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Subject: KM3 Reviews: Trajan rss

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Keith McKimmy
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The following review is straight from my “KM3 Reviews Geeklist”. If you want more information about the methodology used in the review, or wish to check out some of my other reviews, please check out my Geeklist. KM3 Reviews - Play, Parts, and Practicality: Purchase or Pass?

The overall score is indicative of the game's rating for those interested in owning it. The "Play" rating is strictly for the gameplay.

Play (60%) – Essence & Experience

Logged Games – 14 plays across 2, 3, and 4 players.

Mechanics – Set collection, Action selection, Mancala.

Theme – Roman Empire.

Gameplay – Trajan is a medium-heavy Euro game set in the time of ancient Rome. Players earn victory points through the six actions in the game. The six actions in the game are as follows: Seaport, Forum, Military, Trajan, Senate, and Construction. The player with the most victory points after four quarters, each which last four laps around the time track, wins.

Action selections are determined in Trajan similar to how stones are moved in the game Mancala. A player picks up all of the colored pieces in one of their six depots and then places them, one by one, clockwise in each of the depots until they place the last piece. The last piece placed decides which one of the six actions the player will take. Players able to match the colors in their depots to the colors on the Trajan tile of the action they just selected also earn a special bonus.

Thoughts – At first look, Trajan appears to be clunky and heavy. The game really just comes down to learning and playing it a few times. An unskilled player can take forever trying to properly optimize their board and still end up mucking it up. A skilled and seasoned player, however, can have their board running on all cylinders taking advantage of the actions they want, and being rewarded for doing so. Seeing the differences unfold from board to board is one of the beautiful aspects of Trajan. Some players may find this learning curve frustrating and give up on a masterful game, try not to be one of them!

Mechanically, Trajan is all about picking up pieces, placing them in depots, and then taking an action. Yet, there is much more going on underneath the surface. Players have to first determine what action they want to take from the ones available to them. Yes, improper use of the Trajan board may result in players not being able to take a certain action when they want, but the player must keep in mind that they put themselves in that situation. Once players determine which action they want to take, they have to determine what order they want to place their colors, as the colors of the pieces do matter. All of this together gives Trajan multiple layers of complexity in an otherwise simplistic system. The actions in Trajan also give a lot of decision to the players. Trajan gives the player a large sense of customizability, which is one of game’s strong points. New players may feel intimidated by all of these layered decisions.

Thematically, Trajan is attempting to mimic life in ancient Rome. All of the elements are there, but none of them have too much thematic impact. The one nice aspect about the theme in Trajan revolves around the demands of the people. During each of the quarters, the people of Rome will have demands, thematically represented by bread, games, and religion. Players lose points for each type of demand that they can’t fulfill. The people may demand the same thing multiple times in a quarter. Thematically, that can be chalked up to an insatiable desire for bread, games, or religion. Everyone really needs to eat every month! All in all, Trajan is a game more focused on the mechanics and scoring of points than it is the theme.

Play Score – 4 out of 5. The game is mostly balanced and fun, some actions are stronger than others depending on the game state. Trajan doesn’t suffer from any disconnects between theme and mechanics, but the theme just isn’t in the players’ face as much as it could be. Players will have a problem learning the game from the get go, and will feel like they are messing up, but after repeated play players will get the hang of mastering the Trajan tiles and the action depots.

Parts (10%) – Box & Bits


Box – The game box is 12.5” x 9” x 2.8”. The box is plenty big enough to fit the base game components. The box art has always felt very distinguished to me.

Bits – The game comes with the following: 1 game board, 60 small player tokens (15 each in the 4 player colors), 4 military leader tokens and discs (in 4 player colors), 4 player mats (in player colors), 4 arches of Trajan, 4 sets of octagonal action markers (each consisting of 12 markers of 6 colors), 1 time marker, 60 commodity cards, 54 Trajan tiles, 70 forum tiles, 12 extra action tiles, 20 construction tiles, 24 [+2] markers, 15 demand tiles, 3 ship tiles, 12 bonus tiles, 4 quarter year tiles, 1 linen bag, and 2 rulebooks (German & English).

Thoughts – Trajan’s box features both form and function. The artwork on the box is great looking, and the components can compete with some of the best games out there.

Parts Score – 4 out of 5. The game comes with tons of great heavy-duty components. The Trajan arch game pieces are iconic and add to the game. The box is the perfect size for storing game components.

Practicality (30%) – Pass or Purchase?


Playability – Trajan’s variable set-up is so variable, (How variable is it?) that I would have a hard time believing two games ever looked the exact same at the beginning. The set-up creates endless avenues for replayability, one of the big draws about owning Trajan. Another great thing about Trajan is that it is enjoyable and works well with all numbers of players. The careful balancing across the 2, 3, and 4 player games is evident.

Rules – The game’s rulebook does a good job of explaining the set-up of the game, the actions, and the central mechanics around Trajan in a dozen pages with clear pictures and examples. Players can learn the game fairly easily with the aid of the rulebook. Players may need some help with the finer nuances of strategy and tactics when first playing the game.

Cost – The retail cost of Trajan is $69.99. I love this game enough that I would probably be willing to pay that price without giving it a second thought; however, the game can be purchased online for around $47. Each game of Trajan will last about 30 to 45 minutes a player, and perhaps even longer if players are prone to analysis paralysis, one of the few knocks on the game is the playing time. This will take, on average, around 16 to 32 plays to reach the gold standard of $1/hr of entertainment. Trajan has miles of replayability, and will continue to be fun and interesting after that number of plays.

Pass or Purchase – The average board game weight of Trajan on BGG is 3.6, placing it firmly in the medium-heavy category. Trajan is a simple game of picking up pieces, placing them in depots, and taking actions; however, the game is deep in terms of decision making and strategic level that it does warrant the medium-heavy weight. As always, I recommend anyone interested in Trajan to check out the various walkthroughs and video reviews that are available to watch. Trajan is available for online play at boiteajeux.net.

Gamers that enjoy lighter games: Pass.
Gamers that enjoy medium-light games: Play before purchasing.
Gamers that enjoy medium games: Play before purchasing.
Gamers that enjoy medium-heavy games: Confidently purchase.
Gamers that enjoy heavy games: Confidently purchase.

Practicality Score – 4 out of 5. Trajan is an amazing and replayable game, at all player numbers, but does require a steep time investment to play. The investment increases with players prone to analysis paralysis. Trajan offers plenty to think about.

Overall Score – 8/10.

Play (60%) – 4 out of 5 (2.4 x 2 = 4.8)
Parts (10%) – 4 out of 5 (0.4 x 2 = 0.8)
Practicality (30%) – 4 out of 5 (1.2 x 2 = 2.4)
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Michael Young
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Very splendid review. Exactly the right amount of information and a wonderful means of weighting your score and assessing pass/purchase. I've yet to get my copy on the table but this is reinforcing my decision making.

Other than the lack of images, a near perfect review! I may have a new favorite reviewer.

Well done!
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Keith McKimmy
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EchoOperative wrote:
Very splendid review. Exactly the right amount of information and a wonderful means of weighting your score and assessing pass/purchase. I've yet to get my copy on the table but this is reinforcing my decision making.

Other than the lack of images, a near perfect review! I may have a new favorite reviewer.

Well done!


Thank you for the kind words! Right now my MO consists of trying to write a succinct and all encompassing review in less than 2,000 words, tailored specifically for potential owners. This results in the reviews being a bit formulaic, but I've been happy with the process.

As far as images, I have definitely thought about including pictures into the reviews, but I feel the community already has well established galleries of images for the games I review. My photography skills will never be up to snuff to match or outclass any of the photos already posted on the geek. Still, it is something I may revisit and eventually include in future reviews.
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Michael Young
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kmckimmy06 wrote:
EchoOperative wrote:
Very splendid review. Exactly the right amount of information and a wonderful means of weighting your score and assessing pass/purchase. I've yet to get my copy on the table but this is reinforcing my decision making.

Other than the lack of images, a near perfect review! I may have a new favorite reviewer.

Well done!


Thank you for the kind words! Right now my MO consists of trying to write a succinct and all encompassing review in less than 2,000 words, tailored specifically for potential owners. This results in the reviews being a bit formulaic, but I've been happy with the process.

As far as images, I have definitely thought about including pictures into the reviews, but I feel the community already has well established galleries of images for the games I review. My photography skills will never be up to snuff to match or outclass any of the photos already posted on the geek. Still, it is something I may revisit and eventually include in future reviews.


Disregard my comment for needing images. You're right about there being plenty of galleries but for players who may subscribe to your reviews (this guy being one), an unfamiliar title could use some stock images to relay some aspects of theme and components. Necessary? No. Helpful? Perhaps.

Regardless, your format works very well for me. Everything you've reviewed thus far I have or have have played (except Vihos? Maybe?). This was great.
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John Curtis
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Great review! This is exactly the type of review that I REALLY enjoy reading. I already have the game... and agree with you across all your conclusions.
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