Akrotiri Review

AkrotiriSPECS

Akrotiri is an ancient port town on the Greek island of Thera. In this two-player game with the same name, from Jay Cormier and Sen-Foong Lim, you are explorers and with a number of secret maps in your possession, you sail across the Aegean sea in search of long-lost Minoan temples. Find the islands described on your maps, excavate these legendary buildings and wealth and fortune will find you.

Overview:

What do you get for your money?

1 Starting board, 1 market board, 2 player boards, 2 boats, 12 temples, 6 action markers, 36 land tiles, 36 map cards, 12 goal cards, 32 resources cubes, 25 Drachma pieces and the rules.

How do you play the game?

In this game you are Greek explorers of some sort. You try to discover ancient Minoan temples. You have some maps and a boat. That’s it. Now go find them.

The goal of the game is to find six temples and be the one with the most points. How do you find these temples? You start the game with two secret maps, one easy map and a map with a medium difficulty. You can buy maps for hard to find temples later in the game. On these maps you’ll find clues for the location of a temple. A temple is located on an island that is surrounded by different terrains, like mountains, lakes, volcanoes or forests. The map describes that site with icons, it has an excavation cost (upper left corner) and a reward (upper right corner). More difficult maps cost more money, but also give you more points.

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For instance, this temple is located on an island with two forest icons above it, two volcanoes to the left of it and one lake icon below it. If you can find an island that meets these conditions, sail to its port, pay the excavation cost, place one of your temples and receive some points.

You can create these specific conditions yourselves. There are several land tiles and on every tile you find parts of islands, one with an icon, some with ports some with no port. You also find sea lanes that, potentially, connect one port with others.

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On your turn, you must take one tile from the draw stack and place it next to another tile on the table. Then you must place two cubes on that tile. One on the island with the icon and then another on a different island on that tile. The first cube has to have the same colour as the icon, the other can have any colour.

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Every icon has eight cubes with the same colour in the market. The more cubes of one colour or icon are on the board the higher its value in the market. During the game you can collect these cubes by sailing to islands with cubes, loading them in your boat, and then selling them at the market on the big central island on the starting board, Thera. You receive some money and with that money you can buy more maps and fund your future excavations.

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You do all these actions by spending action points. You must place the tile and cubes, but after that you can spend your points to move your boat from one port to another, load your boat with resources from the island you’re at, excavate a temple, buy maps at Thera or consult the Oracle. This last action means that you can request a terrain icon and draw tiles from the stack until you find a tile with that icon. You can then play that tile on your next turn. You can always sells resources at Thera or unload resources onto an island. That costs no action points.

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The more temples you excavate during the game, the more actions points you can spend during your turn. After you’ve built your second and fourth temple, you don’t get extra action points. You do receive two goal card and can keep one of them. You start the game with one, so at the end of the game you might have three of them. Your goal might be to have temples on islands with a volcano icon, have temples on unfinished islands, have temples on islands with no icons at all or islands with at least three different icons on it.

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At the end of the game, when a player has excavated her sixth temple, you both count your points from the map cards, goal cards and leftover Drachmas. The player with the most points, wins Akrotiri.

Review:

Gameplay:

The game has two basic elements: pick-up and deliver and tile placement. They both seem easy to explain and to understand. And they are. However, this game is a brain burner. I’ll try to explain why.

Both mechanism seem easy. First, you pick up cubes from the islands, bring them back to Thera and sell them. Then, you got some money and so you buy some maps and try to match the icons on these maps to the icons on the board. Place the right tiles on the right spots and excavate a temple. Do that six times, you’re done, easypeasy, you’ve got the most points, victory is yours.

That’s not entirely the case. First of all, you don’t always get the right tiles at the right time and you don’t always get the right maps at the right time. There can only be one temple per island and there can never be a temple on Thera. One island may be a perfect fit for the both of you. Also, you might find this perfect island, your temple must be there. However there is no sea-lane that leads to that island. So, you and your opponent will be constantly competing for the right spots.

When you place a tile at the beginning of your turn, you have to take several things into account. Firstly and obviously, you have to think about the location of the tile in relationship to the maps you are trying to complete. Not only in terms of the icons, but also in terms of creating the right sea lanes. Secondly, you have to think about the resource market. You have to place two cubes; one obvious one, the one in the same colour as the icon, but also one cube with a colour of your choosing. Which colour do you choose? You want the cubes that you are hauling around to have a high value. Plus, you want the cubes that you opponent has in his boat to have a low value. Sadly that is not always possible, but how do you limit the damage?

That is also the case during the rest of the game. You have only so much action points to spent, but how can you be the most productive on your turn or just a little more productive than your opponent? There’s competition for islands, for resources and on the market board. If you can excavate a temple first, your opponent may have to find another island, and there might not be another island that fits the same criteria, or just not yet. If you can get these highly valued green cubes, she has to find money in a different way. If you can sell some blue cubes just before the other player does, you get more money than he gets. You have to take all this into account.

And more. Although you gain more action points when you excavate more temples, you still have the feeling that you are always one action point short. (If I do this, I can’t do that, but then she can do that, so I better do this, but then I have no action points left, so…)

You think that there’s enough to think about, right? No, just excavating temples on the islands on your maps is not enough. Here are some goal cards. Now the location of your temple islands do not only have to match the location of the islands on your maps, but, if there’s a possibility, they also have to have a Lake icon on them, or have to be exactly one portage away from Thera, or the island has to be unfinished.

So, as you can read; Akrotiri can be a little thinky. Pick-up and deliver and tile placement sound pretty straightforward, but in this game they can feel quite brain burny.

Theme:

The theme that they have chosen, the Classical Greek times, is nice. It gives the game a good look and some flavour. However, this game totally feels like an abstract game when you play it.

Looks:

I really like the look of the game. They’ve tried to give this game a Classical Greek theme and although it does not come through in the gameplay, it does in the looks. The illustrations are just very nice. The game looks colourful and cheerful and the boats and the temples give this game a bit extra. A little more than just cubes on a board.

Quality of the  components:

The component quality is very good. The cubes, cards, tiles and boats are just good. The temples are nice and heavy, and have a very good quality. The player boards and the market, however, are just a bit too thin. I would have liked them to be a little thicker and sturdier. That probably would have increased the price of the game, so I’m OK with this solution.

Fun:

There’s more in this box than you might think from reading the back or reading the description on BGG. There’s a lot to think about, like I already said above. Our first game took a little longer than the box said, because we had to figure out how we had to match the maps with the actual board. So during your first game or the first part of your first game, you can’t really play as tactical as you should or want to. However, after that introductory game, this game really shines. A tactical, thinky, two-player game in a relatively small box that packs a nice punch.

I would say that Akrotiri is a game that is not really suitable as an introductory game. I think that it’s a bit too overwhelming for the non-gamer. For everyone else it’s perfect.

A nice, head to head, two-player only game. A real brain burner. Everyone should at least own one game in that category and this one certainly is a good one to have.

 

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2 thoughts on “Akrotiri Review”

  1. Hey thanks so much for this review! I really like how you spent at least half of the review actually reviewing the game! For some reason that’s rare in board game reviews as I have found that they are often 90% explanation of the rules and 10% of opinions! So keep up the good work man! Also – those photos are top notch. You obviously know your way around a camera. Care to share any tips on how to take great board game photos? Would make a great blog post at least!!

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