Let’s talk about Stone Age. I don’t know why I felt the need to clarify that in the title. Stone Age: The Board Game – because next week we’ll totally be reviewing the actual Stone Age…
THE PREMISE OF STONE AGE (THE BOARD GAME…NOT THE ACTUAL STONE AGE…)
Stone Age is a 2-4 player worker placement game, designed by Z-Man Games set in the Stone age. In Stone Age, the players take turns placing members of their tribe to further their civilisation and gain victory points. They do this by gathering resources, breeding, learning to farm, building tools, collecting cards, and building huts.
These are the areas the main board is split up into. There are five basic resources in the game – food, wood, brick, stone, and gold. Food is needed each turn to feed your tribe (one food per meeple) and the rest are used to purchase cards and huts.
As well as that there is space for two meeples on the board (who must be placed together) to breed. This increases the size of your tribe by one meeple. There are also tools (which can be used to augment rolls) and agriculture level, which can be used to augment how much food is needed each turn to sustain the tribe. Only one meeple can be placed on either one of these.
Meeples/tribe members can be placed on cards or huts to reserve them for the resolution phase.
How placement works is very simple. The first player chooses how many meeples/members of his Stone Age (game and age) tribe he/she wants to place. He/she then chooses one location and places the meeples there. For instance, I may decide to place three meeples on wood. Once I have placed those, I will still have members of my tribe left; however, the turn moves on to the next person who chooses how many they want to place and where. When it gets around to me, I can choose any number of my remaining meeples and place them anywhere but wood. This is because I chose it before. It keeps going round until everyone has placed their meeples.
Once everyone has placed all of their meeples, they take it in turns resolving their actions in the player order. This means they gather the resources, spend the resources, and get more resources in the form of cards or by building the huts they reserved during the placement. Players can resolve their actions in any order – so if I placed three meeples in the forest to gather wood, one in the plains to gather food, and one in the tool shed to gather a tool – I may choose to resolve them as the tool first, then the wood, and then the food. This matters because of how each resource is resolved.
Each resource is given a certain value. Wood, for instance, is worth 3. Brick is worth 4. Gold is worth 6 etc. This is important because the way you decide how many resources you gather is by rolling dice equal to the number of meeples you have at that resource. If for instance, I have three meeples gather wood then I will roll three dice. The result is then divided by 3, because the value of wood is three. If my three meeples are on brick, then I would still roll three die, but then the results will be divided by 4. This is because brick is worth 4. You get the idea.
This is where tools are handy. They allow you to augment rolls by tapping them each turn (they are continuous, so at the end of the round you will just reset them and get them for the next turn as well). If you have one tool you will gain a +1. If you have two tools you can use both to get +2. If you have 12 tools, the maximum, then you can get +12 on a go (in theory, although I have only done this once).
Huts and cards are unique objects within the game, and also the way of telling when the game will end. There are four piles of huts, each requiring different resources to buy. Once one of the four piles has been completely bought up then the game ends. Huts are the only way to score points in-game as, once bought, they score instantly. Everything else is in the end game.
Cards have two effects, one instant and one in the end game. The instant ones tend to be resources or points (I lied, there is another way of getting points in-game and that is cards). The end game tends to either be a set collecting bonus (these are technologies you can gather that are worth more the more you have), or multipliers for the number of huts you have, meeples in your tribe, agriculture level, or the number of tools you have. This offers a lot of versatility in how the game can be won.
The amount a card costs is depicted above it, on a tracker. Once a card has been purchased, at the end of the round, all the cards move along so they become cheaper over time.
The game can also end when the cards run out.
Once the game is over, points are counted and the winner is declared Lord of…the Stone Age…or whatever…
QUALITY AND COMPONENTS OF STONE AGE (NOT THE ERA)
Stone Age is a game of two parts. On one side the art is lovely and generally speaking it is a beautiful board to look at. The dice are carved from wood, not plastic. The cards (I believe, although I could stand corrected) are woven, and the cardboard tokens are die cut. All the components are made out of wood, and resemble what they are meant to be. That being said, the First Player marker is one of the worst I have ever seen – namely because it doesn’t stay together.
First player marker aside, Stone Age has some really nice finishing touches. The dice come with a leather dice cup, which really feels the part. The components looking like what they are meant to be is also really nice and I, for one, have spent many a turn trying to stack them whilst waiting for other players to have their turn. I like to think that the tribe, when they discovered tools, also discovered modern art.
Stone Age could have a better box, as the insert is not the best, however, generally speaking, it is a gorgeous game. Kudos to the designer Bernd Brunnhofer for creating such a beautiful game.
WHAT IS IT LIKE PLAYING STONE AGE?
Personally, I love Stone Age. It is, in my opinion, one of the finest worker placement games out there and this is because it gives way to so many strategies. There are so many things that you, as a player, can do each turn that means no two games are ever the same. This is a huge strength of worker placement games in general; however, Stone Age is one of the best.
Recently, I have to admit, I fell into a trap with Stone Age. There are eight or ten multipliers of each type of resource. Doing the math, I realised that tools can get to level 12, whereas agriculture and the size of the tribe, can only get to ten. That gives the tools a potential 24 more points over the rest. I won the game a couple of time before anyone noticed.
Then someone noticed and, in my last game, I suffered. I was blocked from the tools/decent cards mid-game and had put my everything into the tool strategy. That is why, when you look at the above image, I (playing as green) am so far behind.
This goes to show that although there are many strategies to the game, it is not wise to choose just one and stick with it.
That being said, and life lesson aside, Stone Age is great fun. It is competitive, and it is full on strategy at times, but it is worth doing. There are a few elements of luck, like which cards come out and how the die roll, but generally speaking victory is in the hands of the player. This makes it an incredibly rewarding game.
VERDICT FOR STONE AGE
It is easy to draw comparisons between Stone Age and Lords of Waterdeep as they are very similar games; that being said, both are, in my opinion, worth playing. Lords of Waterdeep has a much stronger theme; however, it could be argued that Stone Age has more strategy. It is harder, but arguably just as fun.
I would recommend Stone Age as a great entry-level Worker Placement game as well, just don’t play it against anyone who plays a lot, as less experienced players may get their dignity handed to them.
Stone Age is a great game everyone should play.
So have you played Stone Age? What do you think of the game? Let me know in the comments below.