When I was growing up, I always enjoyed attempting to delve into a long campaign of Risk. My family would never really play with me as it was a long-winded game that required careful strategy, excellent placement of troops, and a little bit of luck. The game could take so long that it would be days before a single game without a winning parameter could be put into place.
Thankfully, games have evolved beyond a nearly unwinnable condition into a playable session with the same feeling of strategy and luck. When you start to expand your board game horizons, you learn several new terms when relating to board games. One of the terms I learned in recent years is, “worker placement games.”
In Monopoly, you follow a single path around the board. The same goes for Candyland, Life, Sorry, and other family friendly games. Risk, on the other hand, requires a specific placement of your game pieces in order to be successful. Granted, much of the gameplay relies heavily on the luck of the dice, but it still requires careful strategy. The placement of those game pieces and the rewards those pieces reap is known as a worker placement game.
Ahead, I will give a brief description of the game and a few of the mechanics without going into too much detail.
Stone Age falls under the category of worker placement as the entire game revolves around your ability to strategically place your game pieces in the correct spots at the correct times. It is a game for two to four players, can take anywhere between 45-90 minutes, and it is recommended for people aged 13 or older.
It is ancient times, and you are the overseer of a small village of people that have next to nothing to their name. It is your job throughout the game to strategically place your game pieces in different areas on the board with the hopes of advancing your village and scoring the most victory points.
You always start out with five villagers, but there are game mechanics that allow you to have more villagers as the game progresses. At the beginning of a round, the first player (appropriately named the Big Kahuna), places one or more of his or her workers in a spot on the board. The spots are as follows:
*Only one person can play here each round
**Only one person can play on each card available each round
The Field is where you can put your worker to raise your farming. At the end of each round, you have to feed one food to each villager in your village. By playing at the Field, you garner +1 food generation at the end of each round for every level of farming you have.
The Hut is for making new villagers. It requires you to place two workers here instead of one, and at the end of the round, you’ll receive an extra villager for placement in future rounds, up to a maximum of ten total villagers.
The Tool Maker gives you a tool to better further the technology of your village. During the game, whenever you have to roll dice, you can choose to use your tool (+1 to any dice roll for each tool level you achieve throughout the game) once per round.
The Hunting Grounds are where you send your villagers if you need more food. You’ll roll one dice for each villager placed here, and using a simple math calculation included in the rules and on your player scorecard, you’ll figure out how much food you can add to your village.
Four total spots exist on the board for gathering materials: forest, clay mound, quarry, and river. You receive wood from the forest, brick from the clay mound, stone from the quarry, and gold from the river. These materials will be needed to purchase building tiles and civilization cards throughout the game. Each material in respective order listed above becomes more and more difficult to receive as your dice rolls will need to be higher to gain these materials.
These cards give you special bonuses when you purchase them (purchased by using the aforementioned gathered materials). Some of the cards will give you cultural symbols, which when calculated at the end of the game give you extra points. Others give you extra resources or score points based on how many villagers you have, how many levels of farming you have, and so on.
These cards give huge bonuses to your point total. For flavor, these buildings are expanding your village to make it a more thriving township. Each building costs something different and gives you points based on the type of resources you use to pay for it.
Each person alternates putting villagers onto the board in the various spaces. Once all villagers are placed, each person, starting with the Big Kahuna, resolves all of the spaces on the board in whatever order he or she chooses. As soon as each person resolves all of their villagers, you return the villagers from the board back to the respective scorecard, feed the villagers by paying one food per villager, and the Big Kahuna passes to the next player on the left.
A stack of Building Tiles per player is on the board, and when one of the stacks is completely empty, that signals the end of the game. Each stack only contains seven buildings, so an end to the game is always in sight. Once the final stack empties, everybody resolves their final villagers, and the total points from all sources are calculated. The person with the most points wins the game!
Stone Age is not a high octane type of game where every single play and move could drastically change the final outcome. Instead, it’s a slow, methodical game that requires careful planning and an evolving strategy throughout. While that might not be some people’s cup of tea, it is definitely a game that many people can play and enjoy. The strategy is deep, the planning is meticulous, and every move will have you questioning whether it was the right one to make.
Stone Age is also not the type of game that we can just pick up any time we’re in the mood to play a game. We have to be in a very specific kind of mood, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the game isn’t any less fun than other games. Stone Age is simply a specific type of game for a specific mood at a specific time.
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