Through the Ages 2nd Edition By Eagle Games Review

Through the Ages 2nd Edition By Eagle Games
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== Super short review
It's fun. Buy it.== Short review
* It's fun.
* You have to think.
* Randomness does not dominate the gameplay. You can plan ahead and react to the cards as they appear.
* Your mistakes will be punished. (Not "Age of Steam" punished, but you'll feel the pain of making stupid moves.)== Long review
I missed out on this when it was released at Essen 2006. Instead of hitting eBay, I waited patiently for the reprint. For a year, I read everything that I could find on the game, multiple times. I was pretty anxious for it, but I was worried that I was building it up too much in my mind, and figured I'd be let down.
It was everything I hoped for and then some.
The reprint itself has some production issues which are supposed to be fixed at some point. I'm not disappointed that I picked this one up though. The reprint as-is is very playable.
As for the game, you have to maintain a balance between production, science, culture, and military. If you overproduce, corruption prevents you from hoarding resources. If you don't build up your science, you can't pay for upgrades. If you don't produce culture (i.e. victory points) you can't win. If you don't keep up with your military, your opponent can punch you in the face via aggressions, or in some cases just outright win via certain wars.
Of course, you don't have anything close to resembling the number of actions and resources that you need to pull all of this off. It's a juggling act where you're trying to squeeze in just one more ball than everyone else.
The upgrades that you're competing for enter the game via a Dutch auction. They start out expensive, and drop in price until someone buys them or they are removed from the game. This mechanic is brilliant. If you absolutely need a certain card you can probably get it, but it will cost you most of a turn to do so.
You start the game with 4 civil actions, which you use for the majority of things that you do in the game. You also get 2 military actions for building troops and wreaking havoc. There are several cards that will increase one or both of these action pools. The thing that I really like about the game design is that simply pumping these up isn't sufficient to create a snowball effect. Yes, more actions are better than fewer, but if you don't have the resource production to back those action up you'll be wasting a lot of time.
The leaders and the wonders are all unique, although there is overlap between a lot of their abilities. Wonders have a sufficiently high opportunity cost that you really feel like you've earned them once they are built. Leaders are very cheap to acquire, but you are strictly limited on many you can draw and play.
Military is an arms race. If you keep up with your opponents you're probably fine. If you let someone get way ahead, the pain train is likely to show up soon. There are aggressions which let one player try to attack another. It's a simple comparison of military strength, with the option of sacrificing troops for a temporary boost (and the subsequent shrinking of power after those troops disappear). If the attacker wins, the text on the aggresion card occurs. These take the form of stealing goods, stealing science, blowing up buildings, killing leaders, etc.
Unlike aggresions, wars can backfire on the attacker. They can, however, be far more devastating. Rather than simply deciding on win/lose, the amount by which you win or lose also matters. If you have a huge military lead, wars can really hurt your enemies.
There are also colonies which can give you some nice bonuses, but at the expense of your military troops. It's an agonizing choice sometimes to attempt to win a colony, knowing that afterwards you're going to be a sitting duck until you can build your military back up.
Fair warning for those who hate downtime -- there is some here because each player-turn is taken in its entirety. You should be thinking and planning when it's not your turn though, which will speed things up. My last two full games (2-players) took two hours each. (Both were called with a few turns to play, because they were blow-outs. Figure another 15 minutes each if we were play to completion.)
If you're just starting out, and you have any gaming experience at all, I suggest starting with the advanced game. Use the simple game as a solitaire exercise for learning the basic rules. Make sure that you read the rules a couple of times before trying to teach anyone. The rulebook is a terrible reference guide, so you really want to know these rules cold before you start.
After you've read the rules twice, go read Helen Holzgrafe's excellent rules summary and errata list. It'll likely point out a couple of rules that you missed., the game is a ton of fun. I love civ games, and this is the best that I've played so far. I've only played Advanced Civ against a computer. Maybe I'd like that one more than TtA, but who the hell knows, since it's impossible to get a group to play it. I can actually get TtA to the table and knock out a couple games in an evening.

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Through the Ages is an exciting game of strategy and resource management. Players guide their civilizations up from Antiquity, through the Middle Ages, and into Modern Times.What will your civilization be like? Will it be warlike?Technologically advanced? Religious? Artistic? Choose from Leaders such as Hammurabi, Napoleon, and Ghandi. Build the Pyramids, the Great Wall, or the Eiffel Tower.Your Civilization's culture is yours to shape - and you can do it differently every time you play the game.Through the Ages is playable in three different difficulty levels. Play the short Tutorial Game to learn the game mechanics. Play the Advanced Game when you are ready to face the consequences of politics and corruption. And when you want an even greater challenge, play the Full Version of Through the Ages and take your civilization from spear-throwing to space flight.Game Contents: * Scoreboard * 4 player mats * 4 reference cards * 350+ game cards * 265 wood tokens * 1 rulebook

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