I consider myself an avid board gamer. I’ve always loved them. Family night at my house meant hours and hours of monopoly. Even road trips required some travel version of Hasbro’s greatest hits. As I got older, I discovered some of the more complex board games and began what can now only be considered an unhealthy fascination with the genre.
I think of it as unhealthy because I will regularly fork over between $50 and $80 for a game that will inevitably end up on a shelf, having been opened once. You see. My friends don’t play board game. They either prefer role-playing games like Dungeons & Dragons, or just don’t waste time with games at all.
That’s why I love board game apps so much. Most of them let you play a full game against one or more computer-generated opponents. Some of them even allow you to compete against others through Game Center. Stone Age: The Board Game by Campfire Creations is one of those board game apps that let’s you play alone, with friends, or against perfect strangers online.
The goal of this empire-building game is to earn more victory points than your opponent. To do so, collect buildings, workers, tools, and specialists through collecting resources and trading with other tribes. The more bountiful your land, the more points you earn. The player with the most victory points at the end of the game wins…
The game’s design is fairly simple and based on the artwork of the original. When you first start a game, you can choose from Solo, Online Multi, Pass-N-Play, and Tutorial mode. If you have never played the game before, I highly recommend you start with the tutorial. It doesn’t take too long and the instructions are invaluable to a beginner. Even if you have played the physical board game, it is a good idea to try out Solo mode once, just to get the hang of the game’s mechanics.
In solo mode and Pass-N-Play mode, you can play against up to three opponents. In Online Multi, you will be competing against one other player. The rules are adjusted slightly when you are playing a two-player game.
Once the game starts, you can drag your workers to the area on the board you want to place them. You can also tap an available spot to find out more about it and then add your player by tapping the plus (+) symbol. The game’s user interface is smooth and free from pesky glitches or bugs.
The graphics are two-dimensional and somewhat simple. However, they are a perfect match for the game’s original artwork. The virtual dice roll, but other than that, the animation is minimal.
The audio is unassuming and acts more as ambiance than anything else. There is a quiet tribal song playing in the background but it is barely audible unless you really want it to be.
Players start by placing workers in the field. This part of the game is done with strategy in mind. You can place your workers in one of three different areas; the village, the resources section, or the boats. If you place workers in the village, you can earn resources like more workers, replenishing food, and tools. If you place workers in the resource section, you can roll for raw materials, or try to buy buildings with materials you already have. If you place workers in the boating docks, you can trade goods for resources.
In the second phase of the game, players collect workers. This must also be done strategically. If you collect a worker from a location that needs resources before you’ve collected any from the Resource section, then you will miss out on the goods. When you collect workers, you are resolving the move. For example, if you have three workers in the Hunting resource section, you will roll to see how much food they have generated. The move is then resolved and you can do the same with the next worker.
In the final phase of each round, players feed their workers. You can get food by rolling for it in the Hunting resource section, or you can generate replenishing food by placing a worker in the village. If you don’t have enough food to feed all of your workers, you can use resources, like stone or gold, instead. If you don’t have resources, or don’t want to use them, you will lose 10 victory points for every unfed worker.
The goal is to have the most victory points by having buildings, tools, workers, resources, and specialists. If you have more buildings than your opponents, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve won the game. A good chief will have a wide variety of assets to become the best village leader.
If you have never played the game before, or want to familiarize yourself with the rules, there is a simple tutorial that takes about 10 minutes to get through. There is also a very detailed set of rules that explains each portion of the game, plus how the final scores are tallied. It might be a good idea for beginners to play the tutorial first, and then refer back to the rules whenever you forget something. Eventually, you’ll be able to see what strategies work best under different situations.
I mentioned in my review of Scotland Yard that board games are pricey. This is no exception. Stone Age comes in at a hefty $6.99. However, speaking as someone who has played a lot of board game apps, the price is not unreasonable.
What gives this game more value than a lot of other board game apps is that you can play three different ways. If you don’t have anyone to play with (like I don’t, most of the time) you can compete against computer-generated opponents at your leisure, or against friends and strangers online through Game Center. If you have friends that actually like to play board games (send them my way), you can play with them in tabletop pass-and-play style gaming.
As an empire building board game app, Stone Age: The Board Game is up there with the likes of Carcassonne and Puerto Rico HD. If you are a fan of the genre, you will not be disappointed with this game. The price is premium, so if you have never played the original game, you may want to think about waiting until it goes on sale. It is available on the iPhone and iPad. I would imagine it is difficult to play on the smaller sized screen since the details are already so small, so I would recommend playing it on the iPad.