The wolf is on the loose, spreading fear and panic throughout the countryside. You must quickly build three houses to protect yourself and those lackadaisical siblings of yours. Choose where to gather, decide if you want to visit your secret stash, trust that premonition you had, or throw a fancy party. Build quickly and build wisely.
Journey to the depth of space as the captain of a space-trawler and claim your fortune among the stars. Your ship is designed for long missions and extracting ore from asteroids. Plunder loot by hiding in cosmic clouds and raiding un-expecting mining operations. Get rich by exploring the unknown and mapping complete space formations. Make negations with explored planets, to lease their ships and expand your fleet. Push your ship into overdrive to do as much as possible, but beware of a system failure which will put your ship out of business.
Space Miner is tile game of exploration where players reveal tiles to create mine-able asteroid fields or nebulas capable of hiding a surprise attack, and roll dice to explore, extract or conquer space. Keep rolling the dice to take additional actions, but each time roll an extra overdrive dice. The more action you take the more likely your ship is to be destroyed, causing you to start your new turn from scratch.Advanced rules add the Space Mining Council rules where the formations your ships occupy grant you influence in the treacherous council of mining captains. Elect players to add advantages or disadvantages to players, or enact laws to change the rules of the game. The need to hold formations creates a tension between wanting to take more actions and needing to maintain a captain’s influence.
2-3 players in 30-45 minutes.
The Weird City Games crew is proud to announce the debut of our podcast, The Homnifriend Playtime Hour. For a full explanation of what the heck that means, plus other tidbits and thoughts from the Weird City Crew, tune in here: Episode 1: I’ll Back That!
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As March of the Ants begins to arrive, I wanted to discuss the blank, home-brew cards that were created for the Kickstarter campaign. This article expects a familiarity with the March of the Ants, but if you have any questions please reach out to me in the comments- I’d love to help!
These blank cards have the same backs as all the regular cards and the fronts have the same borders, but the cards are blank so you can create your own new cards and mini-expansions. There are three Evolution cards (one of each segment), two Event cards and a Colony Goal – the same design space we used to create the Bee mini-expansion already in the game.
(An error was made preparing these cards for print and on the red bordered cards it says Evolution, where it should say Event. Our apologies for this error.)
Ant cards have two main values: Cost and Power. Each card has a Cost that is paid in Ants or Larvae when the card is played. The more powerful a card is the higher the cost should be. The cost of Cards currently range from 1 to 4 but some cards specify they must be paid only in Ants, not Larvae. The effect of paying in Ants makes the card more expensive, because you are forced to give-up position in the Meadow.
The second value on each ant card is Power, a number that is used during battle to boost your ant armies by discarding cards from your hand. More powerful cards tend to have higher power values, which helps new players evaluate how useful cards are when making discard decisions. If a card has a very situational effect, we tended to lower its power value so a player would be tempted to wait for that specific moment rather than just tossing the card in the heat of battle. The higher the power value the better and it currently goes from 1-4, with a single card at 5 (to spice things up!). Colony Goals have some of the highest Power values, so that players balance long term goals versus short term victories.
Evolution cards are the majority of the ant deck, since evolving and creating new ants it what the game is all about. To reduce complicated card interactions and to reinforce the flavor of the game, the ant Evolutions are tied to the three castes of ant society- Queen, Soldier and Worker, and each caste is represented by a specific phase of gameplay. The game is further structured by tying all the Soldier cards to the Head segment, the Worker cards to the Thorax and the Queen cards to the Abdomen. Players only need to pay attention to a single segment of their ant during the corresponding phase of play. players are less likely to forget about cards they had in play, and it also becomes easier to pay attention to what your opponents have going on.
Event cards are played instead of taking taking colony actions like Explore or Forage. They generally attack an opponent, help get your ants to otherwise inaccessible hexes in the meadow, or smooth out your economy by giving you resources. Their cost ranges from 1-4 Ants/Larvae, and these cards would be mostly likely to have alternative costs, like paid only in Ants or some other resource. Be careful of creating Event cards that give too much free food, because this can bloat the economy and make the game drag on. Since Events happen once, rather than evolutions which a player can use over and over, feel free to make the game effects bigger than you would an evolution.
The final type of card is the Colony Goal, which represent different strategies a player can choose to gain points at the end of the game. The Colony Goals are structured so when you play it you gain an immediate boost that works towards the theme of the goal, and each Slumber you gain Colony Points if you met the goal. They cost 2 Larvae/Ants each, and are balanced to produce 0-2 points each turn, with the most powerful going all the way up to 3. You might make a more powerful colony goal that gives even more points, by making its condition very difficult or you could make the initial boost into a cost to balance the bigger, late-game reward.
I have been thinking about this article for months as something i wanted to write before these blank cards started landing on your doorstep. I hope this information about how we designed our ant cards helps you make your own cards that are awesome to play and fit cohesively in the game. The best place to share your great ideas is here in the BGG forums, and is also where we will share and test our own ideas.
Hello everyone! A brief introduction: My name is Stephen, and I am a member of Weird City Games, a tabletop games company based in Portland, Oregon. I was on the design and development team for March of the Ants. Aside from Tim and Ryan, the lead designers, I’ve played more games of March of the Ants than anyone in the world. This article is a hybrid design-strategy article wherein I share my perspective on the evolution of the role of combat in March of the Ants. Although it includes conversations I shared with my colleagues at Weird City, it represents my perspective solely.
After two years of development and many months since our successful Kickstarter campaign ended, it has been truly exhilarating to see production copies of March of the Ants hit tabletops worldwide. As a member of the design team, I’ve been fascinated to read players’ first impressions, their analyses of different aspects of the game, and notes from some of the sessions being logged.
One of the aspects of the early views and reviews being shared that has caught my attention, and has caught me a bit by surprise, is players’ emphasis on the Soldier Phase. There is a serious amount of combat going on! In the big picture, it has me thinking about whether or not March of the Ants is truly a 4X game, or something a little different.
For those of you unfamiliar with the abbreviation, “4X” is a genre of strategy-based video and board games in which players control an empire and “eXplore, eXpand, eXploit, and eXterminate.” The term was first coined by Alan Emrich in his September 1993 preview of Master of Orion for Computer Gaming World. Since then, others have adopted the term to describe games of similar scope and design.
The game play of March of the Ants clearly includes the first three X’s: players send their ants to explore the meadow, expanding their colonies’ territory in order to exploit more resources. And you can engage in ant battle. But exterminate opposing colonies? To try to answer this question, I’m going to share a bit about our perspective on the role of conflict – and combat – in March of the Ants through the eyes of the design team.
One of our design goals was integrating the theme and mechanics of MotA as much as possible. We researched the world of ants and brought our budding myrmecological minds to many aspects of the game. The Evolutions, certainly, but in a more macro sense too: the possibility of thriving in the game through peaceful coexistence, even symbiosis, with other ant colonies. This reflects the behavior of different species of ants in the real world. Combined with our central goal of creating a dynamic, highly interactive game, this paved the way for the inclusion of multiple paths to victory, or paths that included a wide variety of elements within them.
Which is all to say that combat was never conceived of as a central or dominant strategy in March of the Ants – just another possibility for player interaction. The game is filled with these opportunities for tension and conflict outside of the Soldier Phase. Indeed, as UndeadViking observed in his excellent review of MotA: it is most definitely a “conflict-driven” game. But when vying for area control, how often is combat the most efficient or effective strategy? Sometimes? Rarely?
Knowing that we wanted combat to be seen simply as one possibility for player interaction, the mechanics of combat went through many iterations. From complex battle charts to dice-based combat, we considered many options. Not wanting players to get bogged down in the mechanics of the Soldier Phase, we endeavored to design an elegant system that balanced chance and strategy – something that was tight enough to make each decision matter, yet without the certainty of outcome that makes the resolution of combat in some games feel like a rote process rather than a genuinely exciting experience. In order to achieve this balance, we found that adding the unknown variable of Ferocity – secret information – to the public information of the number of ants present and bonuses associated with Evolutions really hit the sweet spot for us. The multi-modal nature of the cards also brought an added layer of tension to players’ decision-making: when to save and when to play a card, during the Worker or Soldier Phase?
Only through play testing March of the Ants outside of our design team did we get to see “colony collapse,” the thematic name for what happens when all of a player’s ants are exterminated from the meadow. We had considered it as a possibility, tinkering with rules for what might feel fun and fair if your colony were to get so thoroughly crushed. But, early in the game’s development, we hadn’t played it out. Why not?
As the designers, we knew that combat was meant to be incredibly costly for both sides. Because of that design knowledge, none of us really pushed an aggressive strategy to its limit. Gamers with different dispositions, or coming from other milieus – like war games – saw the very existence of combat in the game as a sort of signpost that militaristic aggression was a viable path to victory. Or, at least an essential ingredient of any winning strategy. Whether they wanted to eliminate a friend altogether or simply lay siege to a resource-rich hex in the meadow, many players jumped at the opportunity to engage in ant battle – often with disastrous results for the initiators of combat.
Although the game has changed and grown dramatically from these early play tests over two years ago, the following seems to still be true: combat is rarely a net positive gain for the aggressor in March of the Ants. This is especially the case on the first turn of the game, before the economic infrastructure to support war has been created. That being said, we have seen players pursue aggressive, combat-based strategies and emerge victorious many times. Combat as an avenue for interaction is there for a reason: it can work to create an advantage. Yet, like so many aspects of the game, it comes down to context, timing, and strategic decision-making with a bit of chance thrown in for good measure.
Which leads to a discussion of the art of the bluff and the feint. The threat of combat in March of the Ants is often much more important (and advantageous) than engaging in combat itself. As anyone who has played MotA can attest, the March action and reaction help create this dance between opposing colonies. One of my personal favorite tensions in the game is that moment when a player floods the outskirts of a previously peacefully shared hex with a gang of ants. The threat of combat looms: do you March your ants out, or do you March more ants in? But that’s a topic for another article altogether.
So, is March of the Ants truly a 4X game? Perhaps, but to me 3.5X seems like a more fitting description. These ants were made for marching, but they are not always marching off to war.
Having a little trouble grokking the rules just from the rule book? Don’t worry–you’re not alone. The vast majority of game players are taught by someone who already knows how to play. Since March of the Ants is brand new, there’s not many of those out there yet. If you’re lucky enough to be at the Portland GameStorm or the Emerald City Comic Con come find us and get taught by the Weird City Games crew! For the rest of you, we made this video to help jump start your colony. Enjoy!
We’re very excited to announce that Weird City’s first game, March of the Ants, is in stock and shipping in the United States! Go to our shop to order your copy today. Unfortunately, there is no international shipping yet, but we are working on it. Check back often, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.