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Subject: What kind of nonsense is this? A Pictorial Review of Board Game Latin rss

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Confession: this is not your usual review. There are already several reviews of game play. But there's no review of the game language. Yes, the game language! What, you say, isn't this game language independent? Ah, yes, but my board gaming friends, this game is all about Latin! And so this game desperately needs a review of board game Latin!

Let's start with the name of the game:



Quo Vadis? What kind of game has a Latin name? And really, what does Quo Vadis mean anyway?

You're glad I asked the question, aren't you, because you didn't have the nerve to ask, did you? You figured that everyone else knew, and that you were the only one who didn't, and you didn't want to embarrass yourself by looking stupid. Well, this pictorial review is for you! So here it is, an elementary primer to Board Game Latin, with special reference to Quo Vadis.

An Introduction to Latin

First of all, the theme: in this game by Reiner Knizia, players represent politicians or senators. Their senators progress through a series of committees, but need the vote of their opponents to progress upward toward the senate. So it's a negotiation game, themed around ancient Roman politics.

What does all this have to do with Latin, you ask? Well, Latin is the language historically spoken in Ancient Rome. When I was first learning Latin at university, it didn't take long for me to learn the little ditty: "Latin is a dead language, as dead as can be. It first killed the Romans, and now it's killing me!" It wasn't quite Latin that killed the Romans, but as the Roman empire spread throughout Europe, they took Latin with them, and many languages that developed later (e.g. French, Italian, Spanish, English) were influenced by Latin vocab and grammar. Even when the Roman empire was dead, Latin continued to be the language of choice for scholarship in Europe until the 17th century. And, as you already know, it's the language on the game box of Quo Vadis?

Now it's time for some translation!

Quo Vadis

Let's start with the box cover, and with the name of the game.



What on earth is meant by Quo Vadis? It also appears on the gameboard. "Quo Vadis?" is Latin and roughly translates as "where goest thou?", i.e. "which way are you going?" It is a question you might use to ask someone how they might act or believe or, perhaps more importantly (and as it applies in this game), how they might vote!



Fasces

This one is embarrassing. Well, almost. Let's get the obvious out of the road first: "Fasces" is not to be confused with "feces" which is an English word with a rather different meaning, although politicians ancient and modern have been known to throw it around, or see it hit the fan. But a "fascis" (plural = "fasces") is a bundle of rods wrapped around an axe blade. It is a traditional ceremonial staff. Romans associated the fasces with their elected officials. Each official was accompanied by a set number of men bearing fasces. The higher your office, the more fasces accompanied you around town.

Fasces feature in the artwork of the game in several places, including the box cover, and also the Bureaucracy tile pictured above. They are also pictured on the game-board:



Acanthus leaves

The plastic figures in the Mayfair edition that represent Senators are shaped like clusters of acanthus leaves.



Acanthus leaves were Greek in origin, and adorned the capitals atop the ornate "Corinthian" style columns favored by many of the architects of the imperial period of Roman history.



Did you know that the Democrats and Republicans already were competing for power in Ancient Rome? What we see here, are some red Republicans eyeing off the various committees and jostling for position at the start of a game:



And in the next image, we see that political corruption existed already in Ancient Rome. Pictured is The Committee for Minimizing Inflation pondering whether to accept a bribe (genuine Roman denarius, from Emperor Commodus 180-192AD):



Laurels

A laurel wreath is a circular wreath made of interlocking branches and leaves of the Bay Laurel (Laurus nobilis, Lauraceae), an aromatic broadleaf evergreen. The word "laurel", however, is not Latin. In fact, the use of laurel wreaths dates back to Ancient Greece, where wreaths were awarded to victors in athletic competitions. But they were used in Ancient Rome too, where they were symbols of martial victory.



Thus Mr Knizia has seen fit to include them in Quo Vadis, where they are the rewards given to Senators who proceed from one commmitee to a higher one.



I can't miss the opportunity for a small pun here: in modern usage, the expression "resting on one's laurels" refers to someone relying on past success to cover up current inadequacies. Heres's a lazy Roman senator, resting on his laurels:



Romulus and Remus

Romulus (771-717BC) and Remus (771-753BC) are regarded as the traditional founders of the city of Rome. Plutarch and Livy suggest that Romulus was the first King of Rome. According to Roman mythology, the twins were brought up by a wolf, and so Romulus and Remus were often depicted in Roman artwork suckling from a wolf.



Look carefully at the artwork of the central committee of five to see them pictured on the game-board:



Caesar

The origin of the name "Caesar" is disputed, but certainly it was a designation used by Gaius Julius Caesar (100–44 BC), the famous Roman general and dictator. The game Quo Vadis includes a Caesar tile, which is used to allow senators to progress immediately to the next committee (courtesy of Caesar's favour, naturally), but without receiving a laurel.



Et tu, Brute?

"Et tu, Brute?" in English means: "You too, Brutus?", or "Even you, Brutus?". It's a Latin phrase used to describe Julius Caesar's last words, and has entered modern usage as an expression of betrayal. The historical background is that on March 15, 44BC, Julius Caesar was attacked and murdered by a group of senators. They included Caesar's close friend the senator Marcus Junius Brutus, and Caesar apparently uttered the words "Et tu, Brute?" before resigning himself to his fate. Fortunately, Mr Knizia's game allows us to recreate this scenario in one of the three-man committees, with the help of some miniatures:



Asterix and Obelix

Finally, I can't pass up an opportunity to put a plug in for my favorite comic book series! Many readers will know that the Asterix series features the exploits of a remarkable village of ancient Gauls who resist Roman occupation, and with the help superhuman strength obtained through their secret magic potion, constantly outwit Caesar and his legionaries. The heroes Asterix and Obelix are most widely known, but a humorous element of the series is that the names of minor characters feature absurd and Latin sounding puns. While the Gaulish characters have names ending in "-ix" (to name a few: Cacofonix the Bard, Fulliautomatix the Blacksmith, Unhygienix the Fishmonger), the Roman characters have hilarious names ending in "-us", such as Noxious Vapus, Crismus Bonus, Tremensdelirius, Centurion Hippopotomus, and Gracchus Armisurplus.

The Asterix series also incorporates many famous Latin one-liners, like Alea Jacta Est, Veni Vidi Vici, and Pax Romana. "Pax Romana" is a Latin phrase meaning "Roman peace", and refers to the long period of relative peace experienced by the Roman Empire. Its biggest threat, however, were the ancient superhero Gauls, Asterix and Obelix. So perhaps this sums up best what the series is all about:



No wonder Rome had to go to great lengths to neutralize the indomitable Gauls. Here is "The Committee for the Capture of Those Indomitable Gauls" at work hatching a new plan to capture Asterix and Obelix:



Concluding Comments

Quo Vadis can be a lot of fun, especially with all the negotiating and political machinations. The inclusion of some Latin only makes it more fun. My only regret is that Knizia didn't see fit to include an entire copy of the game rules in Latin. Perhaps this would be a good project for a budding Latin scholar as part of the requirements of his university Latin 101 course. There can be few more satisfying things than to shout something like "Scilicet is superis labor est ea cura quietos solicitat!" while marching towards the Senate. Bring on QUO VADIS!

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The complete list of Ender's pictorial reviews: http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/37596
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Homo Ludens
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This review was officially approved by "the Committee for Geekmodders who semper ubi sub ubi under their togas."

Waits for applause for this lame grammar school joke... blush

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Sean Shaw
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and here I thought phrases such as Et Tu Brute, meant things like..."And YOU, Brutus." or other such direct translations...



Nice little run down on Things Roman.
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Snowball
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I think the correct last words from Cesar were
"tu quoque mi fili"??
although in ancient greek, the above latin being a translation!

The sentence " Et tu, Brute" comes from the Shakespeare play.
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Bill Eldard
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Et tu, Ender?

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Richard Berg
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"Quo Vadis" is (was?) a best-selling novel by Henryk Seinckowicz, or Manckowiz, or somethign like that . . . and a major movie in the late 50's . . . big production, rather clanky. I would assume the publisher/designers were going for some name recognition thereby, as opposed to appealing to the Latin-reading gaming crowd (of which I am one). Lots of gaming phrases in latin, such as alea iacta est . . .

RHB


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Christoph Ruepprich
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Great "review".
Very entertaining and educational!

Thanks!
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Er heisst
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EndersGame wrote:

Fasces

This one is embarrassing. Well, almost. Let's get the obvious out of the road first: "Fasces" is not to be confused with "feces" which is an English word with a rather different meaning, although politicians ancient and modern have been known to throw it around, or see it hit the fan. But a "fascis" (plural = "fasces") is a bundle of rods wrapped around an axe blade. It is a traditional ceremonial staff. Romans associated the fasces with their elected officials. Each official was accompanied by a set number of men bearing fasces. The higher your office, the more fasces accompanied you around town.

Fasces feature in the artwork of the game in several places, including the box cover, and also the Bureaucracy tile pictured above. They are also pictured on the game-board:

Actually, the latin plural form "fasces" is the origin of our word "fascism". The term derives from the italian fascist movement, in which "fasces" were a defining part of their symbolism.
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HavocIsHere wrote:
I think the correct last words from Cesar were
"tu quoque mi fili"??
although in ancient greek, the above latin being a translation!

The sentence " Et tu, Brute" comes from the Shakespeare play.

Tu quoque, Brutus, fili mi?

that's it!
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Billy McBoatface
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I think that the most common use of the phrase "Quo Vadis" these days is a reference to the book or the film.
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Charles Rivera
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The Greek equivalent you're looking for (I believe it's in Plutarch's life of Caesar) is "kai su teknon?" "You too, [my] child?"

Don't forget the vocative for Brutus: it should be "tu quoque, Brute, fili mi"
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Jakub Niedźwiedź
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BROG wrote:
"Quo Vadis" is (was?) a best-selling novel by Henryk Seinckowicz, or Manckowiz, or somethign like that . . . and a major movie in the late 50's . . .

Henryk Sienkiewicz
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Bill
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Interesting review.

Those interested in a game that has rules printed in classical Latin (as well as other languages) should check out Triumvirate on this site.
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Andy Andersen
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Excellent pictorial review, Ender
 
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Shannon McNair
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The real questions is, how does it compare with "I'm the Boss?"
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Edward Kendrick
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Waldemar wrote:
Actually, the latin plural form "fasces" is the origin of our word "fascism". The term derives from the italian fascist movement, in which "fasces" were a defining part of their symbolism.

Yes; and the rods and the axe were symbolic of the Roman official's power to inflict corporal (rods) and capital (axe) punishment.
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Johannes Wentu
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you should use vocative, not nominative, i think: "Tu quoque, Brute, fili mi!". But the actual words used are not certain and there is some debate about them, it seems.
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