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"These fields no longer yield grain the way they used to," complains the farmer. "We should settle new lands before our food runs out. Why don't we start farming olives, like our neighbors?".
The cart-driver nods: "Ever since them city folks started worshipping San Giorgio I have to travel further and further to new building sites. I'm on my way now to the new inn they built. I'll change horses there and deliver this load," he gestures towards the pile of wood in the cart with his head "to the sea beyond. Gonna start some fisheries there. It is said we'll conquer those olive-farmers before long. But their land is even more polluted than ours."
The farmer nods his head in reply. As the cart starts moving again, he returns to the field to harvest the last bushels of grain, growing between the stumps of what used to be a lush forest -- three turns ago.
Antiquity is a strategy game for 2-4 players. It is set in an environment loosely modeled on Italy in the late Middle Ages. Players choose their own victory condition: they can focus on population growth, trade, conquest, or city building by choosing their patron saint.
Each strategy requires a completely different style of play. Or you can choose to adore Santa Maria, the most powerful saint of all -- but you'll be expected to build a civilization twice as impressive as any other player.
While your economy is constantly improving, with more and more advanced cities bringing new options each turn, the land around your cities is slowly being depleted, forcing you to travel further and further to gather your raw materials -- until finally, there is no more land left to farm. Let's hope one of you has won the game before that time!
I’ve played 6 games of Antiquity by Splotter, 4 of which where two player with my wife, and 2 other three player games. I’ve found Antiquity to be quite enjoyable, and a very wife friendly game. I *highly* recommend it for people who enjoy builder and resource management games.
Now for some of the highlights.
Game Length: Per the designers the game can be played in 2 hours. My first game took Approximately 4 ¼ hours, the three player games took 3 & 3 ½ hours, and my last two player game took 2 ½ hours. We play the game slowly, so I suspect faster players could easily play two players in about 2 hours, and I would expect everyone’s first game to take closer to 4 hours as they learn the game.
Components: are pretty good. Upon opening the box, I have to admit I was disappointed with what I found. I had moved forward from the Avalon Hill big box full of cardboard style of games when I migrated into Euro games. Antiquity is kind of a step back to those old Avalon Hill games. The individual player boards, like the ones you find in Puerto Rico or Princes of Florence, are large paper booklets, not cardboard. The larger size does allow the city buildings to be closer in size and style to Princes of Florence then Puerto Rico, and the player aides are functional for game play. Everything works fine, it’s just not spectacular. The game board is modular, loosely similar to Attika’s, but the hexes are much smaller then I would have liked, and, as a result, the resource pieces are much smaller then they should be. However, Antiquity is a game that takes up a LOT of space, and I’m sure some sacrifices had to be made to save on space and costs, and scale obviously was one way. Now, if the components are inferior to what is the Euro standard, then Splotter makes up for this with quantity, Antiquity has *TONS* of bits. Another reason for my initial disappointment with the components is the matte finished, muted artwork; however over time I’ve decided the artwork is an appropriate style for the game and is quite good in form and function. After 6 plays I’ve notice more wear on some of the counters and board pieces then I would have expected, but this is negligible due to the quantity of pieces. So overall, I would say the components are functional, with a good look to them, and a decent value for the price ~ 60 Euros.
Rules: Outstanding - nearly perfect. You can tell this is a well ‘developed’ game that underwent quality play testing. The rules are clearly and concisely written, well organized, and have very good illustrations. When there is a question, the answer is where you would expect to find it, and the answers to the questions raised on the geek have been answered in a manner consistent with the rules. More companies should follow the lead here. A+
Play Summary: Each player is given a player board with a 7x7 city map, an individual set of buildings, a set of inn markers, 4 city markers, and 20 men. The game board is constructed from 16 two sided tiles, similar to Attika. 2 tiles are added to the board for each player. Each player then places their start city on one of the starting tiles and game play begins. Antiquity is played in turns made up of 10 phases. The 10 phases are ‘All Rise’, ‘City Building’, ‘Turn Order’, ‘Countryside Building’, ‘Store Goods’, ‘Harvest’, ‘Explore’, ‘Famine’, ‘Pollution’, and ‘Check Victory’.
All Rise – all players remove their workers from their city buildings
City Building – all players simultaneously spend their resources to build buildings, and then select which buildings they will use by manning them. (shown by putting a man cube on the building) Only one man can be placed on each building, and unmanned buildings usually provide no benefit. Each player starts with a 7x7 player board, and can add up to 3 additional 6x6 boards by building extra cities. Each building has a specific cost and gives a specific benefit. Some examples of the buildings and their benefits are the following: House - adds one man to the worker pool, Brewery – allows players to build inns outside of cities, Cathedral – needed to win (when a player builds a cathedral, they dedicate it to a patron saint. The select Saint lists a specific winning condition that the builder must fulfill, and also gives the builder a benefit – more on this later), Market – if manned may trade 2 goods for any 1 good, Dump – if manned, reduces the pollution a city produces by 4, Harbor – if manned a players ‘zone of control’ may include water, Store – if manned it will hold a number of goods equal to its size, and the all important Cart Shop – a man added to a cart shop will be sent to do a task outside the city, and if you want to send more men out to the fields then you will need multiple cart shops.
Order of Play – Determine the player order, based upon the number of manned cart shops each player has, fewest going before most.
Countryside Building – Preformed in player turn order – Each player may do one action for each manned cart shop. Possible actions are build an additional city, build an inn, build a fishery, plant a farm, create a lumberjack, and build a mine. Each action must be preformed within a players ‘zone of control’; 2 hexes out from cities and inns (3 if the player has a manned Stable in their city). Your zone of control may overlap with other players, so turn order is important as you try to claim valuable resource hexes before your opponent. When you build a new city or inn, you pay the listed cost in resources, place the building on the game board, and return the man to the city. For all other actions, the man is placed on a hex and will harvest resources for a number of turns equal to the number of corresponding resource hexes it borders. (If you put a lumberjack on a forest hex and there are 2 forest hexes boarding that hex, then the lumberjack will harvest 1 pieces of wood for the next 3 turns.) Each worker will require a seed cost, usually 1 wood, or 1 matching resource for farms. Also, a pollution/depletion marker is added to each harvest hex to indicate that the hex has been depleted and may not be used in future turns. So you must use your resources wisely and continually expand into new areas or face a rapidly diminishing supply of usable territory.
Store Goods – Each player that still has goods remaining must store them (place them in a manned store building) or discard them.
Harvest – claim one resource for each field worker. If this is the last resource connected to the worker, then the worker is returned to the city.
Explore – on each game board tile there are two exploration hexes that are covered with a face down chit at the start of the game. (the chits are comprised of 1 of each farm resource per player) Each player who manned their explorer building during the city phase may claim 1 chit that is within their zone of control. This is done in turn order.
Famine – Each player checks to see if they can feed their people. There is a general famine level for all players, starting the game at zero and rising by one at the end of each famine phase. Also some of the exploration chits will raise the famine level one space. Each player must have food equal to the current famine level. In game terms, a player must have harvested and/or stored a number of food chits at least equal to the current famine level; otherwise that player receives a number of graves equal to the deficit. Example, Player A has 1 wheat & 1 fish with the famine level at 4, Player A receives 2 graves which must be immediately placed onto one of their city spaces. If player A no longer has any free spaces then the graves must be placed on buildings. Players may not subsequently build on city spaces with graves, nor can they use a building with graves on it. If a player is out of spaces to place graves on, they are out of the game. A player can reduce the famine level by one by buying a fountain, or can permanently add 3 to their food total by building a granary. Famine will also be more of a factor in three and four player games since there are more explorer tokens available and they will be uncovered faster. (In a two player game, the maximum the famine can be on turn 1 is 2, and only if both players explore 1 hex, likewise in a four player game, famine could be at 4, and much more of an issue)
Pollution – resolved in turn order. Each city produces 3 pollution counters. Each player totals their pollution and places the pollution counters on unpolluted hexes within their ‘zone of control’; this hex may overlap with another player’s ZOC. Yes, this makes the hex unusable for future harvests. If a player has a manned dump, it reduces that players pollution by 4 and other players may *not* play pollution within your ZOC. In addition, for each fountain a player has built (no man needed) their pollution is reduce by one (permanently) & the famine level counter is lowered one space (only on the turn it was built).
Check Victory – All players who have built a cathedral, and as a result have chosen a patron saint, check to see if they have met their saints winning condition. Each Saint provides a ‘privilege’ to the selecting player, thereby giving players an incentive to choose their Saint early. The winning conditions and privileges are the following: Santa Barbara – build 1 of every city building – privilege, may rearrange your city, San Giorgio – win if all of one other players ZOC is within your ZOC – privilege, gain 1 fish (food) for every cathedral built, San Nicolo – build all 20 houses/men – privilege when buying 2 houses/men the lower cost house is free, San Christofori- collect 3 of each food & luxury resource - privilege a players cathedral may be used to store any amount of goods, and finally Santa Maria – fulfill any 2 of the victory conditions/ privilege get all other privileges. If things are going poorly a player may raze their cathedral if they have a manned Department of Philosophy, and may then rebuild the cathedral dedicated to a new patron saint.
The game is really a simple system with a plethora of choices and options. Do you devote your resources to building your economy, do you expand your zone of control to gain access to more resources to continue fueling your economy, do you try to control your famine and/or pollution, and how much do you focus on reaching your victory conditions. If you like resource management and building games, Antiquity will get under your skin.
On Saturday, we taught the game to a friend of ours, on Tuesday he sent me the following email: “Marc, I can't get Antiquity out of my mind. Thanks... When can we play again?” My feelings exactly.
As I’ve already mentioned, my wife loves Antiquity. It may be her favorite game. It is a very woman friendly game. Antiquity is void of many of the elements that make a game less enjoyable to the women I’ve played games with; no battle, no loss of units, no bidding, no allying with others to bring a third player down. The only real ‘direct’ conflict is the battle for the limited resource hexes, otherwise Antiquity is almost entirely about improving your own position, and planning for the future.
With no luck, and little direct conflict, I’ve seen some complaints that Antiquity is a game that can be “solved”, find the optimal building sequence and repeat game after game…. I haven’t found one in the 6 games I’ve played so far. I believe there are enough changes to the board from game to game to prevent this. Also, there are many steps you can take to interfere with your opponents plans: you can grab plenty of explorer chips to quickly raise the level of famine, you can build into your opponent’s ZOC, harvest the hexes within their ZOC & pollute the others, and on top of that you can man a dump and force them to pollute uncontested areas. You can choose Saint Giorgio and force them to be cognizant of your building plans. In effect, there are a myriad of play & victory condition options that will keep the game fresh for many years to come.
Another complaint that has merit is that many of the pieces are small. If putting cardboard counters on hexes and then taking them off is not your idea of fun, avoid Antiquity. I’ve found the pleasure of the game easily overcomes the issues of dealing with the counters.
I rate Antiquity as the best game of 2004, and the most intriguing game I’ve played in years. If you can afford the cost, it is well worth owning.