Review – Autokrator from Diachron Games
Designer – Lefteris Iroglidis
Thanks to Diachron Games for providing a review copy of this game
I haven’t played many Euro-style wargames and there aren’t many around but here is one which caught my attention. The idea of Euro-style wargames is of interest to me as the idea of interesting wargames that could be played using a level of Euro-style simplicity means I can get into them and get them played in the limited gaming time I have.
Autokrator (a.k.a. emperor) is a medieval wargame for 2-4 players, about the wars between Christians and Muslims from 7th to 11th century A.D. In Autokrator, you control one of the major kingdoms and Caliphates of the Medieval Age: The Franks/Holy Roman Empire, the Moors, the Saracens and the Byzantine Empire, striving to protect their cities and to expand their Empire.
1 Gameboard (medieval map)
54 Battle Cards
4 Wooden Pawns (Kings)
4 Wooden Pawns (Generals)
4 Wooden Pawns (Admirals)
2 Wooden Cylinders (indicators)
60 Octagons (Garrisons/indicators)
This is a gorgeous game! The board has a lovely, ancient world look and everything is laid out really well. A clean, and attractive look for sure. A very nice touch is that the board bottom has a large version of the box art which is awesome. The cards are well done, with nice art and clear layout, Really nice. The rest of the components are wooden pawns and the 3 meeples representing military units are pretty basic. This game would have been spectacular to look at if more would have been done, for instance if minis would have been used. But of course, this would have been at a significant increase in cost.
Overall, the components are very nice and of very good quality.
DURATION OFTHE GAME: The game lasts for 5 rounds. Before the beginning of each round, players read the historical reference and the conditions which are set in the new round. The players then allocate their battle cards to the military units and the round begins.
MILITARY UNITS OFTHE GAME:
Each player has 3 military units to use on his turn in any order:
The King (has 3 lives)
The King may perform one move and one attack in each round.
The General (has 4 lives)
The General may perform one of the following :
Α: One move and one attack each round. Ηe makes his move first and his attack afterwards. If the General makes his
attack first then he cannotmove in the current round.
B: Τwo movements each round but only between owned areas.
The General can move to all adjacent mainland and coastal areaslike the Κing.
The Admiral (has 4 lives)
The Admiral may perform one move and one attack each round. Ηe makes his move first and his attack afterwards. If the
Admiral makes his attack first then he cannot move in the current round.
The Admiral can move only between harbours of the appropriate colour. Harbours are depicted on the map with
So its as simple as, move one of your 3 units, then attack. Each round you will do this with each of your three units. Then the next player goes. There is more down time between player activity though (especially if anyone suffers from analysis paralysis and there is an alternative suggestion to alternate one unit each so then this is less of an issue. I prefer this method.
You will move and attack to capture territory as well as selectively attacking enemy units. with only 3 units, it is risky to attack enemy units, as I have found out so you need to pick and choose your battles carefully where the risk is warranted. This to me, reflects the period as well as there was a lot of campaigning and territory grabbing but the pitched battles were very few, yet crucial.
A player’s Garrison represents all areas that bear his coat of arms. Whenever a player conquers a neutral or an enemy
area, he places one of his Garrison’s pawns to denote his occupation of the area. Garrisons do not attack and do not
move, they are used only for defence.
On the board, there are tracks where you will keep track of the lives lost by your three military units. Interestingly, as they lose lives through battles, they get more bonuses to help their survival. This is a nice balancing mechanism and I assume also represents the survival instincts of the fighting forces. As you battle and attempt to extend your territories, you will gain money when you win and place garrisons in conquered lands.
You also have a track for keeping track of your finances. Money allows you to take extra actions The financial aspect of the game doesn’t dominate thankfully, in fact it is easy to forget that you can take actions by paying some cash. However, you will forget this at your peril as it could be that a General’s Campaign or another of the actions may be just the thing that gains you the victory.
Battles are fought using the army cards. The cards are chosen and kept hidden until combat begins. Each military unit has a set of cards which make up their army. You are able to re-distribute cards too to try and out think your opponent and get a killer combo to seal the battle in your favour. Victory is determined by comparing the terrain value, the training and the size of the opposing forces. Its a clever system and after a few goes, it works really well.
The winner, of course, earns the most victory points which are earned by conquering territories, killing off enemy military units and preserving your treasury so you don’t want to go on a crazy spending spree.
The system actually works really well and is relatively simple in a Euro-game style but, it took us a number of rounds for it all to fall into place. There are enough nuances and small details which can be easily played wrong. The rules have good illustrated examples but it would be useful to have a 1-page reference sheet of all of the key things to remember. Having said that, after a couple of plays it really isn’t a problem.
Ok, so what you don’t get in the system is loads of stats and historical detail. What you do get is a sense of the strategic problem and that’s enough for this level of complexity. This is a game, not a simulation. Chess-like in a sense but it feels like a military game, which I like.
Did I enjoy Autokrator?
This is really a fun game! I wasn’t quite sure what to expect but I really like the design and, in particular the use of the cards for fighting battles. Its pretty different and clever, yet its simple and fun. The game only has 5 rounds. So its not going to take too long. The 2-player game plays across half the map and is a straightforward slugfest. The 4-player version allows for more negotiation and temporary and mutually convenient deals, etc. So there is lots of scope to have different, yet fun experiences.
I like that the players are walking a tightrope and need to think carefully where and how to commit their units. 5 rounds are not a lot, I promise you. You will need to decide on your basic strategy and stick with it. If you try and change your strategy part way through, I think that you will struggle. You will find the special actions useful, especially the campaigns that give you that little bit more stretch to your reach.
Ok, this is not a simulation and its not rich in detail but there is enough of a strategic feel to make this game accessible to new gamers and those new, in particular to wargames. Having only 3 Units, actually didn’t hamper me as I feared, it just focussed my mind to my limitations. Ultimately, you will win by the total victory points you gain. You can win by being the first to capture an enemy capitol but I think that this is very risky and a tough ask. And, the card mechanic for battles is unusual, but good fun. Yes there is a level of randomness which I think works well in a game of this simplicity. I enjoy it.
I recommend that you alternate moving one unit each to cut down on down time. The game plays faster and it cuts down on AP.
Overall, Autokrator is a very nice game for a short, easy to play, yet satisfying Euro-style wargame. It makes an interesting change to the more traditional wargames that I am used to playing. Very much a “game” rather than more of a simulation. You won’t learn a lot about the history by playing but you will have a good fun experience.
For more information go to – http://www.diachrongames.com/en/index.html