Cardboard Children: Age Of Empires III

Hello youse.

So I asked myself, what do these PC freaks like? I made a list.

1. They like banging on about how great PCs are, because they’re insecure.
2. They like having to deal with DRM stuff and patches, and games not even working.
3. They like getting a sore back, sitting playing games at a desk, like a BUSINESS MAN.
4. They like buying Diablo 3, and supporting gold farming and oppression.
5. They like playing games where you click on little men and make them–

WAIT! We got something here. You like clicking on little men and making those little men do things for you. WE GOT SOMETHING HERE!


Yeah, baby. Now I got your attention.

This isn’t a new game, but it’s new to me, so shut up. I get a little bit scared of games that I’ve heard are “worker placement games” because that makes me think of dry, dull Euro games about building monasteries in 16th century Belgium. I only picked Age of Empires up because I saw it cheap. And it was only cheap because it had a slight dent on the box. And it was only dented because it had fallen off a shelf. And I was only in the shop because it was my birthday. And I could only go to the shop because James Purefoy was writing my column. And Solomon Kane is available to buy on Blu-Ray now.

The game is designed by Glenn Drover, whose name you might have heard in this poem:


Red Rover. Glenn Drover.
Range Rover. Glenn Drover.
She steps into the kitchen
“It’s Over.”
Smiles at her
“That rhymes with Glenn Drover.”
“The guy from that poem we’re in.”
She weeps.
Roger. Over. Glenn. Drover.
Bend Over.
Ben Dover.
Ben Dover’s Slutty Mummies.

It IS a worker placement game. But wow. Wowee. Dry it is not. There are over 300 miniatures in the box. Little figures, little men. And you get to place these little mannies on a beautiful big board.


The board is split in half. On the left are the various area of the New World, and at the start of the game there is nothing there except from some trade goods, and markers that tell you the unexplored regions. One of the first things you want to do is get some dudes sent to the new world on discovery expeditions, get the natives murdered, and grab those trade goods. NO ROOM FOR NICE GUYS IN THIS GAME.

On the right hand side of the board are different action tracks, and this is where the game actually gets played. In your turn, you choose an action track and place a colonist on it. Let’s take a look at what these different tracks do.

INITIATIVE: Place your colonist on the initiative track, and you’ll earn money equal to your position on the track. This also determines turn order next time round. However, when you place a dude on the track, you have to stick him in the first vacant position. So – you place first, you’ll get first place in the turn order, but only $1 return. You see? If you’re tight on cash, you might want to wait until some others have filled the initiative track, for a higher payoff.

COLONIST DOCK: This bad boy is important. By placing your colonist figure into this box, you get to send them off to the New World. The dudes get sent in order of placement, so often you’ll find England sets one guy off, then Portugal does, then Holland – rarely do you get to send two colonists one after another. Why? Because the first person to get three of their dudes into a single region of the New World gets the trade good that lies there. As specialists come into the game, such as soldiers and missionaries and merchants, you’ll be sending those from the dock too. And the places on the dock are limited. Sometimes you might need to get a soldier over to Canada to defend your territory, and the other players fill up the boats like drunk teenagers on the night bus. This is FRUSTRATING.

TRADE GOODS: This box gets filled with new randomly placed trade goods every turn. And you want these BAD. The player who gets their colonist in the first position in this box gets first pick of the available trade goods. And you WANT that choice. Why? Because income is generated by SETS of Trade Goods. You want to go for sets of three of a kind or four of a kind of each trade good. This is HARD TO DO but fucking VITAL to your success. There is always a mad rush for the trade goods box, unless a load of crap comes out in the random draw. This makes me SULK when some cows come out when I need textiles.

MERCHANT SHIPPING: In this box, at the start of every new turn, a boat is placed. A beautiful little boat miniature. What does a boat do? Oh baby. With a boat, you have a TRADE GOOD WILDCARD. Let’s say you have three Silver trade goods – you can add the boat to the set, and you have FOUR OF A KIND. That little boat mini can be anything you want it to be, representing your nations ability to ship in new goods. So how do you get the boat? Have the most of your dudes in this box by the end of the turn. Oh, and Captains and Merchants count as two dudes. Fill ‘er up!

CAPITAL BUILDINGS: Now things get tasty. This box works in the same way the trade goods box works. Get your wee men in there, and you have the chance to buy one of five randomly drawn capital buildings. These get more expensive as the game goes on, but they are KEY ELEMENTS to your success in the game. Each capital building gives you bonuses of some kind. In the First Age, you’ll often see things like Training Grounds that give you a free soldier each turn. Or a Trading Post that gives you $5 every turn. Little short term boosts. In the Second Age, the middle section of this eight round game, you’ll see more powerful things like Privateers (letting you claim $1 from each player per ship you have) and the University (awards 5 Victory Points and lets you, once in the game, move to the front of any event box). In the Third Age, towards game’s end, you’ll see Capital Buildings that will award massive bonuses depending on how you played your game. Navy gives you 4 Victory Points per ship you own. Population gives you 1 VP for every two colonists you have in the New World. And so on. The Capital Buildings are what makes this game really shine – the game’s been playtested like crazy, you can tell.

DISCOVERY: The Discovery action box is hugely important. Those regions in the New World part of the board? At the start of the game, you can land your little fellas on one of them. The rest need to be discovered first. You discover new regions by building up your colonists, Captains, and soldiers in the Discovery box and then sending them on an expedition. You choose an undiscovered country and turn over the tile placed there. This tile will tell you how many natives are there, and you need to have sent enough of your guys to “deal with” those natives. If you haven’t sent enough, your little guys are dead, and quite right too. If you have sent enough, you’re a true empire-builder, and you can chop these little dudes’ heads off. You’ll earn some money right away, and more money if you’ve sent some soldiers. And you get to place a colonist in your new turf. You total, total bastard. Each exploration nets you Victory Points too. In the last game I played, my buddy boy Richard became the Exploration Master. While the rest of us squabbled over trade and buildings, he travelled all over the world, spreading his dirty seed. And then he lost, because that’s all he did, the dum-dum. Killing and shagging is never enough, is it?

SPECIALISTS: This box is where you hire those tasty specialists we spoke about. There are five places in this box. You can claim a Missionary, a Merchant, a Soldier or a Captain. Once a player sticks a colonist in one of these places, and claims one of these, NO OTHER PLAYER CAN GET A FREE ONE. Brutal. The fifth place allows you to pay hard cash to train up a colonist as one of the four specialists. But that’s it. Competition for specialists is always fierce, because once they’re gone, they’re gone. And they’re AMAZING. The Missionary, when you send him to the New World, counts as TWO colonists. Why? Because he’s worked his voodoo magix and turned some poor native into one of his brainwashed religious freakanuts. The Merchant earns you money the MINUTE he lands in the New World. Instant cash. His miniature is a big fat fella with a sack of money. He smells, and he counts as 2 colonists when he’s trying to buy a boat. Then there’s the Soldier. The Soldier is gonna shoot other players for you. We’ll get to that in a minute. He also earns you money in discovery expeditions. He’s a RATBAG. The Captain helps a fella out on Discovery Explorations and Merchant Shipping, by counting as 2 colonists. He has a big telescope through which he SPIES YOUR GIRLFRIEND’S UNDIES. These specialists are all dickheads, and you need to make friends with them often.

WARFARE: Oh boy. Yummy. If you place a fella in the Warfare box, you get to make War. Each placement gets you one free battle in a region. If you want to go to WAR, you have to fund it with COLD HARD CASH MONEY. The difference between a Battle and a War is this – a battle sees you attacking one opponent in one region. A War sees you attacking another player at the table in EVERY region where you share colonists, and you have soldiers. That’s just evil. Yeah, you need soldiers to attack. And the fights are simple. Each soldier knocks out one other figure. So easy. So brutal. In our last game, a beautiful thing happened. Three of us activated Warfare, and had battles against one player. We CLEANSED the board of her filthy peoples. We SAVED the land from her dirty genes. Cost us nothing. Cheap and easy genocide.

And that’s your action boxes. At the end of every Age, Victory Points are awarded for first and second place in each territory where a player has more than three figures. A majority population race is always on to claim these scores. That’s why you want your soldiers over there, thinning the other numbers with musket fire, and why you want your missionaries converting as many poor people as possible.

At the end of the game, everything gets tallied up. Points from the colonies, points from your exporation tiles and cards, and your Capital Buildings. And you get your final turn income in Victory Points too – your final reward for clever set collecting and being a greedy shit.

WOT I THINK (That’s what they do here, right?)

Oh man.

It sounds complicated, doesn’t it? That’s the first thing I want to clear up. It isn’t. It’s beautifully simple. You are placing wee men in places that do things you want done. That’s all. You PC gamers will get this – it’s like clicking on a little man and then clicking on some trees. You know he’s going to chop some wood. Here, you place your little fella in a Warfare box and you know someone’s getting shot. It’s clear, clean and beautiful.

Oh man.

It’s so exciting. We all love it. Everyone that played it loved it. Louise had to take a time out in the kitchen to calm down after we wiped her nation from the board by blowing her colonists’ heads apart – and EVEN SHE was tweeting about how great it was. You’re ALWAYS thinking. You’re always hoping the spots you want are going to stay available. You’re always bluffing about what you want to do, so that other players block you out of actions you don’t care about.

Oh man.

Halfway through, there were big grins around the table. When Joanne got Privateers, the grins turned to horrified grimaces. She’d been grabbing boats like crazy, making crazy sets. Then Privateers popped. “We can’t let her get it.” We stopped her from getting first choice of Capital Buildings. She had University. She used its one-time power and moved into first place on the Capital Buildings track and Privateers was hers. That meant, with her four boats, she was blasting each of us for $4 every single turn. A killer. A dirty pirate killer. Amazing. We loved it.

Oh man.

I made a deal with Richard. We would let our colonists live together in harmony, carving up little 1st and 2nd spots in the colony VP race. We made that deal because we had crappy trade goods. No sets, shitty income. We locked down these countries, these cash-poor countries, and wouldn’t let anyone else in. It was an alliance of necessity. It was the poor allying with the poor, in hope that they could muscle out the rich by RISING in NUMBERS. Rich with theme, this game. Rich with theme.

Oh man.

I haven’t played a better worker placement game than this. It’s even better than Agricola, that lovely, charming farming game. There’s so much to do that it doesn’t even really feel like a worker placement game at all. It feels like this huge, rich, engrossing thing. A big hybrid beast. A worker-placementy-majority-controlly-diplomacy game. An incredible game.

Is it like the PC game? It’s BETTER than the PC game. And I love the PC game.

This game is for you. You’re the target audience for this bad boy. No downtime, easy to learn, and a theme that you PC gamers love – killing natives.

What are you waiting for? Get it BOUGHT.


Who cares. Star Wars is played out to all fuck. Discuss.


Fantasy Flight have announced a Second Edition of their dungeon-crawling game Descent.

I am a veteran of Descent, an experienced Overlord. I will find out about this for all of you, and try to bring you some more info next week. In the meantime, check it out on the Fantasy Flight site.


Next week, something very special. See you then.

No, sorry, it’s not James Purefoy again. Sorry.


  1. C Ellis says:

    They will not release Solomon Kane on DVD or Blu-Ray across the pond, I have all the stories and was looking forward to the film. Bastards.

    • Lemming says:

      A blessing for you then, because it’s bloody awful. I’d imagine 10x worse for someone who actually loved the stories.

    • Jake says:

      Hate to say it but I can only agree. I found it to be one of the worst films I have ever seen and I can’t understand why some people seem to like it. It’s like a mix of BloodRayne and Van Helsing and is exactly as good as that sounds.

    • Ogun says:

      “It’s like a mix of BloodRayne and Van Helsing and is exactly as good as that sounds.”

      That’s an uncannily accurate description – although it sort of implies that Solomon Kane will at least feature lots of beautiful women and heaving cleavage, which it doesn’t.

    • Kryopsis says:

      I rather liked the Solomon Kane film and that has nothing to do with the fact that I like Robert E. Howard’s original stories.

  2. Teddy Leach says:

    I’m just waiting to see how many people take the introduction seriously. There’s always at least one.

  3. Jumwa says:

    I think you should find a board game that can only be played when one of the companies representatives comes to unlock the box and watch you play. To really appeal to our tastes.

    • WPUN says:

      After the game box is opened you have to wait ten minutes while the game rep patches the rules and then patches the patch because it converted the rules to Esperanto.

      Plus, every 15 minutes he shoves a piece of paper in your face that says, “Think of the fun you’ll have playing our game with solid faux gold tokens!” Then he gets up and lets the Franklin Mint guys in your house.

  4. Benkyo says:

    Mr. Florence, you are awesome.

    As in, inspiring awe.

    That’s a good thing.

  5. Duckmaffia says:

    Need Age of Empires IV.

    • Tams80 says:

      You couldn’t be more right. Just imagine how incredible the board game would be!

    • Temple says:

      I’ll wait for the cardgame of the boardgame a la San Juan.
      Or maybe the dice version a la Roll Through The Ages.

  6. malkav11 says:

    Fantasy Flight also got the rights to the Dune boardgame….but not the Dune license. So it’s going to be rethemed as a Twilight Imperium spinoff, apparently. I have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand I hear the Dune boardgame is friggin’ awesome. On the other hand, the design is what it is in significant part because it attempts to simulate the political conflicts and factional characteristics of the Dune setting.

  7. Heliocentric says:

    If the board game was this bloody good while was the pc game so bloody awful?

  8. Peter Radiator Full Pig says:

    The only thing I dont like about this coloum is its weekly nature. It needs to be daily, really. I want to know more about the world of board games, even though I rarely play them.

    • WPUN says:

      Board game love is great… until you get cats. Instead of putting the cat down I sold all my AH, Yaquinto, GDW, and SPI games. Nowadays there are computers and lead boots for cats so this problem hardly comes up anymore.

    • Kaira- says:

      Damn cats, they ruin everything. Tried to play a casual game of Star of Africa one evening with my fiancee, and the cats decided to start chasing the die. Bloody hell.

    • WPUN says:

      Afrikan Tähti sounds fun!

    • gwathdring says:

      Oh no. I just realized what I’ve gotten myself into. I’m a cat person currently drom bound, but the moment I have a place I’m going to want a cat. My poor boardgames! I’ll need to invest in a retractable electric fence around the table.

    • Big Daddy Dugger says:

      Just throw your cat overhand towards the couch when it gets in the way, that’s what I do. Problem solved.

  9. iGark says:

    Descent Star Wars Edition?

    Also can a game of Descent be played in say, six or seven hours?

    • TillEulenspiegel says:

      The box says 2-4 hours, BoardGameGeek says 4 hours, this guy says 6 hours. I imagine it depends on how many players you have.

      I’m sure I’ve heard that Descent is really good, but I can’t remember where. Too many podcasts.

    • Temple says:

      We managed 3 games of Descent in 8 hours, including learning the rules. Sure one was a quick team wipeout and Overlord win, and the last one ended a bit abruptly upon opening the final doors and finding a big dragon. But yes you can easily play a dungeon in 6 or 7 hours.

      Quinns saying it is good link to
      And again only a bit more insanely link to

      Us saying it is good and getting a group of RPSers together to play it
      link to

    • iGark says:

      Thanks very much!

  10. jack4cc says:

    Says the robber from florence.

  11. TooNu says:

    I enjoyed reading this column again Robert Florence. By the way Robert Florence is next week about Chaos in the Old world’s expansion, The Horned Rat, Robert Florence? Thanks very much again Robert Florence.

  12. gwathdring says:

    Hmm. The Second Edition looks intriguing. I wonder if getting rid of the threat tokens will take away some of the escalation factor in addition to making things run more smoothly. I haven’t played it, so please weigh in as I’ve been very close to buying Descent and now that a new edition is on the horizon, I’m all interested again.

    It sounds like the buildup of threat tokens often leads to the Overlord having more and nastier abilities near the end of the game but perhaps I’ve misinterpreted what I’ve read. What do veterans think this will do to the game?

    Also I don’t quite understand the implications of the class system. Is this as simple as it sounds: more hero variety with fewer hero miniatures in addition to an enhanced version of Road to Legend’s experience and customization system? Or do veterans predict larger gameplay implications either good or bad?

    Overall it sounds like a great way to get into Descent. I’m curious to learn more about how they handle backwards compatibility with the tiles, cards and so forth from past sets–heroes seem pretty straight forward. Heck, it sounds like it would be worthwhile to buy the conversion kit as a sort of expansion: you get loads of extra heroes to use as long as you don’t mind using non-matching miniatures (or custom miniatures). Unless they’re going to have some way to ensure you need the old cards to use the updated ones–but that sounds unnecessarily obtuse and cruel and Fantasy Flight doesn’t seem to roll that way. I tend to find them quite customer friendly on things like that.

  13. Tams80 says:

    Oh my, oh my, OH MY!!! Do want, do want, DO WANT!!!

    Gimme, givmme, gimme a…

  14. Berzee says:

    Aw, I hoped you would show *pictures* of the little men you raved about!

    Secondly, I play games on a laptop that sits on my lap while I sit in a large reclining armchair with a trackball on the armrest and everything I need to survive within arm’s reach.

    But then…I also work like that sometimes so I guess that’s how I businessman.

    I always wondered if this game would be good since I liked the computimar game.

    • Temple says:

      Tough to say. I’ve got the Age of Mythology boardgame which plays differently to this despite coming from similar computer game genres, and both of them (obviously) play differently to their respective computer games. If you like the theme, and the mechanics make sense then go for it.

      Pictures of men link to

  15. futage says:

    “LIKE BUSINESS MEN” proper pissed me up. Thank you <3

  16. Temple says:

    Any Londoners who want to try it out should get along to a London on Board meetup. AOE III often gets out on a weekday and if you ask you may receive.
    Haven’t played it myself yet, I did get to play Through the Ages and liked. No little men in that one though.

    Huge rainbow over Canary Wharf :)

  17. Weevil says:

    AOE III is a fun game – a couple of hours well spent.

    LOB as mentioned above is also a great place to try all of these games.

    The best news that article had about Descent 2nd ed is ITS IN A SMALL BOX! Finally something that won’t hog the shelf : )

  18. Scroll says:

    Oh my I was very close to buying Descent this confuses me in a possibly sexual way. I can’t wait to hear more about it. Is simplifying it the best way to go?

    Oh and I picked up Memoir ’44 very recently and oh my good lord is it very great. It’s so fast to play and moreish and simple and yeah.

    Oh and my desk chair is indeed quite uncomfortable.

  19. pipman3000 says:

    FUCK! I just bought Descent this week!!!

    • Temple says:

      Yup, I know someone who will be having similar conflicted thoughts -not least as they were planning to buy every expansion in sight.

      Nice dog by the way. French bulldog?

  20. Temple says:

    I fully expect Rob to wee himself when this comes out as well
    link to

    Just looking through the FF upcoming page makes me realised how poor I am going to be.

  21. Colonel J says:

    Heads up if you haven’t seen it. Nice piece on Gaming Daily this week about Carcassone as a gateway game to get your non-gaming significant others playing.
    link to

    Good to see them also doing some Cardboard coverage.

    • DrGonzo says:

      Carcassone really is very simple, addictive and suprisingly deep I think. Can’t get enough of it.

  22. HeavyHarris says:

    Insecure? Hot crackers, I take exception to that!

  23. Boozebeard says:

    OMGHWE£NDWAD I only bought descent a month ago and I haven’t even had a chance to play it yet. God damn it.

  24. Spacewalk says:

    I cannot deny that PC gamers are like this.

    • Raiyan 1.0 says:

      Indeed. The way we tear people up just because they’ve inferior hardware makes us less human and more like beasts. Monsters. Effeminate monsters in business suits playing games on desks, all the while effusing an aura of power.

      But within, we’re insecure, having lost touch with our own basic humanity and life itself. We need to be saved emotionally. Which is why girls just love us. Because essentially, we PC gamers are like the vampires from Twilight.

      (No, I don’t play boardgames, and I felt the only way I could contribute was by making us be more disgusted with ourselves.)

    • gwathdring says:

      Yes. Gamers. Statistically speaking, the most attractive romantic partners. Especially in high school. Your analogy holds up beautifully.

      Also, you forgot to mention how often PC Gamers bash the consoles. And anyone who doesn’t play insanely fiddly and difficult games just for the sake of the hard-core, menu-battling joy of it.

    • Raiyan 1.0 says:

      I think ‘inferior hardware’ includes consoles as well…


    • BooleanBob says:

      There is a reason PC gamers never go outside, but it has nothing to do with sparkling.

    • bill says:

      You don’t have the sparkling?!?

  25. Nyst says:

    Man I would play the hell out of a 16th century Belgian monastery building game!
    Build it, manage it and it’s little monks, brew your own beer, copy old books, ring bells and other fun stuff.

    • gwathdring says:

      That sounds awesome. There would have to be an actual bell though. If you allocate workers to the bell, you get to ring it. Maybe it improves morale, too, or something.

      It would be like Agricola, only more fun. Because you’d get to ring a bell. And compete with other monasteries for the local trade routes. And rush to figure out what to do when the Arch-Bishop is assassinated and suddenly your funds are incredibly low because the new guy wants to build a cathedral instead of supporting the monastic cells.

    • JB says:

      Love the bell idea. Someone get on that RIGHT NOW!

  26. Rohrmann says:

    sorry, first few things you said in this article made me not want to read the rest of it. Thought this PC vs. Console Bullshit finally had come to an end. Not so much obviously. Might read the rest of the article but the first few paragraphes were a slap in the face for anyone enjoying PC games. So feck ya.

    • gwathdring says:

      I don’t think he’s serious. I think he’s mocking us for the kind of crap the community dredges up against consoles (usually not necessarily serious either). It’s a joke, in other words.

    • thebigJ_A says:

      It’s called “humor”. It’s a great invention, you should try it sometime.
      Oh, and read the second comment on this post, by one “Teddy Leach”. You’re the guy he was referring to.

  27. thebigJ_A says:

    I love EUIII on PC. I’m playing Divine Wind right now. That board game seems fun and all, but it doesn’t seem much like the pc game. There’s not even any Europe!

    My favorite parts of the pc game are things like politicking in the Holy Roman Empire to get all the little shit countries who hate my Austrian guts because I stomp them whenever they try to expand unlawfully (thus increasing my imperial authority) to vote in a reform that’ll increase my power at their own expense. Or increasing my influence with the Pope so I can get those French bastards who annexed Burgundy before I could excommunicated, then declaring war when their back is turned and watching all the other countries they’ve screwed dogpile on them, all because my excommunication gave everyone a casus belli.
    It’s such a PC game. So good.

    I don’t see much of that in the game he described.

    • malkav11 says:

      Different game series altogether.

    • Temple says:

      So he’s accurate then? It is nothing like the bg Rab described.

    • thebigJ_A says:

      Wow, I guess I had a bit of a stupid there! IDK, maybe it was because of the similar logo, and the fact I’d been playing EU for hours right before I read this, but I actually was seeing “Age of Empires” as “Europa Universalis”. I was also on very little sleep. Damn I feel silly.

  28. bill says:

    These posts always inspire the best comments!

  29. Lacessit says:

    Belgium didn’t exist in the 16th century. How you could be building monasteries there is beyond me.

  30. hilllbilllyjoe says:

    yeah, and console gamers like taking a shit on the game industry with the second-hand game market, paying outrageous prices for discs, having shit hardware, and paying monthly subscriptions for multiplayer, aswell as having to use a gamepad.

    • Raiyan 1.0 says:

      I thought hillbillies are too dumb to play PC games. So you’re describing yourself?

  31. SuperNashwanPower says:

    “You like clicking on little men and making those little men do things for you”

    **Colonel Sanders barges into room**
    COLONEL: You’re needed on the bridge, sir
    DARK HELMET: (Panicking and hiding toy figures) .. KNOCK ON MY DOOR – KNOCK NEXT TIME!!!
    COLONEL: Yes Sir

    DARK HELMET: (pauses) .. did you see anything??
    COLONEL: No sir, I didnt see you playing with your dolls again

    **Colonel sighs out of relief, leaves and slams door. Lamp on table wobbles**

  32. Sicram says:

    This game, I guess I’ll have to get it… right after I’ve kidnapped enough people that’d play with me.

  33. chargen says:


    I’m willing to accept that’s it’s just horrible cover art, though.

  34. amorpheous says:

    Oh man.