It’s a shining time of glorious warriors marching out to do battle with ferocious giants of legend and lore. Citizens witness the glory of heroes taking down the creatures to bring honor to their cities. This is a moment when men fought like gods and vistas teemed with the unexplored. This is what The Ancient World has in store.
The Ancient World takes place in a mythical past of long ago. Beautifully illustrated scenes invite players to experience the mystery of the world as the board is laid out and cards are revealed. Players receive a starting empire board, money, cards, cardboard workers, and coins. From there, they are left to explore the land and collect sets of banners (icons on cards) to gather victory points.
The game takes place over six rounds wherein players may place workers at action locations that resolve immediately. Players can block other workers from spots because an action location is only available if a player can place a higher numbered worker than is already there (there are some exceptions). Additionally, players may battle titans by paying their soldiers. Players can train new soldiers and allow the older soldiers to pass their knowledge on to the newer recruits. A row of buildings also represent additional abilities and banner collecting opportunities for the ever expanding empire.
- The board and card art is gorgeous. An immersive theme puts players in the sweeping grandeur of the setting.
- The rulebook feels incomplete from a copy editing and layout perspective. Multiple times even after repeated plays occasional things needed to be looked up. An iconography reference is included for cards it still required double checking rules.
- Component quality was fine, but cardboard for workers makes the board feel like a flat mural. This was perhaps intended.
- Learning to play was smooth but rule checks and some needed clarifications slowed things down.
- The worker blocking mechanism is very interesting and rough. Often it strands a player or completely derails their plans.
- Player competition over banners feels thematic and especially drives conflict for various cards (titans or buildings).
- Sporadic confusion over the rules for certain spaces persisted upon multiple plays, leading to rule lookups.
- Replacing troops with upgraded troops that pass on knowledge is innovative and requires action/time planning.
- Despite the amazing art, after a few plays it feels less about the theme and more about the mechanisms.
- Play stays challenging and tense for those who enjoy more passive aggressive worker placement.
- Player strategies could depend on certain building cards to be revealed (which are random), but there are limited ways to dig through the decks. Combine that with tight action and money and it can be frustrating either leading to a desire for more plays or annoyance with the game.
Gamers who love worker placement and heavy theme will find a gem here. It’s a heavier game than it appears so it will be a main course for a gaming evening. A lighter, heavy theme worker placement game can be replaced for this, but this theme stands alone amongst most games. It’s not everything players might expect, but that’s exactly what it wants to be.