Author: unknown

Publisher: Warfrog 2000

Awards: none



Another game presented at Essen 2000 by Warfrog is Empires of the Ancient World. Due to the fair amount of games already available on the topic of warring nations in the ancient meditarranean area, I was quite curious to see whether this game actually succeeded in offering anything new.

When seeing the game for the first time, a certain feeling of dissatisfaction certainly is caused by the gameboard. The map given of the meditarranean area certainly looks a bit dull, and the player will directly think whether he can remember any games featuring at least a more attractive gameboard. However, to my mind such a preliminary rejection of the game would not in any way reflect the value the game gets by its rules. True enough, the rules once again are not nearly as complex as rules from any usual wargame, but on the other hand the game is not a usual wargame at all.

At this place I am going to skip commenting on some standard rules like Revolts or the collecting of trade income, and I will directly go over to the centerpiece of the game - the action rounds. In each action round a player may basically perform only one action of his choice: The more easier actions are the placing of additional trade markers or fortifying conquered areas. The more interesting ones are the collecting of cards (reinforcing the player´s army) or combat itself. However, first a word must be said about the concept of an army in this game. On the gameboard, the players do not move armies in the sense of a typical wargame - instead, they simply have occupation markers in the territories which they own. When a player wants to invade another player´s province, he simply declares such an attack into one of the provinces neighbouring his own. When the attack is declared combat arises, and this will be simulated through the playing of cards.

At the beginning of the game, each player owns a set of standard empire army cards which he can use in battle (consisting of some standard units like swordsmen, spearmen or skirmishers). However, by the drawing of additional army cards through the draw-cards action, players may get a whole variety of additional units into their army: Cavalry, Artillery, Archers, Siege Towers, Elephants, Military Leaders etc. To prepare for combat, each player now secretly chooses five of his available army cards and sorts them into his battle pile (the order of which may not be changed during combat, and certain rules have to be observed - so fast units always go first etc.). When both players have selected their units, they simultaneously turn over the upper cards of their battle-decks and work out the combat between these two units. For working out the combat, a delicate system of special skills held by all the different units has been introduced. A unit´s basic strength typically depends on a dice roll, but certain types of units get an advantage (modificators) over others, while other units are strong but risky to deploy. The winner of this skirmish temporarily gets one point of battle advantage. This he may lose again if the other player wins the next card duel, or he may increase his lead by winning the next duel and thus getting another point. After all five duels have been worked out, the player with most battle advantage wins the battle. However, if ever a player should possess three points of battle advantage, the enemy will be routed and the battle is over.

At the end of the battle, the winner not only occupies (or defends) the province in which the battle occurred, but furthermore both sides actually my lose units from those participating in the battle, depending on the number of successful blocks issued in this battle by the opponent. For each such a block a card is randomly drawn from the player´s cards which participated in the battle in question. However, the player may keep the card if it is just one of his standard empire cards. He only has to discard the card if it was one of his special cards which he had acquired through drawing cards.

In the end, players score victory points for controlling provinces, and whoever player has most points after four turns has won the game.

Just like Way Out West, this game also features some quite clever playing mechanisms, especially in the working out of combat results. However, some minor criticism is appropriate here. Despite the complexity of the possible combat results, the finally victory in a battle is difficult to calculate. Constructing the card-deck for the battle is somewhat difficult, since players have to prepare for many eventualities which simply cannot all be covered. But apart from this element of randomness which is foreign to fully-pledged strategy games, the game offers a strong and well-thought playing mechanism. Also, it still keeps an efficient balance between luck and strategy (I would perhaps draw a comparison to Axis & Allies by MB), so that many players definately will see the attractiveness of the game.

The game contains ENGLISH and GERMAN rules !

Looking for this game? Visit Funagain Games!

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Copyright © 2006 Frank Schulte-Kulkmann, Essen, Germany