Introduction by Game Developer Fred Schachter: A previous two-part InsideGMT article pitted one of the Ancient Civilizations of the Inner Sea (ACIS) designers, Mark McLaughlin, solitaire against the trials and tribulations of this exciting, quick-to-play, and fun game. Links to Parts 1 and 2 of the article can be found here and here.
To best appreciate this article, the reader may wish to reference InsideGMT’s other content regarding ACIS for better context and reading enjoyment. This is not necessary, but it could help enhance your appreciation of the game action. Furthermore, this article provides more detail than its predecessors regarding ACIS’ game mechanics… and there’s more to come with future pieces as the game’s development continues.
This is a replay of Mark’s co-designer Chris Vorder Brugge’s experience with another of the game’s solitaire contests: The God King of Egypt.
Can Chris fare better than his good friend Mark’s InsideGMT ACIS solitaire game experience (or the historical “Land of the Pharaohs” for that matter)? Read on!!!
This solitaire game of Ancient Civilizations of the Inner Sea pits the live player (me) against two invading forces: the Sea Peoples and the Hittites, who still count as the game’s second invader when they become the Assyrians and subsequently Persians later in the game.
Of the Solitaire games designed thus far by my co-designer Mark G. McLaughlin; I understand this one favors the solitaire player the least. But we’ll see about that.
At least I now have a full set of lovely wooden pieces, likely the same as those which will accompany the published game, courtesy of GMT from when Mark and Fred attended the GMT East 2017 gaming convention. They are sooo nice… thank you GMT!!!
But first, to get you into the proper spirit for reading this piece, here’s The God King of Egypt solitaire scenario’s introduction as extracted from game’s draft Play Book.
After Action Report of a Playing of ACIS’ The God King of Egypt
Epoch I, Turn 1 (E1/T-1)
After receiving cards to start the game (Must Play cards are ignored and immediately replaced during this initial deal); Egypt’s nemesis, the Hittites, go first, followed by the Sea Peoples and then my very own Egypt. Egypt controls three Client States, each with a treasure city, along the Levantine coast: Tyre, Phoenicia, and Al Mina. After cards are dealt, growth is the first phase of a turn of ACIS.
E1/T-1 Growth Phase
The Hittites earn their minimum of four Tiles because they have no Land Areas set up for population growth. Those are Land Area settlements of two Tiles each. However, the Hittites do have three 1VP each generating cities, having three Tiles (but the trade-off is cities do not provide growth in the form of new Tiles). These are in Troy, Galicia and Carchemish.
This means the Hittites do not have to build up their home territories, which are at the needed maximum of three Tiles. Their next objective, according to the solitaire game rules, or system, is to attack or move closer to a Gold treasure city. The Hittites are already adjacent to my Al Mina client, so they attack there with all four growth Tiles.
They would have to put at least three to enter that Land Area and the rules allow an over stack of one additional Tile during growth. This ends the growth phase for the Hittites.
THE SEA PEOPLES:
The Sea Peoples also earn only their minimum of four Tiles because they too have no Land Areas set up for growth and do not have enough Sea Areas to get them above their minimum anyway. Both of their home bases, the island of Crete’s two Land Areas, are already cities, so this frees them to use their four Tiles to advance toward a Gold treasure city. Therefore, two Tiles are allocated to the Egyptian Sea, the maximum number permitted in a Sea Area.
Because they do not have enough Tiles to go into the Nile Delta, which is already holding two Egyptian Tiles, The Sea Peoples are free to place them where they can best reach a Gold city in the next turn. They place two Tiles in the Gulf of Sidon, which is adjacent to the treasure city of Tyre. This ends growth for the Sea Peoples.
Egypt gets a growth Tile for a settlement in the Sinai, one additional Tile for presence in two Sea Areas, and one for Trade with both the Sea Peoples and the Hittites. Yes, a player can get trade from growth with civilizations that are hostile; ACIS is not purely a game of warfare and the Competition Phase, when it comes, does not only represent armed conflict.
In addition, the Egyptian home benefit for the Land Areas of Egypt is one additional Tile for growth AND if there is a city (three Tiles) present, they get another Tile and a Talent: for Egypt is a wealthy land indeed when it is unsullied by invaders.
A Talent in the regular ACIS game is a White Tile which represents Gold or any other portable treasure a player may imagine. In The God King of Egypt scenario it also signifies a “treasure city” possessing a large, prosperous, well-organized, well-defended site, with strong walls, citadels and standing garrisons. There are several special scenario rules governing them.
The Egyptians started the game with three Talents, so now they have four. I place their six Purple growth Tiles as follows. Again, they have cities in their three Nile River Land Areas so, with my homeland secure, they are free to place them elsewhere.
Egypt cannot move the Tiles of its Client States at Al Mina, Phoenicia, and Tyre, nor do those States ever get their own growth. However, Egypt in this scenario, can swap out their own Tiles to give to its Client States. Because Al Mina is being attacked, one Egyptian Tile is made Blue (Client State color), and is added to Al Mina, giving that city the permitted over stack of one for a total of four Tiles. Three are placed in Libya, which started the game containing two Black (Barbarian) Tiles. One Tile is placed in Petra.
In this scenario, invaders cannot build Wonders*. Egypt starts the game with The Great Pyramid in the Egypt Land Area. This allows the Egyptian player five times during the game to alter the order of play and/or get a Talent. Each opportunity to do so is signified by five Egyptian Purple Tiles placed on the Wonder’s Card, one of which is removed each time the Wonder’s benefit is used.
As we shall observe, this helped me a little early on, but for most of the game Egypt ended up moving last most of the time due to having the fewest cities (Land Areas with three Tiles); which was when I preferred to take my turn anyway. The Talents, however, were welcome.
At this time, the end of the growth phase, Egypt decides to buy an additional Wonder, The Grand Temple, which once built provides me the Egyptian Tile removed from this Wonder Card along with a bonus White Tile, to be placed in a single Land Area during each competition phase. Furthermore, it removes one Tile of the opposition.
As Egypt will be in competition quite a bit, this seems is a good Wonder for Egypt and worth the investment. It is placed in Kush. Also, Egypt began the game with a special card, Great Person: Architect. It allows a Wonder to be built for three rather five Tiles from the map. One Tile is removed from the Red Sea and two from Petra.
E1/T-1 Card Play
Card play now begins for turn I-1. Sequence of play is per the same turn order used during growth. Card play continues until all playable cards in a hand are exhausted or a player passes.
The Hittites, therefore, play first. They unleash a Massive Earthquake on Al Mina which allows them to remove two Blue (Client State) Tiles from Al Mina. However, lucky for me, there is a special scenario rule that states no more than one Tile can be removed from a treasure city by card; so only one Blue Tile departs. The card also allows the same fate to an adjacent Land Area, so one Blue Tile is removed from Al Mina’s neighboring treasure city, Phoenicia.
The Sea Peoples now play Command of the Seas on the Egyptian Sea. This prevents Egypt from adding anything to that Sea Area through card play. There are two Egyptian Tiles facing off two Sea Peoples Tiles. The Sea Peoples hope to gain mastery of the Egyptian Sea as a gateway into the Nile Delta and the treasure city there.
As Egypt I play Religious Fervor, which replaces the two Massive Earthquake removed Blue Tiles: one each in Al Mina and Phoenicia. This will hopefully aid my client states fend off those evil invaders.
The Hittites now assign a Schism on Libya, where Egypt has three Tiles. Hence, three Purple (Egyptian) Tiles are replaced in Libya with three Black Tiles (Barbarians). This creates an over stack of five Black Tiles, but the card temporarily allows this. Alas, this quenches my ambition to expand the Egyptian Empire eastward along the North African coast… at least for now.
The Sea Peoples pass because they have two competition only cards in their hand and cannot play them at this time.
Egypt plays a Local Famine on Al Mina removing one Green (Hittite) Tile. The Hittites must either lose another Tile or sacrifice a card. As they now have no hope of taking Al Mina this turn, they remove a second Green Tile.
Hittites now play Captive Queen (the Helen of Troy card so to speak). This allows them to put two Green Tiles in the Strait of Al Mina.
This ends the card phase.
E1/T-1 Competition Phase
In Ancient Civilizations of the Inner Sea the next phase is called competition, because as earlier stated, it includes all manner of jostling among Civilizations including cultural, economic, and, of course, war.
In this solitaire The God King of Egypt game, it is pretty clear the invaders are at war with Egypt, so we will refer to the competitions in each Land Area or Sea Area as a battle (something I cannot resist). During competition, or war, over stacking without limit is now allowed based on special abilities a Civilization may have and/or the play of competition cards. The battles must proceed with treasure cities being resolved first. The sequence then goes East to West, and within that direction, North to South.
The Battle of Al Mina
The first battle will be at Al Mina, where the Hittites have two Green Tiles facing four Blue Tiles. The Hittites go first at declaring whether they are adding special Tiles or cards to this particular battle. They have no cards remaining, but the Hittites, to represent fierceness through use of their fearsome chariots, get two White Tiles during each competition phase for Land Area deployment. As the Hittites use the Troy Civilization Display for this scenario, one of these may only be used at Troy, which is not anywhere near an enemy. Since the Hittites have only this battle, they add their second White Tile to the Al Mina battle.
During battle, Tiles are removed in specific order. There are no dice in ACIS! When one side has fewer Tiles than the other, it must remove one Tile first (if tied, removal is simultaneous). If any of its Tiles remain, then the other side must remove one. When only one side has two Tiles and the other just eliminated their last Tile, it need not remove any more. This mutual elimination continues until either only one side has Tiles or both sides have but one Tile remaining, which are then allowed to coexist as subsistence farming communities.
To avoid losing a Tile from the map; a card or Talent may be substituted… which can occasionally result in some tough player choices.
So, in this battle the Hittites first lose their White Tile. Egypt has four Blue Tiles there, so loses one. The Hittites then lose one of their two Green Tiles. Egypt would prefer not to lose another Blue Tile as they wish to keep the Client State treasure city, so they give up one of their four Talents from treasury: a Holding Area upon their Civilization Display. The Hittites then are compelled to lose their remaining Green Tile. Consequently, this battle ends with the Egyptians holding Al Mina with three Blue Tiles and its Gold Treasure Tile remaining in place.
That concludes this phase’s only Land Area battle. The action now moves to the waters.
The Straits of Mina Naval Battle
In the Straits of Mina, a Blue Tile faces two Green Hittite Tiles and neither side plays competition cards. The Blue Tile is removed first. As Green is the only Tile color remaining, no Green Tiles are lost. The Hittite Navy triumphs!
The Gulf of Sidon Naval Battle
In the Gulf of Sidon, the Sea Peoples had two Red Tiles facing one Blue Tile. The Sea Peoples have a special ability, due to using the Minos Civilization Display in this scenario, of adding a White Tile to four Sea Area battles. Two of those are reserved for the Sea Areas immediately around Crete; while two are useable anywhere there is a Sea Battle. So, the Sea Peoples, governed by the system, add one White Tile to the Gulf of Sidon.
I see no advantage in wasting expenditure of any Talent from my treasury; so Egypt removes its one Blue Tile. Red removes the White Tile only because it is not needed and once deployed during a competition phase, cannot be shifted elsewhere. Two Red Tiles remain and The Sea Peoples take the Gulf of Sidon.
The Egyptian Sea Naval Battle
In the Egyptian Sea, the Command of the Sea card played by The Sea Peoples will prevent Egypt from playing any competition card or lose a card or Talent to satisfy a Tile loss. The Sea People added their second White Tile to that area giving them three Tiles to two Purple Egyptian Tiles. Egypt removes a Purple Tile, The Sea Peoples remove their White Tile, and Egypt removes its remaining Tile giving the Sea People command of the Egyptian Sea with two Red Tiles and access, next turn, to my Nile Delta treasure city.
Once all competitions are resolved, victory points are calculated. In this The God King of Egypt scenario, that’s only important if Egypt survives to the end of Epoch III (which could be as many as ll more turns). But, hopeful of eventual victory, I track victory points to see how the antagonists stack up.
E1/T-1 Victory Point Tabulation & Determine Turn 2 Play Sequence
The Hittites have three cities and thus earn three VPs. The Sea Peoples have two cities but have a special ability that gives them a VP for every four Sea Areas they occupy unopposed by any other color Tiles, including Black. They control six such Areas, but lose fractions, so gain only 1 VP for such control. The Sea Peoples, thus, earn three VPs.
Egypt has three cities along the Nile in Kush, Egypt and the Nile Delta: 3 VPs. They also have two Wonders on the board earning one VP each. In this scenario, they also get a VP for each client Gold piece still on the map: that’s three more—one each for Al Mina, Phoenicia, and Tyre. Egypt zooms ahead, at least for now, to an impressive 8 VP.
The next task is to see what the turn order will be for upcoming turn two. In this case, Egypt would probably go first with the most cities (due to the tie-breaker rule) followed by the Hittites and then the Sea Peoples. But Egypt has the Great Pyramids Wonder, which allows them for five turns to change the order of play. Egypt elects to use one of the five Tiles on the Wonder card and moves itself to last in turn order and receives a Talent. Hence the sequence will be Hittites, Sea Peoples, then Egypt, the same order as the first turn’s.
Stay tuned for Part 2, coming soon!