Action point allowance: Actions are selected "mancala style", not only limiting the available actions but also constantly changing the cost of each action.
Area majority: Control of city-states and colonies are determined by area majority.
Set collection: The players may give up short-term gains to collect resource sets for long-term profit.
Engine building: The players may invest in buildings that give benefits for certain actions.
With Demokratia and Apokalypsis, I started a series of games set in the Ancient Greece. However, I felt that I missed a game depicting the struggle between the city states and thought of which mechanisms that would give justice to this dynamic epoch. A light civilization game? An area control game? A war game? The answer came from another old wish to design a game with a quick and smooth action system instead of the rather downtime-prone system of rounds and phases.
How about a system where the players choose only one action at the time? Perhaps a rondel mechanism
like in Murano or a
mancala mechanism like in Trajan?
Those two fine games inspired me to a more dynamic system. Imagine only one mancala board, like
in Five Tribes,
where the players may open and close opportunities for each other, to determine both number and cost
of actions. After some thinking a simple but brilliant system emerged.
Similar to my previous games, I started trying out rule fragments (which actions, what would they
cost, what would they return etc.) and then proceeded to put them all together in draft rules, partly
to get them organized and partly to facilitate the process of making them intuitive and consistent.
The key question was which actions to have. The actions needed to be fairly balanced (although
powerful actions will be picked more often and hence be more expensive) and they needed to create a
balanced economy (with surplus enough to keep the game flowing and shortage enough keep the game tense).
First, I needed actions to increase the players' assets. Production, Taxation and Import are natural
actions for this. They could also be linked to specific city-states (Hellas, Ionia and Megale Hellas),
partly to increase the players available actions for acquiring assets and partly to decrease the outcome
of each action. One alternative would be to let all city-states and players benefit, similar
to Alexandros, but I
preferred to keep the actions individual and quick.
The distinction between liquid assets (talents) for immediate use and non-liquid assets (resources)
for set collection and delayed use was inspired
This added a balance between tactical short-term gains and strategic long-term gains.
I did consider player trade as well but again decided to prirotize quick game turns. Instead, I
added the action Trade to give the players another alternative to acquire resource they miss in their
sets. Finally, I needed an action for liquidizing the resources by exporting them for talents.
What then would the talents be used for? Assets on the board of course. Again, the actions were
linked to city-states but with a slightly different perspective. Colonization is linked to Megale
Hellas (and improves the value of the Import action) while the Mobilize and Intrigue actions are
linked to both Hellas and Ionia. This added another dimension to the conflicts between the players:
the external threats of mobilized armies and the internal threats of intriguing citizens.
The other uses of talents were inspired by the theme. The diplomatic game between the Greek
city-states, where alliances kept changing, required a diplomatic track. The still visible archeological
traces of the Greek civilizations required buildings. The former could offer military advantages
(more strength in conflicts) while the latter could offer economic advantages (less cost for actions).
The final actions needed the direct conflicts. While a normal euro could have settled with the
talents-citizens-more talents-flow, Politeia would also be about direct conflicts. The Attack action was a
natural one: let the players use a surplus of citizens to attack players with less citizens.
served as the inspiration for the simple and predictable battle mechanism where the players take turns to
remove citizens. This would also naturally make the attacker weaker, as his victorious citizens are spread
out on more city-states.
The twelfth and last action was a simple "adjustment" action: Maneuver to allow player to reallocate
How about the Persian threat then? I couldn't deny the game this epic struggle between the two
civilizations. But an event that hurts all players equally wouldn't be interesting so how could I make a
Greco-Persian war individual? I already had the answer from my decision to have both Hellas and Persian
political levels. Players with many citizens and/or high Hellas political levels would benefit from Greek
victories while players with few citizens and/or high Persian political levels would benefit (or suffer less)
from Persian victories.
Game testing revealed another use of this event. In one test, the
players hoarded citizens, which made internal wars too costly. By letting it trigger when the
balance between Greece and Persia shifts to much, this external war not only restored the balance but also
removed some of the hoarded citizens. This event became the most complex but since it's not likely to happen
that many times in a game, I accepted it.
With that I had a game with a unique action mechanism that would allow players both the standard euro
gameplay of spending assets to build an economic engine and the more warlike gameplay of spending assets in
The artwork was another challenge. Most civilization games have lavish art, with
7 Wonders being only one of many fine
examples. But although buildings do play an important part in the game, the main part is played using actions and geography,
where art may clutter other important information.
Instead, I went with simple map representation of the city states, with the additions of pottery style
images for marker placeholders. Italy, Greece and Asia Minor were perfect backgrounds for the Megale Hellas,
Hellas and Ionian city-states. The actions also uses geographical backgrounds (although faded out) to indicate
where the actions take place but the main information conveyed by the art are the colors (to group similar
actions) and the symbols (to tell how talents, resources, citizens and city-states are used in the action).
Finally, the player markers were distinguished both with colors and with symbols representing the ancient
city-states of Greece (as described in Theme. This also kept the art in line with
the two previous games in the "Ancient Greece series", Demokratia