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Subject: Republic of Rome, a fantastic experience or just a nightmare? rss

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Ik ben een kleine boefje
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A year and half ago, the new version of the long waited Republic of Rome was published here in Spain. Many people bought it inmediatly after a lot of possitive previews and praise from the old grognards who played the game from the early nineties. The Avalon Version was at that time almost a collector´s item, and in fact I payed around 100 euros in order to get mine in mint condition back in 2008. After some months many spanish copies were sold second hand. I don´t know if that happened in other countries but I guess so since Republic of Rome is one of these games that are not for everybody. This one is not the classic eurogame nor the ameritrash regular stuff. I don´t know if is because of the first layer of difficulty that the game has, or because the kind of game we are talking about, but the Republic of Rome is a game with one of this "love it or hate it" response for the big majority of people that I teached the game in the last four years.

This is not a regular review by any means, there are several of them in the site already. Also, I strongly recomend you to download and read many of the excellent guides that are available in the site. I had written one myself, but it is in spanish and is not as good as the other ones in english, but if you are a native spanish speaker or fluent in spanish you can check it out for some help.



There are two main reasons to lookout before buying this game, one is complexity, the other one is the kind of gameplay that Republic of Rome offers to the players.

About the complexity

This is a 1991 design, and at that time the games were not composed of wooden cubes and four pages rulesets. At that time games like Civilization or 1830 were played around the world, no Carcassone, no Catan, no Agricola were there to be played. That was a different time for the game industry. An the Republic of Rome (RoR), is a son of its time. The game comes with a twenty pages or so manual, but the rules are written in the very old AH style, with many paragraphs that are contain references to other parts of the ruleset, with obscure explanations and many points that are not completly explained or at least seem to be not fully detailed. As a matter of fact, I used to be very critic with the manual, but while I was writting my rules explanation guide in spanish, I realized that it was almost impossible to create a manual for this game in the fashion of the euogame´s manuals that we see today. Is not because of its complexity but because the way the game turns are done. Many things that happens during one pahse of the turn are related to other phases, and therefore it is quite hard to organise the rules in a full compact way. I would say it is impossible by any means, at least it was for me.

But going to the point, is it the game that complex? I answer, with no doubt, "no, the game is not that complex". I think that it is very important that the game rules are explained by a person with experience in it. This will be a total failure if you take the game rules for the first time trying to read them and understand them while the other felow players are seting up the chits and figuring out what all these tables printed on the board mean. You will need a sort of a master, a guy with a considerable experience in te game and patience to answer the load of questions that will arise during the first turns. If you dont have such a person in your group you are forced to face the game by yourself, but don´t be wory, it is still possible, will be a tough task but still doable. A good guide is very handy in this situation. Print it, read it carefully and try some dummy turns before starting the real game. With some patience you will be able to grasp the basic concepts in the first game and after that I can promise you that this is not a monster game in terms of difficulty, is not something cumbersome to grasp the basic concepts. The turn phases, the way that the different offices work and how the combats are resolve are quite easy to understand reading those guides, may be is a bit hard to fully grasp some ideas like the diferent interactions among the oficers of the game. Things like what to do when I am the Censor or is it a good idea to propose myself as Consul, should I go to this war or not, is it good to be the Pontifiex Maximus, it is a good idea to attract this senator or may be is better to keep the money for the next turn... all these things are the core of the game and are impossible to control at the beginning, but with time you will do it for sure. So, as a briefing of all that have been said, the game is not that difficult after some sessions, you will only need either a person who has played it or a very good guide and quite a lot of patience.



About the gameplay

This section can be splitted in two parts: the first one about the kind of group you must play RoR with and the second oneabout the game mechanics itself.

Playing RoR with the correct people
Choose a group of play that is suitable for RoR. With the latter I mean that this game is not recomendable at all for people who is prone to get angry or those who cant cope with humangous dosis of screwage. Your are going to be sent to fight at wars in which you are very likely going to die with no armies and facing mighty foes, your senators will be atracted, the fellow players are going to lie to you, to steal your better money, to judge you for doing nothing while others that spoiled Rome are not punished at all... you can be playing for five hours and be close to the victory and then, just because another player decided to do so, be killed and lose everything. Of course you can screw the other players too, is a game of give and take. If you think that this is nice then gor for RoR, the game is done for you. If don´t, please, stay away from it and stop reading. Also, forget about RoR if you are timid, if you dont like the table talking and metagame a lot, if you dislike games that are played by the gamers in an agressive way, since in RoR you could even be threatened many times withn the hour (in game terms of course).

RoR as a game:
I use to say to my friends that I considere RoR as one of the worst games I had ever played but, at the same time, one of the best gaming experiences I ever had. Keep this in mind, what would you think about a game in which after four or five hours of play and a senator that is about to win, you could lose everything just because a cardboard chits says so. Every turn one or more chits are drawn from a bag and the senator whose ID correspond with the number on the chit are dead. Amazing, isn´t it? Or what do you think about a game in which after many turns of wisely and carefully planed gameplay a fellow player decides to steal your best senator (atractions) and thus all your forme power comes to him to win the game in your face... and even further, what about an assenation coming from other player that depends completly on a dice roll as the atractions also do. Some of these things are predictable, sure, you can protect your senators with money up to a certain point to make their atractions tougher, but there is no such a thing when the mortality chits come out the bag in the mortality phase (is not the same when they are drawn in the military combat phase since the consuls that are facing the risk of death were sent to fight by the players and therefore is not just a matter of luck in this case). Also, you can plan a perfectly timed atraction of another player senator and then roll an eleven and fail in it no matter how much you spent (and giving it to the other player senator)... Luck matters a lot in this design, I like to think that in life, luck is also a very important factor, and no matter how hard you work a bad strike can blow out all your expectations (an accident, an illness..). But the dosis of luck in this game is huge, is way too much for most of the regular gamers, many events in the game are somewhat controlable though andmany bad strikes will be the fault of unwise play and not just bad luck.

Final thoughts

Because of such things RoR is a game to love or to hate, and definitly a game to try before buying. For me, RoR is one of the best, if not the best, gaming experiencs I could have, but it will depend mainly on the kind of group I am playing with. Played with people that openly or not so openly dislike the game, the experience will be quite worst, even unbearable. This is a tremendous game but with a huge load of caveats that you must take in consideration, mainly the people you are playing with and the kind of game experience it offers.

If you have this group and you like this kind of game go and try it, don´t be afraid about its difficulty level. You will grasp it after some plays, and the experience will be worthy.

Take care.
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Kris Van Beurden
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With the right people, this is an amazing experience. It is, like such other games as Kingmaker, Diplomacy, A Game of Thrones (first edition), a game in which your skill at manipulating the other players to do your bidding is more important than your skill at doing maths in your head (up yours, Le Havre). Of course, it is not a perfect *game* . Even with the right group, if two players decide they want you out, they can do that (in any of these games, in fact). But nonetheless, an amazing *experience*.

Nice review, too.
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Chad Marlett
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Excellent review. RoR; the best of times and worst of times...
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Paul Imboden
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Tegarend wrote:
With the right people, this is an amazing experience. It is, like such other games as Kingmaker, Diplomacy, A Game of Thrones (first edition), a game in which your skill at manipulating the other players to do your bidding is more important than your skill at doing maths in your head (up yours, Le Havre).


The upcoming Archipelago can serve as a gateway game to Republic. The communal fight to keep the rebellion at bay mirrors the war efforts of Republic, while still focusing on the building-up math of typical Euros.

Quote:
Nice review, too.


Agreed. More people need to experience Republic.
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Eric Schaefer
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Great review for a great game--I consider myself fortunate that I have a group of gamer friends that will pull this one out for a long session a couple of times a year.

I might have to buy the reprint soon, as my copy is almost worn out!
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Robert
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I generally love the game, but it is also easily the most frustrating game I have played - if you are like me and hate lies, manipulation and 'politics' this game will be hard on you - but that is the fun in it for me, dealing with that crap is truly a challenge.
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Fritz Briggs
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"those who cant cope with humangous dosis of screwage."
Fundamental point... F2
 
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Alan Richbourg
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What killed our last game was the 12 hour playing time. Started too late in the day for that to work.
 
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Philip Jelley
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I gave up playing ROR because in each game there would be three players who knew each other and set up a triumvirate, cutting everybody else out. So it was usually the case that the newbies got screwed and ended up doing nothing for hours except to be given rubbish provinces or dangerous wars while the three know-alls plotted out each turn.

Philip
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Calavera Soñando
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Philip Jelley wrote:
I gave up playing ROR because in each game there would be three players who knew each other and set up a triumvirate, cutting everybody else out. So it was usually the case that the newbies got screwed and ended up doing nothing for hours except to be given rubbish provinces or dangerous wars while the three know-alls plotted out each turn.

Philip


Sounds like this is more a problem with your playgroup than the game itself. shake If you're playing with jerks than it doesn't really matter what you're playing, does it?
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Paul Imboden
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Philip Jelley wrote:
I gave up playing ROR because in each game there would be three players who knew each other and set up a triumvirate, cutting everybody else out. So it was usually the case that the newbies got screwed and ended up doing nothing for hours except to be given rubbish provinces or dangerous wars while the three know-alls plotted out each turn.

Philip


That's when you tank Rome and fiddle while it burns. Quickest way to end a triumvirate: Realizing they can't win without your help.
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Chad Marlett
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I think the triumvirate situation is why the 5-player game is the best. It leaves one initiative open for bids and it makes it difficult to form stable alliances. One player can be left out of the action, two is much harder.
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Ken Marley
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I have to agree. This game is just awesome with 5. I have some of my greatest gaming memories playing this game. But it has to be the right group for it to be awesome.
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Ik ben een kleine boefje
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Gryfon wrote:
I think the triumvirate situation is why the 5-player game is the best. It leaves one initiative open for bids and it makes it difficult to form stable alliances. One player can be left out of the action, two is much harder.


You are right and I forgot to mention it in the main post, the game is best played with five people. Six is OK but less than five turns RoR in something pretty unplayable.
 
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Tim K
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I love RoR. It is truly a unique gaming experience. One of my favorite games. To make it work our group just needs to allocate the right amount of time to play it.

I've been playing a lot of Spartacus lately. It really seems like an easier and more playable version than RoR. For those that enjoy RoR or for those that just couldn't get their arms around the RoR rules, I'd highly recommend it.

TK.
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Paul Imboden
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Steve Bachman
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Philip Jelley wrote:
I gave up playing ROR because in each game there would be three players who knew each other and set up a triumvirate, cutting everybody else out. So it was usually the case that the newbies got screwed and ended up doing nothing for hours except to be given rubbish provinces or dangerous wars while the three know-alls plotted out each turn.

Philip

I think this contributed to its decline at the WBCs. Seemed a bit clique-ish and not so comfortable to new players. Still an incredible experience to play for the most part because the players know the game so well, but I think the metagame kept attendance down and fresh blood away.

Still one of the greatest game experiences though.
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Michael Noakes
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Sadly, it's been a couple of years now since I've had a chance to play, but it's still pretty much my favourite game, and my only "10" on the Geek. It's a real pity that playing time and complexity, and a lack of returning players, means that it never finds a table at the local gaming club.
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Alberto Casarrubios
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I'm on the "hate" side myself, but something tells me that's not a surprise for the OP

I enjoy backstabbing games like Junta, Cosmic Encounter, Diplomacy and so on, but this one was responsible for one of the worst gaming experiences in my whole life. I owe Gelete a second try, though
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Kris Van Beurden
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Betote wrote:
I owe Gelete a second try, though


No. You owe it to yourself.
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Ik ben een kleine boefje
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Betote wrote:
I'm on the "hate" side myself, but something tells me that's not a surprise for the OP

I enjoy backstabbing games like Junta, Cosmic Encounter, Diplomacy and so on, but this one was responsible for one of the worst gaming experiences in my whole life. I owe Gelete a second try, though


We are members of the same gaming group. Most of us love RoR, we have a really close relation with each others, we love screwage, mockery and kidding during our games quite a lot, so all the ingrediens seem to be perfect for Republic of Rome Alberto is the ameritrash fan of the gang and I still can´t understand how he dsliked the game that much. I still dont give up, I am looking forward to play it again and show him what a wonderful experience a game like this can provide.

We will see what happens in the upcoming weeks...
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rick nichols
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Nice review. I've played one time with a veteran player guiding us, and we had a great time. The game really captured the political feel as players tried to advance their interests and gravitas while keeping others from gaining too much of the same. One player was dong well waging war in Sicily against Hamilcar Barca, but the majority decided he needed to come home with his legions which were needed elsewhere. He decided to ignore this decision, so we stopped funding his campaign. It was great.

My wife bought the game for me a few months later for my birthday, but I have yet to take on the daunting task of reading and mastering the lengthy rulebook, partially due to the lack of enough interested players. I think this game really needs at least 4 to be interesting, but I could be wrong.

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John McKendrick
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Three works fine .... it's a proper triumvirate but tend's to be shorter

after all

three's a crowd

and

there can only be one

-John
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Jon Horne
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Senor Swanky wrote:
I think this game really needs at least 4 to be interesting, but I could be wrong.

You're not wrong. It's just too easy for one player to elect himself Consul for Life in a 3 player game. The game is good with 4, great with 6, and it really shines with 5.
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Cristian Cano
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Point me on the side of the haters...

We played today for the fist time and I'm sad to say that this game doesn't work at all, a pity because the explanation looked promising... but I was punished twice (in the 4 turns that Rome survived) with a senator's death due to the awful chit drawn... And now, are you expecting that I'm going to organize some circus festival after all that bad luck to decrease Rome population's unrest and make the situation easier for the rest of the players? Really? But as if that wasn't enough, I got the Pope's character and the next event that happened made me pay a fortune to survive with him... I paid 30 T and all I got was the surviving of one worthless senator that entered in no votation at all... stupid pope.

After that, my only aspiration was praying for this game to end as soon as possible while the best situated players was distributing the leaderships posts creating a snowballing paranoia.

Thankfully the game ended soon because some of us felt tired of fighting with our naked hands against the strongest players and made nothing to prevent Rome's collapse. If not, I would rated this a "pain in the ass" 1 instead of a "not totally broken" 2.5

This is one of the biggest disappointments of my gaming life, maybe because I had big expectations.
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