Worker Wednesday – Stone Age

Welcome back to the day we look at one of my new favorite mechanics; worker placement. We have thus far looked at a great selection of games within the genre of worker placement, but today we shall look at the one that has, to some of my friends, Jones Ruled out many of their old favorites as well as a game that was recently on TableTop – Stone Age.

Released 2008
Designer: Brend Brunnhofer
Plays: 2-4
EPT: 60 minutes

In Stone Age each player is guiding a community with the goal of having the most developed or most inhabited village at the end of the game… personally the theme is kind of week here and I was stretching just for that, but as is often the case in these games the winner is the person who accumulates the most points. Players will gather food, wood, stone, gold, and bricks so they can build their village by constructing buildings and developing their civilization.

Players start the game with 5 workers (note the meeples are fancy; instant bonus points), but they have the ability to gain more workers by sending them to a specific location (my group has dubbed this the love hut or the slave market [they can work on your next turn; how many babies can work the mines at 1 day old…])

On a players turn they can place 1 or more of their workers on any of the circles on the board locations at a ratio of one worker per circle; including on the huts or the civilization cards; note the huts, civilization cards, the field, and the tool maker can only hold one worker at a time per round. To use a hut the player must place only and exactly two workers while the hunting grounds can hold an unlimited number of workers. The forest, clay mound, quarry, and river each have a set number of circles the players can place their workers on; once a player has designated workers to an area they can not add more to that same area later on the same round.

Play will progress with players placing their workers until all players have placed all of their workers. Starting with the first player they will go around activating their workers at one of their sites; repeating this until all players have activated all their workers. The resource locations have a fun mechanism in which you roll X dice where X is the number of workers you placed on the location; the sum of the rolled dice is than divided by a resource allocation difficulty rate (yes I made up that term); the player will then gather resources equal to the result of the final equation. The resources each have a point value equal to their resource allocation difficulty; wood 3, clay 4, stone 5, gold 6 (food is a rate of 2; but it has no associated point value).

When placing on the building tiles the player must spend the listed resources; or choose the resources when given the wild option before scoring the points and placing the building on their play mat. With the civilization cards; the player must pay resources equal to the number of wild resource symbol(s) above the card; the player then gets an immediate bonus listed at the top of the card followed by an end game scoring bonus outlined at the bottom of the card. Tools are an additional bonus players can use once a round to boost their die rolls at a rate equal to the tools power 1-4; these can be great ways to get extra resources you need but were just shy of acquiring. The field, meanwhile raises a player’s position on the agriculture track which awards a player with food at the end of the round.

After all players have retrieved their workers and activated their locations they must feed them at a rate of 1 to 1; thus if your level on the agriculture track is equal to your number of workers; you never have to worry about feeding your clan, if you have been spending a lot of time at the hut however, you may need to keep a few of your increased crowd at the hunting grounds; if ever a player cannot or chooses not to feed their people they lose 10 points.

The game ends when one of the building stacks depletes or when the civilization deck is incapable of filling the civilization row (note when the civilization cards are restocked any cards remaining from the previous round slide to the right). When the game ends players calculate their final score by looking at their civilization cards and calculating the bonus which most often would be counting the total number of bonus on the civilization card then multiplying it by the point modifier (huts built, people in your clan, level of agriculture) to get a final bonus score which is added to their current score. There is also a civilization set collection score in which players attempt to gather various aspects of civilization (pots, instruments, writing, art, etc) which score based upon the number of different items gathered; after this has been done for all players the high scorer wins!

My first game of Stone Age was slightly marred due to a poor rule explanation partnered with myself and another player being new while the remaining 2 players were very experienced with developed strategies; thus crushing myself and the other rookie, this partnered with the constant math turned me off of the game. A few years later I was at a family game day where the game was brought out with the statement that it was one of my cousins favorite games; I thus gave the game a second try and learned that when taught well and with the right rules it is a highly enjoyable game.

The use of the die partnered with the resource allocation difficulty rate adds an element of controllable luck to the game. Placing 1 worker on the river you have a small chance of getting any gold; place 2 and statistically you are more likely to get at least 1 gold than no gold; place 6 workers and you are guaranteed one, have the potential for 6 but should average out to 3. This element can lead to analysis paralysis when players calculate their odds on every location… every turn… of every round… I have only faced this once, however, and on the second round we encouraged the player to speed up.

The tools add a very interesting element to the game as they allow the players the freedom to spread their workers in hopes of high rolls standing alone and low rolls being subsidized with the aid of tools. There are plenty of paths the players can choose to pursue in the game; with agriculture, huts, and civilization all playing an important role the game rarely gets dull. I am glad I gave the game a second try which led to a third, fourth and many more.

While Stone Age has not Jones ruled out many other workers placements as it lacks in an immersive theme and it requires a bit more thinking prowess and math skills than the group as a hole always desires to allocate it is still a great game I get to enjoy on the regular.

With the fun and sometimes silly artwork, fancy meeples, partnership of skill and luck I give the game a 7.25 out of ten.
Visuals – 1.75 // 2
Skill/Luck – .75 // 1
Pacing – 1.25 // 2
Theme/Immersion – 1 // 2
Mechanics – .75 // 1
Fun Factor 1.75 // 2
Sadly I know people who will hate me for scoring it lower than a 9 as well as others who will hate me for scoring it greater than a 6; this is a game that I have found players to have quite varied responses with, so give it a try and see what you think for yourself!

Don’t miss tomorrow when I do something different and take a look at a movie… a movie about boardgames, specifically a man attempting to sell his game to a publishers in The Next Great American Game; until then you can find us on social media!
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