Gar and I broke this one out for Chinese Food and Games night. The basic theme of Roll Through the Ages is building civilizations. Thematically, it is not very different from Avalon Hill‘s game of CIVILIZATION in this respect. However, where Francis Tresham‘s boardgame is a classic of its kind that takes skill and strategy to master, ROLL THROUGH THE AGES is a dice game that can be played in about a fourth of the time.
I’m quite impressed with the physical components. For a very affordable price (about 28 bucks), the game provides four nifty little pegboards which track your civilization’s current status in various goods (pottery, wood, stone, etc) as well as the current food store. These will go up and down as you roll the dice every turn and feed your cities. In additon, the game provides a pad of paper with status sheets for your individual civilization– these track your progress in buying developments (scientific leaps forward that help your people to survive– such as agriculture, medicine, currency, caravans. Sound familiar?). The sheets also track your score in building monuments and building new cities.
Every turn the players trade off turns rolling as many special dice as they have live cities. The dice are imprinted with symbols for Food, People (workers), Goods, Currency (coins), Food OR Workers, and a Skull (bad things). Various combinations of these rolls do different things.
Rolling Food is a good thing. A player needs to generate AS LEAST as much food units as he has cities (one for each).
Rolling Workers is a very good thing– they are required to build new cities and monuments. Cities don’t earn points in the final tally, but monuments do.
Rolling Coins is a good thing– you use coins to purchase DEVELOPMENTS, those scientific leaps forward. These start off cheap (10 coins) and can go way up to 60 or 70 coins for being an Empire, which gives you tons of victory points.
Rolling Goods is a good thing, too– you can SELL goods to make more coins to invest in developments.
Rolling Skulls is a bad thing. Rolling 1 is bad, but it doesn’t do any lasting harm. Rolling 2 skulls is a disaster (Drought) which subtracts points from your score. Rolling 3 skulls is a worse disaster (Pestilence), Rolling 4 is even worse (an Invasion), etc. Some of the Developments prevent the disasters from happening. I recommend Agriculture for avoiding Famine– rolling three or more skulls happens, but not that often. Rolling 2 happens more often than I would like.
Roll Through the Ages resolves itself quickly and relatively painlessly. Our first game was tonight. Garrett (age 11) played the Civilization of the Volcano God, which built five cities ultimately. I built the Grand Empire of Bongotania which built seven cities. Rolling more city dice is good for more resources, but it increases your chances for getting really bad results (more than two skulls) as well. In the end, we played it to conclusion in about an hour, and ended when one of the two victory conditions were met– the Bongotanians had built five Developments. After factoring out negative scores for disasters and scoring points for monuments and developments, the Bongotanians scored 28 points and the Volcano people scored 23. Close enough of a game. We felt it was heavily luck dependent (being based on dice) but that would be a bit of a cop-out as a conclusion, since players are ALWAYS making decisions that have lasting consequences… go for a score here, or make more cities? Invest in developments or save my goods for the big payoff later?
I really liked Roll through the Ages, and here’s an interesting phenomenon– Garrett (age 11) loved it and picked up on it easily! The Game is on the market right now and about 25 to 30 dollars retail. I paid a bit more because I bought it from a FNGS, but I really feel like a purchaser gets his or her money’s worth out of this game.
Note: the publishers have web-published a nifty Late Bronze Age variant that changes some rules and adds new developments. Basically, the only new component you need would be the new scoresheet, as the rules are virtually the same.