First off, this is the game i looked at when I first visited BGG, and having things shipped from Australia did not seem like a good idea. Fortunatly I was patient, and one day I got into a trade with this game and decided to give it a go.
Also I think it would be appropriate to have a review from 2009 also
This is my first review here on BGG, and english is not my first language, so there might be some spelling or sentences not coming to full meaning, but try to work with me So I have decided to divide it into sections, which is commonly used by other reviewers, but not include pictures, eventhough that is the reviews I favor the most myself (slack I know)
First topic to discuss is the components that comes in this game. I love the map, although this is the game that made me buy a plexiglass sheet from the local hardware store in order to protect the map from staining and keeping it flat during play.
The counters in the game is relativly good, I dislike the fact that alot of the common pool counters serves two purposes. Being unaware of this fact lead to alot of looking for the hanging gardens during one of the plays, only to find it on the rear side of a elite marker! I am not quite sure if another counter sheet would have been that bad.
The Glory track which also has to be combined with the money... No go, the glory were recorded on a seperate sheet, and only the money were tracked there. I felt like a fulltime acountant last time I played, because with 16 empires in action, there is always some moving forth and back.
The last things are the action chits... I dislike them very very much, they contain no information whatso ever, and require alot of looking through the rules for deeper explanation. I have made some card size action cards instead with a quick summary, made it alot easier, especially on the newer players. (can be found in the files section)
Eventhough the rules are short, there is a very huge need for playaids, there is alot written in the rulebook that would have been better as a chart. Combat is explained in text, would have been great with a clear chart showing what to do and when to do it.
Also a thing as scoring in some of the asian subregions can be difficult, so getting a map with it drawn up is helpfull.
But it is not the worst rules I have ever read, and it is fairly simple to look things up in it.
Setting up the game
Relativly easy, the map goes in the center of the board and the few counters get seperated into piles and whatnot. In the first game we palyed with the colours of our choice (not the black) only to realise that even across the colors there were different numbers on the dark and light colours. That could have been a bit more clear. Otherwise no real hassle in setting up.
Playing the game
I will devide this into mechanics I like and mechanics I dislike.
- That the game is long, there is something rewarding about immensing oneself into a very long game with some friends and foes.
- The mechanics that everyone performs the action at the same time, but with regards to turn order. This makes the game run alot smoother
- Starting a new empire, there is nothing more rewarding than putting down a empire in the vicinity of your opponent that just wiped out your last empire
- Alot of diversity in the empires, some are very very strong and some more puny. But this leads to interesting choices.
- The trade and progress action, it got used very little in our games, it seems like it needs some tweaking, maybe add a gold or two for more reason to use it.
- The combat system could be better, I like that you dedicate units, but this is quite timeconsuming, I prefer dices, or even better a system like in warrior knights
- The limitations in actions. This is more profound in 2-player game I tried, since you can have up to seven empires with two players, you have to use all actions, and that valuable manouver action gets even more valuable. This is better in 4+ player games though.
- The trash the leader aspect, the event cards are insanly powerfull, a empire that is good can be trashed by the play of one card. This is a feature I really dislike, since it makes it very random.
- That empires has to be given up, I know that the game is designed like that, but I love games like civilization for the PC where you build up one civ.
There is properly somthing missing in the list, since I have forgotten it since I played last in the weekends but this is some of the more outstanding points I wanted to introduce.
The game is not for everyone, and the event cards can really cause frustration against the more peacefull players. But that being said I would play it again, I like trying to make new civilizations, and see how they fare. I rated the game a 9 after the first few plays, I think that the rating over time will go down. The biggest reason is properly that my own games collection is ever increasing and gets more similar games which I might like better.
I like the game, but not a game for everybody.
Thanks for the review of what I think is a relatively overlooked game. Actually, this is one of my favorite games! Admittedly, my preferences tend toward strategic level games and I am attracted by some of the innovative subsystems of the game. I also may seem strange, considering the combat system, that I have mostly played this solitaire. From that perspective, some observations:
"...there is a very huge need for playaids...". Absolutely agree. This game does have the feel of a big game on a small production budget. The rule book is short and complete, but the amount of time you will spend referring back to explanations of cultural advances can get a little tedious. I also found it difficult to remember the combined effects from empires and advances, which often take effect in only certain actions and not others. I'd even suggest the need for player mats for each nation to help with this.
"...a lot of the common pool counters serve two purposes..." Another cost cutting choice. This is really inconvenient. Leaders on one side, improvements on the other. Both are often limited as to the ages they can appear in. So you have to think ahead about which markers to use when so you don't have to go hunting through the pieces on the board for what improvement marker has Genghis Khan on the other side so you can bring in the Mongols. Also, all the leaders are the same color. It would help if they were at least color coded by age.
"I have made some card size action cards instead with a quick summary, made it a lot easier," Great idea!
"Dislike - The trade and progress action". There are some interesting variants out there, But there is no doubt that some of the actions are more central than others. But key to this game is realizing that it is often counter intuitive. There are a lot of reasons to advance a nation's progress besides the advantages it provides for that nation itself.The only way to rush progress is this action.
"The combat system could be better" It is certainly unusual! Went this came out I had so been looking forward forward to it. Then I opened the box and saw the combat system and thought, "Impossible to solitaire". It went on the shelf for a couple of months, but finally I took it down and gave it a try and found it really not that bad. 75% of the battles are really "no contest"s, There is a variant that requires the commitment of at least one front line and one support unit in a round if possible that really speeds things up. That said, an alternate, more standard combat system would not be unwelcome for those looking for a faster game.
"The limitations in actions." I haven't quite figured which number of players is optimum, but I wouldn't think it was either 2 or 7. I like 4 players, playing with the rule that the holder of the Black Army is limited to 3 colors. It seems to make a good mix between the action choices and number of empires each player has to control.
"- The trash the leader aspect, the event cards are insanely powerful" Actually, the ability to bring down the leader is crucial in games like these. Too many in this genre fall apart because a substantial lead cannot be overcome. But note that the the most powerful events have substantial requirements that often require a combination of card plays that is tough to come by. I've been as frustrated by holding on to a powerful event but never getting a chance to play it as having the joy of breaking up a Black Army Roman Empire into piece with an Empire Fragments or some such. This is also a "trend" game. Your not playing just one nation, so trashing on empire may not be enough to stop a player. Turning the tide may take a couple of Ages.
"That empires has to be given up, I know that the game is designed like that, but I love games like civilization for the PC where you build up one civ." Ah, but that's the nature of the game. What real civilization lasts 6000 years?
My own pet peeves:
Religions seem to need some rework. I can't figure out why you'd choose some of them. Others are quite powerful. And with the less powerful, I'm constantly forgetting their effects.
Played solitaire, there is no way to narrow the workload on this one.
No matter how many players you use, you are going to get 15 empires in play sooner or later. I love it, but I have to be an addict while this is set up on my game table!
I know this all sounds like a lot of quibbles, but I think the game well rewards the effort.
Thank you for the feedback, atleast I am not the only one with the thoughts about the game, and ways to improve it
It is rare that I get the chance to sit down and play a game like this, since it takes some preparation, and warning the mistress at home that one wants to play one game for an entire day
I am looking forward to the expansions for the game since that might add some for the game.. Otherwise I have to consider playing a game of Europa Universalis, for even more buff
Some of the expansions do look like they address our issues, don't they. I've never dared the board game version of EU. Paradox's EUII computer adaptation is still one of my favorite computer wargames, though. (I've not really fallen in love with EUIII. I'm afraid the scripted historical events were actually a feature I liked. EUIII's more generic event generation concept just isn't my cup of tea.)
I must agree with Craig that this is very overlooked game. For me and few of my colleges that play boardgames with me, this is one of the best games. Metaphor that comes to my mind is, that most popular games are like Hollywood super movies, with big budget, that are specially tailored to meet wide audience expectations, while 7 ages is more like art movie or very good thematic movie with lower budget. I played somewhere around 30 games and each was unique and entertaining.
I have few comments to your review:
- I agree that game could use more play aids or have better components but it all boils down to the budget. I think that ADG failed at promoting and expanding the game. I would love to see revised 2nd edition with better components and rules errata and clarification incorporated etc.. With big player base giving input for designer to make a game even better.
- Personally the game is best with 3-5 players (I think 3 is best in terms of balance and playability).
The trade and progress action, it got used very little in our games, it seems like it needs some tweaking, maybe add a gold or two for more reason to use it.
- I can't agree on that there are several good reasons to use it. Of course it is not main action for empire to do but effect of successful trade may be critical. Consider that you use 'Discard Empire' order even less but you can't comment that it is useless. Both of those are very situational.
- I really like combat system. It is very fun to play. Leaves a place to calculate or gamble. It seems to be perfect for this game as it is fast.
The trash the leader aspect, the event cards are insanly powerfull, a empire that is good can be trashed by the play of one card. This is a feature I really dislike, since it makes it very random.
- This may seem to be cruel but game have several optional rules that you can use. Consider using optional rule that allows playing of any '7' value card to cancel any event except 'bad augury'. This gives you an option to defend yourself better and makes a game less 'bloody'.
That empires has to be given up, I know that the game is designed like that, but I love games like civilization for the PC where you build up one civ
- Of course this is a matter of preference. I remember that it made several players furious during first games but after several games you will realize that this is how it supposed to be. Then it will give you more pleasure to bring Romans from 2nd to 5th or even later Age and dominate European 'Wheat' :)
I was just introduced to game last weekend and I find it interesting but extremely complex; no matter how many times I read a rule I would miss some aspect and once I was the one pointing out a rule other very experienced players all missed so I think there is definitely some rework which could be done. It can be extremely slow for new players to figure out what to do. I downloaded the rules to read but not sure how much more I'll be prepared for next game.
* The Trade action seems to be designed to benefit some empires more than others. I had the French, for example, and as history showed it was to my benefit to trade.
* The Islam religion seems to over balance game; in the game I was in once one empire converted it appeared to start a chain reaction and there did not appear to be enough disadvantages to changing. There were plenty of other religious conversion opportunities but Islam was only one which seemed to be imbalanced in terms of benefits and disadvantages.
Mauricio de Souza Fonseca
A great game, but it's defnitely not for everybody. It's time consuming, you need to strategize all the time, and strategize with an enormous amount of options at your hands! The ADG company is indee a little bit cheap in its game components, and the rule book here, although it explains things appropriately, lacks in some players charts or more elaborate examples.
I liked the game alot, but one of the troubles is that by playing it, you will not play other gamess for a long time. Even if you have a group with eight or more hours of plahying time available, you will not want to play the rounds over and over again for eight hours.
Mauricio de Souza Fonseca
Playing 7 Ages... solitary??!! Uau!