Recently at my family reunion, I had my first opportunity to breakout my new edition of Conquest of the Empire. My father, my uncle, my brother, and two of my cousins were game, so we had a total of six players. Four of us had experience with the previous version of the game, so we chose to play the classic rules, thinking that the learning curve would be milder. In hindsight playing the new set of rules for CotE II might have been a quicker game, despite having to learn new rules, as there are a limited amount of turns. As it stands this gaming session lasted nearly the whole day. We started mid-morning and played into the early evening.
We rolled dice to decide who would get to pick their starting province first. The results came out like this:
My uncle Rex starting in Macedonia with Green
My brother Mark starting in Galicia with Blue
My father starting in Egypt with Yellow
My cousin Alex starting in Numidia with Red
I started in Hispania with Purple
My cousin Art starting in Italia with Black
Most of the first round of the game was expansion without contest. Few players had verbally made any agreements with their neighbors, though Alex and I agreed not to cross the land bridge from Gibraltar into Africa. A pact, which Alex later dubbed the Hercules pact. Thinking that this gave me more latitude to bully Art, I told him that I would stop expanding his direction once I had Italia and his Caesar. Unfortunately, I was the first to lose a battle as Art dumped four of his five legions on me sacrificing the early land grab of the game. This would cost him later in severely decreased income.
The early game fleshed out mostly like this: I was snarled in a long struggle with Art and made three failed attempts to besiege Italia and capture his Caesar. Rex expanded to full might, and place as many troops as possible within striking range of Italia to follow-up my failed siege attempts. He and Mark only had a small conflict over an island otherwise they left their borders marginally garrisoned. Mark’s main investments were in the Middle-East struggling with my father in a see-saw motion. As Egypt, my father still devoted a good deal of troops for a defensive buildup against Numidia. He and Alex had a very significant buildup of forces on their border, but Alex was free to snag some islands for extra income (as well as Sicily & Naples).
I would say that the early game ended when Art’s Caesar fell to Rex. So little was left to Art’s empire that Rex did not break the inflation barrier. In a daring move, Mark launched a naval assault on Rex in a wild bid to claim his Caesar which he had left behind in Galicia. Mark was outnumbered and though he had a few good rounds of battle, was unable to win the battle. This was Mark’s last big offensive against Rex, he focused the rest of the game on Egypt hoping that he’d be able to face Rex after conquering my Dad (which never happened).
The mid-game was mostly preoccupied with Rex storming my direction, and slowly building a chain of cities and roads out west. Control of Italia was the focal point for a few turns, until Alex decided to launch a naval assault on my forces. As it was a naval assault he claimed that he wasn’t breaking the Hercules pact and as a show of good faith returned my two generals to me immediately. I recaptured the territory from him, but it was obvious that his assault tipped the game to Rex. In hindsight I should have burnt some of the fortified cities I had when it was obvious I was going to be rolled over by the Green horde. Alex also decided to strike at Egypt, while he gained territory (for a short while) he was unable to capture my Dad’s Caesar. Rex broke the inflation barrier and at his next turn stormed into Hispania and captured my Caesar.
I had thought that in the end game the three remaining players would attempt to band together and repulse Rex. However, Mark and Alex hoped to add to their forces by picking at Egypt. Though they would have eventually conquered Egypt, neither was able to do so before Rex came into striking distance of Alex’s Caesar in Numidia. Rex’s forces were overwhelming at this point, and they conceded the game to him. For what remained of the day, my uncle Rex held the title, Emperor Rex!
Overall all of us who had experience with the old game agreed that the new rules are an improvement. I think I overstretched myself in the opening move and should have opened more cautiously. I definitely overlooked the value of Triremes. It was only when Rex invaded Italia that I realized I could reach Italia from Hispania with a Trireme. That and failing to burn cities in sight of an economically superior foe, were my greatest oversights. I’d like to play again with these rules, but most assuredly, I would also like to try the CotE II rules as well.
Remember, the family that games together... well they game together what else can I say?