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Brian Schwartz
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Nations: A Journey Through Time (A Critical Review)

A Game for 2-5 Players

One little spark of inspiration starts your nation on its journey through time! In the game of Nations, you will be playing as one of five nations. Starting at the age of antiquity, you will develop your civilization, recruit famous world leaders, possibly go to war, and try to out play and outwit your opponents in this easy to learn, fantastic game!



Is it pretty?

The box has images of some famous people throughout history, and in full disclosure, I’m not entirely sure who some of them are (Abe Lincoln is the only one). The images are old fashioned looking and while they don’t exactly draw the eye, they do a good job of conveying the theme. The cards have easy to follow iconography, and a nice drawing. The artwork isn’t the best but it does the trick.

Artwork Score: 3.5/5


What's in the box?

The box is very very large, around the same size as Amerigo, Clash of Cultures and Eclipse. However, the contents inside fit almost too well in this large box (meaning the game does not come with a lot). You have 4 decks of cards that have over 70 unique progress cards, and a small event deck with each age. There are meeples in 5 colors, player markers to keep track of various resources, and some decent cardboard tokens used to keep track of the various resources.

Components Score: 3/5



Setup Time:

The game takes a few minutes to set up. The four decks should be shuffled, along with their respective event decks, and then player will select their starting countries, and get the resources that go with it. They also get their supply of workers to set up on their board, and have to put various tokens around the score board.
What's it Like to Play?

Once the starting resources are handed out and turn order is determined, players can begin playing their game. They can start with a set number of extra resources, depending on the difficulty level. An event card is drawn at the beginning of each round as well, which will effect gameplay, tell how many architects can be placed, and if there is a famine. Gameplay is fairly simple, each player can basically do one of three actions on their turns. Turns continue until a player doesn’t want to or can’t do any other actions, then they pass and players who have not passed may keep taking turns until everyone passes.

The options for turns:
Buy a progress card: The cards are set up in rows with the top row being 3 coins, the 2nd being 2 and the bottom being 1. Players can buy cards and then add them to their board.

All of the cards have two different types of symbols. Red symbols means that there is a net game. If the symbol is a circle, the resource is gained during the production round, which occurs after all players have passed. If the symbol is a square, it is an immediate gain.

The type of cards are as follows:

Buildings: These cards produce resources. They can be replaced over any building or military card. Any workers deployed on the card that is being replaced are immediately taken off, and any adjustments in resources must be made immediately.

Military: These cards give players military strength. Many of these cards have a cost that is paid during production.

Leaders: These give players special abilities that allow players to break rules of the game or garner extra resources. A player can have only one leader in play at a time.

Golden Age: This card allows players to get specific resources, or have the option to discard a set number of resources to garner a victory point.

Battle: Players look at their raid value on a military card that has a worker on it and may collect a set number of resources depending on their raid value. A player cannot take a battle if they have no military.

War: The player who took the war puts a special black token on the same space that has their military token. At the end of the round, players who have less than this military strength may lose a lot of resources and most likely a victory point.

Colony: Players can take over a colony which will give players extra resources provided their military strength meets or beats a value that is listed on the individual card.

Wonders: Players take their cards and their wonders go under construction They can be built by gathering architects. Once they are finished, players will get a special ability or more resources.


The second action a player can do is to deploy a worker. Every building/military card has a small value on the lower half of the card in a black circle that has a number next to the ore icon. Players can put a worker on a card by paying that cost. A card can have as many workers as a player wishes, provided they pay all of the ore. If the card gives the player an instant (square) effect, players should adjust their counters.

A player can at any given time on their turn undeploy a worker from a card. If this lowers a player’s military or stability, they should adjust it immediately.
During the last turn of the game, players should move their workers onto cards that give victory points and figure out which ones will earn the most for a player.

The final action is that a player can take an architect and put it on their wonder, paying the ore cost listed on the wonder.

At the end of the round, after players have passed, each player then deals with production, figuring out how much ore, food, books and coins are produced. Then players deal with the event card and pay famine. If it is the second round of an age, scoring is done by looking at how many books each player has accumulated and then figuring out how many players each player is ahead. Example: Player 1 has 22 books, Player 2 has 12, Player 3 has 8 Player one is ahead of two players, so they would score 2 VP. Player 2 would score 1 because they are ahead of 1 player, and 3 would get zero.
At the end of the game, victory points are tallied up, resources, military strength, stability and books are added up and divided by 10 and a final score is reached.

Gameplay Score: 5/5




Final Thoughts

There is a lot I have not covered in the game, such as stability, and dealing with a war, but that is what the rulebook is for! I am hoping to give just an overview of the game. I have to compare this game to Through the Ages, and first off, I’m going to say that this game is SO much more accessible than TtA. The gameplay is very easy to understand, and I was able to play this game with my parents without a hitch. The game has a ton of cards which makes the replay value extremely high. A bad shuffle can really mess up the game though, I had games where almost no buildings came out in a set age. There are a ton of decisions to be made in this game, whether it is which card to buy, where to put it, which card to deploy workers on and many other different considerations. While this game may never be able to replace TtA as a well respected game, it certainly has earned a place in my collection despite its monstrous box size.


Overall Score: 4.5/5
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Pap Qaq
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Park City
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Re: Nations: A Journey Through Time (A Critical Review)
What do you think of the 'story arc' in Nations? After playing it a few times I couldn't escape the thought that nothing that I was doing in any way resembled building a civilization (or building much of anything). Unlike other Civ games there is no tech tree in Nations and the bidding process, as you mention, is heavily luck dependent. First pick can be immensely valuable or of little consequence.
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Brian Schwartz
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Re: Nations: A Journey Through Time (A Critical Review)
I'm not sure there really is a story arc in the game. But that doesn't make it any worse of a game though. I just tried now for the last few minute to come up with some sort of reason why certain techs replace other techs but there isn't a good thematic reason I could come up with. I like this game because the gameplay is fun and it doesn't make it unnecessarily complicated to understand. For the accessibility, this is what makes this game shine for me, because I've played it with all different levels of gamers.
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Jarek Szczepanik
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Re: Nations: A Journey Through Time (A Critical Review)
WittyreaderLI wrote:
I'm not sure there really is a story arc in the game. But that doesn't make it any worse of a game though. I just tried now for the last few minute to come up with some sort of reason why certain techs replace other techs but there isn't a good thematic reason I could come up with.


Each turn is one generation. Either there is a technological progress and old techs are replaced by newer ones, or there are some changes in economy/political situation, and the government tries to rebalance the industry and the economy in general (resulting in changing tech type balance).
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