Mammoth meatballs and chips? In Prehistories, the hunters are hungry and only a polyomino based painting will satisfy their appetites!
*Tile laying* Strategic * Polyomino * Easy to Learn * Hidden Information * Simultaneous Play * Bidding * Auction * Two Player *
Benoit Turpin? Of Welcome To Your Perfect Home? Seriously? Sign me up!
That was my initial thought when I heard about Prehistories. You see, Welcome To and I have a serious thing going on. Never before had a flip and fill game captivated me like Welcome To did the first time I played. And I will always have the eminent @saggyhead to thank for the encouragement to get stuck in. I already had it. Sat on my shelf for months. And I don’t know why I didn’t crack the seal. But once we did…..well, eight expansions, a Las Vegas edition, and an intergalactic ending to the trilogy later, I am a diehard fan of Benoit’s creation.
So, with the weight of his perfect flip and fill resting truly on his shoulders, did Benoit’s co-design with Alexandre Emerit hit another high note for us? Read on to find out!
In Prehistories you are a leader of a (you guessed it!) prehistoric tribe. It’s your job to decide which of your brave and fearless warriors are going to go catch the evening mammoth burger. The mysterious Elders have painted pictures on your caves which, if you replicate them, will leady to juicy delicious victory points after your furry feast! But you aren’t the only leader looking for lunch. You are competing with others who also have some fairly heavy hitters on the hunting front!
Setting up is as easy as mammoth microchips. Unfold the main board (it is double sided for different player counts), stack the different sized polyominoes, select objective cards (day or night depending on challenge level), and give each player their hand of 12 hunters, 8 totem tokens, and cave board.
So, each round you simultaneously reveal the hunters you want to send out fighting and foraging from your hand of 4 (selected randomly from your tribe deck of 12). Every card has a numeric strength and speed value. Strong groups of hunters are powerful and can slay the bigger beasties, but their heft slows them down. As such, the player with the weakest sum total of warriors always goes first (and in the case of a tie, the fighter with the fastest individual speed value goes first).
The main board is laid out with randomly placed polyomino tiles in 5 locations representing the available prey for that round. There is only one tile on each spot per round so players have to be smart as well as strong! And each prey tile has a specific cost. The larger the tile, the more it will hurt.
Because battling bison doesn’t come for free. If you go beyond the strength value of your hunters to nab and nibbleworthy tile, you will be wounded and you will not be able to draw as many new hunters into your hand next round. If you are evenly matched, then they can fillet those fishies for free when that warrior gets home, and you can replenish ready for the next chow session. You might not choose to hunt at all, in which case you are going to have lots of hungry hunters ready to rumble next round as you get to keep all of your warriors and pick up additional cards!
Once everyone has battled or beefed up their hand, it is time to glorify your haul. Everyone who has obtained a polyomino prey tile must place it on their cave board (always right side up – these prehistoric people were not into abstract art!). The first tile must touch the left side of your board, and thereafter the adjacency rule kicks in.
As soon as you match one of the Elder’s creations, you get to place a totem token (or two depending on what you have just achieved) on that objective card. Similarly, if you complete a row or column as you paint away, you also get to discard a totem token. And the first person to discard all 8 of their totem tokens is the winner!
When you fulfill the wishes of the Elders by painting your cave in certain ways — such as completing a horizontal line or connecting opposing corners or surrounding a legendary animal on all sides — you place one or more totem tokens on that challenge. Whoever first discards their eight totem tokens wins.
Bidding for Bison!
This game came as a real surprise, and a really good one at that! Having heard it involved bidding, I was a little unsure how that would play out at lower player counts – the tension can sometimes be a little lacklustre with only one person to beat. But Benoit and Alexandre are clever clogs. They have devised a simple push-your-luck, bidding design that works well at lower counts. It is always going to be even more exciting and tense when there are more players around the table vying for pluckworthy prey. But we finished our first two player game super fast and immediately wanted to play again!
The cute cartoony artwork is great, and I was definitely lulled into a false sense of security by it – I thought it would be a simple kids’ game. Especially as there are only a few tiles out at a time! And whilst it is a fun, light, family game, the various elements layer up and there is more to think about than first meets the eye.
The push-your-luck on the bidding phase is great, and it presents choices each round; do you play your fastest warriors to go first, knowing you’ll take the wound hits to get bigger tiles? Or do you risk it with more heft and just hope your opponents don’t hunt down the polyomino you want when they go before you. Do you play safe and get a smaller portion but have more man and womanpower for the next round?! Which warriors come out of your stack each round is a little random, but it adds to the strategy, and is an added frisson of excitement for us. Having only 1 tile on each location every round also ramps up the tension which is great. The different challenges makes it highly replayable as well as accessible to players with various levels of spatial skill.
I can’t finish this review without a word or two about the components. The boards, tiles, and cards in Prehistories are top notch. Some of the legendary animals are a bit tricky to decipher in terms of which way up they should go, but the overall look and feel of the game is superb.
Overall, this is a family level game I could easily play with Mini-meeple as I do with older gamers. Younger ones might not tap into the strategy fully just yet, but beating someone else in the race to go first and pattern matching the objective cards definitely clicked with our tiny hunter.
One word of warning; this is not a Patchwork type game! Don’t be thinking you need to fill up your cave board for fear of being smacked with negative nellie points. ShadowMeepleMedia was so focussed on filling all the gaps that he missed out on juicy objectives that could easily have shed multiple totem tokens for him! Good for me, but not so good for him! Haha
If you think this might be a game for your collection, you can always check out the lovely folks at Out of Town Games here
[Please note that a copy of this game was kindly provided by the publishers for review. I am not paid for my comments, however, and all opinions are my own]. I am also not affiliated to or sponsored by any retail store.