06/10/2022

Clash of Cultures: Monumental Edition [Review]

Clash of Cultures: Monumental Edition is a reprint of the original Clash of Cultures, originally published in 2012 by Z-Man Games. It was then followed with an expansion called Clash of Cultures : Civilization, approximately two years after its original release. Clash of Cultures: Monumental Edition basically combines both the base game and its expansion into a single package. This new, big box comes with some new updates, in terms of components and balancing between skills and faction.

The reprint was announced a few years back, yet it underwent a few rounds of delay before they really released it in October 2021. Many were quite sceptical because WizKids Games handled this reprint, a publishing house which in a way is infamous in terms of their build quality.

With that being said, I will just go directly into components’ review, as it was the main concern coming with this reprint. Post-opening the box, I can testify that the concern about components might be unfounded — in fact, the production quality is good. The boards are nice, the card quality is also still acceptable, and lastly, the player boards with their double-layer do the job quite well. Anyway, the miniatures in the new Clash of Cultures: Monumental Edition are nothing special, but they’re not bad either.

For the record, Clash of Cultures: Monumental Edition is, just like its predecessor, a civilization-building game. The game goes for several rounds that consist of multiple turns. In each turn, they can play 3 actions. Once the round ends, there will be a Status Phase, in which they evaluate whether their objective cards are fulfilled and earn a free upgrade. The latter part is helpful to prepare them better for the following rounds.

That overview makes the game sound lengthy, but the actions mentioned previously are pretty intuitive. These actions are fairly well-explained on the player board, they are ranging from moving, activating cities to develop new buildings, collecting resources, and recruiting armies/settlers. Other notable actions include moving and building cities, and advancing their track. The latter one is actually becoming the core of Clash of Cultures: Monumental Edition.

The track is very similar with that common tech-tree. Players can choose to advance the branch based on their strategy, cementing it or moving to another tree branch to gain more skills. Its benefit expands and improve the actions mentioned previously. With around 48 tracks to advance, the combination is numerous. Thus, an informed choice is necessary to advance the track. For example, it makes sense to focus on the Warfare and Government branch to support massive army recruitment if you want to pursue the combative path. Alternatively, if you are a pacifier and want to build the cities, the Construction, or Economy skill tree can be vital.

Based on my experience, a civilization game typically requires a long-term strategy in its lengthy gameplay. This game is not an exception, and this type of game needs you to promptly adjust the balance between the tension and recovery. I have met some other games which were unable to balance those two, leading to players getting pummelled in the midst of a game. The consequence for them was pretty brutal, as they underwent a miserable experience for a few hours before the game finally ended. Clash of Cultures: Monumental Edition somehow manages to keep those aspects in balance.

What I mean is, as wars and combats become a big part of this game, it’s relatively easy to have cities under attack and lose control over them. However, every loss does not feel massively crippling, as there are many ways to recover and fight back. Yes, of course it is still a setback — but as long as the losing player doesn’t flip the table, keeps their cool, and thinks clearly, there are still ways to win the game. It is made possible thanks to the myriad combinations and objective cards that appear along the way. Nevertheless, the game actually admits that there may be a chance where one player can be so unlucky and get fully annihilated. Thus, the designer team added an end-game condition to automatically end the game when a player loses all their cities. It is a nice addition to shorten the unbearable pain.

A bit nitpick, if I may, will point out the massive Advances coming with some explanations written in a wall-of-text format. It requires several trials before new players become able to grasp the options. There were also times when I have read about some cool skills, but at some point later, I was unable to find them even after skimming through the list. Additionally, Clash of Cultures: Monumental Edition is a thematic and engaging game, which is actually a good thing. Nevertheless, during a heated situation, people tend to forget the number of actions they have taken, and even the trivial moving-the-round-tracker can slip out of their mind.

At the end, for me, Clash of Cultures: Monumental Edition is a very fun game. I got the similar feeling when playing Eclipse: Second Dawn for the Galaxy. Both games are huge and pretty lengthy, but not dragging. It is not suitable for those care-bears players, as war and overtaking other players’ assets are a necessary to win. Beyond that, this is a very solid game that offers a great experience. Five hours don’t feel that long with this game. In short: highly recommended and definitely looking forward to playing it again.

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