07 Mar

Through the Ages – The Best non-4X, 4X Game in the World – A Game Designer’s review

Through the Ages, tabletop game coverThrough the Ages is one of my favorite board games of all time. Yes, that is saying a lot – but no matter what new games come out I always come to the point where I’m in the mood for yet another game of Through the Ages.

On the surface Through the Ages is a 4X civilization building game. It’s like Sid Meyer’s Civilization on a board (no, I don’t mean the Sid Meyer’s Civilzation Board Game, I mean the real Civilization, the computer game that’s responsible for more lost sleep than coffee and sex put together). Except that it’s nothing like Civilization, not really.

See, here’s where it gets interesting from a game designer’s standpoint. Through the Ages is a game that manages to take a very bare-bone Eurogame mechanic and infuse it with an amazing amount of theme. I’ve played the game for about eight years now and while I can see what’s going on under the hood the theme still tends to grab me and get me to forget that I’m dealing with numbers and efficiencies (and that makes me lose to my hyper-optimizing, Euro-crazy friends). Read More

13 May

The prime characteristic of gateway games

Duco, a great gateway gameThere’s a prime requirement for gateway games. It’s not that it should look cool, although that helps. It’s not that it should have a high production value, or many dedicated players or easy rules or a small footprint. All of these things help but there’s one thing that beats them all:

A great gateway game should feel familiar. Read More