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Subject: Catan meets 7 Wonders meets Quartermaster General rss

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James C
United States
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After mulling it over for about three years, I finally picked up and played Antike II. I was not disappointed. I've put together this extremely brief review to touch upon some of the game's key attributes. I will not go into the rules.

The game pulls together a good number of popular mechanics I've seen in other games, and the result is fascinating.

Like Catan (and so many games inspired by it), there's the whole resource-generation angle, linked to the territories that one controls.

Like 7 Wonders, the game feels like you're building up a civilization even though it's ever-so-lightly done.

Like Quartermaster General, it's one of those rarer wargames where combat is extremely simplified and luckless.

Like both 7 Wonders and QG, it's within that category of games when on each and every turn, there's so much you're dying to do yet are restricted to selecting only one thing to do. The tension is incredible.

The game plays longer than I expected, but it moves quickly (even with 6 newbies).

Additionally, few games that I've ever played have managed to create so much depth out of such a simple rules set. The older and busier I get, the more I appreciate that. My sweet spot these days are games that provide the deepest, most involved experience with the leanest, simplest set of rules. I want to spend my time learning how to master the game, not how to master the rules of the game. This hits that particular nail right on the head.

An interesting aspect of the game is how it snowballs at around the mid-way point. Although the first few turns go by fairly leisurely, pretty soon there's a very real scramble for points coupled with a stressful arms race. Thereafter, it's a race to the finish line as players map out their paths s to victory over the game's final turns.

For better or for worse, it's extremely difficult to take down a player who gets too far ahead. As such, it's vitally important to keep a close eye on one's opponents. This is not a civ building game where folks can get away with essentially playing solitaire.

That said, the game is not overly confrontational. It's no Risk. Players can easily win via a "peace through strength" approach. One need not take down his or her opponents to win. Warfare can be an important but sporadic part of one's strategy. It need not, and in my experience is usually not, the overriding focus of the game. It's a significant component of the game, but not necessarily its core component. For my group, and I expect a few others as well, that's a benefit.

Another fascinating feature of the game is that there's neither any luck nor hidden information as part of it. So when you lose a game, you really have nothing or no one to blame except yourself! It's really all about how well you plan, strategize, and respond to threats. You won't be undermined, or bailed out for that matter, by dice or cards. (Your opponent's decisions, however, might do that to you or for you ....)

The closest thing to criticisms that I'll mention here are the following:

1/ a player who falls appreciably behind will have an awful time catching up. This pretty much makes him little more than a potential spoiler as the game comes to its conclusion. For most people, that's not an enviable position to be in - it's annoying for both the player and his/her victims. I imagine more experienced players can keep pace, and keep themselves in the thick of things until the very end. But for newbies, or simply poor players, there is a real risk of getting left behind in everyone else's dust.

2/ a player who is on the verge of victory can pretty much abandon huge swarths of his/her empire to his/her opponents. This feels a bit odd, but as victory points are never lost in the game, a player can turn a blind eye to the destruction of his temples and cities if he no longer needs them to obtain his final victory point. I found that particularly unthematic.

But, again, the game was a hit with my six-player group.

In sum, therefore, I'd recommend this game to anyone who likes:
1. Minimalist, determinative combat
2. Light civilization building
3. No luck whatsoever
4. Multiplayer games
5. Resource generation and management
6. Direct player conflict as a relatively minor part of a game's features, but a quite significant one nonetheless.

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