The Tao of Gaming

Boardgames and lesser pursuits

Gathering Day 2 — Let the Gaming Begin!

I played some games yesterday; mainly interested in Through the Ages. To be specific — We played a 4-player, 2-era game (the full game is three eras), using the advanced rules (of basic, advanced, full).

Our game took about four hours, plus forty minutes or so for rules. Interesting, if not completely absorbing. It really does seem like many of the basic ideas (if not mechanisms) map to the Sid Meier computer game Civ. The main idea, a Showmanager-esque track where you buy advances, works well. The resource management seems to work.

In broad brush-strokes, there’s something here. If the full game consistently takes six hours, that’s a serious obstacle. We could shave it down with a play or two. I missed the chance to purchase this when Funagain got fifty copies earlier (in that I could have, but decided to sleep on it). I keep hearing it will be out next year. Now that I’ve played it, I still feel a small twinge at not buying it, but no overwhelming anguish. I look forward to trying it again once or twice during the week.

Others have expressed concern on balance. Given 300 (more?) cards, with probably 150 different effects, I won’t speculate. Others have fallen out of love with this after 3-5 plays (but not many). I could be one of those. I’m flaky that way.

I also tried Glory to Rome, which is in the San Juan / Race for the Galaxy family. Given how I feel about the other two, its tough to claim an opinion. There are many more ‘moving parts’ in Glory to Rome (something like a eight roles, and cards can be in hand, on the table, in the stockpile, clientele, being built, built, or in the vault. Given the bewildering array of options, take the opinion of anyone who has played once with enough salt to keep deer through the winter.

That being said, my impression of “Too many notes” feels right. The complexity feels needless, and out of place in this genre. If you have 30 (San Juan) to 95 (Race) cards that break the rules, simple rules help. I’ll play again, and likely several more times, but I suspect I’ll be sticking with the other two. I’m also prejudiced against the artwork. It lacks San Juan’s simplicity, or Race’s stunning clarity. This is more cartoony and Groo-like. It distracted. [I may find Race’s art distracting once it’s published … I’m used to the simple interface].

Interestingly, J feels quite favorable towards Glory to Rome, so we may pick up a copy anyway. [I’m told there will be a newer edition that fixes quite a few things, and clarifies other points, so I can wait].


Written by taogaming

April 2, 2007 at 8:45 am

3 Responses

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  1. I’ve played Through the Ages twice, I think our biggest fear on the balance issue was with the various production-upgrade buildings. These are really critical, and in each age, there are fewer available than there are players. So with four players, there are three Iron/Irrigation in Age I, two Coal/Selective Breeding in Age II, and two Oil/Industrial Agriculture in Age III.

    If you are in a position in which you miss out on an upgrade in Age I, and then you only get access to one of the upgrades in Age II very late or not at all, it seems pretty clear that you are completely, totally screwed. And there is almost nothing you can do to mitigate this risk; either you see the cards or you don’t. These upgrades are valuable, so if they get turned up after your turn you may simply never get a shot at them as others snag them, even those who got an Age I upgrade. And with only two upgrade cards in the huge Age II deck, seeing an upgrade in a timely manner is not highly predictable.

    The reprint is apparently for later this year, and I hope they’ll consider adding a few more production upgrades.

    I think for me TtA will turn into a buy, because it is pretty unique and this sort of multi-player solitaire empire-building game is fun to have from time to time. But it’ll be a marginal buy, and it’s far from a Civ-lite some were billing it as. It’s almost a Civ-heavy, really.

    Chris Farrell

    April 2, 2007 at 1:14 pm

    • Well, it certainly appears to be a risk, but I’ve seen players go by with mining or agriculture unimproved (although both would be pushing it). A strong agricultural civ will skip over the population action cards, leaving them for the unimproved player.

      A similar issue can hit in military. Letting it slide can really pay off, especially if Gandhi shows up early. No player can do everything.

      That being said, TtA has plenty of luck for its duration (3.5 hours for 3 experienced players). I greatly prefer the 3 player game, and you can always throw in the 4+ production cards.

      [Original on April 9, 2007. Moved when Blog moved].


      October 28, 2009 at 6:44 pm

  2. I think it’s advisable to get one or the other of farming/mining upgraded, but not at all necessary to get both. I’ve done quite well by ignoring farming many games in a row, grabbing every food bonus card and the cruise ship wonder whenever possible. I also tend to go for as many civil actions as I can, so the extra yellow cards aren’t that expensive. If I can snag Barbarossa I like to build many military units and sack them in aggression/colonization to keep my yellow pool large reducing the food loss. The fourth element is to spend most of my resources on improving existing workers to the latest technologies rather than assigning new ones, which combines well with a heavy tech production.

    I’ve seen the reverse strategy also work well, the heavy farm route lets you pump out workers. Picking up all the rock discounts you can makes it easy to employ them.


    April 10, 2007 at 12:32 am

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