Clash of Cultures: Monumental Edition
Christian Marcussen's Clash of Cultures first appeared in 2012 but the original game relied on only generic competing factions. It was the release of the Civilizations expansion in 2014 that cemented Clash of Cultures' reputation as arguably the best area control civ game ever published. The problem for anyone coming late to the party, however, is that the all-important asymmetric Civilizations expansion has been out of print for years and has been incredibly hard to find, even for those prepared to offer the inflated prices that second-hand copies came to command on eBay.
When, three years ago, the rights to the game reverted to the designer, there was much speculation and plenty of fingers crossed that a new publisher would be found to bring the game and its expansion together and present it in all its glory. It's been a long wait but WizKids have stepped up to the plate and we finally have this new Monumental Edition of Clash of Cultures that fully incorporates the Civilizations expansion. WizKids have also significantly improved on the lacklustre minis of Z-Man Games' 2012 edition and this new edition also gives us impressive metal-look plastic Wonders minis for our civilisations to build in place of the cardboard constructs of the original game. In this edition, Wonders also now become fully part of the city where they are built.
There's more too. Combat in Clash of Cultures, between players and against the barbarian hordes, used to rely on rolling conventional six-sided dice, with enemy units eliminated for every multiple of 5 rolled. This new WizKids edition keeps the multiple of 5 combat system but it replaces the standard six-sided dice with custom dodecagon (12-sided) dice that give similar 1-6 numerical values (each number twice) but which also show symbols representing unit types. When you roll the dice, you are looking at both the numbers and the symbols, and where you roll symbols that correspond to the unit types involved in the battle you get to modify your roll. This certainly adds to the frisson of combat!
Aficionados of the original game will recognise all the features of this new edition of Clash of Cultures but they'll soon spot that this isn't merely a reprint, Christian Marcussen and the WizKids team have taken the opportunity of rebalancing, revising and updating some of the rules, so you'll spot several tweaks to what was already a remarkably streamlined game.
You play on a modular board made up of tiles (slightly larger in this edition than in the original) that are each made up of four hexes. At the start, only the tiles that civilisations start on are face up. The others are revealed only as your units venture out and explore them. You'll encounter different terrains that yield different resources and you'll gradually expand your cities as you add buildings that give you various benefits. The new edition happily retains the format whereby the buildings form a circle around a city so you can see at a glance how large the city is and so how far its influence spreads. That's important because your cities can spread their culture to those of other players, converting their buildings to your colour. When this happens, the player owning the city still has full use of the buildings but it's you who will score for them in the end-game reckoning...
At the heart of Clash of Cultures is its tech tree. As in the original game, it's well laid out so that it's clear where a technology is a prerequisite of or excludes others. These, and the 15 individual civilisation boards - each with their distinctive capabilities - all have punch-out holes so they can be marked with cubes. In 2021, we might perhaps have expected dual-layer boards, but that's a small gripe over this great new edition.
If you don't have Clash of Cultures, this is a 2-4 player game that we'd thoroughly recommend for anyone who enjoys area control, civ, 4X (eXplore, eXpand, eXploit, eXterminate) or war games. If, like me, you already have the original game but missed out on the scarce 2014 expansion, then you'll easily find this Monumental Edition enough of an upgrade to justify the purchase.
Now we'd just like to see similar treatment for Christian Marcussen's other classic Merchants & Marauders, where the Seas of Glory expansion is just as rare as Civilizations has been...
(Review by Selwyn Ward)
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