Manufacturer Eggertspiele
Year 2005
Designer Mac Gerdts
Antike cover art

Antike


Guide your ancient civilization towards glory in in the latest from Eggertspiel.

Background

The Holy Grail of a certain subset of gamers is that of the "Civ in two hours" game. Many games have tried to give the rich, elegant experience of the Francis Tresham classic Civilization, without the tremendous game length of that game. Vinci and Mare Nostrum were recent Eurogame attempts, neither of which was entirely successful. Several recent and upcoming releases appear to be targeting this same goal, including the upcoming Martin Wallace game Tempus, and this year's Eggertspiel release, Antike, designed by Mac Gerdts.

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The Gameplay

    Players in Antike are leaders of a historically positioned ancient civilization. The player will decide how the civilization develops, attempting to attract ancient personalities to the civilization. These "personalities" are really just a victory point, but they do add a thematic feel to the game. Each civ begins the game with three cities on the board. Cities are a round wooden disk placed on a region on the mapboard. Each region has a resource type symbol, representing iron, marble or gold. In one corner of the board is the "rondel" which is used to regulate the flow of the game. Each player has a marker, which will be on one space of the rondel. On a player's turn, they must move to another space on the rondel. Moving from one to three spaces is free, but moving any spaces beyond that costs a resource for each additional space. The space moved to determines what the player can do on their turn. Three of the spaces allow for the collections of one of the three resource types, giving the player one resource for each city built on that type of site. Two of the spaces allow for the movement of legions and galleys, (the two types of military units in the game). One space lets the player build more military units, (by spending iron), one space allows for the building of temples, (by spending marble), and one space allows you to advance the technological progress of your civ. As many of these actions are very simple and very fast to complete, the game moves at a pretty brisk pace. At the end of a turn, if a player has a military unit or units in a region, a city can be built there by spending one iron, one marble and one gold.
    The point of all of this collecting, buying, building and moving is to gain the personality cards. These come in five varieties. King cards, or which there are nine in the game, are given out for every five cities a civilization has. Scholar cards are given out when a civ is the first to achieve any of the eight technological progresses. There are seven General cards, of which one is given out any time a player destroys a temple of an opposing civ. For each three temples a civ controls, they get one of the six citizen cards. And for every seven regions a civ has fleets in, they will receive one of the five navigator cards. Obtaining a set number of these cards, dependent on the number of players, determines victory. Once a player is given one of these cards, it can not ever be taken away, even if the condition no longer exists.
    Temples are critical to a civs advancement, as they do several things for a civ. Temples triple the production of a region, temples triple the defense of a city, and temples also allow for up to three new units to be deployed in a region. So temples are really important, and as sacking an opponent's temple will gain a general card as well, the temples tend to be the focus of activities in the game. Temples require the Temple action to be chosen, and 5 marble be spent. A temple can be built in any of a player's provinces that contain a city.
    The Arming action allows a player to build legions and galleys, at a cost of one iron per unit. These are then placed in a player's provinces, with a limit of one unit in a space with just a city, and up to three in a space with a temple.
    The Know-How action allows a player to buy technological progress for their civ. There are four different areas of progress, divided into "basic" progresses and "Advanced" progresses. These are paid for with gold, and the cost depends on whether or not any other civ has already completed the advance. Being the first to get any given basic advance costs 7 gold, but does award a scholar personality card. Subsequent civs that want to obtain the progress pay only 3 gold. To gain an advanced progress first requires the player to have the basic progress of the same type, and then pay 10 gold. Subsequent civs pay only 5, but again, the first civ to get the progress gets a scholar personality.
    The four types of progresses are wheels and roads, sailing and navigation, market and currency, and monarchy and democracy. Wheels allow a player to make two maneuvers with each legion when the maneuver action is chosen, roads allow three. Sailing allows two maneuvers for each galley when the maneuver action is chosen, navigation three. Market gives one extra resource whenever the Iron, Marble or Gold actions are chosen, currency gives two extra. Monarchy increases the defensive strength of cities by one, democracy gives an increase of two.
    The maneuver action is the only one on the rondel that appears twice, so it can always be chosen on every player turn without having to pay any extra resources. A maneuver allows a player to either move a legion or galley to a neighboring province, OR, if the units are already in a province that contains an opponent's city, they can attempt to make a conquest maneuver and take over the city. The big advantage of having the wheel or road progress is that not only can a legion move two or three provinces in a single turn, they can move one province AND attack a city that is there.
Combat in Antike is completely deterministic. If two players have legions in the same province, or both have galleys, (legions and galleys cannot fight each other except in city conquest situations), and either of the players desires combat, then both players remove an equal number of those units. Units can coexist if neither player desires combat. This opens the door to a diplomatic aspect of the game.
    Conquest maneuvers, when units are in the province containing an opponent's city, and have a maneuver remaining, are handled similarly, with the city providing a base defense of one, to which is added any legions or galleys. If there is a temple in the province, the base defense is three instead of one, and the monarchy or democracy progress bonuses are added. If the attacker has at least this many legions and galleys, the conquest can be done, and all of the defender's units are removed, the city is replace by a city of the attacker, and any temple in the province is destroyed, and returned to the stock.

Why this game is so great

    So is Antike a the "Civ in two hours" referenced in the introduction? In some ways, I think the answer is yes. You are definitely moving your Civ through expansion and growth, defining how it grows in terms of technology and military prowess. The rondel is very innovative, forcing tough choices on the players, as you can't always do what you want, and you don't have enough extra resources to move the extra spaces. There are definitely different paths that can be followed towards victory.
    The mechanics are very unlike Civ in many ways, as there is not trading, no calamities, the city creation is completely different, and there is no population to manage. But the combat mechanics are very similar and the theme is similar. So while Antike has a completely different feel to Civ, there is enough that is similar that when you play, there is a vague feeling of Civ in the back of your mind. Antike isn't Civ, and doesn't have the depth of that game, but Civ isn't a Euro by any stretch of the imagination, while Antike definitely is. The mechanics are smooth, and the game can be explained very quickly. One other nice thing is that the board is printed on both sides, with two slightly different maps. This will add to the replayability.

Why others don't agree

    Most of the complaints about Antike come from the endgame. With the rules as written, a three player game ends when one player gets 12 points. This will take forever, as all of the non-general cards will be taken, leading to a case where only attacking and sacking temples will get any more points. Temples are much stronger defensively, so the buildup of forces can make this really tough, and so the publishers have suggested that a three player game only be played to 10 points. With four players, something similar can occur, as all of the easy ones go away, and you will need to attack a temple to win. Others have found the overall progress of the game a bit dull, as the positions are all equal in terms of starting resources, so those in the middle between enemies will have a hard time winning. Also, as the different civs are so equal, attacking tends to hurt both the attacker and the defender. This can lead to some "turtling" behavior, and those that can avoid combat entirely are more likely to win.

Recap

Strategy:  7
Complexity:  3
Fun:  7
Overall:  8

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