On January 23, after a long development period, the new turn-based strategy game finally came on the market. But the special thing about the game is probably not just the gameplay, but above all the developer. Because the game was developed by the designer of Civilization V, hence the name Jon Shafer's At the Gates. But what happened to the big project and is it worth taking a look at the game?

Every beginning is difficult, sometimes very difficult

At the beginning of the game we can only choose one faction to play, the others are initially blocked. To unlock other playable factions you have to meet them in the game or make an alliance with them and then you can play them in the next round as well. Once we have done all of this, we start the game and have to work through a few dialog boxes. It should be said now that these dialog windows are incredibly important to get into the game. These represent the tutorial and the game is almost impossible to understand without help at the start. Because it is complex and in many ways, even if it does not show up in the first place. When we enter the game everything looks very clear and well organized, but that changes quickly if you click on an icon, because then we are taken by surprise with texts, information and options. Fortunately, we can then go back to the beginning with peace of mind and click our way through the tutorial one by one. The text output, which is currently only available in English, is worth mentioning at this point. With such a complex game, this could be a little tricky for those unfamiliar with the language. Otherwise, only good things can be said about the tutorial, it starts with the basics and also explains how the first round should go. There are also tips for choosing research and professions. These two points are explicitly very relevant at the beginning. At this point you notice the first parallels to the Civilization series, because there was research there too and training professions can be compared with production in the cities. Then in the further course the first units follow and why these have become much more important than with Civilization, more about that in the next paragraph.

It's a bumpy beginning, but the tutorial can help.

The three big differences from other turn-based games

Of course, it wasn't Jon Shafer's goal to copy a Civilization and just use his name for it. Because in the tutorial, the three most important differences are named, why the game stands out from the competition. On the one hand the biggest difference, because you start with just one city. Unlike other games, where you build a whole country with many cities, with At the Gates you only have to manage a single city. This does not result in less work, on the contrary, it becomes even more complex, this is particularly noticeable at the start. Because you manage each resident from your city individually. Every resident of the city is given a profession, i.e. a job to be done, and also has their own needs. The second difference is in resource and character management. All of this now requires more time and is not done with just a click of the mouse. Residents need to be trained in the professions that suit them to get the most out of them and resources should be gathered from talented workers for greater efficiency. The last difference can be found in the gameplay itself, because with every new game there is a new generated world. This makes the whole game unpredictable. On the one hand, this can be seen in the resources in the vicinity, which can be plentiful or difficult to find. This also has to do with the starting point and this is also chosen completely randomly. In the north, for example, you have fewer resources and a longer and harder winter. However, the developer emphasizes that the first games are a good mix of both, so neither too difficult nor too easy. This ensures a good introduction to the game.

You don't manage several cities, but the inhabitants of the single city.

Our main goal: to build a kingdom

At the beginning we start with a simple settlement - it doesn't look very much, but is enough for the beginning. But of course we want to grow and expand the little kingdom. Above all, this goes with the growth of the city, which we achieve through our reputation, the higher it is, the more clans want to join us. New clans keep coming back to us after a while, and how long that takes can be seen on the game screen in the rounds. Each new clan then not only brings with it a resulting urban growth, but above all the members are crucial for our people. Because every clan has advantages and disadvantages when it comes. On the one hand, this can be a blessing, but it can also be a curse. Because disputes among clans are not uncommon. Some examples of the properties would be for example: a green thumb (actions in the field of agriculture take only half as long), a brown thumb (actions in the field of agriculture take twice as long), local (must always stay close to the city, otherwise has that negatively affects the mind) or loyal (always good mood and never needs). The real work then begins with these clans, namely the procurement of resources. After researching professions, the individual residents can learn exactly these and then supply the city with wheat, which is then processed into bread by the baker and thus serves as food. That brings us to the next important point, because food plays an important role. Because the seasons in the game have a great influence on various resources. So in winter we don't have the opportunity to harvest grain and you won't find any berries either. With every lap we jump half a month and have reached winter so quickly. This then takes about ten rounds and during this time you should have enough food, otherwise there will be famine. To find the resources, of course, we also need adventurers right at the beginning, who will explore the area for us and thus further uncover the map for us. The resources are then collected by loggers, miners, collectors and hunters and in some cases they are also used immediately. But now there are other resources in our city that are important, because you still have the knowledge with which you can accelerate research. The celebrity for, as mentioned, new clans. Treasures become an important resource if you want to buy something from passing dealers. Last but not least, the clothes should be mentioned, these are needed for the growth of the clans. Because the city's clans can also grow, so a clan begins with one family and over time a clan has a second family. Of course, we're not alone on the map, the other factions can become friends or enemies over time. Here, too, each faction has different properties that must be taken into account.

Other factions can help us, but they can also harm us.

Media on Jon Shafer's At the Gates


Number of players: 1 players
Age: nV years
Playing time: 100+ hours
Difficulty: medium to high
Long-term motivation: high

Publisher: Conifer Games
Developer: Conifer Games
Year of publication: 2019 
Platforms: PC
Language: English
Cost: 29,99 Euro


With At the Gates, Jon Shafer has taken city administration to another level. It is no longer about administering a country and its cities, but only a city with the inhabitants who live there, this ensures more details and more influence on one's own population. However, it must also be said that the game slows down a lot and after a few hours of play you are not anywhere near as advanced as with other games of this type. Especially in the early game you have to make the right decisions, otherwise it can happen that you will find it difficult to survive the first winter. Otherwise, the gameplay with its complexity and richness of detail, as well as the freedom of choice, is difficult to beat by the competition. Everything is on a much smaller scale and so minor mistakes have a much bigger impact. The graphics only round off the gaming experience, the drawn world matches the game principle and looks lovingly designed. It looks like you're really on an old map. What is praiseworthy in the graphics, however, has to be criticized in certain places with the sound. With the sound effects, there are always too loud passages and unsightly sounds. Maybe something has to be done again. But otherwise the background music goes very well with the game. Nevertheless, I would like to give a clear purchase recommendation, because I personally find the complexity and attention to detail very well done. Even if at the beginning it seems as if it is impossible to make the city grow, after a while you have a few tricks and tricks and you get to grips with the game better and better.