06 December 2017
Entering the digital age
Vlaada Chvátil’s empire-building masterpiece Through the Ages has finally progressed to the digital age with the release of its long-awaited mobile app on iOS and Android – and the wait has been more than worth it.
Through the Ages sees players drafting cards to lead their civilisation from discovering basic technology and beginning to produce basic resources at the dawn of humanity through to the invention of computers and space flight, and the proliferation of culture in the 21st century, all while dealing with the threat of military conflict with rival nations.
The original tabletop game is complex but not impenetrable, and the app does a particularly fine job of automating many of the heavier calculations and popping up notifications to help players understand the options available each turn, doing a great job of displaying the remaining cards in each deck to allow for easier planning.
The undo and redo buttons come in especially handy, making it simple to see the consequences of every action without having to immediately commit or beg for a take-back from your fellow players. It’s the perfect way to learn the basics if you’re new.
The tutorial also shines in this regard, with a genuinely amusing narration from Chvátil himself – plus Aristotle and Leonardo da Vinci. It may take a match or two to full get to grips with the more strategic depths of the game, but you can be playing well enough within an hour.
A slightly revised set of rules designed specifically for the digital edition make minor changes to the bidding for colonies and way events play out in order to keep online games flowing smoothly – the unchanged tabletop rules can be selected during setup, but the tweaked mechanics strike an excellent balance between snappy play and staying true to the original’s compelling strategy.
The app looks fantastic across the board, with sharp graphics and just enough visual effects to bring it to life without bogging it down with needless animations – though a bigger screen is definitely recommended when dealing with the dinky virtual cards and tokens.
Despite the dearth of advanced graphics, it can be a battery hog, especially when playing asynchronous online matches – at one point it swallowed 80% of an iPhone charge in 24 hours. Although that may be because we could barely tear ourselves away…
Players: 1+ players
Time: 2+ hours