Ever since I acquired Through the Ages, I have been struggling to find someone who would play through the Full Game with me. My first few attempts at getting Van and Mun to attempt it fell flat, partially due to the nature of the game but also that I was still familiarizing myself with the rules. In fact, the furthest I got so far was merely halfway through the Advanced Game. However, Ben was open to trying the new game and we plunged right into the Full Game when he came over.
Ben surprisingly grasped most of the rules after my explanation. I suppose the good that came out of my failed attempts at playing the game was that I myself have come to understand the game mechanics better and that showed in the flow of the rules explanation this time round. However, due to the both of us being largely unfamiliar with the cards, the game took us approximately 5 whole hours inclusive of going through the rules. That's the longest game I've played by a mile, with my first game of Le Harve coming in second at the 3 1/2 hour mark. I applaud Ben for getting through the whole game though he too commented that he would be reluctant to give it another go given its length. My suspicion was that in time, 2 experienced players would be able to par the game time down to about 2 hours but the trouble would be getting someone who would be willing to actually acquire the experience together.
While long, I personally did enjoy the game somewhat due to multiple paths to victory opened up by the diverse range of cards. Nonetheless, I could identify with some of the negative reviews on the Geek (the most notable one being Chris Farrell's) that the game came across somewhat mechanical and souless. Despite some hailing its thematic appeal as a civilization game, I surprisingly found it rather abstract, with most of the cards providing a once-off benefit and/or 'income' of one of the in-game variables (e.g. happiness, science points, resources, population, etc.) despite them being labelled as wonders, leaders or action cards. This is in contrast to other card-driven game like the Catan Card Game and Glory to Rome where the cards allow more 'rule-bending' and interaction between players. I suppose I feel this way because I have always preferred greater player interaction in my games though I laud the elegance of the game mechanics.
I won the game by over 50 points, thanks mainly to my combo of Michelangelo and St. Peter's Basilica early on. Both Ben and I struggled for science research points in the game with both of us devoting a substantial proportion of our resources to building up our military might. Ben played a couple of successful aggression cards against me before I caught up later in the game, with one taking out all my temples. It showed me that TTA wasn't as devoid of interaction as many presumed but such direct interaction is also highly dependant on how players choose to play the game rather than inherent in its core gameplay. I pulled ahead in Culture income during the midgame and further pulled away with a string of scoring cards in Age III and IV.
If I ever had the opportunity to play again, I would pay greater attention to building my income stream of science points as its lack hampered my pace of adopting newer technology later in the game. Nonetheless, my wealth of resources and ease of increasing population allowed me to accumulate multiple farms, mines and wonders.
Final analysis: While an intriguing game in parts, its somewhat abstract and mechanical nature, lack of direct player interaction and lengthy gameplay suggest that it's not a keeper. At the point of posting, I have arranged to trade TTA for Twilight Struggle. Nonetheless, I would be happy to have another go at it if the opportunity arises.
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