What Ancients Begat is a complete (~15 hour) game of family generations surviving the rise of western civilization. Survival is the ultimate goal. The sub-goals, you choose, build their story. Experience an abstract telling of the lives of our earliest recorded ancestors.
User reviews: Mixed (262 reviews)
Release Date: Jun 7, 2013

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"A casual game of dynasties, commingled with choice-based text-based interactive fiction"

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August 18

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Why a new game, instead of another 7GS? The answer is complex, involving earnings from 7GS, code portability, and some burnout. In short, I'm moving my game development to new tools, and TorB is a way to learn new tools, refresh myself, and release a game in a shorter time span than a 7GS sequel. I hope begin work on a sequel after this quicker game is shipped.

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Reviews

"An engaging combination of board game mechanics and pure storytelling, 7 Grand Steps is an addictive telling of one family's journey through history."
Gamespot

"...it’s so clever that you can’t help but love it."
Indie Statik

"7 Grand Steps hides a deeply strategic experience behind its deceptively simple and charming graphical appearance, ...immersive and engaging gaming."
GGS Gamer

"...entirely apart from the hundreds of games that have passed through my PC..."
Rock Paper Shotgun

"...I walked away from it as though I was telling a story that reached through time."
G4TV

"It's a simple looking game, but -- I found myself unable to stop."
KillScreen

About This Game

What Ancients Begat is a complete (~15 hour) game of family generations surviving the rise of western civilization. Survival is the ultimate goal. The sub-goals, you choose, build their story.


Experience an abstract telling of the lives of our earliest recorded ancestors. Part board game, part machine, part nod to computer games of yore, it begins with a simple mechanic. Spend tokens to traverse the wheel of life. Earn tokens by tempting the jaws of death. Then, like layers upon a pearl, game play expands, introducing fresh tactics and strategies which, turn by turn, drive a sophisticated, emergent narrative. How you play defines the lives of one family's generations through the changing ages.


An enormous tableau of ancient western culture awaits your exploration:


  • Core Mechanic - Back and forth tactics, across four social boundaries, to win legend points.
  • Family Strategy - Romance. Raise children. Rite of Passage.
  • Family Drama - Tales in the life. Sibling rivalry. Failed branches. Graveyard of ancestry.
  • Grand Legends - Earned over generations, they strengthen your family: Discoveries and Invention. Social Advancement. Heroics.
  • Ruling Games - City Administration. Warring Kingdoms. Imperial Senate.
  • The Challenges of an Age - Special for each social level. Survive and overcome, to enter a new age.

System Requirements

Windows
Mac OS X
    Minimum:
    • OS:XP
    • Processor:1GHz
    • Memory:1 GB RAM
    • Graphics:1024x768
    • Hard Drive:200 MB HD space
    Recommended:
    • OS:XP
    • Processor:1GHz
    • Memory:1 GB RAM
    • Graphics:1024x768
    • Hard Drive:200 MB HD space
    Minimum:
    • OS:10.5.8
    • Processor:1GHz
    • Memory:1 GB RAM
    • Graphics:1024x768
    • Hard Drive:200 MB HD space
    Recommended:
    • OS:10.5.8
    • Processor:1GHz
    • Memory:1 GB RAM
    • Graphics:1024x768
    • Hard Drive:200 MB HD space
Helpful customer reviews
19 of 21 people (90%) found this review helpful
12.1 hrs on record
Posted: August 18
Slow to develop, and maybe a bit too repetitive after a bit, but plays nicely, and is not trivial to survive. Some neat long lasting effects from real decisions meant to represent daily struggles in ancient times. One for board game lovers, especially on sale.
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19 of 24 people (79%) found this review helpful
3.0 hrs on record
Posted: August 18
Fun game if you are looking something different. You have to pay attention and rely on a good amount of luck to win this one.
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14 of 16 people (88%) found this review helpful
3.8 hrs on record
Posted: September 22
This "singleplayer board game" is damn surreal, and very complex, but weirdly compelling at the same time. Games go on so long you may never finish your first one, but you'll at least have enjoyed the time you spent.
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10 of 11 people (91%) found this review helpful
4.3 hrs on record
Posted: November 13
I only have 4 hours in this game. Its an interesting boaard game with a slot machine based asthetic. Basically you get tokens on certain turns that allow your current family to get rewards by moving to designated areas on the 'board' (dial thingy). It is focused around the notion of continuity and progress of generations, wthin the context of family life. Though this is a little more elaborate and unique than the Game of Life, at full price its expensive. If you do find this on sale, for really cheap and you would like something to kill time then this might be for you...unless you hate reading, cos there is alot of it.
Note - If you are visually impared, you can still play this fine in windowed mode using windows magnifier. There is alot of reading though.
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6 of 7 people (86%) found this review helpful
1.6 hrs on record
Posted: November 23
Ehh... this is really bare-bones for a $20 game, first of all. No animations, minimal art, practically a basic flash game.

Presentation aside there still isn't much I found myself liking. It's a board game with a heavy strategy element, but far too heavy on luck elements as well. I felt pretty clueless playing at first, and doing the tutorial again/reading all the info helped a little but it stilll felt rather overwhelming with how little control I had towards the game's outcome. It's not very engaging, either, rather tedious without much to actually do. Drag tokens, hope you get a decent amount of tokens from ingots, read the occasional piece of story that you may have already seen before even without only 90 minutes of play time. Just not enjoyable. There's probably a crowd for this game but it certainly isn't me. Fortunately this game was in a humble bundle, I'd never buy it otherwise even at 80-90% off.
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7 of 9 people (78%) found this review helpful
13.5 hrs on record
Posted: September 21
Eminently addictive and fairly deep despite being simple to play. There's probably a great boardgame hidden in this somewhere, but for the dearth of tokens it definitely benefits from not being one. The game could certainly use a bit more to do in some areas and the events tend to repeat a bit often between consecutive generations, but on the whole it's just a great "one more turn" type deal.
Talking about deal: Wait until it's on sale or in a Humble Bundle. I doubt I'd be as happy about it if I had paid $20 for it.
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4 of 4 people (100%) found this review helpful
13.4 hrs on record
Posted: November 29
Brief Synopsis:

7 Grand Steps: What Ancients Begat is a game made essentially by one man (he outsourced music and art assets, I believe). Originally, this game was meant to be part of a seven part series. The developer has mentioned however (in early 2014), that the second step (game) won't be coming for "several more years".

The game is stylized after the old coin games in which you insert a coin into a machine which triggers movement. Game play is relatively simple to understand, but is complex enough so that there is a layer of strategy involved.

The game is relatively simple. Through the use of coins and choices made during game play, you influence a family through the ages, determining how educated the children become and how powerful the family becomes. Play the game right, and your family could end up ruling over their city as high priest or even king.

Long Review:

Story: You start in the bronze age as a new family. Throughout the game, you'll be presented with story cards through which you can sometimes influence the fate of your family. There are several Ages through which you must progress in this game. Each Age follows several generations of your family. Some generations manage to reach high society while some struggle to survive as simple peasants. The story cards are very samey throughout a given Age, which can make the game a bit boring at times.

Graphics: The art assets are very well done in this game. Similar to the story cards, there aren't many different assets, but that's to be expected, given what the game itself is a relica of (old fashioned coin fed theatric game machines).

Music/Sounds: The music and sounds in What Ancients Begat are superb and really add a lot to the overall ambience and immersion of the game. They're not over done, but are instead rather subtle, which is exactly what a game like this needs to make it shine.

Length: According to the forums, the length of this game varies according to each person's play style. Some people manage to finish the game in less than 5 hours, while others take closer to 15 hours to reach the end. Personally, I got about 13 hours worth of play time.

Replayability: There is a bit of replayability in this game. In my opinion, it's well worth playing through at least twice, as the first time can be seen as an opportunity to learn the mechanics and work out a viable strategy for the second playthough.

Overall, I recommend that you purchase this game if you enjoy simple, historical, slow paced games with strategical elements and few art assets. It's definitely worth getting on sale, if nothing else.
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3 of 3 people (100%) found this review helpful
7.9 hrs on record
Posted: November 27
The mechanics are unique, which makes learning them a lot of fun.

There just isn't a lot of depth or quite enough going on to really keep you coming back.

Worth a spin at a discount.

3/5
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4 of 5 people (80%) found this review helpful
3.1 hrs on record
Posted: August 28
I kind of have mixed feelings about this game. I would give it 5/10. Good, playable, but with serious drawbacks.

Upsides:
It does give you a strangely epic feeling - you do feel like a part of history itself, looking at stories of families not at the level of each individual, but ultimately, for the entire family bloodline, as a whole. I would say that this epicness is the most unusual part about this game, which no other games I've ever played offers.
The graphics and music is also not bad for a game of its size.

Downsides:
The biggest problem is the disconnect between player's choices and their consequences, and the lack of any coherent logic as to how and why to make decisions. For example, when your family is facing a crisis of the age, you are given 4 questions, each with 4 choices - and after you choose all 4 answers, you kind of get a "score" on how you did. But there is absolutely no prompts as to why one answer may or may not be correct - and the worst answer kills your character outright, and the previous 2-3 hours of your gameplay is wasted. What the hell?! This happens in other places too...

To make this even worse, there's no SAVE functionality in this game - just Pause/Continue. I understand that history cannot be rewinded, and that decisions are decisions. It makes sense, but this is a game, for people to play. It is not meant to punish the player harshly. If the character you control dies, you lose your previous 2-3 hours of progress; If all you characters of the current generation dies, you are dead. Your game progress is completely erased. What the hell?!

Overall, I like this game for what it's good for, but I hate it for what it's bad for. I'm not playing it again.
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4 of 5 people (80%) found this review helpful
21.6 hrs on record
Posted: October 10
What a strange and fascinating game...that was literally my first thought when playing this game and it still accurately describes what i think of it now. Even after 20+ hours of gametime I cannot think of many other experiences as unique and interesting as 7 Grand Steps.

But is it fun? Yes...if you are into this sort of gameplay...which I now realize is probably difficult to pinpoint the audience for this game. It is probably most accurately described as a storytelling boardgame that lets you build generations of your family trying to achieve advantages to overcome "challenges of the age," which are basically disaster events that wipe out most everyone but you (if you pull it off). Strangely enough, the gameplay sort of simulates the constant struggle of trying to stay ahead in society and still provide a better future for your children (basically by teaching them better than you were tought). It works extremely well at keeping a feeling of tension and accomplishment throughout, and I found it pretty addicting. It is definitely a game that warrants a few hours each time you play instead of one to two hours.

However, my biggest complaint with the game is...the sequel. Or rather the very low chance of getting one. I would LOVE to see this game continue, and I really hope it sees more attention.
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6 of 9 people (67%) found this review helpful
4.9 hrs on record
Posted: October 28
This was enjoyable for a few hours and then started to get tedious.

The gameplay mechanics are unique, and the board game component is kind of fun.

One of the goals of the game - to progress between layers of society - seems achievable at first, but as you move on it starts to feel more random and futile. This may be true to life, but it doesn't make it enjoyable.

At the higher levels of the game there are more elements to manage, like economics or defense, but these seemed less fleshed out than the board game part. Maybe I didn't give it a fair go.
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2 of 2 people (100%) found this review helpful
17.3 hrs on record
Posted: October 5
Haunting, kind of depressing , ..you get a real sense of urgency to try and elevate your family standing when you are getting on in years. Very, very different and worth it just for the unorthodox and unusual gameplay
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3 of 4 people (75%) found this review helpful
12.9 hrs on record
Posted: September 23
Tl;dr: Weird but evocative.

An interesting game that plays pretty much like a cross between a board game and a poker machine. The basic idea is that you try and elevate your family through ancient society to accept challenges related to technological discovery, prestige and heroism by gathering tokens and using them to advance yourself while educating your children - heavy stuff for what looks like on the surface to be a casual puzzle game.

Some people have an issue with the random number generator suddenly throwing your family back amongst the peasants through misfortune, but I feel it encapsulates the idea of struggle - and once you get a feel for the best strategy you can reduce the likelihood of that happening. In one instance, the parents played favourites too often so the next generation was plagued by a sibling rivalrly when my useless brother kept stealing my tokens.

If you get to the top rung it opens up another game-within-a-game depending on the era, at one point I was a general (and was really bad at it), on another playthrough I got to play senator with all the powerplays and shenanigans that involves.

All the individual game elements are pretty basic but they form a quite evocative experience, much of this down to the excellent writing of the challenge scenarios. I should note that this is apparently the first of a series of games, so this particular episode stops kind of abruptly after a few eras with a "to be continued" placard. Even so, you might start off thinking it's a bit lame but then hours later...
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3 of 4 people (75%) found this review helpful
3.0 hrs on record
Posted: October 30
Digital board game of sorts. No real victory condition, gets kind of grindy after a while, but is nonetheless innovative and a great, novel experience.
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2 of 3 people (67%) found this review helpful
5.5 hrs on record
Posted: September 2
If the title wasn’t a glaring red flag for you, here’s a tip: this game is really ♥♥♥♥ing weird. There is not a single part of the entire process of playing this game that is not unusual in one way or another. Reading through the story creates a great sense of unease which would normally be obtained by talking to a cult member, or perhaps a diehard conspiracy theorist. The game also requires you to click and drag a coin into a slot to do pretty much anything. I only wish I had found the “Quit” slot sooner.
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2 of 3 people (67%) found this review helpful
12.9 hrs on record
Posted: September 23
Tl;dr: Weird but evocative.

An interesting game that plays pretty much like a cross between a board game and a poker machine. The basic idea is that you try and elevate your family through ancient society to accept challenges related to technological discovery, prestige and heroism by gathering tokens and using them to advance yourself while educating your children - heavy stuff for what looks like on the surface to be a casual puzzle game.

Some people have an issue with the random number generator suddenly throwing your family back amongst the peasants through misfortune, but I feel it encapsulates the idea of struggle - and once you get a feel for the best strategy you can reduce the likelihood of that happening. In one instance, the parents played favourites too often so the next generation was plagued by a sibling rivalrly when my useless brother kept stealing my tokens.

If you get to the top rung it opens up another game-within-a-game depending on the era, at one point I was a general (and was really bad at it), on another playthrough I got to play senator with all the powerplays and shenanigans that involves.

All the individual game elements are pretty basic but they form a quite evocative experience, much of this down to the excellent writing of the challenge scenarios. I should note that this is apparently the first of a series of games, so this particular episode stops kind of abruptly after a few eras with a "to be continued" placard. Even so, you might start off thinking it's a bit lame but then hours later...
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89 of 98 people (91%) found this review helpful
8.7 hrs on record
Posted: November 26, 2013
When it comes to games of chance, I would normally stay away. Slot machines at the casinos are a prime example. However, with 7 Grand Steps, there's more at stake. Your coins are steps to improving oneself in the world. In this case, a coin operated Ancient Egypt. You have coins that denote the 'skills' you can adept yourself in as it pushes you forward into time. If you decide to excel yourself in the society, you move up in the social hiearchy. You can find new techs (skills) or become a hero through its adventure-story style of narrative.

However, once you get to the ruler class, it becomes a challenge and that is what I admire: a game that is actively trying to push you back if you screw up. It is telling you to learn the mechanics again and come back when you are ready. That is why I am recommending this game. It is a game that is responding to your choices, your shifts and your play of the coins. Who knew a slot machine would be this fun?
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115 of 144 people (80%) found this review helpful
7.5 hrs on record
Posted: January 12
7 Grand Steps is an interesting concept: board game meets chose-your-own-adventure-meets (very light) civilization. You begin the game as a couple of poor workers and must build a dynasty, trying to climb the social ladder. Since 7 Grand steps is very much the sum of its parts, I'll describe each one, as it's quite difficult to understand the game based on existing reviews.

Description

The board game. That part is an almost direct port of the board game Cartagena. You almost always control two playing pieces (husband and wife). You advance the track by paying a token that makes you advance to the next location on the track that has a symbol matching that of the token. You can also move backwards to the next space that is occupied by another playing piece (either your spouse or one of the shadow pieces that are controlled by the AI). Doing so earns you tokens. How many and of what type depends on your skill level (more on that later). Here stops the Cartagena comparison.

Whenever you land on a space occupied by your spouse, there is a chance that you'll get a child. Children must be educated, so it's best to feed them tokens as often as possible. Doing so increases their skills, which will be used when the child becomes an adult (you can chose which child to play as in the next generation, a choice you have to make when the current one reaches the end of the track). Remember that the skills increase the number of tokens received when making a move towards the back.

There are 4 different tracks on the board, one for each social strata. With few exceptions, you're confined to your own social status's track.

On some spaces, beads are found that you can collect if you are among the firsts to reach the space. Collecting enough beads will trigger an event of one of three types: discovery (which changes one of the symbols on the track to a new one, and gives you a boost in skills and tokens for it, therefore giving you an advantage over shadow playing pieces), heroic, or social advancement.

Heroic and social advancements trigger a short choose-your-own adventure. A narrative is presented to you, and you'll typically have to make 5 choices. If you make "good" choices, you earn rewards: assorted rewards for the heroic events, or climbing one step of the social ladder for social advancement ones.

When you reach the fourth and last social class, you must make civ-style ruling decisions for your city each turn. You'll typically start as a sort of secretary of agriculture, but you'll get more power later on, on financial and defence matters for example. Most of those decisions are actually sliders to set (how much grain to distribute to the people, how much to store, what level of corruption do you tolerate/encourage, etc.)

Comments

Regarding time spent on each section, 7 Grand Steps is actually about 90% board game, 7% choose-your-own-adventure, and 3% civ-style ruling.

Meaning you'll spend the bulk of your time (I guess about 15 hours per game) playing the board part. Now ask yourself this: are you comfortable with a 13.5 hours-long game of Cartagena? No? Me neither! Cartagena is fun as a 45 minutes affair, but it's not meaty/varied/strategic enough to warrant 10+ hours a pop. It gets boring quite fast, actually.

The choose-your-own-adventure part is unfortunately not better. It feels completely random, gives incredibly weak feedback (to the point where the text describing the resolution will leave you scratching your head: "is that good or bad?" ). It's also repetitive and lacks drama. The board game part might be boring, but at least it's something solid. You feel like you have some control on the outcome. Not so with the adventure part.

About the civ-style part, I must admit I have not spent a lot of time with it (more on that later) and I certainly haven't seen all it has to offer. What I've seen is something pretty abstract, and relatively basic, but it made sense and gave me control, so probably the best part of the three. Too bad it's also the one you'll play the least.

So why did I spend so little time with the ruling part? Of course, partly because, as I said, it's only accessible once you reach the top of the social ladder. But also because, when certain conditions are met, a "challenge of the ages" is triggered, which is another choose-your-own-adventure that ends in an age advancement (from the copper age to the bronze age for example). It's as random as the others, but the consequences are much more dramatic. After my first "challenge of the ages", my character died and I got to play a distant sibling in the next age. The problem is, that sibling was only on the second rung of the social ladder and had of course no access to the ruling game. And that's actually the moment I quit this game: I didn't want to spend another 3 or 4 hours to reach the point where I could play the only part of the game that was at least mildly satisfying. yuk

Conclusion

I don't recommend 7 Grand Steps. It's much too repetitive, long and random. in short, it's very boring. That's a shame, really, because the basic concept is interesting. This game is apparently the first of the 7 grand steps (full title is 7 Grand Steps, Step 1: What Ancients Begat). IF (capitalization intended) the developer manages to correct its many flaws, I think there's a possibility of making a very good and original game out of the concept. I therefore wouldn't rule out playing step 2, if it ever sees the light of day. But until then, I'd avoid the game entirely.

If you're desperate for playing a game with a similar concept, there are two alternatives I can think of:
* Zafehouse Diaries, about Zombie apocalypse survival. Not excellent, but much better than this.
* King of the Dragon Pass, which I haven't played yet, but sounds similar with a stronger emphasis on the ruling part (it also has much better reviews).
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43 of 51 people (84%) found this review helpful
26.3 hrs on record
Posted: November 25, 2013
While this may look like a traditional board game, the depth on hand is remakable. In using cards/events to tell your characters story the game allows you to create a much more vivid tale of your own.

RPG meets board game, and I cannot wait for the follow up.
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40 of 51 people (78%) found this review helpful
13.3 hrs on record
Posted: March 8
7 Grand Steps is an ambitious game. It provides a single-player boardgame experience against computer-controlled AI characters set amongst the classic ages of history. Unfortunately, the experience is enormously crippled by the random elements of the game. Progress often feels the benefit of luck, and the frequent impediments to your progress are frustrating and feel beyond player control. While the various storylines you'll encounter are somewhat engaging, they are often hopelessly vague. Character choices that work for one individual utterly fail for another. While training children is an important part of the game, the parents can reproduce beyond their means, such that nurturing each child becomes impossible. Should you choose to dote on one child, rivalries will develop which hinder progress down the line.

While progress is exciting, especially from Age to Age, due to the strange and random nature of the game, you could be forced to play one Age for a great length of time. As you are forced to make the same choices again and again, the tedium weighs the experience down, such that slogging through the wheel becomes a chore. While you may find the game has an instant surface appeal, it doesn't ultimately hold up. The lives of the characters in the game feel beyond any meaningful influence, and each turn eventually feels mechanical.

The initial wonder of the experience was greatly muted after a few hours of play, to the point that I couldn't explain why I continued to play. The structure of 7 Grand Steps is intriguing, but sadly, it is a flawed creation. "Winning" the game is an empty achievement: the end result of many hours of token creation in a blind universe.
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