I’m a huge fan of Red Raven Games and Ryan Laukat. The first game I’ve tried of theirs is Above & Below, and since then I’ve been so enchanted with the art and general gameplay style that I’ve ended up with a number of their games.
The latest is the second edition of The Ancient World, a beautiful game where developing civilizations are beset by Titans–and they must be vanquished if they are to thrive and grow. This worker placement, card drafting, set collection game is beautiful and elegant and plays fairly simply but with a lot of thematic strategies to be made.
The player who ends the game with the most influential civilization wins the game. However, the road to prosperity is wrought with danger–titans threaten the land, and in fact, every civilization starts the game with a titan threatening their cities. Players vie to build either the largest civilization or vanquish the most titans…or more likely, a careful balance of both. Buildings and titans award banners when built or defeated, the quantity and color of which form the basis for scoring.
Each player may do any one of four actions, taking turns to do one action until everyone passes:
- assign a citizen to a task
- attack a titan,
- build stored plans,
- and pass.
Each player initially has three citizens available to send to work, choosing between the following possible tasks:
- Build lets you improve your city by paying for the construction of a new building;
- Rebuild is important if you ended up with a titan rampaging across some of your buildings;
- if you’ve reached the limits of your city, Expand allows you to add more space for more buildings;
- and if none of the buildings on offer are to your taste, try to Explore other possibilities;
- Learn nets your city some extra knowledge for coins;
- and you can get more workers by Growing more citizens…
- …which you can push to Labor a bit to gain some extra money;
- If you’ve got a titan on your tail, you can add to your current military by Recruiting more, or…
- …get temporary help by Drafting mercenaries.
There are no worker lockouts, exactly, though you cannot place a citizen of lower power on a task when another citizen (yours or another player’s) is already there.
If they decide to attack a titan, they can choose to attach the one threatening their city (this refreshes every round, if the city had vanquished theirs in the previous round) or one of the faraway titans on the board, after which they can take that titan’s remains as a kind of trophy. If the round ends and they have not killed the titan threatening their city, it may wreak havoc on their city’s buildings unless placated by offerings of ambrosia…but the titans grow every hungrier with each passing round and it becomes more and more expensive to placate them.
The game ends after the sixth round.
One thing I’ve liked about Red Raven Games’s crowdfunding stage is that the upgraded components within the Kickstarter run are not limited to the “Kickstarter edition”–the Kickstarter edition is the retail edition. The same is true for The Ancient World–the components are premium for basically everyone, except that Kickstarter backers get to have metal coins free, which otherwise can be purchased separately.
Cardboard tokens are still provided (even for other tokens, not just coins), but otherwise we have custom ambrosia tokens and wooden tokens for the rest: citizens, scrolls, first player and round counter. As usual, I was stressed with making sure that the art stickers line up on the token while putting it on, but nothing too bad (a few might have been lopsided, sigh).
The dice are etched and feel amazing. It’s beautifully marbled and feels good to roll–almost makes one want to keep attacking titans!
The metal coins are just really lovely and feel beautiful. Prior to this, I’d only been able to try out the Near & Far metal coins from a friend’s copy of the game, but I’d been hankering for my own set of N&F metal coins since then. They come in denominations of 1, 3, 5, and 10, and can very well grace a different game, too.
The rulebook is pretty well written and organized well–it didn’t take long to understand how the game plays and we were off and running fairly quickly (erroneous start notwithstanding–that was totally our fault).
Interestingly enough, The Ancient World fills an interesting niche in my gaming shelf that I had only until recently realized…I didn’t have any solid worker placement games. :O So I was extra excited to get my copy, and I’m pretty pleased with the gameplay turnout. The first time we played this, actually, we had a rule oversight and didn’t roll the titan die every time we attacked a titan (only when he’s rampaging the city), so we were pretty keen to try another game with the correct rules ;)
It’s a fairly friendly game since there are no punishing player lockouts, though it still pays to be careful when assigning workers. Money feels quite tight for us in this game, oftentimes we’re ending the game with juuuust enough, and we’re frantically computing if our resources can make our plans work.
I’d definitely keep playing this with the city-state ability variants–the various abilities feel quite balanced, and while it definitely points one’s gameplay toward a particular trend, it allows for a bit more strategy and some initial focus (which I always like having in a game).
First off to state the obvious, this is such a pretty game, from the game board to the components. All this put together, eases the players into the mysterious and wondrous setting called the “Ancient World”.
Secondly, being a fan of thematic games and having enjoyed the fantastical worlds created by Laukat, from Near & Far, to Megaworld, and other titles, this time we are set in the distant past. We are playing out the struggles of some ancient civilization to progress, in the face of the cyclical onslaught of Titans roaming their world and threatening the rise of these civilizations. Should they fight back or placate these forces of nature with gifts? This really reminds me of the sea monster that besieged the ancient kingdom of Aethiopia from the Greek myths.
The mechanics are quite easy to grasp, such as worker placement and set collecting, and overall, I really enjoyed playing the game, and with its various variant rules, really brings a lot of replayability.
We’re pretty pleased with this game, and I’m chuffed to have this as part of my collection. Definite thumbs up! :) Have you played The Ancient World? What did you think of it?