Thursday, June 04, 2009

Over My Dead Body

I was asked the other evening, during a game of the painfully tedious Cavum, whether I'd ever played Through the Ages. No, I haven't, and I don't intend to, but I decided to do some investigation to solidify my reasons. The first thing I discovered was that I totally had it confused with Age of Empires III, an Ameritrash game I have no interest in whatsoever. So, I had even more reason to do the research.

The first place to look is the number of players and playing time. It's 2-4 players, which sounds reasonable. A minimum of 2 players suggests to me that it's not a negotiation game, which is good news to me. A maximum of 4 means that I'll only be waiting for 3 other players between my turns. However the playing time is 4 hours. This rings an alarm bell - what the hell is happening for 4 hours? I don't like long games, so at this point I'm looking for clues that I'll dislike Through the Ages for the same reason as I'll dislike other long games, so I go to the last pages of the user comments.

Miklos Kuti says "3 player game, from start to finish with rules explanation took 7 hours". OK, I've already decided I will never ever play this game. Chris Farrell (who is not me) says "This is a totally linear game in which all you can do when it's not your turn is sit around and wait. There is no player interaction to speak of. And that downtime can get extreme, especially late when players have many actions." Chris Darden says : "It's like Race for the Galaxy except not as elegant, the turns take 10x longer, and you can target specific people to hurt their progress. Not only can you target people, but the opportunity exists to dogpile on people (with person after person attacking the same player on the same turn). This will not only take the leader down a notch, but knock him out for a good, long time."

Oh good, so there's screwage as well! There's nothing that makes me more miserable than concentrating on a game for hours to then be screwed over by some jealous arsehole. Maybe next time they make their bed I could come shit in it... it is completely beyond me what's fun about a game like that. So, the only way I'll be playing Through the Ages is posthumously. I guess that means CyberKev will have to organise the time and place...


Stewart said...

Don't hold back John, tell us how you really feel ;-)

ekted said...

The people at the bottom of the ratings, especially of a game this complex, tend to have a poor understanding of it. Through the Ages is my favorite game of all time, even pushing my prior favorites (Ra and Taj Mahal) down a little bit. I regularly play a 2p game in 2 hours. Yes, your first full learning game will take 5-6. If you get a chance to watch a game in progess, and the players are good enough to explain the actions taking place, you might be pleasantly surprised.

Iain Cheyne said...

Age of Empires III is not an Ameritrash game. It is an area control game with worker placement mechanics. I'm not crazy about it, but it's definitely a euro.

gregor said...

So on the one hand there's no interaction and on the other hand there's screwage? And you're basing your decision on this?

I've only played a basic game of it so far, but it seems more like roads and boats-- keeping a complex plan in mind to make the optimum use of production. I would have thought it right up your alley.

Friendless said...

Gregor, if the only interaction is screwage then I particularly don't want to play it.

Although this article was about Through the Ages, it actually applies to many long and complex games - Caylus, Railroad Tycoon, BSG and even Cavum. I've tried all of those and I wasn't pleasantly surprised, I was resentful that I'd wasted so much time on such a piece of crap. I resolve not to do it any more.

Did I mention the cards look like crap?