I’ve now played three games of Nations. Some thoughts, jumbled:
- This is definitely inspired by Through the Ages. Does it obsolete it? Well, as a practical matter I haven’t played TtA in years,it was basically obsolete for me anyway. Nations is faster, arguably much faster, and plays up to 5 (with some time per player, but not as much). It’s also simpler, so points for that.
- There are large differences that fall out of the design, though. TtA will effectively have all cards in the game (in some order). Nations will only use a subset of cards for each age. So you can have the pyramids in one game and not in the other. Sun Tzu may or may not show up. More dramatically, it can really matter if no wars show up one turn, or no colonies or advisers or wonders. So if you’ve built a strategy that benefits from X cards, X may not show up. Whether this is good or bad depends on your point of view. It increases the luck, but also means that there is more variety each game. Overall, I think this is a benefit, particularly as the game plays in 90-120 minutes (with 3-4 fast players) I’m inclined to think the variety is OK.
- There is no targeted aggression. There’s (at most) one war a turn and whoever buys it sets the threshold (at their current military level). There are untargeted “bombs” in that the most (least) military/stability is often rewarded (punished) by the turn’s event (visible at the beginning, resolves at the end). Most military also gives a turn order advantage (which matters, since you each get one action in order, and the primary action is “buy a card from the visible choices”). However, for the most part crushing your opponents by a huge amount gains no additional benefit (although you do need to reach some military thresholds to gain colonies).
- You can handicap the game by setting different players at different levels. (I do think for a non-handicapped game you should perhaps give the later players in opening turn order an extra coin or some such to balance out the first player advantage on T1, but for unequal players you should be able to find a reasonable handicap to let newcomers play old hands). This is actually a feature that most Euros don’t handle well (apart from house rules, of course).
- I haven’t tried the “B” side of the player mats that give each nation a unique feel, but I imagine they add interest the game, assuming they are balanced.
Overall comparison with TtA — More luck, more replayability, shorter (with the same # of players), easier to explain.
Rating — Suggest (for now).