extent is it a true civilization game...

What constitutes a true civilization game? I'm not trying to be argumentative or debate semantics. I'm really just trying to prompt a discussion. I've played Antike and Vinci, but have never played Mare Nostrum or Civilization.


Jim, you really need to get a game of Civilization in - even if it's just once. There's a good reason everyone is searching for a refined version of this.

Civ is very good but very long. TtA is also very good and somewhat long but good in using a different style of play that scratches the same itch.
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UhhhClem wrote:
Civilization is a Euro. Not merely because it was designed and first published in England, but because - particularly when you compare it with American games of the time - of the simplicity of its rule set (the complexity is in the maps and tech tree), its strong bias against direct conflict, and its paucity of random elements.

QFT
 
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ekted wrote:
EndersGame wrote:
...about managing and optimizing resources and victory points.

Name a game that isn't.


Titan. Risk. Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation. RoboRally.

There are a lot of games that aren't won by accumulating victory points.
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DaviddesJ wrote:
ekted wrote:
EndersGame wrote:
...about managing and optimizing resources and victory points.

Name a game that isn't.

Titan. Risk. Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation. RoboRally.

There are a lot of games that aren't won by accumulating victory points.

They are VP's by a different name. Kill units. Occupy spaces. It's all still about countable quantities, and doing what you do better than the opponent.
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EndersGame wrote:
1. too fiddly and too much spreadsheet accounting;
I can't imagine what part of the game anyone thinks requires a spreadsheet
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2. too long for what it is;
you'll soon find yourselft thinking at the end of the 4 hour full game it's not quite long enough for what it is
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3. too much downtime;
a bit, yes. I have never played anything 3 player before. this I play only 3 player.
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4. multiplayer solitaire and not enough interaction;
just wait for the first time you find yourself 15 points military behind and staring at that little black card... or realize the player before you sees exactly how much you'd like to finally get your hands on xxx technology... as soon as you get to know the game it stops feeling solitare.
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5. warfare is too abstracted;
that's too subjective. for me it's abstracted perfectly. but if you can't imagine war without playing with those huge stacks of chits, then yes, it's more abstract than that. when you see once or twice what happens to the stronger economically civilization when one of it's military minded neighbors pays a visit, it shouldn't feel to abstract anymore
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6. poor quality components.
that's what I thought before playing - I am not buying this, I'll wait for 3rd ed. just try it once. the problems do not affect game play in any way, and you'll find yourself not willing to wait who knows how long so that the '100' on the score track becomes '90'. seriously, who cares? I've played 3 games with someone, and when I started pointing out the 'problems' they were all things he hasn't noticed before me pointing them out
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I think I can live with these things, but I have a more important question: is Through the Ages really a civilization game, or is it more just another euro game with a civilization theme?
Full disclosure: I'm looking for a civ type game with a real civilization feel, and not just another euro game with a thin civ theme, so any discussion on this point will help me to decide whether or not to scratch TtA from my wish list, or whether it's a must-have.


to me it's 100 times more of a civ builiding game than mare nostrum...
 
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ekted wrote:
They are VP's by a different name. Kill units. Occupy spaces. It's all still about countable quantities, and doing what you do better than the opponent.


No, they aren't. Your comment is so far off the mark I wonder if you have actually played any of these games. You can win a game of Titan with less of all of those "countable quantities" than your opponents have. You might not kill any units. You might not occupy any spaces. You might not score any points. You can still win.

Sure, any game with a winner can be converted to "victory points" by saying that you get awarded 1 VP when you achieve the victory condition, and zero in all other cases. But that ignores the essence of what makes games like Through the Ages different from games like Titsn. In TTA, your score at the end is the sum of the points you score each turn, and you win by having the highest score at the end. Titan (or any of the other games I mentioned) are totally different in how they determine the winner.
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UhhhClem wrote:
The false dichotomy of "Euro game or civ game?" is bugging me.

Civilization is a Euro. Not merely because it was designed and first published in England, but because - particularly when you compare it with American games of the time - of the simplicity of its rule set (the complexity is in the maps and tech tree), its strong bias against direct conflict, and its paucity of random elements.


Couldn't disagree more, this is from the B.S. mindset that "Euros are good, therefore good games must be euros"
The rules are not simple, at least not with regard to a typical euro game.
Far too much direct conflict for a euro, the game is designed to have too little territory and force conflict over what is available. (semi)Random card driven events can have a huge swing on the game outcome.
Plus add in a 5 hour + playtime, this is nothing like the genre we today call the Euro

To the OP, I dislike much of the euro genre, of the top 10 games I dislike 4 and have no interest in another 3, but I do enjoy TtA, definitely has the involved civ feel, and is not just another euro.
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DaviddesJ wrote:
ekted wrote:
They are VP's by a different name. Kill units. Occupy spaces. It's all still about countable quantities, and doing what you do better than the opponent.


No, they aren't. Your comment is so far off the mark I wonder if you have actually played any of these games. You can win a game of Titan with less of all of those "countable quantities" than your opponents have. You might not kill any units. You might not occupy any spaces. You might not score any points. You can still win.

Sure, any game with a winner can be converted to "victory points" by saying that you get awarded 1 VP when you achieve the victory condition, and zero in all other cases. But that ignores the essence of what makes games like Through the Ages different from games like Titsn. In TTA, your score at the end is the sum of the points you score each turn, and you win by having the highest score at the end. Titan (or any of the other games I mentioned) are totally different in how they determine the winner.


Are you talking about the recently reprinted version of Titan? You must be, because in the orignial version, one wins a game of Titan by scoring the most victory points. Every time a battle is won, the winner scores points based on the values of the units in his victim's legion, etc. How is the new version "scored" any differently?

As for your using RoboRally as an example of "VP Free," I'm not sure that one fits, either. RoboRally is simply a race to a certain number of Victory Points represented by the flags one must capture in order to win...
 
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The BGG wiki suggests the following as one of the criteria for a eurogame:
"There is very little randomness or luck. Randomness that is there is mitigated by having the player decide what to do after a random event happens rather than before. Dice are rare, but not unheard of, in a Euro."

To what extent does that apply to Through the Ages? How much of the game is determined by luck, and how much is determined by strategy? Will the cleverer player always win? Or might his best plans be foiled by an unexpected "civil war" or "flood" event, for example? This is what one might expect in a civilization type game (the events in Pax Romana also come to mind), but not a eurogame.
 
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EndersGame wrote:
The BGG wiki suggests the following as one of the criteria for a eurogame:
"There is very little randomness or luck. Randomness that is there is mitigated by having the player decide what to do after a random event happens rather than before. Dice are rare, but not unheard of, in a Euro."

To what extent does that apply to Through the Ages? How much of the game is determined by luck, and how much is determined by strategy? Will the cleverer player always win? Or might his best plans be foiled by an unexpected "civil war" or "flood" event, for example? This is what one might expect in a civilization type game (the events in Pax Romana also come to mind), but not a eurogame.


I will win my first (and probably second and third) games against a new player no matter in which order cards come out. not sure if this answers the question. there are no random events where someone is hit 'randomly'. someone might be hit if another player seeds a certain card into the event deck, but that's no so random, is it? you also quickly learn which types of events/aggresion to defend against in which situations (example - when you are behind in military, you try NOT to have 2 expensive urban buildings of the same type, or wait too long builiding a wonder. at the begining of the game you try to have an unused worker at the end of your turn).

no 'best' plans are foiled by anything here (unless the plan is 'I won't build an army an my opponent won't attack'). you might be hampered a little if the cards you want always come out right before you move, so you always have to play 3 actions for important stuff, but that's not something that'll prevent me from winning against anyone who isn't pretty close playing level. stuff like that (to a bit smaller extents perhaps) happens in puerto rico when a turn after you decide on tobacco 5 tobaccos come out and you see you'll have comptetition to sell that, while the coffee guy won't...
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This thread is now embroiled in a tangent re: Titan. Just to clarify, points are scored in the game after battles- and these points help players by giving them angels, archangels and increasing the strength of their titan- but the game is won by killing the other player's titans and not through acquisition of points or territory. At least, the original game. No idea about the reprint or any variants/optional rules.

Edit: to be on point regarding the actual topic. I would classify TtA as a euro, just by feel really- and for reasons already stated above- the VPs, drafting mechanic, balancing of culture generation/resource production/military strength/science, etc. I do agree with posters above that this game has many non-euro qualities as well. But TtA fits the euro category better than any other.

Maybe we should throw out the whole classification "system" currently in use- it contains some specific categories (dex games) as well as broad categories like "ameritrash" and "euro." But that is for another discussion.

I enjoy the game, but several people I have played with consider it boring, dry, "too euro," etc. So, you may want to try the game before you buy it if you are concerned.
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Ender,

TTA has a "real civilization feel." In spades. It has the elegant mechanics of a Euro, but unlike many Euros the theme is not simply pasted on. It's deeply integrated. In my opinion, it succeeds in being not only a shorter version of Civilization, but actually a superior civ game.
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dedindahed wrote:
UhhhClem wrote:
The false dichotomy of "Euro game or civ game?" is bugging me.

Civilization is a Euro. Not merely because it was designed and first published in England, but because - particularly when you compare it with American games of the time - of the simplicity of its rule set (the complexity is in the maps and tech tree), its strong bias against direct conflict, and its paucity of random elements.


Couldn't disagree more, this is from the B.S. mindset that "Euros are good, therefore good games must be euros"
The rules are not simple, at least not with regard to a typical euro game.
Far too much direct conflict for a euro, the game is designed to have too little territory and force conflict over what is available. (semi)Random card driven events can have a huge swing on the game outcome.
Plus add in a 5 hour + playtime, this is nothing like the genre we today call the Euro

To the OP, I dislike much of the euro genre, of the top 10 games I dislike 4 and have no interest in another 3, but I do enjoy TtA, definitely has the involved civ feel, and is not just another euro.


I totally agree with dedindahed. Civilisation feels totally different from a Euro even if a few bits are similar. A major feature of Euros is making a choice (or more than one) from a specific, limited set of options. E.g. Puerto Rico, choosing a role; Shadow of the Emperor, choosing action card(s); Imperial, choosing a Rondel option. (I'm a big fan of Imperial, by the way.)

Games like Civ, 18xx or Revolution the Dutch Revolt (notice a common link?) have an open set of choices. This gives a completely different feel to the game, more like real life maybe, but in any case different. As a result, I find these sort of games (Civ etc) more interesting and enjoyable.
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DSHStratRat2 wrote:
one wins a game of Titan by scoring the most victory points.


This is just not true. Maybe you haven't played the game? Titan is an elimination game in which you win by having the last surviving Titan. Scoring points is helpful, because the points increase your strength. But they are not "victory points" and the number of points you accumulate doesn't determine who wins. A player with zero points might end up the winner.

Quote:
RoboRally is simply a race to a certain number of Victory Points represented by the flags one must capture in order to win...


You can win a game of RoboRally without touching any flags.
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DSHStratRat2 wrote:
Are you talking about the recently reprinted version of Titan? You must be, because in the orignial version, one wins a game of Titan by scoring the most victory points. Every time a battle is won, the winner scores points based on the values of the units in his victim's legion, etc. How is the new version "scored" any differently?


I have been playing the AH version of Titan since the 80s. I can state with 100% certainty that you are misinformed. It is possible to win a Titan game without winning any battles. Furthermore, it is possible to win WITHOUT TAKING A TURN! Consider the following scenario for a 3-player game:

Player A goes first, rolls a '4' and recruits next to player B's tower.
Player B attacks, Player A and B's Titans simultaneously die in the battle (a mutual).
Player C has won before he/she could take a turn! Player C has recruited no creatures, doesn't have any points and hasn't been in any battles.
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EndersGame wrote:


1. too fiddly and too much spreadsheet accounting


Actually, it's pretty elegant considering how much detail is incorporated. You get a lot of complexity by just moving four colors of tokens around.

EndersGame wrote:

2. too long for what it is; 3. too much downtime


If you play with slow players or AP players, quite possibly yes. Otherwise, it's actually quite good. We crank out 2 player games in under 2 hours, and it has far more nuance and strategy than most games of that length. Slow players could kill it though, and expect your first game to be quite long as you try to get the hang of the rules and gameplay.[/q]

EndersGame wrote:

4. multiplayer solitaire and not enough interaction;


NOT! The conflict is brutal. It's quite possible to knock another player out entirely, and the game even has variants to dial down the harshness. Anyone calling this multiplayer solitaire simply doesn't know what they're talking about, or is playing the newbie version of the rules (not full game rules).

EndersGame wrote:
5. warfare is too abstracted


Warfare is a (strength+sacrifices) comparison, with Aggression resolved similarly but adding defense cards, if any. This is compact and simple, so you could call it abstract.

EndersGame wrote:

6. poor quality components.

No, they're not that good. If this were Boardgamebits.com, this game would probably rate close to 1 on a 1-10 scale. If it were a 3, I'd say it was "poor", but these aren't at that level. My collection is over 130 games, and this is easily in the bottom 5.
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BFoy wrote:
DSHStratRat2 wrote:
Are you talking about the recently reprinted version of Titan? You must be, because in the orignial version, one wins a game of Titan by scoring the most victory points. Every time a battle is won, the winner scores points based on the values of the units in his victim's legion, etc. How is the new version "scored" any differently?


I have been playing the AH version of Titan since the 80s. I can state with 100% certainty that you are misinformed. It is possible to win a Titan game without winning any battles. Furthermore, it is possible to win WITHOUT TAKING A TURN! Consider the following scenario for a 3-player game:

Player A goes first, rolls a '4' and recruits next to player B's tower.
Player B attacks, Player A and B's Titans simultaneously die in the battle (a mutual).
Player C has won before he/she could take a turn! Player C has recruited no creatures, doesn't have any points and hasn't been in any battles.


Sounds like the 3rd player won the tie break on VP count of 0......he isn't dead and all other players are dead.


 
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