For me, Antike was definitely one of the brighter hits from Essen 2005. I had reordered the game, mostly tempted by the theme and having some faith in Eggert-Spiele thanks to Neuland, which was excellent. Lower price I got didn’t hurt, either.
I wasn’t disappointed. While Antike isn’t the Civ Lite some people would probably like it to be, it is an interesting exercise in logistics with an empire-building theme. As a Civ game it lacks trading and historical theme: the nations are identical in this game and even the Mediterranean and Middle-Eastern maps are hex grids in disguise.
Antike’s components have been panned a bit, but I think they’re ok. The board is perhaps a bit pale, but at least it’s two-sided! As I said, one side is the basic Mediterranean map, the other side has more of the Middle-Eastern area, like the whole of Arabian peninsula and so. One side has texts in German, one in English. The game is language-independent enough that after your first game it really doesn’t matter.
There’s a lot of wood in the game: each player has bunch of legions (meeples), fleets (small ships) and cities (small discs). I like the meeples, they look friendly. I don’t mind if my legions look friendly.
Other than that there’s cards for victory points and bunch of cardboard coins for resources. Those are generally ok. The artwork has a slight clip art feel, but is ok. The biggest problem from my perspective is the box, which is far too shallow. The game doesn’t really fit inside, even after you throw away the cardboard tray.
Goal of the game
Goal of the game is to score victory points. You’re not building a big empire. That’s something you do while you collect victory points. This is important to understand. One way to score victory points is to build new cities — every five cities scores you a victory point.
There are other ways, too. You can build temples, which are all-around boosters: they add production, increase defense and allow more troops to be built. Every three temples is a victory point. Players can also buy civilization advances: faster troops, more productive cities, better defense. Each of those gives a victory point to the nation that discovers it first (the rest get a cheaper price).
Controlling the seas is important. If you have fleets in seven different areas, you score a victory point. If you get 14 areas, there’s another one. Finally, the last way to score victory points is to raze enemy temples. Each temple razed is a victory point earned. The ratio is low, but it’s hard work.
Keeping an eye in the victory conditions is very important. The victory points can run out: each category provides only so many victory points. When they’re gone, there’s nothing you can do. Expanding after all city victory points are gone is almost pointless.
The victory points earned remain for the rest of the game. Each card represents a historical person, whose old glory is written in the history books. Even if the civilization declines, the past glories remain. Thus, you keep your points, even if you lose the cities, for example. This is a very good thing, as it makes sure the game actually goes forward all the time. You can’t go backwards.
Turns in Antike are fast. Take a coin (a wild card resource), choose your action, do it, build cities, take victory points, done. That’s usually over in about 10 seconds, particularly if the only thing you’re doing is resource collection. I bet Antike would be a 15-minute game in BrettSpielWelt.
Actions are chosen on the Rondel, which is one of the game’s oft-mentioned features. Rondel is a circular track, where all the different options are available. On each turn, you must take one to three steps on the track; if you want to go further, you must pay for each step.
The different options are production (one for each of marble, iron and gold), use of resources (temple building, army building and knowhow discovery) and two maneuvers for military action. The matching options (say, temple building and marble production) are on the opposing sides of the Rondel. If you want to keep on doing the same thing over and over again, you’ll have to pay extra cost every turn.
I also find it pretty hard to focus on one thing. You’d want to hurry along to do something important, but then you’re tempted: should I produce some gold? If I don’t do it now, the next chance will be far away. I know I should hurry with something else, but maybe I should still produce some gold… There’s few interesting decisions there.
As I said, turns are often very quick and you can often move on without waiting for other players too much. Military action, however, halts the game and takes a lot of time compared to anything else. It’s fairly rare, fortunately.
Acts of war
War is expensive in Antike. Units move on the board and when two enemy units meet, either player may choose to fight. If there’s a fight, both sides lose an equal amount of units. War is expensive, as I said.
Most often it’s a threat. When someone builds units, neighbours follow suit. A single army can conquer an undefended city, so some defense is needed. The regular units are slow, though — when the unit moves to the province to conquer the city, it must wait until next maneuver to actually do it. That gives an opportunity for the defender to raise more troops. When someone gets wheel or sails and thus faster units, things change.
The combat system is pretty good: it’s simple and makes fighting unprofitable. That’s the way I like it. Negotiating peace deals is easy, as war usually benefits only those who don’t participate. Grabbing a city without a temple isn’t usually useful, unless you score a city victory point with it (and usually there’s still neutral cities to grab). Of course, in some situation defense or resources might ask for an attack on enemy cities.
I like Antike a lot. This has to do with the speed of the game, I know that. It’s just so effective: lots of action in small time. The game system has fresh, interesting features and it simply works well. What’s even better, the game works really well with six players. Sure, the board gets a bit crowded, but that makes it all the more interesting. It’s good with four, too, but the three-player has some problems, I hear. There are fixes, too.
Antike is an interesting game of logistics set in the world of Civ games. If you like building empires and don’t mind a bit of abstractness, Antike is for you.