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CVLizations

Reviewed by Pevans

CVLizations (Granna, 2 to 5 players, ages 10 and up, 45 minutes; $35)

 

The title of the latest game from Granna is a play on their earlier game, CV, from a couple of years ago. CVLizations, designed by Jan Zalewski, comes in the same size box as the earlier game and has similar artwork and design. There the similarities cease. The game’s theme is civilization development, with victory going to the player with the happiest civilization – I was immediately captivated when I heard this. Happiness is measured in smiley face symbols, both on the tokens collected by players during the game and on the “idea” cards on front of them at the end.cvlbox

The game is played across three “Ages”, each of three rounds. Players have a set of eight “action” cards and play two each round. Hence, at the end of an Age, they will have played six of their cards – which ones each player missed out can be important. Only then do they pick them up again, starting the next Age with a full set of cards. When playing cards, one goes face down and one face up. This is crucial, as we’ll see, as it gives other players some important information.

Once everybody has put their cards down, all of them are revealed and then “actioned”. The important point is that actions take place in a set order (the sequence is indicated with a number on the cards). The crucial point is that the effect of an action depends on how many people have chosen it. Take the “Logging” action card, for example. If one person has played it, they get 2 cubes of “wood”. If two have chosen Logging, they get three cubes each. But if three (or more) go for it, they only get one wood apiece. Now you can see why knowing some of the actions is so important. Of course it doesn’t stop more than two people choosing the same action, whether accidentally or deliberately.cvlcards

There are three resources in the game: food, wood and stone, represented by wooden pieces – yellow crescents, brown cubes and hexagonal grey barrels respectively. As you’d expect, three of the actions let you pick up cubes of one colour, with another one (amusingly called “Cunning”) giving you a choice of resource. The other actions let you steal or trade cube(s), double your other action card or laze around (“Slacking”) and collect a smiley face token.

Once players have completed all the actions, they may use their resources to buy one of the available “idea” cards. There’s a row of four and a replacement is immediately drawn when one is taken. The ideas go face up in front of the owner and provide some advantage (during the game) and/or smiley faces (at the end). The advantages can be, for example, an extra wood when Logging or – my favourite – the ability to play both action cards face down (it sows confusion!).

Note that, for the third Age, a different deck of idea cards is used. These are expensive and just provide smiley faces, either directly or as a bonus for other things (Cinematography, for example, gives a smiley for every two ideas). Hence, it’s a good idea to build up a war chest, or boost your production, during the first two Ages in preparation for the third. The game ends after the ninth round and players tot up their smiley faces to see who’s got the happiest civilization. Lovely!

Okay, CVLizations is not the deepest game – it’s a card-based board game, more tactical than strategic – but it is great fun and plays quickly. The central mechanism is very clever and players need to be on the ball throughout the game. However, what really makes the game is the interaction between players as everybody tries to second-guess everybody else and get the best out of their six actions. I find CVLizations quite delightful and expect to be playing it for quite some time. It gets 9/10 on my highly subjective scale. – – – – Pevans


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