Given the nature of most Civilization board games, their mechanics, and the implicit complexity of portraying all of human technical and cultural progress on bits you can fit into a box, game designer Marco Pranzo has done quite well with “Historia” from Giotix.it. The typical time investment in many (of the greatest) civilization games is often prohibitive to getting them to the table. Historia plays in a few hours (or less) and still seems to handover that “epic sweep” congruent to a decent civilization game.
All the trappings of civ-building are there: great wonders, scientific and military advancements, even a little area control, all built into some very elegant euro-style play, that has contracted the nuisances of micro-management into a card drafting mechanic absorbed tangibly in the palm of your hand. A set of action cards (an identical set for each player) is where you’ll make your play, deciding whether to build awesome wonders, expand into new territory, raid or war with neighbors, advance in science or military knowledge, or start the revolution that ushers in a new age, progressing the game in a series of 12 time periods, divided into three eras of human achievement.
A look at the game board allows you to track the scientific and military progress of a given civilization on a table illustrating the scientific progress on the x-axis and military advancement going up and down. So, you have a grid with the bottom left hand corner marking the beginnings of human progress and the top and right of the grid representing higher orders of achievement. Civilizations are indexed on the table via a colored token for each civilization. Advancing in science causes the token to move to the right and military progress means sliding the token up a level. At the sides of the table are icons representing various bonuses and special abilities that are acquired along the way. The game board also features a small area control map of the world, a circular area where game turns are tracked and (of course) a victory point track that runs around the board to keep score.
The game uses wooden cubes as interchangeable units that can represent population on the area control map, or as a form of currency to preform actions. As the game progresses you earn more of these cubes to use as you see fit.
Another interesting game mechanic is the drafting of leader cards, each providing victory points for achieving certain goals. In a game of varied strategies to victory, leader cards help to focus in on certain achievements and make for interesting combinations. Wonder cards, which can be built via action cards, also add a fun dimension to the game, granting individual special abilities and bonuses.
The game also features “civ-bots” which can stand in for other players when playing with less than 6. They add even more variety to the game, taking actions based on the draw of civ-bot cards that dictate their play during a turn.
All in all, Historia makes for a great strategy game of medium complexity that has something for experienced and casual players alike. Because of the civ-bots the game works well with many players, or even as a solitaire game. Historia comes highly recommended to those seeking the broad scope of longer, even more involved civilization games in a shorter time-frame. Its simultaneous action selection and clever hand management mechanics keep downtime (waiting for your turn) to a minimum and its careful handling of player conflict means no one gets eliminated from play or suffers a complete loss from military action on behalf of the other players.