There’s a skill to making a game as easy to play as possible. It is a road paved with traps and misdirection and distractions, where going down the wrong road can often lead to frustration, and in the worst case, a game not finding a way back to the table very soon. While I genuinely use my own opinions as the base for many reviews that I’ve produced in the last six years, when the people you are playing with are genuinely happy to have another round of a game with hesitation, you know that the designer must have succeeded in making huge inroads in making their effort accessibly playable.
Akropolis from Giga Mic wants you to get laying tiles as quickly as possible. There are no punchboards to fiddle with, the quarry tokens are already bagged up. The tiles have printed on the back the number of players they should be used for. The rulebook is simple and straightforward to read through and understand. In your turn you pick from one of line of tiles, with the price increasing as you go up the line. You then place this tile in your own city. There’s no rules to follow with regards to placement and your markets, barracks, temples, gardens and houses can be placed anywhere as long they connect to a previously laid tile. Even the boring grey quarry tiles have no set place to live. It seems all very simple and uninspired.
This is all turned on its head when it comes to scoring. While you can put your tiles wherever you want, if you want to score then you’ll need to keep within the rules that each of the areas follow. The Barracks want to be at the edges of the city to protect them, while the temples need to be surrounded on all sides. Markets don’t like to be next to other markets and you’ll only score the largest group of houses you create.
You’ll need to have a plaza for each type of tile if you do want them to score. So now it becomes a spatial location puzzle and now that line of tiles that you were selecting from and buying from now becomes very important. All of a sudden Akropolis is pushing the player interaction, as you try to keep an eye on your own little city while trying to keep an eye on what’s for sale and occasionally buying pieces to prevent other players from creating their own winning constructions. It builds on the foundation of simplicity and pushes you to consider how you are building out and up.
Yes, I said up. In Akropolis you can add tiles on the top of the city you’ve laid before you. This allows you to replenish your quarry currency stone if you cover over a quarry tile, and double the value of the city piece that now sits on the new level. In your first game you’re likely to build a small sprawling metropolis, but by the third and fourth game, you’re concentrating your area and trying for verticality over spread. It will often lead to tough decisions where you’ll often be balancing sacrificing losing points over a later on advantage down the line. I’m saying third and fourth here because you’ll probably get through a game within fifteen minutes, and then you’ll look at the other players and you’ll start the set up for the next game while nodding and smiling.
Akropolis manages the perfect mix of ease of learning, player interaction and tactics. Because of the randomness of the tiles, you have to keep on your toes with how you are going to play out a round. A winning combination that wins you in one game might be impossible to achieve in the next and you’ll need adjust your layout accordingly. It gives a fairness to the game that holds up well down the line. While you can have a winning tactic, you’ll need to see how the tiles are dealt out to see if you can use it and with only twelve rounds in a game, holding back will lead to panic and scrabbling for less rewarding combinations. The easy rules mean younger players can play while the depth of scoring means that even you’re most hardy point salad connoisseur is going to like this.
Akropolis is brilliant. If you get the chance to pick it up then do so. If you get the chance to play it then it’s only fifteen minutes of your time to see how well designed a tile laying point scoring game can be. Well done to Jules Messaud for the design. Pauline Détraz has done a great job on the clear illustrations on the tiles. Fabulous stuff.
You can find out more about Akropolis by visiting https://www.hachetteboardgames.co.uk/shop/gakr-en-akropolis-548
Designer – Jules Messaud
Graphics – Pauline Détraz
This review is based on the final retail version of the game provided to us by games distributor Hachette Games. We were not paid for this review. We give a general overview of the gameplay and so not all of the mechanical aspects of the game may be mentioned.