Through the Ages is widely considered one of the best tabletop board games. The most recent analog edition, Through the Ages: A New Story of Civilization, is the second highest rated game on Board Game Geek. The previous version is still hanging out in the top 20.
Needless to say, many have eagerly awaited the release of a digital version of Through the Ages. And now it is finally here, so let’s take a look at how it plays.
Through the Ages is a civilization-building game where players develop resources and technology, starting in Antiquity and going right up through the modern age. You can send your population to work, helping increase your production in food, resources, science and culture. While you do this, you must keep your happiness up to not incite a revolt. You must also maintain a strong enough military to combat other players.
There is a lot of information to keep track of during a game of Through the Ages, and the graphical interface does a great job of making it all very accessible. Each building you play has a unique piece of art displayed and there are lights in each to show how many workers are currently there. There is also a summary banner across the top of the screen that shows your current resources and production at a glance.
The hardest part about a card driven game in app form is making sure all the card abilities can be accessed quickly. In Through the Ages, there are many cards you can choose to purchase each round and if you don’t have a decent idea of what they do, you will have to click on each of them to get the full text. The app is plenty responsive and it’s easy to get this info. But it can be time-consuming if you are new to Through the Ages.
All of the controls work just as you might expect. Touch a card to read it. Touch a building to see what it does. Touch a player’s icon to see their civilization. If you have multiple online games going at once, you can access from one to the next without having to go out to the main screen. There is a handy text history you can reference which is especially useful in asynchronous multiplayer games. And a very important undo button. Almost anything you’ve done on your turn can be undone – up until you complete your turn.
I expected the game to feel a lot easier on my iPad versus the iPhone, but that just wasn’t the case. The UI is smartly designed in a way that even the small real estate of an iPhone screen is plenty to give you all the info you need.
Through the Ages has everything I want in a digital game. First off, for solo play, there is a massive amount of variety. You can, of course, play a standard game against AI. There are also nearly 30 challenges that tweak the rules a little and give you a particular objective. Not to mention hundreds of achievements you can try to accomplish through both single and multiplayer modes.
If you don’t know how to play Through the Ages, don’t let that stop you. The tutorial is both effective and fun. There are some nice little jokes about micro transactions and it’s light enough that you don’t ever feel like you are getting bogged down in minutiae. Yet once you get through it, which took me about 45 minutes, you know everything you need to know to get started.
For multiplayer, you have both online and pass and play options. For online games you can choose from a variety of speeds, allowing anywhere between 90 seconds to 3 days per turn. You can also choose to play by “digital” rules which simplify some of the auction mechanisms. It eliminates a lot of the back and forth that could slow the game down without taking much away from how the game ultimately plays out. Of course you can stick to the regular tabletop rules if you wish as well.
The only concern I’ve had with the Through the Ages app is a couple of online games have hit some scenario where they will just crash for all players when loading. I have one still stuck in my list of games. It is frustrating, but infrequent. Hopefully something that can be quickly addressed.
If you have any interest in Through the Ages, you should absolutely check out the iOS version of the app. It plays equally well on iPhones and iPads and makes an epic 3-4 hour tabletop game easy to play in under an hour.
There is plenty here even if you don’t have any interest in ever playing Through the Ages online thanks to the solo custom games and challenges. Heck, even if you just play the tutorial to learn the game it is probably worth the $10 price of the app.
Final Score: 4.5 Stars – A great online implementation of the immensely popular civ game.
• Great user interface gives you all the info you need quickly
• Lots of modes of play
• Tutorial is a great way to learn the game
• Occasion hanging of online games