Ancient Civilizations of the Inner Sea is a lite civilization building game that sees 1-6 players take on the role of an ancient power to see if they can build up their civilization and conquer the opposing great civilizations of the ancient Mediterranean. This competition comes in the form of gaining Victory Points through building cities and the Great Wonders, sacking and looting cities through war and domination of the sea.

In this series of Action Points we will take a look at the inner workings of the game. In Action Point 1, we looked at the Growth Phase, including how you acquire disks, deploy disks and the purpose of spreading your culture. In this Action Point, we will dive into the Card Phase and the different types of cards that appear in the deck.

Card Phase

Before we take a look at how cards are used in the Card Phase, let’s take a look at the different type of cards in the game. There are only two different types of cards, including Fate Cards and Wonder Cards.

Fate Cards

Fate Cards are drawn from the top of a facedown deck throughout the game. After a Fate Card is played it is discarded to the top of the face up discard deck unless the card specifically says otherwise. There are different type of Fate Cards within the deck with times that specify as to when they can be played. These types are Negate Cards, Event Cards, Investment Cards and Competition Cards. We will take a look at these different types later in this post.

Wonder Cards

Wonder Cards begin the game face up next to the board with their corresponding wooden block resting on top of the card. As with the Fate Cards, a Wonder Card will specify when its ability can be used. Wonders are always in one of three states; Available which means it is available for acquisition by all players during the Card Phase, Built which denotes it is controlled by a player and they have access to its ability and Buried which means the Wonder Card is flipped facedown and inactive due to a specific card having been played. Once built in a land space, the owning player must Control the area containing the Wonder.

Hand Limit

Each civilization has a maximum hand size of 6 cards. No more. If you ever have 7 Fate Cards in your hand, you must immediately choose and discard cards until you only have 6. Event Cards that are drawn are immediately played and will not cause the drawing player to discard if the Event Card would cause the hand size to exceed 6. This is a rule that we messed up on our first play and really caused our game to play long as we routinely had 7-8 cards in our hands.

During the Card Phase, each civilization will take one of the following actions one at a time in turn order:

    Play a Fate Card
    Build a Wonder (max of once per turn) (we will take a look at this part of the Card Phase in its own Action Point)
    Pass

Event Cards

If you draw a Fate Card that is red and turned sideways, you must play this card immediately which is referred to as an Event Card. The only exception to this is if it is your opening hand draw. When you draw an Event Card, the drawing player reveals the card and plays it. After resolving the effects, or if it is cancelled, the drawing player will replace that I’ll card with a new card in their hand.

There are 7 Event Cards and they have varied effects in the game. For example, Time Marches On simply ends the current Epoch, as long as it is not played during Epoch I or during Turn 4 of any Epoch.

Cards like Mesopotamian Empire, Northern Hordes, Southern Raiders and Sea Peoples Invade! are examples of Barbarian Invasions that can really put a cramp on your style or ruin your day.

There are 5 of these Barbarian Invasion Cards among the 7 Event Cards so these will tend to come up often, or at least it feels that way. What happens when this card is played is the player with the fewest VP’s will choose a space on the part of the map identified (either North, South, East, Deep Sea or Shallow Sea adjacent to coastal land) and then place stacks of Barbarian disks (Black) in those spaces as directed on the card.

A northern horde invades Rome and Gaul and both civilizations will have to spend their time and resources over the next few rounds chasing the invaders out.

Depending on when The Breath of God Event Card is drawn can be really bad for the player who has been stacking his hand with good cards awaiting the perfect opportunity to use them to his advantage. This card simply forces all players to discard their hands and draw 4 new cards.

Negation Cards

The only cards in the game that can be played during another player’s turn are the Negation Cards. The only caveat is that typically these cards will specifically state what type of cards can be cancelled or how those played cards will be effected.

For example, the card Healer can be played in response to a card that has been played to remove 2 or more disks from the map. If Healer is played in response, 2 fewer disks will be removed.

High Priestess is a bit more flexible as it can be played to outright cancel the effect of any card except for an Event Card. This card is simply a lifesaver and can make the difference for any civilization if played at the right time.

False Prophet is also a neat card that can be played in response to any card that would give a civilization 2 or more Talents or allow the placement of 2 or more disks. It simply cancels that card.

Investment Cards

Investment Cards allow a civilization an opportunity to invest in future gains. Investment Cards are played face up to the table along with a specified number of that civilization’s disks from their Supply placed on top of the card. The card will instruct the player when to remove a disk to gain the its benefit and once the last disk is removed the card will be placed into the discard pile.

For example, Academy of Science states place 3 disks from the Supply on top. At the beginning of the Draw Step, you may remove a disk to the Supply. Draw 3 cards and keep 1 and discard the other 2.

Caravansary states place 3 disks from the Supply on top. At the beginning of the Draw Step, you may remove a disk to the Supply. Draw 2 cards then discard a card. Similar ability with slight differences.

Heroic Saga is a nifty card that gives you extra disks to use as you see fit. Have you been hit by a nasty Barbarian Invasion and don’t seem to have the disks to fight your way out of trouble? No worries. With Heroic Saga you have 4 disks that can be used at the end of the Growth Phase to bolster your armies to take out the invaders next round. Investment Cards are a bit of a gamble as you are placing your scarce disks on a card to be removed at some future date. So you never know exactly how and when you might need them but having access to them above and beyond your normal disk acquisition is a boon.

The Gauls use the card Heroic Saga to place a few extra disks into Gaul to fight the Barbarians.

Competition Cards

Competition Cards can only be played during the Competition Phase which is where opponents battle over Control of a Contested Area. In the picture below, you will see a competition between the Gauls (Yellow) and Romans (Red) over a Contested Area the island of Corsica. At this point in the competition the Romans have the advantage as they have 3 disks to the Gauls 2 disks. This means that short of a card being played the Romans will win the battle and each side will lose disks.

But at the start of the competition each player is able to announce the use of a card. The Romans decide not to play a card while the Gauls play the card Unreliable Mercenaries. This card literally allows the playing civilization to replace an opposing disk with one out their own. So just like that the battle will not come out in the favor of the Gauls.

Generic Card Phase Cards

There are plenty of cards that can be played at anytime during the Card Phase as long as they don’t identify with one of the other names phases or types. These cards are either you place a certain number of disks or remove a certain number of disks of one of your opponents. Gain a certain number of Talents or take a certain number of Talents of one of your opponents.

Pass

You know the old country song “you’ve got to know when to hold ’em…”. This is exactly what taking a Pass is during the Card Phase. When a civilization cannot or chooses not to build a Wonder or play a Fate Card they must Pass. Once they have passed they cannot get back into the card playing during the Card Phase. When you have passed you can play a Negate Card though but cannot play any further generic Card Phase cards.

That is a quick look at the Card Phase and how it works. This really is at the heart of the design and can be the cause of a lot of chaos, grief and immediate gains and losses for players. You will live or die by the cards and you have to be in a frame of mind to simply accept whatever happens without getting upset or bothered. Check your feelings at the door because this game is a bit mean spirited, filled with take-that, pile on the leader and if you don’t get in and roll around with the other pigs (your opponents) you will surely lose and have hurt feelings. Enjoy because this card play also makes it hard to follow through with strategy and plans. This is both my favorite part of the design and my least favorite.

In Action Point 3, we will take a deeper look into the Build Wonder part of the Card Phase.

-Grant