"Keep Summer Safe!"
[This was originally written in April '06]
One of last years "let's take a chance" purchases was Antike. Since Eggert-spiele makes so few copies, when I had the chance to buy one, I took it. I've only played Neuland once, but it struck me as a good game. And Antike tries to fill that "Sweep of nations in two hours" role (like Mare Nostrum).
Antike arrived after game night (of course), so I was reduced to pushing pieces around to get a feel for the game. [I fool nobody. I love to do that]. Finally, after a few months, I got to play a few games. The rules are online (at BGG), so I won't go over them in detail. Here's a summary of some relevant purchasing decisions — Antike has no luck (apart from initial country selection), you get victory points by various methods (having control of cities, seas, or temples, being the first to purchase a technology, and sacking opponents cities).
Antike has a new mechanism, at least new to me — The Rondel. This is a circle with 8 spaces. On a nation's turn, it moves it's marker along the Rondel. The farther you move, the more you pay. You can move 1, 2 or 3 spaces for free. Moving zero isn't allowed. Three of the spaces generate income (in Iron, Marble and Gold). Three more let you spend income (Iron gets troops, Marble gets Temples, Gold gets technologies). The last two spaces activate your troops for the lofty business of grabbing new territories, fighting, and sacking.
On reading the rules, I thought the Rondel could shake up the genre. Now that I've pushed the pieces around ... I still think that, but Antike will inspire the game that does it. It will be a Verrater to someone's Puerto Rico. This is another "Turn order is fluid, but completely up to the players" shifts that could work well. Imagine if the various actions had more differences, and if the cost varied as players occupied a space (as well as distance). Even with the limited types of spaces in Antike (income, purchase, move), I can see that you can anticipate moves and put pressure on people based on their Rondel position as well as board/money situation.
Saying that I hope to see a brilliant execution doesn't mean that Antike is bad. But a luckless game where one oversight can put you out of the running, I think the audience is limited. Its too static. Sacking temples (although it provides a VP) is expensive and difficult. I shudder to imagine what a slow player would do to this game. [Most turns take almost no time apart from the decision as to how far to move on the Rondel. You just get income or buy stuff. And early on the moving turns only involve a piece or two]. The first half of the game has 'jockeying for position' conflict, with no direct interaction.
Our first game ended on literally the first combat. Our second game was better, but left me cold. Last week I taught some people how to play, but felt no urge to spend an hour or two playing. I think that the first game was probably right ... if you exchange lands, then everyone not involved has gained. So the only really effective combat is sacking a temple. This does not make for an interesting game, in my opinion.
I'm open to arguments that played slowly, Antike would blossom like a flower to reveal the nectar of the ancients. But I'd rather slam my drink than wait for the sommelier. Which means letting this one go...