I have played Fantasy Flight Games, Civilization the boardgame, and though I enjoyed how it brought the best parts of the PC game series to the table I was also not overly sold on the product as a whole. There were some clunky game mechanics in both combat and exploration as well as science that I thought could be done better. I also find the idea of mixing various historical people and having them compete against each other - Julius Caesar and Romans vs Bismarck and the Germans quite stupid and weird.
Through the ages kind of takes the ideas of Civilization and reworks them into a very detailed worker placement game that is card driven and that has no real gameboard but instead focuses on player sideboards where you keep track of your own civilization. The civilizations are also more generic in terms that you all start out the same, with "Despotism" as your government style. Sure there are historical characters that you can pick up to aid you, but they are at least not taking on the lead role of your play style.
Through the ages, as the name alludes, takes place over the span of 4 ages - Ancient, Age I (medieval), Age II (renaissance), and Age III industrial/modern. At the center of the board you will place several smaller board pieces with different trackers. These will keep track of each players culture and science progress. The player with the most culture at the end of the game wins.
The board will also show you the cards currently available to pick from for the age currently in progress, once an age deck runs out of cards, another age begins. Characters belonging to declining ages will be removed from play - you will not be able to benefit from Genghis Khan during Age III for instance...
Player actions are completely based around the number of available action tokens they have. Actions are divided into Political and Military, the number of such tokens depend in turn on what type of government you have. Some governments give you more political tokens, others have increased amount of military tokens. Buying new research requires political tokens to be spent. Military tokens are mainly used for performing military actions. Additionally, in order to create soldiers, man buildings and manufacture goods you will need workers. Workers are drafted from the population pool of your player side board. You will need a big population to create food and resources for buildings, and staff buildings to generate culture and science.
The game has a nice corruption and food requirement mechanic that kicks in when you generate goods (blue cubes) or increase your population (yellow cubes). Upgrading buildings and having more food than necessary around is important or you will start to lose both goods and happiness.
Researching unlocks new buildings and troop types, but also allows you to evolve your government style, either through evolution or revolution. Evolution of government often costs more science points to be spent, but you are allowed to change government type and keep playing your turn. Revolution is fast and cheaper but it is also the only action you will be able to take that particular turn and the price of skipping an entire turn can be high in the long run.
Added to the mix are event, exploration and warfare cards. These can be played either using political or military cubes and represent abstract exploration and colonization of new lands, world events and making raids on enemy lands or starting all out wars where military strengths becomes important.
I personally love this game, but have to admit it took us a few hours to read the rules, testplay and understand the finer aspects of this game. It has a lot of rules, and things that you have to keep in mind. The learning curve is very steep, and to make it a balanced gaming session all players need to know all the rules before you can start playing. This is not a game that you can learn as you go along. Unfortunately so, since it is rare that you want to bring a game over to a friend and spend the first 2-3 hours explaining and showing examples of play...
Once you learn the game however, it is a very rich and rewarding gameplay experience. It is hands down the best worker placement/managment game that I own. I wish I could play it more often and with more people.
Through the ages: A new story of civilization, 9,5/10