I feel compelled to say a little something about a new game we recently played, The Golden Ages. While it hit the shelves Wednesday, it has been available in Europe for about a year now, so you may have seen some copies floating around the circuit.
I am a huge fan of civilization style games, so when I saw some buds setting this up at Dice and Drinks at My Father’s Place this Monday, I was pretty excited. Now My Father’s Place is not an ideal place to play a game of this sort. The place is designed for drinking, not playing mid-weight euros. But we worked our way through the game, struggling to see some of the icons, and trying to keep drinks and food from mucking up the components.
I was ho-hum after that first play. I didn’t see a ton of depth, it felt short, and the winner was leagues ahead of anyone else on the score track. I did still want to try again. So the other night I did, a 2-player game with Kirsten.
Normally I would never dream of asking Kirsten to play a civilization building game with me, mainly because she doesn’t want to sit through an hour of rules explanation followed by 4-6 hours of 20 choices per turn brain burning. I did not hesitate to ask her to play The Golden Ages though, and that is part of what I now really enjoy about this game. The game provides so much of the civ feel within a relatively simple set of rules and in about 2 hours.
The Golden Ages has everything you’d expect from a civ game: a tech tree with advancements that really affect the outcome of your future actions, the opportunity to construct buildings and Wonders, a super simple combat system, an elegant resource control system, and the opportunity to change leaders to direct your progress. In my opinion, a true civ game also has a map, and the Golden Ages makes that happen with a set of tiles that players use to construct the world as the game progresses, a very nice, and again elegant, feature.
After playing the game a second time, I realized that a few of the shortcomings I saw in the first play are actually strengths, especially because I now have a civ game that Kirsten has said she will easily play again. The game is short for a civ game, about 2 hours, and the depth is nowhere near that of games like Clash of Cultures, Sid Meier’s Civilization, or Through the Ages. But trimming the time and depth makes The Golden Ages far more playable more often and by more people. Grognards, stay far away and keep checking the mail for Through the Ages deluxe.
The Golden Ages also really shines as a euro-style game. The hallmark of many euros in my mind is tight timing. Euros may be quiet affairs without much direct player interaction, but in the good ones you have to pay attention to your opponents and time your choices according to theirs. Perhaps my favorite aspect of the Golden Ages is the tightness of timing throughout the game.
One critical timing choice comes from the rule that the first person to pass in each round of the game decides how the round will be scored from a set of visible scoring cards. This is so fascinating. Often the scoring choices involve resources on the map. Easy, just move guys to those spots. But wait, I can’t reach them, so I develop more transportation tech, and there’s a building or wonder to help with that, just need to acquire it before someone else. Cool, got the tech, but if I move my guy now, blue player has the ability to sweep in and take it from me, so I’ll do a few other actions before moving. What, you passed!? And that’s how you chose to score!? Not cool. Trying to time all of these decisions based on other players’ actions is the kind of challenge I enjoy, and it is what helps this game work so well as a short and relatively simple civ game.
If you enjoy either euros or civ games, or both, I recommend giving this a run through. We’ll have it on the rental shelf next week, and I’ll be demoing it this Sunday, so you’ll have lots of options for test driving it.
Game on you crazies!