Sunday, 11 May 2008

Through the Ages again, and Thebes too

On Sat 10 May 2008 I played my 3rd game of Through the Ages, and this time was the first time I played a 3-player game (with Han and Chee Seng). The previous 2 games were 2-player games. We played the Advanced Game (i.e. medium length), since it was Chee Seng's first time. One of the main changes adding a 3rd player is the Pact cards. As a political action, players can offer a pact to another player. They have different effects, some mutually beneficial (but not necessary in the same way), some are give-and-take (i.e. usually the weaker paying tribute to the stronger). However in our game no Pacts were even proposed. I guess there were no suitable ones, or those who drew them decided there are other better cards to use (I didn't even draw any).

After my third game, I still like it a lot. Well, this is the first time playing using my copy of the game (previous games were using Han's), so I'm at USD70 per game played. Hope this will drop by much more soon. The price of this game is fixed by the publisher / distributor, so no big discount from the online retailers, and the recommended retail price is much higher than average to start with.

After this 3rd game, I find I prefer the Full Game over the Advanced Game. I feel that's the intended way to play, and the game works best in this form. One thing I do like about the Advanced Game (which is not present in the Full Game) is the four Age III events drawn randomly and shown to all at the start of the game. These events give bonus points at game end, depending on various criteria, and because they are known from the start of the game, the players can plan for them. This is less random that the Full Game where event cards, as per the normal rule, are drawn by the players and are planted into the future event deck without other players knowing what they are.

However, in other aspects and overall I prefer the Full Game. In the Advanced Game some leaders and wonders are a little pointless because you don't have Age III to continue to make use of them. I feel that the game should really be played to the end of Age III to be complete. Playing to end of Age II feels like watching two thirds of a movie, and then you fast forward to the ending. Not satisfying enough. I want to see my upgraded mines produce more and gradually give me an edge over my opponents. I want to see my strong science lead me to a better position. I need to change government. I want to see the good foundation and infrastructure that I have built bear fruit. I think the Return On Investment would have been more if I had played through Age III.

In the early game of Through the Ages, Han and Chee Seng pondering over which cards to pick.

The central board where the cards are displayed, and the various scores and statistics are tracked.

In our game, Chee Seng was the wonder boy. He built lots of wonders. But his production was rather inefficient. Still on his basic mines and farms by game end. Han was the military strongman, maintaining his lead throughout the game, and gaining much benefit from it. Thankfully he didn't draw any aggression cards, so couldn't attack Chee Seng or me, else we'd be suffering a lot. However he did make use of a lot of the event cards. Playing them into the future event deck earned him points, and often when the events later occurred, he also benefited from them due to being the strongest. I mostly worked on efficiency and urban buildings, and science too. I think I had the most urban buildings.

In this game we had many more new colonies than our previous two. I think we had 5 during the game. At game end, there were 2 or 3 more buried in the future event deck. However only one of these were contested because the other ones would not have made a difference to the scores. There was one very good colony that gave 11 culture points (i.e. victory points), which Han won because of his military might. Colonies make the military aspect interesting, similar to some of the events, so I think even if I play the no-aggression variant with Michelle (no aggression cards or war cards in the game), the military development will still be important and meaningful. I feel the military aspect of the game should not be dropped. It makes things more interesting. By keeping the events and the colonies, military will still be important and you can avoid direct confrontation. Well, being desperate to convince Michelle to play Through the Ages with me (she hasn't played this yet, but seem to be open minded about playing it), when she usually does not like long games or confrontational games, I better not have any direct confrontation if I want her to play this a second time. The military aspect is very intertwined with other aspects of the game, e.g. leaders and wonders with military abilities, and is not an independent module that you can leave out without breaking the game.

In the end, our scores were Han 100, me 99, Chee Seng 83. It was a close game and our scores were mostly quite close during the game (at least until Han conquered the 11 culture point colony). It was a nail-biting finish when we counted the bonus scores from the four Age III event cards. Although Han was leading, he did not do as well as us in the areas that were required by these cards. And I lost by one point! I won by one point in our first game. Exciting game!

After Through the Ages, Han had to go. I taught Chee Seng Thebes. So basically we went digging up the artefacts left behind by our civilisations from Through the Ages. It was his first time playing, and he seemed to enjoy it quite a bit. I do find Thebes quite a fun game, despite the luck factor. In this game I won by one point, 92 to 91.

Chee Seng preparing to start digging for artefacts in Thebes.

The beautiful game board of Thebes.

I dug and dug, and got lots of sand. Well, to be fair, many artefacts have been discovered at this site and there weren't that many left. But still, it's painful when you spend so much time and get a result like this.

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