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Mc Jarvis
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The Golden Ages is a 30 minute-per-player (plays 2-4) civilization game. The game description says that it involves area control, tile laying, and card drafting which led me to completely ignore it before BGG.con 2014. This is perhaps a lesson in not paying attention to BGG attributes: while the game contains all of these things, I would argue that none of these attributes constitute a defining characteristic of the game, but merely offer a small part in making a truly great game.

The game is played in four rounds, each round correlating to an Age of human history. Within each round, players will take turns taking actions: some of those actions require the player use up one of three workers they have, other actions simply require resources like money or card activations. Since players start with three workers and can never claim any more workers, this creates a deliciously tight round structure where every move matters, but at the same time the decisions in the game don't weight you down with too many options.

The rules are short and posted on BGG. It took me about 20-25 minutes to read them in full and understand the game well enough to teach other players. Instead of a rules explanation review, let's just say the points which pleased me greatly about the game:

It's really quick playing- Even on a first play through, no players were wracked with AP. Turns proceeded smoothly, with very little downtime between turns. When you pass out for a round, you still receive $2 every time your turn comes around, so you still have something to look forward to as the round progresses. I like this particular feature both because it keeps you engaged and because it provides disincentive for opponents to simply mass cards which give them more actions than anyone else. Once a player has passed for the round, you have to weigh future actions: "Is it work gaining 3 victory points at the cost of giving Bob $2?" Well, maybe: but then again, maybe you want to be the only one with enough money to grab a wonder on turn 1 of next round. This is a great source of tension.

A well-fledged tech tree- The tech tree consists of 16 technologies, plus 4 which you start with. Each row of the tech tree is a different branch of the tech tree: to research any technology, you have to have already researched any techs to the left of that technology on its own row. This provides a tech tree that is both streamlined and also complex enough to provide opportunity for civilization uniqueness.

Randomized victory point goals- Every game five "Goal" cards are dealt out which will determine what aspects of your civ will score points for at the end of each of the four eras. The first player to pass each round determines which of the remaining cards will be the item that scores that round for every player: these points are usually a flat amount of points per thing you have in your civ. So for instance, one scoring card scores 4VPs per Wonder you control. This both provides for unique playthroughs on repeated plays and increased incentive to pass first in a round.

Variety in civilization aspects- At the beginning of the game you are dealt five cards. Four of these cards are leader cards. You start off the game with the Age I leader, and with each new Age you get a choice to either switch to that Age's leader, or keep the leader you had before. This mechanism to let you "shift gears" with your civ provides good strategic levers to pull as the game progresses. The fifth card you get is an end-game scoring card: if you have the most of whichever resource listed on it, you'll score 8VPs. No other players can score your end-game scoring card, so there is no worry for huge swings here.

Military- Military is often a sticking point with civ games. If it is too powerful, people can just spam military and carry away the game. If it is too neglected, no one does military. In this light Golden Ages strikes a great compromise: military action is a great source of VPs in the right situations, but it is increasingly costly in gold every time you attack another player. You also are capped at attacking in the game: the whole game you only get to attack other players four times. This means you need to gauge how important it is to attack at the specific time you want to. Sometimes it can make a big difference if the player you are attacking is in a position to create a huge game engine. At the same time, unless you vest all of your interests in not getting attacked, I like how there are many aspects of your civ which are not subject to attack: wonders, building cards, etc. This makes the military game feel like it's struck a good balance, without being too stressful(will I lose my entire shirt this round?) but still being an important decision to make. (Should I attack Bob this turn?)

Conclusion

That's pretty much it. I played the game 3 times at BGG.con, and every play had other players saying it was the best game they played at the con so far. I think this is a hidden gem, perhaps not played much due to the less-than-grabbing board presentation. The game is my number 1 pick of BGG con due to packing a large number of aspects of civ games into a small package time-wise, plus the great interactive elements the game provides.

In the coming week you can see my thoughts on other new games I saw at BGG.con 2014 on my geeklist: McJarvis's BGG 2014 Post Mortem
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Nicola Bocchetta
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I'm glad you liked it! Sadly I missed it in Essen, so it'll take a bit before I can play it!
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Mc Jarvis
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Truth be told, I probably would have missed it too except I happened to walk by when no one was at the table, and I decided to sit down & read the rules while I waited for Nations the Dice game. All said and done, I ended up playing this 3x and never got around to Nations the Dice Game...
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Beyer
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McJarvis wrote:
...
Conclusion
That's pretty much it. I played the game 3 times at BGG.con, and every play had other players saying it was the best game they played at the con so far. I think this is a hidden gem, perhaps not played much due to the less-than-grabbing board presentation...

Thank you for the review.
What other games does this game remind you of?
Are there any of the mechanics that resemble other games you know?
What are the weak points of The Golden Ages?
What other games do you play?
Do you think The Golden Ages will replace some of the games in your current collection?
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W. Beljo
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McJarvis wrote:
A well-fledged tech tree- The tech tree consists of 16 technologies, plus 4 which you start with. Each row of the tech tree is a different branch of the tech tree: to research any technology, you have to have already researched any techs to the left of that technology on its own row. This provides a tech tree that is both streamlined and also complex enough to provide opportunity for civilization uniqueness.


Can you say soemthing to the variety with the use of only 16 + 4 techs?
How many techs in a regular game will a civ develeop?
At the first sight I had the conceren that the number of techs is too small.
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Mc Jarvis
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Stunke wrote:
McJarvis wrote:
...
Conclusion
That's pretty much it. I played the game 3 times at BGG.con, and every play had other players saying it was the best game they played at the con so far. I think this is a hidden gem, perhaps not played much due to the less-than-grabbing board presentation...

Thank you for the review.
What other games does this game remind you of?
Are there any of the mechanics that resemble other games you know?


Certainly the turn structure reminds me of Terra Mystica and Nations: each player takes turns from a list of available actions until everyone passes.

The round-end scoring reminds me a bit of Terra Mystica as well, since at the end of each round specific aspects of each player's civ will be scored. However, in Terra Mystica you know what the scoring will be each round: when you get 2 VPs for settling settlements doesn't change once the game starts, for instance. In The Golden Ages, the first person to pass immediately selects which of the 5 scoring cards will happen for that round. So in Terra Mystica you are more concerned with the timing of the game, since you know what will get you points in particular rounds. In The Golden Ages I've found myself either:

1) Generalizing, preparing for the likelihood of all scoring opportunities
2) Keeping an eye on who will obviously pass first, and specializing in what they will benefit most from.
3) Trying to pass first myself to take advantage of some huge lead I've acquired.

Stunke wrote:

What are the weak points of The Golden Ages?


The biggest thing that annoys me about the game is the way they handled the language independence. For instance, many wonders can be purchased at a discount by players who control certain leaders. The leaders who get the discount are represented on the card with an icon which is a super shrunken copy of the leader's head, but the shrunken image is so small that it's impossible to make out. This issue could have been fixed by either making the leader's head icon larger or making the card itself larger(wonders and buildings are mini-cards instead of full sized cards like the leaders and scoring cards are)

The other thing my game group last night brought up is that maybe a way of drafting the leaders as a variant would have been nice. Though on this point the group was split--- some people liked being locked into the four leaders you have access to from the beginning and trying to figure out the best way to use them. Others wanted to draft the leaders in some way in order to increase the options in the game. Personally, I think the game is fine the way it is--- while any particular aspect of the game could be made more complicated, I think it fits in its short timespan precisely because it didn't overdevelop its game mechanics.

Stunke wrote:

What other games do you play?
Do you think The Golden Ages will replace some of the games in your current collection?


I play a lot of heavy euros: Tzolk'in, Terra Mystica, Agricola, Macao, Vinhos, Kanban, Roads & Boats, 18xx, etc, etc. The primary thing The Golden Ages will likely replace is my attempts to get longer civ titles like Sid Meier's Civ and Patchistory to the table at my week night game group. 3-4 hour games tend to dominate an evening, so people shy away from 3-4 hour games when I suggest them. Conversely, The Golden Ages both has much broader appeal (it is easy to teach, with few niggling rules you have to cover) and fits into a tighter timespan.

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Mc Jarvis
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BudsBalkan wrote:
McJarvis wrote:
A well-fledged tech tree- The tech tree consists of 16 technologies, plus 4 which you start with. Each row of the tech tree is a different branch of the tech tree: to research any technology, you have to have already researched any techs to the left of that technology on its own row. This provides a tech tree that is both streamlined and also complex enough to provide opportunity for civilization uniqueness.


Can you say soemthing to the variety with the use of only 16 + 4 techs?
How many techs in a regular game will a civ develeop?
At the first sight I had the conceren that the number of techs is too small.


We have varied between developing 7 and 12ish of the techs. The final techs are very expensive, and the game does a good job of scaling money income so that you can afford many of these, but not all of them. Typically you might be picking two of the level 4 tech's to acquire during the game.

Note that the order you acquire techs is very important, almost as important as the techs you end up getting. If I get the +$/grain tech early and the +$ rock production techs later, that is much different than the reverse. The difference is in how I will expand on the map and how I'm likely going to finish the game.

One of the things I was very impressed with in this game is the complexity of the techs: they feel just right to me. I could see an expansion eventually adding one last column of 16 gold cost techs for people who want to specialize, but I don't see any need for that in the base game.
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Beyer
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Aw shoot!
With that reply The Golden Ages just came back on my list of games I want to buy from Quined.

Thank you, your contribution is very much appreciated.
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Damien Seb. ●leoskyangel●
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Just gave this game a spin last night, and I absolutely love it! It's super quick for a Civ game and very euro. I wish this gets a wider distribution very soon.
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ozzy perez
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Played this Gem tonight.. My favorite game of the year.
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ozzy perez
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McJarvis wrote:
BudsBalkan wrote:
McJarvis wrote:
A well-fledged tech tree- The tech tree consists of 16 technologies, plus 4 which you start with. Each row of the tech tree is a different branch of the tech tree: to research any technology, you have to have already researched any techs to the left of that technology on its own row. This provides a tech tree that is both streamlined and also complex enough to provide opportunity for civilization uniqueness.


Can you say soemthing to the variety with the use of only 16 + 4 techs?
How many techs in a regular game will a civ develeop?
At the first sight I had the conceren that the number of techs is too small.


We have varied between developing 7 and 12ish of the techs. The final techs are very expensive, and the game does a good job of scaling money income so that you can afford many of these, but not all of them. Typically you might be picking two of the level 4 tech's to acquire during the game.

Note that the order you acquire techs is very important, almost as important as the techs you end up getting. If I get the +$/grain tech early and the +$ rock production techs later, that is much different than the reverse. The difference is in how I will expand on the map and how I'm likely going to finish the game.

One of the things I was very impressed with in this game is the complexity of the techs: they feel just right to me. I could see an expansion eventually adding one last column of 16 gold cost techs for people who want to specialize, but I don't see any need for that in the base game.


If this game gets an expansion that adds more buildings, civilizations, wonders, future goals n some more techs.. It will probably become my favorite game of all time.
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Cameron McKenzie
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It would have been much better to show the wonder discounts on the civilization cards (which are full sized). They could have shown a small picture of the wonder and the discount amount there.

Another nitpick is the tile laying aspect. The water and land edges are pretty arbitrary because there is no mechanical difference after the tiles are placed. Another tech track might help with that. At starting level, a movement penalty for crossing water edges, but later on bonuses or even ways to score gold/VP through coastal specialization.

Finally, I'm a little annoyed with the randomness of glory tokens. Randomness of outcomes is annoying in a game like this (but randomness of opportunities is fine)
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Mc Jarvis
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MasterDinadan wrote:

Another nitpick is the tile laying aspect. The water and land edges are pretty arbitrary because there is no mechanical difference after the tiles are placed.


After they are placed they constrain what may be placed next to them.
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Cameron McKenzie
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McJarvis wrote:
MasterDinadan wrote:

Another nitpick is the tile laying aspect. The water and land edges are pretty arbitrary because there is no mechanical difference after the tiles are placed.


After they are placed they constrain what may be placed next to them.


Yes, but without knowing the next tile that you will get, you can't really plan around orienting the tile based in it's edges.
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Mc Jarvis
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MasterDinadan wrote:
McJarvis wrote:
MasterDinadan wrote:

Another nitpick is the tile laying aspect. The water and land edges are pretty arbitrary because there is no mechanical difference after the tiles are placed.


After they are placed they constrain what may be placed next to them.


Yes, but without knowing the next tile that you will get, you can't really plan around orienting the tile based in it's edges.


Oh, I try to limit where other people can place any given tile--- not try to set up where I can place stuff.
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Probably the best game I've bought in the past tree years. Okay, Christian Marcussen did a terrific job with Clash of Cultures. But Luigi Ferrini's The Golden Ages cuts back in time and rules. You want an evening of intellectual civ challenge? Get the Quined game box from that unknown Italian. You want half a day adventure in history, call in the Scandinavian guy. They are both good civ games, but there are significant differences. "Clash of Cultures" is a clever SUV, "The Golden Ages" is a smooth electric eco-vehicle, with an old fashioned Fiat-like appearance. In the beginning many folks laughed with the first vespa with its silly small wheels, but nowadays it's an iconic design.
Mark my words, one day the name of Ferrini will shine in Essen. "Move over mister Knizia. Can you take another seat, monsieur Faidutti? This place is reserved for signore Ferrini."
meeple
Grazie mille, Luigi.
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CPTNTWT wrote:
Mark my words, one day the name of Ferrini will shine in Essen.


Ok, now you've crossed some border of exaggeration. :-D
BTW, Thank you for appreciating! You just won a beer if we'll ever meet. :-)))
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Still waiting for my game to be shipped - Sheriff of Nottingham is holding the order up...

Reviews like this keeps the interest up anyway!

For future prints - would it be possible to add some "natural border" line to the edges of land tiles (like a shoreline), so they fit better when not aligned next to each other?
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badmojo wrote:
For future prints - would it be possible to add some "natural border" line to the edges of land tiles (like a shoreline), so they fit better when not aligned next to each other?


I didn't get exactly what you mean... However, this stuff is not up to me; I will forward it to the publisher (if I get what you mean!).
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Ah, just a more natural black border to the edges of tiles that lacks that today - it just looks a little bit weird to have tiles with a coastline on one side, and a total straight border on the other side - see image

http://boardgamegeek.com/image/2406734/golden-ages

just a suggestion to make the tiles more pleasing - since the real world set up will be rarely used. Nothing groundbreaking, just a thin black shoreline on all edges of the tiles.
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Cameron McKenzie
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badmojo wrote:
Ah, just a more natural black border to the edges of tiles that lacks that today - it just looks a little bit weird to have tiles with a coastline on one side, and a total straight border on the other side - see image

http://boardgamegeek.com/image/2406734/golden-ages

just a suggestion to make the tiles more pleasing - since the real world set up will be rarely used. Nothing groundbreaking, just a thin black shoreline on all edges of the tiles.


That would look odd when the tiles are placed against each other though...

A good option, I think, would have been to make the board grey and cloudy to represent unknown territory instead of making it water-colored. The water color doesn't make sense mechanically either because there is no need to line up water edges on tiles with water printed on the board (even where there is an island)
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Hopefully the black shore lines on straight sides would look like a river, when two land tiles are aligned. Its a minor quibble, and I have yet to play the game!
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It's an alright game but I found too many of the mechanics pushed your game in too obvious ways.
The leaders give such obvious bonusses on what to do. Getting 2 extra gold for taking control of grain? Ok sure, make sure to get a grain tech or two heading into that age and take control of as much grain symbols as possible in that age. Getting free tech if you have this tech? Sure get that tech and use the extra bonus tech to get better income. It all kinda plays itself.

The production is kinda clunky too, why bother with all these tech tiles? Just have a tech marker. Would speed up scoring and setup significantly. Warfare is a bit too shallow I'd say with hardly any defense possible. It's just there to get some points and stop the other player getting too big of a bonus. Not even mentioning the random payout differing between 2 and 6 points is a bit huge.

The turn order thing and the map aspect I really liked though
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