What happens when publishers eggertspiele take a Spiel de Jahres nominated civilization-building dice game (Roll Through the Ages: The Bronze Age) and add on city planning with sculpted buildings and art by Chris Quilliams? You get a visually appealing, highly engaging game.
Both Era: Medieval Age and its predecessor feature gameplay based on rolling dice to gain resources, which can benefit players in different ways. In Era, most resources are spent on buildings which need to be strategically positioned on the individual player boards. Unlike a roll-and-write, everyone has their own pool of dice to roll, and unlike most dice games, in Era this part is carried out simultaneously and in secret. This drastically slashes down-time, so that even a 4-player game should take less than an hour.
Although most of the action happens on each player’s own board, it is vital to pay attention to opponents as the availability of buildings diminishes, and as players gain military strength with which to steal resources. This isn’t a 'take that' game though: it’s perfectly possible to pursue peaceful plans since you won’t ever lose too much to extortion. In fact there are many paths to take and, within simple rules, there are abundant possibilities afforded by the 14 different buildings. Do you build walls to secure endgame bonuses, sawmills to produce wood for more buildings, churches to develop culture, or focus on getting a steady food supply via farming? There are many decisions to be made, with lots of viable strategies to consider – though the randomness of the dice will ensure you can’t do the same thing every time!
Each player count presents a subtly different challenge, and there is a well thought-out solo mode as well. Designer Matt Leacock seems to have got everything right with this game, and it’s sure to provide an exciting and tense challenge time and time again.
(Review by Matt Young)