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Subject: Review - Fall of Rome (edition 181 Strategy and Tactics) rss

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Opening Statement

This review is based on the version of 'The Fall of Rome' that was published/released along with edition 181 of Strategy and Tactics Magazine and thus is based on this revised edition.

In addition, this review is based on three playthroughs of the game, two on Scenario A (one with base game, second with options rules included) and one on Scenario B. Both of these Scenarios are not the most challenging on offer from the game but provide me with enough experience with the game play to put together a review.

The Components

Map - Nice printed paper map, all text clear and able to be read and the sequence of play and turn track provided on the map. Most required player aids and tables are included on the map for easy reference and are delivered relatively well.

Counters - Good number of counters provided with good quality for a magazine print version of a game, I had no issues with unclear text, non-centred counters or any other major issues.

Rules

The rule book is text based. The rules are outlined with examples. The rules are a little confused and disjointed and I found myself flicking around in different spots for rules as I went through. This diminished with time and overall the rules are ok. Each rule section is numbered and where appropriate the tables/charts on the map reference the matching rules section, which is a nice touch.

Gameplay

The game has a number of scenarios and set ups that reflect differing time periods in the existance of the Roman Empire. Non-Roman forces are represented by Barbarians, some minor powers and those pesky Persians on the borders in the East. The Roman player has provincal milita, Legions and Field Armies at his/her disposal to maintain and expand the Empire.

Each turn is divided into a number of phases which basically amount to Non-Roman movement and combat, Roman movement and combat, Barbarian generation (randomly determined), rebellion and other calculations, provincial control and income collection, Roman expenditure and unit placement.

This is repeated each turn until the scenario is completed. Scenarios will be of differing lengths and will require the maintainence of an amount of provincial control/income to be sucessfully completed.

Much of the game is based on the luck associated with dice rolls - internal rebellion, barbarian creation and legion rebellion are all based on D6 rolls and a poor combination of these in single turn can really hurt. The key is risk management, maintaining armies not large enough to encourage rebellion but large enough to slow down/halt Barbarian encroachments. This is the challenge of the game in essence.

Pros

1) Replayability and Variety - The game comes with a number of different scenarios with different conditions and difficulty levels. In addition to this, the additional rules (Leaders, Fortified Zones etc.) allow the adding of more complexity to each scenario. This, along with the random creation/placement of militia/barbarian units does mean each game will likely look at bit different and present a different challenge for the Roman player.

2) Specifically designed for solitaire play - which is good for us lonely gamers

3) Relative lack of complexity and ease of gameplay (some rules confusion aside) - the game can be completed relatively quickly and is not overly complex for new players.

4) I am going to list this as a Pro - there are some fine supports for this game on BoardGameGeek including setup guides, richest/target provinces selection guides etc. Whilst it could be a Con that these were not included in the game, I see the community stepping up and supporting people to play this game as a Pro - THANKS EVERYONE.

Cons

1) The rules booklet is a little confused and not displayed in the most logical fashion, although noting that this does become less of an issue as you move through games/turns and the game does become easier.

2) The map contains some errors/oversights - these include:

- the non-bolding of sequence of play step F (Loyal Roman Movement Phase) - which can make this one easy to miss.

- the listing of 'L' units on the Barbarian Creation Table without an explanation of what this means (Barbarian Legions? An error - perhaps is should be an 'R' for Raider). The later option is how I played it but this could have been clarified/corrected.

- A minor quibble as well, while a 'Turn Phase' track marker is provided there is no specific space on the sequence of play to place this, that would have been nice.

3) Counter numbers - In my last play through I was lacking for militia counters due, in part, to my over purchase of Roman militia - this did mean I needed to do some counter substitution, not a big deal but also not ideal. Due to an incredibly large stack of Scythian Raiders, I also ran low on Barbarian Raiders for some turns - Persian Regulars were an adequate replacement.

Conclusion

With some fine work on aids and support from other Board Game Geek users this game is playable, enjoyable and not overly complex.

I have enjoyed my time with it thus far and I look forward to completing (and hopefully winning) the other scenarios that the game offers.
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Terry Lewis
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"But first, the children ought to be fed." -- Virginia Held (1980) from "Property, Profits, and Economic Justice"
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I still have my original copy of this historical conflict simulation ["war game"] from SPI -- The Fall of Rome: The Barbarian Invasions, 100 AD to 500 AD [1973; SPI (S&T # 39); John Michael Young; R. A. Simonsen].

What differences, if any, are there in the 1997 Decision Game remake?
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