Full disclosure: A review copy of Paleolithic: Dawn of Humanity was provided by Shepherd Kit.
So, I’ve waxed poetic in the past about how difficult it is to play through expansions, since it requires a lot of time and a decent amount of knowledge of how the core game works. However, I love trying games from outside the US / Europe, so I made it work. So let’s spend the next couple weeks talking about Paleolithic‘s first and second expansions, starting with expansion 1: Dawn of Humanity.
You’ve begun to settle this new island with your animal companions, but you suspect that there’s more than meets the eye, to them. You’ve also gotten a bit better at sharing, as you have heard that even more cultures than usual will be around, vying to become the Chief Elder of all. Will you be able to learn from your companions and claim victory? Or will Dawn of Humanity prove to be more of a sunset?
No real changes to setup, either, which is nice. The few things that are different is that you’ll add a new culture, the Changbin:
Look at how huge that mammoth is! You’ll also add in their culture’s Artifact cards, as well:
Optionally, you can use the new Legendary Character card, in lieu of the original two:
Once you’ve done that, give every player an Animal skill card (match the color / animal to your specific culture):
After that, just kinda … set it up like the base game, essentially. Put out the board and the resources and the tribal tiles and the Artifact cards and then you’re kinda good to go! Not a particularly hefty expansion.
Gameplay is identical to the base game, but with one important difference. Now, in addition to Explore and Workshop as potential actions, you may eschew both to take a third action which will activate your animal’s skill (“Enhancement“). Each player’s animal’s skill is unique (and calibrated for their tribe, so don’t swap them around). Note that in most cases it only affects the tile which your animal is on, so, keep that in mind before you use it.
Beyond that, the game plays as normal.
Player Count Differences
So the major differences are going to be board congestion, game length, and Artifact card contention.
The board congestion thing is just that the spaces are small and it might be hard to fit everyone on certain spaces, so that’s more annoying than an Actual Problem. If that’s a huge issue for you, just keep the player count below four or don’t play with the giant animals. Just so we’re clear, that’s your loss if you choose not to include them.
The game length is a bit tougher to correct for, as it really is just measured by when the game ends (8 Artifact Cards and/or Tribal Tiles held by one player). If you’re looking for a shorter game, playing to 5 might be better, but you’re going to likely miss out on some of the depth afforded by the Tribal tokens. I assume it will take at least 60m with a 6-player game of all new players, which is certainly rather long.
Artifact card contention is bad for players who require more common resource types, as they’ll get snapped up pretty quickly, but surprisingly it tends to benefit the blue and green players, as they require black resource Artifacts and green resource Artifacts, respectively? Fewer players are going to go out of their way to try and swipe those (unless they have the extra resources handy), so a savvy blue or green player may be able to benefit from the chaos of cards being frequently moved around.
Personally, the player count adjustment doesn’t really do anything for me (I rarely play games at 5 or 6), so I’m perfectly content with playing this at 2 – 4 players. Your mileage may vary, though.
For the most part, I think you should just use the same strategy beats as the main game. The major additions via this expansion are increasing the player count and the Animal ability cards, which, while interesting, aren’t necessarily worth basing an entire strategy around. For most of them, they just add an extra action that you can do instead of exploring or workshopping. The most I’d recommend is that if you’re full on resources but you can’t get the Artifact Card / Tribal Tile you want, it might be worth using your Animal ability if that actually helps you accomplish something, in lieu of rolling for and throwing away resources.
Pros, Mehs, and Cons
- The new mammoth is sublime. It’s enormous. Like, I thought the bear token was gigantic from the base game, but this is incredible. It’s up there with the start player token from Evolution: Climate in terms of both size and quality; I really like it.
- The animal powers are a nice change-up. They give you something interesting to do and add a bit of take-that, occasionally, if you’d like to do it. None of the take that is particularly aggressive, just a lost resource or a swapped resource or a Caveman token that got moved.
- The new Legendary Character card is pretty nice. You can use it to combo off of a build into something else, depending on what your Animal Power is, and that’s pretty cool. I like that it adds some variety to the game and you can swap them out or around.
- Reasonably simple additional expansion. I think the main draw here might be the expanded player count, otherwise this amounts to essentially a box of 15 or so cards. I think you can teach this along with the base game, also, without too much trouble.
- The expansion fits in the box! That’s also really helpful.
- Some of the animal abilities are definitely more situational than others. I think that’s primarily to balance some of the players that are slightly nerfed as a result of this expansion (blue and green have very good abilities, but it’s harder to draw their cards), but it can be frustrating while you’re still trying to get a feel for the strategy of the expansion.
- Neither expansion really adds a way to mitigate the whole “waiting for good cards” thing. It helps a bit if all players are looking for different card types, but if they’re not (and no player has the Deer ability) then you might wait a while. The Deer does help, though, so it’s not as big of a deal as with the second expansion, I’d say.
- It’s sort of odd that the game comes pre-prepared for both this and the second expansion. Generally you’d expect the game to not arrive in fragments, and it can frustrate or confuse someone when the board for the base game makes references to cultures that aren’t available (because they’re in an expansion). It’s not too bad, but just vaguely confusing.
- I worry about the game length spiking at 6 players. Since the game only ends at 8 Artifact Cards / Tribal Tokens collected by one player, I worry that with more players (without any structure to speed up the game) that it’ll just take a very long time to play.
- Adding more cards to the deck dilutes the availability of certain types, which can hurt certain players. It’s already difficult for Blue and Green to get their Artifact Cards (since there are enough red and gray resource types, but fewer black and green), and this expansion primarily adds more gray resource Artifact Cards, so proportionally it’s now less likely to randomly draw a black resource or green resource Artifact Card.
Overall: 7 / 10
Overall, Dawn of Humanity is a pretty solid expansion! I think that I particularly like the new animal skills, and I’d say they’re a nice add-on to the base game, even if some of them are a bit on the aggressive side. What I would really love from an expansion would be something that makes it easier to either move around or cycle through cards in order to set myself up for getting better pickups. This is a nice add-on, though, and given that it fits in the box, honestly, it’s simple enough that I’d just integrate it into the base game and call it a win-win, since it’s essentially variable player powers. Either way, if you’re looking for an upgrade or trying to help your newer players start learning how to operate with variable player powers, Dawn of Humanity is a nice way to add something new to Paleolithic, without it feeling too unfamiliar.