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Subject: Variant to accelerate the Middle and Late Republic games rss

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Chris Farrell
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I've been playing Republic of Rome again recently, and I got to thinking about some of the issues people have raised. The complexity complaint, I'm no longer that sympathetic to, especially in light of how complicated many modern wargames are. If you want a simple game, play something else; virtually everything in Republic of Rome is important to gameplay, so it's hard to imagine what could be cut out.

But, I think there is an issue with the Middle and Late Republics. The first issue is one of length - they're just too long, especially the Late Republic, which is an 8+ hour game. The second issue is one of pacing - with so many red cards in the deck, the external events (black cards) don't come out that rapidly, and so the game can seem slow, especially when you go a couple turns with everyone drawing red cards and no external events at all.

This then folds into two other minor complaints: first, there is a huge difference (and a somewhat arbitrary and unfair one) between drawing a red intruige card during your Forum Phase and drawing a black event. Red cards are valuable, often quite powerful, and the stuff of deal-making, while black cards get you nothing. The other minor complaint is that the flavorful random events seem just too rare. The game would be more interesting, I feel, if the random events could come out a little more reliably. I think this would especially help the Early Republic, where the possibility of some helpful random events would give some hope when your backs are really to the wall.

So, here is my proposal:

Instead of having one deck, split the deck in two, one each with "red" and "black" events.

Then, on your forum phase, roll a d8. On a 1-4, draw a "black" card. On a 5-6, roll a random event. On a 7-8, do nothing.

Regardless of that outcome, always draw a "red" card. If the stack of "red" cards is exhausted, reshuffle the discards (excluding dead statesmen and obvious one-off events like Cleopatra and Proscription) and form a new draw deck.

The net upshot is: the pace of the black events remains unchanged in the Early Republic; however, you'll see more random events, and players get more intruige cards.

In the Middle and Late Republics, where the proportion of red cards in the draw deck is higher, the pace of the external events will be accelerated. The Middle Republic will become about the same length as the Early Republic (same # of black cards), although still decidedly less deadly overall (although more dangerous than it is now). The Late Republic will still be longer - 19 black vs. 12 in the Middle and 11 in the Early - but the bloat on the red card side of the deck (43 in the Late Republic, a whopping 48 in the Middle Republic, but only 31 in the Early) won't drag the pace of the game down so much. Since the external events provide so much of the impetus for the dealmaking and excitement in the game, Late, and especially Middle Republic games with their tendancy towards years of little or nothing external happening can be a real downer.

The more rapid distribution of the red cards will mean more intruige opportunities, but it'll also make the game a bit easier by making it more likely the right Statesman will be in the right place at the right time. That's the only bit I'm not entirely sure about, although I think it would be a net positive.

One could then argue that with everyone getting red cards every turn, if there are fewer than 6 players, you should just roll for a random event/"black" event for the extra impulses instead of auctioning them off, to slightly ratchet back down the rate of "red" card disbursal, and just to simplify things slightly. With 3 players, you could just give everyone two impulses.
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John Rodriguez
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Your proposals are pretty good, as I've also noticed that "nothing happening" problem in the middle and late. I've also never been too happy about the fact that someone who draws a black card for three rounds in a row is hurting. I'd be interested in seeing how it played out.

One concern - some of those events (plague for instance) are pretty huge game changers. I'm not sure seeing lots of those is a good idea. Having to deal with evil omens every other turn would also be annoying.

I also think your idea will probably make the middle republic significantly more deadly (just an observation).

Disclaimer: I'm used to either starting early and middle and going to late (about a 12 hour game). I don't think I've ever just started a late republic game.

I play this fairly regularly pbem - maybe I'll suggest this varient.
 
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Chris Farrell
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It's actually pretty easy to adjust the probabilities. I agree that 1 in 4 for a random event could be too much, but I'm pretty convinced that 1 in 6 is not quite enough ... so you could always go to a d10, with 1-5 for a black card, 6-7 for a random event, and 8-0 is nothing. When I used to play regularly, we had introduced a house rule that if any given turn there had been no random event, the HRAO rolled one up. This might have been a little extreme, but I liked it.

I agree the whole thing works a lot better if you just play through the decks in order, because a chunk of the "bloat" in terms of red cards is Early Republic red cards that are mixed into the deck when starting out in the Middle Republic (concessions, a few random cards); if you had played through from the Early Republic, those cards would already either be in play or in player hands, so the Middle Republic deck would be slightly more sensibly sized (when you compensate for the cards dealt out at start, it's probably only 5 cards, but that's still enough to make a difference). Also, the strange breakpoint between Middle and Late (most the events surrounding Sulla are in the Late Republic deck, while he's in the Middle deck) is not an issue.

But I doubt I'll ever have time to play that variation

Thinking of which, I mentioned that the Proscription card was an obvious one-off in my previous post, but actually that's not the case. Rome had two bouts of proscription, one under Sulla and one under the First Triumvirate, I think. So that card could be recycled for some bonus fun.
 
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John Rodriguez
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cfarrell wrote:
It's actually pretty easy to adjust the probabilities. I agree that 1 in 4 for a random event could be too much, but I'm pretty convinced that 1 in 6 is not quite enough ... so you could always go to a d10, with 1-5 for a black card, 6-7 for a random event, and 8-0 is nothing. When I used to play regularly, we had introduced a house rule that if any given turn there had been no random event, the HRAO rolled one up. This might have been a little extreme, but I liked it.


That would be interesting to try... seeing on average 3 black cards in the middle/late a turn would make the game quite a bit more coopreative - and it wouldn't be all that unlikely to see 5 wars come out once in awhile [shudder].

cfarrell wrote:
I agree the whole thing works a lot better if you just play through the decks in order, because a chunk of the "bloat" in terms of red cards is Early Republic red cards that are mixed into the deck when starting out in the Middle Republic (concessions, a few random cards); if you had played through from the Early Republic, those cards would already either be in play or in player hands, so the Middle Republic deck would be slightly more sensibly sized (when you compensate for the cards dealt out at start, it's probably only 5 cards, but that's still enough to make a difference). Also, the strange breakpoint between Middle and Late (most the events surrounding Sulla are in the Late Republic deck, while he's in the Middle deck) is not an issue.


Funny thing I've noticed though. If you start to play from the first you will rarely get to the third because so much influence has been awarded its unlikely that no one will win before the third deck pops up. Usually if I want to see the third we start with the middle. Its in those kinds of games I wish for some sort of "ageing" rule for senators so you don't see a lucky senator live forever - but at the same time not cause lots of random deaths. There is an optional rule of those in living rules, but many consider it too fiddly.

cfarrell wrote:
Thinking of which, I mentioned that the Proscription card was an obvious one-off in my previous post, but actually that's not the case. Rome had two bouts of proscription, one under Sulla and one under the First Triumvirate, I think. So that card could be recycled for some bonus fun.


Actually the second proscriptions was under the Second Triumvirate - which is just outside the scope of the game (unless you are using the civil war varient deck).
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Chris Farrell
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Velusion wrote:
That would be interesting to try... seeing on average 3 black cards in the middle/late a turn would make the game quite a bit more coopreative - and it wouldn't be all that unlikely to see 5 wars come out once in awhile [shudder].


I've only played the Late Republic I think twice. The thing was, it seemed really hard to get the cool historical personalities into action because the Republic was never under serious threat, despite some modestly dangerous wars. So nobody was ever going to give Julius Caesar an army and risk revolt. Maybe you could cut a deal if you had 3 players, but with more (I usually try to play with 5), it just seemed really hard.

If you amped the tension up a bit, though, I can see things getting interesting ... none of the wars are serious, but if you bickered over fighting them, things could stack up. If I've done my math right (always an open question), the normal ratio of black:red in the Late Republic is not that much worse than 1:1 (maybe 4:5?), so it's going to speed things up just a bit. The big difference would be in the Middle Republic.

Quote:

Funny thing I've noticed though. If you start to play from the first you will rarely get to the third because so much influence has been awarded its unlikely that no one will win before the third deck pops up.


Yeah, I had forgotten that, and it is true. We tried a couple times long ago and I remember now that things tended to end early in the Middle Republic just because of the amount of influence sloshing around.

Quote:
Actually the second proscriptions was under the Second Triumvirate - which is just outside the scope of the game (unless you are using the civil war varient deck).


You're correct, of course. So proscription should probably be removed.
 
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John Rodriguez
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cfarrell wrote:

I've only played the Late Republic I think twice. The thing was, it seemed really hard to get the cool historical personalities into action because the Republic was never under serious threat, despite some modestly dangerous wars. So nobody was ever going to give Julius Caesar an army and risk revolt. Maybe you could cut a deal if you had 3 players, but with more (I usually try to play with 5), it just seemed really hard.

If you amped the tension up a bit, though, I can see things getting interesting ... none of the wars are serious, but if you bickered over fighting them, things could stack up. If I've done my math right (always an open question), the normal ratio of black:red in the Late Republic is not that much worse than 1:1 (maybe 4:5?), so it's going to speed things up just a bit. The big difference would be in the Middle Republic.


I am curious to see how it works out!

I really think that to engineer the chance to cause a military victory in you really need alot of money to "engineer" yourself to have enough troops - I'm not sure I would rely on the senate to give you more than the bare minimum. That said I think it unlikey you will ever get much beyond even odds if you decide to march on Rome(which isn't so bad of odds in a 5-6 player game). Its always been hard to engineer a military victory - and I think that is a fairly accurate represenation of the history of time (much of Rome's laws was engineered specificly to avoid this problem). If you look at availabe legions with the Caesar crossing the rubicon he was at a large disadvantage number wise (though he had some veterans to make up for it). You could say he marched on rome with about even or slightly less than even odds. He apparently won the die roll at Pharsalas =).

As a side note - You could say that the events surrounding Casear's takeover were unusual and therefore unlikely to be repeated. More recent historians dispute the assumption that the pressure on the Roman Republic in the late era was a forgone conclusion to a military confrontation. Change was inevatable, but it could have very well happened in a less violent way if the situation and personalities were different. What makes the late repbublic so interesting is the cult of personality the developed because of the historic client-political system. In otherwords - the personality of the polititian/general could dictate the direction of western history in a much more personal way than ever before (or perhaps since). So you get these larger than life figures of Crassus, Cicero, Caesar, Pompay that have endured even to the present day.

Back to the game though - I've always wanted to try out the Civil war deck as it really gives generals an easier path to military victory. One day I'll make up some cards...


 
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Udu Tont
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Sounds like a fine variant; certainly worth trying. cool

However, would it not be better to use d6 (already provided with the game) for forum? You stated that one of the reasons for the variant is to have more random events. Would not it be better then to use the following breakdown: 1,2,3 black card; 4,5 random event, 6 nothing happens? (The probability of random event would 1:3 instead of 1:4 -d8 variant- and 1:6 - the original rule).


P.S. I have not played the late era. In my middle games I have put Hannibal and Philip into the deck to make the era more challenging.
 
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Chris Farrell
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Well, the original logic for using a d8 instead of a d6 was that while having on average one event per turn seemed a little infrequent, doubling that to two per turn on average seemed like it might be excessive. You could get similar probabilities to the 1d8 proposal using 2d6, but it would be awkward (requiring a chart with non-contiguous ranges), while 1d8 (or 1d10) is easy.

I've always been on the lookout for an opportunity to use my d5 and d7, but it didn't seem appropriate here
 
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Frank McNally
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In a 6 player game one should expect on average 1 random event (6 * 6/36 )per turn so why not a 1 in 6 chance?
 
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We played the middle scenario with the cfarell's d8 variant. Impressions:

Pro
The fact that EVERYONE gets a red card is nice. The added value is that with more red cards in players' hand the cards are played more often, which makes the game more varied. Also there was more incentive to make deals (e.g. more "useless" statesmen)

No more "nothing happens", i.e. some sort of event - black or random - is almost guranteed.

Contra
The d8 makes the game more unpredictable. First, the pace of the game may vary considerably. We had a lot of black events in the first two turns, close to 80% of rolls resulted in a black event. Then, the black events almost "died out". With the deck you can shuffle the cards in a way that makes it very unlikely to have several black events in a row.

Second, it becomes much more difficult to predict whether the game lasts for another round. This may be actually a good thing depending on your point of view.

Third, and most importantly, the length of the game may vary considerably. There are not enough rolls to rely on statistical results. Consequently, you may end up with much shorter or longer game depending on the rolls.

To sum up
I think the variant makes the game more interesing but on the negative side the length of the game becomes more unpredictable. This is a big issue with a game whose length is one of its biggest drawbacks. Nonetheless, after one play, I like the variant better than the original. Try it out!

 
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Roberto Ullfig
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cfarrell wrote:

...I've only played the Late Republic I think twice. The thing was, it seemed really hard to get the cool historical personalities into action because the Republic was never under serious threat, despite some modestly dangerous wars. So nobody was ever going to give Julius Caesar an army and risk revolt. Maybe you could cut a deal if you had 3 players, but with more (I usually try to play with 5), it just seemed really hard....


There is a way to win a Civil War but it means you have to interpret the rules in a specific way. First off, there is no rule saying that you can reinforce or recall a _Consul_ - such a rule exists for Proconsul but not for Consul. One might interpret the rules to allow Consuls to be recalled but I think it makes for a better game if they can't. OK, this means that once a Consul/Dictator has been sent to war with an army there is no way to recall him during that same Senate Phase. So, all a player needs is ONE proposal to get passed to send his Senator off to war with ALL of Rome's legions. Such a proposal could be passed with bribes and perhaps a key assassination is needed to prevent counter-bribes from a wealthy opposing senator. Vetoes can be cancelled with Murder of a Tribune or Graft - if the presiding magistrate is a Dictator there is no need to worry about a veto.

You could also apply such a strategy to a province instead of a War. Actually this is much more effective since all the legions in the province will automatically follow the Governor. The rules are unclear about sending and recalling legions to provinces in the same Senate phase. I would argue that this cannot be done - that once a legion is assigned to a province it remains there for the rest of that Senate phase. The only thing left is that the governor of the province that is planning to revolt must have just been elected as governor of that province - otherwise, a new governor (ideally one in the Forum) could be elected to the province that was just assigned the 25 legions.

I call this the Golden Vote strategy - basically, you can win the game if you can manage to pass ONE war/province proposal all by yourself.
 
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Roberto Ullfig
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The Middle Republic Scenario is way too Red Card heavy especially with only 5 players. With 5 players, I suggest dealing each player an additional red card at the start and increasing the hand size limit by 1 from 5 to 6 cards.
 
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