Through the Ages Review
“If Napoleon from the cover art isn’t Mads Mikkelsen, I’ll eat my hat.”
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.PURCHASE THE GAME