Monday, April 29, 2013

Getting stylish in the Stone Age.

It needs wooly mammoth meeples.  Mammeeples?
One of my favorite 4 player euro games is Stone Age from Z-Man games.  I really like the worker placement mechanic in this game, although there's some controversy with the "starvation strategy" that some people employ.  In any case, a year or so ago an expansion was published - and in what gets my vote for "worst expansion title ever", it was not-so-aptly named Style is the Goal

Last Tuesday, I had the opportunity to try out the expansion for the first time.  One of the immediate benefits of the expansion is that it adds a 5th player to the game.  Beyond that, it adds a new resource (kind of) - "decorations".  There is also a 4th hut added to the village, and a "trading track".  By sending two villagers to the trading hut, you can increase your trading prowess (on the trading track) by 2 steps, up to a total of 10 (there are other ways that your trading track only increases by 1).  When you first start out on the trading track, you can only trade at 2:1 - i.e., you have to trade 2 items for 1.  When you reach "4" on the track, you can trade at 1:1, and if you get to 9 or 10, you can trade at 1:2.  The expansion also adds some cards and huts you can buy that are related to the decorations and trading aspect that's now present in the game.  You collect decorations each time you increase on the trading track, and you can also get them in the same space as hunting/gathering. 
What a fetching cavewoman

Now, a key rule is that you can only trade once per turn.  We botched that pretty badly.  In our game, I immediately went for the trading track, just to try the new mechanic.  No one else really went there at first, so I was able to claim that hut for the first 3 rounds in a row, shooting up tot 6 on the track.  Others started to catch on, but ultimately I was able to drive myself to 10 on the trading track.  I used this to great advantage, trading all kinds of decorations for gold, and buying the (1-7) hut for 7 gold.  I did that twice as a matter of fact!  When I got to 1:1, there was absolutely no reason for me to gather any resource other than they were easy to gather, and easily tradeable for anything I wanted!  I won by such a runaway margin, that I was convinced that the expansion was broken.  And then, rereading the rules...we discovered you can only trade once per round. turning in 3 decorations for 6 gold - illegal!  I'm glad to know that the game isn't broken that bad...and I would really like to try it again playing correctly.  I think the trading adds a new dimension to the game for those that have grown tired of basic Stone Age.
New board overlay in foreground.  Picture by Henk Rolleman on

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