Hello puny humans…..
It is I, the High Overlord of Hair, Keeper of Dargon and Master of the Keep of Fantasci
Today, we are taking a look at The Flow of History
Publisher: Tasty Minstrel Games
Game Designer: Jesse Li
Players: 3 – 5 players
Playing Time: 60 – 90 minutes
“The Flow of History is yet another innovative civilization game from Taiwanese designer Jesse Li. Players develop their nation using a unique bidding/price-setting mechanism to purchase new cards, but what is paid to the supply might also be harvested into the pockets of other players later, which puts a twist on your strategy of bidding cards, and also simulates economic inflation in the game. Don’t forget to build a formidable military to clash with cultures led by your enemy, and create an unforgettable tale of your civilization in The Flow of History.” – Tasty Minstrel Games
I am not going to bore you with the details that you will have heard a dozen times by now, if you want a great rules explanation, check out the Gameboy Geeks video on this game. Basically, The Flow of History is a civilization game in small box of cards. Players try and diversify their production icons on their civilization cards to increase their engine building capabilities. When players purchase their cards, they place them in stacks based on the same civilization which is represented by color and icons. Each time you stack a card, it becomes the active effect based on the effect timing. Either Instant, Attack, Attack All, Permanent, Turn Action or Scoring effects.
For the setup, players separate the civilization cards based on the age on the back of the cards put them in descending order on top of the internet card which covers the future card and then forms the market. The market will change based on the number of players to either 5 or 6 cards. Each player is a “Nation” and takes the components needed and then each player is dealt one Starter Civilization Card as their starting card to begin building their nation.
During their turn, each player gets to take one of 5 actions, these actions being Invest, Complete, Snipe, Activate or Harvest.
There are also Heroes and Wonders in this game. Players may only have one hero in their civilization at a time and they provide a “bonus” power. Wonders provide end game scoring and extra production icons for harvesting.
The end game winning condition is triggered by the “Future” card (which is the last card in the draw pile) when it is either added to the market or is somehow acquired by a player. Once the game end is triggered. That active player who triggered it, finishes their turn and the game is over. The winner is the person with the most points based on a couple different scoring criteria.
During the first play, it took us maybe 2 hours, but once we got the flow of the actions and iconography, play quickened quite a bit. The limitation of one action per turn provides a great amount of tension as players try to figure out what each player is doing and hoping that their card doesn’t get sniped. Sniping is a great mechanic that allows another player to buy a card out from under a player who has already invested in it. The sniping player must pay the same amount of money to the player being sniped as the investor paid to the bank. Players use the harvest action to produce, the invest action to place their pawn on the card in the market as well as their bid. The complete action allows the player to bring that card into their civilization and immediately do any actions that may be associated with that card. The Activate action allows players to use 1 action from any card in their civilization that has the turn action effect.
The Flow of History is a game that packs more punch than you expect. As players, you are evaluating an ever changing market, trying to leverage your resources to get cards that get you the most bang for your buck. While a monopoly of productions icons may be good, collecting sets of icons and wonders provide great end game scoring capabilities. The player interaction is quite fluid as each turn all the players are engaged by each other and the need to pay attention to what each other is doing keeps them focused on the market and their next action. Turns progress fairly quickly, once players get the basic iconography under their fingers and what the possible actions available to them are. The way the Nations are built is always unique and quite intriguing. Constructing a Nation is an ever changing strategy as players may have cards taken from the market they were planning on, or the player may be sniped. But the strategy shifts are subtle and not something that eliminates a player from contention. How a player is able to get their Civilization Cards, Wonders and Hero to work together as an engine is the key to winning the game.
The Flow of History is a moderately quick game that gives a high amount of a civilization game feel without all the fiddly rules, movements or components. It is very easy to learn and be playing in 30 minutes. It allows for a good amount of strategy while having a touch of randomness based on the market draw. It is well balanced, thought out and extremely fun to play. The fact that you can set it up very quickly and be playing a fairly deep game makes this an automatic hit for me.
The issues that see that some players may struggle with are learning a new iconography and sniping. Some players do not like stab you in the back games so having a card sniped may not be a mechanic for everybody although, the stab you in the back feel is somewhat mild compared to most other games with that type of mechanic. Plus, I think it adds a bit of realism to the civilization building engine. While learning iconography isn’t hard, it may provide a couple rough plays or two until people are used to them and can spot the connections to other cards quickly.
So in conclusion, if you are a fan of civilization games, strategy games or heavy cardboard, The Flow of History is for you. Lovers of deeper games or simple games that provide a deeper gaming experience should be very happy with purchasing a copy of The Flow of History. If you are not a fan of stab you in back games, then this is a game you might struggle with a tiny bit, but I encourage you to give it a try anyway as I feel the gameplay far outweighs any negativity towards that mechanic and as I stated earlier, it isn’t as harsh as many other games.
I am giving The Flow of History 8 out 10 gears because it accomplishes a whole lot in a tiny game. It succeeds very well as a civilization building game while keeping the rules and game play as simple as possible. It allows many types of gamers to actually enjoy a civilization game and keep the game length to a medium length. Due to the way the Nations are built, the re-playability factor of The Flow of History is very high and of course the size makes it completely portable and playable in just about every situation.
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Note: A review copy of this game was provided to me.
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Table provided by: Board Game Tables