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The Settlers of the Stone Age» Forums » Reviews

Subject: Settlers of the Stone Age - A Mini Review rss

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All of my reviews aim to offer a brief overview that allows people to get a good feel for what the game may offer them. I feel that other reviews can be sought if detailed game mechanics is what you are after.

If you are unfamiliar with the Catan series please read the review, ‘The Settlers of Catan’ first. This will give you a basic overview of the game and save us time here.
This version of Settlers aims to replicate the early expansion of the human race. Unlike the original game, Stone Age uses a more traditional board (not hex based) and it displays the continents of earth as they looked at the time. Every player’s tribe will start in the lands of Africa and their aim is to expand into Asia, Australasia and the Americas in order to earn 10 victory points and be declared the winner.

Like all Catan games the concept of rolling the resource die, collecting resources and using them to build on favourable numbers for future rolls is how the game progresses. However in this title almost everything else is different. Stone Age introduces the use of explorers and camps. Explorers must move around the map and when they find a good area (good set of numbers) they can be converted into camps. Camps replace settlements but their function remains the same. However each tribe only gets 5 and you start with 2 in Africa. The supply of 5 will be used very quickly as explorers explore the earth. When it comes time to build a 6th camp, you will need to remove any 1 camp and use it, therefore potentially losing one set of numbers for another.

Resources also get a major overhaul to keep with the theme. In Stone Age it is hide, meat and tusks that are the resources of the day. They are needed for every action in the game including creating new explorers, allowing them to move and converting explorers to camps. But they also have 1 other function.

Stone Age incorporates progress charts and these are located on the 4 outer edges of the board. Each chart is essentially a skill track. Each track has 5 levels and they represent clothing, construction, food and hunting. To progress to the next level on any chart will cost resources and each chart offers a benefit. Clothing and construction are needed to access various parts of the map. Food progress allows your explorers to travel further in 1 turn as they are better supplied and hunting allows you to steal a resource card from another player for each level advance. The first person to reach level 5 in any track will also receive a 1 victory point bonus card.

The original robber is replaced with a Neanderthal and Sabretooth Tiger. They have the same effect as the robber but the Neanderthal patrols Asia and Africa whilst old ‘Toothy’ roams the Americas and Australasia. The last major difference is that a series of bonus tiles are scattered around the map. They require certain skill levels to reach them but they can offer great advantages such as turning Africa slowly into a desert wasteland!

The Final Word

Stone Age is a very good game and highlights how a solid gaming system can be modified into a different experience and still be very enjoyable. The artificial dead line to leave Africa before it turns to desert is great and adds a sense of urgency for all players. The theme is solid throughout and although the map is always the same, the game will play very differently thanks to the bonus tiles. Four and a half tusks!
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