The Overview: Atta Ants is a board game by Richard de Rijk, published by The Realm of Fantasy (www.trof.nl) for two to four players ages eight and up about competing leafcutter ants. In my experience, a game of Atta Ants takes 15-30 minutes to play. The winner of the game is the first player to get all six of his ants into play simultaneously or to be the player with the most ants in play when the final terrain card is added to the board.
The Components: The board in Atta Ants is made up of square cards laid edge to edge. The cards depict paths that make up a terrain, unique to each playing of the game. Four of the 24 cards in the game depict a spider and eight of them depict leaves. There are six wood discs in four colors to represent the players' ants. There are also four larger wood discs which represent the spiders. Finally, there are 16 transparent green glass tokens that represent leaves in play.
The Start: To start the game, take the card that depicts an ant hill and place it in the middle of the play surface. Draw eight cards from the shuffled deck and add them around the anthill so that paths never end in grass. Each player takes the six ant-tokens of one color and places two on the central card. Any of the eight cards that have a leaf icon on the card receives two of the glass counters. Any that show a spider icon receive a black disc.
The Play: Each round, one of the players is the start player and begins by drawing a card and adding it to the board so that any edges of the new card that are in contact with the previously extant board match grass to grass and path to path. Then, the players -- starting with the start player and continuing clockwise take turns moving as many of their ants as they like. Each ant can move 0-2 cards following paths or 1 card overland. Any ants which begin their turn on the anthill must move off and may not return on the same turn. At most two ants of a given color can be on the anthill card at a time. Any ant can move with a leaf for any or all of its move if a leaf is present. Ants may never move into or through a space with a spider. If an ant carries a leaf to the anthill, the leaf is converted to a new ant of the same color. Once all players have had the opportunity to move ants, the first player then moves all spiders on the board. All spiders move one space per turn toward the space on the board that has the largest ant population, excepting the anthill -- the spiders may never enter the anthill card. If multiple spaces tie for largest, the spiders will move toward the tied space that is closest. The spider must take the most direct route toward the target space available. There will often be a choice of two paths both of which satisfy the previous criteria. When this is the case, the player moving the spiders selects one of the two paths. If a spider encounters any ants when it moves, it eats them and the tokens are returned to the owning players. Spiders ignore leaves. If all of a player's ants are eaten by spiders, that player is eliminated. Once spider movement is done, the player to the left of the start player becomes the new start player and a new round begins.
The End: The game ends immediately when any player trades a leaf for an ant and all six of their ants are now on the board. That player wins the game. If this never happens and the last card is added to the board, the turn is finished and whomever has the most ants in play is declared the winner.
The Strategy: Atta Ants is fairly straightforward, though players pick up the layers of strategy as they play their first few games. Remember these hints:
- A leaf may move a long way by being transported by multiple ants. If you set up a line of ants with the right spacing, you can bring leaves over great distances in one turn.
- Spider movement can be manipulated by each player by ant placement. The player to move first on any given turn has an advantage in getting leaves, but the last player can purposely drag spiders across the paths of others.
- Placement of the new card each turn is controversial in my game group. I contend that it gives you power in deciding where incoming spiders and leaves will apear and even in creating non-path terrain areas where ants must go slow and be cautious of spiders. Some of my fellows believe the play to be trivial.