When I was in high school, I enjoyed history classes. I liked looking through history and examining the rise and fall of empires from the start of human history. No empire stands forever. Apparently the designers of A Brief History of the World found a similar interest in the changing empires over time and made a board game out of it. In this area control game where players roll through 2500 BC to 1942, through a series of 6 epochs, and take charge of a civilization. Based on the board game of the same name, the developers at Sage Board Game have created an iOS version which we will be examining in this review.
The game board has the entire world spread out into different area regions. Such as North and South America, Northern and Southern Europe, India, and China just to name a few. Each area is separated into smaller land masses to represent different geographical landmarks in that area. In each round, 7 possible empires will be selected by the players to control that round. Each empire has different starting locations, army size, and special benefits that unique to that civilization from that time. Players use armies to move into other lands surrounding their starting points to gain influence in the different areas on the board. Players can also play Event cards that can help them invade other areas with their armies or place minor civilizations to add more of their pieces on the board. Event cards have special abilities and even other minor civilizations to add more of their pieces on the board. If another player’s piece is in an area a battle ensues using dice to determine the winner. If the invading player wins the roll their piece takes that land, if not they can try again. Players earn gold by having either a presence, majority or complete control of the lands in each area and are totaled after a player has ended their turn. Until a player’s token is removed from the board via invasion, it will remain on the board and continue to score points for the player. At the start of the next round players will draw new empires and the process will repeat. This will continue for 6 rounds and the player with the most gold wins the game.
Everything you need is all on one page in this app. The game map is located in the center part of the screen allowing for easy access at any time to see what your opponents are doing. You can zoom out to see the whole map or zoom in to see an area closer. Above the map is a score tracker and along the right side is where all the card action happens. This is where you will look through the set of event and empire cards selected for the epochs. They added a feature when you click on a card it zooms in to give a clearer picture of the empire or event information. They also added an almanac of information about every card and empire that you can access in the lower right hand corner of the screen. During a players invasion actions, they will move an army token in this card section over to the land they want to invade. It’s a good feeling moving the token over, as close to the real thing as you can get. A nice feature they added was to light up all the possible locations you can invade another landmass. In certain areas in can be difficult to know where you can go, and this helps a lot.
Whenever a dice roll needs to determine if a player token can invade an occupied space, a handy info screen pops up first. This shows any benefits each empire has in the battle. I warn you not to try to figure out exactly what the computer is doing on their turns. Everything moves very quickly, a little too quickly. I found myself having to look at the overall map at the start of each epoch because I had no idea where other AI players were. The online works well to find other people to play the game, but there is nothing special about it. I also found the tutorial very good at explaining the game to people. Even if you have never played the board game you should be able to jump into this game quickly.
I think this is a very good implementation of the board game to iOS. The rules are very clear and the explanations of how the game works in the tutorial allow it to be accessible for people who have not played the tabletop game. For people who have played the game before, the board and card graphics are exactly the same, making this game feel very familiar. Moving the armies onto the landmass you want to invade feels as close as it can to doing so in the physical game. Dice rolling is something I still have issues with doing via any app. If I have the choice, I want to do physical rolling. There is a little of the drama you’ll miss when you roll dice vs another player in this game compared to on your tabletop. Dice rolling is just something that works better if you are sitting next to the person you’re trying to annihilate. I do feel the tension as I’m trying to invade an occupied space, just not as much as a real game.
I did do some research online reading what others thought of the game, not being an expert on the board game, I wanted to see what other people thought. Apparently there are some rules that are not working exactly as they should. This is dealing mostly with special abilities of certain empires and event cards. The good news is that the developers are working on fixing the errors in the next update. The game has been out for a little over a month and bugs are to be expected. It’s good to see them working on fixing the issues though. One of my other gripes about the game is how quickly the AI players completes its turn. The first time I played the game I wasn’t sure what they were doing. Everything goes by so quickly that I basically just waited until it was my turn to look at the screen. Not a major thing at all, it just makes it difficult to see what others are doing and takes my eyes off the game. I also don’t like how you can’t see the dice rolls when the AI invaded a place that was occupied. If they are attacking spaces that I occupy, I would like to see the rolls. Both of these decisions were made with speeding up AI turns in mind, which I understand, however I feel that you would get a stronger connection to the game if these were changed.
As quick opinion on the game, I find it incredibly deep. I think it’s one of those games that is easy to learn and difficult to master. There is a lot going on in the game that you have to keep track of. Being able to know the empire’s benefits and understand how the point totals change in each area every round is paramount in this game. I have played over 10 games and I’m starting to get a feel of the game. I love a game that still makes me think that many games in. Every game is both different and unique. You are never playing the same game due to at least one empire being left out of every round. The dice rolls do add some randomness to the game, but most of the event cards can help you mitigate some of that randomness. Plus, you get to learn a little history along the way. Can’t beat that. It’s not a perfect game, but a fun one to play.
A Brief History of the World is a very easy to learn area control game. Even though there are some issues with the implementation and the game can be a little punishing for new players, the app is worth the price. I like that the app developers decided to keep the game looking and playing exactly like the board game. If it isn’t broke don’t fix it. I think A Brief History of the World a very strong contender for one of the best of this genre on the iOS.
If you are interested in getting a copy for yourself, the app costs $3.99 for the iPad/iPhone version.