March of the Ants
Publisher: Weird City Games
Designers: Ryan Swisher and Tim Eisner
Time: 60-90 minutes
In March of the Ants, you play as warring ant colonies exploring the world around you trying to accumulate the most Colony Points. The player who successfully handles their colony the best after 4 seasons will be the winner. There is a lot to accomplish before the end of Autumn so make every move count.
Each player starts with five Larvae and 2 food in storage, with one ant in the great tunnel ready to explore. You will also start with 2 random cards.
During each round there will be four phases that occur. The first, and most in depth phase, is the Worker Stage. This also happens to be the first Phase in the game. During this phase each player will take one action until two players rest in that round, or pass. Don’t hibernate on other players turns because for each action that the main player takes, the rest of the players got a Reaction Action. The different actions a player can take include Explore, by drawing a tile and placing it in the world, March is moving your ants around the world, Foraging gives you more cards to work with, and Playing a Card allows you to enhance your Colony. The different types of cards are Event Cards, Evolution Cards and Colony Goal cards. Each time you play a card you need to pay the Larvae/Ant cost that it requires.
Once two players have passed, it is on to the Soldier Phase. You check to see if any areas in the world are contested and if a battle needs to take place. When you place your ants our in the world, there are spots on each tile that ants can occupy to gain benefits at the end of the round. These resources are food, larvae or straight Colony Points. The only way that there is a battle on a hex is when all the resource spots are taken AND there are more ants on the outskirts of that tile. Then those involved will fight it out for the spots available. Fights are pretty simple….you add how many ants you have on the tile, plus what ever head strength your ants may have. You then each have an opportunity to play a card from you hand to add to the strength. The winning player kills as many ants of the losing side as he has strength. The winning player will lose ants that are half of the losing players strength. Either way, battle is a rough outcome for both sides.
After the Soldier Phase, the Queen Phase takes place. Here you gather resources, feed your ants and gain a bonus from the Queen. Either 2 food or 5 larvae.
The last Phase is the Slumber Phase. This is when you gain Colony Points for completing objectives. You get a point for each Inner Meadow Hex you control and any Colony Goal Cards you have achieved.
After the final round, who ever has the most points is the winner.
Components are really solid in March of the Ants. The tiles are thick and sturdy. All wood components are in good condition. The iconography used is really clean and easy to understand. I really like the art style in this game. It’s kinda realistic yet a little bit fun. It really adds to the theme. I do wish there would have been ant Meeples used instead of just cubes but the cubes work just fine.
I LOVE the replayability in March of the Ants! This is a very competitive game that pits you against other players. It can get cut throat and tense so be aware of that as this game may not be for those that are wary of conflict. If that was the only thing I wold have a high replayability only because there are so many different ways to “build” your ant DNA. BUT that is not the only way to play March of the Ants. There is also a co-operative mode in case you don’t feel like battling others for dominion. Nothing makes me happier than when a designer can make a game that can be both competitive and co-operative…..and make it work well both ways. I can honestly say that March of the Ants is one of the Best….Orleans from Tasty Minstrel Games probably does it better but not by much. When you take a game that allows you to create unique creatures that vary every game and then you can play it competitivly or co-operatively…..a win-win in my book!!
There are a couple neat mechanisms used in March of the Ants. The first is the different parts of the ants that you can evolve with. Not only do each of these give you specific abilities but they also give you benefits when doing other actions. For instance, when I add a Thorax to my DNA, I can move an extra step when I take the March Action. Really cool! Another mechanism that I LOVE in games is the Reaction Action. I love when games give you something to do when it’s other players turns. In March of the Ants, when other players take an action, I then get to take a Reaction….because that is what ants do right? The world around them changes and that makes them react. So, if a player chooses to Forage, by getting 2 cards. All other players get a Larva…because while their ants were foraging we were hanging out gaining forces.
I struggled on how to rate the strategy in March of the Ants. On one hand, it is very strategic on where you decide to go, what resources you try to get, where you position your ants, when you decide to do what action, etc. HOWEVER, there is quite a bit of luck involved when it comes to cards and what cards you get and how they help you in the long run. There is no doubt that this game is tight with how you manage your resources, yet have enough to get what you want done is extremely important. Those cards though. Not only that but the tiles that come out can also be pretty swingy. There isn’t too much randomness to turn me off but it’s borderline.
Final Thoughts: 17/20
Overall I am very impressed with March of the Ants. There is a lot to like about the game. The theme is so unique that it is hard to not like. I also have a game called Myrmes from Rio Grande Games that is also about being an ant colony but they are different enough to keep both. I really like many things in this game that will help me keep it around. If for no other reason, the choice to play a game as competitive or co-operative alone makes me want to keep it. I will be looking for the expansion Minions of the Meadow also, to add even more to a really solid, playable game.