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Subject: Antike variant two player game rss

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Tim Taylor
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I tend to play Antike, more often than not, with only two players. While the game comes with two different two player variants, neither seems entirely satisfactory to me. Players either play two colors as one nation or they each play two different cultures. Both these methods seem to slow play way down for us (about doubling playing time), and the latter method I found very confusing when initially learning this game.

I wanted a streamlined two player variant which actually played in under two hours and where each player controlled only one color (so I wouldn't get so confused). I also wanted to change the game as little as possible, since this would mostly be used as a method to teach the game. After a little experimentation, I concocted the following method.

Variant two player game for Antike

This variant uses only part of the EAST side of the game board. Fold the mapboard in half, so that the half showing Byzantium is face up. This is the playing area. Only those provinces where the city is completely visible are playable. For example, both Phasis and Thebae are playable since all of their city is visible (the fact that the name banner is cut off does not matter), while both Ninive and Petra are not playable because you cannot see their cities.

This map configuration roughly preserves the type of resource distribution found in a four player game.

Since the Rondel is located on the face down side of the game board, you will have to print out a Rondel for use in this variant. May I suggest the most excellent Latin version uploaded by the designer, Mac Gerdts:

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/image/113558

The two players are Greeks and Persians, with the following initial city placement:

GREEKS
2 MESSANA, SPARTA, DYRRHACHION

PERSIANS
2 MELITENE, ANTIOCHIA, TYROS
The Persians player is the Starting player.

Play until 9 Ancient Personages have been acquired by one player, who wins as in a four player game.

Optionally, to make the game dynamic even more like a four player contest, remove three Ancient Personages from each category (i.e., there are only 6 Kings, 5 Scholars, 4 Generals, 3 Citizens, and 2 Navigators available).

We've found this variant more satisfying than the existing variants, which also results in a shorter playing time.

Tim Taylor

October 3, 2006
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Tim Taylor
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Here's how my two player variant looks in play:

 
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Dan Poole
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Thanks for posting this. I just ordered this one and was wondering how I was going to pull it off as a 2 player game
 
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Sami Nurmela
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Thanks for this variant. You are right about the official two player rules making the game play too long. It took me and my wife over four hours to finish our first (and seemingly, last) game with two powers each. Not exactly a fun experience, as the game seemed to drag on and on. We tried not to attack our own other nations, but during the last hour we had to break this ruling just to get the game finished. I hope we can give Antike another try with your variant rules some day (it may take some work to convince my wife though ).
 
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Magnus Nyberg
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Lovely variant. thumbsup

Tried it twice yesterday and it worked very well. We removed 3 of eash Ancient Personages and it was tight as a 4 player game, and done in half the time a 4 player game takes. Unfortunatly i lost both of the games. soblue

 
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Chris Chelgren
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Great variant indeed. We played on the side of the map you suggested, Tim, but we came up with a variant of this variant. I was too lazy to boot the computer to find out our starting cities, so we did a draft. Basically picked a start player, and drafted the cities one at a time with each person choosing the city of their choice, witht the rule of course that you needed to pick one of each city type (marble, iron, gold). We then chose our starting nations, we just chose them for flavor (our game featured the Romans vs. Egyptians ).


Thanks, Tim, for the idea of only playing on half the board. That made the game very tight but still allowed for some expansion.
 
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Ender Wiggins
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This sounds like a great two-player variant. Would it work with any other parts of the map, or would the West side of the Orient board be the optimal or only real way for this to work?

For a comparison between the official two player variants, see also this thread:
http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/141568
 
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Stephen Michael Hickey
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Thanks for the suggestion Tim,

This sounds like a much better two player option.

We played the official two player; each having one army variant, a few nights ago and we wern't even close to finishing it after 3 hours, by which time we called a truce.

We also did something similar for a game called Power where we folded the board in half and that worked perfectly as a 2 player variant.

I haven't had a chance to try your variant as yet but it is certainly one that I would opt for next time out. What I really find interesting is the different effects that can be achieved by differing card distributions.

Adding a third Navigator could be interesting to see if one party could achieve control over 14 seas. This could lead to some intense naval battling and decision making as someone was approaching the 14 sea threshold. Having just 3 Navigators would reward only the first player to control 14 seas which is still tighter than the official 2 player variant where all navigators are in play.

Similarly, with the Kings, by playing just 5 Kings you would offer an advantage to the first player to conquer 15 (of the 25 or so) cities. Again this would encourage an intense struggle as someone was approaching the 15 City threshhold.

Halving the number of Citizens to 3, makes complete sense and keeps the card distibution in proportion to the rest. It also generates a race to be the first to build 6 Temples.

Similarly, reducing the number of generals to 4 prevents adding further incentive to a battle driven win.

What I'm not no sure about is the the optimal distribution of the Scholars.

Reducing the number of scholars to 5, significantly reduces the incentive to pay a premium for discovering the last three inventions. This could stall the inventions phase, in a manner not seen in the original game. I might be tempted to leave all 8 scholars in the pack knowing that a Gold rich development strategy was naturally going to be counterbalanced by the need to develop marble and iron for Temple and Military units.

Also, by leaving all the 8 scholars available, this gives extra opportunities for a technology based win versus a military based win.

As one of the main criticisms levelled at the game is the anti-climax of a sneaked Temple win, this should improve the end game by making it more of a race between technological development versus military might.

This would lead to the following card distribution:
5 Kings
3 Navigators
3 Citizens
4 Generals
8 Know-Hows

Finally, it also occured to me that instead of physically folding the board in half and losing sight of the Rondel or the Technolgy tree and Scoreboard, you could do the following.

Take 25 City counters of an unused empire and place them on the cities on the left or right side of the board leaving 25 cities available. Place the Cities of this Major Empire so as to leave 25 available Cities in an 8-8-9 distribution of resources. Adopt the rule that neither player can enter the land or sea area owned by the major Empire as this would be militarily disasterous and lead to an automatic loss.

This allows for 4 boards to be played (or practically unlimited permutations if you place the 25 Major Empire Cities in a group anywhere along one edge or corner of the board). This recommendation also has the advantage that the Rondel, Technology Tree and Scoreboard are always visible

As suggested above, players start by selecting a group of any 3 connected Cities producing each of the three resources of iron, marble and gold.

Just some pre-liminary thoughts. I look forward to testing all the suggestions out but the halving of the board is definitely a great idea.









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Walther Gerdts
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Thank you all for this thread!

It was encouraging to think the suggestions over and do quite a bit of testing as well. When testing, we covered 25 cities with black discs to mark them being out of the game in order to let both rondel and progress chart remain visible - pretty good idea!

We prefer to play 2 navigators only, because it is the max a nation can get with its limited amount of 17 "seaples". Otherwise if you play with 3 navigators, ONE navigator would be sure for each nation. We think that the game is more tense, when a nation can theoretically take ALL navigators and not leave any for the other nation.

As to the scholars, I agree that a total of 8 scholars works fine. Otherwise scientific progress would simply stop at some point. We also lowered the price for the first inventor by 2 gold, now being 5/3 for the first line, and 8/5 for the second line on the chart. Otherwise it is too expensive to go ahead in a 2 player game, and the military threat, taking advantage of cheap military progresses, would be too powerful.

The military path was very, very strong! We allowed each nation to win by actually destroying the enemy when capturing the last city. If you destroy your enemy, all his VP's will be worthless. Thus it came down to iron being the most important commodity on the board. Endless iron-arming-maneuver cycles on both sides resulted. If a nation tried to escape that cycle, it was a race of getting enough ancient personalities BEFORE being destroyed. In almost all cases, this race was lost!

It would not help, if you do not allow to take the last city, as in the original rules! There is not much you can do with only one city against 24. There is absolutely no hope of expanding again. It is a frustrating situation. I would rather suggest to allow to destroy the last city, as seen in history: "CETERUM CENSEO: CARTHAGINEM ESSE DELENDAM!"

Playing the military path against a nation trying the gold strategy was won in more than 90 percent of cases. That was be a boring affair, some balancing was needed! In the end we decided on doubling arming cost to 2 iron per military unit instead of 1. As a result, the balance now is much better, as it takes much more time to capture cities.

Our ancient personalities:
8 scholars
5 kings
4 citizen (14 temples)
3 generals
2 navigators
We allow to win by destroying the enemy, or reaching 10 VP.
Arming costs 2 iron each unit.
Scientific progress costs 5/3 and 8/5 gold.

We are still testing and trying out variants though, I would love to share your thoughts and experiences!

Happy New Year from Hamburg!
Mac
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Ender Wiggins
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MacGerdts wrote:
Our ancient personalities:
8 scholars
5 kings
4 citizen (14 temples)
3 generals
2 navigators
We allow to win by destroying the enemy, or reaching 10 VP.
Arming costs 2 iron each unit.
Scientific progress costs 5/3 and 8/5 gold.

Thanks for the excellent suggestions in this thread. Hopefully with more playtesting, the outcome will be a balanced and standard two player variant. Playing on just half the board prevents the game from being too open and lengthy, and gives the gameplay some of the tension similar to multiplayer games.

Currently a two-player game is progress here using half the board, and less personages (8 scholars, 5 kings, 4 citizens, 3 generals, 2 navigators), but retaining the usual costs for arming and scientific progress. It looks like the game will be decided by military might without much technological development, so perhaps the costs for arming and inventions need adjusting as suggested. I'm curious what is meant by the 14 temples in brackets - are you suggesting a maximum of 14 temples for both players combined?
 
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Walther Gerdts
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EndersGame wrote:

I'm curious what is meant by the 14 temples in brackets - are you suggesting a maximum of 14 temples for both players combined?


Yes - we have only a supply of 14 temples in the game.
 
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Stephen Michael Hickey
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Hi Walther,

Just some further thoughts.

In practice, having just 2 Navigators provides less competition because players can easily develope 7 seas sailed in complete isolation of one another and without any confrontation.

Your example only works if one player remains blissfully unaware of the other player's naval build up and allows that other player to develope 14 seas sailed without bothering to build an easy 7 seas on their coastline. This would rarely, if ever, happen in a competitve game and would typically result in 1-1 Navigator tie where no one would gain an advantage from the naval aspect of the game.

Adding the third Navigator makes it possible to fight your way for 14 of the 21 or so seas and to be the first to gain the second Navigator card.

It also, retains the possibility of being able to win 2-0 on Navigator cards if a player can occupy and hold all but 6 of the sea areas.

We played two 5 and 6 player games of Antike yesterday so, as yet, I have no fixed viewpoint on the advantages or otherwise of reducing the costs of technologies, in a 2 player game.

All good discourse though and we should be able to come up with the perfect solution for the best 2 player variant with everyone's test playing experiences.

Steve
 
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Ender Wiggins
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My most recent experience with this two player variant (using half the board, 8 scholars, 5 kings, 4 citizens, 3 generals, 2 navigators, and the usual costs for arming and scientific progress): very early in the game, player A was able to use the military pathway to capture player B's city with a temple. Not only did this earn a victory point for A, but it also limited B's ability to produce resources. Basically this military move swung the momentum in A's favour, and it probably decided the game (even assuming both players play optimally from this point onward). Player B focused on scientific development and was still able to get to 7 victory points (five through inventions), but by this stage A had expanded his empire and amassed a sizable military force that made further conquests or expansion for B impossible, and it was game over shortly thereafter.



The pictures above show the aftermath, a few moves after player A (Green) captured the templed city of player B (Red) in Tyros, and Red was choked in a corner of the board and forced to resort to a losing gold/inventions strategy. Note that in this game both players were given a choice of starting cities, rather than using the ones recommended by Tim Taylor.

My experience in this game supports the idea that to retain good balance, this half-board two player variant does need to adjust costs slightly: either making inventions cheaper, arming more expensive, or both. Increasing the number of Navigators from 2 to 3 wasn't really a factor in this particular game, although I can see that it's an option to consider, to keep open an alternate path to victory.

At the same time I really liked using half the board as a two player variant. It was shorter and more tense than using the entire board, but it change the feel of the game somewhat from a civ game to a war game. It should be just a matter of tinkering with the values to retain balance and tension, so that the different paths for victory all remain equal, similar to a multiplayer game. Maybe next time I'll try playing with the adjusted costs suggested by Walther Gerdts (arming: 2 iron; inventions: 5/3 and 8/5).

Edit: Upon reflection, the fact that both players chose their cities was a significant factor in making the military strategy successful in this particular game. Tim Taylor recommends starting cities that are fairly far apart, making it more difficult to attack too soon. In the game pictured above, the starting cities chosen by the players were quite close together, and so it was too easy to make a successful and game-winning attack early in the game.
 
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Walther Gerdts
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Hi Ender,
thanks for your report, exactly the same happened to us!
The costs of arming and/or scientific progress should be adjusted, otherwise the military path will become too strong...
cheers
Mac
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Stephen Michael Hickey
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Re the need to reduce the incentive to arm, it may also help to leave the costs of the Wheel/Roads and Sailing/Navigation as per the original game, as these specifically facilitate military action.

Reducing the cost of Market/Currency and Monarchy/Democracy, in particular should benefit defence and make it more costly for an agressor to succeed with a military strategy.

Perhaps a 5/3 and 7/4 for both Market/Currency and Monarchy/Democracy would work better with the original 7/3 and 10/5 for Wheel/Roads and Sailing/Navigation.

 
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Tim Taylor
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Hi everyone!

I decided to revisit this thread since I was thinking of playing 2 player Antike soon. Imagine my surprise as I scrolled through all your thoughtful and helpful responses!

Thanks so much for all your help with this! By reading your views, I can see that the military path is too good. That's something we hadn't experienced, but is clearly a problem. I'll use your suggested alterations to these rules when playing next time.

I cannot thank you guys enough (and it is gratifying to have my variant be the subject of so much discussion)! Thank you all so much for taking the time to play test this variant!

Best Wishes,

TT
 
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Jonas Jacobsson
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Could someone write a summary of the best working version of this 2 player variant? As it is now, it's all spread out in the thread...
 
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Asa Swain
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jonjac wrote:
Could someone write a summary of the best working version of this 2 player variant? As it is now, it's all spread out in the thread...


Has anyone experimented with this 2 player variant in the last few months? I too would be interested in a summary of the best version of this variant to use. Thanks.
 
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Bob Wilson
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jonjac wrote:
Could someone write a summary of the best working version of this 2 player variant? As it is now, it's all spread out in the thread...


Jonas, why don't you volunteer? Perhaps you can gather all the ideas together, and post them with in the thread as a list. Then everyone can make comments or clarifications. When that process has gone on a while, you could post it all as single file on the game's BGG entry page.

Thanks in advance for your hard work ;-)
 
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seth weissman
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Here's my compilation of the two player rules from this discussion so far:

Board: Use only the eastern half of the German side of the map.

Civilizations:
1. Persia (starting player) MELITENE, ANTIOCHIA, TYROS
2. Greeks MESSANA, SPARTA, DYRRHACHION

Victory Conditions: 10 VP or destroying opponent's final city

Leaders:
- 8 Scholars
- 5 Kings
- 4 Citizens
- 3 Navigators
- 3 Generals

New Arming Rules: Military units cost two iron

New Know-How Rules:
Market/Currency track costs 5/3 gold
Monarchy/Democracy track costs 5/3 gold

I made a powerpoint slide containing an image of the tech tree and superimposed the nevised costs, as well as these rule changes, and I've submitted it to the as a download/player aid. I will to modify/edit the player aid as this discussion continues and we move towards a consensus.

S


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Stephen Michael Hickey
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Using this dynamic setup works well too!

Take 25 City counters of an unused empire and place them on the cities on the left or right side of the board leaving 25 cities available. Place the Cities of this Major Empire so as to leave 25 available Cities in an 8-8-9 distribution of resources. Adopt the rule that neither player can enter the land or sea area owned by the major Empire as this would be militarily disasterous and lead to an automatic loss.

This allows for 4 boards to be played (or practically unlimited permutations if you place the 25 Major Empire Cities in a group anywhere along one edge or corner of the board). This recommendation also has the advantage that the Rondel, Technology Tree and Scoreboard are always visible

As suggested above, players start by selecting a group of any 3 connected Cities producing each of the three resources of iron, marble and gold.
 
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Erik Nicely
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Great variant, Tim. I played Antike for the first time tonight, my wife and I. The first game took just a little over 2 hours, the second game an hour and a half. From what I can tell from only 2 games very little of the game's core is omitted when using the variant aside from the limited choice of nations/starting cities and the half map thing. Good stuff, I got a fun and quick intro to the game.
 
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Ender Wiggins
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sethwinslow wrote:
Here's my compilation of the two player rules from this discussion so far:
Board: Use only the eastern half of the German side of the map.

Board Setup

The comment above is incorrect, it should be the western half of the German/Oriente side of the board.

sethwinslow wrote:
Leaders:
- 3 Navigators

Number of Navigators

There doesn't seem to be a consensus yet whether there should be 2 or 3 Navigators. Personally I find the arguments raised by designer Walther Gerdts in favour of 2 Navigators quite compelling. But in the 2 player games I've played so far, the possibility of a player getting 14 seas sailed hasn't really been a factor, so it would have made little difference either way. Ideally you'd want to create a situation where there is tension about who will get the last ancient personality in a certain category.

sethwinslow wrote:
New Know-How Rules:
Market/Currency track costs 5/3 gold
Monarchy/Democracy track costs 5/3 gold

Revised Know-How Costs

I think that the exact values for revised know-how costs are still the subject of discussion as well.

My thoughts on the subject: I suspect that reducing the costs to 5/3 for all the basic technologies and 8/5 for all the secondary technologies, as suggested by the designer, can make the technology strategy too strong. I just played a two-player game with these revised values, and the gold/technology strategy was overwhelmingly successful against the military strategy. While I focused exclusively on technology, my opponent focused on military, but never had a chance. After building a temple on the three starting cities, and inventing Currency, gold production is already at 5, then it is possible to move from Gold to Know-How and back to Gold in an ongoing cycle. In the most recent game, this allowed me to invent all the technologies (and all but one of the Scholars) and win the game easily before the military power of my opponent had a chance to get going, or get within reach of my cities to prevent me from getting my last victory point (maneuvering and settling two more cities for the winning King personage). It was a quick 10-3 win, which became a 12-6 win when we kept playing to 12 points (the last two points were much more difficult to get, given the military strength of the opponent at this stage).

Of course, it could be argued that my opponent could have prevented this by not devoting all energy to the military, and making a few new inventions to prevent me winning so many personages. But if a player is forced to have some gold strategy it would suggest that the game is somewhat imbalanced.

With the 5/3 and 8/5 technology costs, unlike the original 7/3 and 10/5 costs, there's not a substantial difference in cost between being the first or second person to invent something. As a result, being the first inventor of a technology doesn't come with as much of a penalty as it did in the original game, although it does come with the reward of a VP.

Distance between Starting Cities

The distance between the opposing starting cities is also a factor here that assists the success of the gold/technology strategy. In a previous two player game where the players selected their own starting cities, we had a situation where the competing nations were quite close together, and as a result, it was easier to make a successful and game-winning attack early in the game, since it crippled the loser's resource production. This made defence and arming more important for both players, but when using the recommended starting cities the distance enables a player to focus on technology without worrying about defence. On the positive side, being a little further apart prevented the game from becoming a decisive military conflict too early, so perhaps it is the technology values that need looking at rather than the distance between the starting cities.

Revised Arming Costs

This rule tweak (arming = 2 iron), on the whole, is a good improvement, and should be retained. It definitely solves the problem of the game becoming an instant and complete military slug fest.

Is Technology Too Strong?

So while prior to any rule tweaks a military strategy consistently defeated the gold strategy, I wonder if the reverse is now the case somewhat - at least with the strategy I have described above? Maybe a little more balancing is needed, because it would be nice to find a balance where a purely military strategy is just as viable as a purely technology strategy, and that both would be just as viable as a combination strategy. The 5/3 and 8/5 costs for technology seem a little too cheap, at least if they are maintained for every category, or do the starting cities perhaps need to be a little closer together to prevent a run-away technology win? Or was my playing experience abnormal?

Revised Know-How Costs Revisited

My experience would lead me to propose a 6/3 and 9/5 cost for all primary and secondary technologies with this variant. (A 6/3 and 8/4 cost could also be considered.) This has two advantages:
1. The difference in cost between being the first or the second player to invent something is slightly more, thus retaining the "penalty" for earning a VP by being the first to invent something.
2. A player with a Temple on a gold city and Currency won't be able to simply go from Gold to Know-How and repeat (as described above) to get all the inventions. The slightly higher costs will force this strategy to stall before becoming game-winning, and thus encourage some diversification of strategy.
Or would this swing the balance towards military again?

Final comment

This variant, in one form or another, does make Antike an excellent two-player game, with a very reasonable playing time (~ an hour)! Playing Antike with two players using above rule tweaks is a very satisfying experience, and I found it virtually as enjoyable as a multi-player game.
 
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Walther Gerdts
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There could be a 2 players variant which at the same time opens the possibility to play it as a 7 or 8 player game. Because the turns are fast, Antike should be enjoyable even with 7 or 8 nations. My suggestion would be a map, which extends the oriental board to the west. This extension, halfsize of the normal map, could be played alone as a 2 player ROMA VERSUS CARTHAGE, or add the Romans and/or Carthaginians as the 7th/8th nations to the original Antike experience.

This idea has been in my head for quite some time, but after being into Imperial, I am now into Hamburgum...

 
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Ender Wiggins
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Mr Gerdts, thank you for posting this variant here:



For a two-player game, wouldn't it be simpler to just use the Western side of the map, and mark off part of the Eastern side of the board as "out of bounds" using black city markers?

Here's a proposal for using the Western side of the board for the two-player variant (starting cities have been marked with red):



Left side: Germans vs Carthaginians
1. Germanic Tribes (starting player): Colonia Agrippina, Castra Regina, Lutetia
2. Carthaginians: Carthage, Caesarea, Tingis (or: Tacape?)

Keeping some distance between the starting cities prevents the game from becoming a military conflict too early, although playtesting will be necessary to see if different starting cities should be chosen that are closer together.

My suggested arrangement has 25 cities (8 Gold, 8 Iron, 9 Marble), with 21 sea regions. In comparison, Tim Taylor's variant using the west half of the East/Orient board has 26 cities (9 Gold, 9 Iron, 8 Marble), and 19 sea regions.

Edit: There are two other possible starting setups for this board.

Left side: Romans vs Gauls
This is the "Asterix Takes On Caesar" scenario!
1. Romans (starting player): Roma, Ancola, Neapolis
2. Gauls: Brigantium, Toletum, Olisipo (or: Burdigala?)
Available: 25 cities (8 Gold, 8 Iron, 9 Marble), with 21 sea regions

Right side: Greeks vs Persians
1. Persians (starting player): Melitene, Cordion, Antiochia
2. Greeks: Athens, Sparta, Dyrrhachion
Available: 25 cities (8 Gold, 9 Iron, 8 Marble), with 18 sea regions.
Perhaps a starting setup on the right side of the board with the Egyptians (Alexandria, Memphis, Petra) would be possible too, although it would be less aggressive game in the early stages, since a balanced setup would require both players to have their starting cities quite far apart.

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