Age of Comics: The Golden Age is a medium weight board games that lets players “print comics” to gain fans, gain income, fulfill orders (to gain even more fans), and win at being the most successful publishing company at the game table.
The game starts with each player having a writer, an artist, and a comic (that is developed but not yet printed). Players also have a bit of cash and a few idea tokens. By sending their editor workers to various places on the board, they can hire more writers and artists, develop new comics, get ideas, print their comics, get royalty money, and move a salesperson around a map taking orders. These are all of the possible actions in the game and with four workers and five rounds, players have 20 actions in total (or a few more if they can get access to an extra worker now and then).
The process of printing a comic goes something like this:
- Have or hire a writer and an artist. It is best that they specialize in the same genre as the comic they create; That’s not necessary but it does help the comic bring in more fans.
- Develop a comic. There is a benefit to developing and printing comics from the same genre – more fans and some bonus VP (victory points) are the reward for being the leader in a genre amongst the players. Developing a comic is as simple as picking one from the draw pile.
- Get ideas that are of the same genre of the comic that will be printed. Ideas are easy to get but are not necessary for rip-off comics, only for original comics. Rip-offs get less fans and no bonus rewards but they can help a player become a genre leader in the industry. Ideas are represented by idea tiles in the game.
- Get money in the form of royalties and in income from comics that have been printed. Cash is needed to do a print run and the “better” the comic, the more money it takes to print it. A better comic is a comic that has a higher level of writer and artist. Better comics don’t directly get more fans for some odd reason but they do let you fulfill higher level orders to gain fans indirectly.
- Print the comic by combining a writer, an artist, and a comic. Then provide the cash to pay for printing and, for original comics, pay idea tokens that math the genre of the comic. The triplet of cards are placed on the player board and a token for the comic is placed on the players comic track on the board at the proper fan level.
The next large feature if the game besides printing comics is the map. There is a simplistic map of Manhattan and players can, as usual by placing an editor worker on a space on the board, move a salesperson marker around the map. There are tiles at intersections on the map and those can be picked and used by players to fulfill orders and increase their fan counts for their comics.
When players print their third, fourth, and fifth comics, they get a bonus action cube that is immediately placed on the board to show where the player get’s their bonus action (or action bonus). The lower level of these bonuses did not seem significant but they can help the player advance more quickly in some situations. Higher level bonuses were, of course, more useful. The bonuses to the action spaces add another set of rules to keep track of but are not going to be important to new players who are still learning.
A player who prints more of a genre than any other players gains a mastery token that gives their comics of that genre more fans when printed. Original comics give a small reward to the player printing them and sometimes that reward is a ticket that can be used to fast-travel, or jump, to any place on the map when taking a sales action. The map itself has a few rules about how to move and how to pay to move longer distances.
These descriptions are not a detailed explanation of the rules – those can be found in the rule book – but this should at least give you an idea of the complexity of the game and how a game might progress. These are my initial impressions after player a 2-player game and playing both of those players myself. Some games don’t allow for a 2p solo experience because of how competitive they are. But this game didn’t require long-term strategies that needed to be kept secret. Most choices can be based on the current state of the game without regard for what other players might be deciding to do.
This game reminds me of another recent Kickstarter game that I backed; Union Stockyards is a worker placement game that has six rounds, four or five workers for each player, and a map where players can compete more interactively. The difficulty of Age of Comics is about the same as Union Stockyards and both are definitely medium weight games. A game like Barrage, on the other hand, is a heavier worker placement game where the map competition is fierce and the worker placement spaces are much more in demand.