Radio Review #88a – The Golden Ages: Cults & Culture

 

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(2015 – Stronghold Games)

 

“Is there room for both of us?….”

 

Last month I took a look at the mechanics and gameplay behind Luigi Ferrini’s civilization game, The Golden Ages. With a streamlined ruleset, yet deep strategy, The Golden Ages is a great civ game for players that don’t want to spend hours upon hours at the table. If you haven’t played The Golden Ages, I won’t be discussing too much about the base game here, but check out my previous review for that information. In this review, I’ll be taking a look at The Golden Age’s first expansion, Cults & Culture.

 

 

 

Components:

– 5th-player board

 

– 5th-player Technology tiles

 

– 5th-player Colonists

 

– 5th-player Capital markers

 

– 5th-player Player markers & Score markers

 

– Culture board

 

– Culture track markers (one for each player color)

 

– Culture cards

 

– Culture tokens (a set of 5 for each player color)

 

– Masterpiece cards

 

– Cult tokens

 

– New 1-square Continent tiles

 

– New Civilization cards

 

– New Building cards

 

– New Wonder cards

 

– New History’s Judgment cards

 

– New Future Technology cards

 

– Additional Glory tokens & Gold

 

– Summary cards (one for each player)

 

 

 

Adding a 5th Player:

The Cult & Cultures expansion provides essentially three main additions to the game. The ability to play with a 5th player, the addition of the Culture board and components, and newly added cards for each of the various decks (Civilization, Buildings, Wonders, etc).

The 5th-player will have his own player board, technology tiles, colonists, player markers, and score marker, all in the color black. These are all exact replicas of the player components found in the base game. The expansion also includes additional glory tokens, gold, and new 1-square continent tiles to help increase the overall supplies needed to house a 5th player in the game.

The main difference when including a 5th player has to do with the new Continent tiles. Since each player places a continent tile of their turn, four 1-square continent tiles have been added to the game. During the 1st Era, the first four players will place out the 3-square tiles as normal, but the 5th player will place out a 2-square tile. During the final Era, the first player will place out the remaining 2-square tile, and all other players will place out one of the four 1-square tiles. The addition of these new smaller tiles make it so that all players will have a tile to place on the map, but doesn’t increase the difficulty of finding a legal placement as expansion continues.

 

 

 

Contents:

The new expansion comes with 7 new Civilizations, 8 new Wonders, 4 new Buildings, 3 new History’s Judgment cards, and 3 new Future Technology cards. During setup, at the beginning of the game, these cards are added to their respective draw decks and shuffled together. While I won’t take a look at every new card in the game, let me show you a couple from each set:

The Vikings are found in the 2nd Era, and have the ability to stand one of their Colonists back up after performing an attack. This essentially allows the player an additional colonist action on their turn.

The Canadians are found in the 4th Era. When choosing to activate the Canadians, the player will immediately take a Gold for every Wheat and Rock resource symbol they control on the map.

 

The new Stonehenge wonder will costs a player 5 Gold to construct (or only 4 Gold if they are the new Celtic civilization). Once constructed, the player will now have an ongoing ability which gives him a 1 Gold discount when developing a technology that another opponent has already developed.

The new Alhambra wonder costs 8 Gold (only 6 Gold is they are the Spanish). The Alhambra has an activation ability where the player can advance his marker on a row of the Culture board even if he hasn’t met the requirements. I’ll discuss more on how the Culture board works in a bit.

 

The new Barracks building, when built, has an activation ability that allows the player to take two Glory tokens, choose one of them to replace a Glory token he already has, then return them back to the Glory token supply.

The new Temple building also contains an activation ability, which when used will allow the player to advance up to two spaces on a Culture row or rows of the Culture board. Unlike the Alhambra however, the player must be able to meet the requirement to advance there.

 

During the game, players will have the opportunity to control various Cult tokens. With the History’s Judgment card seen on the left, when this card is activated, all players will score 2 Victory Points for every Cult token they control.

Players will also have the opportunity to collect Masterpiece cards in this new expansion. With the History’s Judgment card seen on the right, when this card is activated, all players will score 4 Victory Points per Masterpiece card they have.

 

One of the new types of cards in the Culture card deck are Progress cards. These cards provide an ongoing bonus to the player’s civilization during the game. With the Hive-Mind future technology card seen on the left, at the end of the game, the player will score 8 Victory Points if he has obtained the most Progress cards.

The Virtual Reality future technology card, seen right, awards the player 8 Victory Points at the end of the game if he has obtained the most Masterpiece cards.

 

 

 

Culture Action:

The biggest addition to the base game however, is the inclusion of the Culture board. At the beginning of the game, the Culture cards are separated into four decks, one representing each of the four Eras in the game. These new Culture card decks contain various types of cards ranging from the previously mentioned Progress cards, Government cards, Cult cards, and a couple of extra Masterpiece and Building cards.

Five cards are then drawn from the top of the Era I deck and placed face up near the Culture board. At the end of the Round, any Culture cards still available are discarded and a new set of five cards are drawn. Each player also places a Culture token of his color on the start space of each row on the Culture board, as well as a score marker of their player color on start space of the Culture track.

As players meet the requirements listed on the various rows of the Culture board, they may take an action to advance their token to the next space of the row. After doing so, the player may choose an available face-up Culture card and place it next to his player board. These cards will provide ongoing special abilities and bonuses for the player for the remainder of the game. After taking the Culture card, a new card is drawn from the Culture card draw deck and the player will advance his Culture track marker one space on the Culture track (the lower track on the Culture board). The player that is furthest along on the Culture track will be the new Start player for the upcoming Round.

For instance, the Blue player’s current advancement on the Culture board is seen above. He has recently gained a 2nd Glory tokens from attacking during his previous action. Therefore he can now take an action to advance his Culture token onto the space that requires that he have two Glory tokens.

 

Taking a look at the five available Culture cards, the Blue player decides to take the Monarchy government card. From now on, whenever the Blue player has entered his Golden Age, he’ll receive an extra Victory Point for every turn that passes him. He’ll then draw a new Culture card from the draw deck to replenish the one he just took, and advance his marker one space on the Culture track (seen below). Since he has now advanced beyond his opponents on this track, he’ll be considered the Start player for the next Era, as long as he holds onto this top position.

 

 

 

With 40 different Culture cards in the Cults & Cultures expansion, there are quite a number of bonuses that players can gain and stack upon one another. Let’s take a quick look at a couple of these Culture cards from each Era:

 

Era I Culture Cards – With the Code of Laws progress card (left) , the player will now gain 2 extra Gold whenever one of his Colonists is sent to the Agora board. The Odyssey (right), while found in the Culture card deck is considered a Masterpiece card. When a player obtains this card he’ll immediately score 2 Victory Points.

 

 

Era II Culture Cards – Each Era of the Culture cards contain one Cult card (Mysticism – Era I, Religion – Era II, Theology – Era III, and Syncretism – Era IV). Each of these work the same way, but gain the player a different amount of Victory Points depending on the card. When a player takes the Cult card, he’ll also receive a set of matching Cult tokens and place one on each of the spaces on the Cult card itself.

Taking a look at the Religion card above, we can see that it contains four spaces. At the end of the game, the player with this card will receive 2 Victory Points for every space on the card that is not covered by a Cult token.

The way which the player can remove these tokens from the card is by founding a new city adjacent to a map space with another city/capital present. When doing this, he’ll be able to remove a Cult token from his card and place it on the adjacent space with this other city/capital. He’s basically spreading his cult’s influence. A city/capital can never contain two of the same type of cult tokens, but may contain different ones.

 

 

Taking a look at the next Era II culture card, Gunpowder is a progress card which gives its owning player an extra attack action at a cost of 5 Gold.

 

 

 

Era III Culture Cards – Chemistry (left) is a progress card in which the player will receive an additional Gold when taking control of a gem resource. Totalitarianism (right) is a government card which allows the controlling player to spread up to four Cult tokens when founding a City.

 

 

 

Era IV Culture Cards – Satellites (left) is a progress card which when obtained, immediately allows you to spend any number of Gold you wish. For every two Gold spent in this way, the player will score a Victory Point. Although two Military Base buildings can be found in the Buildings deck, another one (seen right) can be found amongst the Era IV Culture cards. When obtaining this card, the player immediately draws a random Glory token and places it on this card. As with all Glory tokens, its hidden Victory Point value will be scored at the end of the game.

 

 

 

Artist Action (updated):

At the beginning of the game, all six Masterpiece cards are set face-up near the play area. These cards depict some of the more famous paintings throughout history, such as the Sistine Chapel and the Mona Lisa. In the base game, when taking an Artist action, the player could remove a colonist from the board and place it on the Agora space, scoring himself 3 Victory Points. With the Masterpiece cards included, when the player chooses to take an Artist action, he now has the choice of taking the 3 Victory Points or obtaining a Masterpiece card. When obtaining a Masterpiece card, he will immediately resolve it.

 

– The Wave masterpiece card (seen left) immediately awards the player 2 Victory Points and 2 Gold, while the Discobolus of Myron masterpiece card (seen right) immediately awards the player 2 Gold for each different type of resource he controls on the map.

 

 

 

Additional End-Game Scoring:

On top of the regular end-game scoring seen in the base game, players will also score Victory Points at the end of the game in the following ways, when using the Cults & Cultures expansion:

 

– 1 Victory Point per Cult token will go to a player for each space on the map that he controls that also includes Cult tokens.

– Any player that chose to take a Cult card from the Culture deck will score a number of Victory Points as represented on the card at the end of the game. Remember that any time players remove a Cult token from the Cult card and place it on the board, they are uncovering an amount of Victory Points on the card that will be collectively scored at the end of the game.

 

 

 

Thoughts:

I’ve always believed that a solid expansion is one that works to enhance the mechanics and elements of an already well-established base game. If there are too many rule additions or newly implemented mechanics, the game can tend to veer from its original design and the things that made it enjoyable to begin with. My favorite expansions are those that simply include more variety and extras of materials already present. Cults & Culture is an expansion that succeeds in this regard.

At its most fundamental, this new expansion essentially provides more options for players when choosing how and when to use bonuses and special abilities. In my review of the base game, I spoke highly of the fact that the game included a lot of ways to stack combos with bonuses, and the inclusion of the new Culture cards only adds to this feature. The addition of the Culture board itself is twofold. On one hand it provides players who are doing well in an area (gold production, glory accumulation, wonder building, technology advancement, etc) to gain these new Culture cards. However, advancement on the Culture track also provides player with the ability to be the Start player each Round, which can provide a huge advantage from Era to Era.

The Cult tokens are pretty interesting, though they won’t appear in the game as much as you would think, being that there is only one Cult card per Era. However, they can provide quite a bit of end-game Victory Points if used properly when founding Cities, and there are decent amount of other Culture cards, a Future Technology card, and a History’s Judgment card that can combine with them. And although the inclusion of the six Masterpiece cards may seem like a small addition, the Artist action in the base game was by far the most under-used action amongst players. Now players will have a further incentive to take that Artist action, being able to obtain a Masterpiece card for a variety of immediate rewards. They also have a new Future Development and History’s Judgment card that rewards players for collecting these Masterpieces.

For fans of The Golden Ages, the new Cults & Culture expansion is a welcomed addition. Although I wouldn’t call it absolutely essential (The Golden Ages base game is stellar on its own), it does help to improve the options and decisions available to players from turn to turn. The way the new Culture board affects turn order and how Masterpiece cards encourage more use of the Artist action, are nice, minor tweaks that make the game more interesting overall. If you haven’t had a chance to play The Golden Ages, definitely give it a try. If you’ve already tried it and love it, the Cults & Culture expansion should be an easy decision to pick up.

 

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