Toy Corner

Civilization A New Dawn - Game Review

by Joseph Gough on Mar 20, 2024

Civilization A New Dawn - Game Review

Civilization: A New Dawn is a revamp of the classic Civilization game, but this time they have made it much shorter time to complete the gameplay and much more player-friendly. If any of you have played the original, you will remember that the game could have taken 10+ hours to complete if you were the full set of 7 players playing the game. 

This isn't your average board game. It's a refreshing take on the genre, introducing unique mechanisms and a new twist on familiar themes. But be warned - it also abstracts away many elements of civilization building. Whether that's a welcome change or a disappointment may depend on your perspective. But for me, this design is refreshingly welcome indeed.

Overview of Sid Meier's Civilization: A New Dawn

Sid Meier's Civilization: A New Dawn is a board game where strategy and player decisions lie at its core, offering a unique take on civilization building. One could argue that it's somewhat of an 'oddball' within its genre, taking a more abstract approach which may both enthral and confuse players in equal measure. In the cardboard world of board games, it's an exciting adaptation of its digital counterpart.

Gameplay Mechanics

Stepping into ancient times, players are immersed in a game of strategy, where the goal is to progressively evolve from a primitive starting point to a stage of modern technology, whilst expanding their culture and demonstrating superiority over competing civilisations.

Despite the party's strategic nature, you'll find that this board game concludes far quicker than many in its genre. While others might run you into double or triple the hour count, Sid Meier's Civilization: A New Dawn is playable in under two hours. The game achieves this by abstracting almost everything, keeping the nitty-gritty details to a minimum.

The heart of the game is what's known as the Focus Row. Each player has a line of five cards in front of them which represent the actions they can perform in the world under five categories - culture, trade, industry, military, and technology. Accomplishing three agendas before any other player is the win condition.

Another thing that sets this board game apart is the seamless setup. With up to four players battling it out to complete their agendas first, the game is rather small in scale but undeniably full of excitement.

No detail gone unnoticed, Sid Meier's Civilization: A New Dawn pays homage to the key elements of the civilisation genre. Featuring ancient cities, ancient relics, empires competing for world control, barbarians, city-states and the constant struggle for resources, players are sure to find themselves thoroughly engrossed.

If you're familiar with playing other video-to-board game conversions, you know they can range from being tedious to downright fun. I would say that this board game finds a steady medium between the two, as it is engaging to play while providing an experience that is true to its source material. Civilization: a New Dawn is a more simplified version compared to the original, which was very player-friendly to begin with, the biggest difference is that the game will last for a maximum of two hours which makes it more accessible to a wider audience.

Pros and Cons of the Game

As we venture deeper into the intricacies of Civilization: A New Dawn, we come across various elements and mechanics that define the game's unique charm. Here's a closer look at the advantages and disadvantages engendered by these unique features, offering you a comprehensive view of what to expect from this brilliant board game.

Straight off the bat, Civilization: A New Dawn stands out due to its fast-paced playtime. It efficiently distils down the strategic world-building experience into an amiable duration of under two hours — a feat that's quite rare in the civilization genre, typically notorious for doubling or triple that hour count. This concise playing time is facilitated by abstracting the usual meticulous details, lending the game a quick and streamlined feel.

The Focus Row is another aspect that sets New Dawn apart. This mechanic turns every play into a strategic challenge, forcing the players to constantly weigh their options and make calculated decisions. Add to that the abstracted simplicity and the richness of tactical choices, and you've got a game that delights both newbies and veteran board gamers alike.

The game incorporates five core mechanics - Culture, Economy, Industry, Military, and Science - each contributing distinct commands, every action with its own strategic implications. Whether it's initializing control tokens with Culture, using Economy to manipulate your caravans, or advancing the Tech Dial with Science, these mechanics add an immersive depth to the gameplay.

However, it's not all smooth sailing. Taking an abstract approach has a downside — it strips away some of the thematic richness. This abstraction sometimes means the game misses the chance to truly delve into the complex universe of civilization building. While it might not be a deal-breaker for everyone, some players might find it lacking compared to other games in the genre.

Perhaps the most glaring weakness lies in the rulebook. It's been described as convoluted, with critical information stowed away in puzzling places. Even though the game isn't intrinsically hard, the rulebook's confusing layout can make getting started a bit daunting for first-time players. This issue is only compounded by the inclusion of an errata document for additional corrections and clarifications, translating to more time spent deciphering game rules and less time playing.

Finally, there's an issue with the end game which can seem a bit abrupt. Due to the effort to wrap things up in under two hours, the endgame might feel like it's taking shortcuts. This fatalistic nature can occasionally rob players of a more satisfying conclusion to their civilization's journey.

Comparison with Previous Civilization Games

Changes in Gameplay

The first facet that sets Civilization: A New Dawn apart from its older counterparts is its unique strategic Focus Row mechanic. Unlike the more traditional routes taken by previous games, A New Dawn offers a refreshing take that ensures every move is highly tactical.

Perhaps the most attractive aspect is how streamlined the game has become. I've noticed that games can be wrapped up in under two hours, a brisk pace in comparison to the often lengthy, drawn-out sessions of the earlier instalments.

The introduction of five primary mechanics into A New Dawn adds further depth without bogging down the gameplay. However, it's worth noting that these changes cause a shift away from the original game’s thematic richness towards a more abstract approach, which might not resonate with everyone.

Despite this, the incorporation of this novel system has strengthened the game’s appeal, particularly to new board gamers and those who appreciate evolving strategies in gameplay.

An unmistakable divergence in Civilization: A New Dawn, much like with the gameplay, lies in its art and presentation. Unlike previous games that leaned heavily on a realistic, computer game-inspired aesthetic, A New Dawn takes a stark departure towards abstraction.

The game's map art and character depictions do not strictly ape the pseudo-realistic visuals of previous Civilization titles. Instead, they flaunt a more stylised interpretation, one that straddles the line between realism and artistic abstraction quite comfortably.

That being said, while the artwork is somewhat different, it's beautifully executed and speaks to the game's overall shift towards a more abstract style of play.

Final Thoughts

And there you have it, my review of Civilization: A New Dawn, there is a lot to love about this game. The new Focus Row mechanic offers a streamlined and tactical experience that cannot be matched. This challenging game will be welcomed by both experienced and newer players of the game as it won’t be longer than a 2-hour game and with expansions available, this game will forever provide engaging games that won’t have you getting bored of it anytime soon!

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