The Tao of Gaming

Boardgames and lesser pursuits

Back Through the Ages Again

I received my upgrade kit for Through the Ages earlier this year, so it went back into the bag, so I’ve played three more times this last half-year. Looking back on the various strategy comments, I think they hold up well, although looking at BGG’s strategy forum, I’m shocked to see even more emphasis on military. (Ten Military by the end of Age I? Vhojha Moi!)

In short, TtA’s second wind has strengthened. My most recent game (a four player game with new players) took 6 hours, but didn’t overstay its welcome. As I approach the ten game mark, I don’t think my copy will be jettisoned anytime soon.

I’m in the camp that would like to see an expansion that didn’t just add cards, but also removed an equal number each game (to add variability). For example, instead of having the same four leaders in each age, have four “Leader/Wonder” cards, and then randomly pick them out. So one game might not have Napoleon, etc. [For planning purposes, you could randomly deal out the leaders/wonders used before the game, or not, depending on how you feel about adding chaos to a long game]. Adding a few new events (and enough tactics/agressions to balance) would also be nice.

Is anyone else still playing this, or has it’s time come and gone?

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Written by taogaming

April 18, 2009 at 2:28 pm

Posted in Session Reports

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16 Responses

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  1. I’d love to be playing this regularly, Brian, but with its long duration and our Flavor of the Month mentality (which I share in), it’s been tough getting it to the table. I tried getting in a game at the Gathering, but wasn’t successful. But I’ll still play this whenever the opportunity presents itself, as I rank it as my #3 game of all time. No way has it come and gone in my mind.

    Larry Levy

    April 18, 2009 at 3:56 pm

  2. I recently played a couple of two player at two hours apiece. Still enjoyed with a few niggling complaints. My big problem with the game (beyond the irrational desire for an actual map) remains with the military deck. Looking over the deck, particularly the Age I deck, there’s way too many Tactics cards when at most you’ll be using 1-3 per game. In the Age I deck there’s an equal number of Events (not counting Territory) when you’ll easily be playing 3 times as many per game. Compare that to Events, Territories, Defense/Colonization Bonuses or Aggressions, all of which you are likely to play more of. It doesn’t help that when you are in a defensive position Aggressions and Wars also become useless.

    I think it would make sense to either make the military cards multipurpose or more closely balance the number in the deck to actual usage.

    frunk

    April 18, 2009 at 4:39 pm

  3. Good catch, Frunk.

    Right now I’m unhappy with cards that are a useless (or traps). It may be groupthink, but there are some leaders/wonders and tactics that aren’t good. Perhaps trimming military deck 1 by removing 1 of each of the tactics is a pretty reasonable idea.

    I’d probably also make the Age I/II works of art provide double VPs…

    Brian

    April 18, 2009 at 8:28 pm

  4. This is currently one of my favorite games. I can’t say I have ever had any six hour games. 4.5 hours has been the longest and that was a fluke.

    Daniel Corban

    April 18, 2009 at 11:30 pm

  5. It may be groupthink, but there are some leaders/wonders and tactics that aren’t good.

    There was an interesting thread on the Geek recently where folks were talking up their most/least favorite leaders. There was a little bit of consensus, but overall there was quite a spread of opinion. So I think that groupthink and style of play has a lot to do with how leaders are perceived. I still feel that under the right circumstances, just about every leader in the game can be useful.

    Larry Levy

    April 19, 2009 at 12:10 am

  6. As the author of the military article you linked to, my group still plays it a lot, almost all 4player. The emphasis on military is not merely groupthink but a necessity. Time and again people have tried to break out of the military mentality but you simply cannot do so in a 4p game or you will get pounded on by at least 2 of the other 3 people. It’s a prisoner’s dilemma — it’s always in your best interest to defect and go military, although it’s possible to reach an unstable equilibrium if nobody goes military.

    Eugene Hung

    April 19, 2009 at 1:11 am

  7. Also, there are not “too many tactics cards”. Play the game in a group that understands the importance of military and you’ll see that the large amount of tactics is a necessity to give everyone a chance to build themselves up. In fact, some people in my group have complained that there are too FEW tactics cards. 🙂

    Eugene Hung

    April 19, 2009 at 1:12 am

  8. Well, six hours included the rules (and perhaps a break for lunch). 4.5 is certainly closer to my par.

    I certainly think that the military strategy (in Eugene’s article) is required (if anyone starts on it); I’m mainly shocked in that your group is even more ruthless about it. I’ll post my comment/question in that article…

    Brian

    April 19, 2009 at 9:47 am

  9. The thing is the military race is partially driven by the excess tactics cards, but not in a good way. Because of the large number of them, and relative rarity of the bonus cards, it’s tough to stay within military distance if you don’t get a combination of military techs and tactics cards that match. You still can, but you are likely to be spending extra effort on it and thereby falling behind. It forces the military strategy and reduces the viability of other paths.

    All the while most of the tactics cards you draw are useless, except for the few that you use during the game. I don’t like drawing a bunch of cards, knowing that a high percentage of them are going to be discarded at the first opportunity. I like having difficult decisions on what to keep.

    If the intent of having a lot of tactics cards in the deck are to give everyone a shot at them, I’d prefer that they were removed from the deck. In a given age you can take any age appropriate tactic by spending 2 military actions. It would reduce the chaff in the military deck, allow anyone to get the tactics that they want and reduce the luck of the one person who got the perfect tactic with the perfect military techs.

    frunk

    April 19, 2009 at 11:40 am

  10. I’m playing this PBEM (via Vassal; completed a few, am currently in two). We also play FTF some, but it is long, and hard to get together. Certainly not “expired” for us.

    I’d like to see an expansion that does what Brian suggests, keeping the ratios about the same but adding more variability. There are some “critical” cards, but I think that could be factored in. I’d also be interested in padding out Antiquity some (maybe another 20 cards or so), to create more divergence when the game hits Age I.

    I’m much more sympathetic to frunk’s views of the tactics cards. I think the military deck would be more interesting if there were more territories and events, and with a wider variety of effects (there are a lot of unused hooks to hang effects on here). But tactics? They need to expire faster to be more interesting in their current ratio.

    Jon Waddington

    April 20, 2009 at 3:24 pm

  11. I’m playing this PBEM (via Vassal; completed a few, am currently in two). We also play FTF some, but it is long, and hard to get together. Certainly not “expired” for us.

    I’d like to see an expansion that does what Brian suggests, keeping the ratios about the same but adding more variability. There are some “critical” cards, but I think that could be factored in. I’d also be interested in padding out Antiquity some (maybe another 20 cards or so), to create more divergence when the game hits Age I.

    I’m much more sympathetic to frunk’s views of the tactics cards. I think the military deck would be more interesting if there were more territories and events, and with a wider variety of effects (there are a lot of unused hooks to hang effects on here). But tactics? They need to expire faster to be more interesting in their current ratio.

    Jon Waddington

    April 20, 2009 at 3:24 pm

  12. I finally got a copy a few months back. Have played a couple games in which we made numerous mistakes and didn’t have time to finish. Mistakes aside, myself and my main gamer buddy (as well as his teenage sons) are getting into TtA like no game since the days when we first played Puerto Rico oh so many years ago.

    coldfoot

    April 24, 2009 at 5:23 am

  13. Glad you’re enjoying it after such a long wait, Coldie. It truly is an amazing design.

    Larry Levy

    April 24, 2009 at 1:06 pm

  14. I am still playing it (2 player almost entirely), and its great. In 2 player you can sometimes play low military games, which opens up a lot more cards to be potentially good.

    Some flaws that I see are:
    Many wonders and leaders are worthless, while others are super strong. For example, Age A has 2 awesome wonders and 2 worthless ones, 3 great leaders, 2 weak ones nad 1 worthless. In Age I the strongest wonder is the cheapest AND quickest to build, and the others are ok at best.

    Military is too impotant, especially with more players, since falling behind means multiple people destroy you. But in addition to being too important, it is also too variable and luck based. Napoleon/Air forces can be broken with a good tactic card, and the tactics are widely variable in power. For age I, Medieval Army and Phalanx are awesome, the horse only ones suck (because you have a warrior to start!). For Age 2, Classic Army is VERY broken (9 is way too much for the effort involved in it, AND its the best to combine with Napoleon). Napoleonic Army is too good, the non-warrior ones are pretty bad AND have low values.

    There are just too many worthless tactics in the deck and then if you dont draw one of the few good ones you are SCREWED. There are both too many tactics cards in there overall (it sucks to draw a bunch because then you dont get other stuff), and simultaneously not enough of the GOOD tactics, for which not drawing one means you are screwed and probably lose.

    There arent enough colonies and it takes too long for the colonies to come out (like an entire Age later they appear, generally). Players who are behind on military probably wont be playing events (it screws them to do so), so the colonies take too long to come out.

    Also you spend a lot of the game wading through a card row of mostly poor cards, waiting for certain critical cards to come and hoping them come out at a good time for you.

    All of that said, I STILL love the game, which just shows how great it is despite both its flaws and its long game length. Its a wonderful game and a lot of fun, and I still love it even though there are a variety of things I want to change/improve about it.

    Alexfrog

    April 28, 2009 at 3:44 pm

  15. I am still playing it (2 player almost entirely), and its great. In 2 player you can sometimes play low military games, which opens up a lot more cards to be potentially good.

    Some flaws that I see are:
    Many wonders and leaders are worthless, while others are super strong. For example, Age A has 2 awesome wonders and 2 worthless ones, 3 great leaders, 2 weak ones nad 1 worthless. In Age I the strongest wonder is the cheapest AND quickest to build, and the others are ok at best.

    Military is too impotant, especially with more players, since falling behind means multiple people destroy you. But in addition to being too important, it is also too variable and luck based. Napoleon/Air forces can be broken with a good tactic card, and the tactics are widely variable in power. For age I, Medieval Army and Phalanx are awesome, the horse only ones suck (because you have a warrior to start!). For Age 2, Classic Army is VERY broken (9 is way too much for the effort involved in it, AND its the best to combine with Napoleon). Napoleonic Army is too good, the non-warrior ones are pretty bad AND have low values.

    There are just too many worthless tactics in the deck and then if you dont draw one of the few good ones you are SCREWED. There are both too many tactics cards in there overall (it sucks to draw a bunch because then you dont get other stuff), and simultaneously not enough of the GOOD tactics, for which not drawing one means you are screwed and probably lose.

    There arent enough colonies and it takes too long for the colonies to come out (like an entire Age later they appear, generally). Players who are behind on military probably wont be playing events (it screws them to do so), so the colonies take too long to come out.

    Also you spend a lot of the game wading through a card row of mostly poor cards, waiting for certain critical cards to come and hoping them come out at a good time for you.

    All of that said, I STILL love the game, which just shows how great it is despite both its flaws and its long game length. Its a wonderful game and a lot of fun, and I still love it even though there are a variety of things I want to change/improve about it.

    Alexfrog

    April 28, 2009 at 3:44 pm

  16. I am still playing it (2 player almost entirely), and its great. In 2 player you can sometimes play low military games, which opens up a lot more cards to be potentially good.

    Some flaws that I see are:
    Many wonders and leaders are worthless, while others are super strong. For example, Age A has 2 awesome wonders and 2 worthless ones, 3 great leaders, 2 weak ones nad 1 worthless. In Age I the strongest wonder is the cheapest AND quickest to build, and the others are ok at best.

    Military is too impotant, especially with more players, since falling behind means multiple people destroy you. But in addition to being too important, it is also too variable and luck based. Napoleon/Air forces can be broken with a good tactic card, and the tactics are widely variable in power. For age I, Medieval Army and Phalanx are awesome, the horse only ones suck (because you have a warrior to start!). For Age 2, Classic Army is VERY broken (9 is way too much for the effort involved in it, AND its the best to combine with Napoleon). Napoleonic Army is too good, the non-warrior ones are pretty bad AND have low values.

    There are just too many worthless tactics in the deck and then if you dont draw one of the few good ones you are SCREWED. There are both too many tactics cards in there overall (it sucks to draw a bunch because then you dont get other stuff), and simultaneously not enough of the GOOD tactics, for which not drawing one means you are screwed and probably lose.

    There arent enough colonies and it takes too long for the colonies to come out (like an entire Age later they appear, generally). Players who are behind on military probably wont be playing events (it screws them to do so), so the colonies take too long to come out.

    Also you spend a lot of the game wading through a card row of mostly poor cards, waiting for certain critical cards to come and hoping them come out at a good time for you.

    All of that said, I STILL love the game, which just shows how great it is despite both its flaws and its long game length. Its a wonderful game and a lot of fun, and I still love it even though there are a variety of things I want to change/improve about it.

    Alexfrog

    April 28, 2009 at 3:44 pm


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