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

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Below is Part 2 of 2 in Mark McLaughlin’s article titled, “Solitaire Ancient Civilizations of the Inner Sea”. To read Part 1 of the article, follow this link.

Card Draw Phase 

Turn order for the upcoming turn is set at this point, and as turn order is based on the number of cities a Civilization has, Phoenicia will draw first, then Minos and finally Mycenae.

Each Civilization now gets three cards plus bonus draws.  Phoenicia goes first as it has the most cities.  It gets three to start, plus one for every four cities (thus receiving a fourth card).  It also gets to use the Academy of Sciences Card it previously played. That allows it to draw three Cards, choose one and discard the others.  Phoenicia also kept two Cards from the just ended Turn One.  That leaves Phoenicia with more than a full hand of six Cards, which is the maximum: the two it held, the four it drew, the one from play of the Academy).  Phoenicia, however, also has a special power that it can discard a card out of its hand, for the Phoenician Alphabet, to draw two from the deck, and keep one of its choice.

Phoenicia, however, has a good hand and has no reason to do this.  It must discard one Card as it is.  As per the list of priorities in the solitaire rules, Phoenicia elects to keep 14-Religious Fervor, which adds Tiles, 83-Sea Route to Britain which adds Talents, 66 Great Person: False Prophet which can negate the play of certain cards and 75-Triremes, a naval competition card, and the best of the three that it drew from the Academy of Science.    This makes six cards, a full hand.  (The Academy of Science is one of those few Cards, such as Wonders, which do not count against the hand size maximum).

Next to draw is Minos…which gets a mere three cards as it does not have the four cities necessary for a third card….Minos does have a Talent left, which it could spend to buy a card, but as the player, I decide I will hold on to it as I am going to need it in my war with Mycenae.

I draw 3- Local Famine, which will help with that…but then draw 98 – Sea Peoples Invade. This is a Must Play card.  It is played by the Civilization with the fewest VP…which, to my despair, is Mycenae.   This places four Black tiles in a Sea area, and four more in every adjacent land area.  As it must be played to do the victimized player the most harm, that will be off the coast of Anatolia.  Thus four Black tiles appear in the Cilician Straight (where one Phoenician Tile sits), four in Cilicia, where Minos has a city, and four more in each of the two areas of Cyprus where the Phoenicians have cities.  Finally, four go in Tarsus…but as there are two Black Tile already present, only two more are added as four is the stacking limit.

The Sea Peoples could have done more harm to Minos had they appeared one Area to the west, as that would have had them pop up in both Minoan cities…but it also would have popped them up in the Mycenaean areas – and as per the list of priorities, the NPC will not play cards to harm itself if it has a choice.  So woe to Minos and Phoenicia.

The Sea Peoples Invade

Minos does get a replacement for the Must Play, and draws 20-Superstition Strikes, which can also help me out in my war, and 18-Golden Age, a wealth card which can certainly help my cause.

Finally, Mycenae draws three cards, and as it has two Talents, it spends both for cards, thus drawing five cards in total:  24 Widespread Plague,   30 Corruption both of which will hurt me quite badly, plus 73-War Machines, 8-Assassin (which can kill a Great Person Card, of which I have none) and finally, 6-Strategos – one of the best Competition Cards in the deck.

Turn Two and Beyond

Rather than go into the full blow by blow description of game action, let me summarize what followed in Turn Two.

During the Exploration phase, I draw Black from the Tile Pool for the now vacant Thessaly – where three of those Barbarians appear, and drew White tiles from the Pool for the few empty sea areas next to those occupied by Minoans.  This means Egypt will not appear this turn – but might later on.

As turn order is based on number of cities in each Civilization’s possession, Phoenicia will go first, then Minos and finally Mycenae.

The first thing to do is decide if Phoenicia is hostile.  This is determined by drawing tiles from the Civilization Pool.  Tiles are drawn for each of several applicable reasons, if more White than Black are drawn, the civilization is peaceful, if ANY Black is drawn that Civilization is hostile to the player.

Phoenicia draws only one tile from the pool – for being adjacent to the player. (Cilician Straits – Cilicia).  It would draw more if we were already hostile, if Minos had more cities than Phoenicia, and if I had more victory points, none of which apply. (The player can also make a peace offering with a Hostile Civilization by paying talents or expending Cards, but as I have only a single Talent I will save it. As ill fortune would have it, a Black is drawn (3 of the 10 Tiles in the cup are Black, so that was a bit of bad luck!)

Now I am screwed.

Hostile Phoenicia gets its growth.  It will get four Tiles as per the rules (for Sea Areas, Commerce – i.e. being adjacent to other Civilizations and a fourth special to Phoenicia Tile that must be placed at Sea).

Phoenician Warships

The Phoenicians, however, are under attack by the Black Tiled Sea Peoples, and their first priority is to defend themselves. Thus, two of their four Tiles will go in those two areas, bringing them to full 4-Tile stacks.  The other two Tiles will go into the deep sea areas (where only Minos and Phoenicia can go at this period in the game) as that is where I also have Tiles.  As per the rules, no competition can occur in deep sea areas – which is fine for Phoenicia, who gets a victory point just for being there along with two other sea areas (one VP for every four sea areas).

This game, so far, has not been bad for me …but when that hand of six cards gets unleashed, all hell will come down upon my head.

I am next.  My growth is only four tiles…I place one in each of my areas in Anatolia — the one being attacked by Sea Peoples, the other, as it should be one of the key targets for the Mycenaeans….I also place Tiles in the sea off Minos, as Minoa gets a bonus in naval combat, and that will slow the Mycenaeans down, as by the rules they must equal and then exceed by one Tile in an area before going forward.

Finally, Mycenae goes, and gets three tiles (the minimum guaranteed).  As per its priority, it will add one to each of its stack of two, creating cities, and then will place one Tile at sea toward my nearest city…the Minoan sea

CARD PLAY – Death From Above

ACIS game structure now calls for Card Play, which is where I am at a severe disadvantage…having only three cards and my opponents having 11 between them.  As before, each Civilization plays a Card, then each Civilization plays a second card in Turn sequence rotation until each has passed or is out of cards…and I, as Minos, will be passing early.

As the Phoenician Cards come raining down, they gain two Talents from the Sea Route to Britain (and they already had two from last turn), and strengthen their back field in the east with Religious Fervor (a card which allows them to add tiles where they have tiles already, so it will not hurt me.  Their False Prophet Card will not be useful against me unless I play Golden Age, which it can negate (and knowing that, I will retain the Card for another use). Furthermore, it’s Traitor and other Phoenician Competition Cards will thankfully not hurt me this turn as we are not in Competition anywhere on the map (at least not yet).

Mycenae, however, has five cards, two of which can hurt me (Corruption and Plague) but at least as we are not in a Competition on land, so I will be safe from their War Machines and they have no place to use Strategos against me (as we co-exist in the Sea having only a single Tile each).

Fortunately, I get to play a Card before they do, and play   Local Famine to knock down one of their two cities (that in my old Home Area of Minos).

Mycenae hits me with Plague on round one, and then with Corruption on round two of the Card Play Phase.  I passed in round two, as my Superstition Card can not help me this turn, but I may need it in a later turn for defense, and why play Golden Age just to have the Mycenaeans kill it with their False Prophet card?  (Cards, like Talents, can be discarded in lieu of losing Tiles in Competition, or expended in the Hostility Phase to give me a chance at making a Hostile no longer be so inclined… bribes can be useful in the solitaire gaming world of ACIS).

Plague and Corruption, however, cost me dearly – reducing both of my cities and knocking down my two-stackers to singles.

The only competitions are between the Black Tile Invaders in one of my areas in Anatolia, plus the two areas of the Phoenicians on their island of Cyprus. I have no way of winning my one fight, so I will just die in Cilicia.

The Phoenicians, however, have cards and Talents to save their cities from the Sea Peoples.

In the first fight (Salamis, the eastern most), they play their Traitor Card… which eliminates all opposing Black tiles there…but they get no loot (as there is none awarded for wiping out mere Barbarians).

In the second fight, at Citium, there are still four Black and four Blue tiles. They play Card 80 Iron Mine which adds two Blue and removes one Black Tile.  That will leave them with six against two.  (The stacking limit of four Tiles only applies at the end of the Growth and Card phases, but during the Competition Phase it can be exceeded for the duration of the fight.)

During the first round of Competition, a Black invader Tile is eliminated, then a Blue (as the Phoenicians do not need to expend any Talents in lieu of losing a tile, since they are winning).  The second round starts with five Blue to a single Black.  The Black is removed.  No Blue Tiles are lost to Competition. However, at the end of the turn, two will be removed, as tiles in excess of three on land (and two at sea) are removed. So in the end they will have only three left…a victory point producing city.

Then there is the sea battle in the Cilician straights.  Four Black to one Blue…but Phoenicia has Card 75 Triremes.  That adds a Tile (thus making it four to two)..

In round one outnumbered Phoenicia would normally remove a tile, as it is outnumbered, but the Trireme card lets it get by without removing a Tile in the first round.  Black, however, must lose a tile, as there are still Blues.  Now it is three to two; Blue should remove a Tile, but it has Talents, and expends one instead.  Black loses a tile.

It is now an even fight – two Tiles each. Each side should lose a Tile.  Blue, however, expends another of its Talents, thus only Black removes.

It is now Two Blue to one Black.  The last Black Tile goes, and as Blue is alone in the area, no more Blue tiles are removed.  The old saw, “it’s good to have money”, certainly applied to this Competition resolution!

Note that there are several sea areas where Tiles of two or more colors are present…but in none of them are there two of the same color…which means there is no Competition, as “singletons” can coexist with each other.

After cleaning up the excess stacks, the board looks like this at the end of turn two…..

Phoenician Empire Rises

Victory Points are now scored.  Phoenicia still has five cities — five more points, and is in six sea areas …it gets one per four as its civilization bonus, thus gaining a sixth point. As it already has six, it now has 12.

Mycenae has a single city…it gets a point.  It’s first of the game.

Minos, sadly, has no cities.  I get one point for every four sea areas I control, but alas, there are Black, Blue and Red tiles in every sea area where I have a Tile.  I get no points, and stagnate at a mere two points.

The Turn Order is changed so that Phoenicia, with the most cities, is still going first, but Mycenae, which has a city is moved up to second while poor city-less Minos drops to third in the sequence.

End of Turn Draw

In an ACIS game, there can be a maximum of four epochs of up to four turns each.

At the end of the second and third turn of each epoch a card is drawn, if it is turn two and a card with the number 2 anywhere in its identification number is drawn, the epoch ends.  If not, play goes to turn 3. (At the end of turn 3, if a card with a 2 or 3 is drawn, the epoch ends; if not, play goes into its final turn 4.  All epochs end no later than the end of turn 4.)

I draw the top card.  It is 12-Refugees.  As 12 has a 2 in it, the epoch ends.

This, for me, is merciful…


Why? First, it causes all cards to be discarded…. I have only one moderately good card to lose and one that would be good for me; but Phoenicia has the card to negate it.  Mycenae has two very strong cards (Assassin and War Machines) and Phoenicia has the Great Prophet…these go away, along with my cards.

Next, as the Epoch is over, we shuffle the cards discards and all, and draw to see what happens at the Change of Epoch Table.

While there are many results which could help me (mostly by costing the Phoenicians tiles or victory points, or penalizing them in the upcoming card deal), I instead draw Card 55 – which as per the Change of Epoch table results in Apocalyptic Drought.  That event removes all tiles from each land area which has but a single tile.

That costs me two tiles (Mycenae and Laconia), and costs Mycenae and Phoenicia one each (in Minos and Canaan).

Mene Tekhel Upharsin

At this point, as the Biblical era King Belshazzar saw at his legendary feast described in the Book of Daniel, the handwriting is on the wall (Mene Tekhel Upharsin) and my kingdom’s days, too, are numbered.

While for a new epoch I MIGHT draw some good Cards to bring me back into the game with a chance of victory, my two opponents (and a third, Egypt, waiting in the wings) are also going to get Cards – and as both are hostile and likely to remain so, I decide that this is a good time to get myself a snack, concede, pick up the pieces and start turning the notes I have been taken into a proper after action report.

…and tomorrow, i will try again.

PS:  In the multiplayer game, a player who is down and out has a “Mulligan” ploy that allows it to abandon a lost position and come back in as another Civilization.  That option is disallowed in the Solitaire Scenarios …at least at this stage. 

PPS: We recently attended GMT East in White Plains, N.Y. and had the enjoyment of teaching and playing Ancient Civilizations of the Inner Sea through 4, 5, and 6 player games. Fred and I wish to thank everyone who stopped by to spend time with us for their feedback and the pleasure of their company.  We did have fun, eh?

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

    • thank you! i solo’d the three greek scenarios the other day. the first is defending greece (two waves, darius then marathon and salamis). the second is alexander….you have 4 to 6 turns to conquer the persians (the map obviously only covers so much of that empire)…and the third is darius …you have to stop alexander. working out very well so far. i keep going back over the older solos (fall of rome, god-kings of egypt) as well, andwhen i complete a full pass am going back into the exploratory solo game (like i just wrote about)…..

      preorders are climbing faster than anything else i have ever designed for gmt…..and we have a lot of strong interest and support from all of the GMT principals (roger, andy, gene, mark, tony)…

  1. I have always enjoyed civilization games, but they are difficult to do well – this is looking pretty good though. My biggest problem with most civ games is that the growth is more or less linear with some setbacks from time to time (I’m looking especially at you Sid). They often don’t even seem to try to capture the (often meteoric) rise of civilizations, followed eventually by stagnation and decline, which can perhaps be staved off by a great leader, which is everywhere in real history. That’s why when I saw that a player can drop out and create a new civilization mid-game, I knew I had to pre-order. I hope that that aspect of the game gets fully developed.

    • there are 19 typed pages of rules – and the Aeneas Rule (the one you refer to) takes up just over a full page….so yeah, we paid attention to that! We also made it so that you can’t just do the hokey pokey and jump in and out and in again and again….but it does provide an opportunity for a guy who is down and out to come back in, fresh and strong, and be a real contender. it is also a nice sword to hold over the heads of a guy who is hammering away at you — “strike me down, darth, and i will only come back stronger than before”

    • this is just my playtest map. a hand painted map that i had color scanned and printed… will look a lot better when the professionals get their artistic hands on it…..and i completely trust roger, mark and charlie to take my grammar school art work and make it something beautiful to see and play on…