Introduction by Fred Schachter, Game Developer: There’s material within GMT’s site for Ancient Civilizations of the Inner Sea (ACIS); which could be read as background, but this piece is being placed here in hopes it will engender a bit more “back & forth” with readers as follow-up to Chris’ last InsideGMT article (Parts 1, 2, and 3) concerning his experience with ACIS’ The God Kings of Egypt solitaire scenario. You are encouraged to contact the ACIS Team with any and all comments and questions.
Please note this is an After Action Report of one of many ACIS Solitaire Scenarios being play tested. Some are finished and some still in need of various degrees of development and play-balance “tweaking”.
Of course we’re also play testing the “live” versions of the game and having a blast doing so.
So with no further ado, here’s ACIS Co-Designer Chris Vorder Bruegge’s report of his experiences fending off the mighty Persian Empire with his plucky and stalwart Greeks. Ah, after reading this I’m planning another viewing of “300”.
This solitaire play after action report is intended to give readers insight into the game system, the solitaire approach, and how Mark G. McLaughlin, my co-designer, and I are altering things to balance these scenarios. Of course, all this is intended to provide those who acquire Ancient Civilizations of the Inner Sea (ACIS) an entertaining, quick playing, easy-to-learn, fun, and exciting game with ample replay value as one tries to achieve victory in tough, challenging, yet winnable situations.
Let’s set the scene with Mark McLaughlin’s introduction to ACIS’ Greeks and Persians Solitaire Scenario.
In this iteration of the game, we allowed the Persian Land Power (P-L), which uses Egypt’s Civilization Display, to add one of their Green Tiles to each Land Area that has but a single Tile. This special growth rule builds the P-L into a formidable imperial engine of fearsome power, which they did not have in the prior version of this scenario. As we’ll learn, it may have inadvertently created a kind of Frankenstein, all too powerful Greek-killing machine, which shall need future adjustment… but not just yet (and, of course, that’s the fun of play testing).
In addition to the P-L, there’s also the P-S, the Persian Sea Power, which is considered another Civilization, in this case using the Phoenician Civilization Display and Red Tiles, but without that Civilization’s special benefits. Both Persian Civilizations in this scenario are called Powers: to threaten the plucky Greeks (me) with extinction.
The Greeks, which use the Mycenae Civilization Display, are supposed to use Blue Tiles, but this particular play tester cannot distinguish the Green Persian from Blue Greek Tiles.
Consequently, Purple tiles are employed in this game for the P-L (Persian Land Power). I’m likely not alone with this affliction, so players similarly challenged could mark their Tiles with a letter, for example, “G” for Green, to alleviate potential confusion. No need for that today.
This color clarification only applies when looking at the two photos included with this AAR.
Now onto the game! This Scenario begins with Epoch II (Darius) and unless ending with an automatic victory, goes on into Epoch III (Xerxes).
Initial Set Up Card Draw:
The Persian Land Power (P-L) draws Great Person: Orator (Card 17), and Pirate Raids (57).
The Persian Sea power (P-S) draws Coinage (46) and Great Person: Demagogue (47).
The Greeks (Gr) draw Sacrificial Altar(57), and Great Person: Pontifex (54)- which is a “Negate” card: this can cancel one of the Persian cards, including a MUST PLAY card when it is inflicted (a handy ability to have).
As an aside, here’s an extract from the Rule Book describing Negate Cards:
Additionally, by special scenario rules, I also have assigned to the Greeks the cards: Triremes, Armored Infantry and Academy of Sciences. Triremes, a Naval Competition Card which provides a nautical battle advantage, may be used in one Sea Area every turn and is not discarded. It may be drawn in subsequent turn’s Competition rounds automatically by the Greeks if desired as one of their hand cards.
Armored Infantry provides a Land battle advantage and Academy of Sciences lets me, for three turns (each symbolized by one of my Tiles upon it), choose three Cards from the top of the draw pile and keep one of them. Of course, any MUST PLAY card selected, well, must be played.
Hopefully, these Greek special benefits, including those inherent to the basic Mycenae Civilization, will suffice my stalwart defense of beleaguered Greece.
Order of Play, per the game rules, is P-L then Gr then P-S
Epoch II Turn 1 (E2/T-1)
The Persian Land Power (P-L)
Resettlement Phase: Normally, at this time, a player may remove Tiles except from cities (Land Areas with three Tiles) to use for growth and to abandon places which seem hopeless to defend: e.g. against a Barbarian horde. In solitaire play, however, the non-player Powers P-L and P-S, may never voluntarily remove Tiles. The Gr player found no need to do this throughout the game. So this is one phase of play I’ll not further mention in this AAR.
P-L gets a minimum of three Tiles because it has little in the way of two Tile Settlement Land Areas, most of its settled Areas are three Tile cities. However, P-L also gets the Egypt Civilization’s bonus: which is two additional Purple Tiles and one talent of Gold.
The solitaire system dictates where P-L places these five Tiles. First priority is to replenish up to three Tiles in any of its cities, but no need for that as they’re all already at full strength.
The next priority is to build up its one Tile “subsistence farming” Land Areas to provide future growth by converting them into Settlements. So a Tile is added to each Land Area along the Eastern edge of the map: Carchemesh, Hamath, Palmyra, Canaan, Sinai.
That’s OK, think I, no hostile action initiated against the revolting Ionian Greek territories in Lydia, Phrygia and Troy, at least not yet (But they can hear the cadence of a vast multitude of sandal shod feet just beyond sight.).
Greece earns four Tiles of growth from eight Sea Areas occupied plus two for trade (with each of the Persian Powers). Greece decides to play defense for the long haul and needs to build up for future growth if possible. So my six Blue Tiles are placed: One each to the Minoan Sea, Myrtoan Sea, Troy, Phrygia, Lydia and Sea of Sicily.
P-S gets four Red Tiles plus two for trade for a total of six. Its placement priority, per Mark’s cleverly programmed solitaire system, is to head towards a Greek Gold treasure city (Laconia, Mycenae, Thessaly and Syracuse or any other treasure city such as Macedonia (three black tiles and a Gold Tile are there).
The Persians place two Tiles to the Minoan Sea. By matching the Greeks there (and the maximum of a color allowed in a Sea Area), the P-S can chain through that Area to place two of their Tiles in the Myrtoan Sea. P-S has two Tiles remaining and cannot attack a Greek city, so it disperses one Tile in each of the two Deep Sea Areas (Central and Eastern Mediterranean). Note that after this playtest we agreed to bar any Tiles from being placed in the two Deep Sea Areas, but that was determined after this playtest AAR recording.
E2/T-1 Card Play
P-L sends Pirate Raids against the Greeks, removing one Blue Tile from the Myrtoan, Minoan and Icarian Seas and placing one Black Tile in each.
Gr activates the Academy of Sciences card by placing three Blue Tiles on the card from its supply. This card’s benefit may commence during the card draw phase of the next turn.
P-S plays Great Person: Demagogue. This would remove four Gr tiles, but Gr counters with the Pontifex card, which negates the Demagogue. Both cards are discarded. (Imagine how a live Persian player would react to that!)
P-L cannot play the Orator card so it passes. In ACIS, when that happens, it means other than playing a Negate card, no further cards may be played for that phase.
Gr passes, deciding not to use Sacrificial Altar, except maybe to avoid losing a Tile during the upcoming competition phase.
P-S opens a mint (the Coinage card) and places four Red Tiles in at least three areas. This means it could put two Tiles in one Area and one Tile in two other Areas. But the special rules of the scenario limit losses from Gold treasure cities to one per card. So P-S decides to invade Crete by placing two P-S Tiles in Minos and one each in the Icarean and Ionian Seas. Had it placed the Tile in the Aegean Sea, there would be no Competition and the Red Tile would die during the Sea Domination Phase.
As an aside, here’s an extract from the Rule Book explaining what Sea Domination is.
E2/T-1’s card play ends.
There are no city battles (yes, as per my last AAR, I’ll keep calling ACIS competitions battles), so we will follow the action East to West and then North to South as the rules require.
Battle of the Minoan Sea: Here two P-S Tiles are facing a Gr Tile and a Black pirate Tile. The Greeks play no card on this battle, so both the Blue and Black Tiles are eliminated as they are each less than the two P-S tiles present. That leaves two Red P-S Tiles occupying the Sea Area.
Battle of the Myrtoan Sea: Again, two P-S Tiles face one Gr and one Black pirate Tile. Here Greece plays the Trireme Competition Card, so one Blue Tile is added and the Greek player will not remove a Tile during the first round of action. In that first round, the P-S loses a Tile and the Black tile dies as well. In round two, P-S must remove first which ends the battle with two Gr Tiles remaining in that Sea Area.
Battle at Minos pits two P-S Tiles against one Gr Tile; but here I elect to use one of Greece’s two White Tiles that are its bonus every turn due to using the Mycenae Civilization Display Card. Greece then spends a Talent rather than eliminate a Tile which forces P-S to lose a Tile. In the second round, the P-S remaining Tile dies first leaving two Blue Tiles in Minos… a victory for Greece!
Just as an FYI, this leaves a Red P-S and a Black Tile coexisting in the Icarian Sea and a P-S and Gr Tile coexisting in the Ionian Sea.
This ends the Competition Phase.
Victory Point calculation for end of turn 1:
P-L has five cities, thus 5 VPs.
P-S has three cities for 3 VPs.
In this scenario, the two Persian Powers add their VP’s together and then divide the total by two… so Persia has 4VP.
Gr has four cities for 4VPs. The game is currently tied!
Order of Play, as in the regular ACIS game, is determined by number of cities, so for the next turn will be P-L, Gr and P-S.
Epoch II Turn 2 (E2/T2)
E2/T-2 Card draw:
In this scenario, the Persian players/Powers are both limited to two cards plus cards for city bonuses during the game’s first Epoch (Epoch II). Greece gets three cards plus city bonuses. The city bonus is one extra card for every four cities (fractions are dropped).
P-L draws three cards and will also buy one card more with its Talent for a total of four cards.
P-L first draws Card 84: Sub Saharan Salt Route, which will provide lots of Talents of Gold when played.
P-L’s second draw is a MUST PLAY card Sea Peoples Invade (98)! In this scenario, this card is not used in its usual manner, it provides the P-S (not L-P) four Red Tiles that must be placed immediately. Per this game’s rules, four Red Tiles attack the Mycenae Land Area given that Red Tiles are already adjacent to that Gold treasure city… for such an attack is a Persian Power’s number one priority.
This lets P-L pull a replacement card, which is Bribery (15). When P-L pulls its third card it gets another MUST PLAY card, Mesopotamian Empire (99), which in this scenario gives P-L four more Purple Tiles to place immediately. One of these goes to Libya to boost growth and three are placed against Lydia’s Greek rebels. Note: P-L is not adjacent to a Gold city so it must instead attack the nearest Greek city or settlement if it can.
P-L then gets to pull a replacement card for the second MUST PLAY invasion card and gets the Competition card Unreliable Mercenaries (72). For its fourth card, purchased with a Talent, it gets Storms at Sea (5). Ouch! Those two MUST PLAY cards gave the Persians eight (8!) additional Tiles.
Greece gets three cards plus one for cities. It chooses Triremes as one (a special card assigned to Greece at the commencement of play can be returned to the Greek hand as a new turn’s draw card). The next three cards are Heroic Saga (25), Great Person: Healer (96) and Great Person: Captive Queen (32). Greece then uses Academy of Sciences, removing one Blue Tile from that card back into supply and draws three cards, but it may keep only one, discarding the other two. It keeps Millenial Earthquakes (40): a truly nasty card.
Greece now has too many cards in its hand when counting the still available Armored Infantry. It discards Sacrificial Altar. Note: there is a limit of six cards in a player hand at any time. This does not include cards that have Tiles on them.
P-S gets only two cards: Hippodrome (77), and Religious Fervor (14).
P-L gets 8 tiles for basic growth, two more for the Nile (plus a Talent of Gold) and two Tiles for trade for a total of 12 Tiles. P-L is still not adjacent to any Greek treasure cities, or any city for that matter, and it has built up all its one Tile Land Areas, so it goes to sea: Two Tiles are placed in Icarian Sea, two Tiles in the Aegean Sea and then four Tiles attack Thessaly, a Greek Gold treasure city. Its final four Tiles attack Macedonia, which is a Barbarian Black Tile city; but there is a tantalizing Gold Tile there to attract the Persians.
Greece gets a basic growth of six Tiles plus two for trade for a total of 8. It reinforces Mycenae and Thessaly to four Tiles each and then allocates one Tile to Aegean Sea, Laconia (expecting P-L to attack there), Ionian Sea, Minos and two Tiles in the Minoan Sea.
P-S has a basic growth of six plus two for trade. Two Tiles to the Myrtoan Sea, and then four Tiles hit Laconia as expected, and one Tile is placed in the Ionian Sea and one to the Sea of Sicily.
To read the rest of this Ancient Civilizations of the Inner Sea After Action Report, stay tuned for Part 2, coming next week!