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Subject: Antike review - they're still not as old as your mom... rss

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Eric Flood
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When I first prepared to play Antike, I was less than enthusiastic. I watched the Board Games With Scott video on it (twice, because of preparation for my g/f), but it just didn't fill me with a great eagerness to play. Upon the playing of my first game, however, it immediately became one of my favorite games, and still is.


Components

There are two “editions” of this game, and I am sad to say I don't own the first (although my first play was using the first edition). The first edition featured meeples and settlers' ships. I'm not sure why, but I've always enjoyed the idea of playing with those pieces over the second editions' more realistic men and fat boats. I'm sorry to say I just think both of them look rather ugly, and it's something I've never gotten over. But they are perfectly functional, and I don't think I've ever noticed crowded territories due to larger pieces. The temples are very nice, as are the moneys (particularly having denominations of 1, 2, and 5).

The gameboard is similar, functional and nice to look at, but not overwhelmingly beautiful. They did a really nice job with it, plenty of space for the Rondel (although sometimes people get confused that there is, indeed a territory there too), with red lines for land territories and blue for sea territories, just to go the extra mile to avoid confustion.

The board fits well in the box (a big thing for me), and all the components are easily bagged and fit comfortably in the space provided by the insert.



Rules/Gameplay

The rulebook is similarly well done, I don't believe I have ever been confused about a rule in the game, and if so, it was easy to look up. I won't delve into the rules themselves here, but the game generally progresses through three stages (at least in my games) – (1)build up infrastructure/determine boundaries, (2)battling with neighbors for important resources/victory points, (3)destroying temples for the win. Sometimes, with a runaway leader, they won't even destroy a single temple – but this is generally the fault of the other players who do not stop the runaway leader. Sometimes, there are some early temple destructions if players aren't defending themselves well enough, but generally, the game fits into this mold.

In the first stage, you will almost never have an actual battle, but instead be gaining as much land as possible while building temples and threatening forces/defenders. Some will put more emphasis on gaining Know-How VPs while others will be arming themselves like crazy, and still others will have smaller territories with more temples. In the second phase, you will start eying your neighbors' lands, and maneuvering yourself towards gaining some juicy territory while doing your best to defend your own. Unfortunately, defending against attack is much like defending against terrorists – if they want to badly enough, they will find a way, no matter what you do. While defenders get a bonus from Monarchy and Democracy, the attackers have a massive amount of flexibility by being able to use armies from all nearby territories in their attack. The +2 of Democracy just doesn't defend against so many troops being able to converge at will. The final stage is one of pure desperation – destroy temples, no matter the cost. It depends somewhat how close the game is, and if there might be any other types of victory points left (usually the 7 seas will still have 1 or 2 out, but this is not easily attainable if you have little to no sea presence), but when you are seeking those last 2 victory points for the win, everything else becomes unimportant. You will generally form your lines in the territories nearby, ready to use the aforementioned futility of defense against your weakest neighbor. And if you are that neighbor, you are unlikely to be able to defend unless the act is intervened by another player. This makes the endgame very tense, no matter how close the game really is – everyone is seeing if they can stop the person who has 2 more points and is about to win from doing so.



Fun

A word on “fun.” By fun, I am referring to how enjoyable the game is in the time that it takes to play. Some games would be fun if the game took half an hour, but since they take 3, they are no longer any fun. Some games are so fun, they would continue being fun for 3x as long as it takes to play. Sometimes this is characterized by the desire to play again immediately.

Antike fits right on the border between these two extremes. It can depend upon the number of players playing, as well as how well you are doing. If you are at 2 VP while everyone else is around 5 or 6, you are probably not likely to be enjoying that game too much (aside from creating your own victory conditions, such as destroying the Germanic Tribes player).

However, with 4 or 5 players, this game is often quite perfect. It gives the player the satisfaction of having built something up and accomplished something, while usually not dragging on for too long. By the time the game is over, you are satisfied, but done playing. There are the occasional times where the game does feel like it drags on, however, and this is more frequent with 5 players than 4 (and certainly more with 6 than with 5).

The length of the game usually is quite nice, as well, with a typical playing time of 2-3 hours (some, usually earlier, games can take longer). Not daunting, but not light either. Good for anyone looking to fill some time properly.

Note: 5 stars is if you finish and immediately want to play another game - something which probably won't happen with games longer than an hour.



Best Played With...

I believe the game plays best with 4-5 people. 2 is out of the question with me. 3 leaves a lot of space for everyone, but one person typically thrives with a larger amount of space while the other two struggle (potentially with each other; or, 2 people will constantly attack the smaller third, making their already bad situation worse. With 6 people, the game becomes a bit too chaotic, as well as needing too many VPs and dragging on for far too long.

With 4 or 5, however, there is room for conflict at every step without the game becoming tedious or overcrowded. It is nearly impossible to create a border line much larger than everyone else's, and the tech, city and Temple VPs are quickly and (usually) appropriately distributed. I believe this is how the game was meant to be played (much like Imperial).

Another note: 5 stars means the game plays best with this, all other stars are relative amounts.

2:
3:
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5:
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Conclusion

Antike is a wonderful game, and I would recommend it to anyone who anyone who has heard even a little about the game and thought perhaps the roundel mechanic sounds interesting, or some other mechanic they liked. This game is easy to explain to a player new to the scene, and deep and satisfying enough for a veteran.

I do not like the game as much as I do Imperial, but it is very close. I don't believe I would ever turn down an opportunity to play this game with 4 or 5 players – with other numbers, I would consider it carefully before jumping in – especially if I were to be the 6th player, I would rather watch a 5-player game than be the 6th.

I would not recommend this game to someone looking for a complete all-out war game. War happens in the game, and it is sometimes quite advantageous to the aggressor, but warring excessively will lose you the game. I would also not recommend this game to someone who believes they can make it through the game peacfully – even if you build up a large defense force which never exceeds your borders, you will be attacked at some point, drawing you into conflicts. Finally, the game is certainly not a lengthy civilization build-up game, but meant to be played in a short amount of time. Those looking for an all-day event will be disappointed.

Generally, I think these three types are extreme examples, not likely to be looking at the game longer than 30 seconds anyway. Everyone else, give it a shot. I do not promise you it will be your favorite game of all time, but I would be quite surprised to find a great deal of people reacting negatively to the game. I would even go so far as to recommend buying it before trying it, if you're on the fence about it.

In short, I really enjoy this game, and believe it will remain one of my favorites for years to come.

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Daniel Corban
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I think the game is best with 5 for 6, since the extra players act as spoilers. With four players, it seems to end up with the map divided into two halves with little interaction between the two pairs of players. If one person in a pair is weak, then the other half of the pair can pull off a victory, since the other pair cannot get there in time to stop it.

With a fifth player, the map is tighter and everyone is closer, allowing a third party to come in and stop someone from winning if their other neighbor is unable to. It also breaks up the "two pairs" scenario I mention above.

I have only recently played the game a few times with six, and I didn't notice it being much different than with five. The board is nice and tight, each player has effective competition on two sides, and conflict starts much earlier. I didn't see any increase in game length.
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The Seal of Approval
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blueatheart wrote:
Upon the playing of my first game, however, it immediately became one of my favorite games, and still is.


This made me happy, and I think you can guess why...
 
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