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Subject: From shrink-wrap to victory! 2 players explore Antike rss

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Tim Seitz
United States
Glen Allen
VA
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Like water spilled on the ground, which cannot be recovered, so we must die. But God does not take away life; instead, he devises ways so that a banished person may not remain estranged from him. 2 Sam 14:14
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Shrink-wrap
Intending to play test a personal game design, my German friend came over one night, only to find that we were a bit shy with components, so we decided to open up my shrink-wrapped Eggert-Spiele version of Antike, purchased during the recent $29.95 sale at FunAgainGames.

Setup

Opening up the game, we were pleased to discover not one but two versions of the rules, one in English, and another in German. Since we both had our own copy to refer to, this made learning the game a bit easier. At least for me, that is. My friend kept lamenting about how hard it was to explain things clearly in German.

We set out punching the counters and sorting the bits, an annoying process since they are sorted by shape and not by color, an organizing the board and cards. We decided to start off with the German side of the board, taking advantage of her language skills, something I might not have around next time I played. In the end, it didn’t really matter, as there were only a few times where language was any kind of barrier. However, if I were teaching this game to new players

Playtime

We elected to play the two player variant where each player plays 2 nations. She chose Germans (of course) and Greeks, and so I played Romans and Phoenicians. Not having played before, we chose our strategies largely at random. I mostly went with marble/temple intending to place the temple in my marble cities, and expand economically with temples. Her Germans in the north took the expansionist route, while her Greeks went after gold to get early know-how. Realizing I needed to counter the German barbarians, the Romans countered with expansionist plans of their own, and assisted by the early temple placement, I was able to pass her in terms of development on the West side of the map.

Meanwhile, in the east, The Phoenicians were left alone to build up a mighty economic engine of 3 temples and score the first Ancient Personality. Phoenicia soon had a mighty empire which squeezed the Greeks in the middle. The first battle of the game was a sea battle where Phoenicia conquered the island city of Knossos. The Greeks would never recover that city, and in fact would never get to grow their empire beyond six cities. This allowed the Germans to expand eastward along the north edge of the map and counter the Phoenician threat.

This is where the game really began to shine. By now it was a race to get the last of the temples, which I won due to my early marble strategy. But then marble would become worthless as there was nothing other than new cities I could use it for – but all the cities were occupied!

Iron became extremely important as we battled along the front lines. My opponent mostly bounced between iron, arming, and maneuver, while I tried to both keep up with troops and win some know-how. We began to see the changing nature of the game. Resources you dominate early can be worthless later on as there is not much left to get. The exception would appear to be iron, as you can always benefit by having more iron production than your opponents. Therefore a balanced approach would appear prudent.

Victory
Phoenicia finally achieved the seemingly inevitable victory by sacking a temple and obtaining the only general card in the game. Alternatively Phoenicia could have achieved a bloodless victory by getting a second navigator card.

From tearing off the shrink-wrap to putting the now-too-small-box away, it took us about 4 hours. Future plays will most likely be much reduced.
I provisonally rate this game a 9. It satisfies some of my Civilization fetish in a shorter amount of time.
 
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K S
United States
Richmond
Virginia
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Being the German in question, let me add my thoughts.

'Victory points' in this game are scored via cards of antique personalities. They are received for different types of successes. Initially it is easiest to gain the personalities for "5 new cities" or "3 new temples" but, ultimately, you'll run out of the personality cards for new cities or of temples to build, so you'll have to find another way of securing personalities. This leaves you with the option of becoming an explorer/ scientist and gaining personalities for being the first to make a new discovery ("Fortschritt"). As a side benefit, you'll gain access to more productive markets or a more powerful army/navy. Alternatively, you can fight wars to destroy temples and gain personalities that way. But that's a costly war of attrition and can take quite some time.

For each of these four options (plus the final option of 'seafarer'), you'll need a different resource type and lots and lots of resources - making this a somewhat slow game in the beginning when you have very limited production (and especially, if you're learning and believe me, I was not complaining about the German instructions for nothing - although, the hints on strategies to get started on the final pages were a really nice touch!) but then the game picks up complexity and presents the players with multiple trade-offs at each turn. There appear to be multiple paths to victory, making this a game I look forward to playing again.

Once grasped, the mechanics are easy to play. The game has been stripped of every unnecessary complexity in the rules and actions, leaving the only complexity in deciding the right strategy to victory.
 
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