7 Wonders: Duel is a great adaptation of the card drafting civilization game. Depending on your point of view of the style of drafting, some gamers felt that the structure was not drafting in the same vein as the original. The simultaneous card selection is devolved into a turn-by-turn selection that may force your opponent to take a card. However, the insight gained from visibly seeing your opponent’s choices with the same selection is also interesting. With this backdrop of experience, Roboto Games’ new release throws a gauntlet down with a new digital option.
Age of Rivals, available on iOS, is a card drafting, civilization game for two players. Over a series of rounds, players will purchase cards, gain points for conquering, and try to ruin their opposing civilization to deny points. What’s left of a civilization earns points for the player at the end of the round.
The intricacies of Age of Rivals is worth several pages of rules explanation, so this overview will be pretty high level. A full rulebook is available on Roboto Games’ site, so readers would do well to explore the game fully if they’re interested in the details.
A single game is played over four rounds. In the first three rounds, players will purchase cards and in the final round, a selection of those cards will comprise the player’s final city. Each round moves through five phases where players either make choices for card selection or attacking.
In the Buy Cards phase, a completely random set of 4 early-game cards is shown to the player and 4 other cards to their opponent. Each player, with a supply of gold, purchases cards from among several types. After selecting a card, the remaining three are offered to your opponent.
After each of the three buy phases, players attack three cities of victory point values 5, 3, and 1. These will earn money and victory points. The War Phase executes with any attacking cards damage opponent’s cards. Damage carries over from round to round and destroyed cards only clutter up your draws in later rounds. Finally, players will score VPs from specific cards that produce it.
Age of Rivals has an exceptional implementation. The interface is, for the most part, clean and fast, which had better be the case given how few system resources the game requires. The game uses available screen real estate well and tries to focus primarily on information the player needs in as readable a presentation as possible.
That being said, there are two main things which keep this reviewer from enjoying the presentation more. Both of these issues stem from the same design choice.
The first criticism has to do with the icons present in the game. They are easy to understand, but they clutter the screen like a million tiny resource cubes. It’s hard to enjoy any elegance in the visual design when much of the screen is a reference for additional information.
The second criticism has to do with the card art. While the game makes as much of the stained glass style art as it can, which is gorgeous, it’s clear this release is from a studio that doesn’t have the resources of some of the larger CCG companies. Art is reused profusely amongst card types and it creates a banal experience driving the user away from theme and towards mechanisms only.
Straightaway, it’s clear from even a short first play that Age of Rivals has some solid mechanisms. The choice of two different combat types is deliberative and welcome. The abilities of the various cards are rarely duplicated, and there’s a lot to digest, even with the basic early game cards.
The AI as well is a tough nut to crack, making decisions that seriously defeat any assumptions of randomness in the code. Often beating the AI to progress in the game is quite a challenge. The fact that the game necessitates this from players to gain cards in single player is also, occasionally, really annoying.
But Age of Rivals also presents an experience much like over-chewed gum which loses its flavor after the first ten chomps. Unlike some classics like Race for the Galaxy, the feeling of really crafting a civilization is absent. It has all the panache of a game of chess, but that may be exactly what some players enjoy.
Age of Rivals would do well to release app updates with feedback taken from early players. It has some great promise, but the play can make gamers tire too quickly.
As a lover of 7 Wonders: Duel, this reviewer really wanted to enjoy Age of Rivals more. It’s got all the makings of a highly addictive game, but it fails on some issues that more resources and investment in development could solve. Overall Age of Rivals is a fantastic for new gamers or CCG refugees looking for a similar experience at a tiny fraction of the price.
Final Score: 3.5 Stars – Elegant, deep gameplay stumbled with some minor visual issues, but mostly by a mechanical feel to play.
• Card art reuse and icon clutter
• Grinding play