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"L'état, c'est moi."
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Time of Crisis
A game for 2-4 players by Wray Ferrell and Brad Johnson


"The Crisis of the Third Century, also known as Military Anarchy or the Imperial Crisis (AD 235–284), was a period in which the Roman Empire nearly collapsed under the combined pressures of invasion, civil war, plague, and economic depression. The crisis began with the assassination of Emperor Severus Alexander by his own troops in 235, initiating a 50-year period in which there were at least 26 claimants to the title of Emperor, mostly prominent Roman army generals, who assumed imperial power over all or part of the Empire. The same number of men became accepted by the Roman Senate as emperor during this period and so became legitimate emperors."
- so says the Wikipedia entry


Introduction
Time of Crisis is a game for 2-4 players taking on the role of one of the Roman factions during the third century when, to say the least, times were interesting in the Roman empire.

Components
The game comes with a mounted map board, counters for the different factions including governors and generals, outside forces such as the Franks (among several others), and various legion counters.

Photo by BGG user Michael Noakes (Weloi Avala)

There are also cards in four sets of nine (three each blue, yellow, and red) plus cards players can purchase on their turn, and six dice, three of them black, and three of them white.

Photo by BGG user Steve Boucher(stvboucher)

The cards are of the usual thick and sturdy kind we've come to know and expect from GMT.

Rules & Game Play
The game is played in a series of turns with every player following the same sequence each turn. Every player will...

- remove temporary markers in the upkeep phase
- roll 2d6 on the events table to see whether an event happens (on a 7) or which set of barbarians cause potential trouble (anything else)
- play their cards in hand to take actions (more on that below)
- check support in their provinces
- expand your empire (if your pretender merits it)
- gain legacy (victory points!)
- buy/trash cards
- end of turn clean up

The event dice will either cause an event that can last multiple turns if nobody rolls a 7 for a while, or causes some barbarians to activate and start causing trouble at the fringes of the empire. They are, however, handy sources of legacy points as you can go into those lands and quell them at the source.

The core of the game centres around your deck of available cards. You begin with nine cards, three each of the 1 value blue, red, and yellow cards. You select 5 of your available cards and perform actions with them.

Red cards are useful for military actions, such as removing a mob, attacking barbarians, attacking another player, or recruiting a general. Blue cards are used for senate actions, hiring governors and placing them being the main two uses.

Yellow cards give you populace actions, which is where you get to boost your support in regions you (temporarily) control, hold games to appease mobs, build improvements to the region (which grant legacy points), and place militia.

Managing how you use these points is the key to success in the game. As you buy more and better cards, your deck with grow. Unlike most deck building games though, you always get to select your hand of five from the available deck rather than just drawing the top five. This is a good thing because it allows you to plan ahead for your next turn. Keep in mind that you're likely going to have turns where all you're left with is the dross you decided not to pick earlier in order to do something better, so there will be turns where you may not get to do much of use - a lull turn.

Once you've taken your actions, you tot up your legacy points and add them to your total. You get points for the number of regions you control and also for any improvements in those areas. If you've managed to get a Pretender in play, you also get points for the provinces that believe in that one true Emperor. There are also points to be gained for winning battles (against barbarians or your fellow players) and a game end bonus for being the (real) emperor the most turns.

Once you've used your cards to do your actions, you then have an opportunity to buy better cards. You get build points based on your support level in the provinces you control, and you can buy cards up to the number of areas you control - so both numbers are important. For instance, you may have 10 points to buy cards, but only control 3 areas, so the 4 cards aren't available to you.

The bigger cards are better not only for the extra points they give you to take actions, but also because when you play them you also get to execute the event on them. Each card has some useful functions, but which ones are right for you and your faction is strongly going to depend on which parts of the map you control and what your opponents are up to. Without that vital context, whether the Quaestor card is better than the Tribute card isn't a useful debate.

You can buy multiple cards in a turn (if you have the points) and can likewise trash cards for 3 points. The trashing price is steep, but as anyone who's played any deck building games, sometimes it's necessary.

Once someone hits 60 points and is Emperor, the game end is triggered - any players left after that player take one more turn and once it gets back to the start player, it's over. You then apply the emperor bonus and the high score wins.

Conclusions
Time of Crisis has as much historicity in it as Quartermaster General (QG) does, which is to say it takes an era and topic that many gamers are familiar with on at least a superficial level and uses it as the foundation to put a fun area control game with points atop of.

The legion counters are all from real legions of the era. The subregions and barbarians are roughly correct. The kinds of things you can do as a Roman general or Governor feel reasonable, albeit in the same abstract way a tank unit or naval unit in QG replicates an army or navy.

Unlike QG, this is not a team game, everyone is in it for themselves.

Despite the thin veneer of history, this game is fun. For me personally it fits in that group of games such Quartermaster General and Triumph & Tragedy (to name but two) that successfully marry a historical topic and a set of well thought out mechanics into a thematic, fun, and satisfying game. If you're looking for a historically accurate simulation, stay away. If you want to spend a couple of fun hours in the world of ancient Rome, my recommendation is to buy it.


Thank you for reading this latest installment of Roger's Reviews. I've been an avid board gamer all my life and a wargamer for over thirty years. I have a strong preference for well designed games that allow players to focus on trying to make good decisions.

Among my favourites I include Twilight Struggle, the Combat Commander Series, the Musket & Pike Battle Series, Julius Caesar, Maria, EastFront, Here I Stand, Napoleon's Triumph, Unhappy King Charles!

You can subscribe to my reviews at this geeklist: [Roger's Reviews] The Complete Collection and I also encourage you to purchase this very stylish microbadge: mb
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Marius van der Merwe
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leroy43 wrote:
[If you're looking for a historically accurate simulation, stay away.


Just out of curiosity, if I am looking for a historically accurate simulation, where should I look?
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"L'état, c'est moi."
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Sciurus wrote:
leroy43 wrote:
[If you're looking for a historically accurate simulation, stay away.


Just out of curiosity, if I am looking for a historically accurate simulation, where should I look?

A fine question to which I don't have a solid answer. Ancients is not an era of expertise. If you wanted a sense of Roman era warfare the Great Battles of History games set in Roman times would be good. If you like the COIN games, Falling Sky: The Gallic Revolt Against Caesar is potentially interesting as well.
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Marius van der Merwe
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leroy43 wrote:
Sciurus wrote:


Just out of curiosity, if I am looking for a historically accurate simulation, where should I look?

A fine question to which I don't have a solid answer. Ancients is not an era of expertise. If you wanted a sense of Roman era warfare the Great Battles of History games set in Roman times would be good. If you like the COIN games, Falling Sky: The Gallic Revolt Against Caesar is potentially interesting as well.


I own and am familiar with Falling Sky: The Gallic Revolt Against Caesar. Great game. Not sure how accurate a historical simulation it is though (comparable to Time of Crisis in my opinion). I have a suspicion that an accurate historical simulation of any historical period will be at the expense of it being an interesting game. There is a certain satisfaction one gets from recognizing the history in a game, but it is the deviations from the actual historical narrative and 'what if' scenarios that make the games most interesting.
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Dave Roy
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leroy43 wrote:

Once someone hits 60 points, the game end is triggered - any players left after that player take one more turn and once it gets back to the start player, it's over. You then apply the emperor bonus and the high score wins.



Actually, it's when somebody hits 60 points and is Emperor, the game end is triggered.

If you hit 60 and you're not Emperor, the game continues.
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Rob Bottos
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Played this with Rick Smith, Tyler, and Andrew today. Rick had us up to speed on the rules in 30 minutes, and we were right into the game. Tyler and Andrew are 14 years old and I've been slowly introducing them to wargames for the last year. Knowing Andrew is very interested in the Roman Empire this was the perfect game to play today. Between Rick and I we have over 40 years wargaming experience, but today we were brought low by a very sharp and astute 14 year old named Tyler. I definitely want to play this game again and see if I can do better....I came in last today.
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I doubt the simulative capabilities of games that claim to be "historically accurate". Personally, I think all the designer can really do is try to find some essential idea about the period he or she is portraying and work that into the game system. If they can do that, they have done their job.

I think Time of Crisis does this. And it is lots of fun to boot.
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Sciurus wrote:
leroy43 wrote:
Sciurus wrote:


Just out of curiosity, if I am looking for a historically accurate simulation, where should I look?

A fine question to which I don't have a solid answer. Ancients is not an era of expertise. If you wanted a sense of Roman era warfare the Great Battles of History games set in Roman times would be good. If you like the COIN games, Falling Sky: The Gallic Revolt Against Caesar is potentially interesting as well.


I own and am familiar with Falling Sky: The Gallic Revolt Against Caesar. Great game. Not sure how accurate a historical simulation it is though (comparable to Time of Crisis in my opinion). I have a suspicion that an accurate historical simulation of any historical period will be at the expense of it being an interesting game. There is a certain satisfaction one gets from recognizing the history in a game, but it is the deviations from the actual historical narrative and 'what if' scenarios that make the games most interesting.


For example, I think Imperium Romanum II aimed for more simulation... but frankly as a game was NOT interesting.
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David Janik-Jones
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Quote:
For instance, you may have 10 points to buy cards, but only control 3 areas, so the 4 cards aren't available to you.

You can buy the 4 cards but the cost of the card is double, making it nearly impossible to do so (2nd point of 5.3).
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Wray Ferrell
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leroy43 wrote:
Once you've used your cards to do your actions, you then have an opportunity to buy better cards. You get build points based on your support level in the provinces you control, and you can buy cards up to the number of areas you control - so both numbers are important. For instance, you may have 10 points to buy cards, but only control 3 areas, so the 4 cards aren't available to you.


Just to clarify, you can purchase 4 value cards when you only control 3 provinces, it is just that the base cost is doubled. So those 4 value cards start at cost 8 when you govern 3 provinces. Very expensive, but not impossible to buy.

Thanks, Wray
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Roger Hobden
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Excellent review of an excellent wargame !



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David Janik-Jones
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Wray wrote:
leroy43 wrote:
Once you've used your cards to do your actions, you then have an opportunity to buy better cards. You get build points based on your support level in the provinces you control, and you can buy cards up to the number of areas you control - so both numbers are important. For instance, you may have 10 points to buy cards, but only control 3 areas, so the 4 cards aren't available to you.

Just to clarify, you can purchase 4 value cards when you only control 3 provinces, it is just that the base cost is doubled. So those 4 value cards start at cost 8 when you govern 3 provinces. Very expensive, but not impossible to buy.

Thanks, Wray

They cost 8 if they are your first card purchase, 9 if the second, 10 if the third, and so on.
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DaveyJJ wrote:
Quote:
For instance, you may have 10 points to buy cards, but only control 3 areas, so the 4 cards aren't available to you.

You can buy the 4 cards but the cost of the card is double, making it nearly impossible to do so (2nd point of 5.3).


I wouldn't say nearly impossible. Three provinces with 3,3,2 support isn't too hard to achieve, and is perfect preparation for a Pretender empire.
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qwertymartin wrote:
DaveyJJ wrote:
Quote:
For instance, you may have 10 points to buy cards, but only control 3 areas, so the 4 cards aren't available to you.

You can buy the 4 cards but the cost of the card is double, making it nearly impossible to do so (2nd point of 5.3).


I wouldn't say nearly impossible. Three provinces with 3,3,2 support isn't too hard to achieve, and is perfect preparation for a Pretender empire.


If I remember correctly, this was how my "power" looked before I sprung the Pretender (in the east).

This is a very fun game!

Cheers for the review.
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I felt that if you are thinking of a very good deck building card mechanic or barbarians which felt like Catan, the game is quite dull area control game.

As i said, i really loved the card mechanic, but i HATED barbarians which ruins your game if you have a bad luck with dice.

I give 8/10 for the game and i still ain't going to buy it
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Salo sila wrote:
I doubt the simulative capabilities of games that claim to be "historically accurate". Personally, I think all the designer can really do is try to find some essential idea about the period he or she is portraying and work that into the game system. If they can do that, they have done their job.

I think Time of Crisis does this. And it is lots of fun to boot.


Well said.

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