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Subject: Short Reviews of Path Games #1: Aqua Romana rss

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Steve Finn
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This review is from a series of reviews originally posted in my monthly newsletter, posted here: [this link no longer works...I am hoping to move all my reviews to my website some day soon--edited Jan 30, 2016]

A number of games I own are tile-laying games in which players basically construct long interweaving paths. Last month, I mentioned Indigo as a fun game to play with kids, which falls into this category. This is the first in a series of short reviews on path games. This month, I begin with Aqua Romana.

The basic idea of Aqua Romana is that you are in charge of a team of aqueduct workers who start from a common fountain and slowly construct their aqueducts. You score more points for building longer aqueducts. However, there is a great mechanic in the game that makes it a little more interesting than just simply scoring for the length of the aqueduct. More on that later.

In terms of game play, the game is quite simple. On your turn, you place a tile next to one of your own workers and then move your worker on the aqueduct route that was just created by the tile placement. The kind of tile you choose, however, is restricted by "master builders," who sit at the end of each row or column of the game board. Each master builder is marked with one of the different tile types. For example, some of the tiles have a straight aqueduct track, some have curved tracks, and so on. When choosing a tile to place, your choices are restricted by the master builders who sit in the same row or column as the worker you want to move. So, for example, if you want your worker to turn, he needs to be in a row or column that contains a master worker who controls the curved pathed tiles.

After placing your tile, you move your worker along the route. Then, you move the master builder clockwise around the board. If the master builder moves around a corner, you may place an additional tile on the board, though it cannot be used to extend any of your aqueducts. Play continues with players placing tiles and moving workers and master builders, though it is sometimes interrupted by scoring.

In some cases, aqueducts are forced into dead ends and can no longer be extended. In other cases, players may voluntarily score an aqueduct before it ends. In either case, a player scores 1 point for each tile that the aqueduct path runs through. However, and this is the interesting scoring mechanic I alluded to earlier, a player does not simply register his/her points on a scoring track. Instead, the board has podium spaces numbered from 1-20. When a player scores one of his aqueducts, s/he removes the worker and places it on the podium matching the aqueduct score. For example, if a player's aqueduct scores 8 points, the worker is placed on podium #8. But, this podium space holds only 1 worker. If another player scores 8 points, he must place it on the next lowest open podium (#7—though if #7 is occupied, then you move to #6, and so on). So At game's end, then, you score points based on the the podium spaces where your workers stand. Thus, you may voluntarily stop an Aqueduct to grab one of the podium spaces before they fill up. This part introduces a minor "push-your-luck" element to the game, which is very nice touch.

I highly recommend Aqua Romana for those who like light-to-medium weight games with a strong visual element. The production quality is very high with pleasing art and solid wooden pieces. It's a relatively quick game (30 minutes) and is easy to teach. It's probably my favorite of all the "path" games I own.

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Nick Leonard
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Thanks for the review! I liked the look of this game from a video review and your review has helped convince me to try to buy it.
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