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Players struggle to survive the Stone Age by working as hunters, collectors, farmers, and tool makers. As you gather resources and grow your population, you work to build the tools needed to build your civilization.
The times were hard indeed. Our ancestors worked with their legs and backs straining against wooden plows in the stony earth. Of course, progress did not stop with the wooden plow. People always searched for better tools and more productive plants to make their work more effective. In stone age, the players live in this time, just as our ancestors did. They collect wood, break stone and wash their gold from the river. They trade freely, expand their village and so achieve new levels of civilization. With a balance of luck and planning, the players compete for food in this pre-historic time.
Players use up to 10 tribe members each in 3 phases. In the first phase, players place their men in regions of the board that they think will benefit them, including the hunt, the trading center, or the quarry. In the second phase, the starting player activates each of his staffed areas in whatever sequence he chooses, followed in turn by the other players. In the third phase, players must have enough food available to feed their populations, or they face losing resources or points.
Average Rating: 4.6 in 6 reviews
Stone Age is so much more than it seems. At first it seems to be bit like Settlers of Catan in its resource management and building aspect or perhaps like Pillars of the Earth in the way players vie for different positions on the board in order to score the most points. Then again it has a Shogun feel to it when you are trying to keep your people fed while trying to improve their living conditions, but then the whole survival element makes it even more intriguing. It seems like more of a solitaire game, like Agricola, where each player is trying to make the cards, the buildings, the resources, the food supply, and the resources work together to make a better tribe than the other players. It actually is refreshing to play a game where all tribes coexist in a world where no one attacks anyone else.
That's not to say there isn't strategy and interaction, it just involves more planning ahead. The end game where all of the work that has been accomplished is well rewarded is where the game is won or lost. The game is always close when you are playing, but it is only at the end that you begin to see the real value of collecting certain cards, tools, people, or buildings. And the strategy that made you win one time, will not always work the next time. It is the variety that other players add in that keeps the game interesting.
I had a diehard group of middle-aged men that met to play Stone Age about twice a month this past year because it was so much fun. Even though I have moved, the guys have already purchased their own copy of the game and are making plans to continue building up society as we know it on my absence.
Hat's off to Rio Grande Games for a beautifully-designed new game.
I just received this game today and my family and I have already played five games. We all enjoyed Stone Age a lot. I love how the first few rounds you think "is it really this simple to learn and to play"? It's easy to learn but once you start to equip yourself with tools and you use those to modify some of your dice rolls, it gets to be a lot fun. My wife who isn't a gamer decided to sit down with my son and I because she saw how much fun we were having. My wife was hooked in just three rounds. Once you open that box for the first time and you see the high quality of the components and the beautiful main board you will be hooked too. Can't wait for the next round of playing this game. Get it, you won't be sorry!
My copy of this SDJ nominee finally arrived and with eager anticipation I went through my standard ritual of separating and bagging all the components. After quickly going through the rules and a couple of plays we have a review.
The Components: All of the cardboard pieces and tokens are high quality. You have lots of little wooden cave meeples in four colors along with wooden depictions of the recourses. I really like the recourse bits since they actually look like the recourse they represent (ie. Gold looks like gold bars, wood looks like little logs, etc.). the individual player boards are nice and heavy; much thicker than those from Puerto Rico or Shogun. The main board has a nice pleasant layout making it very easy to differentiate the different sections but still keeping the feel that it is all one village. The look of the player boards and the main board really remind me how Shogun is laid out. It is very visually pleasing to look at. The comparison to Shogun's layout doesn't end there. The rule book is sectioned out much like Shogun's is along with the separate play aid describing the functions of the cards. They also supplied a nice leather dice cup that is the same style of the Alhambra Dice game. We then get to the box. The box has nice artwork but I found it funny that even new in shrink it isn't closed all the way, mostly due to the dice cup. I do have to give kudos to the manufacturer for supplying zip lock baggies with the game. The game in it's entirety is very visually pleasing and I enjoy the similarities it has style wise with other games that I enjoy.
The Rules: The rules are very quick to go through and are laid out very nice. They provided good examples of all the stages from the game from your worker placement to your resource and card acquisition. I like the fact that the play aid for the card functions is separate so you don't have to thumb through the rules constantly to check what they do. It has that Saint Petersburg economic crunch factor going on where you never have enough resources to do everything you want. You start out with five people in your colony and alternate placing one or more of them around the board to collect resources, develop tools, go hunting and gathering, develop farming, increase your population, build huts (that supply victory points), and acquire special cards (that provide both an instant reward but also supply victory points at the end of the game). The resource gathering in handled really well in this game. You get to roll a number of dice equal to the amount of people you have there. Then after totaling your roll you only get resources depending on how many times their value can be taken out of your total roll. The cool part is resources are all valued differently with gold being the most at a 6, while wood is only valued at a three. So for example if I had three guys trying to gather gold I would roll three dice and if I only rolled a total of 10 I would only get 1 gold bar (since 6 only goes into 10 once). So depending on what you roll you are not guaranteed to get a resource at all and the more valuable the resource the harder it is to get which is great. The value of the resources become important when purchasing the buildings that supply victory points since the victory points you get out of them is based on the total value of the resources put into them (this is another point of the game that I really like). There are special cards that you can purchase with your resources that range from a cost of one resource to four. These cards yield an immediate affect when you purchase them and then supply bonus victory points at the end of the game. Hunting and gathering is handled the same way as gathering resources just the value is only a two so food is much easier to get. You also can develop tools, which only one person can do a turn. Tools are helpful since they can be used to add to your end total on your dice roll. Developing farming is another first come first serve spot and it is used to increase your food production. This becomes important since you get your production number in food at the end of the round where you need to feed your people. So thus the more your food production the less food you have to gather and the more workers you can send elsewhere. Last but not least you can increase your population by placing two workers in the hut and the end result is you get an additional worker that becomes available in the next round. At the rounds end you feed your people. After receiving your production total in food you return the amount of food to the supply equal to how many people you have. If you don't have enough you can either pay the remaining amount in resources or deduct 10 points from your score. The game ends either when one of your stacks of buildings run out or when you can no longer refill your special cards. Then you apply the special card bonuses to you victory points and whoever has the most is the winner.
The Game Play: This game runs really smooth. It has a lot of decision and much like Saint Petersburg requires efficiency. The luck factor regarding how the resources are gathered fits well with the theme and makes perfect sense when taking their value into account. I believe the theme fits well with the game.
The Overview: I think this is a great game. It hits right in there with the likes of Kingsburg on how to successfully add a dice mechanic to a good strategy game while not making it a complete dice fest. I can see why it was nominated for a SDJ award and feel it is very deserving of that nomination. I am looking forward to playing this more in the future since it has quickly become what we call one of our usual suspects.
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