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Subject: For the Meeple, by the Meeple (Review of Stone Age) rss

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Michael Carpenter
United States
West Virginia
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BOX ART



Your group of villagers must work together to gather resources from all over the land. Build shelter, create tools, and feed your people to be the most successful tribe.



QUICK FACTS:
Style of Game: Family, Strategy
Play Time: 60 to 90 minutes
Theme: The stone age (no surprise there)
Number of Players: 2-4
Main Mechanics: Dice Rolling, Set Collection, Worker Placement, and Resource Collection/Management
Components: Okay
Weight: High end of light games


THEME AND MECHANISMS:
I don't think I can say the mechanisms bring the theme to life in Stone Age but they blend with the message the game is trying to convey. More people can get more work done. Taking that concept and running it with it as effectively as you can ends up being the feel of this game, rather than the theme of being in the stone age.



GAMEPLAY OVERVIEW:
Stone Age stays true to the worker placement genre by offering multiple locations to place workers that provide actions necessary to accomplish the outline of the game. In Stone Age there are several locations:

Tool Maker
Hut
Field
Hunting Grounds
Forest
Clay Mound
Quarry
River
Civilization Cards
Building Tiles

Each of these locations allow different numbers of workers to be placed on the location. Some will only allow 1 worker, some will only allow one player to place exactly 2 of their own workers on it simultaneously, one location will accept an unlimited number of workers from all players, and some will take up to 7 workers. Each player will start the game with 5 workers to use these locations but will have the opportunity to add up to 5 more workers to their village.

During a round of Stone Age players will take turns, one by one, placing an appropriate number of workers on one location. This means players may end up placing a different number of workers on their turns. Once all players have placed all of their workers the phase ends. At that points players will then take the action that corresponds with one of the locations a player has workers. If a player has 1 worker at the Field, 2 workers at the Clay Mound, and 2 workers are the Hut, the player must choose which of the locations to perform the action for on their first turn during the second phase of the round. The player chooses to use the hut on his or her first turn, then the next player will choose one location. Once action gets back to the original player he or she will choose between the Clay Mound and the Field.

There are several actions available from the locations on the board. Players will be using these locations to gather resources, gather food, add new workers to their village, and earn victory points. There are other actions available but the core of the game lies within these areas of development. Players will use the Field to allow their village to gain more food each round. Players will have to have as much food as they have workers at the end of a round or they will lose resources or points. Players will use the Hut to produce 1 new worker each time the player places 2 workers at the hut simultaneously. This may only done by one player per round.

A major element of the game are the four locations that produce the resources. The Forest, Clay Mound, Quarry, and River all use the same mathematical concept for determining production but each have their own variation of the concept. Each location will allow the player performing the production of the resource to roll one die for each of their own workers at the location. Each location will also take into the consideration the total value rolled on all the dice and then divide the total by the number that corresponds to the resource location to determine how many resource cubes the player receives.

The Forest requires players to divide the total of their dice roll by 3.
The Clay Mound by 4.
The Quarry by 5.
The River by 6.

Example: A player has three workers at the Forest. The player rolls 3 dice (one for each worker). The dice show a 3, a 4, and a 5 for a total of 12. 12 divided by 3 (the requirement of the Forest) equals 4. The player would receive four wood resource cubes from the supply at the Forest.

As players gather resources the primary focus of their use will be to build new building tiles. This will be a major way for players to earn victory points. There are other ways to use resources and earn victory points but this is the major use.

The game ends when there aren't enough Civilization Cards to place at the beginning of a round or at least one pile of Building Tiles is empty. When one of these end game requirements is triggered players will either play one more round or end the game immediately depending on the circumstances explained in the rule book.

To calculate scores players will use small, easy to use charts that award points based on the number of matching symbols you have on various Civilization Cards they have collected throughout the game. These points and the points received for having leftover resources (not food) will be added to the points earned throughout the game for building Building Tiles. The player with the most points wins the game.


The rule book does a good job of explaining how to score points for the Civilization Cards but without adequate visual aids in this review it would be difficult to explain the process easily and efficiently. The concept is similar to that of many other games where an individual symbol will score 1 point, 2 matching symbols will score more, 3 will score more, and so on but there are some tweaks to each type of symbol in the game.


ASSESSMENT


My assessment of board games is broken into three core areas: Depth of Strategy, Quality of Design, and Replayability.

Depth of Strategy

A friend of mine said if you can get more actions in a game then GET MORE ACTIONS. Since Stone Age offers the Hut location that will give the player an additional worker each time it is used the competition for the Hut should be fierce early in the game. After that I'm not sure Stone Age offers a massive amount of strategy as much as it offers you an opportunity to systematically organize your approach based on simple mathematics. There are some elements of strategy such as complimenting your resource production with the Civilization Cards and choosing wisely when building new Building Tiles but the overall game plays out pretty similarly from play to play.

There are multiple areas of progression in Stone Age: Food, Victory Points, Resource Production, Civilization Cards, and Work Force. Some of these areas work hand in hand and I'm not saying multiple areas of focus is unique to Stone Age but in this game I feel as though the game is more of a balancing act than many other worker placement games because of the high number of areas of the game that are necessary to do well in to allow your whole progression to move forward. Understanding when certain areas are actually further along than others allows you to focus on the lagging areas more but no one area can rush ahead or fall behind too far. It is also important to recognize the timing of your focus on these different areas based on the progression of the gameplay. As I said, it is important to get a solid number of workers early, then the game progresses toward resource production and Civilization Cards, and finally you want to earn points any way possible late in the game. The need for Building Tiles is present throughout the game and can feel like they are the primary focus for accomplishing all the other tasks but they shouldn't be focused on too heavily or you will miss vital points in other areas of the game. I think the depth of the strategy is somewhat shallow and narrow but the effort necessary to do well in said strategy is challenging enough to be enjoyable.


Depth of Strategy:
2.5 = The game provides an opportunity to be strategic but grabbing points is typically more important.




Replayability


This is where I probably differ from critics of the game. I do admit, as mentioned above, that the game is not incredbily different from play to play. This would normally hurt the replayability quite a bit, and maybe I haven't played it quite enough yet for it to wear thin, but I don't seem to mind the apparent lack of variety in strategy. For me, I think the reason I don't mind that is because there are multiple ways to approach the same general strategy. This may sound odd, almost as if there would be several different strategies. However, I am looking more at the fact that the tweaks on the worker placement mechanism make for more factors when deciding how to place your workers. There is a wide variety of open spaces at locations, there are shared and non-shared locations, and there is math involved which allows for a bit of gambling. These little elements of the mechanism make the game feel fresher from play to play than you would expect and even adds a somewhat exciting fun-factor that I don't normally feel in worker placement games. This is a VERY personal rating for replayability because I could see how some people could feel the exact opposite about the luck in the game and believe the game becomes stale after a few plays.

Replayability:
4.0 = You will certainly get your money's worth.




Quality of Design


Dice Rolling: This is the mechanism that makes the game polarizing. Some people will find this mechanism fun, I am one of those people. Some people will hate that they cannot plan perfectly. Now, there are ways to mitigate the luck that I didn't get into but they don't necessarily guarantee what you are planning either. The dice rolling offers me a nice twist on worker placement and challenges me to think when placing my workers.

Set Collection: This is a very important aspect of Stone Age. There are multiple areas of set collection, all present in the Civilization Cards. Collecting sets will be a major factor in end game scoring so not giving adequate focus to this will allow for unwelcome comebacks by other players if you find yourself in tight games. This is a mechanism that should be properly explained to all new players to give them a fair comprehension of the game because you can pick up a nice amount of points from the sets you collect over the game and it is easy to overlook the Civilization Cards at first.


Resource Collection/Management: The resource management portion of this game is pretty basic, but the method by which you collect them is unique. The collection portion has been discussed in-depth, but the management has only been mentioned briefly. This is because you really only spend the resource to help feed your people or build new building tiles. Nothing special to mention.

Worker Placement This is one of my favorite implementations of the mechanism. With multiple tweaks to the mechanisms I feel there is enough to make Stone Age stand out in the genre. With that said, it can stand out in a way that says you WON'T like this or it can offer a more luck-based approach to the mechanisms that may attract people that don't mind a little luck in their games. I personally don't mind having a little luck in games and since the Worker Placement mechanism typically focuses more on the competition over locations I like that Stone Age offers that and more.


Quality of Design:
4 = A good design that engages the player for several plays.
*Note: assuming the player likes the game because as I said, this has an element of polarization.


FINAL THOUGHTS:
I have not played Stone Age as much as some of my other Worker Placement games and that is because I haven't owned it as long as say Lords of Waterdeep. However, it is quickly becoming a contender for my favorite worker placement game. I am a little hesitant to say it will stay at or near the top because of the things I mentioned in the assessment. The game may end up becoming too repetitive due to a lack of variety in strategy but as of right now I find the tweaks in the worker placement mechanism and the way the game requires you to balance your approach to progression to outweigh potential concerns. My other opinion on this matter is that sometimes you just like things. I like Stone Age and what it brings to the worker placement genre. I can certainly admit that it isn't for everyone but I think it is good for a lot of people (based on it's longevity and success in the market). Sometimes it seems as though gamers are looking for something new, or something harder, some innovative, or something more strategic. I'm not opposed to new games. I'm not really nostalgic at all. I just think we as a community sometimes expect the progression of board games to push forward quicker than necessary and lose appreciation for the essence of what board games are. To me, Stone Age is the kind of game that fits into that realm of old school board games that are good, strong games and I appreciate the feel this game provides.

I also don't think this game should be pigeon-holed into the family category like it seems to be. It is certainly good for most families but I think it has just enough going on to satisfy a group of gamers just starting their collection or descent into the hobby.

My ratings in the assessment section are honest and what I believe the game deserves, but they may not seem to quite equate to my overall rating. My enjoyment of Stone Age is what pushes this game to an 8.5. I want to play this game on a regular basis and the ONLY thing that keeps me from playing it more is something I haven't mentioned up to this point. The game can outstay it's welcome just a tad each time you play it. That would be my main complaint but it isn't a deal breaker for me as suggested by my rating.


Overall Rating -
Stone Age may be a guilty pleasure for me but it is a well-designed game that will entertain a lot of people.



If you enjoy my reviews please recommend and check out my geeklist For the Meeple, by the Meeple

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David B
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I have well over 700 plays of this and I still enjoy it.
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Simon Woodward
New Zealand
Hamilton
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This game made a big splash when it first came out, for a variety of reasons: particularly the beautiful board and the clever use of dice in a worker placement game.

These days I find Stone Age a bit bland; there are newer worker placement games that feel a bit more exciting. Things like Lords of Waterdeep, Tzolk'in: The Mayan Calendar, Viticulture and probably others I haven't played.

Edit: Oh and Age of Empires III: The Age of Discovery.

Edit2: Oh well SA does get a mention on this list:
http://www.dicetower.com/top-tens-results/top-ten-worker-pla...
 
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Michael Carpenter
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pfctsqr wrote:
I have well over 700 plays of this and I still enjoy it.


Holy cow! Well, that makes me optimistic about its staying power for me. What keeps you coming back to this game????
 
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David B
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MariettaTennis wrote:
pfctsqr wrote:
I have well over 700 plays of this and I still enjoy it.


Holy cow! Well, that makes me optimistic about its staying power for me. What keeps you coming back to this game????


Because, for some reason, I find it relaxing to play while at the same time is challenging and fun.
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David B
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manukajoe wrote:
This game made a big splash when it first came out, for a variety of reasons: particularly the beautiful board and the clever use of dice in a worker placement game.

These days I find Stone Age a bit bland; there are newer worker placement games that feel a bit more exciting. Things like Lords of Waterdeep, Tzolk'in: The Mayan Calendar, Viticulture and probably others I haven't played.


Haven't played Viticulture yet, but I would easily pick Stone Age over Waterdeep or Tzolkin any day of the week.
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Michael Carpenter
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I could see that. For some reason this game just gives me that "this is how a board game should feel" feeling. It just has a good presence on the table. Nice artwork (especially the board), good little components (which now that I look at it, I understated in the review), and just enough going on to keep things interesting without becoming tasking.
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Michael Carpenter
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I enjoy both LoW and Stone Age. If I had to choose one I think I would pick Stone Age at this point. Never played Tzolkin. Anyone have opinions on it?

Viticulture is obviously worker placement also, but I just get such a different feel from Viticulture than most worker placement games. I don't know that I could compare Viticulture and Stone Age at all, despite the worker placement mechanism.


 
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Mauricio Montoya
Colombia
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I like both Tzolkin and Stone Age very much.

Tzolkin is a perfect information game (nothing is kept hidden) where you can plan ahead carefully to get exactly what you want, and probably there will never be unexpected turns or surprises if you are paying attention to what the other players are doing and where (and when) they're placing their workers along with yours. You can always calculate exactly how everyone is doing at any point and even predict what they'll do next after a bit of experience with the game. It's also at that spot where medium games become almost too heavy (for my taste) but it's still approachable without taking a 9-hour course so you can have a mix of people with different gaming experience and they won't be bored either because it's too light or too complex for them.

On the other hand, Stone Age has a bit of chance and unexpected turns all the time thanks to the dice and the cards that are hidden in practice (unless you remember exactly what everyone is collecting, you cannot know for sure if you are ahead) so there is no guarantee that you will get exactly what you are aiming for, but you can still plan a long-term strategy and get at least the bare minimum you need if you mitigate luck in some way (using more workers or tools) and sometimes get lucky and have extra stuff to try something new. It's at that point where light gateway games become medium strategy ones, so I like to play it when I'm not in the mood for a brain-burner but still want something more meaty. It's just the right lenght and difficulty if you are a beginner trying to see what's all the fuss with modern boardgames (it's in fact an excellent "my first worker placement" experience) or if you are an experienced gamer that still wants a bit of mental exercise and the usual euro elements without spending 5 hours at the table, and you can even mix both publics and it still works fine.
 
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Olivier D.
France
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Stone Age is quite enjoyable if taken lightly, because rolling dice is (nearly) always fun.

My main beef with it, is that the resources are all worth their exact pip value in points when traded to build the huts (ie 3 for wood, 6 for gold).
So basically (assuming everyone manages to trade most or all of their resources, which isn't that hard to plan), whoever rolls and validates the most pips during the game also makes the most points from huts.

This also tends (imho) to lessen the value of higher profile resources (gold), because one might lose up to 5 pips from each roll (compared to wood, where you stand to lose only 2 pips at most per roll).
Easier resources also yield more resources per roll, which allows one to buy more development cards (for even more points).

tldr: Stone Age should be renamed "Wood Age"
 
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Michael Carpenter
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Does this shift the focus of strategy to strictly going after Civilization Cards? And if your are doing so do they offer enough points to keep up with the players trying to build huts and accelerating the game? I know a well timed block or steal of a particular kind of card can be cheap and easy if I'm ahead in turn order. Occasionally spending one working on blocking a card doesn't seem too bad, assuming I have established a heftier work force than the original 5 workers.
 
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Henry Dove
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I love both Tzolk'n and Stone Age. If you like one you will probably like the other.
 
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