DriveThruRPG and DMsGuild (same corporate parent) publish the number of their products that sell at different “metal tiers”. For instance, DriveThruRPG has had 10,719 products (as of today) sell 50 to 99 copies (Copper tier), compared to 1,792 products at that level for DMsGuild.
Extrapolating from these, you find that 72% of DriveThruRPG
products haven’t even sold 50 copies, and 90% of DMsGuild products haven’t
either. So if you’re looking for a quick market forecast for the RPG product
you’re planning to sell through these channels, “under 50” is a good estimate
(probably “under 10”).
It’s good to be the aggregator, though: DriveThruRPG has sold perhaps 8.8 million products, while DMsGuild has sold perhaps 1.5 million. (Those estimates will be off by an order of magnitude if non-metal products sell more than 4 copies apiece – my best guess, averaged across the two sites.)
Products per Tier
Products per Tier
Note: Thanks to Tory for pointing out that the thresholds are off by 1. Minor effect on the math. Can’t trust everything you read! 😉
OK, so here’s a system that’s Old School and evocative of every one of these: Bardic Voice, Luck, Psychic Ability, Smell, Social Standing, and Power. (Plus Strength, Intelligence, and Dexterity – of course.) Clearly it’s a game about singing, psionic ants.
While still following Matt Shea’s advice, instead of
“Scenes”, I’ve relabeled that section in my notes
“Situations”. Here’s a good example of why.
Last night my PCs encountered a band of 19 orcs: I had
prepped interesting terrain for a battle or a staged retreat, plus I had
written a sentence about the leader’s motivation. The players could engage with
this situation in any of the Three Pillars
of roleplaying: exploration, social, or combat.
One of the PCs had ended up in prison at the end of the
prior session (he had been possessed by a ghost and then, possessed, tried to
commit regicide). So his player introduced a new PC, whom I knew nothing about
beforehand: a 16-charisma dragonborn archeologist.
Heck, I didn’t even know there were dragonborn in this
That provided me with a good reminder that roleplaying is
co-creation between players and the DM, even in a homebrew setting.
While I never would have expected an archeologist, the overall
campaign arc is about exploring ancient ruins to learn why the empire fell, so
that was a good call on the player’s part.
As mentioned, an hour or two into play, 19 orcs appear on
the horizon. Selma, our naïve half-orc PC, wants to approach the orcs but gets
talked out of it. The dragonborn player, whose regular PC has by now been broken
out of prison, decides to make a point of how evil the orcs are and sacrifice
his new character by marching him off to the orcs all alone.
Off the dragonborn goes. But he rolls a 24 on a Persuasion
All I knew about the orc leader, besides his name, Jomongen,
was that it was his motivation to study the old empire to establish a new one. So
now Jomongen wants to bring the architect back to his citadel to explain his
land’s role in the old empire!
With this unexpected new ally, suddenly secrets and clues
(again from Sly Flourish’s guide for session prep) now end up being volunteered
by their new orc ally instead of discovered in other ways!
And I accidentally have the orc leader talk about the
dragonborn’s tail, so now dragonborn have tails in this world. (That’s canon
So, yeah. The DM’s job is to provide *situations*. The
players’ decisions will create the scenes.
As with T&T, I had attributes: ST (Strength), DX (Dexterity), and CN (Constitution, used for hit points). But I skipped LK (Luck) and CH (Charisma), and I used D&D’s WS (Wisdom) instead of T&T’s IQ (Intelligence). Like T&T, and unlike D&D, attributes could increase: in my case, quickly, after every monster, rolling three dice and if the total exceeds an attribute you can increase that attribute; if it doesn’t exceed any attribute, take that amount in gold instead. Powerful characters would gain wealth, while weaker characters would gain power. Unlike in T&T, attributes couldn’t increase past 18, though.
Combat was different. As with T&T, monsters had one number (this MR was based on how deep and how far you were in the dungeon), which was used for all their attributes (CN=3*MR, ST=3*MR, etc.). But missile attacks (F for FIRE, using DX plus a bonus for level deep) lost effectiveness after the first round, melee attacks (A for ATTACK, using ST) quickly lost effectiveness during an encounter, and spell attacks (C for CAST SPELL, using WS) gradually lost effectiveness. If you rolled under your attribute score (on 3 dice), you doubled your result, so better attributes minimized your downside. Your result was compared to the monster’s, and the difference was the damage and determined who it was dealt to (a difference of 0 harmed no one). After killing a monster, you could heal up to the monster’s level, providing the incentive for attacking tougher monsters.
Saving rolls were different too: they were done on three dice instead of two, with no cascading rolls in case of doubles. You had to roll under your attribute to succeed. A wisdom saving roll is needed when looking for traps, and a dexterity saving roll when jumping away from triggered traps or for parrying an attack when fleeing a monster.
A last shout-out to T&T: the troll was the toughest monster!
The Pocket Computer would only display 24 characters at a
time. After a PRINT statement, you’d hit a key to see the next PRINT statement.
The Pocket Computer had a Tiny BASIC that lacked the ELSE statement (a common omission), but also RND, DATA, READ, and RESTORE. However, unlike TRS-80 Level I BASIC (my first programming language), which only had two string variables (up to 16 characters each), the PC-1 had 26 string variables of 7 characters each – sort of. They were actually an overlay over the 26 numeric variables: if you used A$, you couldn’t use A (numeric variable), and so forth. Also the array A() would alias these variables: A(1) was the same as A, A(2) was B, etc.
The PC-1 only had 1,425 bytes of RAM available for
programming, and I must have hit that limit because my TRS-80 Level II BASIC
listing had longer text descriptions and an additional command.
The goal is to collect the most gold. Commands:
Attack with a sword (uses ST)
Cast spell (uses WS)
Fire missile (uses DX)
Traps? (detects a trap in an empty room using
Inventory (shows your attributes)
You can play Tunnels & Traps with Joshua Bell’s great Applesoft BASIC emulator. Copy and paste the following code, modified a bit to work there:
1 DIM A(26):GOTO 7
3 D=0:FOR I=1TO 3:R=23*R:R=R-32767*INT(R/32767):D=D+R-6*INT(R/6)+1:NEXT :RETURN
5 PRINT "ST"; S; " DX"; F; " WS"; W; " CN"; C; " GD"; G:RETURN
6 GOTO 30
7 PRINT "TUNNELS & TRAPS":INPUT "EXPLORE TUNNEL #?";N:R=N
8 GOSUB 3:S=D:GOSUB 3:F=D:GOSUB 3:W=D:GOSUB 3:C=D:G=0:GOSUB 5
9 PRINT:INPUT "COMMAND?";A$:GOSUB 3:GOSUB 10:GOTO 9
10 IF A$="A" THEN T=S-E:PRINT "SWORD";:GOTO 76
12 IF A$="C" THEN T=W-E/3:PRINT "SPELL";:GOTO 76
13 IF A$="D" THEN Z=Z-1:GOTO 6
14 IF A$="E" THEN X=X+1:GOTO 6
15 IF A$="F" THEN T=(F+L)*(E=0):PRINT "ARROW";:GOTO 76
18 IF A$="I" GOTO 5
20 IF A$="N" THEN Y=Y-1:GOTO 6
22 IF A$="S" THEN Y=Y+1:GOTO 6
23 IF A$="T" THEN T=W:GOTO 62
24 IF A$="U" THEN Z=Z+1:GOTO 6
26 IF A$="W" THEN X=X-1:GOTO 6
28 PRINT "NOR SOU EAST WEST UP DN":PRINT "ATTK CAST FIRE INV TRPS?":RETURN
30 IF M<0THEN GOSUB 62
31 IF M>0THEN A$="X":PRINT "PARRY";:T=W:GOSUB 80
32 L=INT((ABS(X)+ABS(Y)+3*ABS(Z))/3)+1:M=0:GOSUB 3:IF D>7 THEN M=L:REM
38 IF D<5 THEN PRINT "TRAP";:T=F:M=-L
40 IF M=0 THEN PRINT "NOTHING";
41 IF D<7 THEN M=-L
42 IF M=1 THEN PRINT "IMP";
44 IF M=2 THEN PRINT "KOBOLD";
46 IF M=3 THEN PRINT "GOBLIN";
48 IF M=4 THEN PRINT "HOBGOBLIN";
50 IF M=5 THEN PRINT "ORC";
52 IF M=6 THEN PRINT "HALFORC";
54 IF M=7 THEN PRINT "OGRE";
56 IF M>7 THEN PRINT "TROLL";
58 PRINT " HERE!"
60 IF D>4 THEN RETURN
62 GOSUB 3:IF (D<T)AND(M<0) THEN PRINT "YOU JUST ESCAPE A TRAP!":M=0:RETURN
64 IF M>=0 THEN PRINT "NO TRAP DETECTED.":RETURN
66 GOSUB 3:IF A$="T"THEN D=INT(D/2)
68 IF D>L THEN D=L
70 IF D>C THEN D=C-1
72 C=C-D:PRINT "A TRAP CAUSED ";D;" DAMAGE.":RETURN
76 E=E+1:IF M<=0 THEN PRINT "S ARE USELESS HERE!":RETURN
78 GOSUB 3:IF D<T THEN D=D+D
80 P=D:GOSUB 3:IF D<L*2 THEN D=D+D
82 IF P>=D AND A$<>"X" THEN M=M-(P-D)/3:PRINT " HIT FOR ";P-D;" DAMAGE."
83 IF P>=D AND A$="X" THEN PRINT " SUCCEEDED."
84 IF P<D THEN C=C+P-D:PRINT " MISSED.":PRINT "YOU TOOK ";D-P;" DAMAGE."
86 IF C<1 THEN PRINT "YOU DIED IN TUNNEL ";N;"!":GOSUB 5:PRINT:END
88 IF M>0 THEN RETURN
90 PRINT "YOU KILLED IT!":M=0:E=0
91 GOSUB 3:PRINT "ROLL OF ";D;": ";:IF C<L THEN C=L:IF C>18 THEN C=18
92 IF (D<=S)AND(D<=F)AND(D<=W)THEN G=G+D:PRINT "GOLD!":GOTO 5
94 IF (S>=F)AND(S>=W)THEN T=19:U=23:V=6:IF (F>=W)THEN U=6: V=23
95 IF (F>S)AND(F>=W)THEN T=6:U=23:V=19:IF (S>=W)THEN U=19: V=23
96 IF (W>S)AND(W>F)THEN T=23:U=6:V=19:IF (S>=F)THEN U=19: V=6
97 IF D>A(T)THEN GOTO 195
98 IF D>A(U)THEN T=U:GOTO 195
195 IF (T=6)THEN F=F+1:PRINT "DEXTERITY!":GOTO 5
196 IF (T=19)THEN S=S+1:PRINT "STRENGTH!":GOTO 5
197 IF (T=23)THEN W=W+1:PRINT "WISDOM!":GOTO 5
198 GOTO 5
And below is the PC-1 source code. You’ll have to forgive the lack of comments. There wasn’t sufficient memory to have any! And it is spaghetti code, inspired by assembly language: the common subroutines had one-digit line numbers that jumped down because every byte counted, and RETURN took less space than GOTO 9. The whole thing later got much further developed in the comparative luxury of 16KB RAM on the TRS-80 Model I Level 2. But that’s a post for another day.
When I learnt Rick Loomis passed away, I pulled out my copy of his Buffalo Castle, the first solitaire RPG adventure. I played a lot more solitaire RPGs than in-person, and I have Rick to thank for that. (I met Rick once, at a convention, of course.) You can play along with me:
You’ll need Tunnels & Trolls to play. I recommend 1st Edition, because Rick originally sold Ken’s 100 copies from the ASU copy shop, and it’s actually a love letter from @Trollgodfather (Ken St. Andre, the designer of Tunnels & Trolls) to a group of friends who made up the game together. Plus, go Sun Devils!
Play along! I created a character. Key thing to note when you do: “Constitution” is what you will probably think of as health or hp. “Hit points” in T&T are for each round of combat: “The hit point total is the sum of a characters [sic] dice roll plus whatever adds may be coming to him.”
On my first game, I went through the left door, and I tried to sweet-talk my way past the troll (spoiler!), only to have him kill me in one blow.
On my second game (same character), I went through the center door, was teleported to the troll (1 out of 12 paths!), to be killed in one blow after I missed my saving roll by 1. (“Saving rolls are made with 2 dice. Doubles add and roll over so that you need not give up hope.”)
On my third game, I went through the rightmost door, fell into a pit, and crawled out to be rewarded with “You have entered room number six.” I drank from a fountain and lost 2 charisma. I then failed my saving roll twice and got: “The walls smash you flat. Sorry about that!”
Yeah, so this was like a 1970s arcade game. You’d just
expect to die a lot and have to puzzle your way through. This reminds me of a
BASIC or FORTRAN IV program, which is not surprising as Rick claimed to be the
first person to buy a computer just to play games!
I eventually came up with a strategy, bought different
weapons, and won!
So celebrate the life of Rick Loomis by playing this
pioneering game and returning, momentarily, to what gaming was like in 1976.
A Saltmarsh merchant says his woodcutter partner, Concisor Maplesky, hasn’t been heard from in a month. The merchant needs the party to find out what happened to the woodcutter and to ship two masts down Kingfisher River. He’ll pay 100 gp per player. He provides a boat to go upstream and a map showing which tributaries to traverse to reach the logging camp at Flicker Creek.
My players’ characters are visiting a village smithy, so I decided the local bard will sing this poem as they approach (then ask them for money!). Since our homebrew campaign world is set in Stone Age Eurasia, I changed the references to Christ and Sunday worship. My edited words are in italics. (With apologies to Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.)
The Village Blacksmith
UNDER a spreading chestnut tree The village smithy stands; The smith, a mighty man is he, With large and sinewy hands; And the muscles of his brawny arms Are strong as iron bands.
His hair is crisp, and black, and long, His face is like the tan; His brow is wet with honest sweat, He earns whate’er he can, And looks the whole world in the face, For he owes not any man.
Week in, week out, from morn till night, You can hear his bellows blow; You can hear him swing his heavy sledge With measured beat and slow, Like a cleric ringing the village bell, When the evening sun is low.
And children coming home from toil Look in at the open door; They love to see the flaming forge, And hear the bellows roar, And watch the burning sparks that fly Like chaff from a threshing-floor.
He goes each tenday to the shrine, And sits among his boys; He hears the cleric pray and preach, He hears his daughter’s voice, Singing in the village choir, And it makes his heart rejoice.
It sounds to him like her mother’s voice, Singing in paradise! He needs must think of her once more, How in the grave she lies; And with his hard, rough hand he wipes A tear out of his eyes.
Toiling,—rejoicing,—sorrowing, Onward through life he goes; Each morning sees some task begin, Each evening sees it close; Something attempted, something done, Has earned a night’s repose.
Thanks, thanks to thee, my worthy friend, For the lesson thou hast taught! Thus at the flaming forge of life Our fortunes must be wrought; Thus on its sounding anvil shaped Each burning deed and thought!
I ran a Session
Zero on Friday for our new homebrew campaign. We had just wrapped up a
41-session, open-table campaign set in Melvaunt in Forgotten Realms, and this
time we’re doing a homebrew, closed-table campaign. Every group’s Session Zero
has different things to cover, but here’s what we found useful.
The questions I asked to better tailor this campaign:
What was your favorite moment from the last campaign? Least favorite?
What did you like in general about the last campaign? What did you dislike?
Do you want to play one character over the new campaign or play multiple characters?
Should we allow players to be resurrected or not?
Do you like creating maps?
Do you like codes and ciphers?
What kind of records are you as a team going to keep about the world and your adventures?
What types of monsters would you like to encounter?
How would you feel about a session with no combat?
How can we speed up combat? [We have 7 players, so I feel like it can bog down, though not every player felt that way.]
Introduction to any house rules. For instance:
For a player who is not present during a session, their character is assumed to be present and along for the ride but not contributing much. An absent player’s character cannot be killed.
At the end of a session, the players reach consensus on where they want to go the next session. [A complaint was how long it took them to decide which clue/quest to follow at the start of a session.]
While the DM’s guide says a permanent magic item every five levels, we are going to have some different items that come along more often.
Everyone rolls for initiative (including me as DM for monsters). High roll goes first, then combat proceeds in clockwise order around the table.
Players can postpone their turn if they are not ready. [We were already doing this.]
If the AC is obvious (humanoid wearing armor), I’ll tell the players it. Everyone will roll d20 and damage die together, ignoring damage die if they didn’t hit.
I’m going to provide better feedback into the declining health of the opponents.
Discussion of how the
world differs from Forgotten Realms or other player expectations. In my case:
There’s a shop with common magic items only, but anything rarer – even uncommon – will require tracking rumors and legends to find.
Rather than copper, silver, electrum, gold, and platinum pieces, the lands use electrum pieces universally, though their home city is unique in that it has copper pennies too. The electrum pieces are the only reminders of the wider world of the vanished empire: which city-states used the minotaur coins, the winged horse, and the lion?
After much discussion of character races and classes, I had every player tell us about their character. I had already encouraged them to think of a high concept and troubled aspect of their character’s background. Then also had to tell us how their character knows the character of the player to their right.
I’ve already tweaked the encounter tables based on what I learnt
from the session, and I have changed some of the clues and potential story
lines. For instance, while one of our past players loved riddles and ciphers,
that wasn’t something any of the current players wanted much of, so that series
of clues is being revamped.
I believe the Session Zero is going to pave the way for another
great 40-session campaign.
This represents the 129,098 campaigns created over the lifetime of the software (12 years, as it was created in 2007). As a result, you’ll see Pathfinder in second place at 18% of campaigns, due to its historic strength: it is doubtful that 18% of campaigns played today are in Pathfinder, given the loss of players to D&D 5e and the release of Pathfinder Second Edition.
D&D, across its editions, represents 47% of these Obsidian
The Top 10 systems that aren’t D&D are:
Pathfinder RPG (17.66%)
Savage Worlds (2.40%)
Fate RPG (1.88%)
World of Darkness (1.83%)
Star Wars: Edge of the Empire (1.80%)
Call of Cthulhu (0.98%)
Vampire: The Masquerade (0.85%)
Mutants and Masterminds (0.72%)
GURPS 4th Edition (0.70%) (1.25% if you add in earlier GURPS editions)
Players: 2-4 (2-5 with expansion, Cults & Culture)
Time: 90-180 minutes
Times played: 10, with purchased copy
I missed The
Golden Ages by Luigi Ferrini when it came out in 2014, among the thousands of
games that came out that year. I stumbled across it in reviews of Sid Meier’s Civilization: New Dawn among players who said they preferred it. Ten
plays later, I can see how it compares favorably.
In most civilization
games, any hidden elements of the board are explored rather quickly (e.g., Clash of
Cultures) or the board starts out as fully visible (the first and third
board games based on Sid Meier’s Civilization series of video games). A
standout feature of The Golden Ages is how it handles exploration. Like Nations, The Golden Ages span four ages. You must explore at the
start of each of the four ages, and get one tile: a 3 spot L-shaped tile the
first age, then a 2-spot tile in subsequent ages. This enforces a pacing
throughout the game of gradually exploring the world, a pacing that seems much
more thematic than other games’ approach to this.
One element that
did initially put me off was that the map is actually the world map, randomized;
you could put together the actual world as a puzzle. In fact, twice I picked up
the game at my FLGS and put it back because of this. But the style of the map
doesn’t affect gameplay and has grown on me.
After placing your
tile at the start of each age, you decide where to place your capital (in ages
2 through 4, you can opt to leave it where it was the prior age). Like Vinci or History of the
World rather than most other civ games, you will play multiple
civilizations over the course of the game. Here too you can decide, 10 of the 25
civilizations only give you one-time bonuses (such as a free thematic tech,
e.g., Writing for Phoenicia) but most give you lasting abilities (Rome lets you
take a building without an action, and Roman players often stick with Rome for
more than one age).
Each age will
comprise 4 or more turns. Each turn you can choose from 8 available actions, 4
having to do with colonists (you have 3 colonist meeples each age) and 4 other
actions. Meeple actions:
Artist – Remove an upright colonist from the map and place in the Agora (a separate card) for 3 victory points.
Builder – Remove an upright colonist from the map and place it in the Agora and select a Building from the marketplace (which contains 1 Building per player) and add it to your playing card.
Explorer – You may move as many spaces as your technology allows (one at the beginning, two with Carriage, three with Rail, anywhere with Flight). If no opposing city is there, you may build a city (place a cube) and collect income (1 per cube placed to start, 1 per Game resource). Place your colonist flat.
Soldier – You may move as many spaces as your technology track allows. If you end in a square with a competitor, you may pay to attack. The game limits military from dominating; you may attack only 4 times, paying an escalating cost each time: 3, 5, 8, and 12 gold. The outcome is certain (the attacker always wins) but the amount of VP to be gained is variable – you draw a Glory token which will range in value from 2 to 6 VP (kept hidden from other players). After the attack, place your colonist flat. (See the designer diary for more on this design.)
The colonists give
the game a strong worker-placement vibe, though the innovation here is that
workers are limited by their geographic position on the board. Moving to the
Agora as an Artist or Builder becomes a way to return workers to the capital,
so that you can move them with the capital in a future turn.
The other 4
actions are limited by money or cards rather than by workers (colonists):
single technology, provided you have its prerequisites (to the left of it in
its row on your player card). The final tech in each row gives you an immediate
VP bonus. Many early techs provide you an extra cube (so that you can continue
to found cities). At the end of the game, techs in the first column provide 0
VPs, the second column 1 VP, the third 2 VP, and the fourth 4 VP.
Wonder and take its immediate effect, if any (marked with a lightning bolt).
Wonders in and of themselves aren’t worth VPs, though two cards provide VPs per
a building or Wonder for its effect, turning the card upside down. Buildings and
Wonders provide discounts on tech or provide money or VP for certain conditions
(e.g., Library provides a discount of 2 when buying a tech, and Granary provides
1 gold for each of your upright colonists). Effects can be used one an age; at
the start of the next age, all will be turned face-side up.
a Golden Age is the unique mechanic. Once you have played all three of your
colonists, you can declare a Golden Age. You choose which of the remaining History’s
Judgment cards will provide VP at the end of the era (five are randomly drawn
at the start of the game), trying to choose one that benefits you disproportionately
from your opponents. You flip your city wooden column upside down so that its
2-gold sticker is on top. If everyone else on their turn declares a Golden Age,
the age ends; if anyone else takes a different action, then you will collect 2
gold pieces that turn. You will continue to collect this bonus until all
players declare a Golden Age. At the end of the game, the last Age provides
everyone a single turn before ending the game, much to other players’
traditional civ games, your economy is not powered by the resources controlled
but by the resources you grab each turn (think of the need to attack each turn
in Risk in order to
gain a card): controlled resources are instead eligible for VPs. . This
motivates you to constantly expand. Resources include game (animals), wheat, rock
(minerals), and gems. For instance, you start the game with the technology
Hunting, which lets you take 1 Gold every time you take control of a region
with game. Metallurgy will provide 1 Gold per rock, Engineering obsoletes
Metallurgy and provides 3 Gold per rock, and Computer Science provides 2 VP per
rock you control when you discover it (silicon, I assume). Agriculture,
Medicine, and Genetics provide corresponding abilities for wheat. Gems are a
bit different: first, in a nice bit of design, there are no gems on the map to
start the game; the second-level tech Currency provides 2 Gold per gem
controlled, Economy 4 Gold, and Rocketry (on a different tech tree) 3 VP for
gem. Gems become something to fight over (though one player found it unthematic
that gems aren’t worth anything without a tech).
I typically prefer
civ games where military comes in at the end, as the map tightens; here, there
are good early cases for military, due to civ and Wonder powers. In one game, I
lost by a huge amount after misjudging the military option: with each
subsequent attack costing more, I didn’t have the finances to carry my plan
through to completion. The movement/military tech branch doesn’t affect battle
outcomes, which seems very unthematic; in another game, where I had
concentrated on wonders, I defeated two neighbors with flight while I hadn’t
invented the wagon yet (guerilla warriors, I suppose).
The randomness of
the History’s Judgment cards and your 4 Civilization cards and your Future
Technology card provides high variability from game to game while giving you an
ability to strategize. As one of my sons observed, these cards really force you
to play differently from game to game. The game has an expansion pack, Cults
& Culture, and a promo pack of additional Wonders is available. So far
I’ve only used the expansion to play 5, adding no new rules; it may provide
more replayability for games with two players.
The Golden Age action
in itself is a fascinating mechanic. For one, it keeps the game from getting
bogged down; while you will have expanded your civilization’s range of possible
actions (through Buildings and Wonders and amassing gold), you typically won’t
want to use all of those actions. One play was won by a player who always
declared the Golden Age first, carefully choosing History’s Judgement. In one
of my plays, I choose to launch attack after attack after the Golden Age was
declared; everyone else pulled in 2 gold pieces per turn, but I amassed Glory
so that I could buy the Porcelain Tower wonder. (I won that game, but I’ve lost
the last 5 times!)
So how does The
Golden Ages compare to Sid
Meier’s Civilization: A New Dawn? My youngest son (12 years old) loves New
Dawn and vastly prefers it, because it is highly evocative of Civ 6, his
favorite video game at the moment. My eldest son (25 years old, for whom I got
New Dawn as a Christmas present) likes the replayability of The Golden Ages. Because
the Golden Ages uses VPs, there seems to be more varied ways of winning, where
New Dawn is a race to achieve 3 out of 6 objectives. New Dawn is a game of
optimization around its focus row. The Golden Ages is a game of constraints and
I’ve played 5
times with 2 players, once with three, and twice with four and five players.
The BGG community says the sweet spot is 3-4 players, which seems right to me. With
5 players, the game still played in under 3 hours (after rules explanation). Even
better, in one 5-player game, the first and second-placed players both took
completely different strategies: the winner stayed as Rome the whole game and
built lots of buildings; the runner up built no buildings but set the pace for
each turn and declared every Golden Age but the last. (I came in third.)
As a Luddite who
still prefers Vinci to Small World,
and who would always suggest Vinci to someone who suggested we play Risk, I
find The Golden Ages to be much more thematic than Vinci and with much less
downtime. Since it minimizes combat (to no more than 4 attacks per player), The
Golden Ages may displace Vinci altogether for me. It’s hard to do a civ-lite
well; the inherent contradiction in the form is that the first Civilization board
game (Avalon Hill) and the Civilization video games are epic affairs, and
light board games are un-epic. The Golden Ages squares this contradiction far
better than most civ lites.
This game is for you
enjoy civilization games.
prefer VP-driven games to 4X games.
don’t mind some military combat, but don’t want to play a wargame.
This game is not
for you if:
dislike games with military conflict. It’s meaner than 7 Wonders, as
you lose regions you settled and resources you controlled, while never
devolving into a straight-out wargame like History of the World or Vinci.
(Though one woman in my game group who typically avoids more conflict-oriented games
didn’t find the military overpowering, even after my sneak attack on her.)
need more chrome than wooden cubes and cylinders. (Try Clash of Cultures!)
need strong theme. One of our players initially derided it as too abstract,
before warming to it. Some on BGG find the art off-putting and say that the
lack of English on the cards takes them out of the theme. (Try Kevin Wilson’s version of Sid