Through the Ages is one of my top ten favourite games of all time. Yet I've never had the opportunity to review it. The recent New Story of Civilization edition gave me the perfect excuse, and the lovely folk at the Rollin' Dice Show asked me to do it for them. Here's the result.
The triumph of the game is in how it uses a card row mechanism and interplay between card effects to make bureaucracy fun. There's still military in there and it's essential to your strategies but it takes a back seat in terms of game time. That's the key to how the game manages to feel epic, yet still play in an evening.
New Story has a bunch of tweaks to the rules and card effects which are universally positive. There's now almost nothing in the deck that isn't potentially useful in some situation or other. The big changes though, are to the military system, and are slightly more mixed. Essentially they've nixed the occasional game where one player's army stomps over everyone else at the cost of there being slightly less aggression overall. That's an even trade-off I'd say. But all the other improvements make it an easy recommendation over the older game.
I haven't been playing a whole lot of other tabletop games lately, except for Armada and X-Wing. On those, I've been trialling a more stripped down approach, focused more on characters than upgrade combos. More on that next week. Star Wars is flavour of the month and I've also been experimenting with Imperial Assault. So far, Campaign play gets the thumbs down but Skirmish gets the thumbs up.
The reason for the shortfall also starts with an X, and it's XCOM2. I played it from release through most of February and was absolutely hooked. So much so that I ended up writing a preview, a review and a strategy guide.
It's a highly ambitious game that tries to uses a combination of variety and sheer difficulty to stop you falling back on tried and tested tactics. For the most part, it works, keeping you constantly assessing, probing and re-thinking in your quest to overcome the alien menace. Eventually it does begin to feel a little repetitive, especially if you spent a long time with the original. But it's still the best digital strategy game I've played in some years.
Oh, and Tsuro on iOS was fun but it didn't last, thanks for matchmaking only on Facebook rather than Gamecenter. So no quick matches against random strangers which leaves this lovely package with just a competent but tiresome AI. Whoever made that decision ought to be quietly retired.
Speaking of Facebook, it's also used in new mini-MOBA Clash Royale. Since it has obvious links with odious money-pit Clash of Clans, I was predisposed to hate it. But an editor made me try it out and, you know what, it's actually really fun. Matches last a maximum of four minutes, the learning curve is near zero and yet there's a surprising amount of tactics in both building your little army and deploying them on the field. There is quite a nasty soft paywall: it's built so it's impossible to advance fast or maximise your resources unless you pay. But, best as I can tell you don't need to keep feeding coins to keep playing.
Certainly worth a try, because it's free. And if you find you like it ... who's up for a F:AT clan?