The Gentlemanly Art of taking their stuff
Last night Sean, Chris and I were getting ready to start a game of Through the Ages, when Raab showed up. He wasn't ambivalent, but RSVPs were sparse so he joined up. (Later on Al, Ted and Jon did show up, but no other games were played).
Through the Ages is, if you don't know, basically a boardgame version of the computer game version of civilization (loosely based on the Tresham game). Most things are abstracted away into lots and lots of cards, and counters. Each turn you get one political action (propose or break a pact, play an event, or agress against your neighbor), then you get some number of regular actions. Civil actions include taking cards, playing cards, building stuff, increasing your population and working on your wonders. Military actions involve building troops and training them. Your form of government (itself a card) determines the number of actions you get. Then you have some book-keeping for happiness, food and money, then refill any cards taken (and ditch the 'oldest' card or two, if it wasn't taken) then slide cards down the track and refill.
At it's heart, this is just a game where you don't have enough time to do everything. It costs actions to train workers, and you need to increase your agriculture, economy, happiness, military, science, get leaders, colonize new lands, react to events, modernize, and grab good action cards. Oh, and get culture (VP). Action cards get cheaper the longer the stay on the board, so there's always that "Do I pay 3 actions to get X, or wait and hope to get it next turn for 1?" feeling.
Anyway, our game started off with Raab writing the Homeric epics, which let him get some cheap military units and then write up stories about their glories, when really they just got drunk. That put him out to a huge VP lead (something like 30 to 5, 8 and 3). But the VPs only count at the end....I managed to get Carolinas University, which produces science and a bit of culture. Chris got Hammurabi, and (sadly) saw the high point of his empire peak about 6,000 years too soon.
In Age II, things took more concrete shape. I managed to acquire Napoleon and build an overwhelming army, and proceeded to use it to take other people's stuff. A big complaint about Through the Ages is that's it really a military race. That's certainly true to some extent, but I'm not sure if it's a flaw. (I've discussed TtA on my blog). Chris suffered due to a few random events that hit the weakest country, and eventually snapped and declared a Jihad against the rest of us (via the Terrorism event). Sean's Pyramids ran into the typical government delays and were eventually abandoned unfinished, several thousand years over budget.
By the end of Age II I was firmly in the drivers seat with a VP lead, solid military advantage, and strong technologies and wonders. Despite the early setbacks, Sean decided to become an artistic empire and started cranking out culture for 2nd place.
All in all, a fun game although it was long. We spent about 5 hours playing. Partially that was because most of us were new or rusty, but the sweet spot for this is three players. When it's not your turn you don't do much (a "fixed fun" game) so dropping one player will speed the game up by 60-90 minutes. Still, I hope to get this to the table again soon.