I used to play a computer game called SimAnt. Basically, you were an any tasked with building a nest, foraging for food, and expanding your territory in order to drive out the red ants and the humans. I really loved playing it, and so I’m usually interested when I hear about a game with a myrmecological theme. There hasn’t been much of anything since the Lamonts released Antics at Spiel two years ago, but this year we got
Myrmes is a new game from designer Yoann Levet and Ystari Games. 2-4 players aged 10 and up can play this 75 minute game about ants trying to build up their colonies and become dominant while preparing for a harsh winter. Ystari almost always makes sure there’s a Y (and usually an S) in their titles, so I initially thought “myrnes” was just a made up word to fit that. It turns out the “myrmecology” is the scientific study of ants, and “myrmes” is a derivation of the word (which, yes, was made up for the game – it’s probably a little better than the original name, Anterpryse).
The game comes with a board, three season dice, 8 aphid farms/scavenging tiles, 8 sub-colony tiles, 4 score tokens, 20 objective tiles, a first player token, 18 prey tokens, a year token, 30 larva cubes, 30 food cubes, 15 earth cubes, and 15 stone cubes. Additionally, each player will get an individual board, 8 worker/soldier ants, 4 tunnel exit tokens, a marker disc, 8 nurse octagonal cylinders, 5 event/special cubes, and 17 differently shaped pheromone tiles. In the beginning of the game, the prey tokens are placed randomly on their spaces and the season dice are rolled, placed in their spots on the board. 2 Level 1-2-3 objectives are chosen randomly as well. Each player puts 3 nurses in the nursery, 2 workers on the worker track, and a larva in the larvae room.
This game takes place over three rounds (years), each divided into four seasons. Spring, summer, and fall all follow the same sequence: event, births, workers, harvest, atelier, and the end of the turn.
EVENT: At the beginning of the year, three season dice are rolled, one for Spring, Summer, and Fall. This will determine which event happens – +1 VPs, +2 Larvae, +1 Work, +1 Soldier, +1 Worker Level, +3 movement points, +3 Harvest. In this phase, you can adjust the event that will happen by paying larvae.
BIRTHS: In this phase, you’ll distribute your nurses. They can go on the birth tracks to produce larvae, soldiers, or workers. They could also go to the atelier to be used in phase #5.
WORKERS: For this, players will take turns using workers to go outside, or in the colony. Working in the colony means that the ant goes on one of the four levels (one that hasn’t been used yet) and takes the bonus (a larva cube, food, a cube of earth or stone, or spend a food for two points). It should be noted that you start with only the first level, and you have to improve your nest to gain access to the rest. If you’re sending your worker out, you’ll place it on a tunnel exit (you begin with only one). This worker won’t come back – it will be discarded at the end of the phase. You have three movement points to spend outside the colony. You can spend it to move through an empty space, or pass through an entire pheromone tile. Crossing opposing tiles costs a soldier. While moving, you can hunt prey by landing on its space and discarding a number of soldiers; place a pheromone tile on your space that doesn’t cover another tile or water; place a special tile by spending resources; or spend an earth cube to remove a pheromone tile.
HARVEST: For each non-empty pheromone tile you have on the board in this phase, you get a cube of your choice. Each aphid farm earns you a food cube, each scavenging tile gives you earth or stone, and each sub-colony gets you two points.
ATELIER: Only players who have put nurses here can participate in this phase. You could place a new tunnel exit, earning a cube of earth. You can level up your nest by paying resources. You could spend two food and two larvae to get a new nurse. You could also complete an objective, though you need to complete a level one objective before a level two, and a level two before a level three.
END OF TURN: Once all players have completed the atelier phase, players discard used larvae, discard excess cubes (there’s a limit based on your nest level), regain workers from the colony, regain nurses, remove the season die for the round, and pass the first player marker.
Winter is a little different than the other seasons. Well, no, it’s a lot different. You simply have to discard food – 4 in year one, 5 in year two, 6 in year three. You then reroll the dice and start the next year. If it was the third year, the game ends and the player with the most VPs wins.
The structure of an ant colony seems to lend itself very well to worker placement. You have workers, soldiers, nurses, and of course the queen that reaps the benefits of everyone else’s labors. I don’t know that this game really reaches the heights of what an ant game could be, but it definitely gives it a shot. I know of three ant games besides Myrmes, and none of them really delve into the different roles of ants – Antics, Ants!, and Atta Ants are all primarily about finding food. (I guess there’s also Ants in the Pants, but that’s not really a thematic experience) Myrmes gets more into the different roles needed – workers to explore or develop the nest, nurses to raise babies, soldiers to fight, and of course, the queen that reaps the benefits.
The game does seem a lot like a solo experience without much to do in terms of interaction. There’s probably some bumping into each other and racing for prey on the board, but it mostly seems like building up your own colony. Still, seems like it should be fun. It’s not something I’m really wanting to seek out for myself, but I think I’d be happy to play it if given the opportunity. Thanks for reading!