Ancestree Game Review (Calliope Games)

7

"I'm not playing that game." "Why not? It looks great! Is it the vaguely racist art?" "What -- no! ...Wait, is it racist? Anyway -- No, it's because it has a pun in its name." "You're more against puns than racism?" "NO! ...YES! WHAT?"

Questions about my own morality aside, Ancestree is one of those niche "They made a game about that?" simulations. In Ancestree, you attempt to build a family tree with the most prestige possible. In premise, you are arguing with the other players, and trying to convince them that your ancestry is the best ancestry. A condensed, tile-based victory point game, Ancestree is fast to learn, easy to play, and it has a cute little premise. 

Game Details

Players: 2 to 6

Game Time: 20 Minutes

Age: 8+

Genre: Strategy

How is Ancestree Played?

Ancestree has a "select then pass" mechanic, in which players draw six cards, select one, and then pass to their left or right, depending on the round. Once a tile has been selected, a player can place it on their tree -- with the hopes of gaining wealth, creating marriages, and developing lineages that span over generations. A round ends once five ancestors have been added -- and there are three total rounds, after which points are scored. It's a strict victory point game; player with the most points at the end of three rounds wins. 

Like many strategy-based games, Ancestree has very simple rules. You need to connect hearts ancestors through at least one of the elements on their card, which can either be a heart (to represent marriage) or a side of a leaf (to represent a parent child relationship). You can score more points by creating dynasties, which are multiple, connected generations of the same noble family. There, you are competing to have largest dynasty compared to other players. 

You also score points based on the amount of gold in your family tree and the number of marriages you're able to create. This opens up a few different tactics you can use, depending on how the tiles are dealt.

How Does Ancestree Look?

With rigid line art and flat colors, Ancestree looks ripped out of the pages of an old manuscript. That's both good and bad. On the good end, it's unique and atmospheric; it most definitely sticks out among other games. But on the other side hand, though its manual was written well, I found it difficult to read after a while; its jagged cursive script is impossible to scan.

Scanning is important to a manual, and game developers should take care not to disrupt this. Picking out the word "tile" is easy in Times New Roman; it's not so easy in "etched painfully via bird quill." Most people will read the manual once, but will scan it for additional information countless times. 

Apart from that, the tiles themselves are charming in their simplicity. They're simple, serviceable, and easy to read. Parts of the game almost seem too sparse, and the components do feel cheap if that's something that you care about (I generally don't).

What's in the Box?
An assortment of ancestree tiles in five different lineages * scoring tokens * gold tokens * a scoring mat * rule book

How Does Ancestree Feel?

Ancestree is a quick game. It's easy to pick up and you can learn the rules at the start, so once you're playing it, it goes by very fast. There are also fairly limited options available to you each time, so you rarely need to wait for anyone to complete their turn. Of course, that also means that it's not an overly strategic game. 

Ancestree is one of those smooth strategy filler games that can fit into most groups and be played as a solid warm up. It shouldn't last longer than 20 to 30 minutes, even when playing for the first time. And because it isn't a directly competitive game, it can be difficult to tell who is winning until the very end. 

Ancestree Game Review
  • PRO: Anyone can learn to play this fast-paced tile game.
  • PRO: Only lasts about 20 to 30 minutes, with little downtime involved. 
  • CON: Difficult to scan manual and a little light on strategy.