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



Michael Tummelhofer
(aka Bernd Brunnhofer)


No. of Players:
2 - 5



When HANS IM GLÜCK released Stone Age back in 2008, some unhappy voices could be heard because the game was limited to four players. Now, over three years later, author Bernd Brunnhofer (aka Michael Tummelhofer) has returned with an expansion which allows a fifth player to board the time capsule back to the stone age, and the release of this expansion is at least a minor surprise because it had become a bit quiet around Stone Age after its initial release. This seems to be due to the fact that the game market is simply flooded with new games each year so that many titles quickly will drop from the main focus of interest, but in case of Stone Age this development did not really reflect that great playing value offered by this game. Its ability to unite seasoned gamers and newcomers within the scope of a resource management game still makes Stone Age one of the most attractive games in this category, and so it is great to see that HANS IM GLÜCK has decided to revitalize the game with the release of a new expansion.

[IMAGE]The adding of a fifth player of course requires additional playing material, and so Stone Age - Mit Stil zum Ziel contains new Hut-Markers and Civilization cards which are shuffled among the existing ones. Thus, a fifth stockpile of Hut markers and a fifth Civilization card are added to the starting setup of the game. However, so far the gameboard only allowed space for four Civilization cards, and so the expansion box contains a small overlay board which covers nearly a fourth of the gameboard. This new overlay board features a market space for a fifth Civilization card, and furthermore a new building - the Trading Post - is added to the small village.

The new building has to do something with the main focus of the expansion, since the players now have a possibility to obtain pieces of jewellery (made of bones) which can be traded for resources in order to purchase Hut-Markers and Civilization cards. Thus, each player starts the game with one piece of jewellery, and whenever a player sends tribe members to the Hunting Grounds he now may choose to take pieces of jewellery instead of food. In fact, the player rolls dice at the Hunting grounds as normal, and then he is free to take any combination of food and jewellery, since one unit of each comes for the same price as food. The Trading Post also can be used for gaining jewellery, since a player who sends two of his clan members to the trading post will receive two pieces of jewellery as well.

As indicated, jewellery can be used to acquire Hut-Markers and Civilization cards, but there are actually some different ways how the pieces of jewellery can be used. The most straightforward way is to use jewellery directly to purchase a Civilization card from the new fifth slot on the market, since the card on display here only can be purchased by spending jewellery. And, if the player who makes this purchase spends some additional jewellery, he is even allowed to take one additional face-down Civilization card directly from the drawing stack. This card will not trigger any directly applicable benefit, but it will nonetheless be counted in the final evaluation. Comparable to the direct purchase of a Civilization card, some of the new Hut-markers also require a payment in jewellery, and so the players must spend jewellery if they want to take one of these new Hut-Markers.

However, apart from making this direct purchase, jewellery also can be used to replace a part of the payment which usually must be made in order to purchase other Hut-Markers or Civilization cards which otherwise would not be available for jewellery. So, a player who has visited the Trading Post at least once will be able to substitute one needed resource by paying two pieces of jewellery when obtaining a Civilization card or a Hut-Marker, and this trading quota will get even better if the player has visited the Trading Post several times. Thus, each time a player places two clan members at the Trading Post he will not only receive two pieces of jewellery, but he will also be allowed to move his marker one step further on a trading scale. At the beginning this will trigger a 2-to-1 trading quota of jewellery for resources, whereas the quota may get 1-to-1 or even 1-to-2 if the player's marker gets higher on the trading scale.

As you can see, the introduction of jewellery and the associated possibilities for trading form the core of this new expansion, since the players now may focus their efforts in a quite different way. For one, the use of jewellery opens up the possibility to make a purchase without owning the complete combination of required resources, and this gives the game some additional balancing since players now can bring up a payment more easy than by just following the basic rules. This balancing effort was needed in order to integrate the fifth player into the gameflow, but as it seems the game as a whole benefits from the introduction of the jewellery since the players get a possibility to plan their actions a bit better. However, the usefulness of the expansion does not stop here. Just like the basic game offers possibilities to follow different strategies based on a player's preference, the use of jewerly and the trading scale opens up a whole new approach on the way to win. An early investment into trading will mean that a player will fall a bit behind concerning the collection of resources and building activities, but during the second half of the game the investment may pay off and take the player right back into the heart of the competition. So, the new expansion perfectly does what an expansion is supposed to do - it enlarges the scope of the basic game.

On a final note, it should also be mentioned that Stone Age - Mit Stil zum Ziel also contains some bonus Hut-Markers. So far these promo huts were only available by purchasing a special issue of the SPIELBOX-magazine, but now HANS IM GLÜCK has decided to make them available to a larger audience by adding them to this expansion!

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Copyright © 2012 Frank Schulte-Kulkmann, Essen, Germany