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Subject: Stone Age - A Detailed Review rss

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Image Courtesy of Duane Abrames

This review continues my series of detailed reviews that attempt to be part review, part resource for anyone not totally familiar with the game. For this reason I expect readers to skip to the sections that are of most interest.

Summary

Game Type - Board Game
Play Time: 60-90 minutes
Number of Players: 2-4
Mechanics - Dice Rolling, Set Collection, Resource Allocation
Difficulty - Moderate (Can be learned in under 30 minutes)
Components - Excellent ++
Designer - Bernd Brunnhofer (Pantheon, Saint Petersburg)

The Theme

As the name suggests, Stone Age sets each player the task of managing a tribe that must survive and thrive during the Stone Age period. Each tribe must allocate its tribesmen to various tasks in order to gather resources which in turn will enable their tribe to not only survive but triumph over the competition.

As far as Euro games go the theme here works much better than the average medium weight game on the market. This is largely due to the need to feed your people as this mechanic has ramifications for every other decision that can be made.

In short the theme is engaging. But without the mechanics to back it up this would be just another mid weight Euro.

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The Components

d10-1 The Board - Stone Age offers another exquisite board with vivid detail and gorgeous colours. It very much invokes memories of the board in Pillars of the Earth and upon closer inspection we discover that Michael Menzel is the genius behind both works. But the artist alone is not the only reason for the quality of the work. Both games are similar in that natural resources must be gathered. So Stone Age also features similar areas such as a river, quarry, forest, fields etc etc. In all there are 8 distinct areas to the board and I could look at it for hours - definitely an eye catcher from across the room.


Image Courtesy of vekoma


d10-2 The Player Boards - Each player board features artwork of equally high standard. The boards feature 2 key areas for placing tools and buildings that are acquired during the game. The costs to earn the various resources is printed clearly and allows a space to place said resources during the game and a neat table featuring numbers and icons outlines some end of game scoring details. The boards are also quite thick, making them highly durable. The back of the boards even features a sketch like design of a valley. I love small details.


Image Courtesy of TomTube


d10-3 The Resources - There are 4 resource types in all (gold, stone, brick and wood) and each of these feature a different colour and shape to easily tell them apart. Of course the key is that they are made out of wood making them tactile to the touch and raising the quality bar up another notch.


Image Courtesy of Filippos


d10-4 Food - Whilst not a resource in the same vein as the ones above, food is still highly critical. Food is represented by cardboard tokens with the values 1, 2, 5 and 10.


Image Courtesy of TomTube
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d10-5 Tools - Stone Age Tools can be collected during the game and are depicted by a stone age axe on a small square tile.


Image Courtesy of Toynan


d10-6 Buildings - In all there are 28 building tiles which are similar in size to a Carcassonne tile, but not square. Each tile features a building that lists the resources required to build it and its value for doing so (paid in VP's). Some buildings are special in that the player building it can choose the make-up of resources they wish to use. These are nicely presented but more functional than mind blowing.


Image Courtesy of vthor


d10-7 Civilisation Cards - In all there are 36 Civilisation Cards. These offer serviceable artwork but of far more importance are the variety of icons and benefits that these cards bestow to the player that collects them. More on that later.


Image Courtesy of vthor


d10-8 Tribesmen - Each player receives a total of 10 tribesmen figures which are wooden and are probably called meeple by most gamers. I'm not happy with that though as I think Stone Age deserves its own term. Let’s see if I can't earn a few geek points here....Tribesple or Meepmen (Meeple + Cavemen).


Image Courtesy of richardsgamepack


d10-9 The Dice - 7 Dice are provided, highlighting that Stone Age falls into that newish trend of Euros with a dice mechanic. To put myself into the total 'Geek-nob' category I'm calling them "Dieros". Think Yspahan, Kingsburg, Airships and To Court the King. In truth though Stone Age is quite different from all these titles. I like the fact that the dice are wooden as it supports the theme. A leather dice cup is also provided, which is an unnecessary but welcome inclusion.


Image Courtesy of cnidius


d10-1 d10-0 Start Player Figure - A cardboard cutout of a tribal leader is used to keep track of who is the start player for each turn. It is the same design used for the start player marker in Thurn & Taxis: Power and Glory.


Image Courtesy of vthor


d10-1 d10-1 Rules - The rules are printed in full colour and are well put together. The opening 2 pages are dedicated to a set-up diagram and provide some useful info on what areas of the board are for, which helps to prep a newbie for things they'll find in the rules proper. The rest of the rules are well set out and the use of icons and keywords in the sidebars on each page are great for finding a rule clarification quickly.

A double sided 1 page overview is also included that outlines the details of the various cards and some tactical notes.

In summary I can't give the components anything less than a 10 out of 10. They are really that good and make the game a delight to look at.

So we have an engaging theme and sumptuous components. But is the game play any good?

The Set-up

Image Courtesy of zombiegod


The game is set-up pretty quickly. The resources are all placed in their respective positions, food in field, wood in forest etc. Each player takes a board and 5 of their 10 tribesman (err Tribesple) with the other 5 being placed in a central general stock for later collection. Each player also receives food tokens worth a total of 12.

The tools are placed near the village huts in designated boxes. The cards are shuffled and 4 are drawn and placed in the 4 boxes in the bottom right corner, whilst the building tiles are mixed and 4 piles of 7 tiles are created and placed face down in their boxes in the bottom left corner of the board. The top tile of each pile is flipped and left on top of each pile for all to see and strive for.

The dice and cup are set to one side and the start player is determined and given the start player marker. It's finally time to live it up Stone Age style.

The Game Play

This is probably a good time to highlight that Stone Age comes from the same mind as the designer of Saint Petersburg, Bernd Brunnhofer (although he uses the pseudonym Michael Tummelhofer on both designs).

The key to the success of Saint Petersburg and here again in Stone Age is that the decisions to be made are simple to fathom but difficult to choose between given limited time and resources.

The Phases

In Stone Age each turn is divided into 3 distinct phases -

Phase 1 - Placement of "Tribesple"

Starting with the start player for the round, each person must determine where they will place each member of their tribe. Each location (outlined in a moment) offers a distinct benefit and some locations have restrictions on how many workers may be placed there.

There are two key distinctions in this phase. First is that each player can only place people in one location before the next player is allowed to place their first worker or workers.

Second is that each player can only place workers in 1 location once per round. If a player puts 3 workers in the quarry and then realises they really needed 4, well it’s too bad. Other mechanics will be outlined shortly (see Using Actions Phase) that create important implications for the placement of one's "Tribesple".

The placement of workers continues to cycle from one player to the next until all players have exhausted their supply, thus ending the phase.

Phase 2 - Using Actions Phase

This phase now allows each player to use the actions afforded by the placement of their "Tribesple". This is done player by player, starting with the Start Player. As each player completes this phase they are also allowed to resolve each benefit in the order they choose, which is often critical as it allows resources to be gained in one area that are needed to pay for something elsewhere.

Here I will look at each Action that is available.

d10-1 Tool Maker Hut - This location requires 1 worker and once assigned it locks out all other players. The benefit is that the player earns (his worker makes) a tool, which is taken and added to the player's personal board. Tools are handy as they can be used to boost any given dice roll when looking to gather food or collect resources. Tools come in +1, +2 and +3 varieties and the higher valued tools can only be gained by collected more than three +1 or +2 tools.

d10-2 Hut - This location is quaintly called the Hut but our play group (and I'm sure many others around the world) have several 'in-club' nicknames for it. Why? Well this is the Hut of love, the place where babies are made, and therefore it needs 2 "Tribesple" to gain the benefit. Placing here will also lock out other players.

Not surprisingly the benefit of the 'Hut' is that a new "Tribesple" can be taken from the general supply and added to a player's supply of workers ready for the next round. More workers equals more placement options and therefore more potential benefits. Now that's sweet mechanics!

d10-3 The Field - This location can only accommodate one worker and this too locks out the competition. The benefit here though is all important as it bestows that tribe a permanent +1 food on the food track. Food is needed to feed your tribe so having permanent food sources is essential to being successful and mandatory if you want to expand your tribe using the 'Hut'.

Any increases in permanent food supplies is tracked using a cube in your colour on the Food Track.

d10-4 The Resource Locations -

Image Courtesy of Toynan
In all there are 5 locations that allow players to assign workers in order to gain food or key resources. Food can be gathered in the open plains, wood in the forest, bricks in the hills, stone in the quarry and gold in the river.

All of these locations have a set number of workers that can be placed there (7 in a four player game) except the field, which has no worker limit.

Collecting the goodies from each of these areas is quite novel and doesn't take the simple approach of 1 worker equals 1 resource, which is welcome. Instead it is the number of workers that determines how many dice can be rolled to determine how many resources are gained. The values of all dice rolled are then added to form a total.

The twist is that each resource features a divider, which is relative to its value in the game. For example it takes 3 points to collect 1 wood. Therefore a roll total of 10 would bestow 3 wood with 1 die point being left over.

By contrast Gold requires a total of 6 points to earn 1 gold, making it possible to require 2 or 3 dice in order to guarantee that 1 gold is collected.

In short what Stone Age offers at its core is a 'Push Your Luck' game with a controllable 'Probability' engine. By this I mean that you have all the information at hand to assess the odds of rolling the total you need to acquire the 2 clay that are essential to build that building or buy that card. However your workers, which are assigned to earn you the dice needed to make the roll to earn the resources, are very finite!

Take a risk and you may get unlucky, reducing your options to build a building or purchase a card before the opposition. Assign too many workers to the one location and you are undoubtedly missing out on other benefits available elsewhere.

The dice rolling (resource gathering) mechanic is beautifully executed and makes the game purr along. It does mean a heck of a lot of rolls are made in a single game but unlike many a ‘conflict game’, here the rolling still makes you feel like you have a degree of control that you are happy with.

d10-5 The Cards - As mentioned earlier there are 4 cards in play in each round of play. Each location differs however in that the far right card space will coast 1 resource of choice to purchase and each subsequent space to the left costs 1 additional resource, up to a maximum of 4 resources of choice for the far left slot.

The cards themselves however are randomly shuffled and drawn in each round of the game. This makes for a large amount of variability in how the cards come out and how they can affect the play.

Each card has room for only 1 worker to be assigned, therefore locking other players out of accessing a card once it has been selected. Of course there is no guarantee that a player can afford to pay for a card should there dice rolls go pear shaped.

The benefits of each card are varied and I will address them in the Card Almanac section below.

At the end of a round all cards not bought are slid as far right as possible. In this way cards will become cheaper each round if not purchased. This invokes memories of Saint Petersburg when cards move to the bottom row of the marketplace and is but one of several similarities between the two.

d10-6 The Buildings - Like the cards, the buildings only allow 1 worker per building before the competition is locked out. Once a player assigns a worker, they are obligated to pay the asking price in resources in the current round. If they can't pay the cost for whatever reason, they lose the chance to build the building and their worker is wasted.

Some buildings require a set number of resources using 1 or more different resource types. These buildings allow a player to choose what resources they wish to use, and the value of the resources (6 for gold, 5 for stone, 4 for bricks and 3 for wood) are used to determine the final value earned in victory points.

This VP value for buildings also holds true for buildings with set resources. This is another nice mechanic as it directly rewards the use of more valuable resources, which of course are more labour intensive and riskier to acquire.

Also note that although there is only room for 5 buildings on each Player Board, more than 5 can be purchased.

Having now covered all the locations where "Tribesple" can be assigned it is important to note that all workers are returned to each player's player board as their action is carried out, even if they could not carry out the desired action due to a resource shortage.

Phase 3 - Feeding Your People

Image Courtesy of Ploedminka


The 3rd and final phase requires each tribe to feed itself. For each worker in a tribe one food must be expended. Each player must pay the full cost from their food tokens, but they can of course subtract from the total the amount of food they have acquired on the Permanent Food Track up to that point.

Each player starts with 12 food tokens, so they are in effect free from worrying about food for 2 turns. Of course this does not take into consideration any tribes that choose to breed! By the mid game it is not uncommon to see some tribes dedicating 2-4 workers to the fields to ensure that their food requirements are met.

If a player cannot pay their total food cost, they must pay 1 resource of their choice for each food they are short. If they still cannot pay the cost then they will lose 10 Victory Points on the score track.

Stone Age is excellent at throwing up close finishes so a -10 VP penalty is highly undesirable.

Round End

Once all food bills are attended to the round is over. The Start Player Token is passed on to the next player in a clockwise direction and the highly enjoyable process continues all over again.

Game End

The game can come to an end in 1 of 2 ways. If the end of a round results in there being too few cards to fully replenish (4) the card track the game will end. Likewise the game will end if any one building tile pile is completely exhausted.

Scoring

Each player's score is calculated by adding the points they have earned during the course of the game (via buildings and some cards) and the end of game scoring features.

The end of game scoring features are delivered via the cards, making them key considerations at all times. I will look at the cards in more detail in the Card Almanac section below but in brief they are -

Civilisation Items (Green Bottom) - There are 2 of each card type here and the players score points for the number of unique cards (8 in all) they possess at games end. This mimics the Aristocrat end of game scoring seen in Saint Petersburg.

Multiplier Cards (Brown Bottom) -
There are 4 different types of multiplier cards. Each type features a specific icon type and these are multiplied by other things you have collected during the game such as buildings, workers, food and tools.

The inclusion of these cards allows each player to pursue different paths in how they build their Stone Age Civilisation, which is really cool.

My Thoughts

So now for the analysis. I have quickly played 8 games of Stone Age in less than a month, which is something of a record for a game that takes over an hour (on account that I have taught new people with most of those plays). This is testament to the strength of the game play on offer here.

It is well documented that Stone Age is a cross between the mechanics of Saint Petersburg and numerous resource collection/allocation games such as Pillars of the Earth. I feel this is a pretty good descriptor.

If you are a fan of either or both games then this may well be good news for you. However for those that aren't do not despair. I personally feel that the play offered in Stone Age goes beyond both of those games and rather than feeling like one or the other (and therefore running the risk of being redundant), Stone Age offers something unique that it can call its own. In other words the sum is greater than its parts.

Why?

Image Courtesy of MMAC


Well the theme and mechanics just click. The options are intuitive meaning the learning curve to enjoy the game and feel some sense of control is much less than other games of similar weight.

All of the parts interact with each other so well that the game builds with each round of play.

Every turn seems to throw up deliciously infuriatingly difficult choices as every option has a real and meaningful benefit as well as an opportunity cost (spent resources or workers here can't then be used there). If you are torn between 2-3 choices, you can be assured that the other two are likely to be taken by the time your turn comes around again.

In so many games the inclusion of a dice mechanic is usually seen as a negative in terms of game play. Even in the generally well respected Kingsburg this can be true for many people. In Stone Age though, I really see the dice as a positive, they add a richness to the game that affects a player's decision making in purposeful ways.

Then there is the depth of strategic paths to explore and pursue. The combination of end game scoring options and in game scoring options combine to offer player's of Stone Age a really engaging time as they watch their civilisation expand and develop.

Stone Age then seems to do the impossible and throw up close finished on a regular basis. Out of my 8 plays, only once have I seen a blow out winner (by 30 odd points by memory). On all other occasions the top 2 have been within 5 points of each other and on several occasions no more than 10 points have separated all 4 players.

I am also incredibly fond of the fact that it is extremely hard to judge who will come out on top even in the final round. Many times already I have had suspicions on who would win, only to find that someone had gone under the radar. This keeps the game exciting right till the final moments when the scores are revealed.

If the above points weren't enough, the game caps it off with wonderful components that are only marred slightly by a bizarre box design that results in the lid not quite closing fully like it should.

Stone Age is on the fast track to becoming my favourite game of all time. Another dozen plays or so should be enough to confirm for me if it is truly a 10 on the Geek rating scale. Something majorly broken would need to surface in that time and personally I don't see that happening.

Scalability

Stone Age tries to balance fewer than maximum players (4) by modifying the placement options for "Tribesple". With 2 or 3 players only 2 of the 3 specialty huts (Tools, Breeding and Food) can be occupied. In addition only 2 of the 3 players may have workers present in any 1 resource location.

With 2 players only 1 player may have workers present in any of the resource locations.

For me 3 players works just as well as 4 on account that 1 specialty hut will be locked out each round. It also allows for some sneaky tactics as players can deliberately lock a player out of a particular resource by being the 2nd player to place there.

I haven't played 2 players yet and although the changes may work to a degree, I would suspect like many Euros that Stone Age wouldn't have the same shine with 2 players.

Saint Petersburg Vs Stone Age

Image Courtesy of CoffinDancr


Given that both games are designed by the same designer and Stone Age shares a few common elements with SP, I thought this analysis may be worthwhile. It's also worth mentioning that Saint Petersburg is my favourite Euro of all time so seeing my thoughts on the comparison may put this review in some sort of perspective for you.

Similarities - SP has the Unique Aristocrat end of game scoring bonus whilst Stone Age has the Unique Item end of game scoring bonus. These mechanics are identical in there implementation, which some may see as a little lazy. It is however important to note that Stone Age only has 8 unique items in all, making them more scarce and important to acquire. But of course taking a unique item may come at the expense of something else valuable.

Then there is the mechanic that allows cards to become cheaper over time, making them more enticing to purchase. In both games cards have to stay in play (not be purchased) at the end of a round to become cheaper. The difference is that in Stone Age the cost reduction is far greater and very few cards will be passed up by all players at the cheap end.

Both games feature buildings and their primary purpose is the acquisition of Victory Points. In Saint Petersburg, good players will try to calculate the VP's per Rubble they can earn. The better the ratio the better the decision. In Stone Age this work is taken out of the equation as the value of each building is dependent on the resources used. This is likely to appeal to players who don't want the mental arithmetic. For me both systems have there merits.

My conclusion on the similarities then is that the mechanics outlined probably work better in Stone Age than they do in SP.

Decision Making - Stone Age wins here too because of the increased number of choices in Stone Age and way that one decision will impact on future decisions. In Saint Petersburg the only way one decision affected another (except for a special building or worker) was in the fact that buying a card meant you had less money.

Time Frame - This is the 1st category where Saint Petersburg comes out on top. I can easily play 2 games of SP in the time it takes to play Stone Age. Both games offer a good depth of decision making for their time frame though so it's more of a tie really - coming down to your mood at the time.

Suspense - Whilst I love Saint Petersburg, it is fairly mechanical. One drawback of this is the fact that it is possible to calculate the winner within the last round or two. With Stone Age there are just too many variables to keep track off, meaning everyone is holding their breath right until the last player announces their score. Sweet.

The 'Civilisation Card' Almanac

In this final section I will take a closer look at the various card types and talk in brief on their strategic importance to the game as a whole.

d10-1 Overview - Each Civilisation Card features an End Game Scoring feature; either a Unique Item or a Scoring Multiplier Card. However each card also offers an in game bonus listed at the top of the card. These include free resources, food, or bonus tools or permanent food.

d10-2 Unique Item Cards – As mentioned earlier there are a total of 16 item cards, 2 each of 8 different types. They are signified by the grassy green lower half and unique item illustration. As mentioned you can earn VP's based on the number of unique items you hold at games end, making them fairly valuable (64 points being the top end).

From a strategic point of view it is important to note that the points on offer increase by 2 with each new item that is gathered. For example purchasing a 2nd item will earn 3 additional points over the 1st. But buying the 5th item will earn 9 points over the 4th. In other words, unique items become more valuable the higher up the scoring table you climb, therefore you can get committed to seeking them out once you pass a certain point. Having one of two won't amount to a hill of beans.

There can be some logic in buying a 2nd item that you already have as it will deny your opponent's that item. If they already have 5 or 6 items this could mean you have denied them 9 or 11 points, which is almost as good as having bought a building! Interestingly it is also possible to have a 2nd set of Unique Items and score them separately from the 1st. I don't know how viable that would be, I'm guessing not very...however it makes taking a double unique that little bit better.

d10-3 Scoring Multiplier Cards - These cards feature a sandy river shore at the bottom of the cards. There are 4 distinct types of multiplier card, each one featuring a different icon (1-3 per card) and they are designed to work with other features of the game to allow for more careful planning in how you expand you civilisation to maximise scoring.

mbBuilders - At games end you can multiply the number of builder icons you have acquired by the number of buildings you have built. In all there are 9 icons worth of builders scattered across 5 cards.

mbWorkers - At games end you can multiply the number of worker icons you have acquired by the number of tools you have gathered. In all there are 8 icons worth of workers scattered across 5 cards.

mbShamans - At games end you can multiply the number of shaman icons you have acquired by the number of people you have in your tribe. In all there are 7 icons worth of shamans scattered across 5 cards.

mbFarmers - At games end you can multiply the number of farmer icons you have acquired by the number of permanent food you have generated on the permanent food track. In all there are 7 icons worth of farmers scattered across 5 cards.

d10-4 Resource Roll -

Image Courtesy of henk.rolleman
This is the most interesting of the in-game effects offered by Civilisation Cards. These cards require the owning player to roll 1 dice per player in the game. Once rolled the active player must choose 1 of the numbers and take the benefit it awards. The next player gets a choice from the options remaining and so on and so on, such that all players earn something from the roll.

A 6 awards a free permanent food, 5 is a free tool, 4 is a free gold, 3 a free stone, 2 a free brick and 1 a free wood.

It's always nice to roll a 6 when buying these cards!

The Final Word

I don't normally do this in my reviews but I feel so strongly about Stone Age that I'd recommend you buy it unless you are a Euro hater. Even if you don't like it, Stone Age will be a very easy game to trade.

The time frame is a little longer than most light-medium Euros but the depth of decision making warrants the play time.

The only potential negative I can identify at this point is that Stone Age is highly dependent on good timing. Given the importance of breeding, food production and tools, you really hope that ordinary cards (if there is such a thing) are in the cheap seats when you are the Starting Player for the Round. There is nothing worse than being the Start Player and a prime card comes up that suits your long term strategy. That usually means sacrificing a food producer or breeder.

Timing is also crucial on the cards that feature dice rolls for items/resources. If you can't buy them yourself, being 2nd is key in the hope that you'll get a free tool or gold.

Other than that Stone Age is a blast.

Links

For a full list of my 300+ reviews in a search-able Geeklist -

My Review Geeklist for Easy Reference

Other Dice Driven Euros

d10-1 Airships - A Detailed Review

d10-2 Alea Iacta Est - A Detailed Review

d10-3 Kingsburg - A Detailed Review

d10-4 Kingsburg: To Forge a Realm - A Detailed Review

d10-5 Las Vegas - A Detailed Review

d10-6 Yspahan - A Detailed Review


EDIT - Correction made to the scalability section and added the rule outlining that double Unique Items can score points.

EDIT - Added Links Section

EDIT - Updated the visual appeal of the review and added url links where appropriate.
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Green Knight Games
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Good review.

Neil Thomson wrote:
Well the theme and mechanics just click. The options are intuitive meaning the learning curve to enjoy the game and feel some sense of control is much less than other games of similar weight.

This sums up Stone Age very well.

Neil Thomson wrote:
Every turn seems to throw up deliciously infuriatingly difficult choices as every option has a real and meaningful benefit as well as an opportunity cost (spent resources or workers here can't then be used there). If you are torn between 2-3 choices, you can be assured that the other two are likely to be taken by the time your turn comes around again.

This really is the core of the game - it surpasses the dice mechanic, as making the right choice is much more important.

After a couple of 2-player games, we have each won a game - with a vast lead - and haven't really figured out why. Still got some learning to do on this one. The 2-player version seems to work better than most Euros as the choices are more restricted and you find yourself trying to out-think what your opponent is going to do. You always have a number of actions you want to take - which to place first (and beat your opponent)?
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Sheamus Parkes
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Very nice review!

Throw me in the camp that tried it, and thought it was pretty much St Pete + Worker Placement. Neither St Pete nor Stone Age had any soul for me. Just kinda dry "meh".
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Tim Harrison
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Very nice job on the review.

Here's my one sentence review:

Stone Age is a dice game done right.
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John Earles
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If the above points weren't enough, the game caps it off with wonderful components that are only marred slightly by a bizarre box design that results in the lid not quite closing fully like it should.


How to modify the box insert

Thanks to Michael Kroehnert this issue can be resolved. It's not too hard if you are careful about marking out the measurements and then take your time with the cutting. I did this procedure the other evening in about 15 minutes and the box now closes perfectly!!
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Chris Hillery
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Neil Thomson wrote:
If a player cannot pay their total food cost, they must pay 1 resource of their choice for each food they are short. If they still cannot pay the cost then they will lose 10 Victory Points on the score track.


Minor correction: If a player cannot pay their total food cost, they must pay as much food as they can, and then then may pay 1 resource for each food they are short. This distinction is important if you're going for the so-called "starvation strategy".
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my eye
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With 2 players only 1 of the specialty huts may be occupied and only 1 player can be present in any one resource location.

Though only one player can be present at any single resource in a 2-player game, I'm pretty sure that you can place at two of the three huts in a 2- or 3-player game.

Nice review. Of the three dice games often referred to in the same breath -- Yspahan, Kingsburg and Stone Age -- this is by far my favorite. And it seems to play cleaner than PotE.
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ronaldinho @boardspace.net
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These mechanics are identical in there implementation, which some may see as a little lazy.


Actually, the score is n^2 for Stone Age, and (n^2)/2 + n/2 for St. Petersburg.
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Neil Thomson wrote:

I am also incredibly fond of the fact that it is extremely hard to judge who will come out on top even in the final round. Many times already I have had suspicions on who would win, only to find that someone had gone under the radar. This keeps the game exciting right till the final moments when the scores are revealed.

Yep. No king making and no quiting. I think this is the exact reason that Kingsburg was a bit of a letdown for me. I was digging it right up to autumn of the last year when it was crystal clear who was going to win before the final battle. Very anti-climatic.
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I am on a Journey...
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Ceej wrote:
Neil Thomson wrote:
If a player cannot pay their total food cost, they must pay 1 resource of their choice for each food they are short. If they still cannot pay the cost then they will lose 10 Victory Points on the score track.


Minor correction: If a player cannot pay their total food cost, they must pay as much food as they can, and then then may pay 1 resource for each food they are short. This distinction is important if you're going for the so-called "starvation strategy".


Yeah I deliberately didn't add that level of detail on purpose to try and help the review not get too bogged down in rules.

Thanks for the pick-up.
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drunkenKOALA wrote:
Quote:
These mechanics are identical in there implementation, which some may see as a little lazy.


Actually, the score is n^2 for Stone Age, and (n^2)/2 + n/2 for St. Petersburg.


Yeah by my comment I meant that they are the same in terms of needing to acquire unique items/aristocrats.

I hadn't given the point differentials any thought actually.

Thanks for the pick-up.
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Top notch review. I wish all games had one of this standard.
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'Geek-nob'


laugh
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Great job on the review! It's very well done. I like how thorough you are as it gives one a solid sense for how the game plays. I'm interested in this game now, but the scalability does concern me. More often than not I am playing 2-player games with my spouse, so a game needs to play well with just two.

How would others assess playability with just two players?
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alan beaumont
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Neil Thomson wrote:
drunkenKOALA wrote:
Quote:
These mechanics are identical in there implementation, which some may see as a little lazy.


Actually, the score is n^2 for Stone Age, and (n^2)/2 + n/2 for St. Petersburg.


Yeah by my comment I meant that they are the same in terms of needing to acquire unique items/aristocrats.

I hadn't given the point differentials any thought actually.

Thanks for the pick-up.

In StP it is the triangular progression (+1 +2 +3 etc), in Stone Age the Square of the cards (first seen way back in Civilization Commodity set values).
In addition, in Stone Age you also score any duplicate cards as another bonus set, although bizarrely this rule is only introduced in the scoring example in the play aid. So in theory you could score 2 sets of 64 - and good luck with that.
Until it was mentioned I saw no resemblance to StP and still don't. Surely this is The Pillars of the Earth done right - all the placements you miss out on are down to your priorities and those of your opponents, not the luck of the draw.
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misteralan wrote:
In StP it is the triangular progression (+1 +2 +3 etc), in Stone Age the Square of the cards (first seen way back in Civilization Commodity set values).
In addition, in Stone Age you also score any duplicate cards as another bonus set, although bizarrely this rule is only introduced in the scoring example in the play aid. So in theory you could score 2 sets of 64 - and good luck with that.
Until it was mentioned I saw no resemblance to StP and still don't. Surely this is The Pillars of the Earth done right - all the placements you miss out on are down to your priorities and those of your opponents, not the luck of the draw.


Thanks Alan, indeed statistical analysis of scoring is beyond my mathematically challenged brain.

I was not aware that multiple item cards count as a 2nd set. This is interesting but not hugely critical as you pint out. No one player is liekly to have more than 1-2 duplicates, if that. So what are we talking - a further 1-4 points (game not in front of me).

Indeed I don't see so much a resemblance to Saint Petersburg here, just a few mechanics that are the same or similar. I have played Pillars once and I believe you are correct in saying that this is Pillars Done Right as I have seen that comment several times in other reviews. I just didn't want to repeat the thoughts of others if I could help it.

On a side note I was dissapointed to see this miss out on the SdJ. Perhaps it had too much meat for that award and is a better chance for the DsP award later in the year?!
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Neil Thomson wrote:
On a side note I was dissapointed to see this miss out on the SdJ. Perhaps it had too much meat for that award and is a better chance for the DsP award later in the year?!

I think Stone Age hasn't been around long enough to create the stir it deserves. I played it 3 player first and was disappointed. Now I am Puerto Rico excited - I think it is that good!
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misteralan wrote:
Neil Thomson wrote:
On a side note I was dissapointed to see this miss out on the SdJ. Perhaps it had too much meat for that award and is a better chance for the DsP award later in the year?!

I think Stone Age hasn't been around long enough to create the stir it deserves. I played it 3 player first and was disappointed. Now I am Puerto Rico excited - I think it is that good!


All speculation of course but perhaps it has occurred because the market is so awash with different titles that many are only 'so-so'.

When a game that is actually well presented and well designed (better than 90% of other stuff) we suddenly all get excited.

Whether this is a good phenomenon is debatable, but it is also evident in other areas such as film and tv.
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Great Review! I've found Stone Age a great way to introduce new folks to strategy boardgames, me included.

IMO it plays best with 3 players. With 4 players, the starvation strategy is difficult to stop without a team effort from at least 2 of the other 3 players. With 3 players, you are correct that the starvation strategy is costly.

This is one of my favorite games and one of the few I'd rank a 10. (75 plays in 2 months on BSW)
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misteralan wrote:
Neil Thomson wrote:
On a side note I was dissapointed to see this miss out on the SdJ. Perhaps it had too much meat for that award and is a better chance for the DsP award later in the year?!

I think Stone Age hasn't been around long enough to create the stir it deserves. I played it 3 player first and was disappointed. Now I am Puerto Rico excited - I think it is that good!


Too heavy may be one factor; another is the need to give Knizia a life-time achievement award. How would the SdJ look if it was said that Knizia never won one?
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Let’s see if I can't earn a few geek points here....Tribesple or Meepmen (Meeple + Cavemen).


Cavemeeples of course!

Great Review.

Played this only a few times on BSW, found it so far to be extremely close. In fact my second game ever was an exact tie for first place with the next player 1 point behind.

Have others found this to be true with repeated plays?
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the_pirate wrote:
Quote:
Let’s see if I can't earn a few geek points here....Tribesple or Meepmen (Meeple + Cavemen).


Cavemeeples of course!

Great Review.

Played this only a few times on BSW, found it so far to be extremely close. In fact my second game ever was an exact tie for first place with the next player 1 point behind.

Have others found this to be true with repeated plays?


Definitely when all players have a similar level of experience. Of course playing with a newbie can result in a player that follows the newbie being left very good options.....

Did you win the tie on the permanent food count back?
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Most excellent review!

However:

Neil Thomson wrote:
With 2 players only 1 of the specialty huts may be occupied and only 1 player can be present in any one resource location.


is incorect.

Here is the quote from the rule:

Quote:
With 3 or 2 players, only 2 of the 3 places: tool maker, hut, and field may be filled in each round. The third place remains empty. Naturally, the empty place can be different in each round. [...]

With 2 players: on each of the places: forest, clay pit, quarry, and river only 1 player may place people in each round.
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Sacha Spinks
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Neil Thomson wrote:


Did you win the tie on the permanent food count back?


According to the BSW rules page: "In case of a tie the player with the highest sum of food supply, tools and people wins."

We were dead even and therefore shared the victory. I can't imagine that would happen too often. Pretty cool but.

I think the final score's were 164 - 164 - 163 - 137
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f_briere wrote:
Most excellent review!

However:

Neil Thomson wrote:
With 2 players only 1 of the specialty huts may be occupied and only 1 player can be present in any one resource location.


is incorect.

Here is the quote from the rule:

Quote:
With 3 or 2 players, only 2 of the 3 places: tool maker, hut, and field may be filled in each round. The third place remains empty. Naturally, the empty place can be different in each round. [...]

With 2 players: on each of the places: forest, clay pit, quarry, and river only 1 player may place people in each round.


Cheers - fixed now.
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