Tired of boring old wars and invasions? Through the Ages: A New Story of Civilization is a whole different kind of civilization-building game.
Brief Overview of Through the Ages
Through the Ages: A New Story of Civilization is the 2015 updated edition of the original Through the Ages: A Story of Civilization. It’s a far-reaching strategy game in which players advance their civilization from antiquity to the modern age with the goal of emerging the most influential.
Civilizations are built on culture, technology, diplomacy, military, and production, all of which will need to be managed efficiently to come out on top.
Through the Ages is vast, but gameplay largely centers around card drafting and resource management. Whoever has the most culture points at the end wins.
Versions & Expansions
Through the Ages: New Leaders & Wonders
The only expansion for the 2015 edition, New Leaders & Wonders is a must for any Through the Ages regulars. As the name suggests, it piles in a load more leader cards, such as Cleopatra and Nelson Mandela. Also, you’ll get 16 new wonders, and plenty of other cards to add some extra flavor to the game, too.
- This is your chance to make history! Throughout time there have...
Through the Digital Age
The team over at Czech Games Edition (CGE) has also created a digital edition of Through the Ages including a separate DLC (Downloadable Content) for their New Leaders & Wonders Expansion.
It’s probably one of the best renditions of a board game to digital that I’ve seen and one of the best-suited games for a digital remake. It takes a lot of the “maintenance” away while playing and lets you focus on strategy instead of worrying about sleeves shattering an entire civilization’s worth of cubes across the table.
I always like to check out digital editions of games because it’s usually easier for me to learn the rules and it’s a much cheaper way to test ride the gameplay.
Unboxing Through the Ages
What does it take to start and build a new civilization? Basically, just some cards and cubes. Here’s what you’ll get in your Through the Ages: A New Story of Civilization box:
- 329 cards
- 254 cubes (36 white, 28 red, 109 yellow, 81 blue)
- 5 Game Boards
- 4 Player Boards
- 28 Player Pieces
- 56 stickers
- 4 Quick Reference sheets
- 1 Rulebook
- 1 Handbook
Through the Ages is a chunky game with a lot of rules to learn. It’s why I was very relieved to see a handbook included in the box exclusively for those playing for the first time. It handily walks you through each turn so that everybody can learn all the different mechanics, all the way to the end. I found this super useful and think it’s a great addition. And each player also gets a reference sheet, too.
Beyond that, Through The Ages largely takes place using cards and cubes placed on your individual player boards or in common areas. These boards are really well laid out, helping keep all your civilization stats and resources clearly in check. There are a lot of them, though, so you’ll need a good-sized play area to fit everything in.
The artwork on the boards and cards was pretty much what you’d expect. Some military leaders on the front box; rather dull images of farms and things on the cards; lots of browns and green. So, while there is no real individuality, it certainly feels on-theme.
Overall, the components are just what you need for a game likely to take up a few hours of your time. Sturdy, not too fiddly, and with artwork that isn’t going to give you a headache.
How to Play Through the Ages
There are four Ages in the game: A, I, II, III and IV. The first three Ages have one civil and one military deck assigned to them, which you should shuffle now.
Players select a color and take the relevant components. On the player board, you’ll see you have six starting technologies: Warriors, Agriculture, Bronze, Philosophy, Religion, and Despotism. To begin with, place rating markets on zero for your science, culture, strength, and happiness indicators.
You also receive a bunch of blue tokens, representing your resources, and yellow tokens, representing your worker pool/population.
Finally, prepare the Card Row by dealing 13 cards from the “Age A” civil deck face-up. These are the cards players will acquire to shape their civilizations, such as technological advancements, political leaders, or buildings.
The game begins in the Antiquity Age, using cards from the Age A deck to unlock actions. The cards get replenished each turn and, once they run out, you start using the Age I deck – representing an advancement to the next age, and all the cool new tech and science that comes with it. Over time, these will be followed by Age II, and so on.
Players will continue trying to acquire cards, alongside performing plenty of other actions, to grow their population, unlock tech, develop their means of production, evolve culturally, and much more. You will also acquire military cards, enabling players to declare war and perform other military maneuvers to damage their opponents and acquire loot.
Once the Age III deck has been depleted, the game ends.
Turns are made up of four phases, which must be completed before moving on to the next player.
- Start of turn sequence
Before doing anything, make sure the Card Row is fully stocked. Then, if a war card is currently in play, resolve the war. This stage can be skipped in the first go.
- Politics phase
You can perform one of the following political (external) actions on your turn:
- Play an Event Card
- Play an Aggression – using a military card, immediately attack another player
- Declare a War – like the above, but this is resolved on the next turn.
- Offer a Pact – use a pact card and offer terms to a rival player.
- Cancel a Pact
- Action phase
Using your available civil and military actions, you can do any number of actions providing you can pay for them and have the card, including:
- Take a card from the Card Row.
- Increase your population.
- Build or upgrade your buildings.
- Develop a technology.
- Build a stage of a wonder.
- Build or upgrade military units.
There are also various other cards/actions you can play, such as declaring a revolution, playing tactics cards, or a leader card.
- Turn-end sequence
The bulk of this turn is your Production Phase, in which you score science and culture points. You also gather or lose resources depending on your various indicator levels.
For example, the more workers you have in the mines or farms, the more resources you’ll gain. While high levels of corruption will deplete your stock. Even more worryingly, an unhappy population could lead to an uprising.
You also pick up more military cards at this stage. Unlike civil cards, which are in the Card Row, they are kept secret.
When attacking a player, in order to win you must have a higher strength level than them. If so, you are victorious and reap the rewards listed on the card.
In the case of an aggression, the attack happens immediately on your turn, and the rival may use defense cards to build their strength level and repel you. If your attack fails, then nothing happens.
A war attack, on the other hand, has greater risks, but also potentially greater rewards. It takes place at the beginning of your following turn, giving both players a chance to boost their strength. When the war commences, the defender is unable to use defense cards.
This time, the severity of the rewards depends on how big your victory is. However, unlike in an aggression, if your attack fails, the defender is granted the rewards instead.
Ending the Game
Players continue through turns growing their civilizations, discovering new technologies, battling one another, and building spectacular wonders. Once the Card Row runs out, the game ends.
Players tally up their culture points, including bonus points for their science, strength, and size of population, etc. Whoever has the most culture points is named master of the ages!
Your First Game of Through the Ages
It’s worth being aware of a few other cards you could have in play:
These represent political leaders of some kind and grant you a special ability. Leonardo Da Vinci, for example, grants you extra science points. They are acquired from the Card Row and are activated as an action. You can only have one in play at a time.
Tactics cards allow you to organize your units into armies. Armies have tactical strength values that can be added to your overall strength value.
Once played, it gets placed in the common area and can then be copied by other civilizations.
If you play an event card in the politics phase, it gets added to the ‘future events’ deck. The card on the top of the ‘current events’ deck is then flipped over and resolved.
Events could be anything from a huge harvest to a crime wave. They will often affect multiple players. And it will often be the weakest players that are affected most harshly.
It could also be the discovery of a new territory. In this case, players bid to be the civilization that colonizes it. This is a costly affair but can grant huge bonuses to the colonizer.
Pros & Cons
- One of the most expansive civilization games.
- Fantastic thematic mechanics.
- Great replayability.
- Lots of moving parts to keep on top of.
- Difficult to introduce newbies.
- No map to move through or invade.
Through the Ages is one of the most expansive civilization games out there. How it skillfully threads the theme into the mechanics makes it an incredibly rewarding experience for anyone that can last the four or so hours it will inevitably take.
I love, especially, the many realistic considerations that are included, which often get forgotten about in other civilization games. For example, if you develop a secret new military tactic, it remains exclusive to you only until it’s been played. I mean, once it’s been out on the battlefield, what’s to stop other people stealing your idea?
Similarly, the various events have each been thoroughly thought through. Like the crime wave hitting only the weakest players – it may seem cruel, but the sad reality is that weaker societies tend to have less of a handle on crime.
It makes Through The Ages incredibly comprehensive.
But, No Map?
A noticeable difference to other civilization-building games is that there’s no map to colonize. Instead, military campaigns and colonization happen on your player board or are represented in the various play areas. It means the game feels incredibly high level. You aren’t carrying out tactical military maneuvers – this has all been delegated to the men on the ground – instead, your job to ensure all aspects of your civilization generate the resources and technology to carry it off.
This more distant approach to military strategy is what allows Through the Ages to be so comprehensive. As if it decided to go heavy on the military tactics as well, it would simply be too much to handle.
A Challenging Game
Where Through the Ages will prove challenging is with new players. There’s a handy walkthrough guide for your first game, however, you’re not going to want to play through this each time someone new joins the table. As a result, with so many different moving parts, they are unlikely to feel hugely competitive in their inaugural game, which might dampen their experience the first time around.
But I’m sure they’ll realize it’s well worth playing again!
Through the Ages is a comprehensive civilization-building strategy game in which players vie to have the most lasting impact on the world. Gameplay focuses primarily on tactical card drafting and skillful resource management, as you balance the needs of your culture, technology, diplomacy, military, and production.
With seemingly hundreds of things to keep track of at any one time, it’s not for the faint-hearted. But, if deep strategic civilization games are your thing, you’ll do well to find a better-put-together one than this.
At first look, Through the Ages might feel a lot like other civilization-building games (Sid Meier’s Civilization, for one). And, of course, there are similarities. But, for me, Through the Ages is well ahead of the pack. After all, it can’t be #5 on BoardGameGeek for no reason…
Through the Ages takes a ‘bigger picture’ approach, focusing on resource management, diplomacy, science, and culture, rather than intricate military campaigns. It rightly acknowledges that territorial expansion is only part of what makes a civilization great (in the big sense of the word). And, as such, there’s no map to traverse, giving the game a different feel to others in the genre.
A Diplomat, Rather than a General
Therefore, if you fancy yourself more as a general – moving tanks around a map, rather than handling top-down corruption in the agricultural department – Through the Ages won’t quite tick that box.
But, if you’re after a beefy, all-encompassing civilization game, then look no further than Through the Ages. This is the boss. With so many knobs and levers to fiddle with, it is the closest you can come to being God in board game format.
Have you tried Through the Ages: A New Story for Civilization? We’d love to hear your thoughts. Drop a comment below and let us know about your experience!