Game Reviews

A Brief History of the World

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A Brief History of the World

A Brief History of the World is another big, complex boardgame making its digital debut on the iPad. Its story spans more than a thousand years of human history, and its digital dice clatter to the sound of war and invasion.

But in spite of its larger setting, it's less involved than some of the other boardgame ports we've seen.

There's a focus on conquest, expansion, and gold here that makes the likes of Caylus look positively labyrinthine in their resource-exploiting complexity.

A Brief History of the World is, in short, a decent jumping-off point for people interested in playing boardgames on their iPad. It boasts both online and offline multiplayer, as well as some decent AI-controlled opponents.

My world

The game takes place across six different epochs in world history. During these epochs, different chunks of the world are worth more or less gold. It's up to you to control and subdue parts of the world with your empire.

You gain a new empire every epoch, but your old ones remain in play (albeit unable to move or conquer like they did in their heyday). The aim of the game is to collect more gold than the other players by the end of the sixth epoch, thus proving that you've got the nous to succeed in multi-generational land politics.

Different empires have different skills and qualities. Each has a set number of armies that you can use to expand from your homeland to earn more gold. Furthermore, some have special skills that alter the way they play.

You earn more gold for holding stronger positions in the continental chunks into which the world map is broken up, and for subjugating capital cities.

Worldly wise

Invasions are handled via digital dice rolls. You need to roll higher than your opponent, but special event cards let you roll a bigger handful of dice. Roll well enough and some of the invasion points you earn can spill out into interlinked territories, enabling you to take them over without a dice roll.

Your hand of event cards grows with each epoch, and choosing the right time to play one can be the difference between defeat and victory. Need to clear some pesky Persians from your land? Play the plague card and wipe them out. Need to get a foothold in a territory? Use one of the smaller empires and stake your claim.

While the main thrust of the game is pretty simple, the cards present you with an extra layer of tactics. The choices you have to make when you're given your new empire at the start of each epoch mean you've always got a lot more than you'd expect.

Via a comprehensive tutorial, you are walked through the basics of the game. There's a full version of the rulebook available, too, if you want to check out why something has happened or find some new strategies for expansion.

Friends with armies

There is a lack of engagement with other players in A Brief History of the World, though. And while the basic game is fun, your fellow gamers are kept at a distance. You work out your own schemes, and only rarely come into contact with them.

That can be a bit off-putting, and results in some matches feeling a bit stale. But if you're looking for a surprisingly deep boardgame conversion, there's still quite a lot to like about A Brief History of the World.

A Brief History of the World

A well put together boardgame adaptation, A Brief History of the World can be a little impersonal. It's still fun, however