Originally Posted at http://gameswithtwo.blogspot.com/2012/09/civ-building-dice-r...
Matt Leacock has had some home runs when it comes to designing games. The first game of his that I played was Pandemic. I then learned about Forbidden Island and immediately picked it up. Then, since I am behind on the news, I found out he had a game in between those called Roll Through the Ages. The amazining thing is, that all three of these games were nominated for the Spiel des Jahres (Game of the Year in Germany) in consecutive years. Although he has not won the coveted award, all three of these games are highly regarded. Pandemic and Forbidden Island are two of my favorite games, and there is a chance that Roll Through the Ages may make it there.
Basic Game Play
Roll Through the Ages is the little brother to Through the Ages by Vlaada Chvátil. Through the Ages is a civilization building game that is both complex and long. Roll Through the Ages (RTtA) tries to bring that same civilization experience into a 30-40 minute dice game. RTtA was published by Gryphon Games in 2008, and is for 1-4 players. The basic game play uses a Yahtzee-style mechanic. You roll three dice and then you get two re rolls. You can then take your rolls to feed the people in your city, collect goods and money, send out workers to build monuments and cities (give you more dice up to seven), and finally one side of each dice is bad, if you roll too many skulls you can lose points and have bad things happen to your civilization. Finally, you can take your goods and money to buy developments. These help you break the rules or give you better benefits for your dice rolls. You keep track of all this information on a wooden peg board (think of a Cribbage Board or one of those golf-tee games they have a Cracker Barrel) and a paper score sheet (don't worry they give you about 500 of these things, I don't think you'll be running out). The game ends once all the monuments are built or someone has researched five developments. The scores are then tallied based on the monuments completed, developments researched, disasaters (result of skulls these lose you points), and then any bonsuses you may have gotten through your developments. The person with the highest score is the winner.
Components & Value
Roll Through the Ages gives you some very nice components. The game comes with seven custom wooden dice, 4 wooden peg boards, and a massive amount of paper scoresheets. Then, they manage to jam all that into a small box (Gryphon Games Bookshelf Series). The MSRP is $34.99 which maybe a little on the high side for the game play, but the components make up for it. The wooden dice are beautiful and the wooden peg boards are also very nice. The solid components make it great for situations where cards or a game board could be easily damaged. I don't really have any complaints about the components. The rule book is not perfect. There are a couple things that I was confused on, but overall it does a good job. It's easy to reference and there are sample turns, which are both good in my book.
This is a simple game roll the dice and decide how to allocate what you rolled. The score sheet and peg board can be a little scary for new players, but if you just let them know that all you need to do is roll the dice Yahtzee style, that should give new players enough comfort to jump into the game. Mechanically the game works smoothly, and plays in just the right amount of time. I like the concept of taking a game mechanic that most people are familiar with and improving upon it. There is more purpose to rolling the dice than to just scoring random points. You need certain dice on each turn in order to do what you want or need to accomplish. This brings some strategy and thought to the game. As for the theme, it's a little lacking. I don't think you really get that civilization building feeling. This is due to the nature of the mechanics. It is difficult to have a game with lots of theme, when you are chucking dice. King of Tokyo does this well, but it's one of the rare exceptions. If you are looking for that short civilization feeling here, I don't think you are going to find it here.
How is it with Two?
Roll Through the Ages scales very well. The game has almost no player interaction (unless you roll a bunch of skulls, or beat someone to building a monument), and can be a solo experience that you are simply playing with others. The game maxes out at 4 players, and I really don't think you want to go beyond that, as the game would begin to drag and just take too long. It works great with two as a filler for game nights or to bring to a restaurant to play while you're waiting for your food. Finally, this game also plays very well as a solo game. I am not a solo gamer by any means, but I have actually broken this one out on a couple of occasions to play by myself. The solo game is a little different from the regular play, and you have an opponent in trying to top your previous score. I would still rather play with Mrs. Games with Two, but that's just not always possible.
Roll Through the Ages is another solid design by Mr. Leacock. The game offers a solid game experience with great components. The game also shows the skills of the designer in making different style games that can appeal to different audiences. Although RTtA did not win the Spiel des Jahres, it's still a great game, and that bookcase series by Gryphon Games, looks great on your game shelf.
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