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Stone Age

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THE BEGINNING OF TIME Life was hard in the early days of human history. Our ancestors were hard workers, but through ingenuity learned to make much of this work easier. Over time, they developed tools to collect resources and develop human civilization. In Stone Age, you take on the role of a human in this bygone era. Beginning with archaic tools, you collect wood, stone, and gold t…
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Awards

Rating

  • Artwork
  • Complexity
  • Replayability
  • Player Interaction
  • Component Quality

You Might Like

  • Worker Placement, resource gathering and dice rolling.
  • Minimal
  • Quick play time.

Might Not Like

  • Some element of luck in the dice rolling.
  • Can a feel solitary at times.
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Description

THE BEGINNING OF TIME
Life was hard in the early days of human history. Our ancestors were hard workers, but through ingenuity learned to make much of this work easier. Over time, they developed tools to collect resources and develop human civilization. In Stone Age, you take on the role of a human in this bygone era. Beginning with archaic tools, you collect wood, stone, and gold to attain higher levels of knowledge and build sturdier structures. With resources being scarce, you must compete for the limited number of spaces on the board that produce them while also gathering food to feed your growing tribe. Through diligence and insight, you can forge your way through the early days of recorded history and build the foundation of human civilization.

CARVE VICTORY IN STONE
In Stone Age, the players live in this time, just as our ancestors did. They collect wood, break stone and wash their gold from the river. They trade freely, expand their village and so achieve new levels of civilization. With a balance of luck and planning, the players compete for food in this pre-historic time.

Players use up to ten tribe members each in three phases. In the first phase, players place their men in regions of the board that they think will benefit them, including the hunt, the trading center, or the quarry. In the second phase, the starting player activates each of their staffed areas in whatever sequence they choose, followed in turn by the other players. In the third phase, players must have enough food available to feed their populations, or they face losing resources or points.

Contents: Rulebook, 1 Game Board, 4 Player Boards, 68 Wooden Resources, 40 Wooden Figures, 8 Markers, 53 Food Tokens, 28 Building Tiles, 18 Tool Tiles, 1 First Player Token, 36 Civilization Cards, 7 Dice, 1 Leather Dice Cup

Life was hard work in the Stone Age. No modern day tools, no scientific advances in farming, food roamed freely and had to be hunted. Tools had to be crafted by hand and manual labour was just a course of life. Welcome to the Stone Age.

Overview

Z-Man Games’ Stone Age is a 2-4 player worker placement, dice rolling game, with a touch of set collection, set in prehistoric times where stone was predominately used to make tools and implements. Players take on a tribe to hunt, gather, craft and build and become the best tribe that they can be.

Stone Age is a great introduction to the work placement genre, the gameplay is silky smooth and easy to teach and learn. It has even be classed as a gateway game by many players and can be enjoyed by gamers and non-gamers alike.

Gameplay

The game is broken down in to 3 simple phases that flow nicely in to each other. There is a central board that contains all the worker placement spots, buildings, civilisation cards and spare resources with every player getting a player board to store their own individual tribes resources, buildings and tools.

The 1st phase involves players, in turn order, placing their workers on the board. There are 10 areas that a player can go visit to do the following actions:

  • Produce Food
  • Produce Wood
  • Produce Brick
  • Produce Stone
  • Produce Gold
  • Construct a building (to give instant VP)
  • Purchase a civilisation card (give instant bonus + end game scoring)
  • Increase agriculture level (reduces the amount of food required)
  • Get a tool
  • Visit the love shack (requires 2 workers, obviously, to generate another worker)

As with the majority of worker placement games there is a limited number of spaces that workers can go to. Food, Wood, Brick, Stone and Gold only have 7 spaces, there are 4 stacks of buildings and cards but only 1 player can go on any 1 building stack or card at a time. The agricultural space, the love hut and the construct tool space only have room for 1 player at any time. However, the food space is unlimited.

The second phase involves actually activating the work placement spots which can be done in any order. For the resource spaces (Food, Wood, Brick, Stone and Gold) the amount of resources received depends on how many workers are present (represented by rolling the corresponding dice), the value of the dice and the value of the resource. For example, 3 workers go to produce brick. 3 dice are rolled for a total of 12. Brick has a value of 4 so 12 divided by 4 equals 3. The player receives 3 bricks.

Buildings are constructed and cards are purchased using the resources gathered. Constructing a building gives you instant victory points and can count to end game scoring depending on the civilisation cards a player has obtained.

Tools can be used to add the tool value to a players dice roll increasing the amount of resources gathered.

The civilisation cards have multiple uses such as, instant resources or victory points or roll a dice for each player and share the resources depending on the pip value. Other cards make up the set collection aspect of the game. There are numerous cultural artefacts and the more different sets you have the more victory points you get at the end of the game (2 different cards = 4 points, 5 different cards = 25 points etc). Other cards give you end game victory point multipliers, for example the total number of farmers a player has on their cards is multiplied by their agricultural level; or the number of builders multiplied by the number of constructed buildings. There are a total of 4 versions of these cards – farmers (coupled with agricultural track), hut builders (coupled with the number of buildings constructed), tool makers (coupled with the number of tools a player has), the shamen (coupled with the total number of tribe members).

At the end of the worker phase all players must feed each member of their tribe 1 food from their supply. For every level on the agriculture track 1 less food is required to be paid. If you can’t feed your tribe 10 victory points are lost.

Play continues this way until all of one stack of buildings is depleted or there are not enough civilisation cards to replenish the board. Victory points are awarded for the players cultural artefacts cards and their technology cards.

Final Thoughts

Stone Age was on my radar for a long time before I actually got hold of a copy. Everywhere seemed to be sold out until I managed to find a copy in a local board game shop. I snapped it up right away and was not disappointed. This is a great introductory game to worker placement but has enough depth to keep gamers entertained. It is not a heavy worker placement game by any stretch of the imagination, if people are looking for that then try the likes of Agricola or Caverna. If people are looking for a light worker placement game that can be played with non-gamers, casual gamers and more serious gamers then you can’t go wrong with Stone Age. The first time I played this with my folks (who are non-gamers but reluctantly get dragged in to games) they purchased a copy straight away and I often receive a picture of them playing it. The rules are simple and easy to understand. The rounds are not overly complicated and the scoring at the end is pretty straightforward.

There’s interesting decisions to be made each turn and a feeling of “press your luck” almost with the worker placement. Do you risk just placing 1 or 2 workers on gold in the hope that you roll high enough. Or do you chuck 4 workers in to the gold pit to increase your chances. Food might be easy to obtain but is 1 worker enough to gather enough food to feed your tribe. The more workers you have the more actions you can do, but the more food they will consume each turn. When to visit the love shack to increase your tribe numbers is balanced with the level a player is on the agricultural track. The technology cards can also give players big bonuses during the game with free resources but also offer big scoring opportunities with cultural artefacts, the Farmers, Tool Makers, Hut Builders and Shamans. There are many ways to score victory points in the game, all of them as viable as each other.

I really enjoy Stone Age and I’m glad that I’ve got a copy of this in my collection. I do own some heavier worker placement games which I also enjoy when I want a more meatier gaming session but still get Stone Age to the table often. It’s a pretty quick playing game as well, I have managed a 4 player game in 1 hour after rules explanation which included 2 new players, both infrequent gamers. I have played this with 2 and 4 players and it scales really well. There are some restrictions to the worker placement spots for a 2-player game that tighten up the board a little. I really enjoy playing Stone Age and am happy that I can play this game with a wide group of people with minimal rules explanation. Highly recommend!

Stone Age is a worker placement game designed by Bernd Brunnhofer and published by Z-Man Games. It is considered a gateway game, meaning it is straightforward to grasp for a non-seasoned board gamer. Although relatively straightforward in terms of rules, it offers a huge amount of fun. This was a huge surprise game for me. The box is hefty, so I was expecting a clunky game with loads of rules and pieces. I was right that there are quite a few pieces to the game, but not as many as the box size suggests. And I was totally wrong about the rules being tricky. Big box equals hard is something I find myself assuming, often wrongly, all the time. Shouldn’t judge a game by its cover, nor its box!

Introduction

This is a “place some workers, get an action” type game. In Stone Age, however, the number of workers you place at a location will determine how powerful that action can be. It dictates the number of dice you get to roll for that resource. For example, five workers would let you roll five dice. The chances of success improve, of course, as the number of dice you roll increases. Dice rolling does add an element of randomness. However, with clever use of the worker numbers as well as building a strong tool engine, you are able to mitigate the effects of Lady Luck.

During Stone Age, you are trying to collect resources to spend on buildings for points. You trade resources for cards that will help you get end-game scoring opportunities. You will also be trying to build up your worker pool, and your tool engine, to help maximise each of your turns. More workers do, however, mean more mouths to feed. The food harvesting part is ever-present in this game. I guess mirroring real life, so pretty thematic.

For me, this game plays quite a bit quicker at two players than the 60-90 minutes printed on the box. This is a big plus for me. Although, if a player has significant analysis paralysis then 60 minutes is reasonable for 2 players.

Get That Box Open

As I said earlier, the box is quite hefty. The set-up is between five and ten minutes. Firstly, put the game board within easy reach of all players. Give each person a player board to go in front of them. Each player picks a colour and places 7 of their workers onto their player board. One token goes onto the zero space on the scoring track. Another token goes onto the zero spot on the harvesting fields track, up the left side of the board. All the remaining workers go into a pool in the middle of the table for later use.

Place the wood, clay, stone, and gold resources into the respective locations along the top of the board. I use small resource holders for these as it speeds up the teardown time. I am a big advocate for the putting away of a game being as quick as humanly possible. Place the food tokens into resource holders within easy reach of everyone. Food will be by far the most used resource in the game.

Shuffle together the civilization card deck. Place this to the right side of the board, in the bottom corner. Then deal four cards onto the four card slots on the board. Shuffle all the cardboard building tiles together to form piles of 7 tiles. Piles should be equal to player count. So, in a two-player game, only 14 building tiles will be used per game. The order of these tiles will heavily influence gameplay styles. I would put this as one of the largest contributors to the variability and replayability of the game.

The last thing left to put on the board is the tool tiles. These are double-sided and either a 1 and a 2 value tile or a 3 and a 4. These need to be separated into two piles and placed in the village section of the board. Now, let’s play!

Put Those Workers To Work

The first player takes the cardboard standee and gets to place as many workers as they decide, or as are allowed, at one location of their choice. Player two then does the same, and so on, before it circles back around to player one.

“But, What Pray, Are the Options?” Options are to either take one of the single worker spots, or place workers at one of the resource locations. Single worker spots include the tool shed to gain a tool tile, the village to get an additional worker for the next round, or the fields to move up the harvest track.

Cards

You could also claim a card with a single worker. The cost of the cards is 1, 2, 3, or 4 resources depending on where the card is placed in the “market”. The market is dynamic, so the price of a card may decrease from round to round if it is not bought. These cards are, in my opinion, super powerful, and are not to be snoozed on. They create your ability to score end-game points. There is also an immediate benefit associated with gaining each card, which could be resources or a one-use tool. But their main power is in the bottom half of the card. Stone Age has two main types of scoring cards:

Set Collection

There’s the set collection type, where each different symbol in a set contributes to the scoring. A set of one symbol is only worth one point, but get a set of 8 different symbols and you will snag a cool 64 points. In a two-player game, scoring the huge points on set collection will be significantly easier than in higher player counts.

Multipliers

The other flavour of these cards is the scoring multiplier cards. These help you to focus on whether to get more tools, more buildings, or moving up the field track. Each card can have one or two figures on it. For end game scoring, you multiply the number of figures you have for each parameter by your score.

For example, say you finish the game with two level three tools, and one level four tool. Combined, your tools give you a total of 10. You also have two cards with tool multipliers. One card shows one figure, and the other shows two figures. Together, these create a multiplier of three. You then apply the multipliers for a total score of 30.

This information is not a secret to other players, but can make it tricky to keep up with your opponents’ scores. This makes for an exceptionally tense final scoring phase.

Building

Providing you have the ability to, you could trade in collected resources to claim a building tile. These are worth victory points when you build them, and, depending on the scoring cards you have collected, may also score again at game end. These building stacks act as a game end countdown time too. The game will end when one of the building stacks is empty. It also ends if you cannot refill the card “market”.

Resources

The rest of the locations are for resources. These allow you to place multiple workers there, and you will want to in order to score well. The spot you’ll likely be visiting almost every turn is the food space. There is no limit to the number of workers that can be hunting for food in any given round. You roll the same number of dice as workers placed there. Then add all the die faces up and divide by two to determine how many food tokens you manage to collect. So roll three dice and get a 2, 4, and a 5 then you have a total of 11, divided by two and rounded down is 5 food tokens for your troubles. For wood, you divide the total by 3. For clay, it is divided by 4. By 5 for stone, and by 6 for gold. Collecting gold is, just like in the real world, significantly more difficult than collecting sticks.

End Phase

Once all your meeples have been placed, you pass until the placing phase ends. At this point, in turn order, players resolve all of their worker actions in whichever order they please. After completing a work action, you return the workers to your player board ready for the next round. Then those hungry workers must be fed. Each worker needs one food. If you have no food available then you must spend resources to feed the tribe. If you cannot or choose not to feed your tribe with clay, wood, stone or gold, then your tribe starves. You lose ten points (regardless of how many starve) on the score track.

What Next?

With the first player marker rotated, the cards in the market are shifted to the right and empty slots refilled from the draw pile. Then we go again. Stone Age ends once there is one building stack depleted, or once you have run out of cards to refill the card market. Lack of civilization cards results in immediate game end, and if a building stack is depleted then you finish out the round. At that point, you tot up your final score from your cards as well as add one point per leftover resource on your player board. The player with the most impressively huge score wins.

Zatu Score

Rating

  • Artwork
  • Complexity
  • Replayability
  • Player Interaction
  • Component Quality

You might like

  • Worker Placement, resource gathering and dice rolling.
  • Minimal
  • Quick play time.

Might not like

  • Some element of luck in the dice rolling.
  • Can a feel solitary at times.