2- 4 players, Competitive, Civ-Builder
Designer: James Kniffen
Artwork: Anders Finer
Publisher: Fantasy Flight Games
Create cities and expand your reach but beware the barbarians as you try to conquer the land!
I have played a 2 player game and a 3 player game and both times the game ran right over 1 hour 30 minutes. And as with most GOOD board games you don’t even realize how much time has transpired because of the fun you are having. The same can be said for this game but it wasn’t so much “fun” as it was more like I had a ton of stuff going on so working all the angles took some focus. The game comes with quite a few different win condition cards that you shuffle and place down a certain number to focus on during that particular game. Each card has 2 different win conditions but you only have to get one of them per card. During setup you plop down 3 of them and the first player to complete one task on each of the 3 cards wins! So depending on what cards you place down really depends on how you are going to play the game. They range from building a number of specific wonders to exploring the map to having the largest city.
The components are pretty good for the most part. The cardboard pieces are your typical pieces you find in most games. There are some nice plastic minis though which is really nice. Some little city minis and some little caravans which look really good on the board. There are also little player cards based around a few of the different civs that you can play as during the game, each with its own unique ability to give the game some replay value. The absolute coolest part to the entire game though resides with the Focus Bar. This ruler sized cardboard piece is what you use to determine what cards/actions you can take during your turn. During your turn you have 5 cards in front of you below this focus bar. On the focus bar from the left to right – Grassland, Hills, Forest, Desert and Mountain. These are in order of how difficult the terrain is to navigate basically. And every time you perform the action detailed on the card below a certain area IF you can, you then take that card and move it all the way to the left of the track and move the others to the right. So basically that card then becomes super easy to do (at level 1 Grassland) but it also becomes super weak. So the further the card to the right, the more difficult to perform but also the more powerful it becomes. I REALLY love this mechanic in the game.
With anyone familiar with other Fantasy Flight games, you should already know what you are getting with the box and insert. With those of you who are not familiar, well inside comes a bunch of cardboard sheets to punch out the numerous, numerous tokens and game tiles. Everything fits in the box nicely while still in the punchboards. But the insert is little more than a piece of cardboard that gives more volume to the box. What you will probably end up doing is finding some little plastic baggies and sorting everything into individual bags for ease of setup the next time you play. Take the insert out toss it in the garbage and just plop everything back into the box with the rules. Fantasy Flight is not known for their amazing boxes or inserts and honestly is the one biggest thing they need to improve about their games. The box itself is nothing special, there is no spot UV coating on it, and doesn’t feel that sturdy. Nothing to write home about for those collectors out there.
The bit of actual artwork that I can remember from this game was just the cgi pictures of the leaders of the civs that come with the game. I was actually a little disappointed with that as I was looking forward to some nice art. I have never played the other Civ games released before this one but I seem to remember seeing pictures of those and thinking the art was much better. The art on the game tiles are all your typical terrain such as the mountain regions or water areas. The colors are all pretty similar as well with nothing really popping out at you.
Now I have heard that this Civilization game was much simpler than the previous civ games. That being said it still has a lot to learn. The rulebook does do a pretty good job of explaining everything however I did find myself going back and perusing it at least 3 or 4 more times for little things. Which honestly is pretty much the standard for a more complicated board game. It gives you a nice layout of all the components at the beginning and even has a section if you are playing your first game to show you how to set it up to get your feet wet. That is awesome; I love games that have a tutorial. I don’t recall any rules that were left out and I cannot think of anything that didn’t make sense. The combat would be the exception. Even though it makes sense……it’s still weird and one of my biggest gripes about the game. Which I’ll get into during the Fun Factor section.
Table Presence/Game Board
The games board is made of a number of different tiles that you put together to form the overall map. Each tile has two different sides which vary each game as the tiles all have different resources and barbarian starting locations. And there are enough tiles to really change up each game, not to mention placement. Each player takes turns placing a tile of their choosing so every map can be drastically different. Here’s the thing though, even though you are looking at different resources and barbarian starting locations and of course the way the terrain is set up……you are seeing the same tired old grasslands, mountains, forest, hills and deserts over and over again. It really becomes stale after a few plays even though I know the terrain has to be that way to work with the utterly cool focus bar. Here’s hoping for an expanded focus bar with more terrain options in a future expansion!
The table presence isn’t really all that intimidating. It doesn’t take up all that much space and all that’s on the board are your little city minis and the little control tokens that are used to show what land you have under your control. The caravan minis are a nice touch but severely underused on the board as I feel like they are the weakest of all the cards in the game. You end up HAVING to use them just to get them outta the way back to the end of the focus track.
Table Talk/Fun Factor
You really keep to yourself when playing this one until you end up either sending a caravan to another player’s city to gain a benefit which from what I’ve seen, are not all that great. Or when attacking another players city. Now this is my all-time biggest gripe with this game, the combat. It’s so weird! And not really in a good way. You utilize your military card to determine basically how far you can shoot or your “range” and also the benefit to the die rolled. So you and the defender both roll a die, then you add to that number whatever space your military card is on. Then there is a bonus the defender gets depending on what they are, city state, barbarian or another player. Anyways after all that you then can spend trade tokens that you have acquired to increase that value even more. Whoever has the higher number at the end wins. And of course there are different rules depending on what you attacked based on what you would do then. It’s complicated, and honestly not fun. There are ZERO combat minis in the game so you basically assume everything you control is militarized as far as control tokens and cities go.
On the plus side I REALLY enjoy the tech track in the game. There is a tech dial that you spin every time you use your technology card to advance your age once you get so far. This allows you to pick from 5 new cards for each age to replace one of your focus row cards. This is really neat and allows each player to evolve differently. There are five cards for each age but you end up only getting to choose 2 for each age during a normal game. So a bit of replayability there during future games as well.
Optimal Player Count
Honestly I didn’t see much difference between the 2 player and the 3 player game. They both played almost identical and at about the same amount of time. However I could see this game taking longer and longer with more people as they sit and take time thinking about their play. So I honestly wouldn’t go over 3 players if it was me. There isn’t a solo mode but it isn’t hard to set up 2 civs and battle it out solo if you so choose.
I like it enough for the things it does well but dislike it in equal measure for the things it does not. This one probably won’t make it out to the table very often honestly as I feel it’s rather dry when compared to a bunch of my other more heavily thematic games. I will be on the lookout for an expansion that adds to it though, more terrain options and actual minis for the military would raise my review for sure.