Rome Themed Games

28 Mar

As we were celebrating the Ides of March on this particular Theme Day, we played a bevy of games that circulated around the city of Rome. There were thoughts of keeping things strictly to the theme of Caesar, but we decided as the day went on to stretch that theme just a little bit (as usual).

Game #1: Hoplomachus: The Lost Cities

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The Boardgamegeek Gods would never allow such an egregious error as posting a picture with glare like this… 

Hoplomachus is a 1-3 player game of Gladitorial combat. The novelty in this game comes from the fact that all the gladiators, monsters, and health points are represented my very nice (and heavy) poker chips. This was a novel approach, as it made telling which characters were close to death extremely easy. Unfortunately, icon and text clarity took a hit. Some of the text on the chips is very tiny, or laid out oddly, and two of the three colors of attack dice are very difficult to tell apart, and we have fairly good lighting conditions. I do think the board is kind of ugly, although it being made out of thick mousepad material was a nice touch. This game will stand up to a lot of play.

We played this as a 1 v 1 battle to the death, and had tremendous fun with the game. There are solo and cooperative variants that I would like to try sometime. I really enjoyed this game, even with the flaws. It weighs a lot (I think it has nearly 200 poker chips), but there’s a lot of fast-paced fun inside this box.

Game #2: Battle Line

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Reiner Knizia’s 3-card poker variant was our next game on the day. In this game, players are trying to make poker hands out of cards pulled from a shared deck (much like Lost Cities). The game ends when either a player has won 5 hands, or 3 hands that are next to each other on the board (this simulated breaking a hole in the opposing army’s defense). The theme of the game is about as pasted on as a theme gets, but the addition of the tactics cards do help add some strategy to the game.

I’ve been playing this game a long time, and it’s still pretty fun, but I feel like it’s time as one of my go to 2-player games is coming to an end. With games like Patchwork, Trambahn, and 7 Wonders Duel, I just don’t feel like this game holds up as well. It has been a good run, but I think I’m about ready to let go of this one.

Game #3: Imperial SettlersIMG_0903

Portal Games’ card based civilization building game is one of my favorite games of the past 5 years. In this game, players are in control of one of the world’s great civilizations. The basic idea is that you build small / weak buildings to produce the goods (and even the foundations) to eventually build stronger buildings that start gaining you victory points. I like that each faction has a different strategic focus, and can play differently. The card art always reminds me of the old Age of Empires computer game

With 4 players, Imperial Settlers can begin to get a little draggy, as each player is only able to do 1 action at a time. As a 2-player game (as we played this day) this one hums along at a nice clip, gives that civilization building feel, and ends in about an hour. I can’t wait to start adding in the expansions to see how they change the game.

Game #4: Roll Through The Ages – The Iron Age

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I don’t have the patience for very long games. I just don’t see that I’ll ever have the patience to sit through a game of Through the Ages. However, give me a handful of dice, and tell me I can build the great wonders of the world in 35 minutes, and I’m all over that. Roll Through the Ages – The Bronze Age is a great little Yahtzee-style filler that I’ve never had go wrong. The Iron Age, for some reason, I’ve not had as much luck with. The basic game play in both games is fairly similar,is that a player rolls a set of large, chunky wooden dice, and gains resources, food and workers. These items are used to build wonders, discover cultural advancements, and build armies to deflect incoming raiders.

I’m still a big fan of this game, but even I have to admit that there is something about this game that doesn’t work as well as the original Bronze Age did. I don’t know if the added layer of complexity, however slight, just doesn’t quite work or what makes this game just not as engaging. This game also comes with an even more involved expansion (with a neat Mediterranean Sea board) but I’ve still yet to get enough people interested to give it a run.

Game #5: Bacchus’ Banquet

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Bachhus’ Banquet is a game that many of today’s gamers need to find. It is a hidden role game made back in 2008, well before games like Love Letter, Coup, The Resistance etc etc. became the late night filler du jour. In this game, players are trying to fulfill victory conditions of their particular hidden character (except Caligula, everyone knows who he is). It could be eating and drinking a certain amount of food, or finding a way to kill Caligula, or collecting enough of the presents that are being thrown around. This is all done through an innovative “card gifting” system that I can’t say I’ve ever seen in another game.

I have to say that I’m not normally a fan of hidden role games, and this one didn’t change my mind much. HOWEVER, I think it’as way more interesting than Coup or Werewolf, and would easily suggest this over ever having to play those again. A hidden role hidden gem.

Game #6: Cafe International: The Card Game

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Of course we had to bend the rules a little bit. There are Italians, so this game counted! Cafe International is one of the more obscure of the Spiel des Jahres winning games, being a Mattel game of all things. This is the card game version of that game. The basic idea of the game is that players score points for sitting customers at tables in a cafe. The trick is that they will only be seated at their own country’s table, and only if sitting in that location won’t cause there to bee too many of the same gender at any of the tables., but the cafe is so cramped, that sitting at one table also seats you at another table. Points are scored based on how many people are around a table when the card is placed.

I feel like the card game is more luck-based than the board game, but I also don’t believe that’s a bad thing. There are some very interesting tactics that can become involved in the board game that go out the window here because of how fast the tables turn over. However, I believe the card game allows for bigger and more dramatic plays than the board game. Also, I feel as though I have to mention just how un-PC the card art can be. The Chinese and African representations are particularly cringe-worthy. That being said, I get a real kick out of this game, and the original board game. I wish these games were just a little bit easier to find in the US.

Unpictured Game #7: Rise of Augustus

Yeah, I forgot to grab a picture of this one, and we even played it twice. This is the game known as Civ Bingo. Players pull icon chips out of a bag, and try to match up those symbols on cards in front of them. Once a card has finished, it usually gives a player some effect that can help mitigate the luck of the tile draw.

I’ve played it a few times, and I think it’s ok at best. I know other players like it quite a bit more, but I just don’t feel the same love. I usually like lucky games, and I bought this one simply because I thought the bingo element was a hilarious concept…but the game itself just doesn’t do a whole lot for me. I’m disappointed, but not necessarily at the game. I feel like I’m the one missing something here.

Next time, we turn to the demo shelves in my store, and play a bunch of games we’ve never touched before!

 

 

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