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Subject: detailed review of Italia with a list of differences to Brit rss

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Moritz Eggert
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Italia I/II
by Phalanx Games

Phalanx continues to manage a succesful line of Euro games and “geek” games, or even a combination of the two, like in the excellent “War of the Ring”.
“Britannia” has always been a geek favourite – since Lew Pulsipher was inspired by the now forgotten hex and counter – wargame “Ancient Conquest” to create a comparatively simple wargame that creates what he calls a “sweep of history” the mechanics of “Britannia” have been a fan favourite, and there are now many variants of the game that recreate other place’s histories.
For an excellent overview on Britannia-like games please visit the website of one of the world-wide leading “Britannia”-experts, Rick Heli.
Andreas Steding, designer of Italia I and II, has already created one of the best known Britannia variants, the monster game “Hispania”, that recreates the history of Iberia, today known as Spain.
There are “Britannia” variants which simplify the basic system- “Hispania” and “Italia” certainly don’t go this road but rather add chrome and special rules that give the players more choices but also more headaches.
“Italia” is, no surprise here, a recreation of the history of Italy from ancient times. Unusual for a “Britannia” game the game comes in two completely different versions that cover two different time periods. The first one – another first – is especially designed for THREE players, and once you consider the history depicted here it makes sense. In 10 rounds the players basically play the rise and fall of the Roman empire, from the Goetterdammerung of the Greeks to the final days of the empire.
One player will mainly be busy with the Romans, and his job is to hold and expand the Roman position and deal with pesky revolts and upstarts. The other two players play all the minor or big empires that constantly threatened Rome, most notably the Carthaginans with Hannibal, whose campaign is actually a major event in the game.
The interesting thing is that the game system constantly forces the two non-Roman players to either gang up against Rome – which certainly has some power to defend itself – or to go for quick victory points against each other.
The second game, Italia II, recreates the history AFTER the fall of the Roman Empire, and is designed, like most Britannia games, for 4 players.
I won’t go too much into the rules here, instead adding a list of major differences between the “Italia” and the “Britannia” system (it’s not a short list).

Andreas Steding has added a lot of chrome to the "Britannia" game system here, but avoiding some overly complicated mechanics that made "Hispania" very long to play. Still, this "Britannia" on steroids - the decision making is much more difficult as there are lots of things large nations can do on each turn: raiding, naval moves, building cities, campaigning. The latter mechanic simulates the long campaigns of Hannibal and the like, something like a mini game in the game as other players can react to the ongoing campaign moves, also something that has not been seen yet in "Britannia".
All this might be too much for some. This certainly isn’t a game that makes “Britannia” more accessible for the common market, rather the opposite. But there are many interesting ideas here – the campaign system for example.
Where the game shines is in it's 3-player scenario (or rather "game" - as the 3-player version is completely different from the 4-player version, there are different nations, even partly different rules), which is the first time this has been done right, with basically two sides representing the nations oppressed by the Romans that constantly struggle among themselves, and the third player representing mostly the Romans in their struggle to dominate the peninsula.
Game material is top notch, as usual with the “Phalanx” line, which is always put together with great care and love, although there are some strange omissions (like a historical reference or an overview over when all nations/armies appear). The rules are not for the faint-of-the-heart - even Britannia veterans will have some new concepts to struggle with, although they still will feel at home. Recommended, but not for the casual gamer.

game length: you should have a day free for your first game 8 hours recommended

Summary of what is missing in Italia (VERY minor grapes, as the production value of this game is very high – beautiful counters, sturdy board, etc.):
- A handy overview of when all units/nations of all players appear in which round – something that is usually found with any “Britannia”-style games. This info is only found on the nation cards themselves, which are covered with tiny print.
- A turn order list of nations on the gameboard itself. This is only found on a separate sheet that is used to look up many other things.
- Some nations easily amass money above 5 gold, there is a +5 counter for the money, but even with that only 10 gold can be recorded, large nations like Carthaginians and Romans easily pass this limit.
- Any kind of historic reference (i.e. what time period a turn represents) – this is a glaring omission that is kind of surprising when one thinks about the detail and chrome that has went into this game.

Moritz Eggert
www.westpark-gamers.de



MAIN DIFFERENCES BETWEEN „BRITANNIA“ AS WE KNOW IT AND „ITALIA I/II“


NEW PLAYING PIECES:
- Consular Legions/Knights (2 hits, regenerate after combat)
- Fleets (transport, naval supremacy bonus)
- Elephants (scare/destroy additional units)
- Cities (earn gold, give defensive advantage)

NEW LANDSCAPE:
- there are sea spaces in which battles can be fought
- Marshland gives defensive bonus, but is no hindrance to movement
- Highland works similar to “mountains” in “Britannia”

INCOME/SPENDING
All areas produce one “gold” (instead of population points)
Cities also produce one gold.
Gold can be saved indefinitely.

Income can now be spent on:
- Infantry legions, fleets (4 gold)
- Consular Legions (see limit in Italia I, 6.3), Knights, Elephants
- City in standard area (6 gold)
- City in “difficult” area, marshland or highland (8 gold)

NEW UNITS
May appear in “massing areas” which have to be left, otherwise pretty similar (7.2)

POPULATION LIMIT (2 per space)
Does NOT exist!

STACKING LIMITS
Works very differently.
In short:
Cities/Leaders do not count against the stacking limit
Normal/marsh: 3
Highland/massing area: 2
Sea area: unlimited
Declaring as “capital” (like in “Britannia”, presence of a city is strangely enough NOT required): +1
Capital declaration can be changed at any time, like in “Britannia”
Rome is always the capital of the Romans

In addition:
When moving into combat: +1
When moving with a leader: +1
When doing a major invasion: +1
(all cumulative)

In a campaign:
Unlimited stacking with leader, or also for the other players during some “reaction moves”

Stacking limits are pretty much always in effect, even in retreating.


MOVEMENT:
- highland stops like mountains, can be overcome with leader
- Straits stop movement like in “Britannia”
- marshland does NOT stop movement
- naval transport: ships may carry 2 land units each, can do naval move if starting in a coastal space, and then do nothing but naval move, may stay on sea indefinitely
- friendly cities negate terrain effects (work like Roman Roads in “Britannia”)
- leaders increase movement by 1 (of their group)
- units have different movement capabilities that are printed on the counters
- Overrun like in “Britannia”
- Ships move through each other, after all moves other players and the active player have to declare combat in spaces the active nation moved in. If anybody declares combat, combat takes place, otherwise no combat in sea areas (has to be done immediately after movement)

COMBAT:
units have different “to hit” numbers (printed on the counters), that have to be rolled on 10-sided dice, like in “Hispania”.
Elephants, Knights and Consular Legions have special abilities.
Cities don’t defend with dice, they just add defensive capabilities.
If victorious, city can be “sacked” and is destroyed (flipped to “ruin” side). The pillager gets 4 gold. A city that is “sacked” can’t be rebuilt in the same turn.
Rebuilding: remove one unit (not leader) in the ruined space when it’s your turn, city is rebuilt from ruins.

Modifiers to to hit roll
- highland/marsh -1 on roll
- City is defending -2 on roll
- Leader +2 (and this is CUMULATIVE – several leaders can create a super army!)
- Naval Invasion (landing with ships) or strait combat (like in “Britannia”): +2 for the defender in the 1st round only
- Fleets get +1 per transported unit
- Naval Supremacy (if adjacent sea area/s to combat space contain/s fleets of the nation in LAND combat and total number of fleets of that nation is at least double the number of fleets of the nation it fights against in those adjacent areas – I know, it sounds complicated, but that’s how it is, folks...) +1
- Raid combat (see below): one combat round only, and no modifiers to attacker, hits on a 7

Raid combat is a new concept and is directed at pillaging cities if at least one damage is created. Defending land units are NOT hurt. If city is pillaged, attacker recieves 4 gold, and the city is “raided”, which is different from “sacking” in that it can be rebuilt IMMEDIATELY out of turn sequence.

RETREAT
Like in “Britannia”, but Attacker can also retreat to OTHER spaces than the one he entered from, if they are either free or occupied by his own people.


VICTORY POINTS
Nation victory points are much more complicated than in “Britannia” and often differentiate between “areas” and “cities” controlled.

CAMPAIGNS
This is a new concept. At certain moments in history nations can start campaigns, basically a huge stack of units (no stacking limit) with leader that has to be paid 1 gold for each move. After each of these moves nations adjacent to the campaigning leader can, in turn order, do reaction moves.
Either:
Move to Battle: move any number of units adjacent to the campaigner’s space into battle, disregarding stacking limit.
Or:
Move and See: Move one stack to one adjacent space ANYWHERE on the board, without initiating combat, or to join an already existing combat (either the space with the campaigning leader or an overrun space). ATTENTION: it seems stacking limit is in effect here!
It is also possible to leave the space the campaigner has just entered, thereby giving ground (think of the real Romans reaction to Hannibal’s campaign).

Raiding in Overrunning spaces are possible, but only during a campaign (again think of Hannibal).

“BLOCKING” is a new concept that benefits the campaigner: for 1 gold AND 1 unit sacrifice he can prevent movement in ONE adjacent space to the campaigning leader.

SUBMISSION:
In general different rules for each nation, like in “Britannia”. Otherwise very similar. The subjugated nation’s income is halved and rounded UP, the subjugating nation gets the rest.
Areas controlled by the subjugated nation do NOT count as controlled, only in certain circumstances.
Some nations get the possibility to REVOLT. They can be subjugated AGAIN after such a revolt.
Sometimes submission is FORCED when falling below a certain threshold of units/areas.
It is sufficient to simply move one unit into an area of a nation that has forced submission. No combat will take place and the nation immediately submits.

ADDITIONAL RULES:
ITALIA I
Is a 3-player game and totally different from the 4-player game (ITALIA II). It has completely different nations and time periods, so one can say that Italia is 2 games in one, not one game with a 3-player variant. Some gamers actually prefer the 3-player game to the 4-player game.

- Rome can only be permanently occupied in Round 10, and is always automatically rebuilt.
- Hannibal campaign has some special rules for elephants and unit drafting (see 13.2)
- Game Turn 10 (the last) has only campaigns, and only three nations move, for all the other nations game turn 9 is the last one where they can act
- Roman legions may defect to another player’s side if controlled by Marius or Sulla (leaders), see 13.4
- Major Battles: is a new concept that describes battles with 3 or more units ON EACH SIDE. Some nations get extra points for winning major battles.


ITALIA II
Is a 4-player game.
- Knights have 2 hits like Consular Legions, but may not retreat after receiving such a hit
- Patrimonium Conversion: Twice per game the Patrimonium player can convert any one unit of another adjacent nation.
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Jens Hoppe
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Brilliant! Thanks, Moritz.

I ended up passing on Italia at Essen, but I am still sorely tempted to get it. On the one hand, the added complexity scares me (I thought Hispania was way over the top for me to enjoy it), but on the other hand some of those new rules do sound kinda nifty - the campaigning rules, for instance. And I am, of course, a sucker for Republican-era Rome...
 
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George Van Voorn
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Re: detailed review of Italia with a list of differences to
Nice review.

Quote:
Declaring as “capital” (like in “Britannia”, presence of a city is strangely enough NOT required): +1
Capital declaration can be changed at any time, like in “Britannia”
Rome is always the capital of the Romans


I wanted to reply to this, when I realized I was geekmodding this article. There are NO capitals in Britannia, or I've been playing this game wrong for quite some time now.

I like the additional rules, as far as I know (I've only played it at Eindhoven, the game is waiting in my Sinterklaas shoe for now). I played with the Visigoths then, and really wondered what the heck I should do with those armies. Raid, go to France, campaign,...

I think some beginner's guide to strategy is necessary to enjoy this game fully, just like Brit is no fun if you don't have a clue what the heck to do with all those Roman legions. What do you suggest, regarding tactics/strategies?

Oetan
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Moritz Eggert
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Re: detailed review of Italia with a list of differences to
Oetan,
oh yes there are capital rules in "Britannia" - you can always declare one area as either having unlimited stacking instead of stacking limit 4 (plains) or up to 4 instead of stacking limit (mountains). The reasoning for this was always that this is your "capital".

I wouldn't call myself an expert tactician in "Italia", but these are some things that I learned in the first games:
- The Romans should always take care to defend Rome itself. Losing the points for having Rome plundered is a drag and seriously endangers you winning.
- Fleets are very important and one often forgets to move them into advantageous positions. This should always be done!
- we found that doing nothing was often the best option, especially with the smaller tribes around Rome. Spreading yourself too thin often encouraged the Roman player to just have a free for all
- When playing the Greeks: immediately leave Sicily - you stand no chance there. For some reason Sicily is the highest contested area on the board. Instead try to find a nice little spot in South Italy that nobody wants where you can annoy some of the Roman opposed tribes.
- When playing Hannibal and the Carthaginians: Never leave Africa undefended. The later invasions from the African mainland are deadly to the Carthaginian player and cost him more points than he can win with Hannibal. You might want to stop Hannibal's campaign as long as you still have armies in Italy, as to make life for the Romans difficult.

Perhaps this helps a little :-)
 
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George Van Voorn
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Quote:
oh yes there are capital rules in "Britannia" - you can always declare one area as either having unlimited stacking instead of stacking limit 4 (plains) or up to 4 instead of stacking limit (mountains). The reasoning for this was always that this is your "capital".


Right, so that is what you mean by "capital". Then you are right.

Thanks for the tips! Sounds to me the fleets are not just chrome, but a serious difference with regard to Brit.
 
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Lewis Pulsipher
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Re: detailed review of Italia with a list of differences to
I confess I wondered what "capital" Moritz was talking about when he sent his review to me.

Maybe another name would be better. Usually the overstack is out in the sticks somewhere (often enemy territory), and I don't think I ever thought of it as a capital area.

I do have capitals in Caledonia (TM) and Adventus Saxonum (TM), prototypes not yet published.

Lew Pulsipher (Britannia)
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Björn “Beorn” Rabenstein
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Re: detailed review of Italia with a list of differences to
The capitals of Italia can indeed not declared in an area you are just attacking. (At least this is my understanding of the rules / similar to Hispania.) This is a fundamental difference to the Britannia overstacking in one area.

Declaring the capital in a battle region after victory is fine, e.g. to avoid eliminating units there due to the stacking limit check after battle.
 
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Björn “Beorn” Rabenstein
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Re: detailed review of Italia with a list of differences to
Eggo wrote:

- we found that doing nothing was often the best option, especially with the smaller tribes around Rome. Spreading yourself too thin often encouraged the Roman player to just have a free for all


Might be true under certain circumstances. On the other hand, the victory bonus for raiding a city seems pretty high for me. I raided cities whenever I had an attractive possibility. Since you withdraw after the raid, this can often be done without opening your defenses.

Eggo wrote:
- When playing the Greeks: immediately leave Sicily - you stand no chance there. For some reason Sicily is the highest contested area on the board. Instead try to find a nice little spot in South Italy that nobody wants where you can annoy some of the Roman opposed tribes.


Interestingly, in my first (and so far only) game, the Greek did a pretty well job in defending themselves in Sicily, not earning points for themselves, but also denying them to others.

Eggo wrote:
- When playing Hannibal and the Carthaginians: Never leave Africa undefended. The later invasions from the African mainland are deadly to the Carthaginian player and cost him more points than he can win with Hannibal. You might want to stop Hannibal's campaign as long as you still have armies in Italy, as to make life for the Romans difficult.


Unless you can make so more points during your campaign than you can ever make by defending Africa. The amount of points the Carthaginians made in their Hannibal campaign was tremendous.

BTW: Our game ended pretty equilibrated, Red won, but only by a small margin of a few points, then Yellow, then Blue.
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George Van Voorn
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Re: detailed review of Italia with a list of differences to
Quote:
The capitals of Italia can indeed not declared in an area you are just attacking. (At least this is my understanding of the rules / similar to Hispania.) This is a fundamental difference to the Britannia overstacking in one area.


That would also seem a bit strange; declaring an area capital without owning it...
 
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Philip Thomas
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It appears that capitals in Italia work exactly like capitals in Hispania. Some differences between those games which can be gleaned from this review.

1) All regions generate the same revenue. 1 gold in Italia. In Hispania regions generate a variable figure ranging between 1/2 a gold up to 3 gold.
2) Time sweep. Hispania puts the whole pre-roman to 1200 AD in one game (although tbere are some shorter scenarios). Italia splits the period in two and ends in 820 AD.
3) Unit types. Knights are much the same, but Hispania has no elephants, boats, etc. It does have Castles, Cavalry and Elites. Roman legions are dealt with in Hispania by making them elites, rather than making them equivalent to Knights.
4) Bonus counters. In Hispania each player gets a couple of extra counters at the beginning an every 4th turn. The counters allow you to build an extra unit, get some more gold, or give a combat bonus etc.
5) Campaigns- no equivalent in Hispania, though some of the Major Invasions do take a long time!
6) Religous elements. Seems Italia doesn't distinguish between units of different religions, probably because most people were Pagan in Italia I and Christian in Italia II (Muslim conquest of Sicily being about 820 IIRC). In Hispania's later stages, nations are divided between Muslims and Christians, and often score bonus points for killing units of a specific religion.

I'd be interested in seeing a comparison of specific nations and goals, but I guess it would take a long time to do. I've been thinking of doing that for Hispania/Brittania.
 
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Reinhard S.
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lewpuls wrote:
I confess I wondered what "capital" Moritz was talking about when he sent his review to me.

Maybe another name would be better. Usually the overstack is out in the sticks somewhere (often enemy territory), and I don't think I ever thought of it as a capital area.

I do have capitals in Caledonia (TM) and Adventus Saxonum (TM), prototypes not yet published.

Lew Pulsipher (Britannia)


Perhaps You could call this "Caoital" a "HEARTLAND" or "CORELAND" or something. In BRITANNIA (of course) there ar no "Cities" anyway, but in Italia, there ARE cities, but a land does not have to include a ciy to be the nation`s "CORELAND".
Greetings, Reinhard
 
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