Kulkmann's G@mebox - www.boardgame.de



Einar Rosén,
Robert Rosén,
Nina Håkansson,
Rustan Håkansson


No. of Players:
1 - 5

G@mebox Star



Gamebox author Doug Adams writes about the game:

Nations is a civilization building game for one to five players. In the game, players take on a historical civilization, and guide it through eight turns of growth and development. The player with the most victory points will win the game.

Nations is packed in a large box, and contains seven boards. Five of these are the civilization boards, each listing a civilization such as Rome or China. The other two boards are a record keeping board and a card drafting board. The game also comes with a large number of cardboard pieces, representing food, stone, gold, and victory points. There are also a set of 24 tiles to punch out, to be used in the solitaire game.


Each player receives a set of thirteen workers, as well as some discs to record various game parameters, such as Stability, Military Strength, Knowledge, turn position, and interestingly, the handicapping level they are playing at.

The components that draw the attention are the cards. There are around 250 of these, divided into progress cards and event cards. The progress cards are further divided into four historical epochs, and divided even further into simple, medium and advanced game cards. You can control how complex you want your game to be by added in the extra cards. In any single game, not every card will appear.

The game is predominately about the players managing resources - stone, food, gold and victory points. The players also have to control their Stability, Military Strength, and Knowledge on the record keeping board. These seven things I will refer to as Stuff for the remainder of the review.


Despite the large number of cards, the game is quite straightforward to play. A game will last eight rounds, with every two rounds representing one of the four historical epochs. During each round, a brisk maintenance phase takes place. New progress cards are added to the drafting board, and an event card is drawn, giving players a preview of what is in store for them this round. Players also get a chance to recruit a new worker, or draw some Stuff. The round then proceeds to the action phase.

The action phase is where it all happens each round. Players take turns taking a single action, then passing play to the next player. This continues around the table until the every player has passed, and then a tidying up phase takes place.

Actions can either be purchase a card off the Progress board; hire an architect; or deploy a worker onto a Military or Building card you own.

The Progress board is set up at the beginning of each round with a selection of cards available for purchase. The more players that are playing the more cards are available. Cards have an escalating cost depending on which row they appear. Players simply pay the cost in gold and take the card. There are eight different types of cards, and their use and function varies.

  • Military and Building cards are placed out onto the player mats. These mats have limited slots for different card types, and players are free to build over previously acquired cards. Each mat comes pre-printed with Buildings so players are already holding cards when the game begins. Military cards typically increase strength for the loss of some other item of Stuff, while Buildings generally give you more Stuff.

  • Golden Age cards offer a short term reward of some instant Stuff, or the opportunity to trade Stuff for a precious victory point. They are then discarded.

  • Battle cards represent some historical event, and gives the player some Stuff. The amounts gained depends on the players current raid value, found on Military cards.

  • Wonders are cards that need to be constructed. Each civilization has one slot reserved for a Wonder under construction. To complete a Wonder, players need to spend actions hiring Architects and providing them with Stone.

  • Wars are the evil cards. There can only be one war per round and the first player to take a War card defines the war for that round. The war is set at the declaring players Military Strength, and all the players can either try to defeat the war by matching that strength, or losing the war and taking a penalty.

  • Advisers are historical persons who give some benefit to the player. Each civilization has one slot for an adviser.

  • Colonies represent overseas holdings that have been conquered. Players must have the required Military Strength it claim the Colony. Each civilization has one or more slots to hold their Colonies. Colonies provide additional Stuff to the owning player.

Players have a limited supply of workers, but have the opportunity to obtain more during the Growth Phase at the beginning of a round. Workers will deploy out onto Buildings or Military cards, typically by paying Stone. These workers will instantly adjust the Stuff the player earns. They also provide victory points at the end of the game.

Architects are a limited commodity that trickle into the game ever round. Players may spend an action hiring them, paying some Stone, and completing a stage of their Wonder currently under construction. When every stage is complete, the Wonder is moved to a different slot on the player mat, and will provide some benefit to the owner for the remainder of the game.

At the end of each round, the civilizations produce Stuff. This is the net sum of your cards on your player mat, and may be negative. If you cannot pay, you lose Knowledge for the difference, and a victory point for each unpaid resource type.

Wars also are resolved at the end of the round. The nations that cannot match the Military Strength are defeated and lose a victory point, as well as incurring the penalty on the War card. A nation's Stability can be used to offset losses from a defeat in a war.

At the end of eight rounds, a final scoring takes place. Players sum their victory points accrued during the game, as well as points earned from Wonders, Colonies, Military and Building cards. Finally every piece of Stuff help by the nation is totaled and divided by ten - this value is added to the score. Highest score wins the game.

Nations is an excellent example of modern game design. The game is obviously inspired by CGE's Through The Ages, even so far as to giving Vlaada Chvatil an acknowledgment in the credits. Nations appears to correct some of the problems gamers had with Through The Ages. The actions are pulse driven now. Players take one mini turn, and then the next player is up. Through The Ages had players taking an entire turn before the action passed to the next player. Late game, with powerful governments and four players, led to a lot of downtime. This has effectively been eliminated in Nations. Nations also feels a lot friendlier than Through The Ages when it comes to player conflict. In the earlier game it was in your face, player on player, whereas in Nations it is more interacting with the knowledge, stability and military tracks ... it feels less personal.

Nations feels a lot more tactical than Through The Ages. Players are interested and invested in what is occurring on the Stability, Military Strength and Knowledge tracks. This leads to a lot of stone walling, as players try to delay passing as long as possible, to earn themselves the best outcome at the end of the round when the events are resolved. I'm not sure "tactical" and a game spanning several thousand years is the best fit, but it certainly makes for interesting game play.

In terms of playing time, a four player game of Nations should take around 150 minutes, and the interactive nature if the game play makes this feel faster than it is. This is always the sign of a well designed game.

The game comes with a nice solo variant, where you play for victory points and assess your score. The event deck is removed and replaced with a deck of about 25 tiles, of which you will see eight in any one game. The tiles set the values for a robot player, along with criteria for how it manipulates the progress board and it's game values. It makes a nice 45 minute challenge to brush up your skills. The solitaire rules are a little vague, and could use some additional explanation explaining how to interpret the tiles.


Nations is a solid production without being spectacular. The game makes excellent use of colour and iconography throughout its components. Upon drawing a card, it is very clear from first glance what type of card it is and what it does. The art on the cards are functional, in a slightly cartoon style that may not appeal to everyone. The player mats are well laid out and clear. The cards are small but easy to read. The rules are clear, although the solitaire rules could do with some clarifications.

Nations is a very good game that is easy to learn and plays well. If you are a fan of Through The Ages and want a lighter, more interactive game, you should investigate this game.

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Copyright © 2014 Frank Schulte-Kulkmann, Essen, Germany