Through the Ages Review

“If Napoleon from the cover art isn’t Mads Mikkelsen, I’ll eat my hat.”

Description from the Manufacturer

This is your chance to make history:

You begin with a small tribe and the will to build a great civilization. Expand your farms and mines to gain the resources to build your cities. This lays the groundwork for technological advancements, better governments, and great wonders. Choose wise leaders whose legacy will lead your people to greatness. Strengthen your army to protect your borders and to expand your territory. And shape history with your political skill.

A strong economy, advanced technology, happy citizens, enlightened government, a strong military – your civilization needs to do well in many areas. You may excel in some, but you should not fall behind in others. Adjust your strategy to the opportunities the game offers. Your rivals will seek advantages through wars and politics, so keep your defenses up. But don’t neglect the finer things in life, because the civilization with the most influential culture wins.

Through the Ages:
What story will you tell?

Playing Time

180-240 Minutes

Number of Players


Best With

3 Players

Complexity Rating

4.31 out of 5

If you are a nerd who grew up anytime after 1991, you are more than likely familiar with the Civilization video game series.  I have fond memories of playing the game on my Dad’s crude laptop while I was in Jr. High School, and I’ve followed the series as it’s grown and developed over the years.  If you’ve ever wanted to play a Civilization building board game that has a similar feel to the famed video game series, then look no further than Through the Ages.

This is a great game, full stop.  There’s a reason it has been in a long running battle for the number 1 overall ranked position on Board Game Geek with Pandemic Legacy and Twilight Struggle.  This game is one of the best out there, a truly fun experience from start to finish.  There’s a bit of a learning curve, the game has many moving parts, and is complicated, but once you learn the system, there is an elegance to how it plays, and you’ll find yourself revisiting the game time and time again.

Full Disclosure:  I’m terrible at this game.  Like, really terrible.  As in, my group plays this game at least 4 times a month, and I win maybe one out of every twenty games.  But even though I completely and totally suck at this game, it’s still such a pleasure to play that I don’t mind losing this game regularly.  It’s just that much fun.

Things I Loved About Through the Ages

Everything about your resource management interlocks beautifully.  There are a lot of different resource types to balance; food, ore, science, and actions, but the way they all interplay is so wonderfully thought out.  Much of the game is spent finding ways to compensate for a particular weakness, through efficiencies in other areas, or through yellow card draws.  It’s just really well balanced mechanically.

The military system is great, well balanced, and adds an amazing strategic element to the game, one that if you neglect, it will have devastating consequences.  I fully recognize that this is my Achilles Heel with this game, but I don’t even care.  MILITARY IS FOR SUCKERS! (but maybe don’t take my strategic advice on this one)

There are many different paths to victory, and you can use a drastically different strategy each time you play.  Seriously, one game you can be a warmonger, the next a peace loving hippy who loves the arts, the next a colonial empire.  Each strategy can be incredibly effective, and each strategy has it’s own weaknesses.

The theme is great, and well realized.  You really feel like you are building a new civilization, exploring, expanding, conquering, researching, and running your empire, all while trying to outdo your rivals.

There is a deep level of strategy to this game, that rewards experimentation and trying new techniques.  The same strategy likely won’t work two games in a row, so adjusting your tactics is key.

Things I Hated About Through the Ages

The downtime is absolutely brutal, in particular in a game with 4 players.  I enjoy four player games the most, but as the game moves into Age 3, your wait between turns can test even the most patient of players.

You are often beholden to card row, making long term planning a bit more difficult.  You cannot be married to a particular strategy, and you have to be able to adjust your plans based on what is available to you on your turn.

If you fall behind in military strength, you become the constant victim.  Players will kick you while you’re down, and recovering from that kind of a setback can be all but impossible.

The game pieces can be a bit fiddly.  This is another game with a lot of tiny pieces (we’re looking at you Terraforming Mars) and a table bump can prove disastrous.

Final Thoughts

Don’t let any of the negative things listed here prevent you from trying this game.  Because it truly is one of the best board games ever made.  Through the Ages: A New Story of Civilization is a challenging, tactical, strategic masterpiece, one that you will love to play over and over with your friends.

I cannot recommend this game enough, it is as close to a perfect game as there is, and makes an excellent addition to any game collection.  Seriously, this game lives up to the hype, and once you get a taste for how great of a game it is, it will keep finding its way onto your game table night after night.


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