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Gathering of Engineers

Ludographic considerations from the Silicon Forest

Saturday, April 01, 2006

The Graphical Design of Antike

Antike was one of my favorite releases from 2005, and I continue to be impressed with the simplicity and elegance of the game design.  I had a chance to play it again last weekend at GameStorm, and though I lost to a last-minute dash by George, it reinforced my belief that this is a solid, fun, replayable game that scales well from 3–6 players.  I have yet to try it with 2, but it looks worth trying.

The more I play Antike, the more I am impressed with the graphical design of the game.  I figure I could probably learn a few things about design (or at least evaluating design) by breaking down what I think is so special about Antike.  So… join me on a photo-rich journey into the myriad of good design decisions made by Mac Gerdts & Steffi Krage.

Bits: Antike has high contrast wooden bits with easily distinguishable colors.  There’s no confusing player-specific components in this game, and I suspect even those with mild color blindness would do fine with these colors.

Antike Bits

Cards: The nation cards for the game are outstanding, eliminating the need to consult the rulebook to determine what nations are used with different numbers of players.  It is also obvious who the start nation is with each nation as well as each nation’s starting cities.  This is true for both the English and German maps.

Antike Nation Cards

The victory point cards are well designed, though I would have prefered to see English on the back sides of the German language cards.  This would have been easy as there’s no need to keep these secret, so no need for a generic card back.  Still, the icons make the victory cards easy to distinguish and the numbers help remind players how many of each remains in the game without having to count cards in the stack.

Antike Know-How Cards

Map board: Antike comes with a two-sided board, adding variability to the game geography while providing language-specific (English and German) help on each respective side.  The know-how track has great visuals: it is clear how much each advancement costs for the 1st and subsequent players as well as the benefits accrued for each technology.

Antike Know-How

The map itself is outstanding, providing bold red and blue lines to separate the regions and making it obvious where troops and ships can pass.  Contrast this with a (great) game like Indonesia that uses a highly artistic board but often leaves players guessing about where country border lines start and finish.  No such confusion in Antike.

Antike Board

The victory point track on the board is equally solid and self explanatory.  No need to look up how many VPs it takes to win in a 3–player game -it is right there on the board, though the statement “ACTUAL NUMBER OF ANTIQUE PERSONS” is interesting.  The VP cards that players collect are technically called “Antique Personalities” but are really just victory points.

Antike Victory Point Track

 The rondel is one of the more interesting and innovative game mechanics in Antike, and the design of the board component is on par with the rest of the game.  A simple clue like “up to 3 fields for free” helps eliminate any confusion about the cost for moving your marker beyond 3 fields at a time.

Antike Rondel

Most of the rest of the game’s mechanics are explained in an easy-to-use, dual-language quick reference card.  Only criticism here is that they only include 4 of them in the game, but it is easy to share between players when playing with 5 or 6.

 Antike Quick Reference

Cities on the map produce a specific kind of resource, and the game uses both colors and symbols to indicate the resource type.  They even use a different background color on the scroll with the city name to help distinguish the city types.  In the picture below you can see the city marker for Mecca (the gold pot) with a gold coin next to it.

Antike Resource Tokens

Antike could have been extremely fiddly and hard to pick up and play without such well designed components and human factors.  There’s no cross-referencing and very little rulebook lookups once you learn the basics of the game as the information a player needs is right there on the board or on the cards.  Well done!


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