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This demo copy was a photocopy of the rules, copies of the double sided city boards and the four decks of cards. We added coins and victory point tokens from 7 Wonders. The rules are well written and easy to understand, and the cards are large and on good stock. Obviously I can't comment on any other components.
Start with one city board each (there's a few ways to select them). We started with the suggested 5 cities, so each player had a vase symbol, a culture symbol and a symbol that reduced the cost of a specific colour card by 3 or any card by 1 (different for each player). Then shuffle the 4 decks and put an end of game card shuffled into the bottom 4 cards of each pile. Each player draws the top card from a pile of their choice. Then everyone gets coins (1st - 24, 2nd - 25, 3rd - 26, etc.) and you're ready to play.
Each player takes a turn with 7 steps, in clockwise order, until 2 end game cards have been revealed.
Step 1. Draw 2 cards from different decks and, optionally, pay 5 coins to draw another card from any pile. (Pretty straight forward.)
Step 2. Auction off 1 or more cards from your hand 1 at a time face down. (Most of the time only 1 card was auctioned, but occasionally more if someone really needed coins. In our game bids never got very high, with most cards going for 2 or 3 coins.)
Step 3. Build up to 2 cards for 10 coins each, reduced by any effects on your city or previously played cards. (Getting the reductions is important since your initial money runs out fast.)
Step 4. Protect one of your cards by placing a coin on a symbol on the card. This card can no longer be destroyed, but that symbol is no longer available and you've lost a coin. Only symbols with a special border around them can be covered. (This makes for some interesting choices.)
Step 5. Income. There will be a number of symbols with yellow backgrounds on your cards. This is your income of coins and victory point tokens. This can be as simple as get 3 coins, or things like get 1 coin for each blue card you have on the table. (Again, we found coins were an important income to develop.) Also, some cards have abilities on them that can be played at this point, such as the Port which lets you pick an opponent who must trade with you on their next turn.
Step 6. Trade. Pick an opponent. You get coins equal to the number of vases he has showing, and he gets coins equal to the number of vases you have showing. These come from the bank. (I liked this feature. As the game went on one player had 4 vases so everyone was trading with him. He was getting less coins each time, but on each players turn.)
Step 7. War. (Optional.) Attack a player with less war symbols. Gain coins equal to the number of cards they have played. Then destroy one of their unprotected cards and one of your cards with a war symbol on it. Destroyed cards go face down on the players city. (In our game only one attack was made.)
Then it's the next players turn.
When the game ends you get the value of collected victory point tokens plus victory points on some of your cards (green symbols) plus 1 victory point for each 10 coins plus the number of purple culture symbols on your cards (and city) multiplied by the number of face down cards on your city. Highest total wins.
So how does it play? IT'S TOO SHORT! In our 5 player game 2 players only had 3 turns each. I ran some basic math and figure that in most 5 player games you should get 4 turns (maybe 5 for some players) but that's it. That's one of the reasons we only had one war; everyone thought wars were something you would do near the end of the game. The final scores were 4, 4, 11, 13 and 14. The 2 4's were the players with only 3 turns.
I will try this again, because I like the basic game, but I'm thinking it's always going to feel like it's ending just as it's beginning.