Review: Myrmes – ants are smarter, than you think

Myrmes - packaging

There is something going on in the anthill. Buzzing is everywhere, as we were in bee hive instead. From explorers came news, that in the vicinity of their home, a second anthill appeared, with enemy blue ants. Blue ants are known for their aggression and by fact, that they eat their own kind. They are cannibals.

Maybe you never imagined, that ants can be intelligent and more like us. While they are a thousand times smaller and lighter, than we are, they can lift up to fifty times of their weight. Can you imagine, that you were just walking around with your car on your shoulder?

But there is much more to these small tickly creatures, than we all know. For example, they keep and breed greenflies for food and protect them from Ladybugs. They live socially in colonies, which have a clearly defined hierarchy, and in particular the so-called collective intelligence.

Myrmes - game is ready

And yet today, you shall respond to their call to arms against blue enemies. But if you choose to accept, you will lead not only military missions, but you will be also responsible for operation of the whole anthill. Yes, it may seem simple at first. But there is a log going on inside ant tribe. And its getting really dangerous for these small six-legged runners out there on the surface.

Finally, there is game, that tried to get you interested during last year’s fair Spiel in Essen. We obtained our review copy there too. And now it’s time for article about it. Its author is and nice colorful illustrations were prepared y . Myrmes production company in Europe is Ystari Games, while takes over distribution on the American continent.

The game is hidden in a landscape box. On its cover, there are a beautiful colored toadstools, under which are ants marching into battle. They are proceeding in a flock, but we can see only a few of them, because they quickly disappear behind a hill. But we do not doubt for a moment, that there are there dozens, maybe hundreds, of them hidden from our sight.

Myrmes - game is ready

We are getting impatient and quickly lift the lid. We put seven pages manual aside and continue digging. This thinness of rules is a bit contrary to number of components. Maybe Myrmes will be a simple game in the end..

Most important of all is the game board with illustration of the battlefield. You will find green meadow with lakes on it, as well as clay and rocky areas. Everything you need to use to your benefit and in every terrain, there is something useful hidden for you. Around board twists a trail of leaves used to monitor acquired victory points. In the lower part of board, there are four squares indicating seasons and a two control boxes at the top – one fileed with hexagons and second with squares. Their meaning will be explained in a while.

Now we have a series of punched cardboard pieces. At a glance, your eyes will be caught by pieces consisting of two, three, four and five hexagons. They come in four colors – for each player a set of 17 of these pieces (together in blue, yellow, red and black). During your punching quest, you also discover square pieces of tasks, white tokens and versatile pieces of subcolonies.

Myrmes - game is ready

In the players colors, there is much more. Round tokens for tunnels leading out of anthill and these four tokens are still made of cardboard. But then we start to play with wood. Eight octagonal columns of nurses, five small cubes and above all eight plastic ants, who will serve as workers and soldiers according to your needs.

List will be finished with colored cubes, that do not belong to anyone. These are raw materials and white thirty larvae and also green wooden food cubes with similar quantity. And fifteen cubes are here to represent brown clay and gray stone.

Each player has to prepare his own board with a map of ant colony. It is divided into several rooms connected by tunnels. Last one of them leads out to the surface, which has to be used wisely during the game for expansion, but primarily for food and materials gain.

Myrmes - game is ready

At the beginning of the game, players will just put game board on the table and take all components in their chosen color. Ant nurses (octagonal columns) are put into nursery, which is located on the bottom left of the player’s board, next to gray larvae room. You get also one small baby ant (= larvae) and place it in the bottom row of its room. In total there are fifteen positions for tiny ants, which will be taken care of by nannies.

Second room for nurses is a studio, where you can invent various improvements for your anthill. It is closely connected with hegaxonal part on a large board. We’ll get to its purpose later in more detail. Besides it, there is a reservoir. On top of your board, there are two really important rooms – left is barracks and second one on the right is dormitory for workers (largest room). It is here, where you put two ant miniatures at the beginning of the game – your starting workers.

Then each player places one tunnel leading from his nest on the game plan. These places are fixed and each player has his own. Importantly, amount of space available on the board varies according to the number of players. The board is marked with lines and its easy to find these sizes in the rules. They are clearly plotted for all three options (for two, three and four opponents).

Myrmes - game in progress

Preparing the colony is still not over yet. You take your round wooden chip and place it on your anthill depth indicator. You start at zero with a shallow nest, but three are three more levels below, which can be achieved over time. This section takes up the entire right side of the player board and contains also useful hints for bonuses of each level. Cardboard token with ant picture in player’s color must also be put on victory points counter on zero space.

The game board is filled with random cards of tasks. Each of the three levels will contain two of them. Others will not be used in the match. Tokens of prey (ladybug, termite and spider) must be scattered on predetermined position on the board. Then you roll three season dice and scattered them according to their color into squares in the bottom part of the plan. Winter requires a white figurine instead of dice, showing you the current year of game.

These dice determine events, which are happening on the ground over the anthill. According to number on the dice sitting on the spring spot, players put one their cube on a event scale in their colony. This determines, what advantage can they use during their actual move. Other components will create a supply next to the game board. They will help you to survive full three years, the whole game lasts.

Myrmes - game in progress

Each year is divided into four seasons – spring, summer and autumn are game phases, while winter is different and involves feeding your ants with gathered food. Players at the beginning of each season evaluate event for a given period and can change it. Cube can be moved to the left or right on the scale by as many fields as there are larvae available in player’s larvae room. In the first round, you can therefore move cube one space to each side. Events can help improve your revenue or result to certain events later during the turn.

Then players take their nurses and distribute them across the board. These creatures will raise new ants. They can bring you new workers, soldiers or larvae, depending on where you put them. Nannies can also be sent to the atelier, where they will spend the entire turn enhancing the atmosphere of your anthill. Different types of ants also require different numbers of nurses and it is up to players, how will they divide them among all rooms. And immediately can these acquired new ants (or larvae) be used in your turn.

Now is the time to go to work with your workers. They can either bring welfare to anthill or go on the surface. Workers working in your anthill bring larva, food, clay or stone for the whole colony. But once they set off through the tunnel into the sunlight, they can not go back. Instead, they will leave a mark behind them, called pheromones. These are the multi-hexagonal tiles you have in your color, which will replace figure as it arrives at its destination.

Myrmes - game in progress

Workers have a fixed maximum distance, which can they reach from their tunnel. Along the way, they can try to gather food from white prey tokens of different insects. But for their defeat, you need to have troops at your disposal in anthill. These men-at-arms will be taken from you, once they complete their attack mission. But it will usually get you enough food or even victory points. If there are still some workers moves left, you can continue moving.

At the end of ants journey, you replace his miniature with a pheromone. This is one of the tiles composed of hexagons in your color. Size you can play depends on level of your colony. For playing it, you immediately get victory points, plus you put raw materials from common stocks on it. You can gather these during harvest part of turn. Type of cubes on pheromone is determined by the surface, where this tiles is located. Pheromones can also be removed not just by your opponent, but also by yourself. But worker is needed to do this.

There is still one important thing about pheromones. They act during moving your ants as one space, enhancing your moving capabilities over time. So your ants reach further and further places as time goes by.

Myrmes - player board

Then you can perform harvest on all fertile pheromones (= still have some cubes). From each of them, you can remove one cube and put it into your anthill supply. Then the last big event follows. Its visit to the atelier. For each nurse sent into atelier and supplying them with adequate quantities of raw materials, you can perform one of available actions – improve your anthill by one level (go deeper, reach bigger pheromones and other advances), hire new nurse, create a new tunnel leading from the nest to the surface or fulfill one of the available tasks for victory points.

This is last place, where will we stop to explain. The six available tasks vary from point not only among each other, but also according, who completes it first. Reward for others players is there too. But on top of that, all who have already fulfilled task earlier, get victory points again, when goal is met later on by their opponent.

At the end of each year, players must discard a fixed number of food. This amount is therefore not determined by number of ants you own, but you know it in advance and its strictly given. Once year number three finishes, player, whose token went furthest on a victory points scale, wins.

Myrmes - game in progress

Myrmes look even at first glance like a complex game with lots of action and options. And indeed, this is really true. But in fact everything is amazingly interconnected and when one player knows it, he will quickly teach it to others. Everything makes sense here and fits together wonderfully. So its also easy to remember.

Unfortunately, only theme itself is not so tightly linked with mechanisms, as it might seem at first glance. Yes, there is pheromone laying, digging of anthill, larvae and workers. It all fits wonderfully. But equally, game can take place in any other place on Earth or beneath it. Fortunately, it is not so fundamental and glaring as in some other euro strategy games and it still feels really like working for an ant colony. You will really enjoy building an anthill with its six-legged subjects.

Success is based on thinking and planning. Without these two things, you will lose every game of Myrmes. First game is a bit chaotic, before you learn to navigate in all the coherence. You find a lot of things, that you would do differently next time. But then mechanisms begin to crystallize and you start taking the game as it was meant to be played.

Myrmes - tiles

Fortunately there is enough paths to victory and collecting victory points. Although you must willy-nilly collect nutrients for ants, many activity patterns are entirely up to you and your decisions. A wide choice of actions, however, also ranks this game among more difficult strategic games. Therefore, it is more suitable for older children, aged twelve years and up.

Is contains also very heavy materials management. Nowhere there is not written, if pantry limit (four and later six blocks) also applies to food, but we think it does. So you have to carefully think through, what you will take into your small reservoir. Otherwise, you will be standing in front of a difficult task at the end of rouns, having to throw some cubes away. You should at least use it during your turn!

And what about replayability? Strictly given positions for starting tunnels and same location every time can seem unsatisfying. There are some random elements here – different tasks every game, deployment of prey tokens and rolling season dice for events. Is that enough? More or less, yes. These randomly drawn tasks are reason, why parts are not so much alike. Yes, you are still following the same direction and thanks to identical starting point, pheromones are placed on familiar places. But some feeling of repetition will remain, although you will attack and react to other players actions differently.

Myrmes - board detail

With variable game board, match is fun in all available numbers of players. The more colonies there are, the more conflict battle you encounter, because there are only limited supplies of food on the surface. With the increasing number of players increases also game time, which in more than two players is guaranteed to exceed by far threshold of one hour, while in two, you might sometimes get under it.

Unpacked and prepared game gives you a great feel. All illustrations are beautifully complementary, not fussy and creates a compact unit. The experience is completed by ants miniatures, that will delight your eyes even more. Although in reality, they are here only to catch your eyes and are not put to much real use.

What really stands out is astonishingly clear graphics and iconography. Once you learn rules of the game, graphics provides a non-violent way to remind you of all tiny details. Everything is clear at first sight, and wonderfully designed. Here it is necessary to take off our hat before the authors, because we’ve never seen similarly described perfectionist game board before. Moreover, it does not affect that great general visual impression.

Myrmes is a strategic game, that is definitely a success. Its main drawback is less variability between individual matches. But there are quite a lot of ways to victory, in every game is different set of tasks present and therefore you also develop your colony differently. Ultimately, then, Myrmes are really enjoyable game and profit also from beautiful workmanship. You cannot say no to creating your own ant colony.

DesignerYoann Levet
ArtistArnaud Demaegd
PublisherYstari Games, ADC Blackfire Entertainment, Asterion Press, Rio Grande Games
Year Published2012
# of Players2 - 4
User Suggested # of Players Best with 4 players
Recommended with 2, 3, 4 players
(83 voters)
Playing Time120
Mfg Suggested Ages13 and up
User Suggested Ages12 and up
(19 voters)
Language DependenceNo necessary in-game text
(32 voters)
CategoryAnimals, Environmental, Farming
MechanicGrid Coverage, Grid Movement, Hexagon Grid, Network and Route Building, Worker Placement
ExpansionMyrmes: Colony Tiles
FamilyAnimals: Ants, Series: Ystari originals
Primary NameMyrmes

Infos courtesy of boardgamegeek.com. More Infos.

Review: Myrmes – ants are smarter, than you think
Final word
Myrmes is a strategic game, where you will be stomped by thousands of tiny ant legs. But you will stand up, complete everything they dreamed of and marry their queen in the end. Or is it ending for a different fairytale? We have only one certainty. You are running an anthill in this game, from its bottom to the top. Your basic labor are nannies, which take care of little newborn larvae, they are helping to raise new workers and even help you to develop your hive and accomplish tasks of your ant house. And when these workers (or soldiers) are born, you can send them on surface to spread your territory. They won’t ever come back, but they leave pheromone tracks behind to provide you with material income for few next turns. Stone and dirt will help you to do various goals. During your journey, you will have to overcome several obstacles – events in every round and also necessary nourishment at end of each year. You can fight back with luck: if you have enough larvae, then you can alter happening event into another one, which suits your interests better. And you can reach victory by several different paths, as points can be gained for many actions. In the end, Myrmes is very sophisticated game, but its not bound so tightly to its topic. Theme could be even else. But ants make for a perfectly original and entertaining choice. Unfortunately, matches seem a lot alike, as they differ only with your choices and available longterm goals. But in spite of these all scars, Myrmes is a really nice strategy game, which will surely not disappoint more demanding players.
Reader Rating0 Votes
Pros
difficult euro strategy game
perfect playing guides, whereever you look
you develop your anthil, so you can explore the surface
random events can be influenced and modified
hunger of your ant colony is firm value for each year
ant miniatures
several depth of anthill providing you better options
lots of ways to earn points
smaller board for lower player number guarantees similar experience
Cons
theme is only vaguely connected with mechanisms
seems more difficult, that it really is
all matches are lot alike
4
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