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 or conquer the 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 Action Point 2, we dove into the Card Phase and the different types of cards that appear in the deck. In this Action Point we will go back to the Card Phase to discuss the Wonders and their abilities.
I covered this topic briefly in the last post but wanted to go a bit more in detail regarding Wonder Cards and how they work as well as share the different Wonders that are available. In my opinion, Wonders are very important and can really give you not only a jump start on scoring Victory Points but can help you to establish and highlight a chosen strategy.
Wonder Cards begin the game face up next to the board with their corresponding wooden block resting on top of the card. These are available to purchase by all players and are a bit costly so you have to be ready to invest in them from the get go. There are no prerequisites to purchase them; only that you have the required “resources”. This is one element that I think would actually improve this aspect of the game if there was a prerequisite to being able to buy them, such as have 5 Cities, control 12 spaces, etc. They are simply available to everyone and it is always a race from the start to see who can get the “best” ones.
During the Card Phase, each civilization may build up to one Wonder that is still available to be built. To build an available Wonder, the civilization must pay 5 “resources” in any combination of the following:
● return 1 of its disks deployed on the map to their supply;
● pay 1 talent from its Treasury;
● discard 1 card from its hand
At least two of the five “resources” must come by way of removing disks from the map while the remaining three may comprise any of the three different types of “resources”. As I mentioned earlier, the cost is somewhat of a deterrent to players buying Wonders. If they are not willing to sacrifice the required cost, and subsequently are not willing to weaken their position on the board, they will not purchase. But can they really afford not to purchase? I don’t think so but we will take a look at what the Wonders offer so you can make up your own mind on that question.
What Wonders are Available?
As you know, the traditional 7 Wonders of the World include the Great Pyramid of Giza, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus, the Statue of Zeus at Olympia, the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus, the Colossus of Rhodes, and the Lighthouse of Alexandria and most of these are included in the game as playable Wonders. This list of Wonders has changed over time but these were the first classified as such in guidebooks popular among Hellenic sightseers and only includes works located around the Mediterranean rim and in Mesopotamia. So what is available to build and what do they do? Let’s take a look.
The Grand Temple
The Temple of Artemis at Ephesus represented by The Grand Temple in the game is one of the more famous of the real world Wonders and in the game is a really good strategy building element. If you are lucky enough to be able to purchase this Wonder, you will definitely have set your strategy in the area of Competition through warfare as you will use the special ability to assist your efforts of conquest.
Once The Grand Temple is built, the player will place 5 disks from their Supply onto the card in addition to 5 white disks. These white disks represent your allies or even mercenaries and can be used in the Competition Phase in the same manner as your own disks. This will give a lot of additional fire power to the player to use during the Competition Phase in addition to the really cool special ability that the Wonder offers; that of being able to remove one disk from your opponent in the area where you placed your disks from the card.
As an example in the above picture, the Egyptian player is using The Grand Temple at the beginning of the Competition Phase to attempt to dislodge the Phoenician player from the Sinai space. As you can see at the beginning of the Phase, the Phoenician player has 3 disks to the Egyptian player’s 2 and will ultimately win this fight. But, the Egyptian player decides to use The Grand Temple Wonder.
They use it by simply following the instructions on the card by taking one of their purple disks there at the beginning of the Competition Phase and placing it into the Sinai space. They also can add in a white disk from the Wonder as well and finally are able to remove a disk from the space (the picture doesn’t show the removal of the Phoenician disk) as well. This brings the final tally of disks in the space to 4 Egyptian (original 2 disks in Sinai space + 1 purple disk from the Wonder + 1 white disk from the Wonder) vs. only 2 Phoenician disks (original 3 disks – 1 for the Wonder’s special ability or removing a disk). This will mean that the Egyptian player will win this competition and control the space, unless of course the Phoenician player has a tricky card up their sleeve!
After all is said and done, the Egyptian player will win this Competition, controlling the space and will also gain a Victory Point and 1 Talent from destroying and sacking a City (a space that has at least 3 disks of the same color). Herein lies the real advantage of this Wonder as it can aid you in a strategy of setting out on a mission of conquest to gain additional Victory Points and Talents from destroying and sacking Cities. This is one of the Wonders that will really help you to establish a strategy and follow through on it, unless of course your Wonder gets buried in the sands of time and can no longer be used. (This has happened to me and you just have to laugh and shake it off!)
The Growth Phase Wonders: The Grand Gardens, The Great Lighthouse and The Stairway to God
One of the most important elements of this game is the management of your growth as you spread out across the Mediterranean Sea and its environs. Each side only has 48 disks, and while this sounds like a lot, they really go very quickly as you begin to build up your Cities and Settlements. Remember, that you will only gain new disks to be placed during the Growth Phase from your Settlements (2 disks) and not your Cities. You will also gain disks from being adjacent to an opponent’s disks simulating trade and commerce and from having disks in sea spaces. So it can seem like a race at the start to get as many disks as possible so that you can build more Settlements and claim more sea spaces to gain access to more disks each round. Anything that helps you get more disks is a good thing.
In come the Growth Phase Wonders. These Wonders specifically give players access to disks to jump start their economy engines. For example, The Stairway of God reads “During the Acquisition Step of your Growth Phase, you may remove a disk from this card. If you do, place it into an area you occupy. Then gain 1 Talent.”
This Wonder gives you immediate access to one additional disk during the Acquisition Step (see Action Point 1 for more detail). The only caveat is that you have to place it in an area that you already occupy, not into a new area to expand your influence and reach. But, this can be used to turn that 1 disk to 2 in a safe area to build a Settlement and thus create an additional disk to acquire in the Acquisition Step for next round. You can also add this 1 disk to an already existing Settlement to create a City which will score you a Victory Point at the end of the turn. An added benefit is that you will gain 1 Talent as well which can be used to pay for additional Wonders in the next Turn or you can use to cancel the removal of a disk from the board due to any reason. This is also a very powerful aspect of the card and shouldn’t be overlooked.
The mother of all of the Growth Phase Wonders though is The Grand Gardens as it will give you 1 of the 5 disks on the card in addition to an additional disk from your Supply to place in one or more areas you occupy. This card actually gives you up to 10 additional disks to place during the Growth Phase. Talk about growth!
These Growth Phase Wonders are amazing jump starts to your economy and are always some of the first Wonders built.
The Card Engine Wonders: The Great Library and The Mausoleum
In any card game, and this is a card game as it relies on the smart and timely play of cards to give you the advantage, card advantage is key. The more cards you have in your possession, the more cards you will get to play to hurt your opponents and help your situation. The Great Library and The Mausoleum both allow the players to draw a certain number of cards but has a caveat that you can only keep one, with the others being discarded. Not a game breaker but once again having an additional card to play is very important, particularly if you have played a lot of your cards the last round and will only be drawing the normal 3 cards.
I hope that you have a good understanding of the Wonders and how they can effect your civilization. I don’t believe that they are a must for victory but they do subtly add to your strategy, or even provide direction of a strategy, and provide additional resources to improve your chances of success in the various phases of the game.
In the next Action Point, we will take a look at the Competition Phase, Contested Areas and how to resolve them, how allies (white disks) affect this outcome and the looting of vanquished cities.