By Vix Chamberlain
I first spotted this Agricola-style worker-placement game in my local gaming store, David’s in Brighton. I really liked the cover art, which was very thematically earthy in its colour scheme and text style, and the blurb on the back of the box sounded intriguing too (“With a balance of luck and planning, the players compete for food in this pre-historic time”). However, the price (£30) stayed my hand on its way to my purse. I will be forever thankful that I decided to go back and purchase it after all, for I have found Stone Age to be a heartily satisfying gaming experience with a high re-playability factor. In our household it has been nicknamed ‘Agricola Lite’, because it brings together the best of that game whilst cutting out a lot of its faff.
Players start out with five tribe members (represented by charmingly-crafted wooden ‘meeples’), and each turn they are all sent off into the wilderness to forage or hunt for food, craft tools (which increase yields of food and resources), gather resources (wood, stone, brick or gold), pick up victory points by building huts, or retire to the breeding hut to add to their number (which, in my gaming circle, always prompts cries of “They’re sh***ing again!”). Every area of the board except the food gathering site has a limited number of spaces, so there is a competitive element – much as there might have been back then, when resources were available to those who got there first. Success at resource and food-gathering depends on the luck of the dice and the number of tribe members you commit to that action.
The win condition is the highest number of victory points at the end of the game, but in order to survive your people must also eat. Not eating can cost you resources or points! There is a good opportunity to use all the resource types thanks to the variety of cards and huts available, and a great chance to increase points further by picking up cards that focus on number of tools/people and ‘technology’ cards.
The board is beautifully designed with a real hand-painted feel to the artwork, and the different areas are clearly demarcated, making it easy to explain even to non-gamers. The resource pieces are wooden too and appropriately shaped – for example, the gold pieces are shaped like gold bars. Thanks to the chunky, solid texture and simplicity of the board and pieces, setup time and fuss is minimal, giving an even greater feeling of value to the approximately 90 minutes of play you can expect per game. The theme shines through perfectly for this and many other reasons, not least the ‘Stone Age king’ starting player token!
All in all, this is an excellent game that I am always keen to get onto the table. Novice gamers will perhaps want to get a more experienced gamer to show it to them the first time (or watch one of the online video demos), but otherwise it more than deserves its 2008 Spiel des Jahres nomination and the other awards it has attracted since its release.
You can buy Stone Age from: