REVIEW: The Ancient World (2nd Ed)

Designer: Ryan Laukat
Publisher: Red Raven Games
2-4 players, 70-90mins

Price: £65-75 approx.

This will be yet another one of those KS thingamajigs I backed, and one that caught my attention initially because of the artwork, and then by the mechanics I discovered as I did my usual exploratory research.

It turns out the first edition of this wasn’t quite so hot, and bypassed a lot of people, despite a couple of clever quirks and a few other tweaks. So, I’m pleased to say that this version seems a lot more accessible than the original (and a tad more forgiving by the sounds of it).

Part worker-placement, and part ‘place your dobber here and do stuff‘ this is a game I’ve been playing quite a lot lately, namely ‘cos it’s so easy to teach and doesn’t overstay its welcome (imho at least, others might disagree).

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Decent component quality, throughout…

In The Ancient World (2nd Ed), you are tasked with defending your people against the onslaught of several almighty Titans that are rampaging across the land, whilst still forging an influential city-state — the Titans keep coming, however, and although you only ever have one to deal with at a time, you will always have them in your face (and on your player board), pretty much throughout the game. And should you ever start a new round without one (because you or another player vanquished it), another one will pop up in its place to present you with more headaches.

This is just one of the fundamental changes between this version and the original game btw — in the original, the Titans were just there on the board and available for attacking if you felt powerful enough, but in this 2nd Edition they are effectively attacking you every turn, and if you can’t defeat them in combat, you’ll have to either appease them with Ambrosia (a new resource) or suffer the consequential potential damage to the buildings you’ve constructed, etc. This new resource incidentally (Ambrosia), is a handy-dandy catch-all that can be exchanged and utilised in lots of different ways to achieve what you want (as shown on the player board below).

Here’s a look at the new player boards, with apologies for the poor photo quality. Incidentally, this game does need a fair bit of table space to really get the best out of it, so consider yourself warned!

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Player board for red…

You’ll note that the bottom, darker track keeps a tally of your income (which starts at 5), and the upper one the maximum no. of buildings you can have at any one time (which starts at 4). Also shown is the basic income of one food and the two grey boxes (after the 5 coins symbol) which represent the number of armies you can have in play at any one time (initially just two). You’ll also see the Titan that’s currently attacking you in the middle of your board (or will do at the end of the round if you or another player doesn’t defeat it first). The player boards are double-sided, with the flipside giving each player a different special ability, making for a more asymmetric game at start-up once you’ve a few games under your belt.

Players start with just three citizens initially (numbered 1-3) and with just enough buildings and resources to keep them all fed and happy, with the possibility of gaining a couple more throughout the game (numbered 4 and 5 respectively). These numbers are significant, because if you wish to place your citizen on an action space that another player has already performed in this round, you will need to place a citizen with an equal or higher number, else pay the bank an extra coin for the privilege of sharing the space. Yup, there is a deliberate element of strategy to this, which is another change from the original!

Each round players must either place a citizen, fight a titan, build a stored building, or pass. Once you pass, however, you’ll have no further actions for the rest of the round.

The action spots on the board are varied enough to make every decision a potentially agonising one, and this is one aspect of the game that my group relished: it’s a classic case of wanting to do several things at once, but with limited resources (and citizens) to do it with. Of most significance are the spaces to build more buildings and recruit new armies (at the bottom of the board), as these are both an essential part of expanding your city-state and strengthening your position each turn. Note that spaces that aren’t used so much in a round will accrue the new Ambrosia resource on them at the start of the next one, eventually making them irresistibly tempting, frankly.

Each round, the marker (shown top left, see below) will move forward and open up another part of the game, either by providing more spaces to place your citizens on in the earlier rounds, by making available better quality but more expensive buildings, or by having players moving on to fight the larger and tougher 2- and 3-banner Titans in the later ones… If you haven’t already guessed, there is a distinct player/story arc to this game, which works well both in the context of the game itself and with the setting, too.

TAC_board

The objective of the game is to collect sets of coloured banners for victory points by destroying Titans and constructing buildings, and the player with the most VPs at game-end will be declared the winner. Predictably enough, the more banners of each colour you have, the more VPs you’ll get, but worth noting is that there’s no point in obtaining more than 6 of any one colour because you won’t get any extra VPs for those. That said, the bigger titans have more banners showing, and this is indicative of the potential number of buildings they can damage in a single turn if you don’t destroy them first — in the image above, you can see (top-right) the single Titan has a yellow banner, the middle one a red and a green banner, and the last one a yellow, a blue, and a purple banner. You’ll also note that the buildings shown on the bottom left also have coloured banners on them, so it’s well worth keeping track of what your opponents are collecting, if you’ve not already got too much to do worrying about your own game…

Given the main objective of the game is to keep destroying the never-ending onslaught of marauding Titans, constantly expanding and strengthening your armies is nigh-on essential, and the way the game deals with this —whilst not exactly unique— is at least pretty cool, I think. You effectively ‘retire an army’ by flipping it over and tucking it under the new recruits (ala Imperial Settlers stylee), but each one will have a residual strength and experience to pass onto the newbies, thus strengthening the overall power and adaptability of that particular army. It’s clever, and I really like it, so much so that I think more games should adopt this mechanic, but don’t mind me, that’s just my own personal view.

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These armies are tough li’l buggers…

Overall, there’s very little to complain about here, and we’re really enjoying getting this one to the table regularly — the gorgeous artwork makes it an easy-sell to anyone not already familiar with the game, whilst those that have played it invariably want to play it again some time soon. A good sign, if ever one was needed.

Highly recommended, this. If you get the opportunity to try it, don’t turn it down.

 

The Ancient World (2nd Ed) at Amazon.co.uk

 

 

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