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Subject: Roma: A quick review rss

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Steve Finn
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This is part of a series of reviews (originally posted here: http://doctorfinns.com/recommendations.html) in which I offer short reviews of games in my collection that I especially like.

Category: Dice Games
For a long time, I was not a big fan of dice games. Ra: The Dice Game was the game that allowed me to see that dice do not have to be a bad thing. So, I started trying a variety of dice games and have begun to appreciate them more and more. However, I do have to be in the mood to accept the role of luck that comes along with a dice game. The games I review in this series all involve dice rolling as the primary mechanic. Dice games will likely never be my favorite kind of game, but in the right circumstances they are great to play.

What's the basic idea of the game?
Rome is a in a state of emergency and the Senate and Guard are battling for control. In this 2-player game, you take one side in this battle and attempt to gain control by gaining the most victory points or by attacking your opponent and taking away his victory points.

What happens in the game?
The players are separated by a board that shows dice symbols numbered from 1 to 6. On their own sides of the board and into 1 of the six spaces, players place cards that can be activated by using a die that matches the number of the slot. For example, if I roll the three dice and it results in a 3, 3, and 4, I can activate the card that is in the 3 slot twice and the card in the 4 slot once. Instead of activating a card, I can use a die to choose new cards or to gain money. Players need money to place cards in the slots. The real heart of the game lies in the various powers that the cards provide. Many cards are attack cards, in which case you can target your opponents' cards and try to remove them. This is important because at the start of each turn, a player must pay 1 victory point for each empty slot on his own side of the board. Thus, if you can knock out a couple of cards on your turn, you can make your opponent pay victory points at the start of his next turn. Also, some cards provide ways for you to earn victory points. You can focus your efforts on trying to win by gaining victory points or by attacking and knocking your opponent out.

Why do I enjoy it?
It took me a few games to really appreciate how fun this game can be. As you play more, you become familiar with the various cards and can seek various combinations that work well together. Although there is a fair amount of luck because of dice rolling and card drawing, the luck factor can be mitigated to a certain extent. I especially like the variety of shapes this game can take; some games can be done in 5 minutes with a total domination by one player; other games can be marathons of 20-30 minutes, wherein one player might be simply struggling to stay alive; other games can have huge swings of fortunes. Recently, my son and I played a game wherein for the first 15 minutes, I barely stayed alive and he kept knocking out my cards. In the middle game, I picked up a great card that allowed me to get a huge amount of victory points in 1 turn (had I gotten 1 more, the game would have ended), but then he quickly dispatched that card and I was back to losing victory points like mad. Even though I lost, it was so much fun going from just barely staying in the game to almost winning it, to losing very quickly thereafter. In addition, there is a second version (Arena: Roma II) that can be played independently or can be mixed with the orignal game, adding a lot more variety in the card powers. The game is easy to learn, very quick to explain, though it takes a while to play the first few games (because you spend a lot of time reading the cards' text). My son learned how to play this game before he could read; we played with an open hand and I explained the cards' powers, but soon enough, he knew what all the cards did simply by looking at the pictures. Thus, you can play this with kids that can't read, provided they already have a taste for games and a willingness to investing a few games to simply learning the cards.
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Reinhard S.
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Is there a board in this Game??
 
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Caleb
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Reinhard Sabel wrote:
Is there a board in this Game??


No. There are 8 circular tiles about 2 inches across that you place in a a row between the players.
 
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