What're you looking at!
My wife and I really enjoy this game as a two player game. It is good with more, but with two it shines as a great tactical game. Of the games we have played, Attika also qualifies as having the most intese endgame, in which it is consistently anyone's game.
The bits are of excellent quality in this game. You get four player boards (representing Sparta, Corinth, Athens or Thebes) on which all 30 of the building tiles (6 main buildings in black and 24 others in white) for your city are printed. The building tiles themselves are nice and thick and show no wear and tear after over 20 plays.
The game board tiles are large and shaped like gears, with six half hexes around their perimeter. They have symbols on them representing various types of landscapes (water, trees, hills, mountains) which allow you to build your buildings at reduced cost or for free. Each tile has seven spaces on it on which you can build. You also get 60 landscape cards, depicting the same four types of terrain that you can use to pay to build your buildings. You also get four cardboard shrines that are part of the game board. Each consists of two interlocking pieces, but you can put them assembled into the box, which is great.
Finally, there are 15 wooden amphoras which represent awards for completing portions of your city. They are a nice orange colour.
Set up is fairly quick. Each player gets a board. You need to shuffle your 30 building tiles into 4 piles: three of the other buildings (8 in each) and one of the main buildings (6). You begin with two times as many game board tiles as there are players and as many shrines. They are set up according to the instructions.
The starting player(s) gets the fewest landscape cards because they get first choice on where to place their first buildings. Each player takes the topmost building from their four piles and places them on their player board.
Attika has two victory conditions: you can win by either building a continuous string of buildings between any two shrines, or by building all 30 of your buildings before anyone else. (After the first few plays, my wife and I always have our games end with the latter condition.)
Each turn you must choose to either build (place your tiles on the game board), or draw (take tiles from your piles).
If you build, you choose a tile from your player board and place it on the game board. Each tile lists a number of resources on it, so if you can find a space on the board where all of the required resources are adjacent or under where the tile would be placed, then you need not use any landscape cards to build this building. If you cannot find a space that meets all the requirements of the building, then you make up the deficiency with a card of the appropriate type, or any two cards if you don't have the right type. For example, if my building requires trees, water and hills, and I find a space on the board with water and trees adjacent, I could place my building such that it is adjacent to both (or adjacent to one and on top of the other). Then I would still need hills to build it. If I had a hills card I would play it; if I didn't I could play any two other cards.
You are allowed to build up to three buildings in a turn. If you cannot or choose not to, you can make up the deficit by drawing landscape cards, but may not build after taking cards.
If you choose to draw, you can draw up to two tiles (if you only draw one, you can make up the deficit with a landscape card). Key to remember is that you can either immediately build the tile you have just drawn (even if you have to pay cards) or place it on your player board to build later.
There is another way to build for free which is also key to the game. On your player board, your buildings are grouped according to their function, under the headings of the six main buildings: fountain, quarry, vineyard, silvermine, city, street, and harbor. The player board, depicts the main building followed by the others in a particular order. If you build in this order, you can build for free; that is, with no regard to the landscape symbols on the game board or to your cards. The groups have different numbers of tiles in them, ranging from two to ten, but being able to build in this manner is ideal, as it is rapid and costs nothing.
When you draw or build, you need to consider whether you want a main building or not. The order for building for free always begins with a mian building, however you can still build for free if you are going in order, whether or not the main building has been built.
There is a penalty for not building in a single mass: each time you build a building that is disconnected from your main mass, you pay an extra landscape card, with an extra card being added for each building group (settlements). Therefore, if you had three disconnected groups of buildings on the board, and built your next building non-adjacent, you would have to pay three cards, in addition to any of the usual costs.
If you can build one of your groups so that all the tiles are together, you get an amphora, even if they have not been built in the order that allows you to build for free. Amphora allow you to extend your turn by one action: one extra draw, build, or card, consistent with what you have chosen to do on your turn.
If you choose not build or draw, you can take three landscape cards from the pile.
Players continue to draw and build, trying to connect two shrines with their buildings, or, as efficiently as possible, build all of their buildings. When you take the last building from a pile, however, you add another tile to the game board. This ensures that there is room to build as tiles are drawn, although you can delay adding tiles to the board by leaving a single building in a pile.
While connecting shrines doesn't seem to happen as often with two experienced players, it is still a victory condition to strive for, if only to force your opponent to block you. Since you want to build as efficiently as possible (read: build for free), anything that derails your opponent is well worth it. Like having to pay cards for building a new settlement, or, better yet, forcing them to break up a group to block you.
I like to be able to control when new tiles get laid on the board, so I empty my building piles down to one, and sometimes add two new tiles in one turn just to open up more possibilities.
Amphoras are the key. As a two player game, Attika is very tight indeed, and any extension you can get on your normal turn is crucial. If you can save up a few amphoras, you can make a run to get all your buildings built, or possibly a run at a shrine. The streets, a nice group of four, that need only be connected (order is not important), is an excellent way to close off, or make use of, prime space in short order (with the help of an amphora).
As the competition is so tight to get everything built, it is extremely valuable to build anything you can right off the draw. It saves you have to place it later on a building turn.
Also, never let yourself get low on cards, especially near the end of the game. It is then that you will need to build unrestrained, without worrying about finding prime building space. It may seem like you are not making the best use of your turn by only drawing three cards, but it definitely pays off. Sometimes sacrificing an amphora or two to draw cards is also very advantageous in this regard.
As a multiplayer game, it lose some of its great tactical decision making, and I found that you couldn't develop any of the clever tile laying that you can do in the two player game. It gets too busy and can easily end in someone just connecting two shrines. To be fair it is a good multiplayer game and I would give it a seven, but it is a better two player game.
As a two player game, I give this a nine. If you want quick filler, you probably won't be pulling this one off the shelf. If you want a game with nerve wracking decisions, and keeping a very sharp eye on things, then this is the game.
Nice review. Attika is a game me an my wife like to play quite a bit.
We have found it to have fair amount of luck though. So, I wouldn't think it is as tight a game as your review would make it sound, especially all the time. Also, with two experienced people, the first player has a slight advantage in terms of prime real estate selection.
So, there are games where we have had runaway leader issues. However, there are lots of occassions when the tile and resource card draws are similar for both players and in that case Attika is delightfully tight and tense, truely a nail biting finish to the end.
What're you looking at!
After about the first five plays or so, our games have been very close, with a few coming down to one tile left for the losing player. Perhaps we have been lucky with not having a runaway leader problem. We haven't had a game where the loser had more than 4, maybe five tiles left.
If the draws are unlucky then I just collect. Sooner or later I am able to go on a building spree and I am close again.