The Games You Want to Play – Part XXII…
Ancients Civilizations of the Inner Sea – Part 2
We started a second game of ACoIS (see the TGYW2P – Part XX for an introduction to the game) this past week and finished it! Apparently, there are some game mechanics via the cards that can allow for early resolutions of the game, which will impact some play styles.
One of those play styles is driven by the number of mandatory Event Cards that unleash barbarian hordes upon civilizations or large-scale civil wars. Determining from which board edge the hordes arrive is done by the civilization with the lowest Victory Point total. So, after the first play, we had seen that there could be some value to holding back in last place and knocking down the leaders, while slowly building your base. That gave us some concerns about long-term re-playability, if each game became a race to stay in last place until the end.
However, that strategy becomes a little riskier with these cards that can cause the game to end earlier, since you could find yourself so far out of position that there is not enough time to climb back into the race. Also, the stacking limits do put some limitations on how many times a single civilization can be hit during one turn with the invasions (these first two games saw the invasion cards hitting in clusters, which can be a bit overwhelming).
Lastly, we discovered that a little game experience goes a long way in being able to fend off these invasions. A prepared civilization will be able to apply its talents (money in the game that, in this instance, allows you to buy what are essentially mercenaries to absorb losses during a competition) and armies (adding additional discs to an area) to beat back many of these invasions and avoid a total disruption of its plans. Most invasions, though, will slow the civilizations ability to score Victory Points, since these are earned from cities and losses may knock those down to settlements.
We also learned about the importance of balancing between settlements (two-high disc stacks that allow you to move more discs from your supply to be deployed) and cities (three-high disc stacks that earn you Victory Points). You also “earn” a disc for every two shallow sea areas you control. As in most games, racking up the Victory Points makes you a bit of a target and your fellow players have some real tools to bring you back down to earth. Also, too heavy a focus on cities and the associated Victory Points slows your ability to grow and reduces the discs you have available to face invasions. However, too many settlements keep you from scoring and quickly empty your supply of discs, leaving you able to react to invasions (from your neighbors, not just barbarians).
Wonders are great, but they reduce the supply of discs (many call for you to place discs on the Wonder card, removing them from your supply), thereby reducing your ability to expand or respond to invasions (though some Wonders help during the competition phase and some help with expansion, but may be limited to only one play per turn).
This was a good game and we are looking forward to more plays soon. We still found turn order to be very important (NOTE: There is a Wonder that lets you switch order with another player!) The one thing we have not seen much of yet, due to both our games being relatively short, is a real war between two civilizations. There has been some skirmishing on the edges and a lot of covert warfare (card play), but not a real battle for control. The limitation on the supply of discs may keep that from being a major element in the game, but we will see how that plays out once we have a longer session.
Do not forget that you must be willing to take a beating when playing this game, since there are a lot of cards being played every turn and most of them do something bad to another civilization! And, even if your fellow players are not after you specifically, those mandatory event cards are out there and the lowest-VP player is not playing them on his board edge!
Be sure to vote for this game for the cruise!
See you onboard,