We played a new game last night. Myrmes.
Myrmes is a worker placement game where you run an ant colony.
Worker placement games are one of my favourite types of games. The mechanic is that every player has a group of workers. On their turn, they place the worker and collect a benefit. Generally the spot on the board where the worker is placed can no longer be taken by another player. As the game progresses the benefits gained allow you to improve your workers so they can accomplish more or better spots to place workers. Generally the player who goes first is very important because they have the first chance at the best spot or the spot which best aids their strategy.
Myrmes is nifty, but it turns many of those assumption on their head. You have two kinds of workers: nurses and worker ants. Nurses are the main worker type. You place your nurses and they determine your strategy for the round. The weirdest part is that the spot placement does not interdict other players, but only your own play since all nurse placement happens on your own individual board.
The placement is also highly thematic. Nurses make other ants: Larvae, soldier ants or worker ants. Their other spot allows the big colony improvements: digging new tunnels, expanding the colony, turning larvae into more nurses and finally, unthematically, earning victory points.
After you are done with your nurses, you place your worker ants. Worker ants are how resources are earned and most victory points. The workers can either stay in the colony and earn a small but reliable resource. Or they can go into the garden. This is another neat part of the game. Once in the garden workers ants stop acting like a typical worker placement game worker. The garden is like a whole different game placed into a worker placement game.
In the garden you work on area control, expansion, resource collection and other bits. Your soldier ants pop out automatically to defend the workers in the garden when needed. Here is the whole list of worker abilities:
- place pheromone tiles allowing resource harvesting and define the area you control
- place special tiles that provide a reliable resource source for the rest of the game. Pheromones expend their resource and are thus only temporary
- discover prey which soldiers will fight and get food and victory points
- clean expended pheromones to allow you to reuse area in your demesnes
- contest the area of an opponent by removing their pheromones
Finally the game has a season track. Random events improve your abilities in spring, summer and fall. Winter is a time for hibernation and expending your food stores (food is a resource type gained in the garden).
I lost. I thought I was doing well. Ok. I thought I was doing poorly, but so was everyone else. But in the last two season, both Tim and Dano bypassed me. Grr.
But I had a lot of fun. The game is unforgiving. Nurse, workers, soldiers, resources and even victory points can all be lost with poor play. You can end up playing to survive instead of playing to excel. That tension is good.
Area control is important, but not antagonistic. That is cool.
There are many decisions to make in a turn, but they still play fairly quickly and most actions can be played simultaneously so there is little downtime.
There is little randomness. Only the seasonal events, placement of prey in the garden, and the objectives that allow nurses to earn victory points. And the seasonal events are adjustable. And all the random items are visible are game start so you can start to plan a long term strategy from turn one.
Finally the game is pretty and the only time theme is broken is objectives. You need to think tactically and strategically at all times, but you know you are also exploring a garden and growing an ant colony.
I hope to play again soon. And to make fewer mistakes.