Antike is a well-balanced, fun, sometimes tense game exactly as designed. This variant is not intended to remedy any perceived gameplay flaws, it is just a way to play the game a little differently by adding new choices for the players to make each turn. The basic idea is that players can choose to spend resources on civilization advancement as a new way to gain VPs. All the existing rules of the game apply, this variant only changes the Know-How, Temple and Arming actions. Here goes:
Players can advance three aspects of their civilization: Happiness, Health and Literacy. The three aspects are treated equally, the only difference between them is which resource and which action is used for advancement:
Happiness: spend Gold during the Know-How action
Health: spend Iron during the Arming action
Literacy: spend Marble during the Temple action
Each civilization starts the game at level 0 in each aspect. The basic cost to advance to the next level is equal to the number of cities in the civilization, with a minimum of 5. The first player to advance to a new level pays double the basic cost and gains a VP. Subsequent players advancing to the same level pay just the basic cost but don't gain a VP. The highest level allowed is level 4 for each aspect. This means there are a total of 12 new VPs that can be earned in the game: 4 for advancing Happiness, 4 for advancing Health and 4 for advancing Literacy.
The players can either advance their civilization or use the action in the normal way, never both in the same action. For example, a player may either spend Marble to build a Temple or may spend Marble to advance Literacy, they may not do both in a single Temple action. A player may advance multiple levels in a single action if they have sufficient resources.
The civilization advancements do not provide any in-game advantage, they are simply another way to gain VPs. For this reason they are cheap compared to the other ways to gain VPs. And the cost is proportionate to the number of cities to give smaller civilizations an advantage in gaining the new VPs compared to larger civilizations. The cost is based on a minimum of 5 cities, however, to prevent really small civilizations from turtling and advancing too easily.
The players can track the civilization advancements on paper or in some other manner. The method used should allow all players to easily view what level each civilization has reached in each aspect and who has earned the VPs for being first to advance to each level for each aspect.
The somewhat flimsy rationales for how each resource relates to the corresponding aspect of civilization advancement are:
Gold buys most anything thus increases Happiness
Iron plows expand food production and thus increase Health
Marble is used instead of clay tablets for cuneiform writing and thus increases Literacy
Here is an example:
Bob's civilization has 4 cities. He has previously advanced his civilization to Health 1 and Susan has previously advanced her civilization to Literacy 1. Otherwise all civilizations have not advanced yet. Even though Bob has only 4 cities his basic cost to advance is 5. He could advance to Happiness 1 by spending 10 Gold in the Know-How action and gain a VP, or spend 10 Iron in the Arming action to advance to Health 2 and gain a VP, or spend 5 Marble in the Temple action to advance to Literacy 1 without gaining a VP. If he had enough Marble he could spend 15 Marble in the Temple action, 5 to match Susan's civilization at Literacy 1 and then 10 more to advance to Literacy 2 and gain a VP.