Damn those Ziggurats

It is Saturday morning and I am up early. Why? Because work
has programmed me to wake up at this time. Also, I suck at sleeping in. I am like
a little kid (or an eighty-year-old man), once awake I am incapable of just
lying there. The problem with that internal programming, along with the black
tar coffee I have consumed immediately after rising, is that I am raring for
some intellectual stimulation. Typically that need is fulfilled (and crushed)
by a heavy work day of budget projections, copy writing, and problem solving.
On the weekend I have to fill that need in some other fashion.

Enter the strategy game Bronze
by Dreamspike Studios. I first heard about the
game on the strategy podcast Three Moves Ahead and was quickly sold simply by hearing about the game’s theme.

Bronze is a
territory control game set on an eight-by-eight grid where players represent different
civilizations from the Bronze Age. I have always been fascinated by this
particular era, the veritable dawn of modern man, and have thought that it is
under-represented in gaming. Sure, the Babylonians have been thrown into a few
games but to my knowledge the Assyrians, Hittites, and Elamites have largely been ignored.

Realistically, however, Bronze
doesn’t particularly represent those ancient cultures very well either but at
least it gives you a fine history lesson between each scenario you play.
Instead it’s more of an abstract game that loosely gives certain factions
benefits and penalties symbolically based on their culture. For instance, the
Gutians, being a barbarian culture, cannot build more advanced structures but
can build military barracks for less cost than most other peoples.

I like to think of Bronze
as a twist on Go where you try to establish territorial holdings, blocking the growth of your
opponent. The twist over Go is that
you are not just grabbing territory but also placing buildings that can acquire
additional territory, earn money, or conquer enemy squares. It is easy to get
caught up in the special abilities of those buildings and is important to
remember that holding the most territory and denying squares to your opponent
is the only way to win.

Again, damn those Ziggurats

The campaign mode of Bronze
often feels like a puzzle where the strategy for defeating a particular enemy
relies on a specific set of moves. The A.I. in the game is fantastic and rarely
makes big mistakes, using the strengths and weaknesses of its particular
culture very well. A multiplayer mode in Bronze
would be nice but honestly I would never actually get around to using it.

My only complaint about Bronze
would be its steep price, currently at $29.95. While I have not regretted the
purchase in any fashion and have steadily played the game for months now, I can
imagine it being a major hurdle for most people.  It took the enthusiasm of the 3MA podcast and their interview with
Dreamspike Studios’ Alex Kutsenok, to convince me to take that leap.

I have found Bronze
to be a great brainteaser for those early weekend mornings and the game is just
light enough where I can quickly play a couple rounds if I find myself with a
few extra minutes. Even after repeated play I have not tired of solving Bronze’s puzzles and if you can see past
what initially seems like a high price tag you will find a solid and smart