I got to try ad acta last night. The theme of the game is moving documents
between bureaucratic government agencies. It seems that everyone who hasn't
played the game, thinks that its an awful theme and has no desire to play a
game about paper pushing. While everyone who actually tries it really
enjoys the game. Well, I'm no different. The game play was very enjoyable,
despite my awful performance at it.
The basic theme and mechanics are that each player represents a different
government agency. They are the Departments of Tax, Labor, Information, and
one I can't remember (maybe education?). Each of these has its own color.
Each desk has an inbox and an outbox, as well as various flavor art. There
is a deck of 28 cards (7 for each department). Each set of seven is labeled
with a letter A-G, and indicates which inbox the document starts in, as well
as which office it needs to travel to and be processed at before it is
All of the departments share the same filing system. There are 6 filing
cabinets (2-4 documents) of varying size that together hold 20 documents.
The game ends when all of the filing cabinets are filled, or when one player
scores more than 35 points.
The basic mechanic of the game (and everyone's turn) is the processing of
documents. When a player processes a document, they take the top document
from their inbox, put a clip on it and place in on top of their outbox. At
the end of a round, the mail clerk comes around and picks up the documents
and then redistributes them to the appropriate inboxes or to the filing
Each player has 3 actions on their turn. For one action they can have one
office (including their own) process the document on the top of the inbox.
For action they can go hang out at the pencil sharpener. For two actions
they can use one of their 4 special cards (more about these later).
So the basic turn order is, player 1 does 3 actions. Players 2-4 each do
their 3 actions. The mail clerk comes around takes players 1 outbox keeping
the documents in order. Players 2 outbox is placed on top of players 1, and
so down to 4, then starting with the top of player 4's outbox (which is now
on top of the mail cart), the files are redistributed to the appropriate
offices and filing cabinets. Player 2 becomes the start player and then
cycle is repeated.
Scoring Points: Each of the documents has a letter on it. There is a chart
that indicates how many points (ranging from 1-7) each document scores,
depending on which filing cabinet it ends up in. For example document A
may be worth 5 points in cabinet 1, 3 points in cabinet 2, 7 points in
cabinet 3, 4 points in cabinet 4, etc� Any documents that don't get into
the filing cabinet score -1 points each.
Special Cards: Each player has 4 special cards that they can use once per
game for a cost of 2 actions. There is a good and bad card for the inbox,
and a good or a bad card for the outbox. These 4 cards are the only place
where there is meaningful German text in the game. However, remembering the
functions of each cards is pretty easy after a while, and there are useful
icons on them. There is a telephone card that lets you call an office
(including your own) to bring a single document from anywhere in the inbox
to top of that inbox. There is also a draft card (causes the wind to blow
your inbox) that allows you to reorganize the order of the documents in any
inbox. There is a messenger card that causes a document in any inbox to be
immediately delivered to its next destination for filing or processing.
There is a card that causes any document in an outbox to be reprocessed (you
put it back in the inbox).
In addition, each player starts the game with 3 dextrose tablets that they
can cash in for extra actions. You can also cash in that time at the pencil
sharpener for extra actions at a rate of 2 to 1. So if you spend two
actions at the pencil sharpener, you can get an extra action later in the
game. Also the left over tablets and pencil sharpener visits are used as
The interesting part of the game is that while you score points based on the
filing of you documents, you have no real affiliation with the work
performed by your office. This has the effect of keeping everyone involved
in the game regardless of whose turn it is. There is actually a rule in the
game about getting a rap on the knuckles if you touch documents on another
player's. Your three actions can be to order another player to process the
top three documents in his inbox. Or order all 3 players to each process
one document. The interesting and challenging choices are determining when
to use your special cards and trying to set up your documents to reach to
I hope that they theme doesn't scare too many people off. It doesn't really
feel like you are working in an office. For those that enjoy it in a game,
there is ample opportunity to mess with your fellow players. It was
difficult to effectively plan ahead because most of your actions are
dependent on the actions of those before you. But despite this, there was
very little downtime. I enjoyed the game a lot and will likely pick up a
copy, or at least persuade those in my gaming groups to do so.
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