Introduction: This article complements Mark McLaughlin’s InsideGMT Letter to Gene piece for this upcoming soon-to-be-announced GMT P500 listed game. Mark and I hope it whets your appetite to learn more and, when the time comes, perhaps place an order for this new title to be added to GMT’s P500 repertoire.
A recent family visit to New York, my old ancestral grounds, provided opportunity to debut the most recent game I’m developing to my old gaming group: “The Rockland Guys”. It is designed by Mark McLaughlin from an initial creation from his good buddy Chris Vorder Bruegge, which we’re calling Ancient Civilizations of the Inner Sea: henceforth just The Inner Sea for purposes of this piece.
This Euro-style rise and fall of ancient civilizations game is a far cry from the other games I’ve developed with Mark: The Napoleonic Wars (Second Edition), Wellington, Kutuzov, Rebel Raiders on the High Seas, and the currently P500 listed Hitler’s Reich: A Card Conquest System Game.
It has a feature I personally like and like a lot… NO DICE! I’ve been plagued by weird and statistically improbable dice rolling during all the decades I’ve been a gamer (my first wargame was Avalon Hill’s D-Day 1961) and not needing to take one or more dice in hand to play The Inner Sea is a pleasure indeed!
There is luck with the game’s Event Cards… but what Mark McLaughlin design lacks at least one element where fortune plays its part? The Event Cards add a huge amount of historical flavor to the game… including facilitation in building “Wonders” such as The Great Pyramid, military advantages (e.g. Chariots or Triremes), trade, Great Personages, natural disasters such as volcanic eruptions or floods, famine, agricultural improvements, civil war, religious/societal upheaval, as well as barbarian invasions from all sides of the game map. Suffice that with 110 cards there is a wealth of variety to experience and no two games will ever play exactly the same.
The map is of the Mediterranean, the Inner Sea of the game’s title, and its surroundings divided into Land and Sea Areas. See the photos which accompany this piece for related images of the latest play test map.
The game can be played by two to six players, as well as solitaire… where one competes against “the system” in 1) defending the Late Roman Empire against a myriad of domestic and foreign challenges, 2) The epic struggle of the Greeks vs Persians, or 3) the challenges of Ancient Egypt (The “God Kings of Egypt” solitaire scenario). There’ll be more on the rich variety of the game’s scenarios at another time.
A Game of The Inner Sea consists of four Epochs, of four Turns each maximum. Chance can end an Epoch sooner.
For The Rockland Guys game we chose a four player contest of two Epochs. There are eight (8) Civilizations to choose from when setting up a game of The Inner Sea. It is possible for one player to guide more than one Civilization. Here are the Civilizations, west to east, to choose from and each of our player’s selections: Celt-Iberia (PJ O’Neill), Rome, Carthage (Steve Geisinger), Mycenae, Troy (George Miksad), Minoa, Egypt (Fred Schachter), Phoenicia. Each Civilization has its special attribute: e.g. the Minoans and Phoenicia have an advantage at sea, Troy its powerful city walls, Egypt the Nile, etc.
When it is a Player’s Turn, a Civilization receives a number of wooden disks, called “Tiles” for The Inner Sea’s purposes, which after initial placement of Tiles in and around that Civilization’s Homeland, can be placed within already-controlled territory or be used to expand. You just place one Tile of your color adjacent to another and could, in theory, do that to traverse the entire map. After a Civilization finishes Tile placement, it can play one or more Event Cards out of its Hand: except for Competition Cards (more regarding them soon).
The number of Tiles in an Area has game significance: one Tile is control of an area, representing subsistence farming, two Tiles is a settlement – which generate a new Tile each Turn, and three Tiles a City – a Victory Point source. Domination of Sea Areas, when one Civilization controls all coastal areas abutting that Sea Area, can generate Victory Points. For every two Sea Areas a Civilization occupies, it generates one new Tile each Turn.
When all Tiles are placed by all Active Civilizations, a Competition Phase follows. This is when Competition Cards get played to influence what would otherwise be a straight attritional mutual elimination of Tiles until only one Civilization’s Tile(s) remain or more than one Civilization has no more than one Tile each in a Land or Sea Area. Future articles and/or GMT postings will convey more detail regarding The Inner Sea’s game mechanics.
With the preceding as background; here’s how The Rockland Guys first game of The Inner Sea went. This is written from my perspective as Egypt.
I got off to a grand start carving out a middle eastern Empire while PJ’s Celt Iberia and Steve’s Carthage engaged in desultory competition with one another while George’s Troy expanded westward and a bit into Anatolia (although that did not disturb the Egyptians).
No one earned the extra VP for building the most “Wonders”, George and I were tied for that, but when I began accruing 8VP a turn for Cities, I earned the unwanted attention and wrath of my fellow gamers. The Egyptian Empire was wracked by evil events… Civil War, Pirate depredations, and a host of natural disasters (floods, volcanoes) and ultimately invasion by other players: when the game ended, George as Troy secured victory by a single VP!
What a close and fun game! It was good to note that even the most burgeoning and seemingly invincible of Empires can be humbled with the right diplomatic play and turn of Event Cards. We look forward to our next game of The Inner Sea.