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Martí Cabré

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Six years ago the owner of my FLGS stood up behind his desk and told me "You are into those Civilization games, right? Those long and convoluted games where you build cities and scientific advances and build a civilization from scratch?", and satisifed by the strange expression in my face he added "You can play a Civilization game in twenty minutes". That got my attention, so he stooped and produced a small box with the title "Roll through the ages". I lifted it. It was heavy. "Let's play".

And that's how I was hooked. It was an insta-buy. Truth is, over the years I have played this game much more on the Internet for free (on yucata.de, for example), than using my own copy, but I think it's an excellent buy.

Roll through the ages is a game that represents building an abstract ancient civilization with more or less the frequent themes that appear in civilization games. There is city building, resource allotment, calamities such as plague, famine or invasions, there are monuments to be built and technical and scientific discoveries to be made. Up to four players can play this game and it's quite fast to play, so there's the possibility of playing several games in the same session.

Each player has a piece of paper where they must write down the status of their civilization: number of cities built, discoveries, monuments. Each player also has a wooden board filled with holes to mark the food and goods available. There's a number of little wooden pegs that fit in these holes as markers. Finally, there's a set of dice with special symbols in their sides.

During your turn, you roll a number of dice equal to the number of complete cities you have (every player starts with three cities). You can reroll the dice up to three times except the rolls which result in calamities. These cannot be rerolled. As you can imagine, the base mechanic of the game is press-your-luck using dice, quite similar to the recent Bang! The dice game. After three rolls or before if you stop rolling, you apply the results: you can gain workers, food, goods, money and calamities. Some results are dual and the player chooses the effect. First food is eaten, one food per city. If there is not enough food, you lose points. Then workers are assigned to work in more cities or monuments, goods are stored and finally you can spend goods and money to buy a new scientific discovery. Money not spent is not stored and cannot be used in other turns. Then is the next player's turn.

The game is not much interactive because the decisions you take do not affect directly the other players, but there are some indirect effects. For example, the number of calamities rolled determines which kind of calamity appears and some of them affect the active player and some of them affect the other players. You could try to shake off some famine (nasty for you) increasing it to an epidemy (nasty for the other players). And some discoveries and monuments protect your civilization from these kind of calamities. But it's the luck of the dice that has the final word.

Each monument built and discovery made give victory points to the player. In the case of monuments, only the two first players that build it gain any point. Cities provide more dice to roll but are not worth victory points. The game ends after all monuments have been build by any combination of players or a single player has made five scientific discoveries. So it's a race against the other players.

The discoveries are graded in price and change some of the rules of the game. They can allow for more dice rerolling, give extra workers on the dice or assign victory points to the cities, for example. There are many effects and I think that one of the strenghts of the game is looking for good combos in discoveries, or more specifically, looking for the best ratio of cities built/monuments built/discoveries made. It's impossible to both build everything, discover everything and roll all the dice, so you'll have to achieve a fine balance between these objectives, which is akin to saying that you must have a strategy and must follow it, adaptive to the dice results, but not playing at random because that's the way to lose the game.

In Roll through the ages the theme very light and it is not immersive so you don't feel like really building your civilization. Hey, you don't even have civilization names or chrome characteristics to try different civilizations, all players have the same starting point and the same rules. It'd be cool to have different rules to play as the Minoics, Egyptians or Assyrians, for example. In this sense, the owner of my FLGS was not totally right when he said that I could play a "civilization" game in twenty minutes. I would not define it as such. But it's true that I can have a good time playing a good dice game with subtle strategies (and much luck) and still have fun playing it six years after the day he stooped behind his desk to show me something.
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David B
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marticabre wrote:


The game is not much interactive



You can say that again.
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pax domina
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pfctsqr wrote:
marticabre wrote:


The game is not much interactive



You can say that again.



... but that doesn't mean it's not fun!

This is one of those games that I *love* kiss to make time to play (just like Saint Malo) on a busy day when in a half hour can feel like I really completed something satisfying. And that, my friends, keeps me coming back!
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David B
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paxdomina wrote:
pfctsqr wrote:
marticabre wrote:


The game is not much interactive



You can say that again.



... but that doesn't mean it's not fun!

This is one of those games that I *love* kiss to make time to play (just like Saint Malo) on a busy day when in a half hour can feel like I really completed something satisfying. And that, my friends, keeps me coming back!



Be sure to check out VivaJava: The Coffee Game: The Dice Game when it comes out in a few weeks. It takes some of the ideas of RttA but improves the game quite a bit by adding some interaction. The scoring is a race to 21 points achieved by investing in research (similar to developments in RttA) and making blends of coffee. The coffee blends are where the competition comes in because an opponent can "ruin" your blend before it has a chance to score. I have played the PnP version and it is indeed quite a bit better than RttA.
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Martí Cabré

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pfctsqr wrote:
paxdomina wrote:
pfctsqr wrote:
marticabre wrote:


The game is not much interactive



You can say that again.



... but that doesn't mean it's not fun!

This is one of those games that I *love* kiss to make time to play (just like Saint Malo) on a busy day when in a half hour can feel like I really completed something satisfying. And that, my friends, keeps me coming back!



Be sure to check out VivaJava: The Coffee Game: The Dice Game when it comes out in a few weeks. It takes some of the ideas of RttA but improves the game quite a bit by adding some interaction. The scoring is a race to 21 points achieved by investing in research (similar to developments in RttA) and making blends of coffee. The coffee blends are where the competition comes in because an opponent can "ruin" your blend before it has a chance to score. I have played the PnP version and it is indeed quite a bit better than RttA.


In my case, although I say that RttA is not immersive, I like pretending to play a Civilization game, even though the game mechanics could be better. I don't know if I would "feel" the same playing a coffee blends game.
 
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Andrew
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Have you tried the extended version Roll Through the Ages: The Late Bronze Age?
 
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Martí Cabré

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fateswanderer wrote:
Have you tried the extended version Roll Through the Ages: The Late Bronze Age?


Nope, I haven't. Most of my plays have been turn based on yucata.de and they don't have this expansion. Does it benefit the game?
 
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Andrew
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marticabre wrote:
Nope, I haven't. Most of my plays have been turn based on yucata.de and they don't have this expansion. Does it benefit the game?


If you find the base game a little on the light side, you'll probably enjoy it - it's by the original designer and is available free on the web. The extension adds a couple of mechanics, adjusts the game-end conditions, and adds technologies and changes the existing ones a bit, with the effect that the game is a bit longer with more to think about. I preferred it to the base game, but a surprising number of owners of the base haven't heard about it, and as you say it's not on Yucata. (If you enjoy the genre there's also the upcoming Roll Through the Ages: The Iron Age; the designer explains his goals in this post and actually comments on the Late Bronze Age in this post.)
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pax domina
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marticabre wrote:
fateswanderer wrote:
Have you tried the extended version Roll Through the Ages: The Late Bronze Age?


Nope, I haven't. Most of my plays have been turn based on yucata.de and they don't have this expansion. Does it benefit the game?


I haven't either and I have the wooden game... so I should! I even printed out the Late Bronze Ages variant pages and never tried it; perhaps I am afraid that my half hour accomplishment wouldn't be as satisfying if it took an hour or more.

Quote:
In my case, although I say that RttA is not immersive, I like pretending to play a Civilization game, even though the game mechanics could be better. I don't know if I would "feel" the same playing a coffee blends game.


Amen to that!
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Martí Cabré

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fateswanderer wrote:
marticabre wrote:
Nope, I haven't. Most of my plays have been turn based on yucata.de and they don't have this expansion. Does it benefit the game?


If you find the base game a little on the light side, you'll probably enjoy it - it's by the original designer and is available free on the web. The extension adds a couple of mechanics, adjusts the game-end conditions, and adds technologies and changes the existing ones a bit, with the effect that the game is a bit longer with more to think about. I preferred it to the base game, but a surprising number of owners of the base haven't heard about it, and as you say it's not on Yucata. (If you enjoy the genre there's also the upcoming Roll Through the Ages: The Iron Age; the designer explains his goals in this post and actually comments on the Late Bronze Age in this post.)


I'll explore it, thanks!
 
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Apollo Andy
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I've only played this game about 5 times and only with 2 players, but I feel like the interaction isn't as much in Pestilence or in Wonder blocking but in controlling the end of the game. That said, I still haven't figured out how to do it well...
 
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Martí Cabré

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ApolloAndy wrote:
I've only played this game about 5 times and only with 2 players, but I feel like the interaction isn't as much in Pestilence or in Wonder blocking but in controlling the end of the game. That said, I still haven't figured out how to do it well...


Yes, there is a little control of the end game, as you might be able to close the game by discoveries or monuments so then you can check which players would play next and more or less their total victory points.

When playing 5 players, for example, if you are in the middle in the possible last round you know the points that some players will have, because they have already played, and more or less the points of the rest, so you can decide whether to risk the dice for those workers or coins you need or to wait for another round.
 
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