In Age of War, a new dice-rolling game from Fantasy Flight Games, two to six players attempt to dominate feudal Japan. Fourteen castle cards are laid out in the middle of the table, each with a victory point value and several battle lines.
Players take turns rolling seven dice. After their first roll, a player chooses which castle he is attempting to take, then assigns the appropriate symbol on the rolled dice — infantry, cavalry, archers and daimyos (Japanese nobles) — to a specific castle's battle line. Next, he may roll the remaining dice again, minus one, to try to roll the remaining symbols he or she needs to take the castle. The player may roll again, but again must set aside one of the dice. At the end of his turn, the player will either have the necessary symbols to take the castle or end his turn.
Taken castles are placed before the player, and other players have the option of trying to take it away, though in addition to the battle lines they must roll an additional daimyo symbol. If ever a player gains all of the castles of a certain color, he or she may turn them over to gain more points, and those castles may not be taken by another player. The game ends once all of the castles from the center of the board have been taken. Victory points from castles are then added up and the winner is the player with the most.
Age of War is a very light game, and yet it is surprisingly intense as players must constantly push their luck in order to conquer the castles. Particularly fun is the ability to steal castles from other players. This adds a deeper level of tension and intrigue to what is essentially a simple dice rolling game. There is undoubtedly a lot of game in this small box.
Age of War is recommended for ages 14 and up and plays in about 15-30 minutes.
While Age of War is light, a much lighter game is Mayfair Games' Gold Ahoy!.
In Gold Ahoy!, two players attempt to construct the most pathways to treasure chests. On his or her turn, a player reaches into a bag and pulls out a tile. The player then may place it on the table in front of him. Over the course of the following turns, players create a grid six tiles long by six tiles wide.
Each tile contains land and water pathways. Each tile also contains a treasure chest, either on the water pathway or the land pathway. The goal of the game is to connect your side of the board to the most treasure chests via land and water while at the same time trying to deny access to treasure chests to your opponent through careful tile placement.
Once the grid is completed, each player scores a point for every treasure chest he or she can draw a pathway to from their side of the board. If both players have access to a treasure chest, neither can score a victory point for it. The player with the most victory points wins.
While there is a certain amount of strategy in placing tiles, particularly near the end when players are trying to block their opponent's access to treasure, victory ultimately depends upon a heavy dose of luck. Gold Ahoy! is undoubtedly too light for most serious gamers, but with its easy to learn mechanics and quick playing time, this is a game that kids and casual gamers should really enjoy.
Gold Ahoy! plays in about 15 minutes and is recommended for ages 8 and up, though is probably suitable for younger players as well.
Cody K. Carlson holds a master's in history from the University of Utah and teaches at Salt Lake Community College. An avid player of board games, he blogs at thediscriminatinggamer.com. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org