By Vlaada Chvátil
No. of players: 2-4 Play Time: 120+ mins Age: 14+
Through the Ages: A New Story of Civilization (TtA) is the newest implementation of the 2006 civilization building game Through the Ages: A Story of Civilization. I was excited to receive this game to review as it would be the first time playing a civ game in board game form.
The object of TtA is at the end of the game to have the most culture points. TtA is not a casual game by any means with lots of rules including those for a short variant, so I will do a brief overview just to give you a taste of how the game plays, but if you are looking for a how to play check out Gaming Rules!
The picture above is the TtA set up, apart from the colour of the board and the number of white cubes (civil actions) that you start with; everything else will be the same for each player.
The first two of your turns will be different due to not having resources at the beginning and not having any military cards. So let’s dive in and look at the structure of a typical turn and some of the things you will be doing throughout the ages.
First up is the Politics Phase where you can do one of the following things:
Prepare an event by playing a Green military card face down to the future events deck. You will gain 1 point of culture for doing so, but then you will have to reveal the top card of the current event deck, and everyone has to do what the card says this can be both good and bad. The Event that has been resolved is discarded to the past event deck. When the current event deck is empty, the future event deck is shuffled and then forms the new current event deck.
You can play an aggression card against another player by spending the stated military action points (red cubes) indicated on the card; the defending player can play bonus cards and discard military cards which are worth +1 until they either match or exceed the aggressor’s military strength. The number of discarded military cards can’t exceed more than the number of military action points the defender has.
Declare war on a player by playing the card on someone and resolving it on your next turn. Out of the two players, whoever has the highest military strength wins, bonus cards are not allowed to be used. Then resolve the effects of the war card.
Offer a pact, each player can only have a maximum of 2 pacts one coming from them to another player and one offered by another player to them. Once you have chosen a player, read the pact out, if they accept the pact, it is then put in play, if not it is returned to your hand. You can also cancel a pact that you are a part of and remove it from play.
The second part of the turn structure is the Action Phase where you can do as many of these things as you have civil action points (white cubes) to spend:
Buy a card from the card line paying 1-3 civil actions depending on the cards position on the card line.
You can play an action card for 1 civil action, but it cannot be one you have purchased in the same turn. Resolve the cards effect then discard the card. The cards effect is triggered for free, and no further civil action points are required.
Increase your population for 1 civil action, move a worker (yellow cubes) from your worker bank and place it into your worker pool and pay the food cost for that worker.
Build a farm, mine or urban building for 1 civil action. Move a worker from your worker pool to that building card and pay its stone cost (blue cubes). Upgrade a farm, mine or urban building for 1 civil action. Move a worker from the lower level building card to the one above it and pay the difference in stone cost between the two building cards. Destroy a farm, mine or urban building for one civil action. Move a worker from selected building card back into the worker pool.
Build a stage of a wonder for 1 civil action, pay the stone cost for that stage and use one of the blue cubes to cover that stage with the to indicate the stage is complete.
Develop a technology for 1 civil action and pay the science needed for that technology card.
Change your government for 1 civil action and the science needed to replace it. You can declare a revolution and pay the total of your civil actions (4 at the beginning) to pay a lower amount of science.
Put a leader card into play for one civil action.
You also have a number of military actions (red cubes) which can be used for the following:
Build a military unit for 1 military action, move a worker from your worker pool to the military card pay the required amount of stone. Upgrade a military unit for 1 military action, move a worker from the lower level military card to the one above it and pay the difference in stone cost between the two military cards. Destroy a military unit for 1 military action move a worker from the military card and put it back into the worker pool.
Play a tactic for 1 military action or copy a tactic.
The end turn sequence is carried out by following the steps on the player boards.
Then the card line is replenished. This is repeated until the age 3 civil card deck has been exhausted. Then the future event deck and current event deck are revealed one at a time and then resolved. The player with the most culture points wins.
If I only had one word to sum TtA up in, it would be long. The box gives a max time of 240 mins, with the full complement of 4 players it took us 7 hours. For me, I would only ever play this game as a 2 player game. All though TtA has strong mechanics it’s just not that good of a gaming experience to warrant 7 hours of play time.
If you are going to play TtA with more than 2 players, I would suggest playing the short variant in which you only play the first 3 ages. Also, there is a peaceful variant which I tried, but it made TtA low on player interaction which I’m not a fan of, in any game.
I enjoyed building my civilization, the feeling of culture and society evolving as you are going through the ages turns this game, of what is essentially cube pushing, into the civilization building game TtA set out to be. The success of the theming is hugely down to the artwork and the events, you go from colonisation all the way through to terrorism, thematically that makes sense.
TtA felt like a puzzle in that you had to balance between resource production and increasing your population. As the ages progress, urban buildings and technologies become more powerful so not surprisingly they cost more to build and that’s where the balancing act comes in. You need to produce more stone, so you need to increase your population, but the higher the population, the more you have to feed them, so you have to produce more food. At the same time, upgrading your buildings is very important, There is no point having 4 workers on a mine that produces 1 stone each per turn when you could upgrade to iron which produces 2 stone per worker per turn. If that wasn’t enough plates to spin, chuck in the need for science, military and oh yes that all important factor of getting more culture than anyone else. As the game progressed, I always felt like there were so many things I needed to do and not enough actions/resources available. Making TtA a game of who can be the most efficient, that and some cool leader/wonder combos and you are on your way to winning.
As soon as you think you have created a well balanced and slick civilization, TtA and the people you thought were your friends will inevitably find ways to smack you back down. From uprisings, not being able to feed your population, corruption to just plain waging war against you, the game can and will punish you, and I’m ok with that, as you are not just playing the players but also the game.
All in all, Through the Ages: A new story of civilization is a great game, the theme was strong with solid mechanics, but the game length coupled with a lot of player downtime will prevent this game from being played more.
Through the Ages: A new story of civilization has an RRP of £39.99 and can be found at these retailers.