Mark came over yesterday for our monthly FtF and we tried out his Republic of Rome set.

It’s a 3-6 player game, but there’s a variation for 1-2, and we tried that to get a feel for the game before pitching it to the rest of the group. The two player version is really just the solo version with one of the robot players replaced with a second person. Most of the political infighting is still removed from the game. However, the rest of the game is there, and is very interesting.

The Early Republic scenario is recommended, since it has the shortest playing time, despite being tougher on the Republic’s chances of survival. The opening setup distributes three senators to each player’s faction, and starts with the ‘inactive’ First Punic War in play. During the turn, There’s setup with initial revenue for the state and factions, and then random events coming out (either directly, or through some of the forum cards being wars or leaders for wars). The Senate Phase is normally the heart of the game, where all the infighting and deal making is done, but it’s scripted out in the solo version into mostly just handling the distribution of offices, and setting up to handle the wars. This is followed by actual combat and the possibility of revolutions from successful commanders. The game is controlled by cycling through the Forum deck, and the game ends by draw of the Era Ends card near the bottom.

Mark and I got maybe halfway through the deck in our experiment. It was going distinctly more smoothly as we got a handle on the game, since neither of us had any great grasp of the rules (they seem to be laid out so as to be difficult to just read through).

The first turn saw the 1st Gallic War come out, and immediately become an ‘imminent’ war. The senate was dominated by the robot factions who had all drawn extra senators. There was a little public unrest, which led to the passage of an expensive land bill as well as the recruitment of a number of legions and a standing navy, which drained the treasury. The Field Consul went to fight the barbarians and got a Stalemate while losing three legions.

If only it had been that easy. Figuring out what was going on for this turn took three hours or so (between looking up rules, the scenario instructions, and the 1/2-player instructions). It sped up nicely after that.

The robots also got most of the early Concessions, which generate money for bribes and getting knights (extra votes) into your faction, so we were at a marked disadvantage in the Senate. However, we did start overtaking the robot players in terms of senate votes. The Populists stayed in first, with Mark in second and me in third. Unfortunately for Mark, he didn’t have enough to form a Ruling Coalition with any other faction, and for the last couple turns the Coalition was me and the 4th and 5th place robots, so he never got any direct say in the government.

The second turn saw mostly random events instead of card draws (three of them!). Thankfully, I was rolling high on the dice for them, and they were positive. In charge of the Ruling Coalition, I used Enemy Ally Deserts to temporarily defeat the 1st Punic War while we had a second go at the Gauls. That was a stalemate again, although with no losses, and the additional veteran legion would help.

The third turn saw a manpower shortage that boosted costs to 30 Talents per unit. Thankfully, no new units were actually needed and the treasury started recovering. The Gauls were finally defeated for no losses. This was especially good as while the 1st Punic War had not returned, it had to be in the next card or so, and Hannibal had shown up, promising to promote it to a strength 17 active war as soon as it turned up.

We only did part of the next turn, deciding to pick up early, and see just what was waiting for us. Phillip V showed up, replacing Hannibal in the Curia as the 1st Punic War indeed showed up again. A look through the deck revealed a whole line of wars about to hit. Depending on how quickly they would have gone active, it could have gotten very dangerous. Sadly, we never go to the point of doing anything with the new province of Gallia Cisalpina.

In general, it was a fun time. It obviously takes a couple turns for influence and popularity to start piling up, which is when the personal infighting becomes meaningful. So we really didn’t miss much of that with the robot rules. Certainly, the game should have some of the political free-for-all feel of Russian Civil War which should go well with the group. Of course, looking at that deck of ‘upcoming attractions’ shows just why the Early scenario is so dangerous: it’s easy for a lot of wars to hit all at once. Dealing with them all without the increased revenue of provinces would be tough.