iOS, Android •
If you’ve been wondering where we’ve been the last few days, you’re not alone. I’ve been trapped with my family in a minivan for the past 24 hours and I’m not sure where I am, either. I think we ended up in Florida, but I feel like I asked to see Saw Garrera and have been transported across the country with a bag over my head. I could be anywhere, but considering that I’m looking at palm trees and the Indian River, Florida is a good bet.
Spending this much time with my kids in a vehicle would drive most adults insane, but I had a secret weapon to help through the rough times. Czech Games Edition has started the online beta for Through the Ages and it’s so good, it almost prevented me from going completely bonkers.
Through the Ages has been on everyone’s must-have list since it was first announced by Codito way back in 2010. After the license ran out in 2013, development was taken over by CGE who started over from scratch. They didn’t start immediately, however, and instead delivered Galaxy Trucker. They can be forgiven, however, as Galaxy Trucker remains one of the best board game ports to ever grace a touchscreen. Still, the delayed release has put TtA in the “will we ever actually see this” category, much like the perennially delayed 7 Wonders.
After playing the beta for a week, I’m confident that we’ll not only see it on our devices down the road, but it might overtake games like Galaxy Trucker and Twilight Struggle, which are currently kings of the digital board game hill.
The beta currently only allows for online play, so there’s no way to check how the AI is shaping up. That said, online play is where the game will really shine anyway, and this early version is already the best way to play the game with friends around the globe. Gameplay is asynchronous or real time, and even in the beta I’m not having any issues with notifications appearing for each of my ongoing games. You can set up games with strangers or private games with friends. They’ve even added some “digital” rules to accommodate asynchronous play. These involve bidding for colonies and other event cards, allowing players to deal with events and colonies on their turns rather than stopping play and forcing each player to weigh in before a turn can continue. It’s a small change to the rules, but it makes games flow incredibly quickly without the dread of knowing you’ll have to wait until tomorrow to finish your turn simply so everyone can decide if they want ore or food. Of course, if you don’t want to play with the new digital rules, you can play with the standard rules regarding events and colonies. I’m not sure why you would, but the option is there.
Gameplay itself is pretty flawless and players familiar with TtA won’t even need to run through the tutorial (which is included, and has the required amount of humor you’d expect from a CGE title). Actions can be performed multiple ways, by touching cards or dragging bits around. All the math is done automatically, and the game will even warn you if you are leaving juicy actions on the table when you go to end your turn.
Despite its gameplay brilliance, the app is still clearly a beta. There are typos and other small glitches that will surely get a hefty dollop of polish before long. None of the blemishes are big enough to dampen the fun I’m having. I’ve already lost in spectacular fashion to our own Hardco, and plan on losing many, many more games before it’s all said and done. Enjoy some screens, and when I get back from spring break I’ll be back with daily news and other features. Just give me until Monday, if I can survive the drive back home.