Historia is a streamlined and abstracted civ game. It is rather different from other civ games that I have played. It takes a rather different approach in its game mechanisms. The outcome is a medium weight game which still gives you the satisfaction of watching your civilisation progress from the ancient age to the modern age.
The game is played over three ages of four rounds each. The length of a game round varies depending on the players' card play. Everyone simultaneously picks between 1 to 3 action cards to play (depending on his tech level), then reveals the chosen cards, and then in player order executes all the actions. Cards played are added to your personal queue, and you won't get them back until the end of the round or until you make use of certain special abilities. This card play continues until someone picks the revolution action card, after which the round will end, and you do the round-end scoring and maintenance activities.
The card on the left is an advisor card, which is basically a special version action card. The others are all action cards, which are the core of the game. The icons on the top right corner indicate the card type. The two rows of icons at the bottom of each action card show the effects of the card. The first row is the standard effect, and the second row is the advanced effect, which is only available after you reach a specific tech level.
Your nation is represented by very few things. The game board is mostly a progress chart on which you mark your nation's military strength and technological level. Your nation's position along the X-axis is its tech level, and its position along the Y-axis is its military strength. This means both of these aspects of your nation are linear - no complex tech tree or counting of military units and their individual strengths. The position of your nation on the progress chart has a third meaning - your form of government. This gives a bonus at the end of every round. So one marker on the progress chart tells you three things about your nation.
Two thirds of the game board is the progress chart.
This is the clock. One full cycle is one age, and the four sections represent the four rounds within an age. All those icons are reminders for things you need to do at the end of a round. They may look intimidating at first, but after doing the round-end procedure once you will be able to easily remember what they mean.
The physical aspect of your nation is represented on the small world map which takes up only a quarter of the game board. You may place cubes here to stake your claim on territory. Controlling territory lets you score points. Being adjacent to other nations lets you learn technology from them. If you are militarily stronger, you may also attack them or raid them. Battles are deterministic. There is no defending. When two nations coexist in one territory, the stronger one may spend an action to kill one cube of the weaker one. The cube is not lost forever. It just goes to the used pool. It can be refreshed and then returned to play.
The map is small and simple. The victory point value of each territory is randomly determined at the start of the game. This gives some variability. Han (yellow) started his empire in Siberia (4VP), I (green) started mine in the Middle East, and Allen (blue) started his in South East Asia. No one had expanded to the Americas yet because we had yet to learn Navigation.
There is only one resource to manage - cubes. They represent your people and their efforts. You spend cubes to advance your technology level, you spend cubes to strengthen your military, you spend cubes to build wonders of the world, and you spend cubes to claim territory. Spent cubes go to a used pool. They need to be refreshed before they can be used again.
You grow and advance your empire via card play. Ultimately the aim is to score points. Leader cards for each age give you objectives. If you meet the objectives, you score bonus points. Many other aspects in the game give points, e.g. battles, raids, certain government forms, controlling territory, making use of wonders. At the end of the third age, whoever scores the most points wins.
The card at the top left is my leader for Age 2 - Napoleon. If you fulfill the criteria listed, you score points. However the leader card itself doesn't grant any special ability. The beige coloured cards are my wonders. Notice the use of icons here. Once you understand the convention, the icons are easy to understand and to read.
Han, Allen and I did a 3-player game. Knowing the sharks that they were, I went military all the way throughout the game. I was militarily strongest for most of the game. I didn't bully them much. I probably should have done so more, exploiting my advantage. When I had free time I tried to improve my tech level. I didn't manage to keep up with them in building wonders of the world though. To a large extent it is the wonders which define your civilisation and make it unique. After all, military and tech are both very linear matters, and there is not much spatial play on the map.
We were constantly improving our nations, while at the same time maximising our scoring opportunities. More scoring opportunities came along when the second age arrived, and we had to make sure we kept up. There were a few ways to score points, so we had some leeway to decide how we wanted to score.
A 3-player game in play.
At this point we had maxed out our military levels. I (green) was two steps ahead of Han and Allen in tech level.
Historia takes a rather different approach to civ games. It streamlines a lot and abstracts a lot, but what I find interesting about it is not how it simplifies, but how it uses a different way to represent your civilisation. It is a medium weight game, so don't expect the epic feeling like when you play Through the Ages, Francis Tresham's Civilization, Sid Meier's Civilization or Nations. However it does allow you to see your empire progress from the ancient age to the modern age within a regular game night, comfortably. I suspect the game will be more interesting with more players. Three players seemed to be unexciting, but that might be because we all went into military escalation mode, limiting our own options.