Updated: Apr 27
Akropolis proved to be one of the hit games of UK Games Expo 2022 where it won both the Judges' and the 'Peoples Choice' awards for Best Family Game. It's a tile-laying city builder with open drafting, where players are competing over 11 rounds to build their own Ancient Greek cities.
With art by Pauline Detraz, Jules Messaud's design uses triple-hex titles that each show three districts or, on some tiles, two districts and a 'plaza'. The 2-4 players take turns to draft a tile from a display that's longer by two tiles than the number of players. The leftmost tile is free but you can take tiles from anywhere in the line by paying a stone (white cube) for each place the tile is from the left. The display isn't refreshed until it's down to the last tile. When you draft a tile, you can place it anywhere in your growing cityscape tableau adjacent to one or more tiles already there. The twist is that you can also place tiles on top of those already in your tableau provided the tile straddles at least two others...
At the end of the game, the different district types will score according to their specific rules. So, for example, the residential districts (blue hexes) score for the largest adjacent group, while the market districts (yellow hexes) score only if there are no other markets adjacent to them. The first twist is that the 'plazas' act as multipliers for the matching colour tiles. You multiply your score for each district by the number of plaza stars you have in your tableau. But do the maths. Any number times zero is zero - so particular districts (colours) with no matching plaza in your tableau will score nothing at all.
The other twist is that the value of a district increases with its level; so a garden (green hex) that would ordinarily be worth 1 point is worth two points if it is built on top of other tiles, three points if it is at the third level and so on. You'll particularly want to build up over quarries (white hexes) because these don't score anything at all in your tableau but they do yield a stone whenever they are covered by another tile.
Akroplis plays quickly, even if you have one or two players who tend to agonise over the optimal placement for their tile. From our plays at Board's Eye View we found it had a distinct game arc. For the first few rounds, players almost exclusively just drafted the (free) leftmost tile. The game shifts a gear tho' around the halfway mark as players' cityscape tableaus take shape and they are more tempted to spend stone to nab a tile that they especially need; for example, to give them the plaza multiplier that they need to score a district. By this time in the game, you'll have earned a supply of stone because you'll almost certainly have built over some of your quarries. You'll be conscious tho' of the fact that each stone (cube) is worth a point in end-game scoring, so you're effectively spending victory points when you buy other than the leftmost tile.
Tho' you're competing with other players for the highest end-game score, you'll find you're almost exclusively focused on your own tableau rather than those being constructed by other players. There are bound to be occasions when an opponent will nab a tile you were hoping to be able to pick up but it's rare that another player will use their selection just to spite an opponent by taking a tile simply to frustrate their scoring potential. With relatively little player interaction, Akroplis can feel a little like multiplayer solitaire, but that's an observation and not a criticism. We liked the inclusion of a variant scoring option - doubling the score for a district that meets additional criteria. Given tho' that the game feels like multiplayer solitaire, we were just surprised that Gigamic didn't include a solo version. It wouldn't be difficult to devise solo/solitaire rules, perhaps with target scores to beat. No doubt solo game suggestions will appear in due course on BoardGameGeek...
Akroplis is distributed in the UK by Hachette Board Games.