I tried Antike with Johanna. It’s certainly not the best two-player game, but it was fun and I got some practise with the mechanics so it’ll be easier for me to teach in Helcon this weekend.
So, yeah, it was fun. We played on the Middle-East side, Johanna played Arabs and the Greeks against my Persians and Phoenicians. That was a pretty good setup, though my nations felt more like center nations pressed between Johanna’s border nations. Well, that might’ve been the result of Johanna’s expansionist play and my reluctance to attack her nations.
Chris Farrell really slams the game in his blog. He says empire-building games suffer from three problems: rich-get-rich, beat-the-leader and let-you-and-him-fight. Of these three, Antike only manages the beat-the-leader problem.
Well, he’s sort of right, I guess. The beat-the-leader stuff is dealt pretty well, in my opinion: victory points are replaced by historical persons, who each are worth one point. You get these from fulfilling certain categories: every five cities, every three temples, inventing something first, occupying seven seas and razing a temple. Once you get a point, you can’t ever lose it. Therefore yes, you should prevent the leader from scoring new persons, but going after him or her really hard is pointless.
There’s certainly some rich-get-rich. Investing resources in temples, new cities or commercial gets you more resources. However, that’s not a big deal, I think — at least in our game it was pretty equal, no nation got a huge lead.
Then there’s let-you-and-him-fight. Since both sides lose all the units involved in a battle, fighting battles is probably going to help only the nations not involved in the fight — unless you score a point by fighting. That’s going to be a big incentive not to fight until it counts, especially as razing temples is going to cost many, many units.
So, I don’t know yet what to think of the game. It was fun to play with Johanna, but so was Mare Nostrum. I’m waiting to see how the game works with more players. There’s some interesting discussion in the Geek, about dominant strategies.
Designer Mac Gerdts also thinks there might be a problem with three-player games (and note that Chris Farrell played the game with three and probably hit that exact problem) and offers a solution; JC Lawrence chimes in and offers another, a completely different solution. Interesting. I’ll definitely try to get more than three players in Helcon.
I also played a two-player game of Heckmeck am Bratwurmeck with Johanna. It was fun, she enjoyed it. I like it, too, it’s a very good game if it doesn’t drag on too much. As a side note, Knizia’s Dice Games Properly Explained contains the rules and strategy for Octo, which is a prototypical version of Heckmeck.