We played the first entry in the Ancient Civilizations Series from GMT Games called Ancient Civilizations of the Inner Sea about 6 weeks ago and had a really good time with our five player game. The series is designed to be a lite civilization building experience with a heavy reliance on card play. The second addition to the series called Ancient Civilizations of the Middle East was announced on the P500 with the September Monthly Update.

With that announcement, I reached out to one of the co-designers Mark McLaughlin to see if he and his co-conspirator Christoper Vorder Bruegge, as well as their workhorse do-it-all partner Fred Schachter acting as Developer, had time to chat about the new edition to the series. They were willing to share the game and I hope you enjoy our interview.

*Please keep in mind that the artwork used in this interview is not yet finalized and is only for playtest purposes at this point. Also, as the game is still in development, details and rules may still change prior to publication.


Grant: What have been your feelings about the reception of your initial game in this series Ancient Civilizations of the Inner Sea?

Chris: I am very gratified that a concept I have had since college days (too many years ago to contemplate) has been received so well. I am also happy that the simple design has been so much fun for so many people. My first goal was for players to have fun. It is a game after all.

Mark: Those “college days” by the way were at Georgetown – and almost half a century ago.

As for the reception, I have been very gratified by all of the wonderful, friendly, fun reviews and comments. I love it when dads send me photos on Facebook of their kids playing my game – and winning! My personal favorite review comment is from the guy at Hair Brained Games who with great glee said “It’s Go meets Beer Pong traveling around with sandals and spears!”.

Fred: I’ll add that Ancient Civilizations of the Inner Sea provoked a dichotomy of responses within the hobby…if one references how it’s been a reviewed and rated within Boardgame Geek (BGG). In hindsight, the game should have been promoted with clear assertion, direct and not by implication, that it was not a “traditional Civilizations game”: such as Avalon Hill’s venerable Civilization and that it uses player inflicted cards to simulate the historical chaos ACIS’ civilizations had to endure.

That omission led to a number of folks not having expectations fulfilled and being disappointed, in some cases exceedingly so, that ACIS did not deliver as anticipated.

However, most reviews of the game have been favorable, some exceedingly so, and the 256 BGG ratings as of this writing are fifty-two (52) Rating ACIS 1 – 5 and two hundred four (204) 6 – 10. Readers should check BGG to verify this for themselves. Therefore, 80% of the folks bothering to submit ACIS BGG ratings like it with a significant minority liking it a lot.

The lesson Mark, Chris, and I learned, which is being applied to Ancient Civilizations of the Middle East, is to clearly promotionally identify what the game is…and what it is not.

Mark: Fred, I very much disagree with your  statement about how the game was marketed….with all of the articles we wrote and After Action Reports we posted, and all of the time saying how this was not your basic civ game, I do not think we could have been much clearer about how this was something different. Still, we are as Fred says doubling-down on that message.

Grant: Can you tell us a little about your co-designer Christopher Vorder Bruegge? How did you meet up with him?

Chris: Georgetown School of Foreign Service 1972. Been playing wargames with my two brothers since I was about five going from little green army men to Avalon Hill games, to Jack Scruby lead soldiers and on and on. Our Christmas tree when I was growing up looked like a military industrial complex given that my two brothers and I were always in an arms race with each other. Met Mark on the floor, literally, of the International Student House at Georgetown playing a Thirty Years War battle, Lutzen I think, with home made rules and an amalgam of various miniature figures. I am lucky to be the godfather of his son Campbell. We designed a game on the War in the Pacific in WWII called East Wind Rain back in the mid 80s.  I have been peripherally involved in playtesting or concept work on many of Mark’s games, though by no means a co-designer except for East Wind Rain and now ACIS and ACME.

Mark: We met when I was a freshmen and he was a senior. I had organized a miniatures game on the floor of the common room of my dorm. Chris walked in by accident and started playing – and the two of us haven’t stopped gaming since (miniatures, board and computer).

Grant: What does Chris bring to the table that improves the design process?

Chris:  Mark is by far the better designer from a gaming point of view. ACIS, though, was originally my concept, especially the idea of growth and the Aeneas rule. Once I had the basic design, I asked Mark to take it over and he added in the Seven Wonders and neatened up the different phases. I suppose what I have usually brought in other games we have been involved with was a knowledge of naval warfare and what I call chrome in some of Mark’s games.

Mark: As Chris points out, this was all his idea. A lot of it goes back to all of the years we spent playing both the Avalon Hill Civilization board game and playing cooperatively side-by-side in Sid Meier’s Civilization computer series. Also, we were both students of the famous Dr. Caroll Quigley, who for over 30 years taught an intro course “The Development of Civilization.” He taught students not only about how civilizations develop, but also to THINK, and to identify, understand and learn from the way civilizations rise – and fall.

ACMA Banner 2

Grant: What is the overall design goal you have for Ancient Civilizations of the Middle East?

Chris: Again, a game that is fun to play. But the history of that area of the world hinged so much more on religion and deities, which explains the design concept behind the deities.  I worked out the map initially, suggested the introduction of different terrain types, which was lacking in ACIS. We also learned from feedback on ACIS.  Some players did not like reshuffling the deck so often, so there is less of that, I think. There are marginally fewer natural disasters, but they still do happen.

Mark:   I just wanted a game of the era I could enjoy and have fun with.  I have been a sucker for ‘sword-and-sandal’ movies, books, games, etc. since I was a kid.  Every Saturday in Albany in the 1960s my friend Nino and I would watch those films and then go play them out with toy soldiers.  I still cannot get enough of the period.  I have read the Old Testament four times over the last 50 years and am still thrilled and inspired by the history.  I regularly watch TV shows on Biblical and Ancient archaeology, read both fiction and non-fiction on the era –  and paint little miniature armies (I have over 60 chariots, and full armies of Assyrians, Egyptians, Babylonians…all the way up to Macedonians, Carthaginians and Romans).

Grant: I also see you are once again teamed up with Fred Schachter as your developer. What makes your relationship with Fred so good in making games? What does Fred add to the effort?

Chris: He has a lawyer-like grasp on details and “gamesmanship” that has allowed us to tighten up rules and avoid too many post production issues.

Mark:Fred is a showman. A carnival barker of the first magnitude. Nobody can run a demo or a playtest like he can. He brings an enthusiasm that is infectious. He is also an incredibly picky detail guy – which is particularly good for me, as I am much more of a ‘big picture’ designer and writer. I have been a full-time free-lance writer (as well as game designer) for over 40 years — and know what a good editor can add. Writing or designing without an editor would be like taking the Enterprise out of space dock without Scotty.

Fred: Golly, thanks guys! I worked with Mark on a number of GMT games starting with the Second Edition of The Napoleonic Wars (we met at a Lancaster Host Historicon Convention in Pennsylvania) and our fun and enjoyable partnership has endured for years: I’ve frequently cited that I’m Davout to his Napoleon, or Sherman to his Grant… well, you get the idea. My work career brought me to Chris’ neck of the woods and it was grand being able to play-test ACIS personally with him and local friends. What a grand team we have…made all the better with the late Chad Jensen’s ACIS editorial contributions.

Grant: What elements of the design makes this game an interesting experience for a lite civilization building game?

Chris: Using the same basic system as ACIS means that those who have played ACIS will adapt fairly easily. Even those who have not played ACIS will learn the game, as we have seen during play testing, quickly and do quite well. In addition to the deities, which basically replaced the World Wonders, the concept of taking population captive versus earning money for looting a city is different. The Biblical quotes on the fate cards should be amusing at least when delivering shock and awe on an opponent. The game is equally playable solitaire as was ACIS. But we hope what continues in this series of games is the joy of an interactive competitive and fun game.

Mark: You don’t have to do all the fiddly bits, like spending an hour trying to discover how to make clay pots or cultivate crops. You get right into it. The cards are basically short-cuts that show advances your civilization has made and what temporary advantage it has gained (until everybody else catches up, and they always did historically). So you get right into the heart of the matter.

Fred: From play testers as well as those who participated in various demonstrations of the game I have conducted to date at club meetings and conventions; the vast majority of folks appreciate how quickly ACME can be learned, the pace of play, and that one can get immediately into the game action with an exciting high degree of interaction between players. These were time-limited sessions, e.g. two hours, and these gamers had a blast with the simple mechanics and the fun of inflicting various disasters upon one another in a “get the leader” environment which results in close games with the winner often not determined until the very end of play. For those gamers, the preceding are among elements which make ACME interesting, a fascinating puzzle to solve, and, above all, lots of fun!

Grant: What sets this game apart from other civilization building games?

Chris: Mark, not sure about this as I do not really know what those other games are. I would suspect flexibility in terms of setting the time limit, which part of the map to use, how many players or in solitaire how many NPCs, and the options for home areas for many of the civilizations, including one that can change its homeland each turn if it wishes.

Mark: Any fool can build an empire – but it takes a true leader to keep it. This is not so much a civilization-building game as it is a civilization-survival game. You have to fight to stay alive, let alone stay in the lead. Another thing that really sets it apart is the balance built into the game. The player in last place does not get left behind in this game – that player gets to inflict the worst cards that pop up from the deck (the four big invasions). The player in last place can also bow out and come back in as a new civilization (but only once per game per player). You can always bring the leader down – or at least slow them down enough for others to catch up…almost every game I have ever played or run has come down to a photo finish points-wise.

Oh, and as Mark Herman remarked, this game has a great “screwage” component that many gamers really have fun with.

Fred: A key part of what sets this game apart is the chaotic environment players find themselves enmeshed in and, thanks to Chris and Mark’s research, this is very much historically-based…albeit it’s the fall of the cards and how players use them which define what happens and when. An upcoming InsideGMT article will explain this historical context.

Grant: What civilizations are included in the game?

Chris: Egyptians, Hittites, Sea Peoples, Mittani, Israelite, Sumerians, Babylonians, Assyrians, Akkadians, Persians and Medes, Cimmerians, Skythians,…Mark finish it up.

Mark: Elamites, Greeks, Dravidians and Chaldeans. These each have their own Civilization Display Card. In the historical scenarios, moreover, we add the Romans, Pontics and Parthians as well as Alexander and his Macedonians. There is even a Rostam scenario based on the Persian epic poem about that legendary hero.

ACME Civilizations

Grant: How do you go about choosing the unique abilities of each civilization?

Chris: Partly historical and partly for game balance. For example, the Mittani were famous for horse breeding and chariot warfare, so they get a boost in competition. Egypt had at the time the only reliable access to gold mines to their south, so they get money, plus of course the alluvial river provinces along the Nile that generate growth more efficiently. The Assyrians are known for their ability to take cities, so they get advantages there. You get the idea.

Grant: Can you please share with us the abilities of a few of the civilizations?

Chris: Mark, I am sure you will allude to the series running on GMTgames.com introducing the civilizations.

Mark: The fourth in a 16-part series “Meet the…(civilization)” went up on GMT just before Thanksgiving. Each article showcases the Civilization Display, briefly explains the unique powers of that civilization and the historical basis for giving them those characteristics. Some civilizations like the Egyptians, Israelites, and Babylonians gain bonus money, pieces, cards or victory points for holding certain areas, while others (notably the Assyrians especially) are mostly or even entirely military-oriented, in that they can only use their bonuses when in competition (i.e. war). Others have a balance of benefits. This lets you as the player choose what kind of civilization you feel like playing that day – do you want to build, burn or battle your way to victory?

Below is a link to the fifth in a series of articles from Mark McLaughlin showcasing the 16 civilizations in Ancient Civilizations of the Middle East.

Meet the Assyrians

ACMA Assyrians Display

“I,  Ashurbanipal, King of Assyria, the one longed for and destined by his great divinity, who, at the issuing of his order and the giving of his solemn decree, cut off the head of Te’umman, king of Elam, after defeating him in battle, and whose great command my hand conquered Umman-Igash, Tanmarit, Pa’e and Umman-Altash, who ruled of Elam after Te’umman.  I yoked them to my sedan chair, my royal conveyance. I established decent order in all the lands without exception.

-from a stela raised by Ashurbanipal (686-628 BC)  to commemorate one of his many victories

Assyria was the pre-eminent, most feared and most hated civilization in the ancient Middle East. Comparable to both Rome and Nazi Germany in not only their martial prowess but also their ruthlessness, the Assyrians were masters of warfare and experts in terror. Their advanced siege weapons and engineering techniques meant no city could resist them – at least not for long. Assyria rose, paused during the 12th century BC apocalypse, then rose again to conquer almost the entire Middle East, from Egypt to the Levant and most of Mesopotamia. Much like Rome and Nazi Germany, however, Assyria was finally brought down by a massive coalition that attacked it from all points of the compass at once.

ACME Assur Ninevah

In the game, Assyria has the choice of its original Homeland of Assur (from which they took their name) or Ninevah (the capital city of their later and greater empire). Assyria’s siege engineers and professional standing army are represented by its advantages in Competition. Assyria was notorious for taking entire populations captive and scattering them about their empire as slaves and laborers, and therefore MUST take captives rather than loot if possible (if it has disks available to represent them).

To find out more about Assyria check out: https://www.ancient.eu/assyria/

Grant: I understand that this game has many new features. How is terrain used in the design? Why did you feel this addition was necessary?

Chris: With ACIS, terrain of each province was not that important given that most of the provinces, though not all, were on the shores of the Mediterranean. Only Egypt had an alluvial river and it had a growth factor built into its civilization to cover that in ACIS. In ACME though, there is the Nile, still, and the Mesopotamian rivers that were historically key to growth. So the rules of growth differ in ACME from ACIS in the rich river provinces. But Mountains also played a role. For example Hattusa, located in mountainous terrain, would have been much more difficult to take, so for all mountains we introduced the concept of strongholds that add a defensive bonus to the civilization that begins a turn alone in a mountain province. But growth is slower in mountains. There are deserts too that do not allow growth and limit stacking in them (no cities). At least there are no swamps.

Grant: How has the addition of terrain affected the game and what new challenges does it present?

Chris: The rich river provinces beckon players to compete for them. This leads to more competition, though a player may avoid that and let other civilizations fight over those areas. Mountains may prove good defensive cordons with the stronghold rule. But mountains as do deserts may generate the dreaded invasions. While northern hordes and eastern invaders still come from edges of the map, other major invasions come from mountain provinces or desert provinces. This can alter a civilizations perception of how secure, or not, the civilization might be.

Grant: What is the reason behind having different “At Start” civilization disk deployments?

Chris: The Mesopotamian area is a cockpit of civilizations. ACIS, for the most part, allowed lots of room for most civilizations at the start. Not so with ACME. And the civilizations often moved their capital cities during the periods of time they existed.

Mark: Some of the civilizations cover thousands of years and were a mix of peoples.  Medes and Persians, for example, have three options for a start area – depending on which epoch and stage of their civilization you want to play. With Egypt you can start as either Upper or Lower Egypt. The Sea Peoples, well, depending on which sources you prefer, they came from..well, just about anywhere along the Med.

Fred: As Mark previously alluded to, ACME’s Gilgamesh rule allows a player whose initial civilization is on the ropes to enjoy a resurgence as another civilization while retaining all Victory Points the initial civilization earned. The close proximity of the game’s “At Start” Homelands means the returning player’s new civilization can be well-positioned to wreak vengeance on those who compelled the abandonment of the initial civilization. This is a game won by cumulative Victory Points and those do not need to solely come from a player’s initial civilization.

Grant: You have replaced the Wonders with Deities in the design. How do Deities work? What abilities do they offer?

Chris: Deities offer abilities similar to the World Wonders BUT you do not have to put tiles on them. They can be used every turn that they are active (not captured or buried by the sands of time). And a civilization can only have one active deity at a time, so there is one for each active civilization in each game. Deities also give the ability to use Religion Fate Cards. A godless people without a deity cannot use such cards for the effect of the card though they can discard them to avoid losses. Also, a deity gives one a temple priesthood that allows the conversion during growth of two growth tiles for one money.

Mark:…which we call the “Temple Granary” choice on their Civilization Display Card.

Grant: What Deities are included in the game?

Chris: There were thousands of deities worshiped by the civilizations included in the game. So we have created generics: God of the Sky, God of the Dead, etc. etc. Mark feel free and I assume we will have an article or series on Meet the Deities.

Mark: …the seven deadly deities will be the series following the ‘Meet the…(civilizations).’ We based each of the seven on a basic type of god, as all of the major ones had one of those common traits. I chose the symbols of the best-known (at least to archaeologists) to represent them and gave them powers to boost their civilization – or rain hell on others.

Fred: There is an eighth deity in the game… Monotheism. Which can be acquired by a civilization via the Monotheism Religion card. It is a deity automatically assigned to the Israelites, but for games not including the Israelites, any civilization can acquire it. Wait for Mark’s series to learn all the “deity details”.

Grant: I understand that a civilization can capture the Deity of another and take its statue back to its capital to demonstrate its military and theological superiority. How does this happen? Does it grant any special victory points?

Chris: A deity of a civilization lives in a temple that is built in the homeland province. If another civilization captures the homeland and has an active deity of its own, the captured deity is moved to the capturing civilization homeland where it remains until another civilization captures it. There are cards and procedures that will allow a civilization that has lost its deity to get it back. This has historical basis. Everyone probably remembers Moses and Rameses, right? And some rulers returned deities to their people as a sign of magnanimity.

Mark: The kings of the era erected monuments, many of which still stand, which note how they tore down the altars of the god of such-and-such a city or kingdom, and brought that god back to place before the feet of their own god back home. Yeah, sort of like collecting baseball cards or trophies.

Grant: What are Religion Cards and why did you feel these were needed?

Chris: There were religion cards in ACIS but they were not identified as such. The limit on godless people who have no deity made identifying them important. And there are some negate cards that apply to religious cards or the deities themselves.

Grant: Can you please give us a few examples of these Religion Cards?

Chris: Mark, over to you on this.

Mark: Here area  few examples of Religion Cards in the game at this point.

 R    Heresy                       89  R    Blasphemy                 90  R    Religious Zeal      91
For we have found this man Paul a source of mischief and a disturber of the peace among all the Jews throughout the Empire, and a ringleader in the heresy of the Nazarenes.

– Acts 24:5


Select a City. Remove 1 disk from that City. Then remove 1 disk from each adjacent Land area that is occupied by the owner of the chosen City.





And he opened his mouth in blasphemies against God, to blaspheme His name and His tabernacle, that is, those who dwell in heaven

– Revelation 13:6


Choose one civilization with a Deity. Place this card atop their Deity card.  They may not use their Deity bonus, or their Temple Granary, or gain a VP for that or any Temple until this card is removed or negated.  Discard at the end of Epoch or when negated.

The Lord advances like a warrior; He stirs up His zeal like a soldier. He shouts, He roars aloud, He prevails over His enemies.

– Isaiah 42:13


Add 1 disk to any Land area which contains a disk of your color. Then replace any 1 disk in each adjacent Land area with a disk of your color.

 R  Forsaken by God     92    R     Gods Demand     93


 R    Handwriting          94

           on the Wall                                

Because ye have forsaken the LORD, he hath also forsaken you.

– 2 Chronicles 24:20


Invert the Deity or Monotheism card of a civilization.  It becomes a godless civilization.  It remains so until during any subsequent Card Phase it pays the cost to establish a Deity (five Resources).  Upon doing so flip the Monotheism or Deity card face up.

And for a sacrifice of peace offerings, two oxen, five rams, five he goats, five lambs of the first year: this was the offering of Elishama the son of Ammihud

 – Numbers 7:53


Select a civilization. That civilization must discard a card of its choice (unless it has only one card, then that card is discarded) AND lose 1 VP.

My mind reels and wanders, horror terrifies me. [In my mind’s eye I am a the feast of Belshazzar. I see the defilement of the golden vessels taken from God’s temple, I watch the handwriting appear on the wall — “I know that Babylon’s great king is to be slain.] The twilight I looked forward to with pleasure has been turned into fear and trembling for me.

– Isaiah 21:4


Play in response to any card (other than the Breath of God).  Negate that card and discard it.

 R   Monotheism             95                         
 For You are the LORD Most High over all the earth; You are exalted far above all gods.

– Psalm 97:9


Replace your Deity card with this card and send it and its temple to the pool.  You may no longer establish Deities.  Instead, gain 2 VP per turn. Deities you hold captive are worth 2 VP per turn instead of 1 VP.




Grant: I also understand there are more Barbarian Invaders! Why was this change needed? What new challenge does this present?

Chris: As noted above only two of the invasions are from a board edge. The others come from mountains, deserts, or the sea. And in ACME there are cards that expand an invasion that is already on the map.

Mark: So while those on the edges of the map have to watch their backs, even those in the middle of the map have to wonder where the next onslaught will come from.

Desert Raiders                        102 Mountain Tribes Descend     101
E                   Must Play Immediately! E                   Must Play Immediately!
 He then asked, “Which invasion route are we going to take?” Jehoram answered, “By the road through the Desert of Edom.”

 – 2 Kings 3:8


The player with the fewest VPs* selects a Land area that borders a Desert Land area. Place 4 Barbarian disks there and 4 into every adjacent non-Desert Land area.


*fewest Cities, if tied; determine randomly if still tied.

 They would invade with their livestock and tents, swooping in as numerous as locusts. It was impossible to count them or their camels and they came into the land to destroy it. 

 –    Judges 6:5


 The player with the fewest VPs*selects a Land area that borders a Mountain Land area. Place 4 Barbarian disks there and 4 into every adjacent non-Mountain/non-Desert Land area.


*fewest Cities, if tied; determine randomly if still tied.

Grant: The game is heavily reliant on card play as was its predecessor ACIS. For those who know nothing of the series, how are cards used in the design?

Chris: First, the disks represent the locations of a civilization, whether it be a small camp, a thriving settlement, or a city. They depend on a growth strategy. The cards, while they can certainly help with growth, represent other cultural strengths and weaknesses of a civilization, and the all important technology tree. Yes, ACIS and now ACME do have a technology tree, it is just not what you think from other civilization games. Our interpretation of history is that technology breakthroughs rarely gave a civilization an edge beyond a few generations, certainly not more than 100 years, which is shorter than a single turn in our games. So, Iron Mine, for example, gives a civilization that draws it, a temporary edge during the turn, not a permanent advantage. Some critics of the game miss having a specific technology tree that they can manipulate. Mark and I are toying with an optional rule that will add layers of culture to the game, but it is not ready for prime time just yet. Cards also provide the fog of war and trials and tribulations that afflict every civilization. But really, cards are at the heart of the interactive nature of the game. Without them, the game would be, well, dull.

Grant: For more information on how cards are used in the series, check out my Action Point 2.

Fred: I’ll reiterate that the game’s host of disaster cards, man-made and natural, have a basis in history and recreate the hellish chaos that civilizations had to endure (and in many cases did not succeed in enduring). They create a most challenging environment for players to compete in…but if you get into the spirit of the game…it is an exciting and fun environment.

Grant: What is different about the cards in ACME?

Chris: The Biblical Quotes are a major change in terms of providing color in the game. There also are fewer natural disasters. The religion cards we have already covered. But the cards serve the same basic purpose as in ACIS.

Mark: As I mentioned earlier, I have read the Old Testament four times and I love the music of the language, especially the King James’ version…it doth singeth to thee, do it not? I have used quotes in other games for cards (Rebel Raiders on the High Seas, for one) and while there will be illustrations on the cards, the words are an ‘illustration’ all their own…and besides, the source of the quotes is rather impeccable.

Fred: Oh yes, those wonderful Biblical Quotes! For a trade-off in increased playing time, those who’ve played the game have enjoyed, on selected dramatic occasions, to rise from their seat, point an accusing finger at the soon-to-be victim, and in as basso voice as possible (think James Earl Jones as Darth Vader) read the quote and then unleash hell… e.g. a devastating flood or earthquake. Everyone, including the victim, has gotten a kick out of this kind of entertainment…what other game provides such an opportunity?

Grant: Can you please give a few examples of the cards and tell us what they do?

Mark: I showed some examples of Religious cards above, but there are also those that effect Competition (i.e. war), offer Investment opportunities to buy cards or buy off losses, and of course cards that add or remove or replace disks, require players to expend their money, discard their cards, etc. There are 110 cards – 103 of which players decide how to use (the 8 Fate Cards are “must plays” that go into effect the moment they are drawn).

 N     Great Person          7


        Great Person         10


 C Armored Infantry    31                          
 No one among you is to make his son or daughter pass through the fire, practice divination, tell fortunes, interpret omens, practice sorcery, –  Deuteronomy 18:10


Play at any time in any phase in which a civilization announces it will use its Deity bonus to negate that bonus.

 And Delilah said to Samson, Tell me, I pray thee, wherein thy great strength lieth, and wherewith thou mightest be bound to afflict thee. – Judges 16:6


Draw up to three cards at random from one other civilization’s hand.  Examine then return them to that civilization.  Add 1 mina to your Treasury.

And they shall come against you with weapons, chariots, wagons and wheels, and with a host of infantry which shall array themselves against you with buckler and shield and helmet round about  – Ezekiel 23:24


Add one white disk to every area in which your civilization is engaged in competition.

C Mercenaries Desert   40     Sink into the Sea    50  I Grain Storehouses     60
 Even her mercenaries among her are like stall-fed calves. They too will turn back; together they will flee; they will not take their stand, for the day of their calamity is coming on them, the time of their punishment.  – Jeremiah 46:21


Play if the competition is in a land area.  Replace 1 opposing disk there with one of yours for each mina you expend.  The opposing civilization must expend 2 mina or cards (or combination) for each disk it wishes to prevent losing.

Your wealth, wares, and goods, your sailors, captains, and shipwrights, your merchants and all the warriors within you, with all the other people on board, will sink into the heart of the sea on the day of your downfall. – Ezekiel 27:27


Remove all disks from one Sea area, and remove 1 disk from each adjacent Sea area

he made for himself treasuries for silver, gold, precious stones, spices, shields and all kinds of valuable articles, storehouses also for the produce of grain, wine and oil, pens for all kinds of cattle and sheepfolds for the flocks

– 2 Chronicles 32:28


Place 4 disks from supply atop this card. During the Card Phase you may remove disk(s) from this card in lieu of losing disks.


Discard when no disks remain

Grant: I understand that no Fate Cards get reshuffled into the deck. Why did you change this rule?

Chris: This is not quite true. There are fewer reshuffles of the deck until the deck is exhausted or the Epoch ends. This change was based on feedback from players of ACIS.

Grant: What areas of the Middle East does the game board cover?

ACMA Playtest Map
This picture is of the early playtest map and is NOT the FINAL version. The various colors represent the different types of terrain.

Chris: Thrace, Anatolia and the Black Sea in the upper left corner, Egypt and the Nile valley in the lower left, the Indus River in the lower right and the steppes that go on and on in the upper right. The Caspian Sea, Persian Gulf and northern littoral of the Indian Ocean as well as the Eastern Mediterranean and the Red Sea are all there.

Grant: How does the solitaire system work? What are the various solitaire scenarios? Which one is the most challenging?

Chris: The solitaire system is similar to that in ACIS. Mark I will let you take this from here.

Mark:It follows the exact same model as in ACIS – with obviously a slight change, swapping out Deities for Wonders. There are many historical set ups, and several historical wargame scenarios – Mithradates vs. Rome,  Darius and the Great Rebellion, Lion of Judah and, of course, Alexander the Great. The only thing harder than winning that scenario as Alexander is winning it as the Persians trying to stop him. Of course, that is a subject dear to my heart. Not only did I put a similar scenario into ACIS, but I even wrote a novel about it, where Alexander is the villain and the hero is a Greek – one of the thousands – who fought against him.

Grant: What are you most proud about in the design?

Chris: It is a fun game with historic basis.

Mark: Everything – and how it all comes together, like a great feast – and one where you can swing by for a snack (as the game can be as short in terms of time or turns played as you like or need it to be) or come back for seconds (and desert) by playing all four epochs.

Grant: What has changed through the playtesting process? Please give specific examples.

Chris: The major change so far for ACME has been how the alluvial river provinces work. Originally you could get a growth tile from such a province if you have one, two or three tiles present. However, if any other color inhabited one of your river provinces, you would get nothing. We changed this to allow civilizations moving later in the turn order to still earn a growth if they had a settlement (two tiles) in such an area, but not if they had but one or three, which is similar to ACIS. The rules on deities evolved as we ran into different situations of captive deities, including what happens when black tiles capture a homeland.

Grant: What future games are planned for this series?

Chris: I am already drawing the map for Ancient Civilizations of East Asia and thinking about how the rules will differ. There will definitely be terrain similar to that found in ACME. Instead of deities per se, we may allow civilizations to follow Traditionalism (e.g. Confucianism), the Way (Taoism), Legalism, Buddhism. And maybe some others, but we have not made any firm decisions. Still a lot of design work to go on that game. We anticipate an Ancient Civilizations of the Americas as a possibility. Maybe the European invaders will be the black tiles? And someone suggested Ancient Civilizations of the Galaxy, somewhat humorously. And we can always go back and retool ACIS with things we have learned. Finally, there is a possible expansion of ACIS about the Arab/Islamic Jihad that will take ACIS from 500 CE to about 1,500 CE.


Thanks to the three headed monster designing the game for the look inside the design and its mechanics. I always appreciate the input from all members of the team as they all see things in a different way and provide even greater insight that if only a designer offers comment.

If you are interested in Ancient Civilizations of the Middle East, you can pre-order a copy at the special P500 price of $63.00 on the GMT Games website at the following link: https://www.gmtgames.com/p-836-ancient-civilizations-of-the-middle-east.aspx