Duel of Ages: Worldspanner
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Behind the stunning artistry of Duel of Ages lies an epic, deeply intriguing strategy game that will capture your attention for years to come.
Build the uniquely modular game map to your own advantage, thwarting the enemy's attempt to do the same.
Accept a random roster of heroic characters, each with radically different abilities. Discover a way to turn this diverse group into an effective team.
To survive, your team must acquire strange and deadly equipment by confronting the illusionary guardians of the labyrinths.
But through every minute of play, the enemy will be uncomfortably close, hounding your team as you hound theirs...
With character teams, equipment, and even the map itself changing from game to game, you will discover a unique experience with each play.
No matter your gaming background -- be it roleplaying, hard-bitten wargaming, or relaxing nights with family or friends -- you will find an enjoyable experience that is easy to learn, fun to play, and rich with imagination.
My son and I have finally found a game that we both can relate to, play and enjoy. I get my tactical and strategic fill...and he gets to 'Grok' me to his heart's content.
Duel of Ages is a great game that is sound in its mechanics and yet is compelling in each game that is played. I love the tales my son gets to tell Mom about how 'Grok' hit 'Tex' while riding on the mountain bike. I also like the fact I do not have to explain spell casting, vampires or scantily clad women to him...we get to enjoy having fun without mature themes.
Venatic delivered a game to my family with this title. I am looking forward to getting the expansions.
As a prelude to next semester's psych thesis, my group is profiling game interaction within a college environment. We are limiting to tabletop games, because the rest of the mob is concentrating on computer gaming.
Summer break prevented us from getting any further than one week's profiling with five games. We went with variety -- in so far as games we knew, given short time. Duel of Ages was one of those games
College dorm sociology places young, hyper-libido members of the opposite sex in close proximty to each other. Social awareness is perhaps the highest in their entire life. Social energy, especially among the female sector, shoves many other less-social activities aside.
In general, males have a strong pull towards competition and challenge. This is especially true of computer gaming, which acts as a strong 'hermit' effect. To phrase it acceptably, men tend to want to hole up to fight whatever 'dragons' challenge them, and see women only for 'quality' time. Women are quite the opposite.
Duel of Ages was chosen because no-one had yet played it. One player had purchased the first two of this series. This was the only copy we had, so our games were limited. We played with the expansion only after our profile was complete.
Among males the game was received initially with mixed emotions, I think because there were some rules confusions that held us up. We also played with only one character each, which meant some players were kicked out quick. Regardless, recruitment ability was strong for the game, with interesting characters, artwork, and gameplay (once we got it right).
The game proved to have very high holding power, however. Of the five, it was the most requested for replay. Also, a few players who had initial negative reactions became much more positive about it. At the end, it became the most uniformly liked among male players (#3 among female). The game also produced 'obsessors' similar to Warhammer and Magic.
I recently received Sets 1 through 3 of the game myself. It surprises me how engaging the game is. I have not seen the game in about three days now, with it being borrowed by my younger brothers and their friends, and my uncle, who is big into games. They won't stop talking about it (which gets clucks from my aunt :) ).
I personally think the game is fascinating. It is easy to play, but changes every game. Based on our dorm room experience and that at home, this is definitely a game I'll be asked to play for some time to come. My friends who stayed for summer school are suffering gradewise because of it :). Highly recommended as a college game, but (like most games) only in the men's dorm room.
Duel of Ages requires a review because it has accomplished something that I was not sure possible. It has pulled my attention away from computer games, and returned me to this fantastic hobby.
DoA is a sport played out there in the future. It began as a military exercise to train this huge space being called Lith what humans and fighting is. She does not understand these things because she is solitary, and huge.
This is weird, but it is a fun weird. Lith has little impact on game play, but is (according to the DoA website), apparently a foundation on which a series of games and expansions to DoA are planned.
Players divide into two teams. Each team receives a random group of characters. The characters are from four ages and all walks of life ancient barbarians, colonial trick shots, modern detectives, future aliens, and so on.
Teams then build the map, using big hexagonal platters and small triangular keys. Both teams try to make the map beneficial to their teams strengths.
The game then goes into game turns. Each team begins bringing characters onto the map, two at a time. The teams move and adventure, alternating until time runs out. Combat in the game serves to hinder and reduce the ability of the other team, but adventure success determines victory.
In the basic set, there are five victory points to be gained. You can gain only 1 Victory Point for combat, no matter how many enemies you eliminate. You gain 4 Victory Points for adventures, 1 for each of the four labyrinths. In later sets, there are additional victory points for other adventures, so combat is definitely not the path to victory except as a means of slowing down the enemys adventuring.
I have now seen many attempted comparisons of other games to DoA. I will not try to do this, because I simply do not know any close relative to DoA. It is a griffon:
Computer game: I have seen DoA compared to a first-person shooter. I can see that slightly. I think a much better comparison is to third-person RPG games like Baldurs Gate a diverse team attempting quests in the face of opposition. The reason is because the path to victory in DoA is not combat (like a shooter), but accomplishment (like Baldurs gate).
Team sports: DoA is played by two teams. Always two teams. It also has a time limit. When the whistle blows, the team with the most points wins.
RPG: DoA is definitely not an RPG in terms of game play. But, combat is most like D&D or the D20 system than anything else. And the characters, equipment and environment have the personality felt when playing an RPG.
Wargame: There is an emphasis on combat in the game. While adventuring is dealt with at an abstract level, combat mechanics are more detailed. Also, the turn-based mechanics are similar to (but much simpler) than ASL or other old AH-style tactics games.
Manufacturing: The manufacturing is good enough not to hinder play once you know how to flatten the platters. But it is not the same as that feel of a Rio Grande game.
Character count confusion: It was difficult to determine from the rules how many characters you should play with. After many plays, I understand the flexibility of this now. But, the rules should have given suggestions to avoid the confusion in the first place.
Male-emphasis: I agree with Maritime that few games are clear attractors to women, and DoA is no exception. My daughters and wife like to look at the game, and wrinkle my Appaloosa card :), but play only out of politeness.
Access: I can teach this game to anyone, including non-gamers.
Replay Value: I am cheating a little on this review, because I do have the full game series. But I cannot imagine this game ever getting stale. The situation is so different on each game map, character team, equipment, adventures, people that I must coordinate with on my team, and so on.
Luck Balance: In my first few games, I was not sure about the luck element. Now, I am delighted with this aspect of the game. I can win consistently, but cannot assume the win. DoA uses dice, but there is not a single mandatory dice roll in the game. Dice rolls occur because you or your opponents strove to make something happen. And the dice are often mitigated. If someone kills one of your characters with a lucky roll, they lose their weapon. Characters are traveled around the map through a dismissal roll. But you have from two to four locations to choose from as a result of that roll. Also, luck can be scaled by using less characters (around 4-5) and adventures (Set 1 only). This gives my son a better chance at victory without me having to sandbag. Against my hard-core group, I can play with 10-12 characters per team, with low luck effect.
Finesse: This is the very interesting aspect of the game. The game has a combat emphasis, and yet combat is not the main strategic emphasis. The better I get at the game, the less I resort to combat. With the characters from the whole series, there are so many means to use good team management, trickery, and maneuvering to win. It is quite enjoyable to play against a fragger and see the sudden realization on his face when he realizes he is about to lose badly.
Engagement: This is the pro that has brought me back into the hobby. As my son grew older, he became heavily engaged in computer games. I wanted him to find other forms of enjoyment. We would play Carcassonne, Axis & Allies, and Settlers. He liked these games, but they did not strongly capture his interest. DoA is different. It has captured his attention, even at the cost of computer gaming. In my opinion, this is the finest father-son game ever produced.
Suitability: The game has no gore or other adult material. It is perfectly suitable for any age, which was my reason for trying it out in the first place. I can count on one finger the number of combat-based games that do this.
Other Game Aspects:
Age of Players: The game recommends 12 and up. The producers should have given a split rating. It is easy to teach this game to 10-year-olds. But I think most 12 year-olds would have difficulty learning this game on their own. I think 9+ for play, but 14+ for learning.
Number of Players: The game gives great flexibility on number of players. Honestly, though, I think that more than 5 players on a team would be too much. Just physically, the board is too small!
Length: I do not agree with the ideal of games lasting less than an hour. If that were universally true, all entertainment forms would follow that pattern -- the best movies would be 30 minutes. A game like DoA should be movie-length, because in a sense the game has a plot, and characters develop a little line of personality through their events. Considering the old AH games I used to play or even Risk or Axis and Allies (not to mention Talisman), the 2-3 hours length is quite trim for the type of game.
Replayability: The highest Ive ever seen outside of RPGs, as described above.
Strategy: A management game, not a grand overriding strategy game. Many little decisions rather than a few large ones. It is not a game that a player would plateau on, where he could not become any better.
Luck: The DoA website talks about an 80/20 rule, that says a good player can win 80% of the time. That would be about right for the high-character games but games with a few character and labyrinths is much more luck-based. I like the 80/20 idea, because pure strategy games (like chess) are more like work to me, just another logic problem to solve.
Downtime: Some, but not much. The out-of-turn player is active for combat, so he cant let up. Also, when playing on a team, what downtime there is is filled with frantic decision-making, winks and nods.
Elimination: Elimination of players is nearly nonexistent. If a player gets his characters killed, a partner simply hands off a character to him.
Social Strength: DoA has no negotiations, instead having cooperative team play. I like this better than something like Settlers, where Dad always gets hammered by the Thief :). The interaction in DoA teams is cooperative (and fun!), not cutthroat and confrontational.
Art: Unless you absolutely hate 3D art, this is truly great art for a game, as others have pointed out. It probably is a great draw to CCG players.
Any game that can compete with computer games has something going for it. Duel of Ages is able to grab the attention of both me and my son.