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Empires of the Ancient World
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Store:  Strategy Games
Format:  Board Games

Empires of the Ancient World

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Ages Play Time Players
13+ 120-180 minutes 3-5

Designer(s): Martin Wallace

Manufacturer(s): Warfrog

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Product Description

Going back to the age of Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar, you control the destiny of your empire--building armies, annexing neutral provinces, trading across the Mediterranean, and fighting battles. The heart of the game is its innovative card combat system. Superb, full color cards allow the use of pikes, swords, war bands, elephants, heavy cavalry, foot skirmishers, light horse, siege towers, artillery, and galleys. Special cards allow you to develop better military leaders, diplomats, traders, and engineers. However, winning the game is not just about having the largest empire. The player with the largest army will also lose the most victory points, so he had better use his forces well! If warfare is not to your taste then you can trade your way to victory, by having the largest trading empire.

Product Information

  • Designer(s): Martin Wallace

  • Manufacturer(s): Warfrog

  • Artist(s): Peter Dennis

  • Year: 2000

  • Players: 3 - 5

  • Time: 120 - 180 minutes

  • Ages: 13 and up

  • Weight: 1,060 grams

  • Language Requirements: This is an international edition or domestic edition of an imported item. Manufacturer's rules are printed in multiple languages (including English).


  • Rulebook (English and German)
  • Full colour map
  • 110 full colour cards
  • 250 wooden playing pieces
  • dice

Product Reviews


Average Rating: 4.9 in 7 reviews

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by Tony
Simple to learn yet hard to master - Excellent
September 16, 2001

I've now played this a few times with a mix of different players and everyone agrees that this is an excellent game.

Trade, diplomacy, land and naval combat, sieges, plunder, special units--the game covers a wide spectrum, but within a simple system (once you've finally deciphered the rules).

We all felt that the length of the game was about right. In actual fact, you never seem to have enough time to do everything you want.

The card combat system is the highlight of the game, with no one set of cards being all-powerful.

The mixture of luck and tactics means that the battles aren't usually foregone conclusions.

Interestingly, the winner of our last (4 player) game was a new player who never had a presence in the med, made very few attacks and didn't possess any merchants, diplomats, military leaders or engineers. As you can imagine, he took advantage of the mayhem that was happening in an all-out war throughout the south of the map, to build a large trading empire in Northern Europe.

Our previous games have been closer and have sometimes hinged on one or two decisive battles. It's one of those games where you know that war is expensive and difficult to prosecute and you should really establish trade everywhere, but the temptation of military victory and plunder means the warmongers among you just can't help yourselves. (Unfortunately, that's usually me, although I have won a couple of games.)

Maybe this game just happens to suit our set of players, but we all emerge from a game having thoroughly enjoyed building our empires and fighting land and naval battles across the map, whether we ultimately win or not.

Great fun!

An Overlooked Masterpiece
June 15, 2001

I can't believe that more attention isn't coming to this excellent game. Maybe if it was about a herd of Druids fighting over a can of Spam or some other ridiculous theme, the reviewers would stampede over themselves to give it kudos. This game is well worth a serious look. It has several options, a simple combat resolution system, and quite a bit of depth.

Martin Wallace's gift to the genre of boardgaming.
April 14, 2001

This game is one of balance, tactics and strategy. It has an elegant and smooth system and deign. You must balance trade with warfare, diplomacy with intimadation. It has all the makings of a milestone in multiplayer conflict games. As a fan of Diplomacy, Risk and Civilization, I believe this deserves a place among them.

Finally, a decent Conquest game
December 15, 2000

Save for Lord of the Rings, this is my favorite Essen release. Simply because it takes an established genre of games (the beat-the-crap-out of your opponent conquest game) and actually brings new and exciting elements with it.

That I really like it is weird. I'm not generally fond of long games, and this one will take 3-4 hours. The game offers rules for diplomacy, trade, and conquest--which all pretty much come down to different ways to control the regions of the board, and kick the other guys out of your regions.

Two things really make the game.

  1. Each player gets one action per round (with about 36 rounds in a game) so there isn't much downtime.
  2. Combat is a masterful work of art.

The system is basically an advanced Slapshot. A large chunk of the game involves collecting the correct army cards. (It is fairly easy to tailor your army), and tailoring your army to what your opponents are using. The system provides a good feel for technological advantages, battlefield tactics, and the idea of massive armies advancing into battle in ranks.

The nice upgrade of this system over Slapshot is that it isn't just points in your army that matter. A big honking lot of elephants is just dead against a small fast lot of light horsemen and archers, and that small fast unit is just doomed against a horde of barbarian swordsman.

One of the other charms of the game is the number of options available on a turn. You can always do something useful, and three variants of combat (sea and siege combat) allow tactical choices that really give the game a good feel for providing tactics as a field general. (The first game I've seen that manages this successfully outside of Titan. And this system is much faster in play.)

The rules are only 4 pages, and they needed far more examples, the game is actually quite complex--up in the classic Avalon Hill in terms of number of rules. And you'll want to make a couple of passes at reading the rules before playing. But it just plays so well.

Most Pleasant Gaming Surprise of the Year
December 11, 2000

Once a while a game comes along that causes you to stop what you're doing and take notice--Empires of the Ancient World (EotAW) is such an item.

By offering players typical Euro choices (take a card, place cubes, etc.), while simultaneously adding strategic Wargame depth (on an area movement map), EotAW really delivers on all fronts. No other title that I've encountered in 2000 has captivated me so much and so quickly.

Strict Eurogamers may not like the dice rolling luck element, along with the weakly edited rules, but these are minor complaints when compared to the substantial experience that this game conveys, all in a modest 2-3 hour play time.

Rampaging Elephants, Barbarian Warbands, Merchants, Trade Routes, Diplomatic activities, Conquering Provinces, Naval battles, and many, many more elements are all smoothly interwoven into the design.

I could go on for pages; suffice to say EotAW sits atop my gaming list, and it's going to stay there for a long, long time.

I said I'd try the game and then get a Pizza, I'm hooked!
November 18, 2000

I relented to playing one game and then said I would leave for pizza. I never got the pizza, nor did I sleep--in fact I bought the game from the guy and have it set up on my card table now. I'm trying to get others to give it a shot. This game can be won with warfare, but a large army hurts you. It can be won with trade, but you have to play the cards well. It is a game of tactics, a mixture of skill and luck, and an excellent design. I've never played a game by Martin Wallace or this company but I will be looking at their future products. Don't pass this off as another Civilization wannabe. This one will remain a favorite of mine.

A somewhat dissenting opinion
June 29, 2001

While this is a very appealing game, it has a number of significant problems. Obvious on the very first play is the unnecessary complexity and obscurity of the rules: they are inconsistent, printed in terribly small type, short on examples, and crying out for physical components that make the game easier to understand. The cards in particular could have been substantially better, and a quick-reference card summarizing the rules and their many exception cases would have helped.

A more troubling defect is that the game is a drawn-out, serious-minded affair with a whole lot of randomness and a runaway-leader problem. I've played five times now. Three of our games ended when the players decided to not bother with the game's fourth turn. And, in all except the first, at least one player felt as though what he did in the game didn't much matter. Sometimes this was a player who lost, sometimes this was a player who won.

I like the game. It has a nice sweep-of-history feel, and the cardplay is colorful and interesting. But it's definitely flawed. And its length and difficulty make its flaws hurt it more than they would a lighter, shorter game.

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