Matt Tonks
United Kingdom
Bedfordshire
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I’ll put this out there; I am a big fan of Through The Ages: A Story Of Civilisation - it’s definitely somewhere currently in my top 3 games of all-time & possibly one of my most played games face-to-face and on-line so I know the game extremely well as far as I’m concerned. So assumed that if I had written a review for it, I would have been gushing with praise and admiration for the gameplay & the design, with a couple of caveats:-

Despite what seems to be the general consensus on BGG that military was too important, I did not mind it but did have the occasional game in which not being able to draw the right tactic card(s) really left me behind in strength and subjected to multiple agressions/wars, which is hard to come back from.

Secondly, I did feel some of the cards were too strong (e.g. Napoleon & St Pete’s Basilica) or weak (Hammurabi), either on their own or in certain combos.

So when I heard about the new version of TtA, I was initially of the opinion that I didn’t need to get it as I thought what I had was almost perfect, despite the two issues I had with the game. As more details began to be known about the changes & tweaks, my interest grew to the point where I decided to get a copy earlier this week. I played the game last night & while this review is based on one play, I feel I can give a decent initial impression of this new version against the original because of my prior experience.

So while I’m not going to get into a thorough rule-by-rule review, I’ll make a comparison of the physical components and the gameplay with the changes.

Components:-
First thing you’ll notice is the box is quite a lot bigger & wonderfully illustrated. There’s a big storage tray for the cards, wooden tokens, cubes & boards... it’s not very clear of the best way to store the game in the box so I’ve sort of just arranged things somehow to my preference until the box closes. I’m fine with that but some people like well-thought out inserts. Hopefully all that extra space is for the hinted-at potential expansions, but I’m not going to get my hopes up for now.

The boards; this is my main beef with the new version. The four player boards are very attractive and the iconography is very clear. The cardstock is fairly flimsy compared to the old version I have which is on thick cardboard but having said that, it’s not that much of a big deal since the player boards just lay flat on the table and they do the job. There are also separate boards for tracking Culture, Science, Military and the Civil Card row of difference dimensions - I prefer the consolidated big board of the previous version and didn’t like the new ones at first, but we got used to it very quickly last night so it should be a non-issue. Please don’t take this as I’m saying ‘these are crap’ or anything; these are nitpicks I had as my expectations were very high due to how much I love the original game.

The wooden player tokens are an improvement as you have different shaped ones for the various tracks with stickers on, it’s unnecessary but it’s more visually pleasing than the old version. The plastic cubes are the same as the ones I have in my old edition.

The cards are a MASSIVE improvement in the new edition! They’re like maybe an extra centimetre bigger in length & width (note - this is just an estimation) so not by a lot more, but it makes the cards feel so much bigger. The illustrations are a big step up as well, not only are they improved on the cards that had leaders & wonders but you get new full ones on ones that only used icons before - aggressions, urban buildings, events, etc.

Gameplay:-
The game still feels very much like Through The Ages but there was a definite feel of improvement & refinery about it all. I’m putting this down to three things, all of which are common knowledge by now.

1 - Tactics are completely handled differently here; very briefly, when you draw a tactics card to use up unused military actions at the end of your turn you can play the tactics card on your next turn for a military action and get the bonus in strength as in the original version. However, you place your standard token (which looks like a banner) this tactics card immediately becomes your ‘personal’ tactics card (I think that’s the phrase) on the turn you play it. On your following turn, you move this tactics card with your banner into a ‘Common Tactics’ pool and other players can then also put/move their standard token onto this tactics card by spending two military actions.

So, effectively, all tactics card become available to everyone to benefit from - other than the turn it was played by the player. I’ve only had the one game but it felt like this will eliminate the issue of those games where you just don’t draw any/many tactics cards, which was quite frustrating at times.

Another point to note about aggressions - if someone plays an aggression on you, as well as playing defence cards you can now discard military cards from your hand (up to a limit equal to the number of military cubes you have) on a 1:1 basis for strength. This means aggressions are less likely to succeed unless an attacker is sufficiently far stronger than the opponent. So there’s less of a pressure to keep up if one or more player(s) particularly goes down the military route.

2 - Corruption occurs at the beginning of the production phase (after actions, and before food production/consumption). I did notice that there seem to be quite a few less blue tokens on the player boards at the beginning of the game than the original version - or is that just my imagination? In the original game, it was a bit easier to find yourself struggling on blue tokens in terms of paying corruption. Because corruption happens before the food production/consumption & resource production, it felt like corruption was slightly less of an issue and therefore easier to build stuff with the resources. I need a few more plays to see if that holds or if it’s just my imagination from getting used to this slight tweak.

3 - Quite a number of the Civil cards have been changed. Some of these changes almost didn’t register; St. Petes’ Basilica now only adds one happy face to other cards/workers providing a happy face as opposed to ‘all your happy faces count twice’... this is slightly weaker than its previous version. Others have had a more of a significant overhaul, such as Napoleon... in the original, this leader doubled the strength of your best army but now he only provides 2 strength for each different military symbol you have a unit on (so having Riflemen and Tanks will give you +4, for example). There’s only one type of action (yellow) card that gives you culture points in Age A (4vps and 1 science, if I remember right). In addition, it looks like the composition of the decks were different; there less of this type of card or more of a particular card, etc. I’m not going to go through an exhaustive list, but you get the idea... there has clearly been a huge amount of evaluation of the cards and tweaks to get the balance right.

In conclusion:-
So I’ve spoken quite a bit about what I think about the new version, both in terms of the physical components and the changes to the gameplay. I usually steer clear of revised versions of games I have as I usually don’t see the point of minor changes, but after hearing about the changes made to one of my favourite games I had to get a copy & try it out. I am glad I did because the changes are all positive and make what was already a very good game even better.

I would really recommend this new version of Through The Ages both to fans of the original and gamers who haven't played before because they may have been scared away by the conflicit involved.

Possibly not everyone with a copy of the original will go out to buy the new version, but anyone who does won't be disappointed.
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Shawn Fox
United States
Richardson
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tonksey wrote:
Others have had a more of a significant overhaul, such as Napoleon... in the original, this leader doubled the strength of your best army but now he only provides 2 strength for each different military symbol you have a unit on (so having Calvary and Tanks will give you +4, for example).


Cavalry and Tanks both have the same type of military symbol so you'd only get +2 for Napoleon in the situation you mention (having 1 cavalry and 1 tank), at least that is my understanding. The most you can get from Napoleon is +8 military if you have a ground unit, a mounted unit, a ranged unit, and air forces.
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Matt Tonks
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Bedfordshire
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Fixed above. From memory, I had thought Tanks was ranged.
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David desJardins
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Burlingame
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tonksey wrote:
Possibly not everyone with a copy of the original will go out to buy the new version, but anyone who does won't be disappointed.


I liked the review up to this point, but I know that there are people who like some of the aspects of the original game that have been toned down here. I just feel like it's better to acknowledge that different people do like different things.
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John McD
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This is a good review.

I have to say though, I clicked it expecting to read about why you didn't like it. The old title/ new title bit wasn't obvious to me so I really read this hoping to see what new civ game you were enjoying more than Through the Ages.
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Tristan Hall
England
Manchester
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LIFEFORM - LATE PLEDGE NOW!!!
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You've betrayed us Matt, where are you on BGO now??
Just kidding, great review. I'm probably going to have to pick up this version as well.
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Craig Hebert
United States
Goodlettsville
Tennessee
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Reserving judgement here till some game play down the road but "different" doesn't necessarily mean "better".

I didn't mind military the way it was, and these new rules certainly diminish some strategy.For example, taking Caesar for the extra Military draw, is certainly neutered if not outright irrelevant. I suppose time will tell, but always going military seldom won you games.
 
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