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



Tom Lehmann


No. of Players:
1 - 4



Back in 2010 Matt Leacock designed the successful civilization dice game Roll Through the Ages, but despite the game's positive attributes in terms of complexity and playing duration, my major point of criticism was based on the rather low player interaction which could be found in the game. Each player managed his own hand of dice, and so the players just had to watch each other in order not to be caught off guard by a surprise ending. With the release of Roll Through the Ages: The Iron Age in 2014, the game seems to have found a successor, and since the designer's seat has been taken over by Tom Lehmann I was quite curious to see whether Tom had been able to tackle the lack of player interaction.

To get straight to the point, Roll Through the Ages: The Iron Age indeed features an increased degree of player interaction, and this is due to the fact that the players now can invest into building up Military Strength. During each turn a player does not just roll his normal hand of Action dice, but in addition an Event die is rolled as well. If the Event die shows the "Tribute"-result, the active player will have to compare his own Military Strength with the Strength of all competing players, and for each weaker player he will either score victory points equal to the Strength difference or - by choice of the weaker player - receive one trade good. Already this simple trick gives the game a quite different feeling because the players now feel an increased degree of competition from beginning right until the end, keeping a suspicious eye on their competitors' scoreboards in order to keep up in the race for arms.


But let's now look at the main playing mechanism. As the name suggests, Roll Through the Ages: The Iron Age still is a dice rolling game, and the players use their turns to roll and re-roll a hand of Action dice to collect resources like Food, Goods and Workers. The number of dice available to a player depends on the number of Provinces or Harbors in his empire (whichever is greater), and so each player starts with a hand of two Action dice which he can increase a maximum of 6 dice. All dice can be re-rolled up to 2 times, with the exception of dice showing the "Catastrophe"-result since this result will be locked. The players will use their resources to build Harbors, found Provinces, build ships and monuments and to recruit military, and most of these investments will be recorded on a paper scoresheet to mark their progress. Apart from the paper scoresheet, each player also possesses a wooden scoreboard on which his changing stocks of Food, Goods, Military, Ships and Wealth can be recorded.

The different types of investments require different types of resources, and so Monuments and Provinces are acquired just be spending workers, whereas Harbors and Ships require a payment of Goods. Military needs both Workers and Goods, and Food must be spent to support a player's Provinces in order to prevent famine. Apart from the additional Action dice which can be acquired through Provinces/Harbors, different types of benefits are associated with the different investments. Provinces increase a player's Military and Victory Points, whereas Monuments in most cases just mean a large haul of Victory Points (especially for the first player to build them). Harbors on the other hand increase a players income in Goods when the "Goods per Harbour"-result is rolled, and apart from the aforementioned "Tribute"-event Military can also be used for gaining victory points through the "Conquest"-event.

[IMAGE]These interwoven uses of the available resources provide for a quite variable gameplay, and in comparison to the predecessor game Roll Through the Ages the players now have some more varied approaches and strategies which they may try to follow. This is especially visible on the wooden scoreboards on which the players record their stocks, since the whole affair about collecting different types of goods has been dropped. The players now just have to collect one type of goods which can be used for purchasing Military and Ships, for gaining technological developments and for founding Harbors. So, the reduction of the different trading goods to some generic Goods is not a step backwards, but instead it has been used to shift the game's focus towards different types of investments for which the goods can be used.

The players also can use their goods to purchase technological developments, but it is more effective to use Action dice showing the "Invention"-result for this action because these dice are more valuable when it comes to purchasing technological development. Tom Lehmann's knack for interwoven mechanisms and scoring options once again becomes visible at this point, since the technological developments have been finetuned to stand in accord with all other investments and they allow enough overlapping so that a player is not fixed on a certain winning strategy but can react to the general development and needs of his empire. Once again, this is a fact which gives Roll Through the Ages: The Iron Age an advantage over its predecessor, since the players now face a much tougher decision making process when it comes to the question which technological developments should be made.

A game with a civilization theme always has to do something with evolution and progress, but as this review should have proven in case of Roll Through the Ages: The Iron Age progress is not restricted to the thematic background. In comparison to its predecessor, the game itself has evolved since it now offers a more variable and interactive gameplay. This makes the game it bit harder to grasp for newcomers since they have to understand the somewhat delicate balance between the different scoring mechanisms, but when this initial hurdle has been taken the players will discover a nice civilization game with considerable playing depth.

[Gamebox Index]

Google Custom Search

Impressum / Contact Info / Disclaimer


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