Kulkmann's G@mebox - www.boardgame.de



Jan Zalewski


No. of Players:
2 - 5



Whereas Filip Milunski's tactical dice game CV focused on the way of life of a single person, the new GRANNA game CVlizations by Jan Zalewski takes the whole issue onto a larger scale, giving the players a possibility to develop the achievements and traits of whole civilizations. However, despite the similar sounding name which has been chosen to put both games into the same series, the playing mechanisms found in both games do not really correlate. So, CVlizations totally forgoes the use of dice, but instead the game belongs to the modern species of micro-civilization games in which the players have to manage a rather straightforward amount of resources to develop their nations.

During the game the success of each player will be measured in form of Happiness, and so the game will be won by the player who has managed to create the happiest nation. Happiness points can be gained through Ideas, the game's collective term for cards displaying developments in the fields of buildings, tools, inventions and ideologies. These cards can be acquired from an open display, with the players making payments in different combinations of the game's resources Food, Wood and Stone. When acquired, each of these cards will count for some Happiness points at the game's end, with some of the cards having a fixed value, whereas others display conditions or action possibilities to gain bonus points. Apart from the Ideas, Happiness tokens also can be gained during the Action phase if a player has chosen the "Slacking" order card for this round.

Let's examine these Order cards a bit closer since their usage forms the central mechanism on which the game operates. Each player possesses an identical set of 8 Order cards, and each of these cards allows the player to perform a specific action for his nation. So, a player can generate a certain amount of one resource, collect a minor amount of a freely chosen combination of resources, trade resources, steal some resources from another player, gain some Happiness tokens or even double the effect of another order.

At the beginning of a round, in player order each player will chose two of his Order cards to play during this round, with one card being face up and one card remaining hidden for the other players. Since the Order cards are chosen in player order, the later players have the advantage of knowing (at least in part) which cards have been chosen by their competitors, and it is necessary to make best use of this knowledge because the effectiveness of an Order card actually depends on the number of players who have chosen this order for the ongoing round. So, an Order card will have a minor effect if only one player has chosen it, whereas the effect will be much better if it has been chosen by two players. However, since too many cooks spoil the broth, three or more players chosing the same order will strongly devaluate the card's effect, giving those players either some very small benefit or none at all. On a sidenote, it should become obvious at this point that the game is played best with a cast of 3 or 4 players. The rules include a quite strategic 2-player variant, but in case of CVlizations it's certainly the more the better.

But back to the orders. The players only will get back their full hand of Order cards at the end of an Age after three rounds of play, and so everybody will face an interesting challenge to guess and counter-guess which cards will have been chosen to be played faced down in the current round. During an age, a good estimation for timing and also some tactical considerations are quite important, since the players need to chose between gaining some resources on their own or possibly sabotaging an action by chosing an order which also has been chosen by some of the other players. Since the game only runs for a total of three Ages (which is 9 rounds), a good pokerface to pull off the one or other bluff also is important, since only a player who can gather a good amount of resources will do well in CVlizations.

As you can see, CVlizations is a good representative for a minimalistic approach to the civilization-theme, but the game nicely brings together some straightforward resource management with a good degree of player interaction. On the one hand the mechanism associated with the playing of the Order cards ensures that the players keep a rather close look on the ordering activities of their competitors, but on the other hand the players also compete for the most lucrative Idea cards, since these cards do not only provide happiness, but each Idea also comes along with a special ability which allows its owner to perform orders with an even higher efficiency or to score additional points at the game's end.

The off-mainstream, comic-like illustration style chosen for CVlizations actually is the same as in CV, and even though the playing mechanism is distinctively different Polish publisher GRANNA actually was right to make an association between both games by use of a similar sounding name. Both games are based on development, and the degree of complexity found in both games is comparable as well. So, if you are looking for civilization in a nutshell, you might wish to check out CVlizations due to the well implemented, quite interactive approach to the theme.

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Copyright & copy; 2015 Frank Schulte-Kulkmann, Essen, Germany