Radio Review #96 – Through the Ages: A New Story of Civilization

 

tta_cover

(2015 – Czech Games Editions)

 

“Raise your rifles to the sky boys….fire that volley loud….”

 

A decade after it was originally published in 2006 by Czech Games Edition (then known as Czech Board Games), Through the Ages has become a modern classic, collectively considered amongst the community as one of the top 5 board games of all-time. One of Vlaada Chvatil’s earliest designs, (also known for Galaxy Trucker, Dungeon Lords, Dungeon Pets, Mage Knight, and Codenames) Through the Ages is a unique civilization game in that it is one of the very few that is completely card driven, and does not include a centralized map or dice. An extremely deep game, it’s highly regarded for its complex strategy, yet streamlined and intuitive rule-set. Though Czech Games Edition has reprinted Through the Ages a few times, their 2015 release of Through the Ages: A New Story of Civilization is a completely revised, and upgraded version of the classic, with new artwork, card layout, minor rule changes, and rebalanced card elements.

In Through the Ages: A New Story of Civilization, players will take control of a civilization during its early rise in 4th century A.D. and work to advance it to modern times. Each civilization begins with a couple of small farms and mines, as well as a warrior army and philosophy lab. Players will be able to increase the technologies within their civilization by obtaining new cards from the card row. These cards are divided into Age of Antiquity, Age I, Age II, and Age III decks. Players will also have a corresponding deck of Military cards which they can draw from at the end of their turn. These allow them to play events during their turn, along with declaring aggressions and wars on opponents, and also include pacts that they can use to make deals with other civilizations. The ultimate goal of the game is to gain culture. Players will need to balance all aspects of their civilization, mainly the military strength and civil technologies. The player that has amassed the most culture by the end of the game is the winner.

 

 

 

Components:

– Civilization player boards

 

– Culture board

 

– Science board

 

– Military board

 

– Civil card row board

 

– Current Age board

 

– Civil cards (Antiquity Age, Age I, II, and III)

 

– Military cards (Antiquity Age, Age I, II, and III)

 

– Player markers (a set for each player color)

 

– Population/Worker tokens

 

– Resource tokens

 

– Civil Action tokens

 

– Military Action tokens

 

– Summary sheets

 

 

 

Setup:

At the beginning of the game, each player receives a set of player markers matching their player color. These markers will represent the player’s progress on the various tracks on boards in the game. The first board is the Culture board, which includes two different tracks. The top track is where players will accumulate their Culture (victory points) during the game.

The player furthest along on this track at the end of the game is the winner. The track below this one is the Culture Rating track. Depending on how far along their player marker is on this track, the player will receive that much Culture during each of his turns. For instance, if a player’s current Culture Rating is on the 4th space, he will gain 4 Culture every turn, increasing his marker on the above Culture track by 4. As players amass different parts of their civilization, they will gain various technologies that will increase their Culture Rating, thus increasing their overall Culture from turn to turn. For now each player will place their culture rating marker and culture marker on the start spaces of their appropriate tracks.

The next board has a set of tracks representing Science and works in a similar way to the Culture track. The lower Science Rating track represents the amount of Science that the player will gain every turn, by increasing the marker on the track above. Unlike Culture however, Science can be spent on a player’s turn to gain new technologies to their civilization. The more Science a player has available to them, the more he can spend on a certain technology. Once spent, the marker on the above track is decreased. Players will then need to manage their Science and decide which technologies they want their civilization to focus on, and which ones to pass on. For now each player will place their science rating marker and science marker on the start spaces of their appropriate tracks.

“Si vis pacem, para bellum”. The famous Latin expression translates to “If you want peace, prepare for war”. You didn’t think we were going to play a fully immersive civilization game without a focus on military did you? The Military board houses the current event cards, the common tactic cards, and a track representing each civilization’s military strength. Players will play through three Ages during game, however the game begins during the Age of Antiquity. The cards used during this initial Age are represented with an “A” on their back. At the beginning of the game, a number of Age A military cards are set in place on the Military board depending on the number of players in the game, plus two. Therefore, in a 3-player game, five Age A military cards are shuffled and placed face down on the central space at the bottom of the Military board. These cards represent events that will take place early in the game, affecting all civilizations. During Ages I, II, and III, players can prepare other events that may effect all civilizations, or an individual one, maybe positively or negatively. Players will also place their tactics player marker in the common tactic area in the middle of the board, and their military strength marker on the start space of its appropriate track.

The Current Age board houses both the Civil and Military card decks of the current Age. In the Age of Antiquity however, only the Age A civil cards are shuffled and placed on this board. Military cards are not drawn during the Age of Antiquity, only used for purposes of the starting current events (placed on the Military board). These Civil cards include the various technologies and action cards player can obtain for their civilization.

At the beginning of the game these Age A cards are drawn one at a time and placed face up on the Civil card row board. At the end of a player’s turn, all Civil cards will shift to the left and any empty spaces on the card row are replaced with new Civil cards from the draw deck. After a deck of Civil cards run out, that Age has ended and the game moves to the next Age, with that Age’s Civil deck coming into play.

The board that receives the most attention however, are the individual player boards. This is where a player’s civilization will grow and thrive, or crumble and fall. There are four types of tokens that players will use on their boards. The first of these are the yellow tokens that are placed on the bottom spaces of the board, representing the player’s Yellow Bank. When a player’s population increases, a token is removed from the rightmost space in this bank and moves it to the Worker Pool area. Once designated as a worker, it can then be placed out on a technology in the player‘s civilization (as an action) to represent the structure or army listed on the technology. For instance, if a worker is moved onto Agriculture, it would now represent an agricultural farm within the civilization. At the beginning of the game, player’s start with one worker in their Worker Pool. The player’s Happiness marker is also placed on the “0” space of the Happiness track. Player’s will need to increase this marker along the track as their population increases, otherwise they may encounter discontent workers, or even an uprising within their civilization. We’ll cover this more in detail later on in the review.

At the beginning of the game, players all start with a worker in the Worker Pool and a number of workers on each of their starting technologies. These workers represent 1 warrior army, 2 agricultural farms, 2 bronze producing mines, and 1 philosophy lab. You’ll notice that the player board also contains a religious temple, however no workers are placed on it at the beginning of the game. This means that the player’s civilization has knowledge of building a temple, but has yet to actually do so. Once a player takes an action to build the temple and places a worker there, he will only then have an active religious temple and will receive the rewards from having one.

Certain technologies will reward military strength, science, and culture to players from turn to turn. These are represented on the technologies themselves, and players will need to adjust their tokens on the military track, science rating track, and culture rating track as they gain and lose workers from these technologies. For instance, since players begin the game with 1 warrior army, they will therefore begin the game with 1 military strength, as represented by the sword/shield icon on the warrior technology. If later in the game they are able to place another worker on the warrior technology, they will now have 2 warrior armies, and therefore will increase their military strength to 2.

Player’s starting philosophy lab also awards the player with a science each turn, as shown by the “light bulb“ icon on the technology. Therefore, each player will place their science rating marker on the 1st space of the science rating track. As with the warrior army and military strength, if players build a 2nd philosophy lab, they will increase their science rating to “2”, as their civilization is now producing them 2 science per turn. It’s important to note that players do not begin the game producing any culture from turn to turn, therefore their marker on the culture rating track is kept on the “0” space. However, they do begin the game knowing how to build a religious temple, and if built this temple will produce their civilization 1 culture per turn.

While their agricultural farms and bronze mines do not produce any military strength, science, or culture from turn to turn, they do however produce resources. Resources are represented by blue tokens, and will be needed to build new technologies and wonders, as well as feed the civilization’s population. At the beginning of the game, these blue tokens are placed on the corresponding spaces on the Blue Bank area of their player board.

Finally, each player has a particular type of government associated with their civilization. At the beginning of the game, all players begin with the oppressive and absolute rule of Despotism. Each government type contains a number of white and red tokens on the card. This is the number of civil actions (white) and military actions (red) that players will be able to take from turn to turn. As players are able to upgrade their government, they’ll also increase their ability to take more actions of a certain type, or may be able to take more of both. In the case of Despotism, each player will place 4 civil tokens and 2 military tokens on this government space. Players are now able to begin the game. After setup is complete, the play area should look something like this:

 

 

 

Gameplay:

 

 

A. The Age of Antiquity (BC – 300 AD)

During the first round of the game, players will resolve the Age of Antiquity. This is a sort of introductory round and a bit different from all other rounds following it. During the Age of Antiquity round, players will be allowed to use a number of their Civil actions depending on their place in turn order. Players are only allowed to use these actions in order to obtain Age A cards from the card row. The start player can use 1 civil action token, the 2nd player can use 2, the 3rd player can use 3, and the last player can use all 4 of his starting civil action tokens during this initial round.

The only action that players can take during the Age of Antiquity round is to take cards from the card row. Each card costs a certain number of civil action tokens depending on its position on the card row. This is represented by the number of circles below the space where the card is set. Moving from left to right, the first 5 cards will costs 1 action each, cards positioned 6th through 9th will cost 2 actions each, and cards positioned 10th through 13th will cost 3 actions to obtain. Therefore, the start player can only take one of the first 5 cards on the card row, while the 2nd player can either take two cards from the first 5 (spending one civil action token for each), or he can spend both of his civil action tokens to take a card that cost 2.

After a player has taken his card (or cards), he will now resolve the Production Phase of his turn, as listed on his player board. During the Age of Antiquity round, players will only need to resolve the “Score Science & Culture“, “Food Production“, and “Resource Production” steps of their Production Phase.

 

 

Score Science & Culture

If you’ll remember, all players civilizations start with a philosophy lab, which generates a science each turn. This is easily represented by the fact that the player’s science rating marker was placed on the “1” space of the science rating track. Therefore, the first thing a player will do during this part of his production phase during his Age of Antiquity turn will be to increase his science marker to the “1” space of his science track. He now has a total of 1 science. Because players have no built technologies that gain culture at this point, the marker on the culture track is not increased.

 

 

Food Production

Players will produce food based on how many farms they currently own. Players will move a number of blue tokens from their Blue Bank equal to the number of yellow tokens representing farms, and place a blue token next to each farm. The number of food that a blue token is worth is equal to the amount listed on the card itself, represented by a “bag” icon. As we can see with the agricultural farms, each of these farms produce 1 food each, during every Production Phase. Therefore, since we currently have two farms, and each farm gets a blue token, and each blue token is worth 1 food on this particular
technology, then we currently have a total of 2 Food.

 

 

Resource Production

Mines work in the same way as farms. The player will move a number of blue tokens equal to the number of mines from their Blue Bank next to each of the mines. Therefore at the end of the Antiquity Age, each player will have produced 2 Resources.

 

 

 

B. Age I (300 AD – 1600 AD), Age II (1600 AD – 1900 AD) & Age III (1900 AD – Current):

Now that the Age of Antiquity is complete, Age I begins with the start player. The Age I civil and military decks are placed on the Current Age board. Each player will take a full turn that consists of a Start of Turn Phase, Politics Phase, Action Phase, and End of Turn Phase. After that player has completed his turn, the player to his left takes his turn and so on until all Civil cards from the current Age deck has run out, thus ending that particular Age. I want show how each phase resolves, but first I want to go over the various actions that players can take during the Action Phase, as I think understanding how these work will put the steps included in the other phases in better context:

 

 

 

The Action Phase

As mentioned before, players will have a number of Civil actions and Military actions that they can take on their turn based on their number of available civil (white) and military (red) tokens. When players take an action, they will spend a token (or multiple tokens if needed for taking a higher ranked card from the card row) by removing it from their government card and placing it to the side. Let’s take a look at these various actions and how they work, beginning with the different Civil actions:

 

 

I. Civil Actions:

 

1.) Take a Card – For 1, 2, or 3 civil tokens, a player can take a card from the card row. If it is a Wonder (purple), the card is immediately placed on its side near the player’s civilization board. Otherwise the card from the card row will go into the player’s hand. There are seven types of civil cards:

– Wonders (purple)
– Leaders (green)
– Actions (yellow)
– Farms/Mines (brown)
– Urban Buildings (gray)
– Special Technologies (blue)
– Governments (orange)
– Military Units (red)

Its important to note that there are limitations to taking certain cards. For instance, a player can never have taken multiple Leaders from the same Age. A player can not acquire a new Wonder if he has a current Wonder that is not fully completed. The player will also need to pay an additional civil action for every completed Wonder he has when acquiring another Wonder from the card row. Additionally a player’s civil card hand limit can not exceed the number of civil tokens he can use each turn.

 

 

2.) Build a Stage of a Wonder – Once a Wonder has been placed in a civilization, it still must be built in order to provide its benefits to the player. Each Wonder card contains a resource icon with a series of numbers. As a Civil action, the player can pay a number of resources from their mine equal to the leftmost number of resources on the Wonder, in order to build that stage of the Wonder. The resources paid are returned to the Blue Bank from the mine. Then one token is moved from the Blue Bank to cover the space on the Wonder that confirms that stage has been built. The player continues to build stages of the Wonder until all stages have been completed. Once this happens, the Wonder card is placed up-right and all tokens are placed back into the Blue Bank.

For instance, a player has taken the Pyramids as a previous action on his turn. He can now choose to spend a civil action and built the 1st part of this wonder by spending all 3 resources from his mine, by moving those 3 resources back to his Blue Bank.

 

After doing so, he’ll place a token from his Blue Bank on top of the 1st stage of the Pyramids wonder to show that it has been built. As you can see, the next stage would cost 2 resources, and the final stage only 1 resource. It would take a player four actions to complete the Pyramids (an action to take it from the card row, and three additional actions for each of the stages). After completing the Pyramids, the player is awarded with an extra Civil action that he can use each turn, on top of those provided by his government card.

 

 

 

3.) Play a Leader – Most Leaders contain ongoing, special abilities that will help to strengthen a player’s civilization while also providing an unique aspect. A player may only have one active Leader at any time, and as mentioned above, they can never take multiple Leaders from the card row that are part of the same Age.

Once a Leader is in a player’s hand, he can spend a Civil action to play it beside his civilization board. If a Leader from a previous Age was present at this time, it would be discarded from the game, with the newly played Leader taking its place. The player will then return the Civil action token spent to his government card if he‘s replaced a leader, which is now available for him to use again. Note that because the player will first need to pay the Civil action to play the Leader before returning the token to his government card, a player with 0 Civil action tokens will not be allowed to play a Leader. Let’s take a look at what some of these Leaders can provide:

Julius Caesar is an Age of Antiquity leader who, while active, provides the player’s civilization with an additional military strength as well as an additional Military action token. He also has a one-time use ability that allows his player the opportunity to take back-to-back Political actions. As we’ll see when covering the Political Phase later, each player can normally only take one Political action during their Political Phase.

Many of the Urban Buildings (gray cards) and Wonders (purple) contain “Happiness” icons, which represent how satisfied the population is with its civilization. We’ll cover the Happiness track at the bottom of the Civilization board a little later, but for the purposes of Michelangelo (an Age I leader), he will provide an extra Culture for each Happiness icon produced by a wonder and temple/theatre urban building in a player’s civilization. Also, while he is the active leader, his player will not need to spend an extra Civil action for each of his previously completed Wonders when taking a new Wonder from the card row.

Charlie Chaplain can be found amongst the Age III Leaders. While active, he not only increases his civilization’s Happiness rating by 2, but the civilization’s highest ranked theatre (urban building type) provides twice as much Culture than it normally would each turn.

 

 

4.) Develop – In order for players to get technology cards from their hand and into their civilizations, they must develop them. Each technology card from the card row contains a “science” cost in the upper left hand corner of the card. Technology cards can be divided into Farm/Mines (brown), Urban Buildings (gray), Military Units (red), Governments (orange), and Special Technologies (blue).

To develop one of these technologies, the player will spend a Civil action, then must pay the amount of science listed on the card from their Science track. Once the amount of science has been paid, the player can play the technology card from their hand to their civilization. Remember, that even though a civilization may have knowledge of a particular technology, that technology is not present until players have placed a worker there (with the exception of Special Technologies and Governments).

For instance, during Age II, the green player acquired the Coal technology from the card row. In order to develop the knowledge of this technology and add it to his civilization, he would need to use a Civil action and pay 7 of his accumulated Science. Once paid, he would place the Coal card above his current Bronze mine. He currently still has Bronze mines in his civilization, but has now obtained the knowledge of building upgraded Coal mines.

 

Special technologies (blue) are unique in that, when developed, they immediately provide the benefit listed on the bottom of the card. Unlike most other technologies, players will not need to place workers on this card. There are four different types of Special technology cards, as represented by an icon in the top right corner of the card; construction, exploration, law, and warfare. A player’s civilization can never have two of the same type of Special Technology.

For instance, if a player already had Code of Laws in his civilization and wanted to add Civil Service (both of which are law types), he would need to discard his Code of Laws technology and replace it with Civil Service when playing it.

 

Governments (orange) are also unique. As with Special technologies, no workers are placed on Government cards when they have been played. Developing a new Government will basically replace the existing Government in play. If you’ll remember, each Government card references the amount of Civil and Military actions a player will have available to them from turn to turn. The more advanced the Government, the more advanced the civilization. As with all other technology cards, players must spend some of their Science in order to play a new Government card. You’ll notice however, that Government cards contain two sets of Science cost. When taken a Civil action to develop the Government, players will play the higher Science cost. The lower Science cost would be paid if the player has chosen to take a Revolution action, which I’ll cover next.

The green player has decided to peacefully usher in a new government to replace Despotism. He’ll spend one of his two remaining Civil actions and spend a total of 6 Science to play his Theocracy card, replacing Despotism in the process.

 

Because both Despotism and Theocracy provide 4 Civil actions to the player, he won’t add any additional Civil actions to his civilization, however Theocracy does provide 3 Military actions, whereas Despotism only provided 2. Therefore, he will add an additional Military action token to this government card, which he can go ahead and use if he chooses. You’ll notice that Theocracy also increases the civilization’s Culture rating by 1 (earns 1 additional Culture each turn), increases its overall Military strength by 1, and provides 1 additional Happiness. All of these statistics are immediately updated as well.

 

 

 

5.) Declare a Revolution – It is possible however, to introduce a new government through not so peaceful means in the way of a Revolution action. In order to declare a revolution, the player must spend all Civil actions available to him at the beginning of the turn. Basically, he can take no other Civil actions other than declaring this revolution (there are of course some Leaders and special abilities that can get around this). The player will then spend the lesser value Science cost on the new government card, and replace it with the older government. If the new government card would increase the player’s Civil action tokens, he’ll take the increased amount from the supply, but won’t be able to use them this turn, since all Civil actions must be spend to declare a revolution. Military actions can still be used though. Since almost all cards you’ll be placing in your civilization have some sort of Science cost, it can sometimes be beneficial to declare a revolution and save some of your Science for other technologies.

 

 

6.) Increase Population – As players strengthen and expand their civilization, they will need a larger population to sustain it. Remember that players only begin with a single warrior army, two farms, two mines, and a philosophy lab. In order to expand and build more, players will need to convert tokens from their Yellow Bank and into workers, by moving them to the Unused Worker Pool area. This can easily be done by spending a Civil action, paying the amount of food listed below the area where the rightmost token available is located, and moving this token from Yellow Bank space to the Unused Worker Pool.

For instance, the green player decides to spend a Civil action token in order to increase his population. Taking a look at the next available token in the Yellow Bank, we can see that converting this yellow token to a worker will cost him 2 food. He will spend 2 food by removing these blue tokens from his farm and placing them back into his Blue Bank. He will then move the yellow token from his Yellow Bank onto the Unused Worker Pool area. This worker is now available for him to use elsewhere.

 

Players will need to be careful to manage their population however. The game is designed to hinder a player from amassing unused workers from their Yellow Bank. We’ll cover this more in detail when discussing the player’s Production Phase, but for now understand that if a player increases his population at a faster rate than he can produce food, he could risk potentially losing Culture points. In addition, if he is increasing population at a faster rate than his civilization’s current “happiness”, he could risk having discontent workers (unused workers in the pool than can not be used), which can potentially lead to an uprising, causing the player to skip his entire Production Phase altogether.

 

 

7.) Build a Farm, Mine, or Urban Building – It can be a bit difficult for new players to wrap their head around at first, but I’ll keep reiterating, remember that just because you have a new Farm, Mine, or Urban Building in play only means that your civilization has the knowledge of these technologies, not that they are actually present in your civilization. In order have one, you’ll need to build one. Each Farm, Mine, and Urban Building has a resource cost depicted by a rock icon within a small circle. To build, players will need to spend a Civil action, move the number of resources from their Mine to the Blue Bank equal to the cost of what they are building, then place an unused worker on the technology which now represents the building itself.

For instance, if you remember at the beginning of the game, all players started with the knowledge of building a Religious temple, but didn’t actually have one constructed yet. The Religious temple cost 3 resources to build. The blue player decides to spend a Civil action, then will need to move 3 of his resources from his Mine to his Blue Bank to cover the cost.

 

He will then take an worker from his Unused Worker Pool and place it on the Religion temple technology. Once built, this temple provides the player an additional Culture every turn, as well as increases his civilization’s Happiness rating by 1. If later in the game the blue player decided to build a 2nd Religious temple by spending 3 resources and placing a 2nd unused worker there, he would now receive another additional Culture every turn and increase his Happiness rating again by 1.

 

It’s important to note that a civilization’s current government card has an icon in the lower right corner that indicates the maximum number of each Urban Building types the player can have in his civilization at any one time. For instance, with Despotism, the player can only ever have two Urban buildings of the same type at any one time.

There are 5 different types of Urban Building technologies in the game, as referenced by the icon in the top right corner of the card; arenas, labs, libraries, temples, and theaters. Using the previous example, while Despotism is active, this player is not allowed to build a 3rd temple type building. Therefore he could only have a total of two (yellow tokens) on any of his temple-type Urban Building cards combined. These limitations only affect Urban Buildings (gray); players can build as many Farm and Mines as they wish.

 

 

8.) Upgrade a Farm, Mine, or Urban Building – As players develop new technologies, they’ll have the opportunity to upgrade some of their remaining older buildings into these newer ones.

Using the previous example where we looked at the green player developing the Coal Mine technology, we can see that when he placed this card into his civilization above his Bronze Mine card, he still had 3 Bronze Mines in his civilization.

 

As an action, he could choose to spend the 8 resources needed, and moving an unused worker from the Pool to build a whole new Coal Mine. Or he could choose to take a Civil action to upgrade one of his Bronze Mines into a Coal Mine.

In order to do this, the player would need to pay the difference in resources between the two Mines, in this case 6 resources (8-2), then he would be able to move a yellow token from the Bronze Mine and place it on the Coal Mine. He’s technically still paid 8 resources for this Coal Mine, he just paid the original 2 when he built it as a Bronze Mine earlier in the game.

 

The advantage to this building being a Coal Mine versus a Bronze Mine is that when producing resources, a blue token moved to the Coal Mine is worth 3 resources, whereas one moved to the Bronze Mine is only worth 1. As we’ll see later on, keeping as many blue tokens in your Blue Bank can be quite important, so in this case it is much better for the player to have 1 Coal Mine that produces 1 blue token (worth 3 resources) each turn, rather than having 3 Bronze Mines that each produce 1 blue token (worth 3 resources total).

 

 

9.) Destroy a Farm, Mine, or Urban Building – There may be times when a player needs to destroy one of his buildings, either to bring back workers to his Unused Worker Pool or because he’s simply producing more food/resources than he can use. If a player wishes to destroy one of his buildings, he will spend a Civil action, then remove the building (yellow token) from the technology card, placing it back on the Unused Worker Pool space.

 

 

10.) Play Action Cards – The final Civil action available to players on their turn is to play an Action card from their hand. Action cards are obtained from the card row along with the various other Civil cards, however they are easily identifiable in that they are yellow and contain only text (no pictures).

Action cards can not be played during the same turn in which they were acquired from the card row, but when played are one-time use abilities that immediately resolve when the player pays a Civil action to play them. Let’s take a look at a few of these cards and how they resolve:

When played, Cultural Heritage immediately increases the player’s Science total by 2 and Culture by 2. Note that this is a one-time increase on the overall totals, not an increase on the Science/Culture ratings track that would add to the Science/Culture totals every turn.

When played, Breakthrough allows the player to take the “Develop” action by spending the required Science and adding a new technology to the civilization. However, once this is done, the player will add 3 Science back to his total. A scientific breakthrough!

When played, Engineering Genius will allow the player to take the “Build a Stage of a Wonder” action, with a subtracted cost of 2 resources. Therefore, if you’ll remember earlier on, when the player built the 1st stage of his Pyramid wonder, if he had used Engineering Genius to do so, he would only be required to pay 1 resource instead of 3.

 

 

 

II. Military Actions:

 

1.) Build a Military Unit – One way to increase your military strength is to build more armies. Military Unit cards are technology cards that are played into a civilization using a Civil action to Develop.

Once placed in a civilization, a player can spend a Military action (red token), pay the resources required, and move an unused worker to the card. This now represents a new Military unit and the player’s overall military strength will increase according to the strength bonus on the card.

 

 

2.) Upgrade a Military Unit – As with Farms, Mines, and Urban Buildings, players can also upgrade their Military Units. In this case they’ll need to spend a Military action and pay the difference in resources between the current unit and the one their upgrading to.

For instance, if a player wanted to upgrade from a Warrior to a Swordsman, he’d need to pay 1 resource (3 minus 2). This unit would now provide 2 military strength instead of 1.

 

 

3.) Disband a Military Unit – Whereas players can destroy Farms, Mines, and Urban Buildings, they can also disband a Military Unit. The same rules apply, though the player will need to spend a Military action for this instead of a Civil action.

 

 

4.) Play a Tactic – Another way to provide additional military strength to your civilization is to introduce a Military Tactic to the world. Tactic cards are one of the many types of cards that players will find in the Military draw deck, which they’ll possibly receive at the end of their turns. Each Tactic card provides an amount of additional military strength that a player’s civilization will receive if the Tactic card is an active tactic for the player, and the player’s civilization meets the Tactic’s military unit requirements.

For instance, the Phalanx formation is a military tactic that provides 2 additional strength if the player’s civilization contains at least 2 infantry units and 1 cavalry unit. To show that the tactic is active, the player will place his Tactic player marker on the card. A player can only have one active Tactic at any one time. Taking a look at the green player’s civilization, we can see that he currently has 3 infantry units and 1 cavalry unit. Therefore, he would have the required units needed to gain the additional military strength from the Phalanx tactic. Note that players can only play one Tactic card per turn.

 

 

5.) Copy a Tactic – Unlike previous versions of the game, players only hold exclusivity to a Tactic for one turn. At the beginning of their next turn, the Tactic card is placed in the common Tactic area of the Military board. Once here, any player can spend 2 Military actions to activate the tactic for their own purposes.

Multiple players can have the same tactic active at the same time. Thematically, the civilization that introduced the Tactic gets a limited amount of time before that Tactic becomes known to other civilizations throughout the world. Note that players can only play or copy one Tactic card per turn.

 

 

 

Start of Turn Phase

Now that we’ve covered the various Civil and Military actions a player can choose to take on their turn, let’s finally take a look at how a player’s turn in the game resolves from beginning to end. During the Start of Turn Phase the current player will discard a number of Civil cards from the leftmost spaces according to the number of players in the game, then shift all remaining Civil cards to the left on the board and replenish all empty spaces on the Card row with cards from the Civil draw deck.

If at any point the card deck runs out, the game immediately pauses and players will need to resolve the end of an Age. The steps to take at the end of an Age are conveniently printed on the now empty Civil card space of the Current Age board for easy reference. At the end of an Age, all cards that were in the Age before the current Age that just ended are now considered “antiquated”. For instance, when Age I ends and Age II begins, all Age of Antiquity cards are now considered “antiquated”. At this time, certain antiquated cards are discarded from the game, including:

– All antiquated cards present in a player’s hand.
– All antiquated Leader cards in play.
– All antiquated Wonders that aren’t completed (Wonders that have been completed     stay in play).
– All antiquated Pact cards (I’ll explain Pact cards during the Politics Phase discussion).
– All other antiquated cards stay in play.

At this point each player also loses 2 population by removing the 2 leftmost yellow tokens from their Yellow Bank. Finally, the new Civil card deck is placed on the Current Age board, along with the new Military card deck which replaces any Military cards leftover from the previous Age. The player will then continue refilling any empty spaces on the Card row board from the new Civil Age deck.

 

 

Resolving Wars – At the end of a player’s turn, he may receive War cards from the Age II and Age III Military decks. As we’ll see during the Political Phase, a player can take a political action in order to declare a war on an opponent. During the Start of Turn Phase after the turn in which you declared a war on an opponent during the Political Phase of that turn, you’ll need to resolve this war. Note that a player will need to be careful when declaring a war on an opponent since that opponent will have an entire turn to prepare for the war before it’s actually resolved. This has a chance to backfire on you if you aren’t careful.

When resolving a war, both players in the war will compare their overall Military strength with one another. The player with the higher Military strength between the two is considered the winner, and the difference in Military strength is the “strength advantage”. The War card itself will instruct how to resolve the “strength advantage”. For instance, during his previous turn the green player declared a war on the blue player by playing his “War Over Territory” card during his Political Phase. During the Start of Turn Phase of his following turn, the war is resolved.

The green player currently has a Military Strength of 15, while the blue player only has a Military strength of 10. In this case, the green player wins the war with a “strength advantage” of 5. According to the War Over Territory card, the green player would receive a total of 2 yellow tokens from the blue player’s Yellow Bank for his victory (1 for winning the war, plus 1 additional for having a strength advantage of 5).

 

 

Tactics Become Common – Before the Start of Turn Phase ends, if a player has an exclusive Tactic in his play area, he’ll need to move them to the common area. The player’s tactic marker remains on the Tactic card, but it is now available for other players to spend 2 Military actions and copy.

 

 

 

The Politics Phase

After the player has completed his Start of Turn Phase, he’ll have the opportunity to perform one and only one political action during his Political Phase, though he doesn’t have to perform any if he chooses not to. Let’s take a look at each of these political actions and how they work:

 

Prepare Future Events – The most common action a player will probably take during his Political Phase is to play an Event card from his hand. You’ll notice that all cards played during the Political Phase are Military cards that have a crown in the top right corner of the card. Events (green military cards) can have either beneficial or negative effects.

For instance, taking a look at the “Ravages of Time” event, when can see that when this card is resolved, each player will need to choose one of their completed Age of Antiquity or Age I Wonders in play and turn it face down. This Wonder has basically fallen apart due to the decay of time and will lose any bonuses it previously provided. Though because it has been a significant monument and part of the civilization’s history, it will still score the player 2 Culture per turn.

 

Instead of playing an Event card straight from their hand and resolving it, players will play the Event card face down on top of the “future event” deck space of the Military board. When doing this, the top card of the “current event” deck space is flipped face up. This is the event that is then resolved. Once all cards from the current event deck have been flipped and resolved, all cards from the future event deck are shuffled and moved to the current event space, and any newly played event cards will go in the now empty future events space. So as you can see, when playing an Event card, you are essentially preparing for this event to happen sometime in the distant future, not resolving it immediately. Normally, after resolving an Event card, it is discarded to the “past events” space on the right side of the Military board.

Some Event cards contain new territories that players will attempt to colonize. Colonizing a new territory can greatly help a player’s civilization by increasing its population, providing additional resources, military strength, culture, science, etc. When an Event card is revealed containing a new territory, players will need to send a colonization force to the territory in order to claim it. Players can put together a colonization force that contains a combination of their military units, any active tactics, and the colonization icon (ship) on their Military bonus cards or on their built technology cards. Players will continue to outbid each other in turn order until there is only one player left that has not dropped out. That player has bid the highest colonization force and wins the territory. When bidding, a player does not have to reveal how he will pay for the colonization force, though he must be able to pay for what he bids, and his bid must contain at least one military unit.

For instance, the Developed Territory event card has been revealed, therefore players will have to opportunity to bid the total of the colonization force that they are willing to send here. Players bid around the table until the green player wins with a total of 6. The green player currently has 1 Warrior military unit, 2 Swordsman military units, 1 Knight unit, 2 Military bonus cards, and the Cartography special technology.

 

When sending his colonization force to claim the Developed Territory, he’ll need to send at least a total of 6 strength that includes at least one unit (yellow token), though he can pay for this however he wants. In this case he decides to send one of the Swordsmen units (+2), discard both of his Military bonus cards (+1 and +1), and use the colonization bonus from his Cartography technology (+2). This totals the 6 strength that he’ll need to send.

He’ll then remove the Swordsman used as part of the colonization force from play and place it back in his Yellow Bank. Since this is the only unit he is sending, he’ll need to update his Military strength total, subtracting a total of 2 that the Swordsman was providing. So as you can see, even though his colonization force to obtain the Developed Territory was 6, he only spent 2 of his Military strength to obtain it, with use of his Military bonus cards and the Cartography technology. The Developed Territory is then placed into the yellow player’s civilization, and immediately rewards the player with 3 Science, a Yellow token that is added to his Yellow Bank from the supply, and a Blue token that is added to his Blue Bank from the supply.

 

 

 

Declare a War – We previously discussed how Wars are resolved, but it is during the Politics Phase that a player may initiate that War on another player. Each War card from the Military deck contains a number of red dots in the top corner of the card. This represents the number of Military actions the player must spend in order to player the card and declare a war on someone.

As mentioned before, the opposing player will have a full turn to use his Military actions to help prepare for the War that will ensue during the active player’s next Start of Turn Phase. Since the active player had to spend a number of his own Military actions to declare the War, it can be difficult for him to further prepare himself during his own Action Phase. Therefore, a player will need to be careful when declaring a War to make sure he is already fully prepared to go through with it.

 

 

Declare an Aggression – Aggressions are a political action a player can take without the need to go to a full-scale War. Aggression cards are found in the Military deck and also contain a Military action cost to play (though usually less costly than the War cards). An Aggression can not be played on an opponent if the opponent has a higher Military strength than the active player, it can only be played on those with a lower strength. Once a player declares an aggression by playing the card and choosing the opponent, the opponent has an opportunity to defend the against aggression by either playing Military bonus cards from his hand (which contain military strength bonuses) and/or discarding a number of Military cards from his hand for +1 strength each.

Note that an opponent can not play more Military cards from his hand for defense than exceeds his Military action total. So if a player has 3 Military actions available to him each turn according to his current Government card and any other bonuses, he won’t be able to play more than 3 Military cards from his hand when defending an Aggression. If the opponent can temporarily make up the difference in overall Military strength from these, the Aggression is considered unsuccessful. Otherwise, the Aggression takes place and the text on the card is resolved.

For instance, the Enslave aggression card from the Age I military deck costs a player 2 Military actions to play during his Political Phase. If his chosen opponent is not able to successfully defend against enslavement by either playing enough Military strength bonuses from his hand or discarding enough Military cards, he will lose 1 population. Also, the attacking player will gain 2 resources and 2 food from his Blue Bank.

 

 

 

Make a Pact – The final type of cards in the Military draw decks are the Pact cards (blue). Games of Through the Ages with 3+ players include these Pact cards and players can reveal one during their Political Phase in order to offer the pact listed on the card to a chosen opponent.

The opponent can of course refuse to accept the pact, in which you’ll simply return the card back to your hand. But if accepted, the active player will place the pact between himself and the chosen opponent. If the pact contains an A side and B side, the active player will choose which side faces himself.

For instance, the blue player has seen that the green player is becoming very powerful in military strength and is worried that his own civilization is at risk from an aggression or even possibly a war invoked by the green player against him. Therefore during his Political Phase, he offers the Acceptance of Supremacy pact to the green player. By accepting the Pact, and while the Pact is active, the green player will not be able to attack the blue player (and vice versa).

However, the green player (as civilization A) would produce an extra resource during his Production Phase, while the blue player would produce one less during his. This is a pretty good pact for the green player in that he’s obviously already pretty powerful in the military side of his civilization, but this pact allows him to gains some extra resources so that he can work to strengthen his cultural/civil side.

 

 

 

Canceling a Pact – Once a player decides that he no longer wants to be part of a Pact, whether he was the one that played it, or he was the player that accepted it, he can choose as his action during his Political Phase to cancel the Pact. For instance, if later in the game the blue player had built up his military strength to the point in which he felt he could compete with the green player in military, he could choose to cancel the Acceptance of Supremacy pact during his Political Phase by discarding the Pact from the game.

 

 

Resigning – There’s much contention amongst the gaming community on whether there’s a lack in gamesmanship in resigning from the game. Whether it was built in to allow a player that was so far behind from being required to see the game through, to help combat a player from solely focusing on attacking the weakest player at the table, or a combination of both, a player can choose to Resign from the game during the Political Phase.

The player that has resigned will discard his entire civilization from play. If there were any active Wars played against the player that have yet to resolve, the opponent that had played the War card removes it from play and immediately scores only 7 Culture, as opposed to the amount of Culture we may been rewarded when resolving the War later.

 

 

 

End of Turn Phase

Whether he chose to take an action during his Political Phase or not, the next phase a player would resolve on his turn would be his Action Phase. Since I’ve already covered the various actions a player can take during his Action Phase, let’s take a look at how a player resolves the final step of his turn, the End of Turn Phase. The first thing a player will need to do is discard a number of Military cards from his hand until his hand of Military cards matches his number of Military action total. So for instance, if a player gets 2 Military actions per turn according to his civilization, and he has 4 Military cards in hand, he’ll need to discard 2 of these. Next, players will be able to produce their culture, science, food, and resources by resolving the following steps:

The player will first add an amount of Science and Culture to their totals equal to their current Science rating track and Culture rating track. Remember, the bottom rating tracks show how much Science and Culture a player earns each turn, while the above tracks show how much Science and Culture the player has in total.

Next, the player will check to see if his civilization has any corruption. Corruption can occur when those in a civilization are keeping resources for themselves and not using them to help further advance their society as a whole. Remember that when players spend resources (and food), the blue tokens representing them go back to the player’s Blue Bank, refilling empty spaces previously left in the Blue Bank. If a player has left too many spaces empty after his Action Phase, and has not been able to use the food and resources he’s produced earlier in an efficient way, corruption can occur.

Taking a look above, you’ll notice that some of these empty spaces contain a resource icon with a negative number. If this space is not covered during this part his End of Turn Phase, the player will lose that number of resources from his civilization, returning them to the Blue Bank. If the player does not have enough resources in his civilization to pay the full amount of corruption, he’ll need to pay available food on his farms to make up the difference. If multiple icons are visible, the player will lose the number of resources equal to the leftmost negative number, not both.

Next, the player will produce his food by taking blue tokens from the Blue Bank and placing one next to each of the workers (yellow tokens) on the player’s farm cards in his civilization. As mentioned before, these now represent food that the player will be able to use in future turns.

The player will now need to check and see if his civilization requires extra food to keep it sustainable. Much like the Blue Bank, the Yellow Bank also contains icons with negative numbers. When checking for a civilization’s food consumption, the player will need to provide an amount of food equal to the leftmost uncovered food icon number.

If a player doesn’t have enough food from his farms to feed his people during this time, he’ll lose 4 Culture for every food he can’t provide. Since food production resolves before food consumption, a player shouldn’t need to worry about a shortage in food as long as he is keeping up with advancing his farms as his society advances and grows.

Finally, the player’s civilization will produce its resources by taking blue tokens from the Blue Bank and placing on next to each of the workers on the player’s mine cards in his civilization. These now represent resources that the player will be able to use in future turns. Note that the player will have a chance to use these resources during his next Action Phase in order to refill his Blue Bank before being required to check for corruption.

It’s important to remember that if a player had an uprising in his civilization (trigger by not having enough Happiness and discontent workers), the player will skip the entire production portion of his End of Turn Phase. After the player has finished his production, he may be able to draw some new Military cards. A player is allowed to draw a number of Military cards from the current Age Military draw deck for every Military action he didn’t spend during his turn (up to a maximum of three cards). It’s important to note that players can draw Military cards past their normal Military hand size, as they won’t have to discard down to their Military hand size until the beginning of their next End of Turn Phase. Because of this, players will have the opportunity to use these cards during their entire next turn before needing to discard any.

Finally, after all steps of a player’s turn is complete, they will reset their Civil and Military actions by placing both sets of tokens back on their government card. Their turn has now ended and play continues to the next player.

 

 

 

Age IV (End of Game)

After Age III has ended, turns should continue until the player to the right of the Start player has taken their last turn. This makes sure that all players have had the same amount of turns over the course of the game. After this is complete, the game has ended and players will need to total their final amount of Culture (victory points).

Additional points are scored in the way of the Age III Event cards that were played during previous turns but have yet to be flipped over and resolved. All Age III Event cards provide Culture according to how well a player has done in a particular category or will award Culture based on certain things that are present in a civilization. Since players are the ones preparing these Event cards during their turns, they can help determine how a majority of Culture is scored during Age III and at the end of the game.

Taking a look at the two Age III Event cards above, we can see that the Impact of Architecture awards a Culture point for each level of the Urban Buildings present in players civilizations, while the Impact of Science awards a certain amount of Culture points to players depending on how they compare in overall Science production compared to one another. After these remaining Event cards have been resolved, and any Culture awarded by them have been added to the players totals, the player with the most overall Culture has won, and engineered the most successful of civilizations.

 

 

 

Thoughts:

There’s a reason why Through the Ages has ranked amongst the top board games over the last decade. Streamlined complexity, balanced strategy, thematic, and intuitive are all words that help describe one of the best, if not the best civilization games of all-time. One advantage that this new edition has over other game designs, is that the original Through the Ages is so beloved and has been played by so many people over the last 10 years, that Vlaada Chvatil and Czech Games Edition had a decades-worth of play-testing and feedback to help improve the balance, and tweak/streamline the rules.

There has definitely been a concerted effort to keep players from being able to focus solely on their military as a runaway means to overpowering their opponent, as was the case with the original. Players can no longer keep Tactics to themselves, and must make these military formations available to other players after a turn. Players are no longer allowed to sacrifice units when resolving and Aggression or War, helping to keep a player from falling even further behind in future turns if he’d sacrificed a majority of his military might now. Instead of sacrificing units, players can now discard Military cards to boost their defense by +1. By keeping military more competitive, it no only improves the balance between military and cultural advancement, but it also helps to free up the other strategies in the game.

The original Through the Ages was Czech Games Edition’s first published game, and while the mechanics and rule-set were intricate and engrossing, the card layout and overall artistic design of the game was pretty plain and dull. With the new edition, each card contains its own beautiful artwork, along with a new graphical layout that makes all aspects of the cards clear and intuitive. The overall production of the game’s boards and tokens are a wonderful improvement, and I especially appreciate that the military, culture, science, and card row boards are all detached from one another so that I can maneuver them around in a way that best fits the table and players I’m gaming with.

If there’s a common critique for Through the Ages, it’s that the game is quite long. Depending on the number of players in the game, a session of Through the Ages can stretch well past 3+ hours. And while there seems to be a welcomed trend of newer, revised editions of older games tightening up the play length, I appreciate that the designer and publisher has kept the original gameplay length in tact, while still streamlining the rules and cards. Through the Ages is meant to be a long game and should be a long game. Building a civilization from a mere bundle of bronze mines and simple farms in the early 1st century, into a vast technological empire in the modern 21st century isn’t something that you do in an hour. Not with this game. The planning, strategy, and molding of the various moving parts of a civilization over the course of those 3+ hours is an amazing experience on its own, and something that makes Through the Ages unique and wonderful. Through the Ages: A New Story of Civilization is the definitive version of the game. One that is more balanced, streamlined, and artistically better produced that its older brother. It’s one that anyone new to the game should steer towards, and probably any beloved veteran will end up replacing their original with.

 

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