Why play a game that only gives you 7 Wonders when you can play one that has 16?

Strategy 101: Through the Ages, Wonder Edition

iOS Universal, Android •

To me, the best parts of any civ-building game are the Wonders. From the moment I built the Pyramids in Civilization II and was presented with a FMV movie showcasing my achievement, I was hooked. In fact, while I’m not a huge fan of FMV, I do wish they still had them in the Civ series. Nothing was cooler than adding that last brick and hearing the CD-ROM drive fire up.

Through the Ages doesn’t have any FMV movies celebrating your achievements, either, but Wonders still play an important role in building a competitive civ. They’re also just fun to play around with, so let’s take a look at them Age by Age.

Just because ranking things is fun, I’ll rate each Wonder from worst to first in each Age. Here is the criteria I used for each Wonder to place them in this very specific order:

  1. The card had to be a Wonder
  2. I like it
  3. It’s shiny!

I also feel the need to remind everyone that I suck, so take everything here with an entire shaker of salt.

Age A

  1. While none of the Age A Wonders are complete wastes of time, this Egyptian Wonder comes closest. The +1 to Science and +1 to Culture are helpful, sure, but are fairly small potatoes in the late game. The real gem here is the +1 to both your civil and military hand. If you’re stuck in Despotism for the long haul, that +1 to each can be a real boon. To be fair, I’d probably rank this one and the next as tied for 3rd place, depending on what type of game you prefer to play (builder vs. warmonger), but both are below our top two Age A entries.
  2. The Colossus of Rhodes is one of my favorite wonders of the ancient world. It was also one of my favorite wonder movies in Civ II. That said, its functionality in Through the Ages is less than perfect. Sure, that +2 to Military Strength is nice, and the +1 to Colonization can help set you on the path to Imperialism when Territories start popping up. It’s just kind of boring, though. Yep, that’s the best argument I have against it. All the Age A Wonders are helpful in their own way, I just find this one’s benefit to be less important than the two Age A biggies.
  3. Egypt makes the Age A Wonder list twice, and the Pyramids are definitely the better of the two. Adding a Civil Action, especially this early, is a huge boon and will be useful from Age A until the end of the game. This used to be my go-to Wonder in Age A, but after getting my butt handed to me game after game by Hardco and others, I’ve switched, and my new #1 is…
  4. Oh, sweet happiness! The +1 Culture you get is negligible, but those 2 Happy faces this early can carry you all the way through Age I if you get a little help in your Yellow Bank. The big benefit here is that you don’t have to spend population or ore on the Religion tract of buildings, at least not until much later in the game. Instead, you can use those resources to build Drama for extra happiness and some real Culture bonuses, or for another Lab to pump up your Science output.

Age I

  1. The Universitas Carolina is the weakest Wonder of Age I, but considering how fantastic all the Age I Wonders are, that’s not really a big knock. It’s just kind of blah compared to the others, which all seem to have that little extra oomph. When it comes down to it, Universitas Carolina is basically an Alchemy Lab that gives a little bit of culture, but it costs nine ore to complete. A new Alchemy Lab will run you 6 ore and 4 Science, so UC isn’t ridiculously priced, it’s just…well, like I said, blah.
  2. This majestic mausoleum isn’t a must-have Wonder, but picking it up doesn’t suck, either. The +3 Culture boost is huge in Age I, and can really pile up if you build it early in the first Age. You’d have to wait until Age II when Opera arrives to find a similar Culture creator. On top of that, it’s only 8 ore (the same price as Opera), doesn’t need a worker, and also gives you an extra blue cube for your Blue Bank, which can help alleviate Corruption.
  3. I’ve been to St. Peter’s in the Vatican and, I have to say, there were far fewer than 2 smiley faces (it was Xmas eve and, unbeknownst to us, the Sistene chapel closed early that day before we got there. My wife still hasn’t forgiven me for sleeping late). Luckily, Vlaada Chvátil doesn’t give a hoot about my woes, and his St. Peter’s is pretty fantastic. Your happiness problems for the entire game can be solved simply by picking up this Wonder. On top of its Happiness boosting power, it also has the same stats as the Age I Theater, Drama. Sure, it’s twice the ore for the Wonder, but no worker is necessary and the bonus to your other Happiness producing buildings is superb.
  4. The Great Wall is a weird Wonder in that anyone, regardless of your playstyle, can make it work. +1 Military Strength for each Infantry and Artillery unit is a huge boon for both warmongers and peaceniks. This can eliminate the need to research or build any Cavalry units, provided you can find a decent Tactic that uses only Infantry and/or Artillery, and there are a few. On top of the obvious Military perks, it also gives you a little bit of Culture and Happiness, which is just icing on the fāgāo.

Age II

  1. The Kremlin is the only Wonder in Through the Ages that comes with its own negative quirk. As such, it’s one that I’m not sure I’ve ever taken in all my years of playing TtA. Then again, I’ve lost a lot over the course of those years by not taking it, so maybe it’s the best damn Wonder ever? Probably not, but getting an extra Civil and Military Action is a nice addition. You also get some culture out of the deal, but I can’t shake that loss of one smiling, happy face. As a benevolent and loving tyrant, I just have a hard time seeing my peasants people unhappy. That said, if you can mitigate the hit to your Happiness (this Wonder would couple well with St. Peter’s) it’s not a bad bump to your civ.
  2. The Parisian tower is kind of like the Age II Taj Mahal. Not a lot of excitement here, but that +4 Culture is more than any other building you’ll see in the entire game, tying it with Age III’s Theater, Movies, as king. It also has a little bit of Happiness thrown in for good measure. The downside of the Eiffel Tower is its cost. At 13 ore, it’s more than the other Age II Wonders, but it also has that brutal second stage costing 7. It can be hard to come up with 7 ore in one turn unless you’ve already upgraded to Coal, so plan on taking a Reserves or Engineering Genius card to help get over that hump.
  3. The Transcontinental Railroad has a special place in digital Through the Ages for being the only Wonder with an icon that doesn’t seamlessly blend into the landscape. Who cares, though, when it’s this tasty. +4 to Military can help both the warmonger to unleash Aggressions and War, or it can help a builder who needs a quick lump of strong defense. Its main ability, giving you an extra mine, can be a lifesaver, too, and might mean being able to skip Oil if you have a healthy pack of Coal Mines churning away. Or, add some Oil mines and you’ll have enough ore to construct an Age III Wonder in one turn.
  4. The Ocean Liner is one of the oddest Wonders of the game, but also might be the most useful. It’s the only Wonder with no icons on the bottom of the card, meaning you’ll not be boosting any resource or Actions with it, at least not directly. That’s because its main power is so damn good. Getting a free worker for no Actions or food is insane. Even some dumb bloke who still has Age A farms in the late game (I’m talking about myself here) can poop out population and build stuff. Getting Ocean Liner in early Age II can allow you to basically ignore your food production, only keeping it high enough so your plebs people don’t starve. It also puts a cool boat in the sea behind your civ, so there’s no reason to not snatch this one up unless you’re already drowning in grain.

Age III

Age III Wonders are different than all the Wonders from previous Ages. None of these will grant you more resources or Actions. Instead, all the Age III Wonders will grant you a significant amount of Culture for the upcoming end game. All four of them can be equally beneficial depending on what you’ve been focusing on in the previous 3 Ages. If you’re a drama queen, grab Hollywood. Have a lot of Science? Play Al Gore and invent the Internet. I’m going to list the Age III wonders below, but forego ranking them because what’s great one game won’t work well in the next and so on. Let’s take a look:

  • Hollywood is a great late-game Wonder if you’ve been rising up both the Theater and Library chain of buildings. If you have a couple Workers in both Movies and Multimedia, you can pull in close to 30 Culture points in one fell swoop. Of course, if you don’t have buildings in both those paths, then Hollywood becomes less important. Even with only Libraries or Theaters, don’t discount Hollywood if it’s the only Age III Wonder you can get your hands on. Even if you’re stuck with 3 Age II Theaters, Hollywood can still earn you close to 20 Culture. It might be worth picking up and getting a little less culture for yourself than having your opponent who’s been maxing out both those trees grab it and score beaucoup points.
  • Internet is kind of like Hollywood, except its benefits apply to more buildings than just Theatears and Libraries. Both of those buildings will give you culutre, but you’ll also get culture for every Lab and Arena as well. Note that the Science/Culture/Strength bonuses only apply to your Urban Buildings, so don’t include any Military Units or Special (Blue) Technologies. Internet is the perfect Wonder for the well rounded despot.
  • It’s no secret that I love fast food, but I also love this Wonder in Age III. Unlike the previous two Age III Wonders which require specific building types to really pay off, Fast Food Chains will pay Culture for every worker you have on every card. You don’t really have to do anything special to reap the Fast Food rewards, as you’ve been putting workers on cards since way back in Age A. This is the perfect Wonder for those who don’t really fit into any of the other categories. If the drama or science route wasn’t your thing, Fast Food Chains can still pay off nicely.
  • The First Space Flight Wonder is most beneficial to the Science geeks out there. If you’ve been cranking out Science like crazy and can discover one or two new techs each turn, then grab this Wonder. You don’t need to actually put workers on any of these cards, but you’ll earn Culture based on each discovered technology’s level. If you can get a ton of Age II and Age III techs on the board, Space Flight is totally worth it, even with that nasty fourth stage costing 9 ore.

We’ll be back next week with a look at Leaders, and maybe even have some strategy guides for other games. If you want to see previous Strategy Guides for Through the Ages, check these out:

If you haven’t picked up Through the Ages yet, maybe these guides have changed your mind? You can pick it up for iOS Universal or Android at the links below. Feeling extremely adventurous? Pick up the cardboard version and try teaching it to your kids! Don’t forget to buy ibuprofen as well (link not included)!

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Notable Replies

  1. Hardco says:

    I think you undervalue Taj Mahal. I think it is the age 1 wonder I try to play the most now. For some reason I rarely end up with St Peter's unless I get handed Mike.

    If you've never played Kremlin before, you are definitely doing something wrong... 2 culture, a CA and a MA are pretty nice, and sometimes you need to spend a bunch of rocks and it is just sitting there.

    I almost never play TCR in the new story. Sometimes if it is timed right with Coal or an early Oil it might be okay, but I find it is overpriced most of the time.

    Ocean Liner I don't usually go out of my way to get unless I'm struggling for food. Even with it, you still need to get enough of a food engine going to cover consumption.

    I'm pretty sure I've never built Internet, but it is rare that I end up with enough libraries to make it worthwhile.

  2. Why the hell aren’t you writing these things? Seriously, you have this stuff way more thought out than I do.

  3. Hardco says:

    It's easier to criticize than create!

  4. Those who can, do.

    Those who can't, teach. :stuck_out_tongue:

  5. Hardco is dishing out practical lessons left right and centre over in the friendly game thread. I best learn quick if I want to have a chance in the tourney

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