With this review I finish updating the “A” games.
Feb 20th, 2004.
Attika generated the most “Buzz” of the new Nurenburg games. Released simultaneously in English, German and online at Brettspeilwelt a few days prior to it’s release, everyone was talking about it. I picked up a copy and have been thrilled. Attika qualifies as a hit, it may hit the 25 mark in my playlist.
I won’t summarize the game, the rules are online at Brettspeilwelt or Boardgamegeek. You race to build all of your tiles before the other players, or connect two shrines for a sudden death win. Each player has the same tiles, but they appear in semi-random order (ala Knizia’s Samurai). Attika is a resource management game, where there are a few different types of resources: cards, locations, and actions. You wind up trading one for another. If you draw a building that you can’t play for free, you can pay a few cards to build it now, or play it free later at the cost of an action. Keeping your buildings in a big cluster may cost a few cards but lets you threaten to build a new settlement cheaply.
But the hook is location management. The board provides a discount, but those areas are hotly contested. To get a free building you may have to build adjacent to another building. Also, finishing a group without any breaks gets you an extra action, which can be hoarded! So other players have incentives to cut off your groups of buildings, which costs you. And the board becomes very crowded.
This “Location Management” aspect of Attika, while hardly unique, has been absent from recent games. And Attika handles it very well. The board starts small and grows throughout the game (timing controlled by player actions). Instant congestion.
The ‘sudden death’ victory condition adds the depth, even though it doesn’t occur often (among experienced players). The threat forcse other players to spend extra resources and fall behind in the race to build everything.
Attika fills the medium (~1 hour) tactical game niche nicely. It has two flaws: the amount of luck may be high for some people. If you flip your buildings in the wrong order, you are at a real disadvantage. Given the game length, I don’t mind. I suspect that the luck averages out in each game most of the time, but perhaps it’s tough to see. For strong players luck may easily decide the winner. But I don’t know how many plays it will take to become strong…
The other flaw is that the threat of connecting leads to a “No, you stop him” syndrome. Nobody wants to spend the resources to stop someone from winning. In our group, the onus is on the last player to go (or a player who has a free way to stop the would-be victor). But if people get petulant (“I wont stop him, so there!”) then the game ends on a sour note. Not an issue in my groups, but I concede the point.
Finally, Attika’s decisions are tactical. Forward planning beyond a turn or two doesn’t seem to be possible, certainly not in a four player game. I have a vague idea of where buildings are going to go, but planning? Not really. Again, for a game of this size, I don’t consider this a problem. The decisions for each turn are interesting. I suspect that as a two player game, Attika could be more strategic, but I’ve only played with 3-4. I do think it will make a nice two player game, though.
At the price, I highly recommend this one.
Update March 2nd
Another handful of plays and I really like this. Moreover, I see some forward planning and in the endgame can reasonable see several moves ahead (for simple situations). Often for shrine connectivity I can see a “I need this, this and that” type of plan, and I can see it for other players. Other online players claim to do a lot more planning, so I’ll assume its possible. This may actually be a downside if you are looking for a light game, but I don’t mind.
Update March 14th
I’m over 20 plays of Attika and pushing towards 25. Most (but not all) of the recent games have been 2 player, and I agree with Mark Delano (my opponent for most of those games) that Attika shines as 2 player. You don’t have the problem of “Who will stop the connection?”, and the game takes only 20 minutes or so.
I still enjoy this, although it has taken a dive in number of plays. Still, I am pushing towards forty plays overall (the last dozen or so as a 2-player game). And yes, I tempted to edit my comments about strategy vs tactics …