The best Christmas present I received this year was without a doubt Through The Ages by Vlaada Chvátil. Considering that the rest of the presents constituted underwear, socks, etc. the competition was very low. Okay I confess nobody gave me this epic board game. I had to buy it myself as a countermove to all the boring presents I knew I would get this year, again. So this Christmas, isolated in a cabin deep inside the Swedish woods, I convinced my Ginny pig sister to endure 3 long games of Through The Ages with me. There are three versions of the game: simple, advanced and full game. Here is how it went.
Simple might not be the best word to describe it. That said, compared to the other two versions I guess you could call it relatively simple. The simple version is recommended for people who are new to the game. Basically it will introduce you to the game mechanics and give you a feel of what it is all about. I was definitely intrigued after playing the simple version. What struck me the most was the complexity of it.
The advanced game opened up for a whole new range of things including more player-player interactions. I strongly recommend players to at least try this version before giving up on it. You really get the feeling that you are building up a civilization here. This is done by performing all kinds of actions: assigning leaders and governments, building buildings, destroying buildings, playing action cards, building armies, upgrading armies, developing new technologies, colonizing new territories, making alliances, waging war, and on goes the list. While doing all this you have to deal with corruption, famine and keeping your people happy.
The full game really puts the cherry on the top, especially regarding the scoring of culture points (victory points). Also, wars against other players are introduced. When you have finished the game you have gone through four ages from antiquity to present time. Without a question the full game was most rewarding even though it also took the longest (about 4 hours but this included a lot of down time from my sister. To her defense she is not a hardcore board gamer). In some regards it reminded me of an expanded version of Puerto Rico with some different and extra game mechanics. Because of this I would strongly recommend this game to people who like Puerto Rico and wants some more depth to the game. Surprisingly this game also played pretty well with only two players. However I do look forward to being able to wage war against more than one player.
In most of the board games I have played there are a couple of cool game mechanics that keeps the game above the surface. One of the reasons to why I strongly recommend this game is because it introduces not only a few but several different awesome game mechanics. Also I really like the feeling of managing your own civilization. This gives a great depth to it. The downside of the game is the quite difficult rules and potential downtime. In my opinion you often need complex rules in other to get the best experience. This game is so rewarding when you get a hang of it. Concerning the downtime I guess you just need the right crew that knows that thinking about their next moves should be done while it is not their turn.
Game mechanics: 10/10
Luck factor: 10/10
Fun factor: 9/10
Overall: A solid 9.4/10