ROME HAS A NEW CAESAR.
Superior to the original - and I rate that a "10".
The icons are gone. Mercatus is gone. The Forums have been tempered.
Possibly the greatest card game I own.A CARDGAMING TOUR-DE-FORCE, WITH MORE WELL-OILED MUSCLES THAN A BATTLE-HARDENED RETENTUS.
From the ivory tower populated by the gaming zeitgeist, a cardgame has been lowered by winch to the hungry masses. And they should be grateful. For Arena: Roma II is absolutely bloody superb and manages to better the original.
Someone on the Geek described this masterclass in game design as a "knife fight" and they were spot on the target, with the accuracy of a herioc gladiator's thrown soliferreum. Roma is a brutal melee of a cardgame, that colourfully represents the wrestling of rival powers for control of ancient Rome's senate and guard, by the various toga-wearing movers and shakers that skulked through the collonades of Roman power, daggers in sleeve.
In the box you get a slim pack of attractive cards, filled with language-independant iconography, 7 dice, and a jug-full of counters. Not a lot for your hard-earned coinage, but this gem's worth every last shiny penny.
Dice and cards? So this is a random, chaotic, card-flapping, dice-chucking, orgy?
If you thought these thoughts, banish yourself to the colloseum and chase some tigers with trident and net.
Roma is more than the sum of its parts. It is all of those randomish things, but yet it stands taller than merely a card game, or a dice game, or a simple meld of the two. Roma is just great. It uses the dice brilliantly; forcing you to make nail-biting decisions EVERY turn. Each die has to be allocated to a task - and herein lies the blinding design. The dice are the engine that powers the card drawing/playing; allows you cash for further tasks; enables senators, spies, etc, to do their dirty work. The deck of cards is disappointingly small. Initially. Aha! It is slim for a reason, and that reason is game-control. With a fat deck of many wondrous things you could be rolling dice all day to get the cards you want. But with Roma, the card you seek is tantalisingly close. Yes, it is.
The game is a frantic confrontation, with more back and forth than a platter of stuffed olives, carried shoulder-high by a pretty young lad at a consul's banquet. You really will screw the other player over in ways that remind me of Magic: The Gathering, and that is not a comparison I make lightly.
Some whisper that certain cards are unbalanced, and they may be right. But I say, fight and manipulate your way around those cards to victory. No Caesar conquered his people without a ruddy hard wrangling.
Roma allows you to fight back from the brink, if you find yourself losing, in a way that can keep both players on the tips of their sandles, unlike most other 2-player cardgames. It sometimes can really seem like you're windmilling your arms to stop yourself tipping over into the lion's den - games can be that close, swinging wildly. And, you'll always have a great time in the process.
As you may know, I adore swift games; Roma is safetly in the stable with other quick-playing Italian thoroughbreds. You will get many delightful turns of this in before bedtime.
Like all great games, Roma forces each player to manage their resources effectively; management of cash/cards is a skill players will have to master. And you will have to craft a defense right from the get-go, to stem the victory point bleed.
When all is said and done, Roma is a deep game with varied paths to success. I might be naturally programmed to like Roman-themed games, having been born on the Ides of March, but I'm sure that that hasn't clouded my judgement here.Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus:
1. Strong, wrestle for control of Rome theme.
2. Excellent artwork.
3. Huge and complex decision trees.
4. Fast gameplay. Did I say fast? As fast as a dagger to the gut fast.
5. Nasty, screw your opponent over to win, wranglings, every blood-soaked turn. This is a good thing.
6. No surefire strategies.
7. Satisfying experience.
8. Simple rules. The permeations that result from all the varied card powers will keep your brain busy, though.
9. Varied paths to victory.
10. Nailbiting finishes.
11. No icons. English on every card. Woop! Woop!
12. A "bribery" icon has been added. Upping the complexity of your decisions, and also smoothing out the luck a smidge.
14. Cheap. Especially for the mileage you'll get from this bronzed god.
15. Superior, but similar to, many other dice-allocating games, such as Alien Frontiers.Nero Claudius Caesar Drusus Germanicus:
1. Some of the English on the cards is poor. Not a deal-breaker, just irritating.
2. Dice and cards. So, no cubes moved from warehouse to the docks for 3 points on your turn, or growing turnips type euro game. Yes, there is a huge amount of luck in what you pull from the teeny deck of cards, and, obviously what you roll on the dice. But, let me assure you, that the luck can be managed by careful placement of cards to "icons". Clever play will overcome the odds. Plus, you will draw so many cards during your struggle for power, that you should be able to do something to grab a gaunlet full of VPs.
3. Too confrontational for many players.
4. Some gamers feel that certain cards are broken. I do not agree.
5. Some of these same gamers believe that Roma suffers from "first turn advantage". My anecdotal evidence does not support this. You can always penalise the first player by 1 or 2 VPs, I suppose. Or, better yet, make the loser of the last game go first next time.
6. With 2 experienced players, games can go long, say an hour; a fun hour, but an hour nethertheless.Click here.