Authors: Alan R. Moon &
Aaron Weissblum

Publisher: Alea 2003

Awards: none



The new Alea-game Eiszeit (=Iceage) takes us back in time thousands of years to a time where Mammoths still were roaming the face of the earth and where spreading polar caps signalize the beginning of the so-called Iceage.

In this game the players take up leadership of stoneage tribes, and by clever placement of their clan members they try to become the most successful tribe and to accumulate most victory points. The gameboard shows an area with a total of 4 different landscapes, and at the beginning of the game only a small minority of these landscapes is already hidden beneath a layer of ice. On a few of the other landscapes Mammoths are placed, and it will be these landscapes which will prove to be most attractive for the players to collect victory points. As a final preparation before the game starts, each player receives a total of 13 clan members and 4 stones (the "currency" in this game) and the two decks of bright and dark action cards which be shuffled and each player will be randomly dealt 2 bright and 3 dark cards.

The game will be played in 4 turns, but before it starts a pre-turn takes place in which each player is allowed to place 6 of his clan members in different landscapes on the gameboard. Once the pre-turn is over, the game starts with the first turn. Each of the four turns is split down into 4 phases, and these phases are Settlement, Conflicts, Scoring and Ice.

During the Settlement phase the players must play one of the cards which they have on their hand. After that card has been dealt with, the player may decide to discard an additional card from his hand without acting on it, and once this was done the player re-fills his hand to a total of 5 cards. As can be guessed, the most important element of this phase is the playing of a card, since by playing a card a player is enabled to influence what is happening on the gameboard. In general, bright action cards are good for the player who plays them, whereas dark action cards are much more useful to other players. It might now be asked why a player should play a dark card under these circumstances, but unfortunately this is the place where the stones come into the game. Playing a bright card costs the player a number of stones, so that he can only play the card if he can pay this number of stones. As might be guessed, a stockpile of stones is depleted very fast, so that a player now is forced to play dark cards as well, since these cards allow him to gain back some stones. Once the stones indicated on the card were taken or dropped, the player (or another in case of a dark card) now performs the action given on the card. In general, these actions vary from moving clan members, placing new clan members, moving or placing Mammoths, getting a Club etc. The Settlement phase ends once the stockpile of stones is depleted, and the game now moves onwards to the Conflicts phase.

At the beginning of the game so called "Fire Markers" were randomly distributed face down into all landscapes. These markers now will be revealed, and the size of the fire as indicated on the marker (0 to 2) will play a crucial role in the Conflicts phase. In turn, each landscape now will be checked whether the maximum of clan members which may be placed there has been exceeded. In general, a landscape can be inhabited by 3 clan members, and each Mammoth there increases the maximum by 1. The maximum is further increased by the fire in that landscape (0 to 2), and once the final maximum has been calculated it will be compared to the number of clan members in this landscape. If the number of clan members of all players exceeds the maximum, then clan members must be removed until the maximum number of clan members allowed on this landscape has been reached. The order in which the players have to remove clan members is determined by the number of clan members a player his on this landscape. In general, the tribes of the players with more clan members in that particular landscape will be considered as being stronger, so that the order in which clan members are removed goes from weakest to strongest. An exception to this rule are the Clubs which can be acquired by playing a card. A Club can be assigned to any clan member, and such a weapon prevents the clan members from being removed under any circumstances.

Once the conflicts in all landscapes have been dealt with by reducing the clan members in each landscape to the allowed maximum the Scoring phase will take place. The players now will receive victory points for each of their clan members on the gameboard: a clan member in a landscape without a Mammoth will score one point, a clan member in a landscape with one Mammoth will score two points and a clan member in a landscape with more than one Mammoth will score three points.

After the Scoring Phase the Ice-Phase signalizes the end of the current turn. During that phase the player with fewest victory points may take an ice layer playing piece and cover a landscape of his choice with ice. The only placement restriction is that the ice layer must be placed next to a landscape which is already covered by ice. If there are any playing pieces in the landscape the player has chosen, then the playing pieces are returned to their owners or the common stockpile.

The game is over once all four turns have been played, and the player with most victory points has won the game.

Eiszeit actually is a nice and entertaining strategy game which offers good fun and a fair degree of strategy to the players. What I especially like about the game is the rules which require the players to play good and bad cards alike. A player always may choose to play a few bright cards which are good for him, but afterwards he will be forced to play some dark cards as well which will allow the other players to catch up a bit. Here a player has to chose carefully as to finding the correct time when to play a particular card. Some cards can be extremely harmful if played at the wrong moment, whereas they are nearly useless at another time. However, I must also say that I am missing a certain degree of ingenuity in the game for giving it the highest marks. Overall, the game plays rather well, but some more interesting twists in the rules would have enhanced the entertainment value of the game.

Looking for this game? Visit Funagain Games!

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Copyright © 2006 Frank Schulte-Kulkmann, Essen, Germany