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Review: Nations (Part 1: Solo play review)

2015 June 7
by Michael Schroeder

Another civ game that kind of looks like, Through the Ages, but isn’t – this one’s more streamlined and therefore, much quicker to play. I’m talking about, Nations, by Lautapelit.fi and distributed by Asmodee.

Nations

Nations

Designer: Rustan Håkansson, Nina Håkansson, Einar Rosén, Robert Rosén

Playing time: 40-200 minutes

Ages: 14+

Number of players: 1-5

Publisher: Asmodee

In the epic game of Nations, you represent 1 of 5 empires, China, Greece, Rome, Egypt and Persia, where you are building up your heritage to be the greatest nation in history. The game takes place from Antiquity through the Industrial age where your nation will be building itself up through wonders, buildings, armies, colonies, advisors, wars and battles. These different types of resources and technologies are represented through the use of cards and there certainly is a lot of them! There’s also advanced and expert cards as well as an A and B side to the player boards to provide a variety to the game. Each age has two different phases where each player has an opportunity to take all the actions they want and can; that’s a total of 8 rounds. Please note, this review is for the single player variant – the game play and flow is similar but there are differences, we will do an additional supplementary review of multiplayer mode at a later date.

Setup:

Solo player setup

Solo player setup

There is multiple steps to setting up a game of Nations, for the solo play setup:

  • Lay down the progress board along side the main game board in the center of the playing area; separate all resources into their own piles;
  • Our lone player will take a nation/player board and place it in front of them; Take all people tokens of one color, along with any wooden discs in that color. One disc will go on the heritage track 1 space (books), one will go on the first space on the player order track, another at 0 on the stability track and another on 0 on the military strength track; place another in the middle of the main playing board on a player level space, for first game it is suggested that you play on the prince level, or handicap; place the black disc in the war space and the taller, white piece on the first space of the antiquity track.
  • On the bottom right of your player board is the resource area, this is your available resources. Give yourself 5 people, gold, stone, food and victory points based on the number it tells you in the bottom right; in your available population track on the very left of your player board, place a meeple on each space, covering the images.
  • Place the “shadow” players markers on the same spaces, except one of his discs will go on space 2 of the player order and his heritage or books start at 2.
  • Do not take out the event cards in a solo game, but stack and separate the even tiles and place in front of you; you’ll start with Age I and move up to IV by the end of the game. Do the same for the progress cards but remove any advanced or expert cards for your first time. Place the age 1 cards near the progress board. Also, for a solo play of this game, you will be populating the first 4 columns of the progress board

How to play:

The solo game and the normal multiplayer game goes in a specific order of phases. Follow these phases to play the game…

    1. Move round maker – except for in the very first round, move the white round marker to the next phase or age
    2. Refill progress cards – remove any cards in rows 1 and 2 and move all remaining cards from row 3 to row 1 and draw cards to fill up the remaining spaces on the board in rows 3 and up to 4 columns
    3. Growth or bonus resources – Each player may move 1 person from their population track to their resource spaces or draw the number of one single resource type, in the amount of your handicap level into your resources
    4. Draw event tile – this is different than the standard game. In the standard game you are drawing event cards, but in the solo mode, you turn over a tile in the appropriate phase you are in, this event card details the updated specs of the shadow player.
    5. Place opponent military strength and stability – move the shadow player’s marker for strength and stability on the main player board to match what’s on the event tile – it doesn’t matter if it goes up or down, there can be great swings. But first, let me get into how the basics of resources and upkeep works in this game…
      Resources

      Resources

      Screen Shot 2015-06-07 at 5.03.18 PM

      The images above represent the basic resources in the game, as well as military strength and stability. Red means you gain, black means you lose that many (numbers will be inside the boxes and circles). These changes get reflected during the production phase, but the values in the boxes, for military and stability get changes immediately, based on if your undeploy or deploy a worker on the respective cards or due to other effects. These boxes will be on the event tile in the solo player variant.

    6. Add books for shadow opponent – the number of books will always be added to the shadow opponents previous total
    7. Refill architects – The architects are represented by brown cubes. These brown cubes are a varying amount each round and the readily available ones are placed on the big white box area of the main board. In this phase, you are adding the number of cubes to this area that is denoted on the event tile
    8. Take Actions – this is the primary phase of the game – everything else is just upkeep. you may get to take as many actions as you wish and as you can, but at the end of your turn, you must roll the dice for the shadow opponent. You will roll for the shadow opponent after each of your turns, except for when you deploy workers. Your available actions are as follows…
      1. Buy a progress card – you pay the cost in gold coins on the left hand side of the row and depending on the card type, it may be an instant benefit, a war, which goes on the main board, or a more permanent card that stays on your board, unless you cover it up. Just buying a card doesn’t give you its effects, if its placed on your board, for most of the cards, you must deploy a worker to that card, however colonies, advisors, and wonders are the exception.
      2. Plavce an architect – you take take an architect cube and place it on the left most open space of a wonder under construction and you must immediately pay its cost in stone
      3. Deploy a worker – deplopying a worker is taking a worker from your available resources pool and placing it any building or military card on your board, therefore boosting or giving you benefit of that card. There may be any number of workers on a card, usually multiplying it’s effects but with military cards, you cannot increase the raid value and you can’t get more VP than the max number of workers illustrated on the card.
      4. Special action – some cards give you one time special actions a round
    9. Produce – the produce phase is when you calculate your round values on your cards on your board and award yourself these resources – or lose them. If you lose them and you can’t afford to pay for them all, you must lose them remaining in books, and you also lose a VP
    10. Player order – the player order is determined by the highest military strength and then for any ties, the stability track; change the player discs on the player order track accordingly.
    11. War – If you or the shadow player received a war, if you are below the black disc on the war track – which would have been placed below the marker of the player that purchased it, you will lose those resources as well as potential VP’s. The war has no effect on the shadow opponent however. In the multiplayer base game, this will have much greater an effect
    12. Now compare your stability with that of the shadow player, if you have more, you receive a VP, if you are the same or less, you lose one
    13. Famine – the top right of the event tile has a – number with food. You must sacrifice that number of food. Again, if you cannot, you may start losing books
    14. Finally, score 3 VP if your book count is higher than the shadow player
Represents the Shadow player

Represents the Shadow player

When your turn is done, and it’s the shadow player’s turn, you roll the dice for them. Depending on the number rolled, varying things can happen.

  • 1-4 – you move all cards out of that specific column on the progress board. If there is a war in that row and a war card is not already on the board, place that war card on the board, remove the black war token and place it below where the shadow players marker is on the military track.
  • 5-6 – 5 and 6 have varying effects denoted on the event tile

The game continues to progress in this order until you finish off round 2 of the industrial age. The cards get progressively better as the game progresses and more expensive, generally in stone costs.

The whole point of the solo player variant is to try and beat the scores towards the back of the rule book. I personally played the solo player variant to really get a sense of how the game is played.

At the end of the game you tally up all your VP’s and see what you come up with.


Summary:

Please note: this is a summary of the solo variant of Nations, I will not make a final call until I am able to play the game in the regular, multiplayer mode.

IMG_0042

Keeping in mind what I just stated I do enjoy Nations, so far. Even for a solo variant, it is fun trying to best the scores in the book and ultimately best your previous scores. As far as the components go, I’m so-so on them. I really dislike the artwork. It’s funny, I also didn’t care for the artwork in “Through the Ages,” either. I wonder if it’s because there is such a varying range of different cards that the production cost would have been astronomical unless some corners had to be cut. I can’t tell you how sick I was of seeing the face of Madame Currie. As far as the rest of the components, such as production quality, it is good. I had no issues with the components, the chits are a decent thickness and there’s plenty of them, which is always nice. I do like the interior artwork in the box bottom with the cardboard insert. The game came with plenty of baggies too, which is always nice. The rulebook has nice examples and is mostly clear and concise, however I do have some questions about some cards. Overall I enjoy the game and as I’ve heard it stated from others, this is a more streamlined “Through the Ages.” If you are into civ games, I’d recommend checking it out. As for a final review, you’ll have to wait for my supplementary review of the game.

Thank you Asmodee for providing this review copy.

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