I love Clarus Victoria. This small Russian studio does one thing - making simple, turn-based management games about ancient history - and they do it brilliantly. Over the last few years, they’ve covered the Bronze Age, both the Predynastic and Old Kingdom periods of Egypt, and now Ancient Greece in Marble Age: Remastered, a spruced-up version of a 2013 release. I’m going to be blunt: even the remake looks like a mobile game, because that’s what it originally was. But don’t let that put you off. While simple in scope, it’s an engrossing way to spend a good few hours, and a surprisingly effective history lesson.
Playing as either Athens (white beard lads), Corinth (money boys) or Sparta (fightoes), you start off in the year Ages Ago BC, and with a bunch of eight idiots sitting around in a field looking for worms to eat. All you have on turn one is a slider, determining how many of your idiots will spend their days looking for worms, and how many will spend their time dreaming about what life would be like if they didn’t have to spend all day looking for worms.
It snowballs from there. More worms means more idiots, and more idiot-hours free to consider a better tomorrow. All this cogitating bears fruit in the form of farms, houses, quarries, shipyards, trade, soldiers, etcetera. Your idiots become clever. More sliders come in to play. How many of your ever-growing population will be thinkers? How many will be soldiers? Do you put your idle population in the stoneworks to rush out beneficial buildings, or into the fields so you’ll have twice the quarriers next turn?
As the 250-odd turns of the game play out, and your worm-searching startup becomes a mediterranean-spanning juggernaut, you’re faced with a series of increasingly tricky dilemmas along these lines. And while there are admittedly a very small number of optimal pathways through this tree of decisions, finding them is more rewarding and intuitive than simple trial and error. From time to time, the game will parp little nuggets of history at you, giving you a sense of what’s going on in the wider world at any given time, and with a little contextual thinking, you can usually use these to steer towards the right outcomes.
At seven quid on Steam, and with a tiny download, you could be having a go for yourself in about five minutes. I reckon you should.