Rules Rush – Noticing the obvious in Enemies of Rome (@worth24, 2017)

Enemies of Rome (Worthington Publishing, 2017) is not a complex game. Personally, I rate it a 2 out of 5 in terms of Weight on BoardGameGeek. This lite wargame gets played a fair bit in the RockyMountainNavy home in part because the RMN Boys enjoy it. I myself have mixed feelings about the game, but I do rate it a 7.0 (Good, Usually willing to play) on BGG. After last nights game, I may have to reappraise the rating because I discovered, after all this time, I missed a simple (but subtle) rules difference that, when played right, makes the game a better expereince!

Movement in Enemies of Rome comes in four types. It should be obvious, the rules sections is even titled, “4 Types of Movement.” Legion and Enemies of Rome both have Land and Naval Movement. The subtle difference I missed before last night is that Legion and Enemies of Rome Land Movement is NOT the same. Specifically, Legion Land Movement comes in two flavors (again, obvious in the rules…if I paid attention):

LEGION LAND MOVEMENT

A. Movement from an area you control to an adjacent area that contains another color cube in which case you must stop, even if you have movement remaining. A battle will occur after all movement is completed for the card play.

B. Move from an are you control through adjacent land areas you control ending in an area you control. A cube that moves more than one area may not enter an area with opposing cubes.

On the other hand, the Enemies of Rome Land Movement specifies:

ENEMY OF ROME LAND MOVEMENT

Enemies of Rome units may enter an adjacent area with enemy of Rome units in it. This does not cause a battle.

Enemy of Rome units may enter an adjacent area with legions. This does cause a battle.

The subtle difference between Legion and Enemy movement actually has a major impact on the game. The difference is mobility; Legions have it (move across multiple friendly adjacent areas) while the Enemies of Rome can’t (move to an adjacent area only).

Another rules subtlety I missed before is in the first part of the Movement rule. It states, “When an area has 2 different color cubes present no units may move from or into that area.” This prevents “multi-axis” attacks.

Now, it would be easy to say that the rule book is poorly written and blame the designers Grant and Mike Wylie. It is written in a more conversational style that can trip up gamers (Root, I’m looking at you!). In this case, I think the cause of the confusion is more my own grognard hubris. I have been playing wargames, some very complex, for nearly 40 years and a lite wargame like Enemies of Rome appears easy. In turn, I tend to skim the rules catching concepts over details. Looks like I have to slow down and pay more attention, even to “simple” games. The end result will likely be a more fun game – and that’s worth alot!

Featured image courtesy Worthington Publishing.

 

Frienemies with Enemies of Rome (Worthington Publishing, 2017)

The traditional RockyMountainNavy Game Night saw Enemies of Rome (Worthington Publishing, 2017) land on the table. The game covers 600 years of Roman history using relatively low-complexity mechanics. Our game this weekend reminded me both why I like the game even when I have issues with it.

The RockyMountainNavy Boys and myself really like the game for its theme:

THE GAME:  It is 300 BC. Since being founded as a Republic in 509 BC Rome has grown in power and influence. Now it is your time…

You and up to 4 other players are one of Rome’s great leaders. Take control of legions and lead them across the known world for the next 600 years as you deal with uprisings, rebellions, political intrigue, and wars. Players can make alliances with one another (and true to Rome, break those alliances!) maneuver their forces and the enemies of Rome, all as they try to become the one true Caesar! All others are fed to the lions and their legacies lost to history…(Publishers Blurb)

We played a three-player game although we “know” this is not the optimal player count. Well, we play more for the fun of gaming together.

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Game Start – My Proconsul (Purple) is in Syria

The early turns were not kind to me. The other Proconsuls (i.e. the RockyMountainNavy Boys) moved the Enemies of Rome against me. As a result, I quickly lost my home territory.

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Enemy horde ejects me from my capital (Syria)

Not having a capital is not a total kiss-of-death, but having the fortress bonus on defense helps. I really needed a secure area to keep building up from. I thought I had found a way using the First Roman-Jewish War Event Card. I succeeded in reoccupying my capital in Syria, but along the way ended up fortifying the Enemies of Rome positions in Palestinia and Arabia Petrea.

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First Roman-Jewish War fortifies the area south and east of Syria

The other Proconsuls continued to use the Enemies of Rome against me, and as a result I ended up losing Syria again. I was forced to use Cilicia as my new “base” of operations.

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Ejected from Syria…again

Although I had difficulty in keeping a home territory, throughout the game I was always looking for easy opportunities to knock off a territory and gain that coveted Glory Point. I also paid a lot closer attention to the Event Cards I was dealt and tried to use them to create situations to gain Glory Points not just defend. When defending, one usually loses Legions to attrition in battle without any Glory Points gained. In the end game, the opportunity to retake Syria (yet again) presented itself. I took it, along with the Glory Point. To my (happy) surprise, at the end game scoring I pulled off a narrow victory!

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Victory by one Glory Point!

Playing Enemies of Rome again reminded me of several issues I have with the game. The first issue (which I have discussed before) is the victory point mechanic. In short, one gains VP (Glory Points) for winning battles as the attacker. What looks like a territory control game is actually not. Middle RMN Boy (playing Yellow) has the most territories and could of won if he was able to stay no more than two Glory Points behind the leader. My second issue is that for a game that is low-complexity (rated 3 out of 10 by the publisher) I actually have missed a few rules in the book. As a matter of fact, as I was reviewing the rule book before our latest game, I discovered this “obvious” rule that I had missed before:

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Enemies of Rome group size defined….

Although the Glory Point mechanic is a bit wonky, a larger player count is better, and some rules could be explained better, the RockyMountainNavy house still endorses Enemies of Rome.

Bottom line – It’s Fun!

Reconsiderations after first 4-player Enemies of Rome (@Worth2004, 2017)

After being on a post school-year trip, the oldest RockyMountainNavy Boy is back home. Given his love of history, and especially Ancient history, the other RMN Boys insisted that Enemies of Rome (Worthington Publishing, 2017) land on the table for game night. This was the first four-player game we have played.

Prior to tonight’s game I had very mixed reactions to Enemies of Rome. I “like” the game, but it had issues (especially scoring and victory conditions) that I was uncomfortable with. This four-player game was much more enjoyable. Here are some reactions/thoughts after play:

  • MovementI discovered through the BGG forums that we were doing movement wrong. Made the changes this game and it really changed the dynamics of the board. With the right movement rules the board was more wide-open with Legions and Enemies of Rome moving about in a more frantic (?) manner. FUN!
  • More Players – Having a fourth Proconsul (player) on the board, and one less starting Enemies of Rome, made a huge difference. The hordes are dangerous but also “manageable.” I think the real sweet-spot player count is 4-5, not our usual 3-player.
  • Glory PointsEnemies of Rome still suffers a bit of an identity crisis; it looks like an Area Control game but winning has little to do with territory control. Glory Points are won in battles the player initiates. Whoever has the most Glory Points wins. The player with the most territories gets a +3 Glory Point bonus. For the Oldest RMN Boy in his first play the victory conditions were opaque to him; he was worried about taking – and protecting – territory and as a result he played a very defensive, even timid, game. The other RMN Boys spent a lot of time moving the Enemies of Rome against their older brother and fought few battles themselves. Meanwhile, my strategy was to win at least one battle every other turn. At the end of the game I had 14 Glory Points (averaging closer to one Glory Point every three-turns) AND the territory bonus! Even without the bonus I won by 1 Glory Point.

This four-player go at Enemies of Rome has raised the game’s standing in my eyes. I am looking forward to our next 3-player game with the proper movement rules to see that wide-open board again.

Featured image courtesy Worthington Publishing.

A Little Rebellion – #GameNight 1775 Rebellion – The American Revolution (@Academy_Games, 2013)

After playing Enemies of Rome (Worthington Publishing, 2017) the past few weeks, the Youngest RockyMountainNavy Boy picked an older but highly enjoyable title for this week’s Game Night. So it was that 1775 Rebellion – The American Revolution (Academy Games, 2013) landed on the table. We once again played a three-player version, with the very typical RockyMountainNavy Boys teaming up against Dad. The Youngest played the Loyalists while the Middle RMN Boy took the British Regulars.

Battle Forth

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End of Round 1 – 1775 Rebellion by Academy Games

Knowing that the Boys are tough opponents, I struck hard and fast. The Continentals were able to eject the British from Boston while an early Benjamin Franklin allowed me to land French troops in Savannah. Dangerously, the Patriots Militia had to play the Treaty of Paris Card as it was the only movement card in the first hand! Meanwhile, the Loyalist were recruiting a large Indian army in New York. At the end of Round 1 the Americans led 4 (Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, & Georgia) to 3 (Quebec, Nova Scotia, & Delaware).

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End of Round 2 in 1775 Rebellion by Academy Games

Round 2 was more a war of movement as both sides postured for advantage. As the Americans I pursued a Southern Strategy and was able to bring Maryland to The Cause but was worried as the British were obviously looking to drive through New York from Canada and split the northern colonies.

End of Round 2 score:

  • Americans 5 (MA, CT, RI, GA, MD)
  • British 3 (Quebec, Nova Scotia, DE)

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In Round 3 the Americans took South Carolina and moved into North Carolina. In the North, French troops arrived in Newport to bolster the defenses there. This was especially welcome given the relentless British march through New York, The British also used their Indian allies to take Pennsylvania. Of note, the Loyalists’ played their own Treaty of Paris card. The next Treaty Card played would end the game.

End of Round 3 score:

  • Americans 7 (MA, CT, RI, GA, MD, SC, NC)
  • British 4 (Quebec, Nova Scotia, DE, PA)
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End of Round 4 – 1775 Rebellion by Academy Games

The first turn went to the Continental Army that hunkered down building forces. The second Turn was the British Regulars who used Warship Movement to land a force in Savannah – negating American control of the colony. The British also took control of New York by defeating a mixed Continental/Militia force in the area between New York City and Albany. The game was turning in favor the the British who now were tied 6-6. However, it would the be Patriot Militia who played the spoiler. During Turn 3 the Militia played the second Treaty of Paris card meaning the game would end after this Round. The Militia was able to move a force into New York City defeating a Loyalist-heavy force making New York an uncontrolled colony. Another small Militia force with Indian allies entered Western Pennsylvania which also took control of the colony away from the British. In Turn 4 the Loyalist player had too little too late and was unable to reverse a single colony falling. At the end of Round 4 (and game end) the Americans took the narrow victory with a 6-4 final score.

After Thoughts

1775 Rebellion has the least special rules of the Birth of America-series and is in many ways the easiest to play. The game can also end early like ours did tonight with both Treaty of Paris cards out for the Americans by the end of Round 4. Total game time was a short 60 minutes. Though the game was short by our game night standards (2-3 hours being acceptable) it was nonetheless very fun. I get a feeling that this month will be an Academy Games month as the Birth of America-series and 878 Vikings – Invasions of England come out for play!

 

Glorifying Enemies of Rome (Worthington Publishing LLC, 2017)

I LIKE Enemies of Rome (Worthington Publishing, 2017). The RockyMountainNavy Boys like Enemies of Rome. We have played it four times in the three weeks since it arrived in the RMN house. This level of repeat play is unheard of and a true testimony to how good the game is and how it fits the RMN game night. As good as Enemies of Rome is…I sense the RMN love affair with this game is quickly reaching the point of a major breakup.

So what is the problem?

We play Enemies of Rome even though we intensely dislike the scoring mechanic. Victory in Enemies of Rome is determined by Glory Points. In the rules as written (RAW), players earn Glory Points by attacking and winning a battle in an area. Defenders do not earn Glory Points even if they win. At the end of the game the player with the most areas gets a bonus of 3 Glory Points. A player can lose 2 Glory Points if they attack an area with another player’s Legions and do not win the battle; they do not lose Glory Points for losing against the enemies of Rome. The player with the most Glory Points is the winner. In the event of a tie, the tied player with the most Legions on the board wins.

Sounds pretty straight forward. Battle, earn Glory Points, and win.

Which doesn’t sit right with us. Victory in Enemies of Rome goes to the one who has won the most battles; the board state is irrelevant (except in a tie when it is the number of Legions, not areas, counted).

Another problem as I see it is the Event Cards in the game don’t support the Glory Point mechanic. To be clear, we have only played the three-player version of Enemies of Rome. After playing a few times (**SPOILER ALERT**) we have noticed that many of the Event Cards place enemies of Rome onto the board. When this happens a battle usually follows. Legions are expended in battle, but no Glory is won if these battles occur in areas the players already control. Indeed, a considerable number (maybe half?) of all battles in the games we played are against the enemies of Rome in areas already controlled. This means half the lost Legions, half the victories won, count as nothing.

[I fully realize that the “non-player” enemies of Rome are available to use as a proxy force. The ability to move the enemies of Rome on your turn is powerful as you can position the enemies of Rome in a more favorable manner to make your next conquest easier or you can use the enemies of Rome as a proxy army to batter down an opponent.] 

One other Event Card effect (**SPOILER ALERT REMAINS**) we noticed is that in the later stages of the game the arrival of the enemies of Rome often challenge one to keep areas they already control. One (major) impact of the cards is to force battles in controlled areas. Battles that are won don’t mean anything for there is no Glory Point earned for keeping an area you control. The battle system does not allow for retreat either; battles are to the death so there is no “save your troops” mechanism. The net effect is that players in the end game grow weaker as many battles are fought for no Glory Points.

In each of the games we played, at least one player was “besieged” for the better part of the game; that is, constantly fighting in areas already owned. As noted, these constant battle use up Legions but do not gain Glory Points. This player was at a constant disadvantage. It was very apparent that this player was going to lose as there is no “catch up” mechanism other than to win battles in other areas – battles that the player often cannot fight because the constant attrition of Legions fighting to just hold areas already owned prevents a build up of forces for attacking new areas.

We have already tried a few house rules to find a better experience. Instead of the player with the most areas getting a bonus we added the number of areas as a straight addition to Glory Points. Neither seems enough. We tried awarding bonus Glory Points (2) for an unused Intrigue Talent. In the next game we are considering changing the rule to make any victory in battle a Glory Point – even when defending. We may give a 2 Glory Point bonus to the player with he most Legions on the board. These changes certainly seem in spirit with the RAW where Glory Points only come from battles and the number of Legions on the board is an ingredient of the tie-breaker.

There is too much goodness in Enemies of Rome and we have already invested considerable playtime in this game to simply walk away from it. We will keep trying to find a balance. I am curious as to what the game designers have to say. So far, the forums on BoardGameGeek have several player comments but nothing from the designer.

Featured image courtesy Worthington Publishing.

#FirstImpressions – Enemies of Rome (Worthington Publishing LLC, 2017)

Enemies of Rome (Worthington Publishing LLC, 2017) is a rules-lite, family-friendly, area control wargame. Well, sort of area control. Maybe too rules lite. Regardless, Enemies of Rome is a simple wargame that looks to be a fun shorter game that engages the entire family.

I missed out on the Kickstarter campaign in early 2017 that raised $17,000 against a $10,000 goal. The game is now reaching retail distribution where I got it. My interest comes thanks to a series of videos that @PastorJoelT posted on Twitter.

Components

The map has a very theme-appropriate presentation. The back of the Event/Action cards are a bit cartoonish as compared to the map but remain loyal to the theme. The card faces are easy to read and understand. The many cubes look overwhelming at first but once separated into color groups and matched with the few cardboard tokens they also support immersion into the theme.

Rules-Lite

The rulebook for Enemies of Rome is eight (8) pages. Actually, it is seven pages as page 8 is a simplified map. The mechanics of the game is very straight-forward; place reinforcements, play “Intrigue Talents” (special bonuses earned during play), play either an Event or Action card to move and maybe battle, then draw your hand back up to two cards. Victory points, called Glory Points here, are earned by conquering a territory and lost if you lose a battle against another player. Total play time is rated at 120 minutes, but even our first game was over in 90.

As simple as the rules are, the rulebook could of used a bit more work. Looking at the names of the designers and play testers, Enemies of Rome looks to be mostly a family affair. That is not bad, but I feel that if an outsider or a professional technical editor had looked at these rules they could be much clearer. Having grown up as a grognard with rigid SPI rules formatting (1. / 1.1/ 1.11, etc.) I find it helpful in breaking down a rule and making them easy to follow or cross-reference. I totally understand that this “rules lawyer” format is not popular with some, especially those who want to read a more “natural language” text.

Who are the “Enemies of Rome”

Enemies of Rome is for 2-5 players, making it high suitable for group or family gaming. What makes this game work is the presence in every game of a non-player, the “Enemies of Rome.” Enemies occupy every territory the players do not. During a players turn, some Event and Action cards allow the player to move the Enemies. This simple mechanic introduces a subtle element of strategy that quickly becomes a focus of all players – do I move my own Legions or do I move the Enemies? This makes for interesting dilemma’s – how do I move/battle the Enemies to my advantage?

Area Control – Sorta

On the surface, Enemies of Rome appears to be an area control game. Indeed, at game end the players with the most territories gains a Glory Point bonus. However, a closer look at the rules reveals that Glory Points are won/lost in battle. If at the end of a battle the player is in sole possession of a territory, a Glory Point is won. If the player battles another player (not the Enemies) and loses, Glory Points are lost. The subtlety of this rule can be lost on beginners. In the RockyMountainNavy family first game, as Red I had the least territories but fought a number of good-odds battles towards the end and tied Blue who had the most Legions and territories. In the tie-breaker I lost to the more numerous Blue Legions. The RockyMountainNavy Boys were a bit confused at first until they realized its the battles won, not the number of territories, that count for Glory Points. A quick glance through the forums at BoardgameGeek seemingly indicate this is not a popular way of determining victory with several alternate VP conditions being bantered about.

Similarities

What struck me after the first play was the similarity of Enemies of Rome to the very popular Academy Games Birth of America-series. This especially applies to the first game in the series, 1775 Rebellion: The American Revolution. The RockyMountainNavy Boys and myself have many plays of the Birth of America series and the similar 878 Vikings: Invasions of England which are team-play, area control games. Indeed, @PastorJoelT mentioned in one of his videos that he saw Enemies of Rome and 1775 Rebellion as similar games. His comment is actually what triggered me to buy the game!

In my opinion, although superficially similar to Enemies of Rome, there are enough differences with the Enemies of Rome and the Glory Point scoring mechanics that these games are just that – superficially similar. I view Enemies of Rome as the simpler game of the two.

Collection Worthy?

Although Enemies of Rome is a simple game with a scoring mechanic that is a bit opaque, that does not mean it is not good enough for a gaming collection. If you look closely at the featured image of this post, you will see several Rick Riordan books in the upper right corner of the image. The RockyMountainNavy Boys pulled these out because the geography in the books was also found in Enemies of Rome. The Boys also found my copy of Decision Games’ Strategy & Tactics Quarterly #1 – Caesar. The Boys are making what Mrs. RockyMountainNavy refers to as “connections.” They are studying the map, reading the history on the Event cards, and learning.

Enemies of Rome promotes learning while having fun at the same time. That’s a winning combination in the RockyMountainNavy stronghold. Even if you are not into learning, the simplistic nature of the game, combined with subtle strategy, make Enemies of Rome a good group game, especially when introducing new gamers to wargames.

Discipline – or – KickStarter and Preorder Madness (April 2018 Update)

fullsizeoutput_5b2I really need to get my game budget under control. Last year I purchased many games and this year swore to get my spending under control. I have tried to be pickier (No Honey, really!) with my choices.

This week I was purchasing a just few games (Honest, Dear!) and looked at my Preordered BoardGameGeek collection.

Uh oh….

According to BGG, I have 13(!) items on preorder. I actually have 15 given that Hold the Line: The American Civil War (Worthington Publishing via Kickstarter) does not have an entry yet. And then there is Squadron Strike: Traveller (Ad Astra Games, never?). I have written before about my disappointment there. Here are a few I am most interested in:

Agents of Mayhem: Pride of Babylon (Academy Games, 2018?) is not my normal game genre. But it’s designed by Gunter Eickert and Uwe is publishing it. I trust them to make a good game. Even it it is a Kickstarter project….

After watching @PastorJoelT ‘s videos on Twitter and following my visit to Gettysburg, Battle Hymn Vol. 1: Gettysburg and Pea Ridge (Compass Games, 2018) looked too good to pass up.

I have patiently waited for Conflict of Heroes: Storms of Steel! – Kursk 1943 (second edition, Academy Games) for a while now. I am part of the ProofHQ looking at the new rules. I like what I am seeing so the delay, though unfortunate, is not totally unbearable.

Enemies of Rome (Worthington Publishing, 2017). Another buy after @PastorJoelT showed videos. Also like that it compares to 1775 Rebellion – The American Revolution (Academy Games). Looking for a deal, I ordered through Miniature Market. In preorder although I see a few copies on the street. Worth it to save a few dollars?

I actually missed the Kickstarter for Root: A Game of Woodland Might and Right (Leder Games, 2018?) but recently pulled the trigger and ordered it via BackerKit. I was initially hesitant because I like the GMT Games COIN series (which Root is supposedly heavily influenced by) but just was not so sure the RockyMountainNavy Boys would like it. After looking at the Print-n-Play versions posted I decided to go for it!

Long ago I remember a friend had Triplanetary: The Classic Game of Space Combat (Steve Jackson Games, 2018?). At only $45 via Kickstarter this seemed like a good deal as it is a topic I love.

If predictions are to be believed, August/September 2018 may be a busy month of new games. Mrs. RockyMountainNavy keeps reminding me about this as I spend now for gaming later.