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Subject: Games That Disappointed: Stone Age rss

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Derek Thompson
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I know firsthand that it’s very difficult to write a negative game review that’s actually interesting and informative. Rather than try and give a long justification according to "review rules" of why a certain game didn’t click, I’ll instead give some brief insight into why this game found its way into the trade pile. Of course, if this is a game you love, feel free to leave a comment with your own opinion.

In a way, you could say that everything in a non-abstract board game comes down to theme. First, there’s the theme itself, the "gimmick" that sells the game. Second, the art is supposed to put your imagination into that theme and let you do the rest. Third, the gameplay itself is supposed to be a kinesthetic "feel" of doing exactly what the theme says you are doing, whether that be building empires, fighting dragons, or, in this case, doing manual labor. The theme of this game comes through just fine, but it’s such a mundane one that correctly capturing it is a bad thing.

In Stone Age, you are cavemen gathering resources to live out your life, and score victory points for... doing a better job at farming and building huts than your neighbors. You spend your turns sending your workers out into the fields, forests, and mines, collecting food and resources, so that you can cash them in for victory points. It sounds boring, and it is. On the other hand, I’ve played games of a similar theme and had more fun - Roll Through the Ages comes to mind. Gameplay-wise, the problem with Stone Age is the completely opaque scoring. The point is to do better than your opponents, but your score has so much hidden information that it’s unreasonable to estimate your opponents’ scores, and so much multiplication that your own score is basically hidden to you until the game is over and you count everything up. That would be okay if the game was exciting in other ways, but it isn’t. This is going to sound counter-intuitive, but for a game centered around dice, the dice are so "fixable" that the excitement of dice-rolling is pretty much gone. All that’s left is work.

All of this might have been salvaged into a reasonably fun game if the art made the theme come alive in a more fun, less realistic way. However, the artwork is as drab and boring and mundane as the gameplay. The art is skillfully done, but I just can’t get excited about a world that only exists in green, brown, gray and orange. All of these things come together to form a game that’s all work and no play.

Originally posted http://www.meepletown.com
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Peter Brahan
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I can appreciate your comments about Stone Age, but I have to disagree. My wife and I play it a decent amount (8 plays so far) and really enjoy it and think that there is quite a bit going on (worker placement, resource management and some head-to-head).

That being said...
-I definitely agree with the "opaque scoring". I don't mind a bit of a surprise at the end, but this "surprise" can make up two thirds of the total points or more, making it difficult to know how you are doing against your opponent. We have come to live with this and expect it, but I see your point!
-I have been a long-time gamer, but because of where we live (New Hampshire) we don't play games with others or play games other than those that we own. Therefore, my exposure to games is limited to only a dozen or so, so I may like this a lot because I don't know what else is out there.

Thanks for the comments, though-I definitely value this type of feedback when I'm looking for games.
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Gustavo
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I owned this game and played it a lot, and after a while I started to realize that I only won the vast majority of games because I could track which cards my opponents had, and multiply everything pretty quick. I was not having fun anymore, because every action in my turn was done in order to add a multiplier here, or to avoid an opponent to adding another card to his set, etc. Most of the people I played against couldn't track the cards as well as I could, and ended up surprised with the scores each other made.

Now the dice could have been the exciting part of this game. You know, for me rolling dice gives you some adrenaline, because you should depend on the results of the roll to either win something or to avoid losing something. Also, luck of the dice can balance a game of veterans against noobs, giving a chance to the latter to get closer to wining. Stone Age doesn't do that. The rolls make little difference in your production, because you can manage them pretty well.

And that is what makes Roll Through the Ages a more enjoyable and fun experience for me. In RttA you are always risking to roll skulls, which can be good or bad, depending on which developments/monuments you have. Having 2 skulls and rolling one last time for the third so your opponents loose 3 points is a lot of fun, especially if the dice you are re-rolling had good results. In other words, you are giving up of something good you had, risking for something better. THIS is what makes dice rolls exciting. And here is where Stone Age fails for the kind of gamer I am, and probably succeeds for a hardcore Euro gamer.
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Derek Thompson
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Thanks for the comments guys... glad to know I'm not alone! Agree completely that RttA is more exciting. Same thing happened to me with Troyes - the luck of the dice was engineered out of the game to the point where the dice had no purpose, as they weren't exciting anymore.
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Chris in Kansai
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Hmmm. As to the artwork being drab, anybody thinking of getting Stone Age should have a look at some of the images of the game on BGG - drab's not the word I'd choose, but ymmv.

As to the gameplay, I kind of agree with Gustavo. If you're not paying attention to what the other players are focusing on you will get creamed, just as you will by just randomly picking up multiplier cards for the immediate benefit rather than having some kind of strategy for the final scoring (unless everybody else is doing the same too).

Stone Age is often suggested as a gateway worker placement Euro and as such it works as it's easy to learn and the board isn't too busy. It can suffer from the multiplayer solitaire thing though unless everyone gets into tripping up the other players by depriving them of the cards or tiles they're after, or blocking a resource. And of course, if the theme doesn't grab you then yeah, time to move on.

Personally I like Stone Age because you can play it with beginners and not get too caught up in the intricacies (or count the cards and crush them like bugs arrrh ), then again with experienced players you can play a deeper game without too much AP.

It hits the table often enough to be a keeper imo, as much for its flexibility regarding player levels as anything else.

Thanks for the review - it got me thinking about why I actually like this game!
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Bill Gallagher
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Stone Age is an excellent gateway game to get people into Euro games. It's a great alternative to Carcassonne, Ticket to Ride, and other games often mentioned. It's a good way to indoctrinate people into games where dice are used for things other than movement or battle resolution (e.g. Troyes, Kingsburg et al).
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mike berk
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Always appreciate a negative review, but I couldnt disagree more. I like the hidden scores, you cant really stop the leader in this game anyways and with hidden scores everyone feels like they are still in it. As for the dice rolls not mattering, not sure I understand that, higher is always better, and you can only mitigate it to a limited amount, so there is still the thrill of a good roll. But overall I enjoy the game, because even with the randomness the best player will usually win, but to each his own.
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I am glad that Johnny Jaws is my friend.
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This is a game that we played so much in the beginning that I now have an aversion toward it. I will likely trade it, we shall see.
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Thomas Verstraete
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xtsgarp wrote:
As for the dice rolls not mattering, not sure I understand that, higher is always better, and you can only mitigate it to a limited amount, so there is still the thrill of a good roll.


Could not agree more, i found the opportunity to slightly alter the dice roll a refreshing and game improving mechanism. Nothing scares me more than a long game where you are victim of bad dice rolls and have to cope with your own frustration and the taunts of your fellowgamers


We played this game a lot, it's easy to explain and to grasp, in our gaming group this is our favourite dessertgame.
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Jason Weed
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xtsgarp wrote:
Always appreciate a negative review, but I couldnt disagree more. I like the hidden scores, you cant really stop the leader in this game anyways and with hidden scores everyone feels like they are still in it. As for the dice rolls not mattering, not sure I understand that, higher is always better, and you can only mitigate it to a limited amount, so there is still the thrill of a good roll. But overall I enjoy the game, because even with the randomness the best player will usually win, but to each his own.


Agreed, I find the game enjoyable, beautifully designed (really like the cup and the resources are more than just cubes of different shades), and easy to get to the table. If your looking for deep strategy, play the 2er, but it scales well for any number. On BSW, you can find very competitive play and an open game almost all of the time.
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Cracky McCracken
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aldaryn wrote:
In a way, you could say that everything in a non-abstract board game comes down to theme. First, there’s the theme itself, the "gimmick" that sells the game. Second, the art is supposed to put your imagination into that theme and let you do the rest. Third, the gameplay itself is supposed to be a kinesthetic "feel" of doing exactly what the theme says you are doing


i agree with this statement when it comes to Ameritrash, but not Euros.

Euros are mechanics first, than paste a dreary, snooty theme all over it so the "elite, mature" gamers will be drawn to it.

Ameritrash is more like "let's make a game about Godzilla trampling buildings" and than start designing rules to recreate Godzilla razing skyscrapers.
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Andy Andersen
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My wife and I have played this on many occasions and love it. No game is perfect, but this is an excellent one.
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Derek Thompson
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Glad the game has fans - and clearly by its rank, it has a lot. Thanks for all the comments, it helps everyone understand better when people try to articulate why they like a game or don't.

What I mean about the dice rolls is something like "Ok, I need three brick..." *rolls* "Crap, two pips short. Ok, use my tools." On one hand, getting hosed would suck, but on the other hand, what was the point of having dice in the game? I would never want a long, skillful game to come down to dice rolls, but I also feel like the point of dice in a game is randomness, otherwise why use them?
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Derek Thompson
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Cracky wrote:
aldaryn wrote:
In a way, you could say that everything in a non-abstract board game comes down to theme. First, there’s the theme itself, the "gimmick" that sells the game. Second, the art is supposed to put your imagination into that theme and let you do the rest. Third, the gameplay itself is supposed to be a kinesthetic "feel" of doing exactly what the theme says you are doing


i agree with this statement when it comes to Ameritrash, but not Euros.

Euros are mechanics first, than paste a dreary, snooty theme all over it so the "elite, mature" gamers will be drawn to it.

Ameritrash is more like "let's make a game about Godzilla trampling buildings" and than start designing rules to recreate Godzilla razing skyscrapers.


Are you saying I can't have my strong themes AND my Euro mechanics?
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I disagree on the opaque scoring.

Games like this require each player to assume in a reasonable way that opponents maximize thiers scores in the various scoring categories and then adjust on the fly according to the specifics of the game as it plays out.

I don't think it's that difficult to give a ball-park guess to the score at any point in the game.
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People "complain" that I play Race For The Galaxy too much, so I've learned almost everything there is about to about that game, and will always win. Ironic that some of those same people play SA so much (not just f2f, but also on BSW) that they know the civ card distributions, and by instinct, know what cards to buy. I'll still play SA for fun, but it's not my first choice, and if I do end up playing it, I won't expect to win, unless we have newbies.

I would prefer RTtA over SA, since SA is much more popular, it gets played more. I like them both enough to want to get equal # of plays in.
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Gustavo
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markgravitygood wrote:
I don't think it's that difficult to give a ball-park guess to the score at any point in the game.


Totally agree. If you can "count" cards and multiply quickly, you can have a pretty good idea of who is winning, and which cards you should not allow the winner to get. The problem is that you might be the only one at the table who can track this information, so you would be in tremendous advantage against the others. And playing with a great advantage is not fun to me.

Don't get me wrong, I loved this game, and I still think it is a GREAT gateway game. My girlfriend is playing all sorts of games with me today because of this game, and I brought a couple of others friends to the hobby with it. The fact that it shows players to different uses of dice is also very important element. However, some games just become SO much easier when you play agains noobs and/or people not good in math, and that is the case with Stone Age. There is a lot of counting that can be done here, from the cards to the resources to the probabilities of the rolls. I might try it online sometime against expert players to try to change my opinion.
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Randall Bart
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ackmondual wrote:
Ironic that some of those same people play SA so much (not just f2f, but also on BSW) that they know the civ card distributions, and by instinct, know what cards to buy.

The cards in Stone Age are far simpler than Race for the Galaxy.
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Snowball
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I am disapointed by Stone Age, but I am even more disapointed by this review.
 
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Sapo Hipnotico
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I love the art work, i dislike the game very much.
I feel it is shallow and that each game is almost the same, I also don't care much for those dice to get resources.
Its a good game to introduce worker placement to a child or non gamer and that is it.
 
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Barticus88 wrote:
ackmondual wrote:
Ironic that some of those same people play SA so much (not just f2f, but also on BSW) that they know the civ card distributions, and by instinct, know what cards to buy.

The cards in Stone Age are far simpler than Race for the Galaxy.
Yet, many of the nongaming groups I taught RftG to understood most of it within their first games. The icons are still an issue, but from from being the primary one.
 
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Star Fix
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I respectfully disagree with your review. I find Stone Age to be a light gateway game that's quite enjoyable.

I like that the dice rolls can be affected by the tools. I don't want the dice to control the outcome of the game. Using tools allows for winning via calculated risks as opposed to winning via dumb luck.

I don't think that it's terribly hard to estimate my opponents scores and estimating my own score is actually quite easy.

I love the artwork - I think Micheal Menzel is brilliant and I've enjoyed his work not only on Stone Age but also Pillars of the Earth. I like the amount of detail involved.

If I had a complaint about this game it was how predictable the first few moves were. Farm, Birthing Hut. Tool. This has been corrected with the New Huts mini expansion. Now the best moves are less obvious.

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Todd McCorkle
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starfix wrote:
If I had a complaint about this game it was how predictable the first few moves were. Farm, Birthing Hut. Tool. This has been corrected with the New Huts mini expansion. Now the best moves are less obvious.


I dare say someone is probably making a mistake then. At some point the card in the 1 resource cost spot should be better than one of those options, even on the first turn of the game.
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Jason Weed
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kusinohki wrote:
starfix wrote:
If I had a complaint about this game it was how predictable the first few moves were. Farm, Birthing Hut. Tool. This has been corrected with the New Huts mini expansion. Now the best moves are less obvious.


I dare say someone is probably making a mistake then. At some point the card in the 1 resource cost spot should be better than one of those options, even on the first turn of the game.


Agreed, like the Sundial with a free farm, farm multiplier with a free farm, 2 x peeps plus a 2 die roll for wood (much better than a tool), ect.. With 3-4 players, taking the roll for goodies cards can net you a farm sometimes also (although i would rather the player to my right take the card).
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5cardstud
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weed131 wrote:
...
With 3-4 players, taking the roll for goodies cards can net you a farm sometimes also (although i would rather the player to my right take the card).


And be very dismayed when it always seems to be the player to your left instead...
 
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