I’ve owned this game for a while, and just haven’t gotten around to writing a review for it. The game is fairly cheap and handles 2-7 players. I have only had a chance to play it with 2 or 4 players, so I don’t know how well it scales with more players, but it would definitely change how it plays. It is a very quick game, usually running about 45 minutes for the first play through and 30 for subsequent ones. This is a great game for us to squeeze in (compared to other board games that I tend to play) at the end of a gaming session, when we have a little bit of time left.
The packaging for this game is nice. The box art is attractive and gives you a good view of the contents. The huge bonus is that the box has been designed to actually fit the pieces! This may sound like an odd ‘bonus’, but so many of the games that I buy come in generic boxes, and putting them away is a pain, either because the box is too full or I have to put all of the pieces in plastic bags (that I provided).
The game components are pretty nice. There are 7 (imagine that) Wonder boards that have some pretty impressive artwork on them. The main component that you will interact with, will be the cards. The art on the cards is nicely done, and once you learn the symbols, they are very efficient. Additionally, there are some coins and military markers, which serve their purpose well. I can’t really complain about anything. There is also a nifty little score card to help you score the game at the end.
The game spans three different ages. Each age has its own set of cards with cards from the later ages generally being better than the earlier age cards. The overall goal of the game is to end up with the most Victory Points at the end of the Third Age.
The gameplay is fairly simple, and once you get the hang of it, goes quite quickly. Each player starts with a Wonder board (this can be randomly selected, if you desire). Each Wonder board has two sides. Side A is a more basic version, while Side B is more advanced for people who have played the game before.
The deck of available cards has to be built based upon the number of players. Each card will show you when to use it. For example, a card with 5+ would be used if you were playing with 5 or more players.
After the deck has been built, each player is dealt an equal number of cards for the First Age. The cards for the other two ages are set aside until for the time being.
The turn consists of each player picking a card from their hand, and then passing the remaining cards (face-down) to the player on their left (for the 1st and 3rd ages). Once everybody has selected their card, players reveal their choices. The choices basically come down to:
- Playing the card
- Using the card to build your Wonder
- Discarding the card to receive 3 coins
Playing the card and building your Wonder has a resource cost. You either have to have the resources available in front of you, or you will have to buy the resources from one of your neighbors (who cannot refuse, as long as you pay). If you can’t attain the resources, you can’t play the card.
Any card that you play, goes face up in front of you for all to see. If you have added to your Wonder, you place it face down under the Wonder to represent that part has been completed. each stage of the Wonder that has been completed provides its own benefit, which is printed on that part of the Wonder board. It can be just about anything in the game; resources, military strength, victory points, etc.
Another thing worth mentioning is that you can create “building chains”. These are where you can play one card for free (not needing to meet the resource requirement), because you have already played another card, usually in a previous age. This can be a huge benefit, since some of the cards in the 3rd age have some rather hefty resource requirements.
Once all players have completed their action, they pick up the deck that was passed to them and repeat the process. When each player has two cards in their hand, they pick one (as mentioned) above, and discard the last one. At this point the age ends.
The End of an Age
When an Age ends, players total up their military might and compare it to each of their neighbors’. If their military might is greater, they receive a bonus token and the neighbor receives a penalty. The penalty is always -1 victory point, but the bonus tokens are worth more in the later ages (+1 for the 1st age +3 for the 2nd age and +5 for the third age). This can become quite substantial by the end of the game if one player receives all of the bonuses (1+1+3+3+5+5=18).
After this is completed, cards for the next Age are dealt, repeating what has been described above until all three Ages have been completed. One thing to note is that you switch the direction that you are passing the cards in each age (the direction to pass is indicated on the back of the card).
At the end of the 3rd Age, all of the points are totaled up and a winner is determined. The scoring process is a little difficult to describe, but it is basically adding up victory points from the following:
- Military conflict tokens
- 1 Victory Point for every 3 coins you have
- Completing parts of your Wonder
- Civilian Structures
- Science Structures
- Commercial Structures
2-Player (Expert) Game
The 2-player games plays similarly to the 3 or more player version. The one change is that there is a neutral city. The neutral city adds an entirely new aspect to the game. The neutral city is treated as another player (i.e. 3 stacks of cards). The control of the neutral city switches after each card play. When you control the city, you choose one card for you (from your deck) and one for the city (from its deck).
This adds a new layer to the strategy of the game, because you can use the city to support your building needs or deny your opponent what he might need. It is a bit more complex and seems to confuse my 7-year old son a little bit when we do this, because he has to choose for the other city, too.
This is another game that I have been very satisfied with. Once players are familiar with it, it plays very quickly. I think it is a fairly simple game to grasp after a single playthrough, with the exception being some of the 3rd Age stuff. About my only complaint with this game is that when you get to the 3rd Age, many of the cards have symbols on them that people have no clue what they are. Once you refer to the quick reference card, it makes sense, but it can be a bit confusing at first. Other than that, it is great.
I am very happy with my purchase of this product and I will probably pick up some of the expansions eventually.