We recently received a review copy of the locally-produced card game Ambition from its creator, Rob Acton of Action Games, and I was really keen to crack it open and give it a go. Can local stand up to international? It’s certainly an ambitious idea! (*Groan*)
So what’s it all about? Ambition is actually surprisingly simple in its execution and play style. Each turn is divided into 5 phases, in which you try to not only earn as much gold as possible but also to stop others from earning gold themselves. First person to 10 gold tokens wins. Sounds easy enough, right? Let’s run through the game.
To start the game, the deck is shuffled and two cards dealt to each player. In a two player game, you would then remove two additional cards and place them facedown and to the side, so that no player can see them. For more players, just remove one. This is quite clever in that it “burns” one character secretly, meaning no-one will know if that character is in play or not. The scarab token, which indicates the First Player, is given out to either the person who killed an insect last or just randomly. Once each player has their two cards, we move on to the 5 phases of the turn.
Phase 1: The Pass Phase
The First Player studies his cards and chooses a card he does not want to play. He passes that card to the player on his left who now studies her THREE cards, selecting one she doesn’t want and passing it on. This carries on until the First Player is handed a card, meaning all players (on first round at least) would have 2 cards in their hand. You can also pay in 2 coins first and “recruit” a new card from the deck.
Phase 2: The Play Phase
The players now select the card from their 2 card hands that they would like to play. Everyone plays their card simultaneously facedown on the table. This is their Live Card.
Phase 3: The Block Phase
Now, starting from the player on the right of the First Player, everyone names one character they would like to block. You should have a vague idea of what is in play just from the cards handed round in the first phase. This game tests your memory (if, like me, you have to check to see what colour underpants you’re wearing) and also gauging what your friends are going to play. So for example, one person could block the King who is worth 3 gold coins, another person could block the Thief who can steal 2 coins and the last player could block the Madman, who is worth 1 gold but also stops the turn once activated, allowing that player to scoop up all of the cards, shuffle them and redistribute them.
Phase 4: The Activation Phase
Starting with the player on the left of the First Player this time, you go around the table and Activate your card by flipping it. If, in the previous phase, someone had named the King and you had the King face down in front of you, you knock on the table to indicate that you’re blocked OR BLUFFING. You don’t have to Activate, especially if this would allow someone else to win. If you do Activate, you collect the gold indicated on your card if applicable and complete the power that your card has, like the Assassin naming a character to kill (taking them out of the game altogether!).
Phase 5: The Upkeep Phase
Pick up your cards and get ready to pass the Scarab token to the next player along, starting the next turn from Phase 1 again.
It’s All About The Game
So, about the game itself. The game, at least the demo copy that we received here, is produced locally and the artwork has a slight low-res look to it. Perhaps I just picked it up because I’m a graphic designer, perhaps not. Strangely, the artwork really appeals to me, despite it being much darker and more serious than I would normally like. I’m a cartoony kinda guy but I really liked the rough black, white and red aesthetic. That being said, my wife was hesitant to try it because the artwork makes it look like it would be a complicated game, or at least one which is more serious than she’s used to. We’ll check in later to see whether the gameplay swayed her or not.
The game has a backstory, but it’s one paragraph long and has no bearing on the game at all. It is a cool one though and if Rob is making more games within this universe, sign us up! Insect overlords are always cool. I like to imagine myself in their world whenever I play, which is a coup for the designer, given they only give us the one paragraph.
My wife was eventually persuaded into a game and she ended up really enjoying it. I can see us having many 2 player games in future.
Expand Your Mind
Ambition comes with an included expansion called Strange Allies, which allows for a 5 player game. It introduces 4 more cards, like the Hierophant and the Wizard. The Wizard, with his Silence ability, really throws a spanner in the works, as he blocks your ability to Block. Unless the Assassin kills him, that is.
Mark’s Verdict: Ambition
Ambition has a lot of charm. The cards are cool and the character powers feel balanced. Control of the game swings easily, meaning it’s easy to regain control if you pay attention. The graphic design and packaging could use a touch of polish but this should be addressed in the next edition. All in all, a really fun little travel game or starter game before the meatier games begin.
You can find it at The Big Box Cafe, Fanaticus Board Games, Wizards and Quantum Gaming.
Publisher: Action Games
Designer: Rob Acton
Players: 2-5 players
Play time: 20-30 minutes