Title: Caesar’s Empire
WBG Score: 7
Player Count: 2-5
Designed by: Matthieu Podevin
Friends, gamers, countrymen, lend me your eyes and please read my review of Caesar’s Empire. In it I will strive to give you some Vital stastitix and hope that I don’t make it too long so we don’t all turn into Geriatrix whilst reading it. All in all I hope that this review stands like an Obelix that you can enjoy for a long time to come and that you enjoy it enough to want to Getafix of this great game. If I forget anything I’ll put it in an Asterix below.
The rules of the road
Set up the game by picking a side of the board depending on player count and placing all the location tiles on their matching locations on the board. Then shuffle the treasure tokens and place them randomly face up on the locations. Give each player a player board and a set of their road tokens. The road tokens in this case are these awesome Roman soldier minis
On a player's turn they must connect a city to Rome using their road tokens. They must either be placed next to Rome or next to an empty city (a city whose location token has been collected) When you connect a city to Rome by any player's roads you take the city token and place it in front of you and the treasure goes on your player board. Each type of treasure needs to go in its own column. Then you score one point for each of the road tokens that connect that city to Rome. If an opponent's road token is on that road then they score one point for each one. The game will end once each city on the board has been connected to Rome.
Each player will score their city types but only the highest number of each type they collect. Then they’ll score their treasures. The more of each type you have the more points you’ll score and the more different types you have will score you more points.
Infamy, infamy, they’ve all got it in for me.
When I was younger I was a huge fan of Asterix and the gang. I read the books, watched the movies and if I didn’t wear out my copy of the Twelve tasks of Asterix then I’m sure it would only have taken a couple more watches before it broke. I haven't watched or read them as much these days but I still love the characters and the world. Unfortunately though when it comes to Asterix and board games the pickings are a little slim when it comes to quality.
Now the folks at Holy Grail Games have released Caesar’s Empire. At first it seems a little strange that they would take this popular IP and focus the game on the main antagonist Caesar and his takeover of Rome. Even the two main characters are demoted to only a cameo appearance on the board. Some searching on BoardGameGeek however tells me that this is a re-implementation of the game Drogi do Rzymu (Roads to Rome) which was a polish only release by Holy Grail. The artwork on that version looks great but if you're going to change art for whatever reason then this is certainly the way to go.
Rome wasn't built in a day.
Whilst we’re on the subject of art let’s talk production. So, yes this art is great and should be instantly recognisable to a vast majority of people. The big looming shadow of Caesar himself gives the great looking board an extra pop. Personally you could put this art onto a can of dog food and it would draw me to it. Please don’t though, I don’t have a dog and my cupboards are still full of tins of Scooby doo and Ninja Turtles pasta shapes. I’m quite easily led! Those road token minis are the absolute star of the show though. They look awesome with the three marching Roman soldiers motif and they are a lot of fun to place on the board. In fact one of the reasons to play this at higher player counts is to see how cool the board looks with all the different coloured minis filling it up. The minis are absolutely screaming at me to paint them every time I get them out. Would I get annoyed at painting the same thing that many times? Yes, would they look awesome? YES!!
“Would that it were so simple”
As you can see from the rules Caesar’s Empire is a relatively simple game and it sits perfectly in the family game / gateway game camp. As we know from a lot of these games, simple rules don’t necessarily mean simple choices and this game is no exception. Take putting a road down for example. This isn’t always as simple as connecting a city where you have roads and scoring maximum points. Scoring roads will net you some decent points but it’s the city tokens and the treasures that can get you the big scores. More often than not you’re going to need to use opponents' roads to get them but doing so gives them precious victory points. That in itself is a fun balancing act but doing this could also set you up to score points from other players connecting roads in future turns. Couple that with the random treasure placement and it stops players from sticking to their own little section of the board.
I really like the choices you have to work with all within this simple package. Even though those choices include potentially snatching a treasure from out from under another player it’s never done to be mean. Even if that city tile won’t help you the treasure will always add to your score and more often than not you’ll be giving your opponent points for part of the road anyway. Don’t get me wrong, none of the decisions you make are going to have you staring at the board for an extended period but for a family game like this they're spot on.
“Veni, Vidi, Vici”
I’m sure down the road there are going to be some comparisons to a train based route building game, I mean at this point I think any game with a map where you’re connecting things will have that. Caesar’s Empire is not that game though, for one thing this doesn’t have the luck factor, in fact there is no luck at all in this game. Every decision is completely down to the players, except of course when other players have the Gaul (ahem) to take the city and treasure your after in which case your carefully thought out plans of domination will have to change.
Where TTR has been one of the go to gateways games for a long time I think this could perform a similar job but have a wider appeal to families. The Asterix world will appeal to the adults who have a love for this world whereas the art work and certainly the box cover will help convince the kids to come to the table potentially more so than the train theme.
The dual sided player board for different player counts keeps the game more balanced and the randomness of the set up of the treasures keep things fresh each time you play and it’s quick enough that you could just as easily set up and go again.
Caesar’s Empire is a fun gateway/family game that is sure to appeal to a far greater audience in respect of theme and ease of play. If this is the sort of quality we get from them then I really hope that Holy Grail Games has more opportunities to make more games set in this world.