Home Game Reviews Mosaic: A Story of Civilization Review

Mosaic: A Story of Civilization Review

Board Game Review by::
Brian Biewer

Reviewed by:
On Apr 4, 2023
Last modified:Aug 17, 2023


We review Mosaic: A Story of Civilization, an area control game published by Forbidden Games. In Mosaic: A Story of Civilization, players are trying to control areas with their new empire.

MosaicBrian: I love civilization games.

Tony: Here, review this then.

Tony hands Brian a copy of Mosaic.

Brian: I love civilization games?

Tony: No, it is not the sequel to Sagrada.

Brian: I love civilization games; I love civilization games.

Tony: Fine. Once you review this, I will play Wingspan with you.

Brian: I LOVE civilization games!

Gameplay Overview:

Mosaic is a competitive area control, engine building, action selection game for one to six players, with games lasting between 90 and 180 minutes, depending on the number of players and their knowledge of the game.

After a lengthy setup (more on this later), including selecting one of nine asymmetrical leaders to command your civilization and drafting starting technologies, you are ready to play. The game is made up of a variable number of rounds, with each round completed after every player has performed one of eight available actions:

  • Work – produce ideas, food, or stone based on the applicable production track and population of your civilization.
  • Population – pay food to increase your population.
  • Build – build a city by reducing your population and stone, a town for free, or a project by paying stone and ideas.
  • Wonder – construct a wonder for stone and food, with each wonder costing more of each resource.
  • Technology – pay ideas to purchase a technology card.
  • Tax and Tariff – use this action to receive money at the cost of unrest.
  • Military – recruit military units in one of your cities or move already existing units.
  • Government – pay the cost to select one of six governments. They provide additional scoring opportunities during empire scoring, and three have additional passive bonuses.

The game ends when either the third empire scoring cards are revealed from one of the four decks or if two of the following three are all claimed/built:

  • Wonders
  • Civilization Achievements
  • Golden Ages

After the final scoring has officially created the best mosaic…err, rules the ancient world!

Mosaic Gameplay
A four player game eight turns in.

Game Experience:

WARNING: Mosaic is NOT a civilization game. It does not mean it is not a good game, but it is not what it claims to be. If you are looking for a thematic civilization experience, please read carefully about what the game is and what it is not.

What made me want to play this area control game?

The turn structure is Mosaic’s greatest characteristic. First, every action feels impactful. Each action you perform provides a benefit, be it generating resources to buy new cities, acquiring new technologies by spending ideas, or increasing your population to drive future growth by spending food. I never felt that I was wasting a turn. Yes, some turns are more impactful than others, but it never felt like each action was not at least incrementally helping me achieve a goal.

Mosaic Cards
My technology tableau late game.

Hand in hand with impactful turns, the turns in this game are FAST. I cannot recall playing a game where turns were faster, except when Tony and I played a complete game of Gizmos in seven minutes, which is even faster than a game of Eight-Minute Empire, which, ironically, was always longer than eight minutes. There were many occasions where it was already back to me as I finished gathering the resources I produced my previous turn. For me, the one-two punch of fast yet impactful turns are the highlight of Mosaic.

I also liked the 105 unique technology cards included in Mosaic, with two caveats (see below). They remind me of the cards from Terraforming Mars or Ark Nova. They are all unique, they use icons as a resource and to track if you meet the prerequisites (if needed), and they provide a benefit for acquiring them. They are purchased from a five card technology offering that is on the board (no, you may not buy blindly off the top). The number of cards and the benefits they provide allow you to make tactical decisions on short term goals you would like/need to accomplish. There are nine different icons (called Pillars of Civilization) in the game. So, do you want to focus on getting many of the same icon so you can claim Golden Age Tiles, or do you want to be a jack of all trades, allowing you to easily meet most of the prerequisites in the game?

Mosaic Decks
All of the decks and tiles before set up.

Finally, I really appreciated that there are multiple paths to victory. Because Mosaic is, at its heart, an area control game, points are awarded whenever an Empire Scoring card is revealed from one of the four decks. There are seven regions to control, with the number of regions reduced at lower player counts. Points are awarded to the player controlling the region by having the most Wonders, cities, towns and/or military units in the region. Players will also earn six points from each claimed Golden Age Tile, as well as six points for each claimed Civilization Achievement Tile (public objectives revealed at the start of the game). Technology cards generate points, as do the constructed Wonders, as well as the cities, towns, and military on the board. There are MANY ways to score points in Mosaic!

Side note: While there are no player aids provided for each player (boo), there is an EXCELLENT Appendix covering every Wonder, Golden Age, Civilization Achievement, Leader, and card in the game, as well as a strategy section, included in the rulebook. There is also a reference card that covers everything except the Technology cards and strategies.

What made me wish I was playing an actual civilization game?

I had four issues with Mosaic, all of which, except for table space, were significant for me.

I did not like the end game triggers. I normally prefer games with definitive end game triggers, not player driven ones. The issue for Mosaic is that getting to three of the four Empire Scoring cards can take FOREVER, especially if the one in the technology pile is particularly far down. You do set the deck during setup; however, in games with four or more players, it is shuffled into the bottom third of the deck. That means the 104 Technologies would need to be purchased to trigger the Technology Empire Scoring card if it is the bottom card of the deck. Yes, you can still end the game by focusing on the other three decks, which are all considerably smaller, but you may not want to buy from one of those decks hoping to trigger the end game, especially Tax and Tariff since they add unrest (negative points) to your final score.

Mosaic Cards
The nine leaders hoping you select them to lead your civilization.

Another big miss for me is its complete disengagement from its theme. It claims to be “A Story of Civilization.” There is no tech tree. You can develop any tech if you have the prerequisite icon(s) in your tableau. I understand this makes sense for the design of the game (the technology deck can’t have six copies of every card), but it is weird having Scientific Method and Early Sciences without having developed Writing. When you build a city, you can build it anywhere. It is not even required that the region be adjacent to a region with your city. Your first city can be in Greece and your second can be in Egypt. This is clearly because Mosaic is an area control game, but it is just odd from a thematic perspective that you can build cities wherever you want. Military units do have to be built in regions where you have cities, but they are not in a space, they are in the region. When they move, they move from one region to an adjacent region. There is no combat between military units in a region. There are Technology cards that allow the acquiring player to eliminate a set number of enemy units at the time of acquisition. It was just… odd when we had four cities in the same region, each with several military units, and we all coexisted peacefully.

Mosaic Table
Set up for a four player game on my 65″ x 41″ table. Once the game begins, table space will be even tighter due to the growing tech tableaus.

Set up is also overly complicated. Each of the four decks must be split and built in a special way to accommodate the Empire Scoring cards. As for using the rules as written, EVERY space on the board must be populated, first by placing the cache tokens and trade good tokens face down on the board, then flipping them face up, and THEN removing all the X (empty) tokens. I did this exactly once. After that, I grabbed them without looking, placed them all face up, then removed the X tokens to save time. By the way, the map is terrible for figuring out which spaces should include a token and which should not. The unfortunate decision to make the map look like a Mosaic (ironically the ONLY thing in the game tied thematically to its name) made it extremely difficult to see the hex borders. In fact, I relied on a map posted on BGG to label the correct hexes.

Finally, the game is a table hog. It fit on my table, but I had to play on my large kitchen table to do so (65″ by 41″). The board is huge, the player boards are large, there are several piles of tokens, both public and player related, an area is needed for the Civilization Achievement, Golden Age, and Wonder Tiles, and space is needed for your tableau because it will grow as you purchase cards throughout the game.

Final Thoughts:

Mosaic is an interesting take on an area control game. If you love area control and do not have limited table space, I recommend at least trying the game, if not buying it, if you do not think my misses would impact your enjoyment. Like I said, I LOVED the turn structure. The game plays fast. And, although the setup can be long, that and the sheer number of Technology cards certainly randomizes the game to where each will be unique. Unfortunately, the misses outweigh the hits for me, and I will not be keeping this game in my collection.

Final Score: 3 Stars – A different type of area control game that is not a civilization game.

3 StarsHits:
• Impactful turns
• Fast turns
• Technology cards
• Many paths to victory

• End game triggers
• Not tied to the theme
• Set up
• Table hog

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  1. “(no, you may not buy blindly off the top as players need to know the prerequisites, if any)”

    Players don’t need to have the prerequisites when they are BUYING the technology card (and putting it in their hand), they need to have the prerequisites when they PLAY the card from their hand (as a free action).

    This can lead to “hate drafting/buying” by other players.

    Another “issue” is that a very powerful card may show up after a player bought a technology card. You could play with a variant where the technology offering only has 4 cards, and the fifth card is drawn from the deck when a player buys a technology card, OR a variant where players can buy a technology card blindly from the top of the deck.

    Anyway, I enjoy playing Mosaic.

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