I dropped by Steve’s place, who was hosting for a game of Sword of Rome after his gang set up their GENCON events online. This is a game of the early days of Rome when the Republic was emerging from being a city state to being a regional power trying to gain control of the Italian peninsula.
I played the Greek Colonies in Italy, Steve the Roman player, Andrew the Gauls, Jim the Etruscans and Samnites combined. The Carthaginian player was run by card events by everyone except me (I was too close).
The last time I played this game was when it was in the playtest stage at one of the Word Boardgame Championships up in the Baltimore area. It was a slightly different game back then– if I am remembering it correctly, the Samnites and the Etruscans were separate powers in those days. Maybe. I played the Samnites back then, and didn’t win.. the Roman player is too close and too powerful for the Samnites and their inherent ability to move over mountains easily is not enough of a bonus, in my opinion, for them to gain ascendancy.
The game began with a round of fortunate alliances for the Greeks. I allied with the Samnites (my neighbors to the North) and the Romans allied with me. The Gauls allied with the Romans and the Etruscans allied with the Romans as well. This left the door open for the Gauls to fight the Etruscans, but not the Romans. The Etruscans could fight the Gauls, but not the Romans. The Romans could fight the Samnites, but not the Etruscans or Greeks. The Greeks could fight the Gauls or the Carthaginians. That suited me just fine. I could work on some housekeeping (wiping out two thorns in my side– the two independent towns inside my lines that could influence cities to revolt), and bump up the cities loyalty factor.
I moved on the two independents, moving troops out of Syracuse to fight inside the mainland. Didn’t succeed in the first try. Meanwhile the Romans moved on the Samnites and the Gauls moved on the Etruscans, in a big long raiding party. I bolstered the TransAlpine Gauls a little, just in case. Then Jim activated them as a counterbalance against the Gauls, who decided they were going to besiege one of the Etruscan cities. The Gauls aren’t good at siege work, and it took them five phases to knock it down. The Romans kept doing what they do best, building walled cities, from which they can reinforce the next turn, and building MORE cities, etc.
The game came to a head on turn 4, when Andrew had a “move neutral power” card in play. His only option was Carthage, which he activated to move his largest army at Lillybaem in Sicily to attack my depleted armies in Syracuse. I retreated my tiny garrison into the walls, and moved my larger force to relieve the siege at once. They got there in time– through playing a couple of really expensive (one shot) cards I won the battle (odds were even up, just slightly to my advantage– I had to play a reroll card to win a storms at sea card to prevent retreat by sea by the Carthaginians). The retreat back to Carthage was expensive for them, losing 3. I attacked back immediately and levied a siege on Lillybeum. We wiped out the Carthaginians on Sicily and at that point, invading Africa was looking possible, but I didn’t have the cards.
Up North, the Samnites were almost wiped out, but bounced back and attacked the Romans hard, only one city away from Rome. The Gauls finally captured the town they were after, after expending many cards to do so. At this point, Steve’s dad dropped by and we had to call the game. I was the official winner after my Carthaginian victory, but the next turn would have been telling for me. The Romans would be able to reinforce at a brutal rate that I would not be able to keep up with, and I doubt I would have retained a lead more than one turn. Still, a victory is a victory.. 😀
Here’s a slideshow.
I enjoyed it. I’m not sure what changes have been made since I last played, but overall I think they made the game very enjoyable and unique. Each power has a different approach to victory and a different strategy. The Roman is a builder. The Etruscan/Samnite uses a combination of movement and building to counter the Romans. The Greek is a naval power, Carthaginians even more so. I was glad I had a chance to play.