Friday, November 11, 2011

History of the World

One of my group's favorite games is "History of the World," a game we've been playing since the old Avalon Hill days. I think it's a favorite since we all know the rules, the cards, and the basic empires, although honestly, I don't care for the game all that much, which probably comes as a surprise to my gaming group since I'm the one that usually pushes to play this game, especially this last time.

Why? Well, there are several reasons. First, I love the scope of the game - from the earliest civilizations up to the modern age. I love studying history and the rise and fall of empires and lately have been watching a show called Rome: Rise and Fall of an Empire, which covers many of the Epoch III (or is it IV?) empires, so I've had an interest in playing the game. Of course, I'm never given the Romans, so it was a moot point. I'm usually stuck over in India, China, or the New World. I'm also a fan of Dr. Who, which (especially in its early years) covers a wide range of human history. As an aside, wouldn't it be interesting to include the Daleks in a future epoch? Another reason I've been wanting to play is exposure to a great deal of ancient art at our local art museum (St. Louis Art Museum). There you can find art from the ancient Egyptians, Greeks, Chinese (many dynasties represented), and South Asia (include some from the Gupta era).

So what don't I like about the game? I think it's a lack of control. Not that I do well in games where I can exercise a lot of control, but it just seems like lack of control is rampant in this game. You never know from one epoch to the next when you will take your turn, much less where you will be. You can have a nicely played empire, only to lose it next turn to another empire that starts on your conquered land. Then there is the card draw, which, in my opinion, can make or break a game. I've gotten dealt some awful hands before (can anyone say Australia?) while I see other people clean up with leaders, engineering, and civil service.

There's also a lot of dice rolling. Sure, there's some strategy to taking lands, building monuments, and constructing forts, but I really wonder how much of an impact that has on the final outcome? There's also the issue of the chits a player gets for being in first place following an epoch. Sure, it's great to get them, but very frustrating when you come in a close second every turn and those chits just represent a bigger deficit that needs to be overcome. This happened to me last game, but it's also discouraging for players who struggle through the early part of the game and have very little hope of catching up. Yes, it's possible they may get a really good card, but I don't think that's as big of a percentage as it should be.

I, along with my group, will continue to play the game. It's fun and it's a "light" level of frustration (none of us really take the game seriously). In fact, we even play the game on-line through, which has a very user-friendly interface and efficient email notification system.

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