Thursday, January 21, 2010

2.3: AGE!

Alas, the streak is broken.  Now we'll see how long it takes before I miss a week's post.  We've been getting a surprising amount of gaming in during the last week, despite our newly busy schedules.  We even goaded Jackie into "spending time with the family," and got her to join in a game of Stone Age recently.

Stone Age has been getting a lot of play around here lately--At around two hours a play, I think it needs a review here. Also, if you take a look at the picture, you'll see the jazzy Chief's crown I'm wearing, which, unfortunately, I've recently had to surrender.  You may recall that my brother David declared himself Chief after our New Year's game, but within a few days of that, I beat he and Danny in a rematch, and then followed that up with a slaughter of these two and Robert; this picture was sent in an email to both David and Danny.  Unfortunately, all that mocking brought me was failure, as recently we played another game where I defeated Danny and my sister D, but was finally defeated soundly by Danny (a 40 point loss) in a 4-player game.

Stone Age was designed by Bernd Brunnhofer and Michael Tummelhofer.  It was released in 2008 by several publishers; domestically the publisher is Rio Grande Games.  It plays 2-4, and though it's play time is listed as 60 minutes, it's more like 90-120 minutes.

The primary mechanism of Stone Age is worker-placement--you begin the game with five meeples (wooden people), the allocation of which determines what you are able to do on your turn.  Players alternate placing groups of their meeples to collect the four resources (lumber, brick, stone, gold), to collect food, hut tiles or cards, to advance agriculture, build tools, or make babies.

Really, that's one of the actions--you can place two meeples on the love shack, er, hut space; strangely, a fully grown, able-bodied person is formed by this union.  I guess this is the stone age, there really weren't child labor laws, so I guess it could be a working-age child.

The resources you gather are used in specific combinations to take Hut tiles, which score points when taken, or in a less specific manner to buy Civilization cards, which provide a broad range of benefits immediately (take a resource, score a few points, receive some food, etc.), and provide scoring bonuses post-game.

On a player's turn, they place a single set of meeples, it can be just one, up to the full number of meeples you currently have (maximum of 10, but that's a lot of mouths to feed) onto one location on the board.  Once they have placed, the next person plays a set of their meeples, and so on.  This does mean that some players may play only one or two large groups of meeples, and they are simply skipped as the rest of the players (who played smaller groups or single meeples) place the rest of theirs.  The strategy lies in when and where to place, as some places have only a single "spot" to be taken (each individual hut or Civilization card, and the agriculture, tool, and "makin' babies" location); each resource can hold a maximum of 7 meeples, so if Bob places six meeples on the lumber, there is only one spot left for someone else to take.

So everyone has placed their meeples, now everyone takes their stuff, right?

Well...mostly.  The placement of the meeples on the resource locations determines how many dice you roll for that resource.  In the example above, Bob would roll six dice, one for each meeple placed on lumber.  He then adds the dice together, and divides the sum by 3 (the resource cost of lumber), and receives that many lumber.  Each resource has a different value:  food is 2, brick is 4, stone is 5, and gold is 6.  As you can see, placing a single meeple on gold would yield a gold resource only on the roll of a 6, so the placement of multiple meeples is recommended.  It is possible to receive no resources as the result of a poor roll.  For those who are convinced that dice hate them (*ahem* Robert *ahem*)Tools can mitigate poor rolling and the randomness of dice--these provide a once-a-turn bonus to one roll; this can be as little as +1 to a total, and be as high as +12 if tool development was maxed out.

Each of these locations is assessed at the player's discretion--players do not need to pick up their resources in the order they placed their meeples, nor in a pre-determined order.  This becomes important on several levels--they may need to gather a certain resource before they gather a hut, may want to delay picking something up if it will help another player (as certain civilization cards do), or may want to be sure they have enough food at the end of the turn.

And that's the last part of the turn--once everyone has assessed and picked up all their meeples, they need to pay one food per meeple--your cave people are going to be hungry after all that hard work, or all that lazing about if you rolled poorly (it's the caveperson's fault, afterall).  As an aide here, every point of agriculture subtracts one from the amount of food a player needs--a person with 2 agriculture and 7 people only needs to pay 5 food.  If they do not have enough, the player must then pay a resource per meeple who still needs food, or forgo this and take a -10 point penalty for starving their tribe. 

The game continues until one stack of hut tiles is gone, or when there are not enough Civilization cards to refresh the 4-card draw area.  At this point players would figure out their post-game scoring which results from the Civilization cards they've acquired.  These will be either multipliers for their tools, agriculture, hut tiles, or people, and what we call "relic" cards (really named "culture symbols"--but that's too long to say) which score according to how many different ones you've collected.  Of course, whoever has the most points at the end wins.

Apparently we've quite enjoyed this game recently, and there's a lot of banter going back and forth, even after the game has finished.  Strategic placement and blocking of opponents is a must, and despite all the choices one has on their turn, this game keeps a pretty steady flow without much down-time.  Indeed, keeping an eye on the board is critical even when it's not your turn, as your opponents actions can make other actions more urgent.  You may need only one lumber to fulfill a hut tile you've already placed on, and even though you'd rather take agriculture, if a player plops down six meeples on the lumber spot, waiting on that spot means you don't take that tile this turn.  The dice are also an interesting factor, as even placing a large group of meeples can still yield few or no resources--comments about certain meeples not pulling their own weight, or sleeping on the job abound.


That's it for the week; yes, it's late, but at least I posted this week.  I am contemplating reducing my posts to once every two weeks so that I can free up some time for another project, but I'll keep you posted.  Perhaps now would be a good time to solicit guest-bloggers, in order to fill in those non-posting weeks?  I'll keep you all posted.

By the way, if you do read this thing, do me a favor and "follow" this blog so I know you're out there, and leave a comment.  Comments about how awesome I am are especially appreciated.

Take care all.


  1. It may look familiar--I borrowed it from a certain ring-tailed lemur.

  2. "...certain meeples not pulling their own weight, or sleeping on the job..." This doesn't happen under the watch of a tyrannical, yet compassionate chief, like myself. Maybe you were a soft chief.

    Chief 2010-present

  3. It begins!

    You may want to clarify your reign with specific dates, there seem to be a number of coups. I don't think you'll be keeping that title for long...

    Two time defender of the crown...thingy.

  4. Dice DO hate me, despite tool development.