Dale Yu: Review of Akrotiri

 [Editor’s Note – though we try to normally collaborate on a group reviews here at the Opinionated Gamers, sometimes we get our signals crossed and have multiple people write up reviews on their own – rather than try to figure out how to mush them together, we just decided to publish both of them on the same day!]

Akrotiri

  • Designers: Jay Cormier and Sen-Foong Lim
  • Publisher: Z-Man Games
  • Players: 2
  • Time: 45 mins
  • Ages: 13+
  • Times played: 3, with review copy provided by Z-Man

Akrotiri

Akrotiri is a 2-player game set in classical Greek times – players are competing with each other to find legendary Minoan temples.  The game is played on a modular map.  The center of the board is always a map of the island of Thera, and the uncharted waters of the Aegean sea are explored as new tiles are added to the board.

Each player starts the game with one Easy and one Medium map cards.  These cards show the location of the legendary temples that players are trying to discover.  Each player is dealt two Goal cards, and each player chooses one of these two to keep.  The board is seeded with two tiles, and each player gets a tile for their hand.

A start player is chosen and turns alternate until the end of a round where one player has excavated their sixth temple. Each player has a player board that serves as his rules reference as well as providing an area at the bottom to store the unplaced temple pieces.

The player board

The player board

On a turn, the first thing a player does is to place his tile on the board.  The tile must be adjacent to at least one other tile on the map.  Each tile has a number of different island segments depicted on it.  There is also a resource icon on each tile (one of four different types).  The player must place a resource matching the color of the resource icon on the island section which has the icon.  Then, the player places a resource cube of his choice on a different island on the newly placed tile.  These resources are taken from the resource board.  As resources are removed from this board, the price of those resources will increase.

The player then moves into the action phase of his turn.  The number of actions a player may take is denoted by the exposed number on the bottom track of his player board.  Essentially, the more temples that a player has discovered, the more actions that can be taken.

Possible actions include:

  • Move via Shipping Route – you move your boat from a dock on one island to another island following the printed shipping routes on the tiles.  You can turn along the path, and you stop at another dock.  Only one boat can ever be in port at one time.
  • Move via Portage – Move your boat overland; it moves from one dock on an island to another dock on that same island (likely on a different tile).  If your boat is empty, you can take two movement actions – so you could portage to a different dock and then sail from that along a line to another port.
  • Load a Boat – when at a dock, you can load any resource cubes found on that island (not just on your section of the island).  The boat is limited to carrying three resources, which is also true in the physical sense – there is only enough room in the wooden boat for three wooden cubes
  • Excavate a Temple – You discover a temple on the island where you are docked.  To do this, you must show a Map card from your hand which can be legally played.  Each Map card has a number of resource icons printed on them.  Keeping it face up in front of you, you must be able to show a matching set of resource icons on the map that match the icons on the card.  If this can be done, you pay a cost in coins seen in the upper left of the card and place the card on the table.  You will score VPs for this at the end of the game.  You also place a Temple piece from your player board onto the island where your ship is docked.  Note the new number/icon revealed on your player board – you will either have more actions to take next turn or you will be directed to draw new goal cards.  Note that you cannot place temples on Thera, and each island in the game may only ever have one temple.
  • Buy New Map Cards – You can choose to buy 1/2/3 Map cards for 1/3/7 coins.  You can freely choose which difficulty of card that you want.  Easy cards have the fewest icons on them, and thus, they are the easiest to place, but they also offer the fewest VPs.
Three different map cards

Three different map cards

  • Consult the Oracle – you verbally state which resource icon you want for your next tile.  Flip tiles until you uncover one with the matching icon. You must take this tile.  If you reveal the entire deck, you simply take the last revealed tile.

Also, at any time, players can take a few free actions

  • Sell Resources – you can only do this when your boat is docked at Thera.  You simply return resources from your boat to the resource board.  You receive a number of coins equal to the number covered up on the chart.
  • Unload Resources – you can freely remove goods cubes from your boat and place them on the island where your ship is currently docked
  • Draw a tile – if you have not consulted the Oracle, you must draw a tile to finish your turn.  You will always have only one tile in your hand at the end of a turn.
Tiles!

Tiles!

Again, the game ends when at the end of a round when at least one of the two players has discovered their sixth temple.  At this time, there is a final scoring.  There are 3 ways to score points:

  1. Map cards – for each successfully played Map Card (and therefore successfully placed Temple), you score a number of VPs as printed on the card – 1 VP for easy, 3 VP for Medium, 7 VP for hard
  2. Goal Card – reveal each collected goal card and score points according to how well you met the scoring conditions of each card – they all revolve around your Temples
  3. Money – one point for each 10 coins in your possession at the end of the game
Goal cards

Goal cards

The player with the most points wins. Ties go to the player with most money.

My thoughts on the game

Akrotiri is a fairly involved 2p game, bringing back memories of the beloved Kosmos Spiele fur Zwei series.  This impression is also helped by the fact that the game comes in the same size box as that Kosmos line.

The game moves along at a decent pace – though you don’t have much to do when it’s not your turn, you are usually taking that time to look at the board and plan where to place your tile.

I have heard some people complain that there is a bit of a runaway leader issue – as you are more successful with your temple placements, you are granted more actions each turn as well.  While I have yet to see a game where a player “ran away” with a game, it certainly seems like the game accelerates as players get more actions to use each turn.  I could certainly see a scenario where the leader could get an insurmountable advantage in actions – say if they somehow managed to place three temples before their opponent placed any.  The rules do not really have any  mechanic to mitigate this potential.  But, in my limited experience thus far, that situation also hasn’t happened.  I’ve seen someone get as much as two temples ahead, but there wasn’t a runaway situation.

The map building is fun, and there is a lot of thought that needs to be given when placing tiles.  On any given turn, you don’t get to choose which tile to place – you can only use the one you are holding – but you can try to place that tile to either help you gather up goods better or you can try to set up the resource icons to allow you to place your temples successfully.  Again, I’ve only played twice, but thus far, I have placed a fair number of my own temples on a turn where I just placed a tile to complete a particular arrangement on the board.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

It’s hard to defend against your opponents temple placements because you don’t know what pattern of icons they have on their card, so you usually don’t have to consider that sort of defensive placement when playing tiles.

The other major decision to be made in the game is how you want to approach the Map Cards.  Certainly, matching 3 icons on an easy Map card is much easier to achieve than the 7 icons on the Hard cards – but the VP difference is also large.  The other part of this equation is the fact that all of the Goal cards score points based on your temple locations.  Thus, the more temples that you are able to have on the board, the better you will likely do with the goal cards.  Thus far, it appears that the progression from Easy to Medium to Hard is pretty straightforward.

Interestingly, in one of my games, the player who finished all 6 temples ended up losing by a fair amount – I had managed to only build 4 temples, but two were high scoring and I had very synergistic goal cards.  I like the fact that this opportunity exists as it does give different viable scoring options.

Overall, Akrotiri is an enjoyable and challenging 2P game.  I don’t think that it will supplant Lost Cities or Caesar and Cleopatra, but it’s a nice meaty game that I’ve enjoyed playing thus far.   It definitely still have more plays to come in the future as I continue to explore the Aegean Sea looking for those temples.

Opinions from Other Opinionated Gamers

Jonathan F.: This game started great.  It has several of my favorite mechanisms.  Unfortunately, the second half of the game, as the map grew, brought out my AP in a big way.  There are so many possibilities and you cannot really plan before it is your turn, so the turns got longer and longer and we tried to optimize.  Again, the problem is not with the game, but with our style of play.

Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers

  • I love it!
  • I like it. Dale Y, Tom R, Larry L, Ben McJ, Jonathan D, Lorna
  • Neutral. Rick T, Jen G
  • Not for me… Joe H, Jonathan F.

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About Dale Yu

Dale Yu is the Editor of the Opinionated Gamers. He can occasionally be found working as a volunteer administrator for BoardGameGeek, and he previously wrote for BoardGame News.
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