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.

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.