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 have taken 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 Action Point 3 we discussed the building of Wonders and their abilities. In this final Action Point, we will take a look at the Competition Phase as well as the Sacking of Cities.

Competition Phase

The Competition Phase is when civilizations clash and resolve their disputes on the battlefield, both on land and on the seas. The goal of a competition is to control the area. This control is important because it sets you up to increase your disk acquisition during the Growth Phase and allows you to have a connection to spread into adjacent areas. The other important outcome is that you will be weakening your opposition by taking their territories and halting their expansion into your sphere of influence.

Definition of a Competition/Contested Area

First, let’s take a quick look at what constitutes a competition. During the Competition Phase, a competition is defined as any area where at least 2 (or more) disks belonging to a single faction are present in an area with at least 1 disk (or more) belonging to any opposing faction. In each area that meets these criteria we will have what is referred to as a “contested” area. These contested areas are the only areas that can be affected during the Competition Phase. In the picture above, you will see that there are two areas that are currently contested, including Tyre (where there are 3 Phoenician disks and 2 Egyptian disks) and in Canaan (where there are 2 Phoenician disks and 1 Egyptian disks).

Empty areas and areas containing no more than a single disk belonging to each faction will remain at peace. The rules give the added insight that single disks represent basic subsistence agriculture and trade and cohabitation under this circumstance doesn’t incite competition between the cultures.

A single Phoenician disk (Blue) and a single Egyptian disk (Purple) are each present in the Gulf of Sidon Sea Area and don’t constitute a contested area.

One other key element to remember during the Competition Phase is that the normal stacking limit of 4 disks doesn’t apply. There is one exception to this rule though which is that there can only be 1 disk per faction in any Deep Sea Areas. This means that there will never be a contested area in a Deep Sea Area. At the end of the Competition Phase, any excess disks in areas will be dealt with by being returned to their owner’s supply of disks.

Now that you are clear on what constitutes a contested area, let’s take a look at the order of resolution for a competition.

Order of Resolution

For those of you that hate dice, or rather that the dice hate you, you will be pleased to find out that no dice are used in the conflict resolution. This greatly reduces the “luck” factor of rolling to determine losses and instead they have created this very interesting resolution that seems to be very fair, for lack of a better word. Basically, the side with the most disks in the conflict will come out on top. I say that, and it is mostly true, but you must remember that this is also a card game and there are a lot of different Competition Cards that can give one side a leg up before the action even starts by adding or removing disks.

First, there is an order to this resolution of conflict. You simply resolve competitions one at a time in northeast-to-southwest order on the map. This simply means that you will start with the contested area closest to the upper right side of the map and end with the contested area closest to the lower left. You will fully resolve a competition in each contested area before proceeding to the next contested area. Here is a graphic borrowed from the rule book to explain this in case you are having difficulty understanding.

Ancient Civilizations of the Innner Sea Conflict Resolution Graphic

Now that you have the order in which these contested areas are adjudicated, let’s take a look at how the competitions will be resolved. It is really very simple, and remember it doesn’t include dice. Simply perform the following activities in the following order:

1. In Turn Order, each civilization present in the area may do any of the following:
◦ play any number of Competition Cards from their hand facedown to the table;
◦ announce use of a relevant special ability on its Civilization Display;
◦ announce use of a relevant Wonder, if owned and active.

Remember that this is a card game and those cards are heavily relied upon to provide you with the opportunity to improve your chances of success in these competitions. Here is a look at a few of these Competition Cards:

These example cards do things like remove all of the disks in an area belonging to a single opposing civilization (Traitor), remove one disk belonging to each opposing faction in a land area (Obsidian Quarry), add a white disk to this competition and 1 disk in up to 3 other Contested Areas (Strategos) and place up to 2 disks in an land area where there is a competition and remove 1 disk belonging to each opposing faction (Iron Mine).

These cards are powerful and can really swing the outcome of a competition. But remember, there are Negate Cards that you can use to stop these cards before they can effect you. Aside from being powerful, i also really like the thematic actions chosen for the cards. For example, Iron Mine makes perfect sense to me. Your civilization has developed mining and have begun to use found iron in your weapons making them more powerful and giving you the ability to remove opposing disks from the competition.

Civilization special abilities are also really important and can provide you advantages in competition.

For example, Carthage has some very useful special abilities. Once per turn, at the beginning of the Competition Phase, you may the following three things; place a white disk in Carthage, which is the home area of that civilization, AND place a white disk in a contested land area where there is a Carthaginian disk AND into a contested sea area where there is a Carthaginian disk.

A trifecta, the “Hannibal Hat Trick” so to speak….the first represents the massive walls of Carthage; the second Hannibal (or his father from the first Punic war) and the third the fleet (at least the fleet from the first war). (these words were borrowed from one of the co-designers Mark McLaughlin)

You must not forget about these abilities and use them as often as you can to move the odds in your favor. But, remember there are always Negation Cards (see Action Point 2 for examples of these cards).

Next, simultaneously reveal all played Competition Cards. Civilizations now have an opportunity to play Negation Cards in an attempt to cancel revealed Competition Cards. In Turn Order, resolve all announced Wonders; all announced special abilities and then all played Competition Cards that were not negated. Now that we have the business side of the Competition Phase out of the way, lets move to the nuts and bolts where disks start flying.

After these steps, we move to the meat of the phase where participating factions now begin losing 1 disk at a time in the following manner: Simultaneously remove 1 disk belonging to each faction with exactly 1 disk present in the competition area. Then simultaneously remove 1 disk belonging to each faction with exactly 2 disks present in the Contested area, followed by the loss of 1 disk for each action with exactly 3 disks present, then 4 disks present, and so on. A civilization’s allied white disks, if any, must be removed before disks of their own color are removed.

You basically each remove a disk until every participating faction has lost 1 disk; every participating faction has exactly 1 or 0 disks remaining in the land or sea area or only a single participating faction has disks remaining in the area. If there is still conditions present in the contested area where a competition still exists, you simply continue removing disks.

The really great part about the resolution of these competitions is that you can actually prevent losses, thereby changing the predetermined outcome of the competition. Whenever a civilization would have one of its disks removed from the map for any reason, it may instead choose to lose 1 talent from its Treasury or discard 1 card from its hand to prevent that loss. This tends to be a very zero sum game though as if both civilizations really want this area, they tend to both keep discarding cards or talents to stay in the fight. At this point, victory will go to the player that has been stockpiling their talents from looting conquered cities or who simply have a lot of cards in their hand.

The other really important thing to have in these competitions is allied disks that are represented by a white disk. During competition, a civilization’s allied disks must be the first disks it removes when losses are required. Allied disks are always returned to the white supply pile when removed from the map; never to a civilization’s supply as they are a temporary troop that is used to improve your situation. These allies also are not interested in sticking around to do your bidding. At the end of every Competition Phase, remove any surviving allied disks from the map.

The Warrior Queen card is played giving the Phoenicians an allied disk in the competition that can swing the battle in their favor.

Sacking and Looting Cities

At the end of every competition in a land area, a civilization earns both 1 talent and 1 VP if it Controls the area that was contested and 3 or more disks belonging to a single opposing civilization (not Barbarians and not white disks) were removed during the
competition. This is referred to as looting a city. Each competition will only yield one such benefit even if there were multiple opposing cities destroyed.

The loot taken from competitions during the current phase are always placed into the Loot box of the civilization’s Display and are not counted as a part of a civilization’s Treasury. This simply means that the talents gained form looting cannot be used during this Competition Phase. At the end of the Competition Phase, every civilization transfers its looted talents to its Treasury, which makes them ready for use in the upcoming Reckoning Phase, which is an end of round step where certain things are carried out, such as Sea Domination where if a civilization occupies a sea area by having at least one disk there and controls all surrounding land areas, they will get to remove all other civilizations disks.

The reason that this is important to understand is that the talents you have just won from your conquests can be used to save your disks in this type of situation so they are not removed.

Competition is at the heart of the design and I really enjoyed the simple way that this game deals with this conflict. Cards and talents are your friends in competition and you must have a good store of each in order to stand a chance against some of your opponents, especially considering that some of their special abilities and Wonders provide such great power. You are never really out of a competition though as long as you have cards and talents. Remember that and get into a good position before each Competition Phase and you will do well.

I hope that you have enjoyed our in-depth look at the various phases of this lite Civilization building game called Ancient Civilizations of the Inner Sea. This game was designed as a fun time with a lot of your friends and cannot be taken too seriously. You must know this going in and understand that your best laid plans can be dashed and destroyed with the play of a card!

-Grant