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Subject: Gloria Mundi - Review rss

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Michael Longdin
England
Crawley
West Sussex
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We first played Gloria Mundi at Essen and the girl who taught it us was quite cute but didn't really understand the rules. We had to have several explanations from others on how moving the Goth worked. Halfway through our game, one of the other demonstrators on the stand walked by and pointed out we were playing another aspect wrong. It didn't stop our enjoyment and I bought the game on the basis that I could iron out all the inconsistencies when I got to read the rules. Wrong. The rules are a mess - probably the worst I've seen for several years. I think I have them sorted now (although a few of the cards are still open to misinterpretation) but it turns out we were playing several things wrongly at Essen (and neither demonstrator had got the bit about replenishing cards right).

At heart Gloria Mundi is an abstract race game although it is nicely themed. Players represent Roman citizens who see a huge Goth army emerging in the north and decide to flee to Africa (Carthage to be precise) before the barbarian hoards reach Rome. The board is made up of a track towards Rome for the Goth to move down and a track from Rome for your citizen figure to move towards Carthage. The game turns are pretty simple. Or at least they would be if the rules had been written more simply.
- add a new building card to those available for purchase
- play a production card (farms - green; cities - yellow; legions - white)
- activate all cards of the type just played (not just yours, but everyone round the table)
- purchase a building card if you wish
- pay tribute to or move the Goth.

The production cards produce your core income. One food, gold or peace resource for every card of that colour you hold, unless a building has been built on top of the base card, in which case you have the choice to activate the building instead of producing the resource. The buildings are paid for with a combination of resources and are not cheap (it is not uncommon to have to pay out double figures for a decent card). At first glance, there seems to be a wide variety of different ones available but when you become familiar with them they are all variations on 3 or 4 different types. e.g. gain more resources than the standard one; trade different types of resource; move your citizen towards Carthage. In addition, every time you buy a building card your citizen moves 1-4 spaces down the road to safety. The developers should be applauded for trying to follow the traditional German route of using icons rather than narrative to describe the action of each building but they have failed a bit in the implementation as some of them are not very intuitive. A fuller description of each card and its use in the rules would have been very nice.

So far then, nothing particularly new or exciting but the way the Goth works is quite innovative. The road to Rome is broken down into a number of spaces each of which contains one or two symbols matching the 3 types of resource in the game. At the end of each players turn he must either move the Goth or pay tribute to him. If you pay tribute, you put the appropriate resources on the next free space down the road and the Goth stays were he is. If you choose to move him, he moves either to the last space where resources have already been paid in tribute or to the next space if the last player did not pay tribute. Problem is, he will wreak havoc as he moves, destroying one production building for every matching icon he passes through or ends up on. This starts with the player who moved the Goth and moves round the table with each player losing one building at a time until the Goth has had his fill. This can be really nasty because if you are forced to lose a production building with another building on top of it then you lose both of them. This means the timing of when to pay tribute and when to let the Goth move is one of the more interesting decisions to be made in the game and it can be a perfectly viable strategy to only move the Goth when it particularly screws up the player(s) to your left. Finally the resources that were used to pay tribute are re-distributed amongst the players as a sort of sweetener for having had their building(s) destroyed. (Yes I know, I've been slagging the rules off and I haven't explained this very well either but it really is quite simple and I'm sure could be written up clearly by someone who isn't as verbally challenged - or lazy - as me).

The game ends when the Goth gets to Rome, someone reaches Carthage, all production cards have been played, or all the building cards have appeared. The pace and style of the game will depend which one actually triggers it. In our last game, I won by reaching Carthage which I suspect is unusual but happened simply because I built a navy card early which allowed me to move 2 spaces every time the Goth ended on a 'legion' space.

I want to like the game but there's a couple of things I'm uncomfortable with. Firstly. you are very much at the mercy of the player to your right. If they choose to move the Goth regularly then you are also going to suffer repeatedly as well but the players further round the table may not be affected as much or they can even get away without losing anything. I suspect this has a bigger impact when there are more players in the game. Of course you can say that it is bad play by your neighbour to continually do this but this is no consolation for you as it is it is almost impossible to legislate for and can rather spoil the game if it happens. Therefore seating order is important - don't sit to the left of the player who may (in your view) act irrationally or worse still is the one who always likes to pick on you.

Secondly, there are more farm cards in the game than the other two types. This makes the green buildings more valuable (they will be activated more often) and whether you have the opportunity to get these or not may well be down to the luck of the draw. Again, this is more significant in a 5 or 6 player game where it is more likely for cards to have come and gone by the time it gets round to your turn again. I am not against the inclusion of a luck element but this just seems a little bit beyond the boundary of what I would like for a game of this nature.

We have found that the cards that allowed you to move your man when activated seemed more powerful than those that provided other abilities (taking into account their relative cost) and they got snapped up quickly but this may be simply that we have underestimated the value of, for example, the buildings that allow you to trade resources - I found myself unable to build towards the end of a game because I didn't have enough of the right type of resource so a trading card would have been very useful. Also, the other cards usually allow you a bigger one off movement when you purchase it.

All in all then the jury is still out. It can provide a couple of hours good fun but whether we're still playing it in 12 months time remains to be seen. I'll give it a 7 out of 10 for the moment but over time this is more likely to fall than rise.
 
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Nick Fisk
United Kingdom
Stoke on Trent
Staffordshire
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Come on you Seagulls! Sami Hyppia's Blue & White army!
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That's weird. This bit used to mention Shire Games, and tell you all how wonderful we are. But it seems to have got deleted. Let's see what happens this time ....
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Nice review.

We've played the game a lot, and still do enjoy it. I can understand the frustration if the person to your right keeps moving the Goth ... the odd thing about this is, unless he goes for a one-colour strategy (which doesn't work after those cards run out), he's killing his own chances as well.

One of the reasons we like this as a 2-player game

Quote:
I built a navy card early which allowed me to move 2 spaces every time the Goth ended on a 'legion' space.


Taking this literally, you have this type of card wrong.

The card allows you to move two spaces when the Goth is standing on a 'legion' space, whenever anyone triggers a 'peace' round. Once one of those cards are in play, we try not to activate it until it's destroyed, or until we've moved the Goth off the legion icon. Not always posssible, but worth a try !


N.


 
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Stephen Owen
United Kingdom
Appleton
Cheshire
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Nick is quite correct
There is an example that confirms this at the top of p6 of the rules

Steve
 
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Michael Longdin
England
Crawley
West Sussex
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Thanks. We did play correctly - I was just a little lazy in my explanation
 
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