Aton – One of my favorite two-player games
Aton is an abstract strategy game with an Egyptian theme. I’m not usually a fan of abstract strategy games, but for this one, I make an exception. With four ways to win, you have to watch your opponent with a hawk’s eye, while also trying to further your own strategy. The rulebook can be a bit confusing until you learn how to play.
There are four ways to win in Aton:
- Fill a temple completely with your stones.
- Place your stones on all of the green spaces on the board.
- Fill all of the yellow spaces with your stones.
- Score 40 points.
The game ends immediately when any one of the winning conditions is met.
Each player has a deck of cards numbered 1 to 4. Each turn you’ll both draw four cards and simultaneously assign your cards to the four Cartouches on your side of the board. When you’re both ready, reveal the card on your first Cartouche at the same time. The player with the higher value card scores double the difference between the two cards.
Next reveal the cards on your second Cartouche. The player with the lower value executes the rest of their turn first. Then the other player player does the same. In the case of a tie, the player with the lower value card on the first Cartouche goes first. If there’s still a tie, play War: reveal the top card of your deck – lowest goes first. Repeat if necessary until the tie is resolved.
To execute the rest of your turn, reveal the cards on your third and fourth Cartouches. The value of the card on the second Cartouche determines how many of your opponent’s stones you can remove (its value minus 2), the third Cartouche which temples you can work in, and the fourth Cartouche how many of your own stones you can place. If you played a 1 on the second Cartouche, you have to remove one of your own stones (2 – 1 = -1). (No stones may be removed at all in the very first round of the game, though.) When you remove stones from a temple, place them in the Kingdom of the Dead: the row of spaces below the temples.
When the Kingdom of the Dead is full, finish your turns for the round, then score each temple. The player with the majority of stones in each temple, scores for that temple. For Temple 1, the player with the most stones in Temple 1 scores points equal to the difference in the players’ stone count. For example: if blue has 5 stones and red 1, blue scores 4 points. For Temple 2, the player with the majority of stones scores a straight 5 points – which would be red in the picture (right). The player with the majority in Temple 3, scores 1 point for each of his stones there. In this case, neither player scores any points for Temple 3. The player with the majority in Temple 4, scores 3 points for each stone she has on a blue square. In the picture, blue would score 6 points. Finally, the player with the majority of stones on grey spaces, scores 8 points – blue here. If neither player has achieved 40 points, both players remove one of their stones from each of the temples, collect their stones from the Kingdom of the Dead and continue playing.
Aton’s components are quite nice and of good quality. The Egyptian-themed artwork is lovely – it’s what drew me to the game to begin with. Even the box interior is lavishly illustrated. The cards seem quite durable: we’ve played the game a lot and they still look good even though we didn’t sleeve them. The board is quite sturdy. It’s sort of a jigsaw puzzle to put together, but there are only a few pieces so it doesn’t take long. The “stones” are made of wood; their color hasn’t worn off at all despite repeated plays.
All and all a very fun and beautiful game. It’s very interactive in that you have to constantly watch what your opponent is doing and respond accordingly. Timing matters, too. In a critical situation, you may have to sacrifice a stone to make sure you go first in order to prevent your opponent from winning. I highly recommend Aton. It is one of my favorite two-player games.
Aton supports two players ages 8 and up and plays in about 30 minutes. Unfortunately, it’s currently out of print (as of 4 February 2016), so finding a copy may be a bit difficult before too long.