Solitaire Ancient Civilizations of the Inner Sea (Part 1 of 2)

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Introduction by Game Developer Fred Schachter – Prior InsideGMT articles concerning Ancient Civilizations of the Inner Sea focused on the multi-player versions of the game… and there’s more to come as the game’s development continues. This particular article by Designer Mark McLaughlin provides the reader insights as to the game’s basic systems and the cards that add so much entertainment, excitement and fun to the game. 

With this article, Mark shares one of the nifty solitaire versions he’s designed for the game.  We hope you find this article of sufficient interest to incite a P-500 order for Ancient Civilizations of the Inner Sea if you’ve not yet done so.

It should also be noted that this article provides a “first peek” as to the game’s mechanics.  Let Mark and I know if this provokes any question or request for clarification. 


Ancient Civilizations of the Inner Sea, also referenced as ACIS, is a game for one to six players – and its “one” player version is a true solitaire game in its own right, an intrinsic part of the design – not just something tacked on as an afterthought.  There are almost as many solitaire scenarios as there are multiplayer ones – and more are in the works.    (Please note the map and all of the components shown in this article’s photos are from the playtest set.  The cards will eventually have the usual striking and creative GMT graphics team art work. The Black and White poker chips seen in the photos shall be replaced with GMT wooden disks of that color, similar to the other disks shown)

Customizable for One to Six Players; with Open and Historical Scenarios

The basic multi-player game of ACIS allows up to six players to take the roles of one (or more) from a selection of up to eight different Civilizations: Rome, Carthage, Egypt, Minos, Phoenicia, Mycenae, Troy or the Celt-Iberians. Which and how many of those come into play depends on the scenario the players select.  Some multiplayer scenarios use half or two-thirds of the map while some are based on historical situations (the Punic Wars, Anthony & Cleopatra, The Fall of Rome etc.)

There are also solitaire “war” scenarios for the Fall of Rome, the Greek vs. Persian wars (including Alexander the Great) and one where the player is the “God-King” of Egypt.  These can also be played multiplayer and there are other solitaire scenarios forthcoming.  The ACIS Team is hard at work devising a gaming “Entertainment Package” to provide many hours of enjoyment no matter how many players sit at the table.

The Solitaire Exploration Scenario

This particular After Action Report is based on ACIS’ Solitaire Exploration scenario.   In this scenario, only one Civilization is in play at start (that chosen by the player).  Other Civilizations appear as the player explores the map.  This scenario is highly customizable since, like the basic game, the player decides what portion of the map – or all of it – will be in play, and how many Non-Player Civilizations shall be encountered.

That is, the player can decide which Non-Player Civilizations will be “discovered”, or the player may choose from those available at random (thus, a player could set it up so when moving into an empty portion of the map in, say, Egypt, the player could meet the Romans or Celts there – or keep it “historical” and find the Egyptians waiting there).

In this version, the player (me) is Minos (the Minoan Civilization, a powerful sea-faring culture based on the island which has since become known as Crete).   The “extended East” portion of the map is in play – Rome, Carthage and every area to the west is excluded, and a line of white tiles is placed to delineate that western boundary.

Three Non-Player Civilizations (NPCs) may be encountered: a player could choose to have more, but I believe three potential opponents make for a very challenging and faster paced game).   These will be chosen from among Mycenae, Phoenicia, Egypt and Troy, with the first three to be encountered coming into play and the fourth discarded.

Meet the Minoans

Turn One After Exploration

The player takes the Minos Civilization Display and 12 Gold colored Tiles (wooden disks).  The starting position is as per ACIS basic rules, with the player radiating outward from Minos.

The Exploration sequence, unique to this game, now kicks in.  The player creates a “Civilization Pool” of 10 Tiles.  Two of those (Red and Blue in this case) represent two of the three NPCs that may be met.  The other eight include five White and three Black Tiles.   In the game, the White are used for Talents, for temporary advantages in Competition (i.e. war, and war by other means) and for record keeping.  The Black represent all manner of Barbarians, Pirates, Rebels etc.  In the case of the Civilization Pool, however, these will be used to determine what, if any, Tiles show up in empty Areas, and also if the discovered NPCs are hostile or not.

In the Exploration Phase, the player picks one vacant Area next to one which has a player’s Tile, and pulls a Tile from the Civilization Pool.  If it is a white Tile, it stays empty (and a White Tile from the box is placed there, temporarily; the Tile drawn from the Pool goes back into the Pool).  If it is a Black Tile, Barbarians are placed there (three if a Land Area, two if a Sea Area).  If a colored Tile (in this case Red or Blue) is drawn, it is placed on the map in that Area and the player proceeds to create that NPC, according to a procedure set out in the rules.  (A tenth Tile is added to the Pool, in this case one of the remaining colored Tiles, again, as explained in the rules).

Ancient Minoan Palace of Knossos

In this example, a Red Tile was drawn for Laconia, the first empty Area chosen for Exploration.  As this is closer to the Home Area of Mycenae than any other Civilization, the Mycenaeans are created.  Their initial Civilization can be up to 12 more Tiles in size.  That determination is made and Tiles are placed, again as per sequence in the Rules.  The Mycenaeans spread into Greece and its surrounding waters.

There are still many vacant map areas left and, going clockwise, up pop a number of Barbarian stacks – and then a Blue Tile is drawn for one of the empty areas (Citium) in what is now Cyprus.  This is closer to the Phoenician Home Area than it is to Egypt or Troy (the other two possible candidates for NPC). Consequently, Phoenicia is created.  It spreads out down the coast of the Levant.

The remaining vacant areas contain either more Barbarians or remain vacant (as Black and White Tiles. The last colored Tile has not been drawn).

Minos began with a hand of five Cards.  Mycenae and the Phoenicians are also given five Cards each as a starting hand. The stage is now set for the real game to begin.

 NPCs – One Hostile, One Not

A determination (again, drawing from the Tile Pool) is made as to whether the NPCs are Hostile to the player’s Civilization, Minos, or not.  The Tile drawn from the Pool determines that Mycenae, true to its historical nature; is Hostile, Phoenicia is not — or at least not yet.

The Turn Order for Turn One is Phoenicia, Mycenae and then Minos.  Each will conduct a Growth Phase to place Tiles in and adjacent to Areas where they already have Tiles – although they can “chain off” a Tile to place another, then another next to that etc.

Phoenician Seafaring Boat

The Phoenicians, being a non-Hostile sort, beef up their base, while the Mycenaeans, although Hostile, do not strike at Minos just yet. The priority for NPC placement is to strengthen their own base Civilization area before attacking.  At this point, their initial Growth is too limited to allow them to attack – just yet.

Minos Attacks – and Hits the Beach in Greece

As a player, Minos is not subject to the list of priorities that govern the NPCs, so Minos goes on the attack.  Using the Tile in the Myrtoan Sea (the Sea Area abutting Mycenae) as a launching pad, Minos places four Tiles, the stacking limit, in Mycenae and three in Laconia, just south of Mycenae.

Turn One War Minos vs. Mycenae

Card Phase: The Mycenaeans Strike Back

Each Civilization, player and otherwise, begins with five Cards.  Each Civilization, after all Tiles are placed, in turn order, plays one card.  Then each gets to go again to player a second, and so on, until each Civilization has passed or has no more cards to play.   As per the current turn order, the order of Card play is Phoenicia first, then Mycenae, then Minos.

Ancient City of Mycenae

There is a priority list for order for sequencing the cards the NPCs play: those that give them cards, Talents (wealth) and allow for the building of Wonders go first, etc..  Below is an excerpt from the Solitaire section of the Play Book which sets forth that NPC card playing priority.  A “Negate” Card, when played, forces another Civilization’s Card into the discard pile along with the Negate Card itself.  This is a very useful Card for avoiding harm to your Civilization to prevent a benefit accruing to one of the NPC’s.

Phoenicia will build itself up with Card 91-Academy of Science which allows it to start drawing more cards during the Draw Phase.  As the rounds of card play continue, it will play 16-Local Trade and 52-Philosopher King, to gain Talents, to expand east and to build up cities on the two Areas of Cyprus (Citium and Salamis) – Phoenicia also has two powerful competition cards 89-Iron Mine and 43-Traitor, so as the only human player, Minos is very glad they are not hostile.

Mycenae, however, is hostile.  It will first build itself up with Card 84-Subsaharan Salt Route to get two Talents (which have myriad uses, such as buying Cards in the Draw Phase or to be used in lieu of losing Tiles during Competition (i.e. war) Phase.  As the Card play rounds continue, it will play 46-Coinage to get four more Tiles, and 37-Great Person Poet-37 to replace three of Minos’ Tiles with theirs in Laconia, Kydonia and Minos. These are followed by 11-Pirates to sweep the Minoans from the seas, and 33-Migration, to invade Minos’ Anatolian possession in Tarsus with three Barbarian Tiles  (Tarsus is the only choice as the Black Tiled Migrants must appear on a Land Area on a map edge, and that is the only one where Minoan Tiles are present.)

Note that each Civilization plays one card, then each plays a second etc.  Phoenicia will pass after the third card play, saving its two competition cards (Traitor and Iron Mine) for when it may use them… the Competition Phase  This is a happy circumstance for Phoenicia as Minos and Mycenae have decimated each other in preparation for the Competition Phase.

Turn One Competition Phase

Competition Phase

Competition (i.e. war) occurs whenever Tiles of two or more colors are present in the same Area, and there are at least two Tiles of one of those colors.  Thus, single Tiles can peacefully co-exist together (and will do so, even if hostile) but in all other cases Competition is mandatory.

Some Civilizations have special Competition advantages.  This is certainly the case with the fierce Mycenae.  Here is an excerpt from their Civilization Card used for organizing their Tiles and containing various game reminders.

In this phase, Civilizations play any Cards which can affect Competition and make use of any Civilization Bonuses that affect Competition.   Minos has bonuses to help with sea competition, but there are no sea competitions to resolve.  Mycenae, however, is a mighty land power – and has the ability to add White Tiles to competitions. (These are temporary Tiles which represent an advantage in Competition; they’re the first eliminated and any of which survive will be removed at the end of the phase).

Thanks to the play of Card 86- Siege, Mycenae can not add Tiles to the battle (Competition) for its Home Area, as that is the Area chosen by Minos to be affected by the Card.  Mycenae uses its bonus, however, in the two other battles – in Laconia and in Kydonia.

Mycenae also earned Talents from its Card play, and thus can expend those instead of losing Tiles in Competition (except in Mycenae itself, which, through my clever play of Card 86 placed under Siege).

Competition is resolved from East to West, North to South, and the first battle is in Anatolia, where the Barbarian invaders kick the Minoans out of Tarsus

Next is my homeland of Minos.  There are two Mycenae to one Minoan.  The Civilization with the fewest loses a Tile – Minos.  If any of that Civilization’s Tiles are left, the other Civilization would lose one Tile — but as there are no Minoans left, the Mycenaeans do not lose any.

The same occurs in the next Area, Kydonia, where the Mycenaeans have two tiles plus a white tile to the single Minoan. (The white tile, however, will be removed after Competition, as the White Tiles provides only a temporary advantage)

On mainland Greece, at Mycenae, the Minoans have four to the Mycenaeans’ three Tiles – and because of the Siege Card, the Mycenaeans cannot expend Talents or Cards to save their Tiles.

The Competition is resolved in Rounds – Round one – one Mycenaean Tile is removed, then one Minoan (as there are still Mycenaeans);

Round two – a second Mycenaean Tile removed, then a Minoan;

Round three, the third and final Mycenaean is removed.  No more Minoans are lost, However, as the Minoans are the only ones left….so that leaves Minos with two Tiles.

Having eliminated three or more Tiles of the same color, and being the only Civilization left in the area, thus controlling it, Minos gets Loot – a single Talent…..which it may NOT use during the same Competition Phase in which it was earned it. Ah, but it can be saved for later (which could come in handy).

Sub-Saharan Trade

Finally, for the Competition resolution in Laconia: Minos has four Tiles, Mycenae has two plus a white   Unfortunately, for the player, the Mycenaeans have two Talents which they got from play of the Sub-Saharan Trade Card 84; they can therefore lose those instead of Tiles

Round one – the Mycenaeans, outnumbered, would normally lose a Tile, but will lose a Talent instead.  Minos loses a Tile.  It is now three Tiles-all.

Round two – as they are equal, each would normally lose a Tile, but the Mycenaeans lose their second Talent instead.  That leaves them with three Tiles (two red, one White) and Minos with only two.

Round three – Minos, outnumbered, must lose one.  As there are still enemies present, the Mycenaeans are compelled to lose one, and they lose their White Tile (as temporary Tiles are removed before colored Tiles.)

That leaves two Red Mycenaean Tiles to one Minoan Gold Tile.

Round 4 – Minos loses its last tile, the Mycenaeans lose nothing.

That Competition ends in a Mycenaean victory.  Not only do they get a Talent for Loot, but as Mycenaeans they get a bonus Talent for the first Loot they get in a turn.  Thus they spent two Talents to win the fight – but got them right back!  The Mycenaeans can be tough customers indeed!

End of Competition and Scoring

Turn One Mutual Victory, Mutual Defeat

As can be seen in the above picture, in this war of mutual annihilation, Minos has taken over mainland Greece but lost its home island to the Mycenaeans, and vice versa.  Minos, however, still has a pair of cities as a foothold in Anatolia, and Tiles in two sea areas…whereas Mycenae has but a single Tile at Sea, up near Troy.  Some mighty sea power I turned out to be!

Phoenicia, however, is the big winner in this war – a war in which it played no part.  It has FIVE cites – which, as the turn ends, also gives them 5 Victory Points (VPs)  (1 per city).  Phoenicia is also present in four Sea Areas – which unique to Phoenicia is another VP (1 VP per every 4 Sea Areas in which they are present, whether they control them or not. Phoenicia thus takes the lead jumping from zero to 6 VP.

Minos, with two cities, gets 2 VP.  Minos gets VP for CONTROLLING Sea Areas (1 VP per 4) but controls only 2 – not enough for any VP bonus.

Mycenae has no cities – and no VP.

So at the end of the turn the game situation stands at:

Phoenicia 6, Minos 2, Mycenae 0.

Stay tuned for Part 2 to see more on Solitaire Ancient Civilizations of the Inner Sea…


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8 thoughts on “Solitaire Ancient Civilizations of the Inner Sea (Part 1 of 2)

    • those are two of my favorites as well! (I have logged in over 550 hours on the new Civ Vi, and i played the board game probably once a month for about 20 years)…of the many (22) games I have had published or are in production, I have had more fun designing, researching, teaching and playing this than any other……I keep working up new scenarios every other week!

  1. I see some rather surprising uses of names here, especially with Minos: this was ever only a personal name (that of the mythical first king of Crete, son of Zeus), never the name of the civilization (Crete,Minoans…) nor of a region or place (use rather Knossos?).
    Second, I would suggest some consistency in the use of Greek or Latin forms of place names: Citium is Latin (Greek; Kition), Mycenae is Latin (Gr. Mykenai), but Kydonia is Greek…

    • Glad you were “surprised” – as that is kind of what i was going for. Seriously, I intentionally choose Greek, Latin, Phoenician, and a mix of other names for the map, so as not to be locked into or centered on only one. As for the Minoans, yes, that is the general name many scholars have given that civilization, even though that is obviously not what they were called or called themselves (in Egypt, for example, the Minoans were called the Keftu, and Troy could be Troia, Illium, or Wilusa, depending on the linguistic source). I thought mixing it up would be more colorful, (notice I went for ‘Rome’ not “Roma” for example). This is a much more light hearted and more open game than most of the games i have designed and had published (22 and counting), and I do hope you play it – solitaire or with friends, and that it further spurs your interest in the period.

    • thank your and yes, maybe – but would you want to put stickers on 400 disks? i don’t put stickers on my command and colors blocks…i just use painted 15mm miniatures from my wargame armies….and my dream version of this would be a quadruple size map with toys…..much like i did for my Napoleonic Wars

      • Actually, yes, I love putting stickers on and clipping counters. And they would look better than color discs.

        • ok. heh, i paint tiny little 15mm soldiers, so what can i say? (but i never ever clipped a counter, and i loathe putting stickers on blocs – i remember when my friend was all excited when he got the very first command and colors ancients, came to my house, tore off the shrink wrap .. and then his heart just sank when he saw all of those stickers….fortunately on my shelf were (and still are) thousands of little painted ancients – so we put them on the board (and used casualty rings to show hits)…..stickers on blocks can dress up a game – and they are i admit nicer than just old fashioned cardboard counters