In civilisation games a single turn covers decades or centuries. A classic which came out in the 1980s is Britannia by Lewis Pulsipher. It covers British history from 43 to 1066 AD. China the middle kingdom is a game by another designer (Tani Chen) that uses the same rule set. It starts in 403 BC – slotting in nicely after the Peloponnesian war, which ended in 404 – and runs to the present day.
In Britannia games each player has a set of counters of the same colour with different designs to represent a series of nations/tribes/countries that appear and disappear in history. Some nations have many counters, some few. The place they come onto the map – a particular space in China, or over the frontiers, or from the sea – is specified.
Britannia games have area movement, simple combat rules and population growth that is a function of the number of areas the nation occupies.
Each nation has its own objectives. Most often they score points for occupying certain areas at the end of certain turns.
I played China the middle kingdom with three friends – the game is designed for four – on a visit to Brussels in January. (Remember when that was a thing?) I sorted the counters out in advance. This was a fiddly job and took a couple of hours because last time I put them away in a big heap . The game itself took an afternoon., We played the variant that ends at the halfway mark, turn 12 (907 AD), after the rise of the Tang dynasty.
I love Britannia. I was disappointed with China the middle kingdom. The nations felt samey and the pace of the game, repetitive. Partly this is because I’m British on the one hand and don’t know much about Chinese history on the other. But I think the situations depicted in this game may be genuinely less diverse. There’s no equivalent of the Welsh, who hide in their mountains, sallying snortingly out from time to time. Nor of the Caledonians, who hide in their mountains and don’t. Nations have less staying power and this means that some players are little involved for periods of the game.
Apart from this, it plays well – the Britannia rules have been well tested.
I can’t comment on how historical the ebbs and flows of nations are. I suppose they are reasonably so. This game, like History of the World, obviously has no answer to the question, who do I represent? The playing materials are of reasonable quality. I liked the bright colours, others didn’t.
I should add that I lost by a mile. I got less than I should have out of my best nation (the Qin) and nothing out of the others (e.g. the Shu and the 6 Dynasties). But the other players, who fought it out narrowly for points at the top, did not seem overwhelmed by the game either. 4 points.