Game Review: Through the Ages for iOS

The iOS game space has become fertile ground for physical board game conversions into their digital equivalents. Sometimes the results are pathetic while other times truly exceptional when put into the hands of a skilled developer passionate about the source material. Czech Games Edition's immensely popular board game Through the Ages has made just such a conversion into the digital gaming realm. Read on to find out if they have failed or succeeded in their efforts.

The goal of Through the Ages ($9.99) is to win with the highest number of culture points compared to your organic or AI competitor(s). Achieving this objective is a challenging and at times mentally taxing effort, as numerous variables compete for attention and resources. Unlike a typical 4x (Explore, Expand, Exploit, Exterminate) game like Civilization Revolution 2, this is a card and resource placement game. Players compete for a moving conveyer belt of cards representing leaders, military, technology, political actions, and even epic construction of world wonders such as the Great Wall. It's easy for new players to get lost or so focused on these ever-changing opportunities and threats that they forget to stay on course with achieving the culture point objective. Fortunately, the game has helpful hints and reminders to make sure the human player(s) use their resources and actions as effectively as possible.

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Through the Ages Title Screen

In addition to solo play with AI bots, the game supports multiplayer in both local and network modes using the same robust match-making system that CGE developed for its other excellent board to iOS conversion, Galaxy Trucker. This service aids in connecting you with other Through the Ages digital edition players around the globe. The online component also synchronizes your game status and ranking across mobile devices, even if you're running the game on different operating systems such as Android. The game also includes additional solo gaming content in the form of nearly 30 challenging scenarios to test your strategic thinking and mastery of the game mechanics, no additional in-app-purchase necessary (unlike CGE's Galaxy Trucker which charged an extra $4.99 for a batch of solo challenges). In a way, this helps further justify the game's somewhat pricey $9.99 U.S. app store price. And yet, that price is a steal considering the seventy dollar suggested retail price of the physical version.

Through the Ages Main Screen

What I found most impressive about the game is its gorgeous artwork and clean user interface, especially compared to the component-rich physical board game version. The graphic fidelity of the card artwork is stunning, even better than the actual printed cards, and the card browser makes it easy to quickly peruse all the cards and accompanying glorious artwork in the game. It is this level of quality and attention to detail that helps Through the Ages stand out from the crowd of other digital board game conversions.

Through the Ages Cards

Also notable is the game's excellent tutorial that has the game's iconic designer, Vlaada Chvátil, guide you through the intricacies of Through the Ages with light-hearted and delightful humor. It makes learning the game so much easier as a result. Players who prefer a more visual explanation of the game can visit CGE's website for video tutorials and playthroughs.

Through the Ages Manual

Final Verdict

Not only has CGE succeeded in converting Through the Ages from the physical to digital realm, it has far surpassed my expectations. I no longer have to lug around a box brimming with stacks of cards and tiny cubes, but I can also play this excellent game either solo or with friends locally or online anytime, anywhere. Thanks CGE!

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Mike Riley is a frequent contributor to several technical publications and specializes in emerging technologies and new development trends. Mike was previously employed by RR Donnelley as the company’s Chief Scientist, responsible for determining innovative technical approaches to improve the company’s internal and external content services. Mike also co-hosted Computer Connection, a technology enthusiast show broadcast on Tribune Media's CLTV.