Thursday, May 17, 2012

Sword of Rome

Some friends and I got together recently to try out GMT Game’s CDG about the early Roman Republic, The Sword of Rome.   This was the first time playing this for all of us so it was very much a learning game all around.   I drew the Romans, actually the Greeks but agreed to swap with another player, long lost  SABG member Carlos drew the Etruscans and two other players took the Gauls and the Greeks.
The Gauls opted to go first throughout the game.  Their first action was to propose an alliance with the Etruscans which was accepted and held through most of the game.  The Etruscans with their limited reinforcements spent most of the game building up their forces, while the Samnites used their mountain lair to harass everyone.  The Greeks spent the early game sparing with Carthage and driving them out of Sicily.  The Rome tried to stay neutral while building a defensive ring of cities. Unfortunately, the Gallic-Etruscan alliance made this impossible.  Rome was quickly brought into conflict with its neighbors as the Gauls attacked its outlying cities.
The early attacks on Rome meant I had to burn a lot of my cards activating leaders and rebuilding my forces. This left little time to build colonies or deal with the Volcii.  Constant attacks by the Gauls wore down the Romans and eventually Rome itself was sacked.  The Gauls opted to take the victory point instead of occupying the city.  With Rome focused on the Gauls and Etruscans, the Greeks evicted Carthage from Sicily and started conquering the southern Italian peninsula.  At that point we had to call it a night and everyone made a last dash for Victory Points.  I think the Etruscans actually won by blitzing into Gaul territory to claim a victory city, but it was late so I’m not sure of that. 
The Gaul-Etruscan alliance was something that surprised me and I still don’t know if it was a rookie mistake or a brilliant move on the part of the Gauls.  I kind of learn toward brilliant as it enabled them to deal with the Trans-alpine Gauls without worrying about their backside and it kept Rome in check from the beginning.  In the endgame Gaul would have to crush the Etruscans since that is the best way for them to gain VP—looting Etruscan territory—but they can do that easily enough after the Roman threat is neutralized.  This is because Rome can build walled cities (colonies) while Etruria cannot and the Romans receive more reinforcements.   
It was an interesting game but I really didn’t get a chance to see if I liked the game or not.  We spent a lot of time struggling with the rules, partly because I didn’t learn them well enough ahead of time and partly because of a poorly written rulebook.   I felt like we didn’t understand what we were supposed to be doing and how to acquire territory.  It seems like the heart of the game is contained in the Political Control (PC) rules but they are not well written or as the Tao of Gaming called them, “opaque”.   I felt like this really detracted from the game.  I was able to locate a player’s aid for the PC rules on BGG and I would recommend anyone playing this game get a copy beforehand.
I think I need to play this game one or two more times to get a good feel for it before I decide if I like it or not.  I give it 6.5/10 on the BGG rating system.



At 8:05 PM, May 17, 2012, Blogger Ben said...

Excellent rundown! I've played Sword of Rome twice, and traded it away after the second game, for many of the same reasons you mentioned.

I can, however, recommend GMT's Successors as an absolutely excellent multi-player card-driven wargame. The latest edition with a mounted mapboard is very nice. The game has been rule polished over the past twenty years, and the result is a tight, competitive game. One downside with Successors is length... My experience is 4-6 hours.


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