Until recently, they lived in a quiet neighborly relationship. Lately, however, situation began to be tight in both realms. A few minor incidents was enough and war was born. Both countries are now preparing for battle, which will decide ruler of their peninsula. But the fight is not decide only on battlefield. Great influence on everything is also given by economics, politics and facilities recruiting soldiers for good of their country. Antique duel begins.
Back in 2005 author Mac Gerdts introduced through publishing house PD Verlag his new game Antike. It represented conflicts taking place in Southeast Europe and was designed for two to six players. Unfortunately, playing it with two was not so great experience. Map was too large and only a few conflicts began through the match. But everyone praised it in higher numbers to be a perfect tense entertainment.
This is, why year 2012 was probably the right time, to release new version, specifically aimed at duel of two opponents. Similar games can be a real experience, as we recently tried in board game Polis: Fight for Hegemony (review). We therefore were anxious to see, if Antike Duellum is able to meet quality of its rival and offer a similarly thrilling entertainment.
Duellum in the title is hint, that gives you some indications about box experience intended only for two opponents. But at the same time, it is also the name of one of actions, that are available during the game on rondel – a popular gadget of Mr. Gerdts.
Antike Duellum has a Roman soldier on its cover, captured in battle cry, pulling a sword against an approaching enemy. On the back of the current drama, we can see a raid on one of the enemy cities. This image is oriented as portrait, as well as is the box beneath it. But it is surprisingly quite thin. Maybe that’s why you will be so surprised, when you open it and see many different components, that you would not expect.
No, there are no miniatures, but we would not expect them in here. Altogether the game’s processing and price / performance ratio is really on the level. There are a few sheets to punch out, offering 34 square cities tokens with multicolored seal (one color on each side). This indicates with which materials city supplies your war. It can be gold, iron and marble. Furthermore, there are resource tokens, gray coins, special units and twelve doublesided walls.
Most important in the entire game is its board, which is two-sided. These sides differ in areas they represent. On one side you will see all the Greek peninsula and nearby locations to the east of it (the map is similar to the one in already mentioned Polis). The other side provides a view of the Mediterranean sea and land to the north of it, stretching from the southern coast of Spain to the western borders of Greece.
Each side is divided into many smaller areas outlining cities. In the upper left corner, you will find a control, that serves both players to select actions during the game. This is that already mentioned rondel, which you can find in every game from Mac Gerdts. About its importance will we talk later on.
But if you are not happy with this component breakdown, you can be pleased. We are still warming up. In box of Antike Duellum, you get served your necessary wood share. There is a bag of total 74 wooden pieces, including galleys (12 for each player), legion (also 12 times 2), indicators in two colors, round tokens and a dozen white temples. Player colors are set on beige and brown in this game. These match nicely with the game’s theme. Fortunately, there are still easily recognizable apart.
Players then choose, which of the two colors would they represent during the conflict. They get all wooden units of that color to their stock and also one cardboard piece representing city wall. One of the round tokens is placed on zero on victory points counter. At the beginning, they also get three pieces from each of the available resources. A player, who is not starting, will receive one coin as compensation.
But before we begin to put forces down on the board, you must choose its side. On first, players will compete as Rome and Carthage, on the other with Greece and Persia. The choice is up to you, game is always the same. Both players can now occupy their three starting cities on the map. All other components are prepared next to the board, as well as cards of personalities. Finally, it is still necessary to shuffle a deck of events, and then reveal the first three as an open supply. And that makes everything ready for war.
At the beginning of first turn, each player will have a chance to select his position on the rondel, a circular navigator with eight wedges. This selected action will be performed in first round. Players do this selection with help of their wooden column token, which travels around the rondel, as time in match goes by. In all consecutive rounds, you can then move your token for free up to three slices in a clockwise direction. And you cannot stay on the same spot. If you would like to use an action beyond range of three, you must pay for every step forward with any single material token from your stock.
The second part of the turn (after resolving actions) allows players to establish a town in areas on the map, where there is not any yet. But this player must have at least one army there, to help with the construction and supervise of the local population. Player pays fee for the city (one marble, one iron and one gold). Then he can take the city from his inventory and place it on the map.
In the game, however, there are three types of cities, based on raw materials they produce. It is up to the player, which type he chooses. Just watch for neighboring areas. If any of neighbouring cities is producing the same resource, you must pay one gold more for building this type of city.
If a player has met requirements (for example, new technology, every fifth town or third temple), he can obtain one new personality at the end of his turn. These personalities are main way to victory, together with number of urban fortifications, which can be erected at some of your villages.
On the rondel, you will find a total of seven possible actions, one is here repeated twice. That makes for eight slices in total. Six unique ones are very closely tied together. Three allow you to produce raw materials (marmor, ferrous and aurum), while three others are lying exactly in opposite to them and allow you to use these resources for benefits (templum, militia, scientia).
You can get material only by selecting one of three specific actions and calculate all towns, which produce that particular resource. Any ordinary city guarantees income of one, but if you have temple built there, your profit immediately triples for every round – meaning you get three pieces instead of one! Moreover, when selecting production events, you always get one gray coin.
For marble, you can build temples and city fortifications. Simple wall can be raised for one marble and adds +1 defense to city, where its located. With temples, it gets more complicated. Especially their price corresponds to bonuses, that you get for them. Each temple costs six marbles! Then you can simply take one wooden temple and build it in one city. And what such a temple provides? In addition to the tripled gain from its city, you also get increased (again, three times) defense and also recruiting.
Every nation develops peacefully not only in ways of God, but also in knowledge. Therefore you can use your gold to finance invention of one of five available technologies, which can be found on the bottom right on the board. you must pay either higher sum for its discovery, if you are first one to get it, or lower in case your opponent has mastered this knowledge already sooner than you.
New technologies provide two benefits. The first is ability of discovery itself – such as navigation accelerates ship movement, currency adds another gain in production and republic adds one point to defense of all your cities. Gradually both players will succeed in discovering technology, but only the first one gets also scholar (personality card). So if you have put your round token on technology as first, you get one person and move closer to victory. Personalities are way to victory, remember?
This is also first time, we have to deal with difference between recruiting and arming of already present unit. The game board has in its lower left corner a box for the newly hired troops. You can (as a part of technological action) add recruits for coins inside this box – soldier worth one coin, two galley. Pay and place the unit in a pool there.
They are trained in the way of battle there. Anytime in the future, you can equip (for iron) and finally put them on the map. For new unit (it does not matter, if its a ship or legion), you pay always two iron (armor and sword) into the bank. In town, where there is no temple, you can only add one. Temple success transforms your iron investment into a triple and provides you straight with three units.
And now we are left with only the last event. It is Duellum, which gave name to entire game. Under this action, you can move around the map with your troops and fight. Battle take place just at the moment, when two units meet in one map location. Its done only in a way, that they cancel each other out and return to recruitment box. No direct fight is really there. Not blood. Real family business.
But if you have more units or win the battle, you can gain area with undefended hostile city. If power of your units exceeded defensive strength of the city (after adding bonuses for walls and temple), city was conquered. The new owner can turn city marker to the other side, where is his color located. Loser gets a reward in form of one event card from current offer.
From the beginning of the review, we know that the game ends, when one of opponents succeeds in accumulating nine personalities. These gains can be acquired by many peaceful and martial ways, but you can never lose personality, even if condition, for which it was awarded, is no longer valid. Vivat for the winner!
Antike Duellum is a tactical game, that simulates a battle without actually fighting. Instead, units only cancel each other out. The real fight occurs only when any of enemies is trying to conquer his rival’s city. However, even in this situation luck is not here and thus both players know the result in advance.
Exception, of course, may be the fact, that the defender can expect a raid and prepare enhancements of defense – such as the positioning the temple there, moving his troops or building walls.
Towns are providing resources, but are very important in the game also in other sense. When you have them under your control, for every five cities, you get one personality. And if you’re away from victory lets say one conquered city, it can be source of really exciting and interesting situations.
Antike Duellum brings nice tactical options and creates perfectly balanced mix for a duel of two players. That’s what makes this game so interesting endeavor. War games specially developed for the two adversaries are few, although Stronghold (review in Czech) is actually worth mentioning here.
But this game offers two different game boards and sophisticated system, which will not give you your way to victory for free. Everything depends on the decisions of player himself and how well is he able to balance income and expenditure of his empire. On the management of raw materials rises and falls the entire game and is a key mechanic. Therefore, if you do not enjoy preparation and maintenance of economical machinery, then you can find Antike Duellum unpleasing.
However, for all other players, Antike Duellum offers top-notch entertainment, great processing and a low price. All of these bonuses are amplified by really nice experience of the game itself. If you’re a fan of historical games or games with a resource theme and you are often playing in two, then Antike Duellum is absolutely great choice.