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Subject: Republic of Rome - Dura Lex, Sed Led (engrish version) rss

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Julian
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In Republic of Rome, players control different roman senate factions, wich cooperate to protect the republic while try to get a slight advantage over their oponents in money, popularity and influence so, when the rigth time comes, they can archieve unoposed leadership over Rome.



It's a very intense game, constructed wholly upon players intrigue and skulduggery, their threathes and begs, with heavy strokes of luck and unluck, and an unnecesary complexity layer added by a not-enough-clear rulebook. If you like it, probably you'll love it, and if it does not apeals you at first glance, probably you'll not want to even try it. While you decide, you can read the full review.

English is not my first languaje, so expect bad grammar and errors. Also, i try to post my feelings and personals views about the game, so probably other reviews will suit you better if you want to know how the game plays.

Romanes eunt domus
People called Romanes, they go, the house, Brian from Nazaret




I wanna note that all four games i have played (one with four players, the other with full six) have been of the full game starting in Early Republic - there are other two "sceneries" with diferrent initial setup, and a very diferent framework for very different relationships between players. There are also special rules for solitaire and two player, but I have not tried them - i supose it would be a completely different game.

I will review how a tipical game moves forward (how i feel it evolves, not the mechanics), then i will show what i like, and finally what i dislike, with special remark to the rulebook.
___

Playing time - Variable, from 1 hour to a whole day
Rules - Very hard to explain, with lot of exception and special cases.
Number of players - 4 to 6. In theory, 1 to 6. Special rules for solitaire and 2-player games are provided. Looks boring for 3 players, and 4-player games play very different than 5 or 6-player - wich I think are needed for the game to shine.


The game

Ab ovo...
From the egg..., Quintus Horatius Flaccus


Game start with the beginings of Roman Republic, where different factions - each one controled by a diferent player - need to decide how to confront the enemies and dangers that lies ahead of Rome's viae. First of all, ancient time classical derby: Rome vs Carthage. First punic war starts active - and being a serious thread, it can become even worse if not dispatched quickly. Soon other wars and adversities will appear, so initial circumstances are pressing.

Bonum commune communitatis versus bonum commune hominis
Common good of the community face to common good of a man


Theres no time for personal confrontations: If player don´t take the propers decisions - build up legions and put the better senators in front of them - will be imposible to defeat the wars that will appear, and Rome will not survive (so all players will lose to the game). Initially players wil reach consensus on how to proceed (most of the time at least), with positions and privileges fairly spread so everybody is happy to help the Republic - a really needed help, in fact.


We come in peace!

But some senators start to amass popularity and influence (needed by a player to win the game), and the threats to Rome start to decline. Little by little, some leeway for selfish decisions apears. Players start maneuvering, forming a big alliance to stop that outstanding senator to acquire more power, o a small aliance for distributing public offices and start to stand out. Some decisions will be blocked just because they hamper our position, and money and special action cards will be selfishly cheated for future use. Meanwhile the dangers, even declining, are yet serious enougth to destroy Rome.

Mens agitat molem
Mind moves the masses , Publius Vergilius Maro


Game is mostly based upon proposals by actual senate leader (a position wich moves from player to player) wich need to be aproved by a vote from all the players. Those proposals can be agreed beforehand by the leader with the other players, or just imposed to them (but still in need of a vote to approve). A player voting for or against a proposal will be determined by personal benefict, previous deals, and by as much you are willing to help the Republic.


How you dare to proposs your useless brother-in-law as consul!?

Of course, analizing the problem will help to better solve it. When and how much legions you have to recruit, and wich war need to be fought first. But that is usualy easily pointed out, and the real problem you face is how you can attain that one of your senators is sent (or not) to that precise war so he will get the glory of the victory (or avoid the disgrace of the defeat). So you have to argument over the beneficts of choosing your man (because senator so-and-so already have too much influence, and the others are not as good commanders), beg and threat (c'mon, i never get anything! don´t expect me to give money to the treasure next turn!), of find an agreement so the vote result as you need (we three can have mayority of the votes, why i get voted for that, and you both for that other office?)


What i like the most

WIch i like the most is that gameplay is fully based on player interaction. You have to like it if you are going to play this game, wich is about talk, talk, and more talk, mixed with negotiations, negotiations, and more negotiations.

Rem facias, rem, si possis, recte, si non, quocumque modo
By right means, if you can, but by any means make money, Quintus Horatius Flaccus


Being a diplomacy-driven game, Republic of Rome games tend to be very intense, since it does not feel the same to figth against game mechanics in order to optimize your actions, that having to discuss and dispute with other people. When you start to gain advantage and all other players ostracize you to avoid your victory, it feels rougher than if someone put a worker on the tile you really needed.


Memento mori

It´s also more pleasing to be able to lure your opponents to vote for a proposal with unexpected -and really good for you- results, than to be able maximice the beneficts of your planned strategy in other games.

Dura lex, sed lex
Law is harsh, but is law


The game reinforce those feelings. There are special events that reserse an almost-secure position, including deaths of senators that blow up all the effort of a player. Those strokes of luck bring unexpected turns to the game. And besides, the game gives the currect leader of the senate the authority to lead discusions between the players, including the power to call on one player to expose their opinion... or deniying him to do so! Being ordered to shut up while other players proceed brewing your fall si more agressive than just being attacked by their plastic troops.


Some negotiations become harsh

I can like it even when on the bad side of the stick (well, its more funny when on the rigth side ). When on the rigth mood, I like the plotting and the intensity of player interaction. Of course, you can get a bit upset after taking some heavy losses, but my playmates (i mean, the people i play with, not Mss. December) play hard but fair, and the game becomes an enjoyable experience. Playing with people with unsporting temperaments can give you a very different and not-so-enjoyable experience.

Verba volant, scripta manent
spoken words fly away, written words remain, Caius Titus


Something interesting about this game is that deals are binding if publicly held. This feel odd at first, but after playing the game now I thing is a very good decision, since it allows for some kind of agreements that would not be achieved if blatant treason would be allowed. And as there's always limit for the detail you can add to a verbal agreement, there's enougth room for some misintrerpretations and mean treasons.


What i dislike

Caveat emptor
"Let the buyer beware


The biggest problem with Republic of Rome is what i have just write. What i feel as the strong point of the game can be the main weakness for you. If you dont like games with negotiation or diplomacy, if you don´t feel right threatening and pressing other players (or being threatened and pressed), you are not going to like this game.

Another weakness is game length: it can be over in an hour (thank you, Hannibal ), or you can be playing the whole day if Rome stands and players like long discussions, and know how to stop whoever gets the advantage. Playing one of the sceneries can limit the legth.

Alea iacta est
Dice have beenm thrown, Julius Caesar


Luck is a big factor in the game, and can overthrow hours of big effort when your preferred senator, soon to be called imperator, catch a flu and dies. If the change of this happening (small chance, but a chance after all) is intolerable, again is probably that you will not like this game.


You can upgrade your game with real roman dice from 200$

And even if you don´t mind luck, a bad start or a specially bad event can take you appart from the game. There's no player elimination, but your faction can be so punished that your low amount of votes is not needed for any mayority, and you influence over the course of the game is near null, with no chance of threat or damand anything.

Entia non sunt multiplicanda praeter necessitatem
Entities must not be multiplied beyond necessity (Occam's Razor), William of Ockham


Even liking negotiation and luck, this game as a very important flaw: the rules. The rulebook is unbearable. Too long, too complex, too many details, too many exceptions, with unintuitive rules and sub-rules. They are not properly organized, nor for understanding the game (concepts are not exposed in a logical way), neither as a reference (rules about one concept are spread out by the rulebook). Rules are not clear, are not precise, and questions arose that can´t be solved even after reading and re-reading.

And is not just a problem with the phrasing or redaction of the rulebook, the problem is with the rules itself. There are plenty of exceptions and special rules wich you have to take into account, non-intuitive formulations to know wich die result is needed, so even aparently easy and basic mechanics, like knowing when a drawn war is active or not, can become obscure, and is difficult to avoid mistakes.


Board is used to organize components used, and contains some player aids, but no troops are moved over the map.

This complexity and additional options may look as deepness, but in my opinion thay substract from the game. There are so many rules, and so many intricacies, that they are not accesibles but by the most experienced players. Shortened and simplified rules would made choices fully available to all players, and not just to the one who luckily remembers that important exception at the rigth moment.

Of course, if all players are experienced with the game, or have really studied the rulebook, the problem diminishes. This lack of "elegance" in the rules can be forgiven on an old game, but for the recent edition i think the rules should habe been tinkered, improving organization and redaction - or even re-thinkered, but i understand that publisher want to preserve original rules. I also miss a good player aid that help to cope with the rules.

______________

Post Scriptum: excuse mi dog latin I think they add to the theme Translatiosn can be found at the wikipedia
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Lawrence Hung
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Wan Chai
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Re: Republic of Rome - Sed Led, Dura Lex (engrish version)
Impressive Latin, especially these four quotes in the right perspective of the game:

Mens agitat molem
Mind moves the masses , Publius Vergilius Maro

The gameplay is moved by discussions among the players. The system determines the subject.

Rem facias, rem, si possis, recte, si non, quocumque modo
By right means, if you can, but by any means make money, Quintus Horatius Flaccus

Influence is built through the money you grabbed.

Verba volant, scripta manent
spoken words fly away, written words remain, Caius Titus

The game is charting the Roman history by the players!

Alea iacta est
Dice have beenm thrown, Julius Caesar

Yes, there are dices in the game and you need'em to combat the enemies.

I like your review style. Please keep'em coming.

This is a great game I like very much.
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Stefano Tonini
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Re: Republic of Rome - Sed Led, Dura Lex (engrish version)
I have some problem with the title: did you mean

Dura Lex, Sed Lex (The law is harsh, but it'is the law all the same)?

great review, by the way! ^___^


Shard
 
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A. B. West
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Beech Grove
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Re: Republic of Rome - Sed Led, Dura Lex (engrish version)
Very good review of one of those 'grail' games for me (grail to play in this case, not to own).
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Julian
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Re: Republic of Rome - Sed Led, Dura Lex (engrish version)
Conteshard wrote:
I have some problem with the title: did you mean
Dura Lex, Sed Lex (The law is harsh, but it'is the law all the same)?


Yep, that's what i wanted to write ;D I'll correct now, thanks!
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Michael Rinella
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I think I played this game about a half dozen times in college, and we lost the empire every single time.
 
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David Aivar
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Exceptional comments.

RoR is so depth than, after 20 years, I still continue discovering new ways.

Probably, the best boardgame you can play, but only after a big effort (and time).


Regards,

David
 
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Ik ben een kleine boefje
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Excellent review, zorro. I second with most of your opinions.
 
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