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Age of Mythology: The Boardgame» Forums » Reviews

Subject: Winning the Battles, Losing the War. rss

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Jeff Mays
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In Age of Mythology, each player builds up one of three civilizations and controls one of three mythologized armies: Egyptian, Greek, or Norse. Throughout the game, each player will claim regions of land to help bring in resources, build buildings to maximize production or military power, and recruit mythological creatures and humans into their army and use them in battle.

In order to do these things, each player is given two small decks of action cards, one a deck of 7 permanent action cards, the other random. Every round, each player builds a hand of cards from these two decks, first choosing what and how many of the permanent cards to use, then drawing random cards to fill out the hand. The random cards are more powerful than the permanent cards but the random element does make it a risk (as a powerful action that isn’t the action you need isn’t much help). The most powerful cards in the random decks are the god cards, and are generally pretty sweet but require some sacrifices of certain resources to activate.

During your turn, playing cards let you do certain actions: Explore (to add new region tiles to your civilization), Gather (collect resources of a certain type from your regions), Build (buildings of various use), Trade (one kind of resource for another), Recruit (use resources to buy mythological creatures or humans for your army), Attack (another player’s army with yours), and Next Age (exchanging certain resources to move up to next level of civilization). Unlike the other cards, with Explore and Gather, the player playing the card gets first choice/action, but all players get to participate in the event.


(Photo by Budley)

The choices and card play are interesting and you do need to be careful about what your opponents are doing and how best to use your cards to counteract others or protect your civilization. The balancing act of military power or civilization building can make for some potentially difficult and dangerous decisions.

The actual battles are, for my group, the heart of the game. After an Attack card is played, the players involved decide which units of their army will engage the enemy (this information is hidden from your opponent and the number involved is limited based on cards), each player next chooses one of the unit cards for a unit in the battle and then both sides play the individual unit chosen and a melee between the two takes place.

Battle is decided by rolling dice (D6), only sixes count as successful strikes, and each of your human and mythological creatures have certain abilities (some fair better against a certain kind of adversary) that add to the number of dice they roll. The side with the most sixes rolled wins and, in most cases, ties continue the battle with a reroll of all dice. Once a unit is defeated, it is discarded from that player's army and each player chooses another unit to battle.


(Photo by Budley)

Luck of the roll can be absolutely huge in Age of Mythology. Even in the most lopsided of situations (say a basic human Greek Hoplite vs. a Norse Frost Giant), the lowly can sometimes defeat the mighty. The overall outcome of a battle comes when one side’s force is eliminated or surrenders. If the Attacker wins, the losing force loses either a land tile, a certain type of resource, or a building. Winning battles, however, do not necessarily win the game.

To win the game, players are competing for victory points awarded for either the most recent battle won, the largest army, the most buildings, or building the Wonder. Every round, each player starts with a victory cube which they then place on one of the four cards representing these for conditions. Most recent battle won cubes are given out throughout the game to the winner of a battle, the other three are given out at the end of the game.

Ah, but here’s the rub. The choosing of where to put your cube from round to round and the awarding of the cubes at the end of the game can be rather anti-climatic. The victory conditions, in particular, are the one area where I feel the game is relatively mediocre. While playing a savvy or cunning strategy to best fulfill the conditions may pay off with a win, rest assured that the post-game accolades will generally fall to the one with the best battle stories.


(Photo by Howitzer_120mm)

Overall impression: The bits are good (nice plastic creatures) and the gameplay itself is entertaining. The luck factor is fairly sizable. It plays good with two, better with three (haven't played with more). It is one of those games that generally has a good number of laughs and a little bit of angst (usually related), but not a real big payoff at the end. If I am in the mood for a serious game session, this ain’t it. On the other hand, if I want a little bit of strategy mixed with a good dose of dicefest battling, this is the one that comes to mind. I might not suggest it, but can’t imagine saying no to it if someone else does.
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Bill Eldard
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GrrBlarg wrote:
. . . Luck of the roll can be absolutely huge in Age of Mythology. Even in the most lopsided of situations (say a basic human Greek Hoplite vs. a Norse Frost Giant), the lowly can sometimes defeat the mighty. . . .


Many critics of the game (I'm not one of them) don't like these rules. They don't like the method by which each side selects its champions from its army for the battle. This is counter-intuitive to the wargames and Axis & Allies-type games they are accustomed to, where large forces clash in huge battles.

And as you noted, there is inherent luck of the die rolls. I once had a team of Egyptian myth characters defeated by a team of Norse mortals --- and enjoyed it! Afterall, aren't many tales builts around mortals who overcome the odds to defeat powerful mythological creatures? I think the outcome was very much in the spirit of theme.

Overall, while Age of Mythology doesn't get played in our group these days, I think it's a fine design and a lot of fun.

Thanks for writing your review.
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Jeff Mays
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One of my fondest memories of the game is a nearly invincible Hoplite that devastated much of my Norse army. By the time I finally defeated him, it seemed almost tragic.
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mar hawkman
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Hehe.... Yeah it is a nice game. But remember this is NOT Risk. If you try to play it like Risk you'll get very frustrated and bored. Economic dominance goes hand-in-hand with military dominance. More money means more units. Of course if you're good at raiding you can STEAL the money, but normally you can only get 5 resources for each attack, and the cheapest units are 2 resources. In a pinch it's great for padding your resource total, especially if your tile draws were lacking in a certain resource.

BTW check out the variants forum. A while back me and Crespi were working on making more factions. The only "finished" factions are Celts and Aztecs though.

oh and combat works out much better if you use 5 and 6 as hits instead of just 6.
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