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How to play Ancient Civilization of the Middle East

How to play Ancient Civilization of the Middle East

"Ancient Civilizations of the Middle East" by GMT Games is a fascinating and intricate board game that immerses players in the rich tapestry of historical empires, cultures, and conflicts that shaped the cradle of civilization. This game offers a deep dive into strategy, diplomacy, and conquest, allowing 1 to 6 players to experience the evolution of ancient empires through multiple epochs. Players begin by choosing one of the many civilizations available, each with its own unique strengths, and strategic opportunities. These civilizations represent the diverse cultures that flourished in the Middle East, from the mighty Egyptians and Babylonians to the resourceful Phoenicians and the formidable Hittites. The heart of the game lies in its scenarios, which are meticulously designed to reflect historical events, conflicts, and periods of transformation. These scenarios provide specific objectives, challenges, and setups that guide the gameplay, offering both historical accuracy and strategic depth. For those seeking a more open-ended experience, the game offers the possibility of creating a sandbox scenario. By combining different civilizations, epochs, and parts of the map, players can craft their own historical narratives, experimenting with alternative historical outcomes or creating entirely new stories. This sandbox mode encourages creativity and replayability, as each game can offer a new set of challenges and opportunities based on the players' choices. The game’s map is another highlight, offering a detailed and strategic representation of the Middle East. Different parts of the map are crucial for different civilizations, from the fertile crescent supporting early agricultural development to the strategic coastal regions controlling maritime trade. Players must wisely choose where to expand, fortify, and explore, taking into account the geographical advantages and challenges presented by the terrain.

How to teach

Starting with the winning conditions when teaching "Ancient Civilizations of the Middle East" provides a clear objective and context for the game, guiding players in formulating strategies from the outset. It helps prioritise learning the game mechanics and rules that directly impact achieving victory, making the learning process more focused and goal-oriented.

How to win

The winning condition in "Ancient Civilizations of the Middle East" is for a player’s civilization to accumulate more Victory Points (VPs) than any other player's civilization by the end of the game. Players can earn VPs through various means, ensuring multiple strategies for victory. Here are some of the principal ways to achieve VPs:
● Building Cities: Constructing cities across the map not only expands a civilization's influence but also serves as a critical source of VPs. The strategic placement of cities can be crucial for securing valuable territories and resources.
● Raising Deities: Players can raise and capture deities, reflecting the historical significance of religion and divine favor in ancient civilizations. Owning deities not only grants specific bonuses but also contributes VPs, symbolizing the cultural and religious achievements of a civilization.
● Looting Cities: Engaging in conflicts and successfully looting opposing cities can yield VPs. This reflects the historical instances of civilizations conquering and plundering their rivals, accruing wealth and prestige.
● Accumulating Wealth: Represented by "mina" in the game, accumulating wealth is another way to gain VPs. This mirrors the economic power and prosperity that could elevate a civilization's status in the ancient world.
● Dominating the Sea: Control over sea regions is another path to victory, emphasizing the importance of naval power and maritime trade routes in ancient civilizations’ expansion and dominance.

Building cites vs growth

Building cities offers immediate Victory Points but requires committing multiple disks (population/army units) to a single area, which could limit a civilization's ability to expand and control more territories. On the other hand, focusing on growth, especially in fertile areas, allows for broader territorial expansion and resource acquisition, as fertile lands provide the added benefit of generating additional disks each turn, enhancing a civilization's ability to spread and compete for control. This creates a strategic trade-off between securing immediate, localised benefits through city-building and pursuing broader expansion and influence through growth, particularly in resource-rich fertile areas.

Card play

Card play in "Ancient Civilizations of the Middle East" is integral to the game's strategy and unpredictability, offering players various actions and effects that can significantly alter the state of play. Fate cards, for instance, introduce elements ranging from enhancements to one's civilization, interventions in others' territories, to the invocation of events or conditions affecting multiple players. These cards can be used to establish deities, providing unique advantages, or to influence competitions, adding a layer of depth to player interactions and decisions. The ability to negate card effects with Negation cards or invest in future benefits with Investment cards adds further complexity and strategic considerations. This dynamic card system encourages adaptability, strategic planning, and tactical responses, making card play a pivotal aspect of navigating the game's challenges and opportunities toward victory.

Barbarians and Floods

Event cards like Barbarians and Floods in "Ancient Civilizations of the Middle East" offer a unique catch-up mechanism for players lagging in Victory Points. These cards can be strategically deployed to disrupt the leading players, especially those far away on the map, by targeting their cities or territories, thus potentially levelling the playing field. For instance, Barbarian invasions can diminish an opponent's control over key areas or deplete their resources, while Floods could disrupt the economic or military stability of distant lands. Diplomatically, these cards can serve as bargaining tools; a player might threaten to unleash these disruptive events on opponents unless certain concessions are made or use them as leverage in negotiating alliances, promising to target mutual threats. This aspect of card play adds a layer of strategic depth and negotiation to the game, allowing players to use their cards not just for direct action but also for subtle diplomatic manoeuvres to improve their standing or hinder their rivals.

Sequence of play

In "Ancient Civilizations of the Middle East," gameplay unfolds over four Epochs, each consisting of turns divided into distinct phases:
Growth Phase: where civilizations expand by adding disks to the board
Card Phase: allowing the play of Fate cards for various effects
Competition Phase: where conflicts are resolved
Reckoning Phase, for scoring and administration.
End of Epoch Phase after the last turn of each Epoch, optional if it's the game's final Epoch. This sequence emphasises strategic expansion, tactical card play, conflict resolution, and periodic scoring to determine the progression and outcome of the game.

Competition Phase

The Competition Phase in "Ancient Civilizations of the Middle East" is a pivotal moment where the strategic positioning and tactical decisions of players come to the forefront, creating tension and drama without relying on dice. Instead of random outcomes, conflicts are resolved through the strategic use of Competition cards, which players can play to influence the outcome of competitions in their favor. Mina (currency) also plays a critical role, offering players a flexible resource that can be used to mitigate losses. Each civilization's unique features and abilities add another layer of depth, as players must consider their own strengths and their opponents' potential strategies when entering competitions. This combination of card play, economic management, and civilization-specific strategies ensures that the Competition Phase is a test of foresight, adaptability, and tactical acumen, with every decision carrying the potential to shift the balance of power on the board.


In summary, "Ancient Civilizations of the Middle East" is a not too complex and engaging board game that offers players a chance to rewrite history. Through its diverse civilizations, dynamic epochs, and varied scenarios, it provides a rich strategic experience. Moreover, the sandbox mode allows players to explore limitless combinations of civilizations, epochs, and map areas, creating a truly unique gaming experience every time. Whether you're a history buff, a strategy game enthusiast, or someone looking for an immersive board game experience, this game promises countless hours of entertainment and discovery.