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Subject: SPQR 1500 AD rss

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Robert "Smitty" Smith
United States
Tampa
Florida
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White Dog Games Solitaire Caesar (SC) is one of those what if games, based loosely on the concept that the Roman Empire survived later. The fact of the matter is that the Roman Empire in the east did survive that long under the Byzantine Empire, under the fall of Constantinople in 1453. So let's see - they basically have the historical premise right...hmmm and a number of science-fiction and alternate history writers have conjectured on this same subject. It's not as if White Dog is out there like Ty B was with the use of Godzilla in Command's Desert Storm. Moreover, warfare up until the time of the game's conclusion was still primarily based upon muscle power and not ballistics, so the designer's premise this way works. Nor did David Kershaw encumber the game with an alternative Roman Empire universe where they develop tanks and firearms early on. Instead by staying true to a historical timeline, he produced a truly entertaining game that simply feels right from start to finish.


Initial set-up minus legions on the board.

Components
SC comes in a box that one might call Tyrian Purple, the purple associated with Roman royalty and nobility. Coupled with the gold print, it is one of the more attractive boxes as it is unusual as it lacks artwork on the front. The back is unusual as it has a counter blown up much larger than the norm for box art- but it works as it takes your eye right over to the listing of game components. The map is an 11" x 17" map. Ironically after playing now for 6 times I somehow never see it as small due to the low density of units on it at any given time. The Player Reference Card is well laid out. But guys, why not enlarge the Turn Track Table a bit? It's a little hard to read or print it in a black font to have greater contrast with the muted back tones. The blue print isn't really up to the task. All the tables simply need to be enlarged a bit. I understand they wanted to keep it all on one side but again - between the font color and the font, it's a little challenging. Some folks might think the counters aren't any great shakes as they are simple. Perhaps they could have done more but I like them just as they are. The simplicity appeals to me here with the counters and it allows one to go into the future without being stock with a graphic representation of a Barbarian from 100 BC. I really liked how easy they made the civilized vs. uncivilized Barbarian counters - no mistaking the two!


The Rules
They should take no more than thirty minutes to read everything. Maybe 15 minutes for the basic game - unless you were slow on the uptake and "sorta" misplayed the Barbarian armies the first time. However I think my efforts at trying to get it right while playing wrong evened out. When I reread that section before my next play, I saw I had done some sloppy reading. Twas not the rules but the reader's fault.



Initial set-up - protecting Rome! (Guess who then forgets to do so? A classic text book case of calling stupidity the Assumption of Risk!
Game Play
Point to point games took me a while to get used. It was playing Gary Graber's innovative designs over at Minden Games that convinced me they offered a new and what was for me a fresh look at how to approach a game. To try and straight jacketed this design into a traditional hex design would have been ludicrous. It would have required many more pieces, a bigger map, more rules - and been a clunker.

What Kershaw did instead was strip the map down first to its essence. Kershaw seems from my research to have captured the main invasion paths to the various hearts of the Roman Empire in all its permutations. Trying to guess where anyone is coming from is a challenge but reading the turn track helps somewhat. But in trying to play that, it's like betting at Vegas as the hot number in terms of uncivilized Barbarians may happen in terms of their numbers and your unpreparedness to allow them deep into the heart of your empire. I watched one uncivilized hoard go and take Rome as I was too focused on protecting the cities of the east. To say the least it was "embarrassing".


One sees how good the board was in here in terms of cities - within 2 turns this illusion was hammered as most of these cities were lost. However if they are taken by civivled barbarians, the cities are not destroyed.

A review of the map tells you there are really 3 areas to build your cities. You have the European heartland-Balkans. You have the Middle-East-Balkans overlap and then you have North Africa. How you defend them is a matter of taste. At a minimum, look at using the placement of some Legions as speed bumps to slow down and force the Barbarians to engage you. The Combat System is such that you have a 50% chance of winning (or losing any single combat). However later in the game it becomes hard to do this as your finances are in ruin and just having 2 Legions hanging out to block one specific area seems like a waste of manpower. But it's just one of those fascinating strategic choices that the game offers. The combat system also forces the Barbarian to attack a given city, meaning you have a 1 in 6 chance of having them die before they conquer it.

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Dave Daffin
United Kingdom
Ledbury
Herefordshire
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I literally received the game today, ordered from White Dog Games. I unfortunately got stung with a customs charge that added about 25% onto the cost.

It looks like a good game, though. I now need to punch the nice laser-cut tokens and get it out on the table, and get my money's worth.....
 
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Robert "Smitty" Smith
United States
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Florida
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Dave:

Dang - the "game" handling fee. Ouch. Let me know what you think.

Smitty
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David Kershaw
Ireland
Belfast
Northern Ireland
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Lines of Battle: Quatre Bras 1815. Brunswick hussar.
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Nice review. Luckily I got my copy free as the designer, but I have got hit with customs charges for Victory Point games. Sometimes.
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Robert "Smitty" Smith
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David:

Ouch!

Smitty
 
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