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The design is so drum-tight and integrated, it runs circles around any other heavy euro in terms of systems and play. Even though it is essentially an engine-builder/resource management game, it feels absolutely nothing like any of the other games that drive down the same road. TtA hits the sweet spot of tactics-meets-strategy, as you have to pivot effectively based on what the card row gives you and what your opponents are doing. And yet, core strategies drive individual players' play styles which are varying. Top players can adapt to the game state nearly instantly and make decisions that seem puzzling to the uninformed, but are usually just angles you haven't considered yet. Overall the systems are balanced, but there are some cards that don't come in to play very often due to optimal strategies. Age II is particularly wonky with problematic leaders. Napoleon is always useful, no matter what your build looks like. Newton runs the gamut from incredibly strong (if you're short on CAs and high on Science, he's a beast) to useless, and Max is generally good. The other three (Cook/Bach/Shakespeare) are-- in that order-- decreasingly useful and increasingly situational. On the margins, some of the techs need a bit of tweaking, particularly the Age I Blue techs (except Code of Laws, of course), and some non-military Age III techs that are expensive without a lot of time to have them pay off. A lot of these changes are in the works in the forthcoming expansion, from new Leaders and Wonders that can be played in any combination, to a rebalancing of the base game cards. Having said all that, it is still an invigorating gaming experience challenged by no other. It is a game that begs its players to achieve mastery, and yet mastery always feels just out of reach. There is Through the Ages, and then there is everything else. It is the game against which I measure every other game I've ever played.
2016-10-16 - Bought BoardGameWarriors 2017-10-06 - Played the original ~ 200 times so 1st play of this was a bit unexpected with the card changes and all :) However, still a delightful game. Need to explore more!
A difficult game to understand what you are supposed to be doing, but doing it correctly isn't that difficult. Possibly the ultimate balancing act in a board game. It doesn't feel worth the length and fiddlyness of tracking everything. Works better as an app.
Despite being an incredibly long affair, Through the Ages justifies its term. The mechanics are simple and clear, but the implications and interactions of the various mechanics make this game difficult to wield. Balancing military, population growth, and corruption, with the ultimate goal of maximizing culture is incredibly difficult, though equally satisfying. TtA is a game I strive to master, but with each game lasting an hour or so per player, improvement is an epic grind.