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Craig Hargraves

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7
Go to the Battle Line page

Battle Line

131 out of 141 gamers thought this was helpful

The Idea

Battle Line is a two player card game, in which players represent generals from ancient history as they set up formations on opposite sides of the battlefield. During the game players are trying to make poker style sets of cards (which represent troops) in an attempt to capture either 3 adjacent flags (a “Breakthrough”) or 5 flags anywhere (an Envelopment) to win the battle (and the game).

In the Box
While not overly large, the box that Battle Line comes in is a bit big for the contents. If you were travelling with Battle Line you could easily fit another one or two card games inside the box. The art on the box is quite representative of that on the cards and is quite appropriate for the historical setting and theme of the game.

As a card game the bulk of the games contents are, unsurprisingly, cards. There are two types of cards in the game. The majority of cards are “Troop” cards. These cards are numbered 1 through 10 and come in 6 different colours. The 10 remaining cards are “Tactics” cards and have special text on them which allow players to surprise their opponent by twisting rules to their advantage. As with the box, the art on the cards, while very simple by modern standards, is totally appropriate for the setting the game tries to evoke. In addition to rules text, the Tactics cards use some simple icon-like illustrations to convey their function quite well. The cards are made of quite a thick card stock and have clearly been designed to last for a long time. If anything though, the quality of the cards can make shuffling a bit more difficult than a typical card stock.

The final game component of Battle Line is a set of 9 wooden pawns which are the “Flags” the players are competing for. The pawns are simple but perform the function they are required to perfectly well. In fact, if you wanted to travel with Battle Line it would be very easy to leave these pawns behind and just take the cards and substitute some other small objects (such as coins) to perform their job.

The rules sheet is a simple black and white 4 page production. The rules are explained very well and simple illustrations and examples make everything perfectly clear. Perhaps the only addition I would have liked to have seen would have been a small reference card detailing the relative strengths of the different formations so you didn’t have to keep referring to the rules book.

Basic Game Play Summary
To set up the game, the 9 pawns are placed in a line between both players and 7 Troop cards dealt to each player. The remaining Troop cards are placed in a draw pile at one end of the line whilst the Tactics cards (if you are using them) form another draw pile at the other end.

On their turn, players will play either a Troop or Tactics card to the table and then draw a card from either of the two draw pile. Players are trying to form particular “Formations” made from sets of 3 cards on their side of the various pawns. Similar to poker these different groups have various strengths. From strongest to weakest these formations are:

1. Wedge – 3 cards of the same colour with sequential values (like a poker straight flush).
2. Phalanx – 3 cards of the same value (three-of-a-kind in poker).
3. Battalion Order – 3 cards of the same colour (a flush in poker).
4. Skirmish Line – 3 cards with sequential values (a straight in poker).
5. Host – Any other combination.

An interesting feature of Battle Line is for a player to be able to claim a flag through logic. After playing the third card to their formation, a player can claim the flag by proving through logic (based on the cards on the table) that it is impossible for their opponent to make a formation capable of beating theirs.

Tactics cards offer a chance to mess with the rules a bit. Some Tactics will allow you to steal an opponent’s card while others can act as wild cards. These cards can throw in a large degree of chaos into the game and can cause your well laid plans to come undone. Some players will appreciate this while others won’t. Fortunately for those who don’t want to add this element of chaos and conflict into the game it is very easy to leave these cards out.

To win the game you will need to capture either 3 adjacent flags or 5 flags from anywhere.

Who Would Like It
Fans of traditional card games like “Rummy” could very well enjoy the play of this game (even if the theme didn’t grab them). Battle Line also has a feel similar to some other Euro-style card games, notably “Lost Cities” (also by Reiner Knizia and published by Rio Grande Games). If you enjoy Lost Cities then you’ll probably enjoy Battle Line as a nice next step up in complexity and depth of play.

Ultimately, Battle Line stands up as a very enjoyable two-player card game so if you and your significant other are always looking for games to play together then Battle Line is well worth a look!

10
Go to the Dominion: Seaside page

Dominion: Seaside

66 out of 73 gamers thought this was helpful

Dominion Seaside is the 3rd installment in the Dominion series and the first true “expansion” expansion. It brings to the table another 26 Kingdom Cards with a good mix of cards costing from 2 to 5 coins. Also included are some player mats and some nice quality metal tokens used with some of the cards.

For this expansion the major theme (apart from the whole ocean thing) is cards which affect your next turn, called Duration cards. These cards are distinctive because they’re going to hang around and remain in play after you first play them before being cleaned up in your following turn. There are 8 orange Duration cards in all with most giving you some benefit this turn and then some, usually smaller, benefit next turn. For example, Caravan will give you an extra card and an action this turn and then another card at the start of your next turn. With the more expensive 5 cost cards you’re getting a more equitable benefit each time such as the extra two cards and extra Buy that you getting both this turn and next turn from Wharf. Perhaps the two most powerful Duration cards, Tactician and Outpost, could be said to give you a penalty this turn in return for a really big reward next. Outpost forces you to only draw 3 cards at the end of this turn. In exchange you get to take your next turn right away! Tactician forces you to discard the rest of your turn (perhaps effectively ending your turn right then and there) but in return gives you an extra 5 cards, an extra Action and an extra Buy next turn. That’s at least 10 cards, 2 Actions and 2 Buys on your next turn! That’s the makings of a huge turn!

The last notable Duration card I’ll mention here is Lighthouse. It costs a meagre 2 coins and gives you an extra Action and coin this turn and an extra coin next turn. Nothing special there, but what makes Lighthouse notable is its ongoing ability: while it’s in play, your opponent’s Attack cards don’t affect you. That’s a whole turn of protection which is always a nice thing. Lighthouse is also special though because it’s the only defensive card in the set. And there are five other Attack cards in the set just waiting out there to pounce. Perhaps the most thematic of the Attacks is the Pirate Ship which really hits the benefit later groove but in a different way to the Duration cards. With Pirate Ship you get to make a choice. The first option is to attack your opponents, hopefully forcing them to trash a Treasure card off the top of their deck. If anyone at all trashes a Treasure you get to claim a coin token (one of those metal tokens mentioned earlier). There’s no immediate benefit for you this turn (apart from slowing down your opponents a bit if you’re lucky) but this is what you’ll choose to do for the early game. Later in the game however you’re going to be taking the second option. That option allows you to get an extra coin to spend in your Buy phase for every coin token you’ve collected so far in the game. Later in the game this is going to be invaluable.

The last couple of cards I’ll mention here are a couple of my favourites and are both great early game cards (and not so useful late game). The first is Island which is an Action / Victory dual card (an idea first introduced in Dominion Intrigue). It costs 4 coins and at the end of the game it’ll be worth 2 Victory Points but it’s the Action it grants that really makes it shine. You can remove it and one other card in your hand from your deck until the end of the game. What a great way to thin those pesky Estates out of your deck early in the game while still keeping the points! The second card is Treasure Map which you’re going to need a couple of to use. If you have a couple and you can get them into your hand at the same time you can trash them in return or 4 Gold cards on top of your deck. That’s as great start for next turn and many turns to come (just watch out for the Pirate Ship). Obviously these cards will work well while your deck is small but are going to be wasted space later in the game when you have a bigger deck and it’ll be tough to get the combinations into your hand.

Overall the card art in Seaside is consistent with the style in the first two Dominion releases although sadly the practice of including some more cartoony pieces of art which began in Intrigue has continued here with a few more cards. Sorry, but within the context of the other cards, I’m really not a fan. Oh, and those player mats I mentioned at the start? They have the art from the Island, Pirate Ship and Native Village cards and can be used to store their associated cards or tokens. But honestly, I never seem to bother with them. It’s a nice enough touch but for me they’re just something that doesn’t actually fit in the box with everything else.

So all in all, Seaside is another great addition to the Dominion family. It adds a heap more variety to the game and will change the way the game plays to add even more variety to the experience. It’s well worth the money for every Dominion addict.

10
Go to the Dominion: Intrigue page

Dominion: Intrigue

67 out of 74 gamers thought this was helpful

Dominion Intrigue is the first expansion for the extremely popular Dominion series and also has the distinction of being a stand alone game in its own right. Combining these two games makes for a game that can now support up to 6 players. That’s a pretty good start right there.

For those unfamiliar with the basic gameplay of Dominion here’s the quick summary: Players all start with the same 10 card deck and then proceed to buy different cards to customize their deck into an efficient victory point purchasing engine with the aim of having the most victory points by at the end of the game.

As with the original Dominion what you’re getting in the box is a lot of cards. Aside from the Money and Victory Point cards which are familiar from the original game you’re getting 25 all new kinds of Kingdom cards. The cards themselves have a couple of new themes introduced through some of them. The first theme is that of choices. Five cards in the set allow you to choose the benefit the card gives each time you play it. For example Steward allows you to choose to either draw two cards, trash two cards or spend 2 extra coins in your buy phase. These cards can be extremely useful for the flexibility they give you throughout the game.

The second theme is the combination card type. These are taking cards types that had previously been separate in the original Dominion and putting them into one card. For example Harem is both a Treasure and a Victory Card. During the game you can use Harems for 2 coins in the buy phase (that is like a Silver) but at the end of the game it’s actually going to be worth 2 Victory Points.Of course the question will be whether that 2 points is worth the short term sacrifice because for the 6 coins Harem costs you could also buy a gold… Decisions, decisions, decisions…

As with the original game, the art for these cards has been provided by a number of different artists (12 this time round). For those who haven’t read my review of the original Dominion, I’m not a huge fan of the art but I appreciate the fact that the style was, on the whole, consistent. This time Rio Grande Games has done a good job for the most part but then tripped and fallen on it’s face. For me Maura Kalusky’s art on Harem and Shanty Town is completely out of place. Don’t get me wrong, I actually like this art and I think in many ways they suit the humour used in the games’ sales blurb. But in the context of all the other cards they just stand out like a sore thumb. Still, I can’t help but wonder how Dominion would feel had they chosen to go for a more comic style art for the whole game from the start.

One question which was being asked by people after the release of Intrigue was, given that both are stand alone games, do you really need both? And if you only get one, which one? My spin on the answer to that question goes something like this. If you’re a fairly new or casual player then I would suggest the original Dominion. Intrigue introduces a lot more decisions through the game which can be more than you need to think about as you come to grips with the game. I also feel that Moat from the original Dominion is a more intuitive form of defense against Attack cards than Intrigue’s more subtle Secret Chamber is.

If you’re an experienced gamer and you’re confident that you’ll like the game then you should be getting both. Lots of Dominion makes for great Dominion. If you can only afford one at a time then I’d probably still get the original Dominion first. The original contains some good fundamental cards such as Moat, Chapel and Throne Room, I think it’s also easier to appreciate the new stuff in Intrigue having played the original first than it would be the other way around.

So from my perspective, if you like Dominion, then Intrigue is an essential expansion. It slowly steps up the complexity and depth of the game as a whole and will keep the game fresh for quite some time before you need your next expansion hit.

10
Go to the Dominion page

Dominion

80 out of 87 gamers thought this was helpful

Like Magic the Gathering, its inspirational forebear before it, Donald X. Vaccarino’s Dominion has established and defined a brand new genre of game. In Dominion’s case, it is the Deck Building Game and it has inspired a host of other games with its engaging formula. However unlike Magic, whose early competition tended to be fairly weak games in comparison, Dominion has seen competition in what is arguably a much stronger hobby games market than 20 years ago both from a game design and market size standpoint. Many of Dominion’s successors are arguably tussling for the position of the Number 1 Deck Building Game. So how well does Dominion stand up to its fairly fierce competition?

Dominion is as a game brilliant in both its conception and execution. It’s a simple idea really. Everyone starts with the same basic deck and then proceeds to customize it into an efficient victory point reaping engine by buying new cards from a common pool and adding them to their deck. With the current game’s pool being made up of only 10 different types out of a total range of 25 types in the initial Dominion set you’re guaranteed of having a different experience every time you play. Unless of course you decide to replay that favourite set of cards. Dominion rewards players with the ability to look at a given set of cards and work out the best combinations and ratios to put into their deck. The way Mr. Vaccarino has taken the idea of Magic the Gathering’s deck-building meta game and crafted it into a game in its own right is genius. It’s one of those ideas that you later scratch your head and wonder why no one had thought of it sooner.

On the whole, Rio Grande Games have done an excellent job of the production. Notably the insert, at least at the time, was a work of extremely considerate genius as it made sorting and accessing the various types of cards much easier and I won’t hold the fact that it doesn’t work quite as well when the cards have been sleeved against them. And while these days I would perhaps lean more towards the Thunderstone option of having a number of deep wells and card dividers for sorting the cards, the original design is still extremely functional.

Sadly, the art on the cards does leave me a little cold. While each piece does match up with the title of the card reasonably well, the style overall does nothing for me. For the most part they’re just a bit too blocky and simplistic (although some pieces do have a lot more detail). What I will commend Rio Grande Games on however is maintaining a fairly consistent style amongst the eight artists who have contributed art to this set of cards.

Now, I’m personally a very thematically oriented game player. I love seeing game mechanisms which make sense and are well integrated with the theme of the game. The more a game tends towards the abstract, the less likely it is that the game will work for me. And this is where Dominion should by all rights fall flat for me. I quite like the rather tongue in cheek humour used for the theme and I totally get the connections between the different titles of the cards and their respective mechanics. They make sense. I even like the odd bit of mechanical humour on cards like Feast. But when I’m playing the game I really don’t feel any of it. I don’t feel like a monarch expanding my realm through the use of bureaucracy or woodcutters or whatever. I feel like I’m trying to create a deck that can string together a bunch of different actions so I can get a fistful of money cards to buy me a Province and win the game. The gameplay just feels totally mechanical to me. I think that games like Thunderstone, Rune Age and others have done a better job of creating a game that conveys its theme while you play.

But ironically, I still like Dominion more. A lot more.

There is just something undeniably brilliant about Dominion’s design. It just works perfectly. Even after you’ve mixed lots of expansions in, the game still rarely misses a beat. This has a lot to do I suspect with the fact that Dominion as a complete product (the base game and almost all of its expansions) had been designed and play-tested before the first game ever went on sale. This is something that those who have followed haven’t had the advantage of doing in their rush to market.

And ultimately for me, Dominion plays fast. Experienced players will knock out a game easily in 20-30 minutes. Other games like Thunderstone and Rune Age take a lot longer. And there is just something really satisfying about being able to play through several quick and varied games of Dominion in the time that I would have spent playing one of those more thematic games.

Dominion: Arguably Bland. Undeniably Brilliant.

10
Go to the Battlestar Galactica: The Board Game page
70 out of 77 gamers thought this was helpful

“Okay, so Starbuck is a cigar-chugging chick, Tigh is white and Boomer is Asian. And a woman. Sure…”

That’s pretty much my initial reaction to news of the recent Battlestar Galactica TV remake. From my childhood I have two strong Science Fiction memories: the original Star Wars Trilogy and the original Battlestar Galactica. Messing with them in the wrong way is a sure fire way to raise my ire. Fortunately, I loved the new remake! Sorry people but Starbuck is absolutely a chick. And she can and will kick your butt if she wants. I loved the drama of all the flawed characters and the paranoia created when cylons can look like humans. For me, the new series worked. Oh, and for the record, there is no way that Greedo got a shot off first. But back to Battlestar Galactica.

Another thing to be feared, like the remake of an old classic, is a licensed game based on a beloved movie, TV series or book. Historically, only certain very big companies have been able to afford the license. And said big companies have, historically, not been very good at putting together interesting and engaging games for adults. More to the point they seem to have just wanted to throw together something quickly to sucker in some poor fans and make a quick buck. Fortunately, Battlestar Galactica dodged a second bullet as Fantasy Flight Games took up the challenge of creating a board game based on the remade TV series. Designer Corey Konieczka and the team at FFG have created what is, in my opinion, a licensed game more true to the spirit and feel of its source material than any game before it. And I’m struggling to think of a better one since…

So what’s it all about? The basic story is that a rag-tag fleet of humans are fleeing the cylons who have just leveled all of their homeworlds and want to finish the job of wiping out humanity. The humans are trying to reach the legendary planet called Earth with the first major stop along the way being the, also legendary, planet of Kobol. On a player’s turn they’ll draw some skill cards based on their character’s aptitude. Then they can move to a new location and take an action. The actions they can take will be based upon their current location, their character’s abilities and cards that the player has in hand. Finally they’ll draw a Crisis card which will generally cause stuff to go from bad to worse and it’s this stage that is the real heart and soul of the game. Crisis cards can cause the cylon fleet to jump in and attack, force a particular player to make a dire choice that affects everyone or call for a skill challenge in which everyone will contribute to pass. Or perhaps they’ll secretly try to thwart the challenge… That’s right. While the game may possibly start out as a nice cooperative game, by the end the group will have been split into two teams as cyclons in human form, either secretly or openly, try to bring about humanity’s downfall. This split is determined by some Loyalty cards which are secretly distributed both at the start of the game and halfway through the game. It’s during the crisis stage that the game becomes very social as players offer opinions and try to sense what motive is behind everyone else’s opinion. Finally the Crisis card may cause the cylon fleet to attack and hopefully for the humans they can successfully prepare for their next jump. Of course our heroes are going to have hope that the Admiral isn’t actually a cylon because they’ll be choosing the destination of the jump. And so this paranoid game will progress until either the humans win by managing to complete enough distance in jumps or the cylons finish off humanity by running down the fleet’s resources or destroying the Galactica herself.

Okay, this is a bit of a gushing review. But I love this game. As an occasional role-player and a cooperative games fan in general I love the social nature of this game. This is a game where you have to talk to the people you’re playing with and you will question everything they say in turn, no matter how off-hand and innocuous. And the game can be tense! Really tense. You can be cruising along nicely leading someone to say the fateful words: “II think we should win this.” Next thing you know, fate will backhand you with a couple of cyclon attacks and leave everyone desperately scrambling for survival. As a fan of the show I can get into the characters and I love how well FFG have recreated the characters within the game rules with their individual abilities and drawbacks. The overall production is of excellent quality with good quality boards, cards and miniatures of the various ships. And finally I like that you don’t actually need to know the show to enjoy the game. So long as you understand the basic premise you can play along just fine.

But sadly it isn’t all milk and honey for Battlestar Galactica as there are certainly elements of the game that can detract from the experience for some people. Some of the character roles can see you pigeon-holed a bit too much with pilots flying around shooting cylons, the President stuck on Colonmial One and so on. And it’s best not to mention “sympathizers” to some players of this game. The nature of the game can also make it harsh on new players playing with experienced players. I mean, I might be giving you good reasonable advice. Or maybe I’m a cylon… And perhaps you really did make an innocent mistake. But maybe you’re a cylon… And mistakes can really hurt. Also, not everyone is going to enjoy the level of tension and paranoia that the game generates. My final gripe with the game is sadly a production one. Seriously FFG, Cardboard basestar tokens? I realise the moulds for the plastic bits are expensive, but could you seriously not fit a couple of plastic basestars in there? Did you really need to wait for an expansion?

And yes, as a great FFG game there are a couple of expansions out for it. But honestly I think this is one game that doesn’t necessarily need them. For me, the base game is a near perfect creation. Well except for those frakkin basestars…

9
Go to the Dixit 2 page

Dixit 2

58 out of 67 gamers thought this was helpful

Dixit 2 really is a simple expansion at its heart. It’s 84 more beautifully illustrated cards for your games of Dixit. No new rules. No new pieces. Just cards. Again the illustrations are done by Dixit’s artist Marie Cardouat and she manages to hit on many of the themes and moods that she hit with her art for the original game. This more of the same approach allows Dixit 2 to seamlessly mix with the original cards. It’s likely that after a few plays you’ll have actually forgotten which cards came from which set.

The only real complaint that some may have with this expansion is the price, particularly relative to the original game. Personally though as I take the time to look through each card and consider the effort and work involved in the creation of the art I really find it hard to complain. But no doubt others out there will be harder to please.

8
Go to the Dixit page

Dixit

46 out of 52 gamers thought this was helpful

One of the problems with party games in recent years is that many of them, for better or worse, tend to riff off the extremely successful Apples to Apples formula. Sadly this tends to leave the market full of very same same uninspired party games.

Now, 2010 Spiel des Jahres winner Dixit does, in spirit, tread down this well worn path but in Dixit’s case it’s hard to hold it against the team that put this wonderful game together. It’s just done with such unique flair and style that it can easily stand on its own. Where other games trudge down the same tired path, perhaps imagining it’s a yellow brick road, Dixit skips along with wanton joy leaving a trail of flowers and colour in its wake (yet somehow tinged with a sense of foreboding gloom…)

Okay, so the basic idea of the game is that everyone has a hand of gorgeously illustrated cards. One player, the “storyteller”, is going to choose one of their cards and say a word or phrase which communicates something of its identity (but not too much). Other players then choose one of their own cards with similarities to the storyteller’s phrase in the hope of throwing off their competition. Cards are shuffled, laid out and players choose which one they believe was the story teller’s. Everyone scores points for correctly guessing the original card or fooling other players with their own card. The storyteller will score points if some people, but not everyone, correctly identifies their card. Score is then kept by jumping small wooden rabbits around a stone path. That’s right. Rabbits around a path.

Okay, so maybe it isn’t that close to the Apples to Apples formula (certainly not as close as others imitate) but it has the feel and it’s a comparison that is often made. What makes Dixit stand out on its own however is the style that the game carries and with all due respect to designer Jean-Louis Roubira, for me it’s Marie Cardouat’s outstanding art on the 84 over-sized cards that steals the show for Dixit. Her illustrations are amazing with their ability to convey a certain melancholy gloom while using so much joyous colour at the same time. And what amazes me is their ability to reveal more and more details and interpretations even after many, many plays.

The rest of the production is also top-grade. Even the rabbits and their scoring path, which my first instinct says makes no sense, is actually perfect. They just mesh nicely with joy of the art and the social play experience and in their own way actually do make sense.

With all of the details and possible interpretations possible with each card there is a good degree of replayability. However with only 84 cards it is possible that some players will tire and become frustrated with the same art over and over. Here the highly recommended “Dixit 2” comes to the rescue with 84 more cards which mix seamlessly with the originals. Future expansions are sure to bolster this number too. If anything the biggest challenge to Dixit’s replay value is that the game kind of becomes more difficult each time you play as you are forced to invent new clues to cards you have previously used. Replay will certainly push your creative muscles.

So is this wonderful award winning game for everyone? Well, probably not. At the end of the day it is a party game and if party games just aren’t your thing then this one probably still won’t work for you. Also there is a certain pressure that comes along with being the storyteller. Many people are going to spend all of their time between turns desperately looking at their cards trying to come up with something, anything to say. For some people that experience just won’t be fun.

For everyone else though you should give Dixit a try. It actually isn’t Apples to Apples. It’s its own unique wonderful thing that really should be experienced.

10
Go to the Roll Through the Ages page
82 out of 89 gamers thought this was helpful

Ever since discovering Sid Meier’s Civilization computer game as a child, I’ve loved Civ games. There’s just something about the exploration, planning, development and conflict that can keep me engaged for hours and hours. The search for the perfect Civ board game has been a personal quest ever since entering the hobby some 4 or 5 years ago.

Now there have been a lot of excellent Civ games out there over the years. From Avalon Hill’s original “Civilization” to “Through the Ages: A Story of Civilization”, many have attempted to capture the magic of human history in a game. Unfortunately almost every one of these great games has suffered from the same affliction: a looong play time. It’s a common problem because it’s tough to encapsulate the entirety of human civilization in a short play time. For me, as a time poor adult, this causes a problem.

Fortunately, this is where Matt Leacock’s “Roll Through the Ages: The Bronze Age” comes to the rescue with perhaps the most unique approach to the Civ game genre that’s been attempted. At it’s heart, Roll Through the Ages has a very Yahtzee like feel. The game uses 7 chunky wooden dice which will be rolled up to three times on a player’s turn to get a desirable combination of resources. The different faces of the dice each represent different resources including food, workers, trade goods and money which players will use to feed their populace, build cities and monuments and buy bonus-giving developments. One face of each die also has a disaster icon which can have dire consequences for both the player who rolled them and their opponent’s. Disasters offer a nice push-your-luck element to the game as increasing numbers of disaster dice (which you have to keep) may escalate the scale of the disaster or better yet shunt the trouble onto your opponents. The other aspect of disasters though is that they can also provide you with a significant number of goods.

Players will keep track of their acquired resources on a cribbage style wooden peg board while their developing civilizations are tracked on a printed play sheet which each player has a copy of. Players are going to take turns until either all the available monuments have been built or one player has bought their fifth development (which will usually take about 20 to 30 minutes).

So why does Roll Through the Ages work? The decision to only focus on our earliest period of history and the use of the simple and familiar Yahtzee make the game both short and accessible. However the inclusion of the various Developments and the different bonuses they give offers some simple strategic choices and keeps the game from being overly simplistic. The Developments also add to the game’s replay value as different combinations of Developments can lead to quite different victory strategies. The random chaos of the dice rolling and the push your luck nature of disasters also give the game a good level of engagement (so long as you don’t take your filler games too seriously). And finally, the quality of the wooden components is great and the box is jam packed. Gryphon Games are to be commended for not going for the larger box size (and price point).

Perhaps my only (somewhat ironic) gripe with the game out of the box is that it’s almost too short. The five Development end condition for the game has that frustrating feel of coming just when you were about to really get going. Fortunately the free “Late Bronze Age” expansion (available from rollthroughtheages.com) fixes this nicely with its slightly deeper play and longer play time.

All in all, Roll Through the Ages is a great game and an admirable take on the Civ genre in what is a well paced filler game with meat. It deserves all the accolades it has garnered so far and I for one look forward to anything else Matt Leacock does with the system in the future.

9
Go to the Magic: The Gathering page
62 out of 69 gamers thought this was helpful

When Richard Garfield created Magic The Gathering back in 1993 he unleashed a leviathan upon the gaming world. In its wake, every man and his dog sought to jump into the new Collectable Card Game ocean but a very few managed to survive and flourish like the original beast did. Most other games were lucky to last longer than a year. Now, almost 20 years later, Magic continues to thrive and remains the yardstick by which all other games of its ilk are measured against.

This incredible longevity has come almost in spite of perhaps the most loathed sales approach in the gaming world: The blind purchase of randomized cards in booster packs. Throw in rarity and cards of widely varying power and it’s almost enough to send a gamer crazy. But it’s this sales format that also give the game a lot of its thrill. Any Magic player to have ever opened a handful of boosters can tell you of the rush of excitement as they paw through their cards and spot that chase rare! The innocuous booster has also helped to define some of the favourite Magic play formats including a host of drafting variants.

So what has allowed Magic to survive for the last 20 years despite the fact that thousands upon thousands of gamers all around the world have handed over hundreds if not thousands of dollars over the years all the while grumbling and cursing Wizards of the Coast and their greedy ways?

There are a few reasons and the first was there at the games inception. The immense variety of cards that makes up the game and the ability to customize your play experience with this variety has been integral. The ability to build decks, almost as an extension of your own personality, and to continually fine tune and tinker has continued to stimulate gamers for years. This essential element would later go on many years later to inspire the creation of Dominion which has become its own juggernaut.

The other important ingredient for Magic’s success over the years has been its ability to continually reinvent itself over the years. Whether it’s the release of new themed sets of cards every year or new play formats, Wizards (with the assistance of the playing community) has worked hard to keep magic fresh. While you’re still essentially playing the same game, the play experience you’ll have in 2011 feels notably different to the feel you had playing in 2006 and rest assured it’ll be quite different again in 2016. Each year of Magic brings a slight variation on Magic’s fantasy theme and a host more variety for players to fiddle and tinker with as they look for the next killer combo or just something wild and crazy to try.

But at the end of the day all of this is possible because it rests on a **** solid game as its foundation. Basic game play is essentially very simple and offers good strategic and tactical decisions. Variety adds some complexity to the game but taking this on piecemeal through the addition of individual cards makes the complexity more manageable. And these days it is quite possible to play Magic on your own terms whether they be defined by play style or budget.

All of this contributes to Magic’s ability to maintain its dominance over the Collectable Gaming world and, even after almost 20 years, leaves everyone else playing catchup.

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