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Martí Cabré

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Do you want to recreate the Ancient Times? Rome started as a single city and grew up to be a Total Empire, defeating in the process older civilizations like Carthage, Greece and Egypt. Rome wasn't done in a day, and the game Pax Romana lets you play all along this process in an open way, where any of those ancient civilizations can grow up to be the leading force in the Mediterranean.


THE CONCEPT

Pax Romana is a game for four players that covers the centuries from the formation of Rome to its evolution as an empire. One player handles Rome, and the other three handle Carthage, Macedonia-Greece and Persia-Egypt (aka The East).

The game is an asymmetrical open alternate history. Each power has some particular rules to give it a little chrome and flavour, and the ins and outs of each game can highly diverge from real history.

Don't look for a historical simulation here (for that better play Ancient World: Carthage), but for an exciting four-player game set in ancient times and more akin to Civilization or Diplomacy in that sense, though much more heavier than those classic games.

Each turn the players must count how many VP they have scored, both in territorial control (provinces and territories) and in civilization achievements (building cities and towns). VP are accumulated and at the end of Turn 10 the player with more VP wins, so it can happen that a player in a dire position at the end of the game still wins thanks to earlier achievements.


THE HARDWARE

Pax Romana uses a beautiful map of the Mediterranean, point to point, with land and sea spaces. There is a color code for each player's home territories and there are marks to set up barbarian tribes and minor kingdoms.

The playing pieces are simple, with only an indication of the number of units the token represents and its combat strength. There are tokens for heavy infantry, light infantry, cavalry, elephants, fleets, leaders, garrisons, militia, barbarians, tribes, minor kingdoms... This game is heavy with units and this is one of its strenghts.


THE SOFTWARE

The rules of this game are somewhat erratic. Some of the information is scattered through the rulebook and you need some rereadings to finally locate all the relevant information. I think it could be improved.

There are some rules that I find always needing to read again, like the VP values and the special territories with one province. Also the rules for amphibious assaults are full of holes.

Aside from that, the playing of the turn is quite clear: you have one major movement and two minor movements. Stacks can only move during a major movement, which is the way to make a campaign against an enemy. Minor movements are used to build cities and to relocate single units.

Movement is decided rolling a die, which can lead to not enough movement points for your planned movement, so you'll need to adapt to the die rolls. This is not a cerebral game where you can plan ahead but a game where you must adapt to all situations and where luck can really change your plans.

Combat is straightforward and the cards used for events are also quite clear.

There is currently work for a 2nd edition of the game, which should have clearer rules in these darker points.


THE EXPERIENCE

Pax Romana is a game to have a fun experience. As the winner is decided by VP, it is important that players forget about their historical counterparts and just stick to bash the player with the most VP, or that will be the winner without doubt.

Diplomacy rules are not quite clear as to what can be done in an alliance, so players should just move and attack to improve their position and prevent the leading player from winning. Trying for long-term diplomacy is just not well handled in the game.

Don't look for recreation of Cannae or other famous battles here. Each activation of a stack represents a five years campaign which could have some battles, sieges, winter camps...

Although it may seem that each aspect of the game is somewhat distant from historical reality, when taken altogether the play evolves to show a possible alternate history of these ancient empires, which I think gives the player a satisfying playing experience.
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Rob Francis
Wales
Aberystwyth
Ceredigion
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“"To Aetius, now consul for the third time: the groans of the Britons ... The barbarians drive us to the sea; the sea throws us back on the barbarians: thus two modes of death await us, we are either slain or drowned".” ―Gildas
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Thanks for the review.

This is one of those games that I have had on P500 for a number of years and that is a guaranteed triumph sometine in the future when I finally get my hands on it.
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Steve Carey
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marticabre wrote:
Don't look for a historical simulation here (for that better play Ancient World: Carthage), but for an exciting four-player game set in ancient times and more akin to Civilization or Diplomacy in that sense, though much more heavier than those classic games.


Perfect description.

The game also plays very well with the 2-player scenarios, and even solitaire (without the cards, which I'm not a big fan of anyway).

Pax Romana ranks right near the top of my favorite ancients-themed games; it's just excellent!
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Martí Cabré

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I must add that the game is easy to modify using assorted home rules. We have some home rules to adjust the few things we are not comfortable with.
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