"Keep Summer Safe!"
[I originally wrote this in April '06, I've made slight modifications based on some mild rules issues.]
Roma vaulted onto my 10+ list last week. Despite the boxes claim of 45 minutes, the game often plays in 10-20, and nicely mixes luck while leaving choices for the players. The components are simplicity -- a deck of 52 cards, some dice, and some counters to build a board.
I'm reviewing this with Frunk's house rules.
Each player starts with some VP (10 for the first player, 11 for the second) and four cards set up. Each card is in front of a platform with a number (1-6). First you lose 1 VP for each number that doesn't have a card, then you roll the dice. You can use a die to activate a card. There are about twenty different cards, in two types: characters and buildings. Some cards attack your opponents cards, for example the catapult can attack any enemy building, if you roll its number. To attack a building, you just roll a die and have to tie or beat a defensive number.
You can also spend dice to get gold or cards [by the house rules, no more than 6 gold and 1 card from a choice of six]. You can buy a card at any time during your turn. Sometimes you want to plug a hole (since that costs you 1 VP a turn), othertimes you want to discard and play a new one, to take advantage of a juicy roll.
There are 36 VP in the game. If you run out, you lose. If the bank runs out, the player with most wins. Some cards gain VP, in particular the forum lets you spend an unused die to gain VPs, and the merchant lets you buy VPs from your opponent.
Typically games end with one player running out, but sometimes you race to break the bank. Sometimes you have one player trying to break the bank and the other desperately trying to knock him down and slowly sacrificing their own points.
It takes a few games to get a hang of what card does what. The blame falls on a rulebook that lists cards in bafflebetical order. Other than that, a nice filler. Some skill, but enough luck to provide a convenient excuse when you lose.