Roll Through The Ages: The Bronze Age is a roll and write civilisation building game, designed by Matt Leacock (The designer behind games like Pandemic and Forbidden Island) and is the second game in the Eagle-Gryphon Games “Bookshelf Series." It is a very simple and elegant game with minimal set-up and easy to teach gameplay, but with a surprising amount of strategy.
In Roll Through The Ages: The Bronze Age players take on the role of a civilisation in the bronze age. Players take turns to roll die to acquire food, workers, goods and coins whilst trying to avoid various disasters. Food is used to feed your cities, workers to build more cities and monuments and goods and coins to acquire various developments.
Roll Through the Ages Gameplay
Set-up is very simple and straightforward. Each player is given three die (to represent three starting cities) a peg board, six pegs and a score sheet. The pegs represent food, wood, stone, pottery, cloth and spearheads. The food peg is set at three and all other pegs are set at zero and that is the set-up.
The faces of the die represent one good, one coin, two food/two workers, three food, three workers and finally two goods and a disaster.
A player’s turn consists of the five following steps:
- Roll die and collect goods and food.
- Feed cities and resolve disasters.
- Build cities and/or monuments.
- Buy one development.
- Discard excess goods down to six.
Roll Die and Collect Goods and Food
The total number of die rolled is equal to the number of cities built. Initially each player starts with three cities so will roll three die, but as a civilisation grows more cities can be built, increasing the number of die rolled. A player rolls their die and locks in any that show the two goods and disaster face. A player may then keep any other die they wish and re-roll any remaining die up to a total of three times, remembering to lock in any two goods and disaster die that are rolled after each re-roll.
A player collects goods one at a time by moving their peg one position to the right working from the bottom row to the top row (i.e. wood to spearheads). If more than five goods are received during one turn, then additional goods are added from the bottom row again. For example, on a player's turn, if six goods are rolled, the player will add a wood, stone, pottery, cloth and spearhead, then the sixth good will be another wood.
Food is added simply by moving a peg the number of spaces to the right corresponding to the number of food rolled.
Feed Cities and Resolve Disasters
Each city built (i.e. each die rolled) must be fed. The peg for the food must be moved one space to the left for each city that has been built. For each city that is not fed a player suffers famine which is represented by marking the disaster on the score sheet (one disaster for each unfed city).
The number of disaster symbols rolled (represented by a skull) is then tallied and the corresponding disaster is marked on either the players score sheet or the player’s opponents score sheet, like so:
- Two skulls = draught. Lose two points.
- Three skulls = Pestilence. Opponents lose three points.
- Four skulls = Invasion. Lose four points.
- Five and over Skulls = Revolt. Lose all goods.
Build Cities and/or Monuments
Workers can be used to build cities and monuments. Each worker rolled can be marked off on a city space or a monument space. Once all boxes in a city are marked this signifies that the city is built, and the player receives another die the next turn. A total of four additional cities can be built for a maximum of seven.
Each monument has two victory points assigned to it. The first player to build a specific monument receives the larger of the two victory points and all subsequent players that build that monument receive the smaller of the victory points. For example, the first player to build the Hanging Gardens receives eight victory points and all other players will receive four victory points if they subsequently build this monument.
Buy a Development
A player may purchase one development per turn by spending any coins rolled and goods stored. The cost of the development is displayed on the score sheet and ranges from 10-60. If any goods are used in the purchase of a development all that type of good must be used. The value of the good is listed next to the location of the peg location for each specific good. No change is given if excess goods are spent. Once a development is purchased it is marked on the players score sheet and the bonus for the development can be used during the players subsequent turns.
Discard Excess Goods down to Six
A player may only keep a total of six goods at any one time (unless they have any developments that negates this). One good is represented by one peg location on the players peg board. If a player has more than six goods at this stage they must choose and move the pegs of any goods down so that the total number of goods represented on the peg board is six or less.
The die are then passed to the next player.
The end of the game is triggered when:
- One player has purchased five developments.
- Each monument has been built by any of the players.
Play continues until all players have had equal number of turns. Players now count the number of points achieved from developments and monuments and any bonuses from specific developments. Players then subtract the number of disasters marked on their score sheet to determine a final score. The player with the highest score wins the game.
Final Thoughts on Roll Through the Ages: The Bronze Age
Roll Through The Ages: The Bronze Age is a very simple roll and write civilisation building game with a surprising depth to it. Yes, it is a dice game and as such the dice don’t always go a player’s way but that is what is appealing about the game, trying to make the best out of what the dice have given you.
The main crux of the game is how best to use the dice roll to advance your civilisation. There is also a race element to try to be the first to build the monuments to get the most victory points. Then there is the balance between wanting more cities (so you have more dice to roll) and the need to spend more time collecting to food to feed them.
The rules are easy to understand and gameplay flows quickly. The representation of the resources with the pegs and peg board is visually appealing as well as being practical and functional.
If someone wants to satisfy that civilisation building game itch but doesn’t want to spend hours doing it, then Roll Through The Ages is a must. It comes in a small compact box that is also great for people short of space on their shelves. It is easy to teach and the rules are simple to learn. There are also rules for solo gameplay.