Board game club: Antiquity and Shadows over Camelot

Yesterday we played the first game of the much-expected Antiquity. Teaching the rules was fairly straightforward, but I didn’t stress quite enough that Cart Shops were needed to build inns and cities, too, because I think everybody but me fumbled with that at some point.

The game progressed slowly. It took four hours, before Robert and Olli H. finally managed to reach their winning conditions (San Christofori) at the same turn, so it went down to tie-breaker, which is the amount of unpolluted land in their zones of control. Olli H. hadn’t built inns, which was what Robert had been doing a lot lately, so Robert won with a huge margin.

Meanwhile, Olli M. was struggling somewhat. He had run out of wood at one point, but was still doing ok. I was building cities for the dead, it seems: I counted my graves in the end and reached 69 graves in my three cities. But hey, what can you do — the famine level was up in 18 or so, I had maximum storage capacity of four, little space to farm in and thus I collected about 10 graves each turn (and then couple from pollution, too!) — a hospital doesn’t do much at that point, believe me.

My situation was totally hopeless and it sure left us wondering. Of course the San Christofori guys can survive the famine. They have loads of food in their cathedrals. Robert did the math at one point, trying to decide whether to take San Christofori or San Nicolo. He counted that he needed approximately the same amount of resources to achieve either, but with S. Christofori he could keep the resources to feed his people with, while with S. Nicolo he would have to spend them.

Perhaps we were just very slow. We did hit the top of the famine level and had a famine level of 19, before we started building some fountains. Maybe we should’ve built many more fountains a lot earlier? The rules say nothing about what happens when the famine level reaches 18 which is where the indicator track ends. Perhaps it’s not supposed to get that high, because when the famine level is that high, you can do nothing but fight to get food in a very anxious and highly-polluted environment, unless you have a cathedral full of food.

Anyway, I enjoyed the process even though the result wasn’t much to my liking. Maybe next time it’ll go better for me. I sure know now expansion is vital, building inns so you have a wider sphere of influence and more resources to use. It’s better to go far and keep lands close to you (and only you) unused.

I also got to try Shadows over Camelot. It’s a gorgeous game! The co-operative mechanism is more interesting than in Knizia’s Lord of the Rings, I think. Each player must do something evil (draw a bad card, typically) and something heroic (further a Quest) every turn. One of the players may be a traitor, who plots for the Camelot’s downfall.

It’s all quite fun, even though the game seemed awfully hard. Each turn something bad happens, but the heroic action may be wasted for drawing cards or moving from place to place… I think it’ll take some practise to actually win the game. I don’t know what happened in our game. My valiant Sir Percival fought for the Holy Grail, but died (I had to leave early) while on the Quest. I was no traitor and before I died, I managed to get rid of my resources pretty well for the Camelot’s good. I hope we prevailed.

I’d certainly like to play the game again. Maybe the rules would be less fuzzy, too, because we had some issues with them… I think that might be poor preparations from our rules teachers, but the rulebooks seemed a bit confusing.

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5 responses to “Board game club: Antiquity and Shadows over Camelot”

  1. I think the biggest issue with Camelot is mostly on how the communication should actually work between players. This is usually the bigges thing that causes the game to be either too easy or perhaps too hard. There’s some clarification in BGG and/or official Camelot forums, though. In our games we usually go with a bit of roleplayish approach where people usually tell the need, but are vague about the amount (“The campaign against the Saxons seems to start well.”) and so on.

  2. Ah, Camelot would have prevailed if it wasn’t for the traitor amongst us, who eluded our detection even to the very end of the game. No wonder we had had a hard time — Robert had hoarded Merlins and other special white cards into his treacherous hand.
    We were about to end with 8 white swords against 4 blacks. Since the traitor, if undetected, turns over 2 swords at the end, and a with a false accusation we lose only one, we risked one random accusation. But alas, we falsely accused our loyal king Arthur, and did not manage to detect the signs of treachery sitting right next to him.
    Although the traitor managed to work quite well this time, we were left wondering if he really has much meaningful activities to do in order to help his cause. It seems that doing not as much good as the others isn’t all that satisfying for the traitor. Well, at least I’m most willing to play again to find out. So far, it seems like a very fun game.
    I think the rulebooks aren’t very well organized, but much of the rules difficulty we had was indeed due to the fact that I had only read the rules once before starting the game. As always, after one play, the rules seem much more clear. Communication still does remain a problem — if I get to see the top card will bring more saxons, can I relay the information by saying “I see movement on the saxon front!” or similar, or with a small numbered Black Knight card “Ah look, the Black Knight fights like a mere peon.” The problem is that even within one game you probably (even unintentionally?) manage to develop a sign system to convey information quite efficiently. I’ll have to go check the BGG to see if there are some stronger guidelines to this issue.

  3. Our group has played the game three times, and after every play we still have questions about the rules. The mechanics themselves aren’t difficult, but there are little fiddly things that we couldn’t satisfactorily answer during the game. In one case, one of the rules we looked up in the rulebook proved to be incorrect according to the designer! (i.e., that you can spend your last life in the progression of evil phase, and still finish your turn. The rules seem to indicate that if you lose your last life for whatever reason, you may continue your turn. The designer says on the forums that you may not.)
    It’s a fun game, but one that desperately needs an official FAQ.
    Nice session report. I haven’t heard of Antiquity, so I’ll have to look it up on BGG.

  4. I definitely like playing Shadows over Camelot. It has always been a very close game, and we did not even have a traitor, yet. I particularly like the game design.