Ender Wiggins
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Through the Ages: A New Story of Civilization is the 2015 reimplementation of the popular civilization building game Through the Ages: A Story of Civilization, a 2006 title that has been a staple in the BGG Top 10 for quite some time. The original game can rightly be considered the ideal medium weight civilization game, with a splendid blend of economic, military and technological elements. These are combined to provide a delightfully satisfying gaming concoction that has pleased many a eurogamer with a passion for civilization games. For more of my thoughts about the original game, see my pictorial review (which is currently the most popular review of all time on BGG, with over 1000 thumbs); most of what was said there also applies to this new version. The original Through the Ages was a brilliant game, but it did have some minor blemishes, and so it is great news that it has been reworked. With the benefit of further polishing and refinement, this great game has become even better.

I've scoured the personal comments, and carefully organized some key quotations to bring you the important things you need to know and what other people think about Through the Ages: A New Story of Civilization. The parts in bold express my own conclusions, which are then expanded upon and substantiated by the citations that follow, to give you a feel of what most people are saying on each point. Perhaps you could call this a kind of "consensus of opinion", somewhat biased because I'm the one who gets to pick the quotes to include, but overall a well-rounded and fairly objective viewpoint. So here you have it, an at-a-glance overview of some of the majority opinions that you need to know about this game.

NB: For more reviews like this, see this list.



Praise

Let's begin with some of the praise for this new game. Why is it getting such high ratings, and why is it so loved, appreciated, and respected? There are the two main reasons.

1. It's a brilliant civilization game.
"The best civilisation game there is." - Brian Hunt
"This is going to feel like what you want out of a Civ game, with a constant desire to get to your next turn, and lay down your new technology, and use your resources to grow your Civ. It's still one of the best of the genre." - Paul Schulzetenberg
"I am usually not a fan of civ games, but this game is really fun." - Andi Hub
"Great game where you are surging forward through history, the different ages represented as a sort of parade of cards that you're buying from." - Scott Waldie
"TtA is a great civilization game! I love games where you can watch the development happen before your eyes." - freechinanow
"Excellent game that captures the feeling of civ building." - Toni Sallanmaa
"Definitely feels like the board game of Civilization, with its many facets to juggle." - Rich Baker
"I love how everything fits together and how you really see a civilization building up." - Yorick Heijink
"New design is just so much better and for me has allowed TTA's to recapture the crown as top Civ game." - Mike Forrey
"I am a fan of civ building games, and this game felt like the king of that genre." - Max Jamelli
"It does a great job of capturing the epic feel of a civilization-building game without requiring 20+ hours to play." - Richard Roundtree
"Chvátil´s masterpiece and the best Civilization game on the market." - Juan Carlos Goyes
"For having no map, it somehow completely delivers the same feeling that Sid Meier's Civilization (VG) does. It's odd to think that such a "dry" theme, with abstract boards and cards would have such a strong thematic feel to it, but Through the Ages pulls it off admirably." - Adam Kenney
"Long Civilization game, but best there is." - Hrvoje Roncevic

2. It's a very strategic game.
"The choices and decisions to make are plentiful and interesting. The competition stays high and the different routes to success all pose their strengths and problems if pursued." - freechinanow
"Great game. Deep and satisfying." - Emanuele Lillo
"The immensely rich closed economical system in this game is brilliant, perfectly integrated into the gaming system and grounds player actions into a bigger thematic story ... this civilization game offers more depth and storytelling than any other of its kind that bring all those bells and whistles to the table but fail at providing deep integrated gameplay TTA provides and which is required to make a civilization game float." - Roel Vaneerdeweg
"Love the thematic complexity, elegant mechanics, and large variety of viable strategies." - Lucas Moyer-Horner
"The game continues to offer complex decisions, basically how to spend your civil and military actions, but you have many MANY options each turn. Each action has far reaching consequences." - Juan Carlos Goyes
"The longest and, arguably, most complex game that I truly love. Building up your civilization is a unique experience each time." - Bob D
"Great engine builder. The engine has multiple aspects and you really can build it over a large amount of turns." - Mathias M

Criticism

Despite it's brilliance, Through the Ages: A New Story is not for everyone, and some of the critical comments are helpful in indicating why. These usually come down to one of two things:

1. It's too long - it takes at least two hours to play, even with just 2 players, and especially in games with 3-4 players downtime can become an issue.
"I'm sure it's a great game for most people but it just takes forever...way too long." - Conor Banks (ConAir)
"Cool but too long and too much downtime." - Martino Chiacchiera
"Too long and spun out for us." - Patrick Cherlet
"Way toooooo long when playing with four players." - Lars Beckmann
"Still too long and with a lot of downtime between turns." - Luis Paulino Mora Lizano
"Sure it feels epic but that is overshadowed by it being too long, having too much downtime." - Morten K
"A game plagued by long downtimes and constant cube accounting." - Yani

2. It's too complex - especially for new players, there's quite a learning curve, and some fiddliness, so it is a heavier game that won't appeal to everyone.
"TTA is the heaviest game I have ever played. It will take you many, many plays to learn the game and familiarize yourself with it. So this is a heavy game that lasts hours. This is a gamer's game. A niche game for a hardcore crowd. I can't deny that the game's complexity and length are major marks against it." - Lars Arndts
"Too long and complex for me." - fs1973
"Long, complicated, and boring." - Brandan Parsons
"This game have potential for being one of my favorite eurogames, but there are some flaws: learning curve for new players." - Petteri Heino
"Massive amount of time to learn and play. Constant rules references and many details to remember." - Peepser
"It is quite thinky and it takes a lot of time and I would only play it with max 3 players." - Andi Hub

Evaluation
These aren't the only criticisms. Some also feel that you're at the mercy of the cards at times, since there is a luck-of-the-draw element. The role of the military has changed since the original game, but it is still not to everyone's satisfaction. Others don't like the action point allowance system, the graphics, the player interaction or the apparent lack of it. Well, you can't please everyone!
All these criticisms aside, even the critics for the most part acknowledge that the streamlining of the original game has made the game better. Just be aware that it will take a considerable investment of time, especially at the full player count, and it's probably best enjoyed as a two player game, and with people who don't mind the relative complexity.

Improvements

This reimplementation is begging to be compared with the original game. It's almost universally agreed that it is an improvement on the old version, and there are especially four ways that this is the case:

1. The rules have been streamlined and improved.
"Less fiddly and with a quicker game flow than the original." - Luis Paulino Mora Lizano
"Rules are perfectly explained and the artwork and iconography are a big step up from the original." - Jurn de Ruijter
"I own and have played the first edition several times but this edition is much easier to learn and play." - Doomfarer
"They made it less fiddly and prettier, which is a definite advantage." - Mark Bigney
"Yes, the changes do make the game better. Both in balance and in streamlining gameplay." - Curt Carpenter
"Rulebook received a much needed editing. Rules are more clear. Bookkeeping was never tough, but is rearranged in a good way." - Koldfoot
"Streamlined and clearer rules." - Luis Paulino Mora Lizano
"This game has, hands down, the best rulebook I have ever seen. The game is complex, but every step is spelled out with clear examples, exceptions to rules are listed, and an incredibly helpful "first game" is programmed out." - Rick Vonderbrink
"The Handbook alone is a 10." - Doobermite
"This edition comes with two game manuals and they are also superior to the previous ones. They are far easier to understand and to find info quickly on them." - Juan Carlos Goyes

2. The balance of the cards has been adjusted and improved.
"It is much better playtested for balance and there doesn't seem to be the opportunity for effective elimination anymore." - heavydisking
"This edition is definitely an improvement with the rules tweaks and balance improvements." - jd1403
"In the previous edition, there were some cards that weere realy bad ... The new cards are also more interesting, because they give you more different things or give you a choice." - Paweł Stefański
"More balanced and cleaner." - James Wilson
"Updated action cards makes the game easier, rebalanced leaders and wonders a huge balancer." - Karan R
"The changes made to many cards make more strategies viable compared to the old version." - Roel Vaneerdeweg
"Takes the fantastic Through the Ages, fixes the military problems and rebalances the the cards. Could it get any better?" - Chris Rogers
"Gameplay is much more streamlined and cards have been seriously rebalanced." - Picon
"Even better than the original ... The worthless leaders are fixed." - Dan Freedman
"The balance tweaks are thorough, subtle, and much improved." - Mark Winford
"The improvements to the game made the strategies more balanced and took a game that has always been just on the verge of greatness, into greatness." - David Fair
"Rebalanced and fixes all the issues with the previous. A must own." - Paul L

3. The military system has been tweaked and improved.
"The Military tactic system upgrade is really great."- Tomi Mononen
"The military option seems to have been throttled back, which is a big plus for me." - Luiz Cláudio Duarte
"Wars, card balance, and streamlined (but not simplified) upkeep have all improved on the original." - Karl Bunyan
"Military is not so strong ... Corruption is now easier to see (this is a clear advantage), but is easier to avoid corruption." - Paweł Stefański
"Changes are minimal but seem effective in stopping the runaway military issue." - Andy P
"No doubt better than old version: faster, more fluent, military more balanced." - Tomas Plečkaitis
"Has the same feel of the base game and the military track is much improved." - Peter R.
"I very much like the updated military system making aggressions and warefare a little more tactical. With small changes in the timing of when players evaluate corruption and discard military cards, efford has been made to let the game flow a little more smoothly, which is helpful." - Roel Vaneerdeweg
"Everything I love about the original game, but reducing the value of military/conflict - this opens up a cascade of strategies and (initially) appears to improve the game. Conflict and paying attention to military is still vital, but if playing correctly, that is closer to a cold war situation in most cases and not an all out battle." - Eric Foldenauer
"Aggressions are harder to win, wars are more interesting now." - Edwin Meertens
"The military aspect of the original game played a huge role on the game, that's why I rated it a 9, but it is really fixed on the new TTA. Sure the military path has it's reward, but it is more difficult to play an aggression or a war." - Alexandre Trentini
"The changes to how military is handled are subtle but genious." - Chris Wilczewski

4. The artwork has changed and improved.
"The artwork is beautiful, but very important, during the game everything is clear like in the old version." - Paweł Stefański
"Much improved game play, great art." - Kenrick Fearn
"New artwork is very nice, layout makes more sense." - Andy P
"Better production value than "old" TTA + better rules should do the trick." - Bestia Immonda
"This new edition looks spectacular which of course helps to get engulfed in the theme, but the new design choices are also very functional, making it easier to understand and explain the game." - Roel Vaneerdeweg
"Much better art design." - Juan Jimenez
"I love the new version - the new artwork is a thing of beauty. New design is just so much better." - Tony Brum
"The overall graphic design and art in the game is also drastically improved; this is visually a beautiful game now, which certainly could not be said for the original." - Mark Winford
"Cards and the boards look better than in the older version." - Risto Sarja
"The art of this version is much much better from the original TTA." - Alexandre Trentini
"The new card art is fantastic and a massive improvement over the original." - Bob D

Enthusiasm

Elizabeth Browning once asked "How do I love thee? Let me count the ways." (Sonnet 43) Well, there's a lot of love right now for this new version of Through the Ages, here's a selection of comments that ooze with that kind of love, and give you a sense of the enthusiasm that people have for the game:

1. People love it more than the old version.
"This edition resolved a lot of the issues I have with the original." - heavydisking
"The changes made from the previous edition are all positive." - Paul Schulzetenberg
"Significant improvement over the base game." - Chris Shaffer
"More streamlined version of the original." - Tomi Mononen
"Huge improvement in all aspects." - Doomfarer
"Big fan of the changes from the Old Story." - Tyler Bishop
"A solid upgrade to the original that keeps the interesting parts and many things." - David K
"I like the original TtA a lot. This new version only improves the experience in my mind. Subtle changes can make a big difference." - Christopher Hill
"Significant improvement over the original, which is a feat in and of itself." - Thomas Leitner
"A few minor changes make this a significant improvement on the older editions." - James Webb
"Improves significantly upon what was already a top game. 75% of improvements are cosmetic but the gameplay tweaks are important and well thought out." - Joe Masinter
"Love this new version. It is prettier and plays easier. Can't find anything that is changed for the worse from the old version." - Håkon Sønderland
"They took an already perfect game and made the impossible: turned into an even better game." - Bruno Maeda
"Updated, revised and improved masterpiece." - RoadHouse
"Somehow, they managed to take the greatest game I've ever played, and make it better." - Shane Larsen
"An improved version of what was already my favorite board game ever." - ignorantpenguin
"Takes Through the Ages and cleans it up slightly. Not that the game needed much, but a fresh rebalancing and a cosmetic overhaul takes this game from awesome to outstanding." - Nathan Milbrath
"This is the definite version of Through the Ages. It feels improved in every respect." - Jeffrey Speer

2. People love it more than most other games.
"For me right now......the best game in the world." - Tim Glubaskas
"A great game and deserves the high rating it has." - Lawrence Myers
"The greatest game ever created. A masterpiece." - Greg Perschbacher
"I came late to the party with this new edition, but what a great game!" - Jurn de Ruijter
"The closest a game has come to perfection for me." - Shawn Fox
"Took a few games to click, but this game is FANTASTIC." - Nick S
"Masterpiece. One of the best game I've ever played. It has strategy, theme, interaction, lots of cards for replay value." - Uroš Zorić
"Still one of the best games of all time." - Doug Adams
"Crown jewel of my collection, and my absolute number 1 board game." - Filip M.



The bottom line: what you need to know


Through the Ages: A Story of Civilization was already an outstanding game of the modern era, and even though it's now a decade old, it can still hold its own besides the best games appearing on the market today. It's a top-notch strategy title with a proven success record. Through the Ages: A New Story of Civilization takes this winning formula and refines it with improved rules, better balance, welcome adjustments to the military, and an artwork makeover, to make it even better.

When judged by the standards of the best of today's games, this new reimplementation of Through the Ages stands head and shoulders above most of the competition. And as a civilization game, despite the absence of a map, it does an outstanding job of evoking a real sense of theme; few games in the civ-game genre can come anywhere close to matching it. The need to cross the threshold of a relatively high level of complexity and game time will inhibit some, but those who aren't daunted by the prospect of investing some time into learning and playing this game will find themselves richly rewarded.

There are a number of civilization themed games on the market, but this game is really the apex of the genre right now, and it's not surprising that it has been the subject of so much praise and affection. Highly recommended.

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Keith B
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I purchased this game a month or so ago. I've never played it or the original. Have watched a "how-to-play" video and read some of the rulebook, but that's the extent of my knowledge of how to play the game. From what I've read and seen in the video, it seems daunting. Your post, however, has has made me anxious to finally take the leap to play it. Now, just to find someone who will go through the learning curve with me.
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Phil Triest
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You actually played this one Ender? If so what are your own thoughts?
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Phil Hendrickson
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Great summary, Ender. This is truly an elegant game design, especially for one so complex.

One thing I didn't see in your collection of criticisms (I guess it would go there) is that the game is still abstracted; there is no map nor unit figures that some people like in civ games. The ability to visualize potential threats on a map helps me calculate how imminent the threat is and how best to react to it. That is what led me to prefer Clash of Cultures over TtA.

This is not meant to be a criticism of the quality of the game, but a statement of personal preference. I appreciate TtA's elegant design. But those considering undertaking the daunting learning curve should keep in mind their own gaming preferences. If highly abstracted games are not one's cup of tea, this game could be annoying rather than exhilarating.
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Ender Wiggins
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philtrees wrote:
You actually played this one Ender? If so what are your own thoughts?

Everything that's not a direct quote expresses my own thoughts (minus the quotations, this review is still about 1000 words long). And as I mentioned already, most of my analysis and reflections about the original version as detailed in my first review apply equally to this new version. It's basically the same game, just with a significant upgrade, so here I've focused mainly on the ways it is an improvement.

DrumPhil wrote:
One thing I didn't see in your collection of criticisms (I guess it would go there) is that the game is still abstracted; there is no map nor unit figures that some people like in civ games.

I'm glad you highlighted this point Phil. I did mention it actually, but in the conclusion rather than the criticisms, although you're right that it could have been mentioned there as well. I also covered it in the final conclusions of my original review.
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Stephen Sanders
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"Ideal medium weight game"? Really, that has an average game weight of 4.2?? I've never played it, but this weight rating makes it quite heavy in my book.
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caltexn wrote:
"Ideal medium weight game"? Really, that has an average game weight of 4.2?? I've never played it, but this weight rating makes it quite heavy in my book.

Chess has an average game weight of 3.7 even though the rules are very straight forward. So sometimes the heavier weight is due to the potential for deep strategy rather than complex rules. Medium-weight can sometimes also be an indication that a game is playable in one evening, unlike a heavy war game that might require multiple sessions over several weeks. So "weight" is a vague concept.

An additional consideration is that the new version is easier to learn than the old version, due to the streamlined rules, and excellent rulebook. There are some great video resources available that really help with learning as well. So don't let its weight of 4.2 be too intimidating.

I personally don't usually enjoy playing games heavier than Agricola (3.6), Twilight Struggle (3.4) or Puerto Rico (3.3), and yet I didn't have too much trouble with the rules for Through the Ages (4.2). There's more going on than your average eurogame, and some of this extra complexity and fiddliness contributes to the heavier weight, but the depth of gameplay is a factor as well. While I don't normally enjoy complex and heavy games, yet I really enjoy this one, although perhaps the immersive theme helps draw me in.

But perhaps others can chime in on how "heavy" the weight of this game is compared with other titles, what accounts for it, and whether or not the tag "medium-weight" is even appropriate.
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Alexandre Trentini
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Thank you for the quotation, I enjoyed this review very much, a good and original idea to pick quotes from arguments you agree and make a review based on this.
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James Ludlow
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caltexn wrote:
"Ideal medium weight game"? Really, that has an average game weight of 4.2?? I've never played it, but this weight rating makes it quite heavy in my book.


The weight field on BGG is meaningless. Some people vote on it based on rules complexity, and some people vote on it based on depth of gameplay. The end result is a mess.
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Emanuele Lillo
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EndersGame wrote:
But perhaps others can chime in on how "heavy" the weight of this game is compared with other titles, what accounts for it, and whether or not the tag "medium-weight" is even appropriate.


First of all, thank you for the quotation.

In my experience, TtA could be classified as medium weight as it is certainly less complex than many heavy games rules-wise. What accounts for its complexity is that it rewards experience. It is not particularly difficult to learn to play it correctly, but it is much harder to learn to play the game "well". Learning all the cards and the possible interactions between them is a staple for any winning strategy.

There is certainly some book keeping in the game but the depth comes not from knowing the mechanics. It is all about evaluating how to use your actions in the most efficient way given the cards available and the situation with the other players while at the same time preparing for the future turns and the cards which will come around.
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Phil Triest
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caltexn wrote:
"Ideal medium weight game"? Really, that has an average game weight of 4.2?? I've never played it, but this weight rating makes it quite heavy in my book.


The weighting system here on the Geek is flawed big time. Why? Because depth and difficulty grappling with rules is combined into weight, when realistically each should be separated.
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jdludlow wrote:
caltexn wrote:
"Ideal medium weight game"? Really, that has an average game weight of 4.2?? I've never played it, but this weight rating makes it quite heavy in my book.


The weight field on BGG is meaningless. Some people vote on it based on rules complexity, and some people vote on it based on depth of gameplay. The end result is a mess.


My point exactly. If I had of read the whole thread I would not of bothered restating this point
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Good review.

I wish the game wasn't so abstract. Even with artwork improvements the cards still look like 90s computer game art and apart from them there is no visual representation of your civilization. I just cannot immerse myself in that.
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Øivind Karlsrud
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Hast3 wrote:
Good review.

I wish the game wasn't so abstract. Even with artwork improvements the cards still look like 90s computer game art and apart from them there is no visual representation of your civilization. I just cannot immerse myself in that.


This is subjective, of course, but the game feels very immersive and thematic to me, despite the lack of a map.
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I was introduced to the concept of 4x civ games through pc games so the whole visual representation, map, shuffling of armies, building terrain improvements etc. is fundamental to the experience of growing an empire.

This just seems like the most boring part - the +- bookkeeping abstracted and turned into a game along with a tech tree.
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A lot of people disagree with you!
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philtrees wrote:
caltexn wrote:
"Ideal medium weight game"? Really, that has an average game weight of 4.2?? I've never played it, but this weight rating makes it quite heavy in my book.


The weighting system here on the Geek is flawed big time. Why? Because depth and difficulty grappling with rules is combined into weight, when realistically each should be separated.


Couple that with the fact that this hobby really doesn't have any great definitions for "weight" (or many other terms). Weight can be determined by groking rules or play length or complexity, as stated.

Of course, if you're experienced in "heavy weight" games, then players of Through the Ages will rate it's "weight" differently than newcomers to the board game hobby. Experience provides a subjective lens to almost anything.
 
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From the review, it seems like an improvement on Through the Ages, but is it as good as Nations?
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Geoff Speare
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OrcusMaximus wrote:
From the review, it seems like an improvement on Through the Ages, but is it as good as Nations?


If you think the old TtA is not as good as Nations, the new one is unlikely to change your mind.
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OrcusMaximus wrote:
From the review, it seems like an improvement on Through the Ages, but is it as good as Nations?


Hook baited lol. I really must say I was very unimpressed by Nations
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Hast3 wrote:
Good review.

I wish the game wasn't so abstract. Even with artwork improvements the cards still look like 90s computer game art and apart from them there is no visual representation of your civilization. I just cannot immerse myself in that.

Hast3 wrote:
I was introduced to the concept of 4x civ games through pc games so the whole visual representation, map, shuffling of armies, building terrain improvements etc. is fundamental to the experience of growing an empire.

This just seems like the most boring part - the +- bookkeeping abstracted and turned into a game along with a tech tree.

My sentiments exactly ... based on the old version of this game (I haven't seen the new one, and I'm a little irritated about there being a new one already).

I was excited about TtA when I got it. Then, halfway through my self-teaching game, I thought, Huh? This is all there is? Where's the fun part?

But ever since, in the back of my mind I've been planning to give the game another chance someday. Maybe my first impression missed something. Now that there's a new version out, I probably never will play it again. I feel the version I've got is outdated, and I'm not about to buy a new version of something I didn't like.
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Hast3 wrote:
I was introduced to the concept of 4x civ games through pc games so the whole visual representation, map, shuffling of armies, building terrain improvements etc. is fundamental to the experience of growing an empire.
And, on top of that, you also want your game to finish within a few hours and not within a whole day -- Twilight Imperium III, I am looking at you... If this game had everything, it would last for ever. Clash of Cultures would be your game; it deals with the macromanagement of your empire, while this game deals with the micromanagement. Both aspects should exist in a true Civ game, like Civilization IV. But you really can't have both in a board game.
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Chris Kubik
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I always find it an odd complaint that someone picks up a game that is intentionally designed to be complex, deep and has a long play time and then consequently review it and complain that its too complex and too long. Eh.. yeah.. its complex and long, that is the whole bloody point, its designed very specifically to be just that.

Now I would argue that downtime is an issue for the game, in particular when playing with new people who don't have experience to rely on. Downtime is an actual design flaw, the process of purchasing cards and taking turns could have been made more dynamic so there was more back and forth rather than the holistic "take your entire turn from A to Z" sort of approach which is very old school design. It would have been nice to have seen this addressed.
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Milan Goranovic
Serbia
South Carolina
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I am so delighted that she got this game, mostly because of my sister who just talk about it ..: D if I could order it, otherwise I am from Serbia and how much postage would cost and whether at all it could be inspired? thank you

 
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Daniel Sprague
United States
Modesto
California
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honestly the game tutorial was among the best I've seen and both taught me the game and was entertaining. you will still need to play a bit to get the hang of things properly but the ai is fun and doesn't care how much you need to restart the game after messing everything up lol.

 
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