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Subject: Clash of Cultures…Rise of the Heavy Gateway rss

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Sky Zero
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I've never given a 10. A perfect score to me represents the apex of gaming. It's a milestone I dare say is unattainable because perfection represents an idea maximized and optimized to a point that no others can find methods of improvement. Is Clash of Cultures a perfect 10 by my definition? Not quite, but what it has done is force me reconsider all I believe about giving that unattainable 10.


Theme
Right from the onset when you place your city, settler and those two cubes in the brilliantly designed player board you know you're in for something special. I was immediately whisked away to a time of struggle, trepidation and uncertainty for what lies ahead (no pun intended A:N) from that first movement into the unknown lands located just beyond my first city. To say Clash of Cultures has theme is like saying the sky is blue. This game has theme in droves and every action, mechanic and ruleset puts theme squarely in the forefront of its purpose. Every time something didn't seem quite right both mechanically and thematically during our games it was exactly because we were playing it wrong. Every loophole or rule ambiguity we could think of, the designer had already solved. Never has a game I've played interwoven theme and mechanic as intuitively as Christian has with Clash of Cultures. For this, I can only say Clash of Cultures captures theme at no less than a "Perfect 10".

Gameplay
From your first resource collection to your first cultural advancement, you'll slip comfortably into the tightly interlocking game mechanics. For me, Clash of Cultures combines the best of:

1. Resource Management
2. Strategy Development
3. Luck Mitigation

Every action you take will be to influence one or more of the above in order to sway the game and the power towards your civilization. The beauty of CoC is in its set of actions, which can be summarized into:

Collect: Look at the size of your city and collect the available resources surrounding you. It's that simple.

Advance: Spend two food and pick an advancement any advancement (only a few restrictions apply). It's your civilization, so grow and nurture it as you see fit.

Move: Discover new lands, conquer distant cities or reinforce the far reaches of your empire with vast armies.

Build: Settle anew, build a fortress or drop that warship into the water and plan your assault on a civilization's unprotected city.

Influence: Improve the well-being of your civilization or influence other cultures to your way of thinking (and steal your opponents points for good measure!)

I'm of course summarizing, but in fairness, the game isn't much more complex then what I've stated above...and there fellow BGG'ers is the beauty of the design. Christian has taken a complex game system, deconstructed it to its most basic elements and then built a foundation of mechanics that all play, feed and balance one another from start to finish. The game itself unfolds like your favorite novel being read for the first time. It leaves you wanting more when it wraps at the end of the 6th act and it's the first board game I've played that I not only feel like I've just scratched the surface of, but feel like I'm still just staring at it through a window outside the store. Before summarizing and telling you why I feel this game has kicked open the door to the next generation of gateway games, I wanted to share a few other elements of gameplay that I found quite enjoyable:

Barbarians: I'm a sucker for NPC's and even more so for hostile NPC's. The barbarians are well implemented and intuitive, feeling as much a part of the game as the other players sitting at the table around you.

Events: What makes tomorrow so exciting? You never know what it holds for you. In CoC that tomorrow may hold riches, famine or war, but all of it can be mitigated with the right mix of strategy and good timing.

Objectives: Game variability maximized!

War: Each unit rolls 1 dice in battle. Divide your sum total by 5 rounded down and that's the number of units your enemy loses in battle. Mitigate this with cultural advancements and action cards. Perfect blend of simplicity, luck, strategy and opportunity!

Wonders: Build the "Great Wall" and laugh in the face of opposition as they try haplessly to invade your city.

Given all that I've stated, I can do nothing less than give Clash of Culture's gameplay a "Perfect 10".

Summary
From the first unboxing to the start of play and through the climactic ending, Clash of Cultures plays out like a blockbuster period piece written for the big screen. The component quality and game design are second to none and after only a few plays, I put this in higher regard and above all others I have ever played or have in my collection. It is my first 10, it's my #1 game in my collection and the only thing lacking is time in my schedule to play it more. Clash of Cultures is the first "heavy game" that I feel has sufficiently captured the right mix of strategy, luck and approachability to break out as an introductory game for new gamers. I'll be testing this premise in the coming weeks using the 4 round variant and whole heartedly believe friends and family alike will walk away almost as enthusiastic as I am about Clash of Cultures. It's THAT good.

Constructive Criticism
Ok, so nothing is actually perfect. Clash of Cultures has successfully re-calibrated my thoughts on the acceptance criteria for scoring a 10, but there are a few points of constructive criticism:

Action Markers: Why not provide a set of action markers for each player? We all spent too much time rewinding our turn trying to remember if we took 2 or 3 actions during play. This is easily solved by creating your own, but it's something I wish would have been included.

Barbarian Symbol: The symbol that identifies a barbarian settlement on a tile is just about invisible. I get for thematic reasons that it's blended into the background, but on more than one occasion we forgot to place barbarians simply because we didn't see the almost invisible symbol.

As far as criticism goes, that's all I got. THANK YOU Christian and Z-man!
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Dan
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Damn you and your 10! I'm trying NOT to get excited about this game. I've been very good, avoiding thinking about it. Sure its existence teases me, but I've held firm focussing on the holidays and other responsibilities.

Then you have to go and give it a 10 and get me all worked up. What did I ever do to you? Have I spurned you in a past life? Did I run over your cat?

Please; post again. Tell us how flawed this game is. Tell us that more plays have revealed problems that you've missed. Given how wonderful Merchants and Marauders is, we won't really believe you, but we'll play along and let you help us avoid making another game purchase. Do this for our wallets.

Tell you what; let's compromise. Knock your rating down to 9.5. That's still pretty good. Just take the edge off. You'll feel better about it, I'm sure. We'll just chalk it up to over excitement, or a brain seizure or something. A 9.5 might help me hold off for another couple of days.

My God man, have some mercy!
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Darrell Hanning
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One in our group (Charles) struck upon using three of your cubes as action markers, moving them from the top left box on your player aid, to the top right box, as you use them. I suppose if someone gets to the point where they need those last three cubes, they're already good enough at the game to not be trifled with such silly reminders.
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G B
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I think I will need to buy myself a new Christmas Present...
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Jack
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Your criticisms are easily solved. Barbarians go on any tile with 2 grasslands. Whether you can see the symbol or not is almost irrelevant as long as you bear that in mind. Action markers? Grab 3 beads, tokens from another game, etc, give them to the start player and as they take actions, pass them to the left. Easy-peasy, lemon-squeezy.
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Sky Zero
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senorcoo wrote:
Your criticisms are easily solved. Barbarians go on any tile with 2 grasslands. Whether you can see the symbol or not is almost irrelevant as long as you bear that in mind. Action markers? Grab 3 beads, tokens from another game, etc, give them to the start player and as they take actions, pass them to the left. Easy-peasy, lemon-squeezy.


All very true but I wanted to provide some validity to why no game is perfect. There will always be something that can be improved. In my case, they are very minor quibbles, but quibbles nonetheless. Just not enough to prevent it from scoring my first 10.
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Sky Zero
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Misterboy wrote:
Damn you and your 10! I'm trying NOT to get excited about this game. I've been very good, avoiding thinking about it. Sure its existence teases me, but I've held firm focussing on the holidays and other responsibilities.

Then you have to go and give it a 10 and get me all worked up. What did I ever do to you? Have I spurned you in a past life? Did I run over your cat?

Please; post again. Tell us how flawed this game is. Tell us that more plays have revealed problems that you've missed. Given how wonderful Merchants and Marauders is, we won't really believe you, but we'll play along and let you help us avoid making another game purchase. Do this for our wallets.

Tell you what; let's compromise. Knock your rating down to 9.5. That's still pretty good. Just take the edge off. You'll feel better about it, I'm sure. We'll just chalk it up to over excitement, or a brain seizure or something. A 9.5 might help me hold off for another couple of days.

My God man, have some mercy!


What I'll tell you is that if I had a bigger scale, I would have scored it even higher...Merry Christmas
 
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Matt Shinners
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Have you played the FFG SM Civilization? if so, what elevates this above that?
 
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Jack
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I understand that they are minor quibbles, but if that keeps CoC from being a 10, then it's a solid 9.99.

Speaking of SM Civ - I have not played it, but I have read the rules and I think that the simplicity of this game's ruleset makes it easier to introduce and move along.
 
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Matt Shinners
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senorcoo wrote:
I understand that they are minor quibbles, but if that keeps CoC from being a 10, then it's a solid 9.99.

Speaking of SM Civ - I have not played it, but I have read the rules and I think that the simplicity of this game's ruleset makes it easier to introduce and move along.


Wouldn't argue with that. Just seeing if anything is lost in the streamlining.
 
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Kolby Reddish
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I've played both and it would be very hard to convince me to play SM Civ, but I would easily play Clash of Cultures and am very excited to continue playing it. I need more experience with Clash but I can tell you that in my opinion it is by far the better game.
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Christian Marcussen
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Thanks a lot. Makes me very happy. You really seem to get and appretiate what I was going for.

No games are perfect - including CoC. I have War of the Ring as a 10. Perfect no? But I would always play it and it is "perfect" in every relevant way.

THANK YOU. And have fun!
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MattShinners wrote:
Have you played the FFG SM Civilization? if so, what elevates this above that?


SM's Civ has more complexity (in a good way).

CoC is more streamlined.

I would not hesitate to play either. Both are great games!

I think CoC will appeal to a wider audience, though, because it is a bit easier to get into.

Bye
Thanee
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Evgeni Liakhovich
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Quote:
For this, I can only say Clash of Cultures captures theme at no less than a "Perfect 10".


Theme integration is actually one of the very few problems I'm having with CoC. Take a random Advance - "Chemistry": "Metallurgy" can be bought at no food cost. And then "Metallurgy": requires "Chemistry". That's all Chemistry does, serves simply as a prerequisite for the next advance? The root of the problem here is that the game is so streamlined (which in itself is a Huge plus for me), there are not enough variables to integrate theme in a very "thematic" way. So, as in above example, you cannot make every advance feel like it does what it is supposed to do. But it just made me re-affirm that in boardgame civ there will always be sacrifices of some kind.
 
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Christian Marcussen
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Glad8r wrote:
Quote:
For this, I can only say Clash of Cultures captures theme at no less than a "Perfect 10".


Theme integration is actually one of the very few problems I'm having with CoC. Take a random Advance - "Chemistry": "Metallurgy" can be bought at no food cost. And then "Metallurgy": requires "Chemistry". That's all Chemistry does, serves simply as a prerequisite for the next advance? The root of the problem here is that the game is so streamlined (which in itself is a Huge plus for me), there are not enough variables to integrate theme in a very "thematic" way. So, as in above example, you cannot make every advance feel like it does what it is supposed to do. But it just made me re-affirm that in boardgame civ there will always be sacrifices of some kind.


Hehe. I will be the first to admit that Chemistry is not my finest thematic hour. - mechanically its solid though, and its pretty much the only advance that is like that.

Additionally one of the things Im quite happy with from a desgn stand point is how the advances interact in thematic ways not immediately appearent from the advance text.

Have fun
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Darrell Hanning
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Glad8r wrote:
Quote:
For this, I can only say Clash of Cultures captures theme at no less than a "Perfect 10".


Theme integration is actually one of the very few problems I'm having with CoC. Take a random Advance - "Chemistry": "Metallurgy" can be bought at no food cost. And then "Metallurgy": requires "Chemistry". That's all Chemistry does, serves simply as a prerequisite for the next advance? The root of the problem here is that the game is so streamlined (which in itself is a Huge plus for me), there are not enough variables to integrate theme in a very "thematic" way. So, as in above example, you cannot make every advance feel like it does what it is supposed to do. But it just made me re-affirm that in boardgame civ there will always be sacrifices of some kind.


As an absolute, your point about how Chemistry is treated is well taken.

However, in comparison to other civ-type boardgames, which does a better job of it than that?

In FFG's SM's Civ, techs are just things that let you build a pyramid of...things - a very unsatisfying approach to tech, from my perspective.

How about Through the Ages? In this, Chemistry is just a more efficient laboratory, which improves your ability to research. Pretty darn abstract, that.

So, of the top three competitors for Civ-style games, I'd have to say that CoC probably does the best job of handling the chemistry advance.
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Jack
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In TtA's defense tho, the whole game is pretty abstract.
 
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Russ Hewson
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Interesting review, I had the opportunity to play CoC at Essen (with help from Christian himself - thanks!) and while I didn't buy it that was mostly because of the difficulty I have getting games like this to the table. Interestingly enough (and I fully accept that my friends and I may have the wrong mindset) I think it's not a very good gateway type game as it offers too many choices and that the FFG Civ is better in that respect. My reason for that is because of the openness of the tech tree, we were all completely absorbed in the technologies between turns and suffering huge AP because of them on our turns, the game seemed to be asking us to make an optimal choice with so many discounts and free stuff if you got things in the right order. Now I wouldn't be surprised if that optimal route doesn't really exist, but the feeling that it might really made it difficult for a first play. Of course someone who is more relaxed about such matters wouldn't have a problem with it, and I think ultimately it'll be a better game, but only after 5 plays or so once everyone has the techs down properly and I very rarely play the same game 5 times with the same people...
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Sky Zero
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Uhtoff wrote:
Interesting review, I had the opportunity to play CoC at Essen (with help from Christian himself - thanks!) and while I didn't buy it that was mostly because of the difficulty I have getting games like this to the table. Interestingly enough (and I fully accept that my friends and I may have the wrong mindset) I think it's not a very good gateway type game as it offers too many choices and that the FFG Civ is better in that respect. My reason for that is because of the openness of the tech tree, we were all completely absorbed in the technologies between turns and suffering huge AP because of them on our turns, the game seemed to be asking us to make an optimal choice with so many discounts and free stuff if you got things in the right order. Now I wouldn't be surprised if that optimal route doesn't really exist, but the feeling that it might really made it difficult for a first play. Of course someone who is more relaxed about such matters wouldn't have a problem with it, and I think ultimately it'll be a better game, but only after 5 plays or so once everyone has the techs down properly and I very rarely play the same game 5 times with the same people...


The 4 round variant allowing 2 free advances at the end of each age is a fantastic method for gateway. Less rounds and accelerated growth...all the right ingredients!
 
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Rich Meister
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Just played this game for the first time with my wife and son today. A great way to spend several hours on a snowy Michigan day. It is a beautifully designed game with straightforward rules and complex strategy. Given how long it takes the game we will have to try the four round variant.
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Christian Marcussen
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Rich_Cook wrote:
Just played this game for the first time with my wife and son today. A great way to spend several hours on a snowy Michigan day. It is a beautifully designed game with straightforward rules and complex strategy. Given how long it takes the game we will have to try the four round variant.


Great

How long did the hame with your wife take? Below two hours for a two player game is more than realistic after a few sessions.

Have fun!
 
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G B
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Bought it. Played it.

The game was 2p and took 2.5 hours. I would imagine we could knock that down significantly.

Seems like a wargame with 2P. I will post a session report about it. I liked it, my friend liked it. But it didn't grab either of us as a game we LOVED. I think this is because it SEEMS like a game that will degenerate into total war more often than not. I hope that isn't the case! The fortress seems to be the key to defending, so war may be too expensive now that we know to keep our heads on a swivel. Anyhow, it may grow on us, and we will certainly play more to find out!
 
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Christian Marcussen
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ghbell wrote:
Bought it. Played it.

The game was 2p and took 2.5 hours. I would imagine we could knock that down significantly.

Seems like a wargame with 2P. I will post a session report about it. I liked it, my friend liked it. But it didn't grab either of us as a game we LOVED. I think this is because it SEEMS like a game that will degenerate into total war more often than not. I hope that isn't the case! The fortress seems to be the key to defending, so war may be too expensive now that we know to keep our heads on a swivel. Anyhow, it may grow on us, and we will certainly play more to find out!


Hi there. War "degeneration" is quite session and group dependant. I don't think you can generalize about it. I hope you continue to enjoy the game and will appretiate it's nuances, facets and options.

Have fun!
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G B
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I hope so too. My group will likely not want to fight, but will do so if the game seems easiest that way. Defense seems easier, so I think it won't go that way.
 
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Jack
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I know that if I play with a group that wants to sit back and develop and not engage in war, let's just say that CoC isn't the first game to reward doing what others aren't. devil
 
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