Entertainment

Game review: The Ancient World is a fun strategic game of city-building and titans

Posted May 18

The Ancient World board game is a journey of city-building, worker placement and set collection. The game is set in a world filled with growing civilizations and dangerous titans. Influence the various tribes and defeat titans to be victorious.

In this gorgeously illustrated game by Ryan Laukat and Red Raven games, two to four players try to build up a city and defeat titans by using the help of the five tribes that wander the fantasy world. The more support a player gets from a single tribe, the more points he or she receives.

To begin, each player receives a city-state board, five pieces of money, three citizens, two armies and two empire food cards. A game board is placed on the table depicting a variety of actions that can be taken by players, as well as three terrible-looking titans.

On a turn, a player takes an action by placing one of his or her citizens on a spot on the board. Players can perform actions such as purchasing empire cards that grant special powers and support from certain tribes, hire new armies, add new citizens, collect money or purchase knowledge tokens. Knowledge tokens and money are used to purchase a variety of things in the game.

Another action a player can take is to defeat one of the titans. On each titan card there is a combat value. Using armies and any other combat abilities players have collected over the course of the game, players meet or exceed the combat value on the titan card and take possession of it. Titans can grant special powers and attract support from different tribes.

As a city grows, a player must think about expansion as well. A city can only support a certain number of empire cards, but expansion cards can be purchased that allow players to buy more empire cards. Armies are limited too, unless other cards are acquired that allow armies to grow and evolve. A cool aspect to the army cards is that as older armies are replaced, they pass on knowledge to new armies and they become more powerful.

Empire cards feature all kinds of buildings and helpful additions that break the rules of the game. But the cards are unique, and they can disappear quickly as players purchase them and add them to their empires. Some empire cards help earn extra income, some expand the empire and some add tribal banners of support to a city-state. Get them fast because if you snooze, you lose out.

Each player's city-state is measured by influence, and this is calculated by the number of tribe banners a player owns. Every empire card has one or more tribe banners on it. Players gain victory points by collecting sets of similar tribe banners. Collect at least six of the same tribal banners and score maximum points. Other cards in the game give players the opportunity to score points by collecting certain combinations.

The Ancient World is a wonderful strategic game and a lot of fun to play. There are tons of decisions to make and various avenues to pursue. Gamers should know there is some luck in the game about what tribal banners are available each round, but this is mitigated somewhat by players being able to take an action that allows them to search through the decks of cards to find the right cards they need.

Sometimes games like The Ancient World offer too many choices and players feel overwhelmed by the sheer number of decisions available each turn. The Ancient World is unique because it slowly unlocks more and more choices each turn of the game. Players get familiar with an action and then an additional one is added. It works great for families, board game teachers or new gamers.

Those familiar with Laukat's games will know of the excellent quality, distinctive artwork and polished gameplay. It's amazing the number of titles coming from Red Raven Games that are absolutely excellent. Every one seems to be a hit. The Ancient World is no different. The best part is that Laukat is a local designer in Sandy, Utah. His games can be purchased on Amazon.com. Check out the library of Red Raven Games here.

The following is a short question and answer interview with Ryan Laukat. He is the owner, artist and game designer for Red Raven Games.

Q: Where did you get the inspiration for the design of The Ancient World?

A: The Ancient World came from a desire to make a more accessible version of City of Iron, one of my earlier designs. Both games have a "build up your nation" sort of a feel, but City of Iron is a little more complex. Thematically, I was going for an ancient Greek mythology feel, and was inspired by lots of Mediterranean and middle eastern ancient ideas and aesthetics.

Q: How do you feel it differs from your other games?

A: The game is one of the few 'worker placement' games I have designed, despite the popularity of that particular game mechanism. The look and tone is also somewhat more traditional than some of my other games (which have more of a cartoon style).

Q: Do you have any strategy tips for playing and winning The Ancient World?

A: Sometimes new players feel they can focus on just building up their civilization while ignoring the Titans entirely, but winning requires a good balance of both aspects of the game. Also, players should decide on a specific banner color from the start and focus on collecting as many of that color as possible.

Q: How would you describe your art style?

A: I'm drawn to beauty, and this informs everything about my work, from color choice to character style. I'm also influenced by all of the animation I watched growing up, and you can see this in my work. "Through rose-colored glasses" might be an accurate label of the style.

Q: Of all your game designs, which one are you most proud of?

A: I'm currently most proud of my upcoming game, Near and Far, a storytelling game that has taken the most work of anything I've attempted so far. It has overarching character stories that pan out over ten game sessions.

Email: rmorgenegg@deseretnews.com

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