Top positive review
159 people found this helpful
great for casual and serious gamers
on October 27, 2008
Over the past decade, a new genre of board game has emerged, largely from Europe. This new category falls between the casual and simple Parker Brothers games and the heavy and serious old school Avalon Hill games. If Monopoly feels like a waste of time dominated by luck, but you aren't interested in dedicating an entire weekend and basement to a giant game with miniature figures, the new "eurogames" might be just the thing for you. Rio Grande is one publisher that targets this niche. Popular and approachable games in this category are "Settlers of Catan", "Carcasonne", "Ticket to Ride", and "Puerto Rico".
Stone Age is an excellent new addition to this field. It's easily the best game I've played in the past few years, and I wouldn't be surprised to see it win several board-game-of-the-year awards. Like other "eurogames", it's not so light as to be dominated by luck or trivial to master; it's strategically deep and compelling, with many different paths to victory. Yet at the same time, it's easy to learn and you can play an entire game in under 2 hours.
Stone Age is particularly well balanced for 4 players, though you can also play with 2 or 3. The 4-player game lasts about 2 hours after you've learned the rules. It's deep enough to be enjoyed by hard-core board game fans, yet simple enough to learn that casual game players will be able to pick it up in a few minutes. Best of all, Stone Age has an excellent design feature that keeps all players actively engaged at all times; gone are the dead times where you wait for 3 other players to take their long turns, and you won't find yourself getting up from the table and asking someone to play for you. (If you want or need to take a break, though, there's a great way to do so; you can simply put all your people out to hunt/gather with minimal loss in strategic advantage.)
The board consists of approximately 15 different locations where workers might be deployed. Some locations give you more resources such as food, wood, and of course, stone. Other locations give you opportunities to spend your resources building huts or advancing your civilization, both of which contribute to your score. A third group of locations contribute to your "infrastructure", so to speak: you can plant crops to ease a food shortage, build tools to make workers more effective, or focus on increasing your population. If it sounds complex, it's not, it's actually done in a very straightforward and easy to understand way. The strategic depth comes in part from a "guns or butter" choice: opportunities are limited, your ability to capitalize on them is limited, and your competitors will also be scrambling to capitalize on those opportunities.
For better or worse, the game does involve luck. Each worker only has a certain probability of achieving his goal. However, luck does not dominate this game, and it's completely up to the player to determine how best to manage the risks and rewards of the game. For instance, you can send multiple workers and they can combine their efforts, plus you can augment your capacity with tools. So, do you send one worker and rely on a good roll, or do you send several to guarantee that you get at least as much of the resource as you require and thus miss out on other opportunities?
I plan to give this game as a gift to multiple people this year. The only problem is, Amazon's current price is close to full retail; I expect better pricing from Amazon.