Age of Renaissance
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We begin in the 8th century A.D. deep in the heart of the Dark Ages. All but the last vestiges of the Roman state, masters of the known world, have been swept away by pillaging barbarians whose tide has ebbed leaving nothing of substance. Against this somber background, this long awaited sequel to Civilization begins where its predecessor ended. Three to six players vie to re-establish their civilizations via trade while advancing in Science, Religion, Commerce, Communications, Exploration and Civics.
While gains are measured in economic terms rather than territorial conquest, the proceedings are nothing, if not warlike. Against the backdrop of war, plague, famine, and religious strrife such personalities as Newton, Galileo, Gutenberg, Erasmus, Copernicus, Charlemagne, Polo, Da Vinci, and Columbus appear to guide mankind to the threshold of a new beginning with startling discoveries in their respective fields.
For victory is not won at the point of a sword, but in the acquisition and application of 26 Advances ranging from Carvan to Industry. Each Advance grants its owner a potentially game-winning advantage, while the order in which these Advances are acquired, despite the fearsome calamities of the Middle Ages, will determine the speed with which you can discover the New World, inaugurate the Enlightenment, and usher in the Renaissance.
The game is quicker than its lineage would suggest and is playable in an evening in any of the three different versions catered to one's available playing time.
My friends and I have played this game enough to know the finer points of the game. We have also had to make slight modifications to the game to make it more "lasting".
Civil war is probably one of the worst cards to have played on you. And can put a player from first into permanent LAST place if played correctly on the second turn.
A good example is Genoa/Venice on the second turn. The typical position is such that both countries have say 5 provinces under their control at the end of turn 1. Under close review, there are 10 new countries available for those two countries to claim freely. BUT bidding high enough armies to control all 10 countries Guarantees that you will move Last (or later) in the expansion phase so that likely half of the free provinces will be taken by your opponent. The likely outcome is all provinces have similar expansion and end up with 10 provinces at the end of turn 2.
If, say I am Venice, and I have the civil war card, I can knowingly buy a large number of armies; and in the phase just before expansion I play civil war on by neighbor, Genoa. He is then forced to move last and lose half his armies (or) money (usually always better to lose armies). Result: Venice 14 provinces and Genoa 6 other Countries 10. Venice is usually not far enough ahead of the other countries that they cannot catch up, BUT Genoa is FAR enough behind that he can never catch up, due to the multiplier effect of early leads/losses in the game. This usually leads to "tilting" strategies by Genoa that are designed to annoy/ force the other players to end the game, rather than to have to play out the rest of the game in last place. We have reduced the effects of civil war to 3/4 of the effects shown on the card (victims choice)
We also have made a far more interesting version of the game when we have 5 players instead of 6. We remove the country France from the active player list BUT its provinces are still available to be captured/controlled. We have added two other balancing features in the game. Hamburg gets the technology "overland east" for free, and Genoa gets "Heavens" for free on the second turn.
As with any excellent, rule-dense strategy game, this game requires a bit of patience and a whole lot of free time. I'd equate AoR to riding a bike - you might fall down a time or two, but with persistance you can enjoy the thrill of riding this game to it's fullest.
AoR is a game that can inspire a gambit of emotions in it's players - they will enjoy thrill of success, the pain of defeat, as well as tasting sweet, sweet irony. It's best as a 4 or 5 player game - 6 can be too chaotic and unbalanced, and 3 are, as Goldilocks would say, too few.
The game can best be described through it's 3 Epochs - the first involves establishing home territories and engaging in basic exploration, the second involves true learning and advancement (hence the Renaissance), and the third is where people get really nasty and try to gain monopolies of the available resources.
Cards are played to illustrate historical events and show the birth of historical leaders - some can be a bit unbalanced - but withholding a few (Crusades, Civil War) until after the first round or two can easily allow everyone in the game to at least get on their feet. Should all the good cards fall into one player's hands, there is a chance they will enjoy an embarrassment of riches. Likewise, should one player be a repeat victim, he may end up finding himself in the role of a spectator rather than a contender.
That aside, AoR is an awesome game that - when played by a group of engaging players whom are all equally invested - can give a great payoff. I am actively seeking my own copy and enjoy playing a couple rounds with a group of my coworkers during our lunch break...that's how much we love this game.
Unlike what some other reviews have indicated, this game can be played in segments. This usually allows for some great diplomatic discussion between game turns! I highly encourage anyone who enjoys games like War! or Civilization to give this game a try - it is WELL worth the time and money.
I love Avalon Hill's games because of the balance and complexity they design into them, and AOR is definitely one of the best. (I hope Hasbro will continue that tradition, but I'm not holding my breath.) With that, I wouldn't start a new gamer on this game, but anybody who's gamed before will love the torture of trying to balance the need to buy advancements with the need to expand.
I think this game is a better version (2.0) of Civilization. You don't get commodity cards for each city you own as in Civ, but rather particular provinces produce certain commodities, e.g. provinces in the far east produce 'spice' or 'silk' etc. For me, this is more interesting, since you need to take over a province economically to acquire that commodity. And as in Civ, when you have more of one commodity, the amount of money you get goes up exponentially.
Others have explained the general game well, so I won't rehash that. In all honesty, there is too much to talk about to do the game justice. To give you an idea of how many facets there are to the game, it typically takes me 45 minutes to an hour to explain the rules to a new player. But it is well worth it.
The commodity log is abysmal. Shame on AH for not testing that more. We don't even use it. Search on the web for documents someone has created which have a small square for each province so you can just take the square when you take over the province. Lose one, give it to whoever took it over. Need to know how many wine provinces you have, count them up in front of you--very easy. In fact, I've heard the next edition of AOR--the European version, I think--incorporates that method into the new design and removes the commodity log.
One bad part of the game is the constant starting point. It always seems you know what Genoa, Barcelona and Venice will do in the first three turns of the game. But as we play more, it becomes fun to try to experiment with different strategies, and I think there may be revelations in future just when you've think you've hit a wall in strategy. That's happened to me in Axis & Allies as well. The whole dynamics of a game can change if someone just does something a little different. Do the same thing... you get stagnation.
All in all, excellent game which our group just loves to play.
Love this game. While still having some of the trading and growth feel of Civilization, the expansion of cards with severe game impacts and the dice based trade expansion (read combat) system give a little more of a wargame feel.
Conceptually, the game took a bit to grasp as immediate play had a bit less immediate impact than in its previous edition, but repeated play lead to a development of a feel for the nuances of the game.
Also, a high production value really helps retain interest. Each game I play, I remark on the beauty of the game and on learning something new about how to master it. Glad to have it in my collection.
Three epochs of pure, unadulterated war. One thing I have discovered playing this game is that, if you don't get the cash cards for the commodities you hold the most of, the only real way you have to get money (to buy advancements) is to do a massive city grab. Make sure your boats are big enough and go take what you want.
There is a serious screw-thy-neighbor feel to this game. Do unto others before they do unto you is a common rule. Hold your Black Death card too long and you may not know where to play it. And woe betide the rest of the world if one player decides to go barbarian with nothing but exploration and religion advancements. One of the guys at our Saturday group is just that type of player.
The game is impressive to the eye. The cards' art is distinctive and nice. Instead of using the chart to keep track of how many of each commodity each player has, we just count the spaces on the board. Maybe, we've just gotten that good at remembering how many of each type of commodity there are.
All in all, this is truly a great game for people who don't get over-agitiated easily. True warmongers (me vs. the world mentality, and the anger to go with it) might take it a little too far. I still enjoy it, though, and if you can find it, it is worth the money.
Ok, right out of the gate I want to say that this game is a little hard to grasp at first. Avalon Hill is known for their encyclopedia-type manuals and you really have to pay attention to their explanation of the rules. The nice thing about this game is that they included sample play (which is becoming more common in board gaming today).
Enough said in that respect. The game is a piece of art to look at! The cards are beautiful, the board is a joy to look at and will endure hours of gameplay without wear. The game plays a little bit like Avalon Hill's Civilization with plenty of player interaction, which is what I really like in a game like this. It is best played with 3 or more players and a game takes about 4 hours to complete.
You advance in the game through trade rather than the mighty sword--which can be a healthy departure for some gamers. KOS brought out the point of the game I do not like and find tedious: the market share MATRIX. In theory, it should work well in the game, but it ends up being confusing for tracking purposes. The more I think about it, the developers would have had a tough time trying to use a different method of tracking.
Is this game worth your while? The answer is a resounding yes! Just be prepared to study and learn the rules. It really helps if you have someone to teach you. If you get a chance to hit a convention where they are playing the game, that would be a GREAT way to learn. The only thing that keeps this game from being 5-star is its high learning curve and market matrix.
First study the game manual. This is typical Avalon Hill; a law book is nothing compared to those guys. Spend some hours, really study the examples given. OK assuming you have an IQ of 150+ and have gotten the rules in your head...
Then get at least 2 other maniacs (5 players is best) willing to spend 12+ hours consecutively.
Then discover that you effectively have a game of chaos, which puts players under the constant threat of misery, while expanding market positions and trying to become immune to types of misery. Imagine you have to play the Plague card on some part of Europe: it will annihilate everyone in those provinces! You don't make such a choice lightly, because there are other cards that players will play upon YOU. But you don't want to keep that card because that costs you money.
The problem is that you simply don't want to play just the first era, you want to play all. Hence 12+ hours.
Lots of tiny tokens, and a bad system to keep track of everyone's market share on every kind of trading good. This gives a 10x10 matrix with, say, 8 tokens for each player--a lot of added complexity which does not enhance game play.
6 hours of pain, and that was with everyone (except me) already having played multiple times, and I moved the quickest! I've never wanted a game to be over as much as I did with this one. I finished it to be a good sport, but it was painful. Did I mention 6 hours? It's not like the kind of 6 hours in Diplomacy, where you're actually negotiating, or any other long game where you're doing something interesting. Most of the time playing the game is NOT playing the game, but counting stuff up, doing money changing, etc. The amount of bookkeeping is insane. You need your own personal accountant just to keep track of everything, and a cattle prod to keep things moving beyond a snails pace. As if that weren't bad enough, the cards range form worse than useless (and you have to play them all eventually--ugh) to incredible, just to make things completely random. Oh yeah, and on top of that, the game mechanics support the rich getting richer. So the burden of balance is left squarely on the players to go after the leader. This was a good reminder why I much prefer European style games with more modern streamlined mechanics.