Age of Dirt
Age of Dirt is a light and light-hearted game designed by Johannes Krenner where you'll be sending your tribe members out to different locations with the aim of collecting resources which you can trade in to complete the objectives on invention cards in order to score victory points. If you think this makes Age of Dirt begin to sound a bit like a tech-tree civilisation game, think again. Subtitling this as 'a game of uncivilisation', the publishers Wizkids want you to be clear that Age of Dirt is most certainly not a civilisation game.
Tho' there are no dinosaurs, Age of Dirt is set in a world that's feels like it's not a million years away from that of The Flintstones. The 2-5 players start off with 4 clan members (tiny wooden meeples) each. On your turn, you can send one or two clan members off to any of the four locations; you can call clan members back to your camp or you can spend resources. The four locations clan members can be sent to are each represented by a cardboard box into which the meeples can be posted: the Forest (wood & berries), the Mountains (herbs & stone), the Plains (fur) and the Love Tent (where meeples reproduce; but you probably guessed that).
Sending the meeples off to the various locations is straightforward enough but calling them back isn't simply a matter of tipping out the box and claiming resources. You tip out one of the boxes but you then toss all the meeples in that box into The Passage - a cardboard construct similar to the cube tower in Wallenstein (Queen Games). This is designed so that not every meeple will necessarily emerge on that drop. There's usually a bonus for the player that is taking the call back action but it's only the meeples that emerge that deliver to their owners the resources for that box.
There are special rules allowing players to use a drumstick to hit The Passage in the hope of dislodging other meeples, and some of the inventions give players special powers. There are Event cards affecting all the players and there are also the existential threats posed by predators: there's a tiger meeple that is always in the Plains box and which will devour one of each player's clan members that fall out of The Passage with it, and there's a bear that can enter the game with a similar effect. Players can protect their clan members from predation with a spear, but that, like the drum used to dislodge meeples from The Passage, flips to a used side and has to be refreshed before it can be reused...
All of this makes for a game that's great fun to play. There's a modicum of strategy in deciding where to send your meeples and when to call them back, and in optimising the benefit of using your turn to cash in resources for rewards, but Age of Dirt is a game that players shouldn't take too seriously. Nevertheless it works both as a family game and as a fun filler for experienced gamers. It plays well at all player counts but we had most fun with a chaotic complement of four or five players.
The art by Klemens Franz appropriately captures the tone of the game and adds to its appeal. And full marks too to the publishers Wizkids for the production quality, including a box insert designed to accommodate, fully assembled, all of the cardboard constructs. It means that once you've done the initial assembly you can, for all subsequent plays, have Age of Dirt up and running almost instantaneously. Yabba Dabba Doo!
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