Age of comics: The Golden Years (just Age of Comics from here onwards) is a worker placement game in which sees you running a comic book publishing company, competing for a share of the manhattan comic book market. The aim of the game is to accumulate the highest number of fans, make money by publishing comics, and create the best portfolio of comic books. With points at the end being earned for fans, comic books, money, and ideas.
Throughout the game, you'll be placing your editors (workers) undertaking a number of different actions to hire writers and artists, find ideas, develop an original comic from those ideas, print those comics, sell those comics, or just exhaust royalties for money. After income and an opportunity to train your creatives each round, you'll need to plan carefully across the 6 rounds, with only 4 actions a round (potentially 5). You'll find yourself hard pressed to publish and sell comics across all genres. But you'll want to print comic books fast because you'll be to expand your publishing business with assistants who will allow you to obtain ongoing effects. E.g. they could make an action better every time you take that action or they might give you an extra worker.
Considering the probable lack of actions you'll find yourself with, you'll likely pick one or two to print original comics in, whilst undertaking some sneaky business to print a rip-off or two of other players' original comics. Why? Well, you don't need ideas for a rip-off, only a pair of creatives which are one action less. After all, you'll need ideas and creatives, develop those ideas into comics, and then print them, thats a whole rounds action! You haven't even got to selling those comics yet. Plus its comic book, eat comic book world out there. someone elses superhero is your next income!
But here's the first twist a bit like Viticulture the first person to take a given action gets a better action, however, Age of Comics takes it further and every player thereafter gets a slightly worse off version of that action. This means that if you find yourself taking the last action in an avaialble action space, you'll be taking the worst version of that action possible. Throw that into the mix. You'll need to balance picking those important actions first but also may need to realign plans if you find yourself able to take the first space on another available action.
Age of comics puts you in the position of you needing to do action X, action Y and action Z just to achieve your goal. But don't forget action Z, might actually be the best possible Z! So, finding yourself reconsidering plans, only to find spaces snapped up. At four players, Age of Comics is a very tight, in fact almost too tight worker palcement game, there's so much competition for places you may need to pivot your plan completing just to be able to achieve anything on your turn. After all, you can proactively look to use your sales men to take orders for comics and then potentially spend later rounds making those comics. However, at two players, Age of Comics feels like a pretty much solo race, there's little to no competition for anything, and you can both print different genres safe in the knowledge the other player can specialise in other genres meaning it can be a tie when it comes to mastery tokens. You'll earn 2 points for each mastery token at the end of the game. You have, at two players, you can pretty much just earn 3 each.
However, despite this lack of competition. My concerns with Age of Comics aren't that. I generally find most worker placement games at two players struggle to replicate the same game experience of higher player counts. But that's not necessarily a bad thing here. Four players feels too competitive. Three players is the sweet spo, and two players feels like a gentle race. The production of comic books as a theme has me drawing a weird comparison to Millennium Blades. It's almost a geek theme for a geek hobby, a niche within a niche? Don't get me wrong, I love the theme, and find it very appealing, I just wish there was a bit more compelling appeal for me gameplay wise, and there's a few minor aesthetic things that I'd tweak.
To me, there are two issues with age of comics, maybe three? Firstly, you can select from the face up selection or pay to search for any particular genre of comic you'd like to develop. However, with creatives, e.g., artists and writers, you're left to either draw from a face-up display or a blind draw. Thematically, to me, you're more likely to pay to hire a particular creative.
Secondly, in three games, I've only seen the get money action (royalities action) used a handful of times and never used in later rounds. In one game, it was used once! Suggesting that money is plentiful?
And then aesthetically or maybe setup is a better categorisation, there is very minor difference between the rip off and original comic tokens, yes the rip off are one solid colour, but placed side by side some of them still look very similar.
As you know I rate games on a
- Buy or play
- Wait for sale or play if you like game XYZ
I'm going to give a slight rewording to my categories this week and give Age of Comics a "wait for sale or play if you like or have an interest in comics or if you enjoy worker placement games like stoneage". If you enjoy comics or have a fondness for comics from the 1940/50s, you'll probably love the aesthetics and theme here. And if you enjoy games like stoneage, this could be a nice mixup to your game night. However, theres a few bits, just minor tweaks that, for me, mean that Age of Comics is almost held back. I suspect this may not have the replayability of other games for me, as I feel like I've had enough plays to be able to see everything and not sure its enough to bring me back for more games.
The other major gripe I have is the shocking rules videos available for this game. In fact, one player said that the rules videos were so bad they almost didn’t want to play. You've one rules video that literally feels like the creator read the rulebook, job done. And another that makes mistakes. The rulebook for Age of comics could have been done with a review. it's all there, but an independent review may have tightened it up and brought it to the next level. The publisher has said they are looking at other channels for review, so watch this space! Overall, I suspect if you enjoy fairly light to medium weight worker placement games, you may enjoy Age of Comics. However, I suspect if you're looking for a game, that's your next Clans of Caledonia but with a comic book theme. This isn't it! But the theme could be a mechanism through which you could introduce new comic book loving players to the hobby of board games?
Disclaimer: I was sent a copy of Age of Comics to review, I wasn’t paid for my review or time. And all thoughts are my own.