Greetings again fellow gamers! The last time I was here I was playing The Builders: Middle Ages, and I predicted there could be more on the horizon for this game. Today I am excited to be sharing my thoughts after playtesting The Builders: Antiquity! How does this sequel stack up to the original? To find out, I’ll be running through the following criteria:
Components – Does the game look nice? Are the bits worth the money? Do they add to the game?
Accessibility – How easy is the game to teach, or to feel like you know what you are doing?
Depth – Does the gameplay allow for deeper strategies, or does the game play itself?
Theme – Does the game give a sense of immersion? Can you imagine the setting described in the game?
Fun – Is the game actually enjoyable? Do you find yourself smiling, laughing, or having some sense of satisfaction when it’s over?
Components: Just like its predecessor, Antiquity comes in a nice compact tin. I like these little tins for small games due to their reliability…no matter where I’m headed, I can toss this game into my bag and not worry about dinging the corners or spilling pieces.
Also returning is a deck of worker cards, a deck of tile-sized building cards, and delightfully-clicking plastic coins. Additionally, this version includes some new investment cards, four of which are transparent plastic.
Once again, the artwork is bright and top-notch. I noticed right away that the coins were a much simpler design than they were in Middle Ages…but I also quickly realized that since we’ve gone further back in time for this installment, it makes thematic sense. While you are likely to be able to find it for less, I think the MSRP of $18 is just fine, as the quality of the artwork and components is excellent.
Accessibility: I playtested this one with veteran gamers, most of whom had no prior The Builders experience. With the addition of the investment cards, this version of the game is a bit more complex, and therefore not as quick to learn (or play) as Middle Ages.
Each player still gets three actions on his or her turn. In addition to the original possibilities of collecting buildings, collecting/assigning workers, or collecting coins from the bank, you now have the option once per turn to purchase an investment card, of which there are four types: prisoners, tools, loans, and education.
Prisoners are workers who (after being purchased) may be assigned to buildings for free, but hurt your VP score if you don’t pay for their freedom by the end of the game. Tools can be picked up by a worker (or freed prisoner) for no additional cost when he is assigned. The education cards are the transparent plastic overlays which permanently improve one of your workers (or freed prisoners.) Loans work just how you’d expect them to.
With these additions, there are now enough little rules to track that I wouldn’t automatically go to this one for novice gamers, especially since there are no player aids. That being said, the instruction manual is very well organized, efficiently color coded, and simple to reference.
By the end of their first game, my newer playtesters felt they had a good understanding of it, and were willing to play again, though they thought it might be nice to try the original first. My veteran The Builders playtester was able to pick up the new investments rules without much trouble.
Depth: With more decisions to make on each turn, this game is perhaps a bit deeper than the original, but it also plays quite differently for a couple of reasons.
First, there are dramatically fewer workers in Antiquity (18) than there were in Middle Ages (42!) Especially with more than two players, you are likely to run out of workers to draft for your team, which really pushes you to use those investment cards.
Second, when you purchase an investment card, unlike the worker and building decks, you get to look through the stack to select the one you want. Together, these two elements make Antiquity feel a lot less random overall.
Theme: Instead of a medieval town, this time around you are working to complete wonders of the ancient world. This theme works just as well as its predecessor, but again I would love to see something fresher. I know this theme has proven gamer appeal, but I can just as easily imagine The Builders with a less conventional modern setting…you could even have interns that you eventually hire (or not) instead of prisoners that you eventually set free (or not!)
While there are still no women on the cards (hazard of the time period?) this version of the game does feature multiple cultures, including Babylonian, Egyptian, and Greek, which is fun to see.
Between the variety of art and the clickity exchange of currency during gameplay, this small game certainly delivers on its theme.
Fun: After my initial games with four players, I wasn’t convinced that this new version was necessarily an improvement over the original. While I thought it was fun to purchase tools and education to upgrade my workers, taking out loans and purchasing prisoners was not as enticing to me, purely for flavor reasons. Also, due to the longer turns, Antiquity didn’t truly shine for me until I played with just two players. Not only were the two player games better paced, but there were also plenty of workers to go around, which resulted in the investments feeling more like strategic options, rather than as forgone conclusions.
Overall, The Builders: Antiquity is another fun release which crams a lot of game into a portable package. Does it make sense to pick it up if you already have Middles Ages? I’d say it depends on how often you play with two players, or if you prefer less randomness in your games. Since they play slightly differently, Antiquity does not render Middle Ages obsolete; if you just can’t decide which version to pick up, it certainly wouldn’t hurt to have both on your shelf!
For the quality and replay value you get at this price point, I am happy to recommend The Builders: Antiquity as another easy addition to your collection.
Special thanks to my playtesters: Julie, Shawna, Tristan, and MB
4 out of 5