Ender Wiggins
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INTRODUCTION



What's the difference between these similar sounding games?

Roll Through the Ages: The Bronze Age

This is the original base game. Billed as offering the opportunity to "Build a thriving civilization – in under an hour!", Matt Leacock's innovative Roll Through the Ages has proven to be a big hit that has lived up to expectations. A civilization game with dice? As long as you're not expecting a deep civilization game, and willing to judge the game on its own merits as a dice-rolling filler, Roll Through the Ages (which I'll refer to subsequently in this review as RTtA) has to be commended for offering a genuinely civilization experience packed into 30 minutes. A basic tech tree, interesting choices, tension, and a high fun factor, all in a Yahtzee like package - no wonder it earned a big thumbs up from me (see my pictorial review) and many others! RTtA: The Bronze Age is the original game.



Roll Through the Ages: The Late Bronze Age

RTtA: The Late Bronze Age is just a variant that modifies the original game slightly. It was created and made freely available by the designer, Matt Leacock, as a downloadable print-and-play file.

What exactly is Roll Through the Ages: The Late Bronze Age?

It's not an independent game.

For that you need the original game, RTtA: The Bronze Age. RTtA: The Late Bronze Age is simply an "expansion" that slightly modifies the base game. If you don't own RTtA: The Bronze Age, start by getting that, because it contains the components you'll need to play the game (dice, peg board, pegs).

It's a variant to an existing game.

Is it an expansion? Sort of. Pinning down the precise definition of expansion here on BGG can sometimes be an exercise that's more successful than trying to catch the wind. So rather than put a precise label on this "expansion", let's explain what it is. The original game, RTtA: The Bronze Age, comes with all the necessary components to play the game. RTtA: The Late Bronze Age replaces the score sheet with a new score sheet, and slightly changes the rules and adds a few developments. In other words, it's not a drastic addition to the game, but more like a minor patch, effectively bringing the game from version 1.0 to version 1.1. Perhaps it's best described as an official variant (that happens to come with its own score sheet), as explained in the official rules: "The Late Bronze Age adds four new developments and new game ending conditions to the Roll Through the Ages: Bronze Age for those players looking for a longer game with a bit more depth." So it's really just a variant, that has a separate entry on BGG because it has an official PDF.

Why is there a need for this variant?

The original RTtA: The Bronze Age wasn't a perfect game, although it was very very good. Many players lamented that the game ended too quickly, and others were keen to see more interaction. RTtA: The Late Bronze Age is a free print-and-play expansion from the designer, that answers the requests for a longer play time and added interactivity between players.

Here's what the designer said about how it came about:
"I designed the base game to play quickly -- 30 minutes, in a pub -- and was (happily) surprised by the number of geeks who wanted more. I'm hoping the expansion helps scratch that itch for people. So, don't think of it as a fix, but rather as a variant for experienced players who want more of a "gamer's game." The inclusion of the hyperlink (rather than a separate rule book and scorepad) was also intentional -- my aim was to me to keep the rules for the base game consistent, short, and accessible, while giving us geeks the chance to try something meatier."

Where can you get this variant?

You can download it for free from the official website, rollthroughtheages.com.

It consists of two parts:
1. A new score sheet - http://rollthroughtheages.com/late_bronze_age_07.pdf
2. Slightly revised rules - http://rollthroughtheages.com/latebronzeage.php

Print out the PDF, read the rule changes, and you're set to play version 1.1 of Roll Through the Ages!

Alternatively, check out and print the revised rules as reformatted by William McDuff to make them consistent with the original rules:



What is the new score sheet like?

It's very similar to the old score sheet, and looks like this:



How is it different from the old score sheet?

The format is like the score sheet of the second edition of the base game (not the first edition). It also implements all the minor rule changes and additions made by the variant. It also includes the names of all the monuments, and as an added bonus, the names of the goods.



GAMEPLAY

What changes are implemented in the variant?

The five main changes are:
● Game ends with 7 instead of 5 developments
● Four new developments (Preservation, Smithing, Shipping, Commerce)
● Adjustments to the cost and point value of five other developments
● Adjustments to the cost for monuments, which are all in play (even in 2-3 player games)
● Trading is standard

When does the game end?

In the original game, the game ended with the invention of a fifth development. That has now changed to the seventh development. This is a good improvement, and is a house rule we were playing with anyway.



How do the new developments work?

Preservation:

At a cost of 20 coins, this technology allows you to spend 1 Pottery before rolling the dice in order to double your current food. So if you're at 7 food at the start of your turn, you can give up a Pottery to jump to 14 food!

Smithing:

At a cost of 25 coins, this technology allows you to use Invasion to cause your opponents to lose 4 points each instead of suffering the usual 4 disaster points yourself. In addition, you can cause an additional 2 points of damage for each Spearhead you give up. Attack, and start throwing spears I say!

Shipping:

At a cost of 25 coins, this technology allows you to build a ship with a Wood (hull) and a Cloth (sail). In subsequent turns, you can use the ship to swap any particular good for any other good during the Trade phase. In other words, you could use your ship to upgrade a wood or a stone to a spearhead! You can build more than one ship, and may trade as many items per turn as ships that you own. A great way to upgrade your goods, and is thus a potentially powerful new development!



Commerce:

At a cost of 40 coins, this technology earns you 1 point for each good on your pegboard at the end of the game, as well as an automatic 8 points. A good point scoring technology for the end game along with Architecture and Empire!



What are the adjustments to other developments?

Several minor changes were made to development costs and effects, and monuments. The reason for these changes is described thus:
"The following modifications have been made to the existing developments and monuments to keep them balanced given the new additions above. These changes are only suggested when playing the Late Bronze Age and are not intended for use when playing the base game alone."
Some of these may be worth considering even for the regular game.

Medicine - cost of 20 and 4 points (previously cost of 15 and 3 points)

Religion - cost of 25 and 7 points (previously cost of 20 and 5 points)

Granaries - convert food for 6 coins (previously convert food for 4 coins)

Architecture - cost of 60 coins and 2 points bonus per monument (previously cost of 50 coins and 1 point bonus per monument)

Empire - cost of 70 coins and 10 points (previously cost of 60 coins and 8 points)

What are the adjustments to the monuments?

Higher point values:

Being second to complete Temple, Obelisk, Hanging Gardens, Great Wall, Great Pyramid earns 3,4,5,6,8 points (previously 2,3,4,5,6 points)

Increased selection:

All monuments are in play regardless of the number of players (previously Temple, Hanging Gardens, Great Pyramid were not all used in 2-3 player games)



What about trading?

Trading was an optional rule in the original game. Trading is still optional, but is now a separate phase each game, following the Building phase. It is important especially for the Shipping development, since this is the phase when you can upgrade your own goods.



CONCLUSIONS

What do I think?

The new game end of 7 developments: Essential.

Virtually everyone I've introduced to Roll Through the Ages didn't want to stop at 5 developments, but suggested we keep playing. The game may have been intended as a 20 minute filler for a quick game in the pub, but for most people, the engine under the hood is a Corvette, and they're not satisfied with a quick drive around the block, but want to take this car on the open road to really see what it can do. Stopping at 5 developments makes the game feel constrained and limited, because at most you get to use some of the more complex developments for 1 or 2 turns - the official variant allows you to run after the warm-up, and savour some of the results of your hard work. I'm not sure I could handle the length of a four player game though!



The new developments: Optional, but recommended.

Shipping is particularly a development of interest, since it allows you to improve your goods, and thus give yourself more purchasing power. It's also quite thematic, so adding this is a nice enhancement. Maybe it's even too strong? The other developments simply give more options, and thus increase replayability, they seem quite reasonable.



The adjustments to existing developments: Optional, but recommended.

I'm really not sure how critical these are. There's a slight cost increase to some developments like Medicine and Religion, which is a very minor change. The increased reward for Granaries makes this a more attractive development than it was previously - this is a good change in my view, because it offers an alternate source of revenue, and I can't recall Granaries being that viable in the original game. The costs and rewards of both Architecture and Empire have increased - this seems like a sensible change to make in a longer game.



The adjustments to monuments: Essential.

At least, it's essential when playing to 7 developments. With a longer game, monuments become more important. While the significantly lower points for 2nd place and subsequent builders of a monument makes sense in a shorter game, in a longer game players need to have an incentive for building monuments, even if they're not the first to build them. Being able to build all monuments in a 2 or 3 player game is also an essential change for the longer game, otherwise the end of the game can be triggered by completing all monuments well before 7 developments.



The trading: Optional.

Trading was already an option in the original game, and whether you think it improves the game is largely a matter of taste.



Overall, the most important change is adjusting the end-game condition to 7 developments, something that most gamers will find an improvement. You can make this change a house rule with the original game too, but the adjustments to the monument scoring will help keep the game balanced. Incorporating the new developments and the other adjustments to the existing developments does all enhance the game, but it's not something absolutely essential, because it does add some more complexity. The same is true of trading. So you can play the original game and end with 7 developments, but most players will likely find that the additional tweaks offered by this official variant are worth incorporating in the longer game as well, even if some of them are optional.

What do others think?

Most people who dislike the original game won't find the changes significant enough to make them like Version 1.1. But the general consensus among people who do like Roll Through the Ages is that the official variant improves the game, and that some if not all the changes should be adopted when playing with the base game. Here's what people are saying:

Criticism:
"Bad news is it makes the game far too long and really outstays it's welcome. Even a two player game takes 60 minutes now. Way too long for the gaming payback." - Doug Adams
I'm not sure I want to spend more than 30 minutes playing a dice game though. Since the expansion is supposed to specifically address those who want a longer play time, I guess I'm not the target audience.” – Jerry Hagen
"Outstays its welcome with 4 players." – Brian Robson
Probably better than the base game? If you like one you'll like the other. I'm not crazy about either.” – Dom L.


Praise:
"Makes the basic game a little bit longer and better. Those new developments improve the game." - Tero Hyötyläinen
"A very nice addition (especially given that it's free) and improves the overall package. Well worth playing if you liked the original but thought it was a bit short." - Uisge Beatha
"Better than the Bronze Age. More strategies (like aggression, or ships for trading goods), longer (but not too long) game." - Paweł Stefański
"Makes a good game even better." – Carl-Gustaf Samuelsson
"A solid addition to the game. I like the further aspects of shipping, as well as some of the new developments." - Giles Pritchard
"Must print expansion. Best Yahtzee game." - Paul Nomikos
"Great addition to a good game. Pushes RttA into the next league." – Jason Easley
"Lengthens the game to 7 developments, which curiously, increases the importance of monuments since there is more time to build them. Improves on a very good game to make it great" - Richard Irving
"I prefer this over the original for a couple reasons: its length allows you more time to devise a development plan and the player interaction is greater." - Jeremy Brown
"Big improvement to the basic game. Loving it." - Neil Christiansen


What do you think?

For those who have tried both the base game and the official variant, which do you prefer playing, and why? And which of the changes incorporated into the official variant do you think are solid improvements? Here's a poll to get some discussion started, but feel free to discuss your thoughts in this thread as well.

Poll
1. Which version of the game do you prefer to play?
Version 1.0 - the original game: Roll Through the Ages: The Bronze Age
Version 1.1 - the official variant: Roll Through the Ages: The Late Bronze Age
2. Which changes incorporated in the official variant do you think improve the game and are essential?
The new game end condition of 7 developments
The four new developments (Preservation, Smithing, Shipping, Commerce)
The adjustments to the cost and point value of five old developments (Medicine, Religion, Granaries, Architecture, Empire)
The adjustments to monuments (increased points for second-placed builders, and all monuments in play for 2-3 player games)
The trading
      228 answers
Poll created by EndersGame

NB: if you don't like the original game at all, this poll is not for you!



The final word

Is Roll Through the Ages: The Late Bronze Age for you? If you dislike the original game, this official variant is unlikely to change that. If you do like the original, but felt it ended a little too soon, then RTtA: The Late Bronze Age variant is for you. All fans of the original game should at least give it a try, and can incorporate whichever changes you think are improvements. Only those who felt that the length of the original game was perfect are likely to dislike the longer game offered by this variant, but for most people, this will allow the game to accomplish the more lengthy and satisfying run that they were longing for in the original game. For gamers, upgrading to Version 1.1 is almost certainly essential.



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The complete list of Ender's pictorial reviews: http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/37596
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Hristo Filipov
Bulgaria
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I like the game much more with the variant rules. In fact, after playing the original game a few times I started to think of trading it. But then I tried the variant and I am happy to keep it for now There are more interesting and differentiated strategies in the variant and the game is not over too quick. The solo play is more fun also.
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Jens Hoppe
Denmark
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What are you, like 80?
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Just what I'd been asking for: Positive AND negative comments quoted. Well done!
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Richard Irving
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Good review, except a minor point. The lower score for each monument is NOT for second place, but for "second, third or fourth place".
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Jonathan Kift
Canada
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That's probably the best comparative review I've read! Excellent work.
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B C Z
United States
Reston
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I've been waiting for this since I saw the pictures go through geek mod.

Well said.

Of the new developments, Preservation is not to be overlooked, especially with Agriculture and Granaries and the extra coin in 1.1. This is a beautiful combination that means you have excess money available and makes every roll useful.

I also belive it's slightly erroneous to split out some of the interlocked changes. Above I mention the Food path change. Ships and Trading is another interlocked change set, because Trading with another player rarely is beneficial, but trading up in value is ALWAYS beneficial. Monuments being worth more for second builders and via the Architecture bonus makes that path more viable.

In the end, the game is now about controlling the moment the end of the game occurs, based on the path you've chosen.
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Neil Christiansen
United States
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I think trading with other players is VERY VERY benifical. I think this is a huge misconception.

The player that trades the most with others has distinct advantage.

Not only is it set up so trades can be win/win, this is generally reealized in practice.
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Peter Schott
United States
Roanoke
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Thanks for the review. We just got Roll Through the Ages and I've felt that the game does end too abruptly, but the actual play time for that shorter session is ideal. I look forward to trying out this variant to see how it plays. The great thing is that we can easily play this game with our 6-year-old, who has skunked us a couple of times. We'll probably give this a try in a little bit to see what we think.
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Peter Hope-Jones
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Thanks for this great review!

I'm excited about trying this variant out - just photocopying it now (at work) whistle

But I kind of don't want it to replace the original version because I've barely made a dent in that beautiful huge pad of scoring sheets that came with the game
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David Anderson
United States
seattle
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I really like this variant. I printed the new sheets out and laminated them. We use grease pencils to mark them with which are easily erased with a tissue (similar to crayon rail games).

I would love to see other expansion for different ages. How about the Iron age or the Dark ages?
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Flix
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Fantastic article: fun to read, informative and awesome pictures/illustrations!
Great job!
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Dave K
United States
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Love 'em even if a few games get scuttled from time to time.
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This might be the best review I've read here - and I've read a lot! Fantastic job! thumbsup
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Mike De Groote
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That is one good review .
Everything you need to base a desicion on .
And yes i'm printing the files right now :)
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