The first new content for CGE’s flagship civ game, Through the Ages, dropped a few weeks ago, in both analog and digital format. Having raved about the digital port two years ago (tl;dr it completely won me over and is the only way I’ll play the game) it fell to me to humbly accept CGE’s offer to let me unlock the expansion on my iPad for zero dollars.
It’s taken four years for designer Vlaada Chvátil and his team to brainstorm, playtest, and balance this new content. The New Leaders and Wonders expansion doesn’t burden the game with more mechanics or subsystems, thankfully: “all” it does is add about fifty new cards to the game. These cards span all four of the game’s Eras and (as one would infer from the title) consist mainly new Wonders and Leaders, although there are also new Military Cards as well. There are no new Civil Cards.
What this means is that you now have three play modes: base game; all-new content (keeping only the base game’s Civil and vanilla Military Cards); or mixing everything together and randomly using what comes up. The same is true in the digital port–which also happily adds whole new layers of Challenges as well, which I love.
I have played dozens of games with just the new content and dozens with everything mixed together, and am happy to say that not only does everything seem well-balanced, but the new cards encourage new strategies and nerf some of the old dominant strategies a bit. This is exactly what a good expansion should do.
Here’s a rundown of some of my favorite new cards and give my take on how they alter TtA’s play-scape, organized chronologically. Little of this will make sense to you if you haven’t played TtA…but then again why would you be reading this in that case?
- Acropolis: one of several new cards which makes going heavy on urban buildings a viable strategy. Plus it gives you decent early-game military and culture boosts.
- Development of Planning: I always rejoice when this comes up because it gives me flexible choices for development. It’s more important than ever to have an idle worker available.
- Nostradamus: this card is awesome, yo. Not only do you get to see what your opponents put into the Event deck, not only do you get higher rewards for preparing events, but you are at least temporarily spared from having to constantly keep up militarily so as to avoid negative Events. A great defensive leader.
- Jan Žižka on the other hand is a great leader if you wanna go full-in military because you can use your farmers for infantry/artillery on Tactics cards AND your armies produce culture. Plus, eye-patch.
- Himeji Castle has both offensive and defensive benefits, allowing you to double-count a unit for combat (although it then goes bye-bye afterward).
- James Watt makes farms and mines way way cheaper to invent and produce, and even kicks in a bit of culture when he leaves play. If you’re preparing for a late-game surge, and you should be, the extra productivity this can give you (if you can take proper advantage) is amazing.
- Antoni Gaudí makes a mid-game urban building strategy a breeze, not only giving you potentially huge discounts but also producing whopping amounts of culture.
- International Negotiations makes for some interesting…negotiations in three- and four-player games when it comes up. The potential for side-deals here is significant. Tricksy.
- Arms Industry can really benefit a civ with a small but cutting-edge army, giving them the extra resources they need to beef up quickly or finish off a Wonder.
- Freedom of Movement doesn’t save you resources; instead, it saves you two Actions if you want to upgrade or retool your civ. Not always useful but in the right context can save your bacon if you’re hurting for Actions.
- Autonomous Territory: winning this colony not only lets you choose your reward but also gives you extra Civil and Military Actions. Yum.
- Nelson Mandela: I like the twist that the card rewards you for having surplus happiness but is super-expensive Actionwise unless you have at least one discontented worker. If you’ve gone heavy with religion and arena techs Mandela can, if taken early enough, give you a decent late-game boost.
- Marie Curie Sklodowska rewards a civ that’s gone heavy on mines and labs. It’s a neat synergy.
- International Red Cross: finally there’s a Wonder for the civ that manages to accrue a huge food surplus (yes, it’s possible). You spend food rather than resources to build it, and other civs can join in, too (which makes it unique in a second way).
If you are a TtA fan who’s been on the fence about getting the expansion I hope this convinces you that it’s worth it. And if you’ve never played it but now find yourself intrigued, I would suggest definitely not playing with the expansion until you’ve mastered the cards and strategies in the base game. Which is easier to do digitally, as I’ve written about before.
Thanks to Czech Games Edition for supplying a free digital key for the Leaders and Wonders expansion.