Sid Meier's Civilization: A New Dawn is a strategy board game in which two to four players act as the rulers of history's most memorable empires. Over the course of the game, players will expand their domains, gain new technologies, and build many of humanity's greatest wonders. In the end, one nation will rise above all others to leave its indelible mark upon history.
This new game presents players with an undiscovered country to conquer, built from beautifully illustrated map tiles. These would-be conquerors construct and populate the map with barbarians, natural resources, and city-states, then formulate their plans for how they will shape this world to their vision. Their exact goals, however, change with each game. Agendas are detailed on victory cards, three of which are drawn during set up. Players race to become the first to accomplish one agenda on each of these victory cards, spreading throughout the world and ensuring their civilization’s place as the greatest world power.
- 2-4 players
- 60-120 minutes playing time
Fans of the ever popular base-building computer games from the 90's will be no stranger to Sid Meier's civilization collection and since then, it has spawned many remakes for different digital platforms. It first ventured onto the board game scene in 2002 and once again in 2010, when Fantasy Flight Games took publishing duties. This new 2017 Fantasy Flight and 2K Games collaboration is designed by James Kniffen and has been reworked with the introduction of a new player focus system. So is it "A New Dawn," or are we back to the dark ages?
The Dawning of an Era
The main factor that separates A New Dawn from its 2010 predecessor is an emphasis on shorter playing time, with an average game taking 1-2 hours instead of the 2-5 for its older counterpart. It caters for 2-4 players with a 14+ age recommendation.
Straight out of the box, the components and artwork stays true to Sid Meier with that old school feel but with fresh revamps in places. With a mixture of plastic tokens as well as cardboard ones, it's a nice balance and looks pleasing once set-up. Be warned though, invest in some plastic grip seal bags to keep the tokens separate as only a few are provided in the box and it helps with faster setup times.
The map is created using hex boards, which seem to be a popular choice with game designers at present and with good reason, allowing multiple ways to build the terrain. There is a suggested layout for your first game outing, but after that you can create any custom map you desire for countless combinations and replay-ability. The set-up time is fast too at roughly 10 minutes, allowing you to pretty much get stuck in straight away.
A big pull for A New Dawn is the player action system. You have five terrain slots with a focus card under each, ranging from the first slot as the weakest to the fifth being strongest. You select an action from a focus card in front of you and once it's played, that card is moved into the first slot and the rest are shuffled up one place.
So, not only are you planning your current move, but trying to get your other card(s) into a more favourable position for next time. A tech dial for each player, when advanced, gives you access to more powerful focus cards to replace existing ones. The end game scenario is triggered when three objectives are completed off three cards randomly selected at the beginning. You're only allowed to fulfil one choice from each card which extends play time.
To aid you in raising a powerful empire, resources scattered around the board will in turn allow you to construct world wonders. These constructs will provide not only bonuses during the game,but will be essential to completing objectives to win too. On top of all this, barbarians are present to derail your plans of domination with there movement and actions determined via an event dial and direction token.
A Bold Move, or Foolish Folly?
Once the map is set out and populated with the relevant resources, cities and barbarians, the wonder deck cards are set-up according to the rules in the book and placed by the board. Each player selects a colour token set and a random leader card which determines your race. They all have there own unique special abilities to aid you and also outline how you need to arrange your focus cards at the start of the game.
Each player's tech dial is put to zero and a capital city is placed on a free star space nearest to each player to act as base camp. City state cards relating to the ones that are in play are put nearby and finally three victory cards are laid out and the game can begin.
The barbarian phase is always the first thing to resolve. An event dial is moved around one slot and, if needed, a dice is thrown to determine the movement direction of the marauders. Any conflict or fallout must be resolved before you can proceed with your card choice.
On your turn you will select a focus card to activate. In order to be able to use the ability, the slot it sits in will determine what type of terrain you can do the said action on. Slot one is grassland, slot two hills, slot three forest, slot four desert and slot five mountains. This is where card placement comes into effect. Not only does the slot number offer greater points for your focus ability the higher it is, but it shows you the land mass options you can carry out the order on, with the current slot and any below it being available.
So, for instance, if you selected slot three, you can use forest squares but also hills and grassland squares too as they are equal or below it in the slot order. Hence why using slot five is the best as is allows you free reign over all terrain types, except water. Your probably thinking 'oh I'll just use slot five every time', but remember that once a card is used in that slot, it then has to go down to its weakest slot in number one.
Knowing where you want certain cards at the right time for maximum impact is crucial. Moving onto the different focus card types you have at your disposal. The five areas are culture, science, economy, industry and military. Culture cards allows you to place down control tokens,which help you expand your territory and claim any resources that might be nearby.
Science allows you to advance your tech dial, which over time will allow you to upgrade your focus cards to stronger replacements. Economy is where you move your caravans into cities and help seize control. Industry is where all your building needs are met, with the choice of building a new city or a world wonder if you have the necessary resources to do so. Finally military allows you to reinforce previously laid control tokens or attack barbarians or a rival player who is within range. Without covering the ins and outs too much, those are the basic components of a turn.
A New Dawn - Is it Civilized or Grass
The big appeal for me with Civilization: A New Dawn was having this style of game that can be played in a good time frame, as some other similar games can feel very content heavy and bog you down, which normally results in endless hours spent hunched over a table for a game session.
As mentioned before, the artwork and design is great, with time and effort being put into making this feel like a tribute to its gaming ancestor from the 90s. Having eight different races to guide through the ages adds variety each time you play and the unique focus card play system is refreshing. The tech dial upgrades give you the sense of improving your choices as you progress too. Once you've grasped the basics, you spend minimal time browsing the rule book looking for clarification on things, so again another plus.
For me, there are a few gripes which become apparent once you have a few games under your belt. Resource tokens are used within the game to buy some bits, but it feels considerably restricted in this area and so it can feel slightly redundant at times as there only really spent on wonders. I'd liked to have seen more emphasis on trade as well, and being able to upgrade focus areas on a slightly more detailed level, rather then just changing a card for a slightly better one.
The barbarian inclusion also falls flat within the game and acts more of an annoyance then a credible threat to your civilization. Limited to moving, attacking and destroying a token or caravan, it just feels like an after thought by the designer. Attacking in general feels sparse, especially in a two-player game and any conflict is resolved via dice and your terrain position, so not much wiggle room to improve your chances of victory.
My final niggle with A New Dawn is the end game conditions. The designer has tried to move away from a traditional 'end game point scoring system', but this game could have really benefited from that in my opinion. You can end a game feeling like you were only just starting to build something special when the objectives are suddenly met by another player and they've automatically won.
This game feels like its more of a introduction to the series to help entice new players in with a more slimmed down and fluid playing experience, but at the same time could alienate true fans of the core game style.
The great thing about this game, I feel, is it has so much scope for future expansions to help fix and improve on some of the lighter areas of the game. If they introduce a trade and resources add on, that addresses one issue. If they upgrade the barbarian influence in another release, that's another one. With the right expansion releases down the line, a custom made game to suit your style and needs is very plausible and would really open the game up to a wider audience,from the casual gamer to more civilization-building veterans.
At this time, A New Dawn sits nicely in the middle, but with the right investment in future developments, it could really flourish.