Stone Age: Tribal Tedium or a Prehistoric Pleasure?
Stone Age is a game of worker placement, resource collection, and civilization building. There are many other games with these same ideas. So is Stone Age special, or is it just another run of the mill Eurogame designed to bore your pants off? Let’s find out, shall we?
Looking into the game mechanics without going into too much depth or without sinking into a game, Stone Age may seem rather bland and perfunctory. Your simply placing workers where they’re needed and collecting the resources. Can it really be all that exciting?
But when you do comb through the mechanics a little more and actually involve yourself with a full gaming experience, the attraction of Stone Age is very noticeable. Its a constant struggle for balance between maintaining resources and going for the big points. The placement of the workers also feels very thematic and can be quite competitive as players are all clamouring for the same crucial spots.
Stone Age is a game with features you’ve probably seen before including worker placement, rolling dice for resources, and scoring points around the track. But its the way in which these elements combine and how the prehistoric theme plays so nicely into each of them which makes Stone Age such a treat to play.
In Stone Age, each player plays as a tribe of six hunter/gatherers. Each round, they distribute these six players in different areas around the board. Some areas allow them to try to collect resources such as food, stone and wood. Other areas allow them to gain other advantages like the tool hut or the infamous “love shack” where two of your people go in, and yada yada yada, nine months later there’s a new tribe member. (And yes, I just yada yada’d sex).
Gaining resources requires you to roll the same number of dice as you have people working in that area. Therefore if you have 3 people mining for gold, you roll three dice. You then add the total on the dice and divide by a certain amount. This allows the resources to be limited and cause certain ones like gold to be more valuable than others.
So as players are collecting food and resources, building tools, and making babies, they eventually have to think about trying to win the game. So what do these resources ultimately do? Well, they can be used to either buy development cards and also to buy huts, both of which will score points for you in many varied and interesting ways. The fact that here are many different dev cards and types of huts gives the gave a lot of flavour and prevents it from devolving into monotony.
But there’s a catch. You need to feed your people! So players are constantly having to find a balance between building their tribes while also preventing them from starving. Therefore food collection is very important. Players can also use their workers to build wheat farms which help them to feed themselves as well. How each player manages to fit in their food acquisitions into their strategies is crucial to the game.
Let’s talk about the board first, because it board is simply amazing. It has some of the best game board artwork I have ever seen. The artwork really sets the scene well, blending the gameplay details the board needs with picturesque scenery. The resources areas and main huts are all incorporated flawlessly into a prehistoric setting. Each player also gets their individual board which depicts the campfires of their own tribes.
This amazing artwork is also reflected in the hut tiles and development cards, and the actual bits and pieces also live up to this fantastic quality. The caveman meeples are pretty cool but the resource bits are just great. The gold actually look like gold bars, the stones look like stone, the wood looks like lumber. It all adds up to a beautiful bit of packaging.
On the surface Stone Age may seem to be nothing but tribal tedium where everyone tries to place their workers in the same spot, roll some dice, and simply try to build up as many points as they can. It does have the potential to be stuck in an evolutionary rut where each player is just going through the motions.
Yet even though it teeters on this tedium, it doesn’t ever get there. Stone as is a fresh and exciting game and stays fresh and exciting by offering a variety of different huts and development cards to score with, providing a really cool dice-rolling mechanic to gather resources, and providing the challenge of balancing your victory run with the constant demand of feeding your people (which is much less annoying than you may think it to be). At the end of a game of Stone Age, you will be left satisfied with a fun, exciting game.