When the iPad was released, I'm certain that few anticipated how perfect it would be for board game adaptations. As the months passed and developers saw the platform's potential due to its portability (for pass-and-play) and connectivity (for online play), we lucky iOS gamers were graced with such classics as Small World, Carcassonne, Elder Sign, Titan, Pandemic, and Agricola (among others). After spending some quality time with Through The Ages, I can comfortably say that it belongs right up there with the best of them, and is deserving of a permanent place on the boardgame screen of your device.
Through The Ages is basically a card-based race through time in an effort to build the most culturally significant civilization in the world. Yes, it's all about culture in this game; you can't win it with population, resources, armies, or technology. However, if history has shown us anything, it's that the most culturally pervasive countries also happen to be the largest and most technologically advanced so don't expect to win or even be competitive without becoming skilled in the fine art of triage. Each turn, you will draw cards, which can represent leaders, world wonders, or one-time use cards. You will also assign workers in an effort to produce what you need in the quantities you need. You are limited to just a few actions per turn, and trust me, it will never be enough to do everything you want to do. Balancing the different needs of your civilization is at the center of the game. Since all players draw from the same set of cards, there is very little randomness to Through The Ages, which is what makes it challenging and fun, yet not frustrating.
Through The Ages offers both single-player and multiplayer gaming. Solo gameplay can be a purely conventional game, or to mix things up, you can attempt some of the challenges offered such as winning with only a single leader or defeating opponents who have been granted some sort of advantage. Multiplayer gaming can be done via pass-and-play on a single device, or online through the game's built-in matchmaking interface.
As with most digital board game adaptations, visuals are meant to be functional and attractive, but not distracting. Animation is minimal in this game, but you never get the feeling that you're staring at a static image. That's because interface elements respond to touch input, and the game screen is continually updated to reflect the current state of your civilization. The audio here is limited to some basic interface sounds and a soundtrack that somewhat reflects the current age. I ultimately disabled the music as I do with most board games.
Board gaming enthusiasts probably already own this game. However, if you're among their number and are still on the fence, go ahead and pull the pin; you won't regret it. For those new to digital board games on iOS, Through The Ages is a great place to start due to it's excellent tutorial, straightforward concepts, and friendly community.
Ratings (scale of 1 to 5):
Graphics: - 3.5 - Good graphics, but certainly not why you came to the party. Sound: - 2 Forgettable soundtrack and functional sound effects. Controls: - 5 - A lot of time was spent in making the interface intuitive and forgiving. Gameplay: - 5 - Yep. It's Through The Ages on iOS, and they nailed it.
Playing Hints and Tips:
Don't waste your action points; Try to use them up each turn. Micromanage your economy so you don't find yourself with too much of one thing (which will disappear due to corruption, anyway) and not enough of another. Plan, don't guess.