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Roman Emperors

Emperadores Romanos

This game puts players in command of the greatest Empire of ancient times: Rome.

It is a Civilization-Wargame kind, with economic, politic, religious and military aspects. If at this point you are thinking “I’ve read this post a thousand times before”, I have something to say:

I have completed the rules (without images or flair) in just 2 pages

You surely didn’t run into that very often...

The game was inspired by Avalon Hill’s “History of the World” and a History Channel documentary on Caesars and their architectural legacy. If you are not interested in the Civ-War type, you may skip the rest of this journal altogether.

The design includes players portraying a Roman Emperor one at a time (progressive civilization building). This makes you play over the previous Emperor’s legacy (solves runaway leader and player elimination, adding some cooperative thinking). As you have only one civilization to fit in the board, the map is smaller and the game has less components (it’s easier to illustrate and cheaper to produce). The theme is usually appealing and easy to portray (even multilingual feasible). Finally, you have some dice-rolling battles (just a few, campaigns they are really defined by preparations) and a scoring type victory condition (Legacy Points).

Just to list some elements of the game, you have:
Honoring gods to help you during your reign
Senatorial politics that include voting (and bribing)
Tax collecting, different resource types and naval fleets
Provincial development and Wonders building
General events onset by players (barbarians, mutiny, heresy, etc)
Recruiting Legions and conducting military campaigns

I will update this journal weekly to go into detail of every game feature. Hope you enjoy the reading. If you are a publisher and want to know more about this design, feel free to contact me.

Keep thinking!

Comments

Game Journal 14: Conclusion

First of all, thanks sedjtroll for all your helpfull advice and insights. I usually return to this journal for inspiration, and your ideas and pointers are very usefull.

Now, as for the design, it is being overhauled to address some issues, most notably ANALYSIS PARALYSIS and DOWNTIME.

You know, the game played much like TIKAL, and if you've played or read some reviews about it, you'll notice there are several detractors of the game's dynamic. Mostly due to downtime and the mathy aspect of the decision making process. Well, Tikal only has 10 APs to allocate in your turn, and Roman Emperors has 14, so math scales up quite a bit.

Plus, in Tikal there is not much to do outside your turn, so downtime is a bummer. In Roman Emperors a player turn takes almost 10 minutes, and the Senator role doesn't quite justify taking a turn every half an hour in a 4 players game.

For those reasons, even if the game is not broken itself, I've tagged it as "fundamentally flawed" by my own personal stardards.

So, where do I go from here?
- I'm cutting down Action Points (aureus) by a third (allowing just 1 military campaign), thus tripling the number of turns the game (map) takes to reach its final status, and reducing turn duration by more than half. This is the major improvement, but takes a whole new balance for wonders. Still, you'll get your turn back every 15 minutes in a 4 player game, but
- I'm addressing downtime issues including a role seleccion mechanic (ala Rattus) with each rol spawning a negotiation between the character (its controller) and the Emperor. And finally,
- I'm quitting my pretense for it to be a family game. The game has too much going on to run below 2.0 complexity. Better take it for what it is and release it from the strains that kept it from fully spawning into a serious strategy game.

I'll start another journal for the new version of the game called "Gens". Thanks everyone who has helped so far. Hope you enjoyed the ride.

Keep thinking!

Game Journal 13: Opus Xb non-blind PT

Sorry about my lack of updates, but I was out of town for a couple of weeks. Regarding the voting mechanism, I've been exposing the new voting variant (Opus Xb) with a number of people (locals) new to the game.

- An AT-oriented gamers group who love broken games (Cosmic Encounter or Epic Duel broken-like)
- A non-gamers group that never even played Settlers of Catan
- My lead playtester in duel matches
- Myself in single player mode

The new voting variant includes Senatorial Claim cards that Senator players use at the begining of the turn to state their mind about what the Emperor should do during his reign. Senatorial Claim phase (cards) replace the Event phase (and cards) and it's negative take-that effect. If the Emperor addresses these claims, he gets an assured approval vote for his military endaevors, and the Senator gains victory points (legacy points). Else, the Senator can vote freely, and will usually (not always) reject any military campaign proposed.

So far, the voting mechanism has initially shown these positive effects:

- Emperor's military campaigns are more likely to get support, thus
- More resources are likely to become available each turn (through new conquests)
- Wonders are easier to build (thus increasing their weight in the overall scoring, and avoiding the "repeated failure" crash)
- Politics has dramatically increased it's weight in overall scoring (this and Wonders weight reinforce the Civ part of the game)
- Negative-feeling dynamics of playing events (against the Emperor), and bribing Senators for votes (both ways) have being removed from the game
- Maintenance downtime has been reduced, since no Votes Deck must be assembled and dealt every turn (vote cards count has been cut down to just 2 per player)

Potentially negative effects I have to pay attention to:

- Emperor's decisions becoming too simple (increasing the game's luck dependance)
- Reduced importance of negotiating more complex political dealings (not by Claim cards) since they don't yield victory points

Overall, during PT, I have attained a scoring balance I'm satisfied about, meaning:
- About 10% will usually come from developing provinces
- About 20% will usually come from political dealings
- About 30% will usually come from building wonders
- About 40% will usually come from military conquests

Anyways, I must choose a path to follow here: try to rework the later voting variant or go with this original one. There cannot be two new updated versions of the game to blind-test. So I'll keep playtesting (non-blind) the new voting mechanic (thanks again Hulken for the inspiration) to see if it finally works as I think it should (so far it has). Playtesting is always the final ruler, but it takes a lot of time. Still, I'll put a new version up as soon as I am confident enought I've made the right decision.

I'll keep you posted. Thanks for your interest in REmp.

Pastor_Mora wrote:Sorry about

Pastor_Mora wrote:
Sorry about my lack of updates, but I was out of town for a couple of weeks. Regarding the voting mechanism, I've been exposing the new voting variant (Opus Xb) with a number of people (locals) new to the game.

Oh cool, I was wondering how this game was coming along!

Quote:
The new voting variant includes Senatorial Claim cards that Senator players use at the begining of the turn to state their mind about what the Emperor should do during his reign. Senatorial Claim phase (cards) replace the Event phase (and cards) and it's negative take-that effect. If the Emperor addresses these claims, he gets an assured approval vote for his military endaevors, and the Senator gains victory points (legacy points). Else, the Senator can vote freely, and will usually (not always) reject any military campaign proposed.

My biggest concern about these Senatorial Claim cards is similar to the complaint I had before about the voting. I have not seen these Claim cards, so maybe my concern is unwarranted.

Before the problem was that players could not vote the way they chose unless they happened to be dealt the cards that supported the choice they wanted to make. The Claim cards sound like a step in the right direction, but without seeing them, it sounds like another condition (which scores points for you) that you're dealt that may or may not be what you want. It's like a limited negotiation, when there are already things int he game players want to negotiate for.

I'm interested to see these Claim cards and how they work, to see if my concern is warranted.

I have your concern in my mind

At the start of the turn, Senators are dealt a number of cards to choose from (advanced variant rules allow players to pick them in round order). They usually must play half of them (probably will depend on player count, not sure yet).

Bear in mind that Claims score points for the Senators (non-active players) not for the Emperor. Emperor just receives the Senator's approval vote, and winning a voting means much better dice rolls for him in battle. So far as PT is concerned, this means that about 20% of your final scoring is achieved when you are not the active player. Thus, with a much simpler mechanic and a much higher scoring weight, the non-active players inmersion/involvement increases dramatically, reducing percieved downtime. Plus, Senators not bound by addressed Claims in a voting, can vote any way they want, so there is still a negotiation/bargain phase in that cases.

Anyhow, I posted a sample image in the prototypes gallery: http://www.bgdf.com/node/4343

Thanks very much Seth for your comments and concerns.

Senatorial Claim cards

Looking at the Senatorial Claim cards, I have a few questions as to how they work, and in some cases their value:

Most of them say "Senator will support a military campaign (Emperor's choice) ..."

What does that mean, Emperor's Choice? Does a senator only support at most 1 of the 3 potential campaigns in a turn? Or does the senate vote for each campaign (like before), and any campaign that fits the criteria of the card gets a guaranteed 'Yes' vote from the senator (while other campaigns might get a Yes or a No vote)?

How many votes are needed to 'win' and get the bonus on die rolls? Just a majority of opponents? What about a 3p game with an even number of opponents (does the Emperor win ties, or lose them)?

I assume there's a card for each of the types of resources in the game. Those make some sense - if I want a particular resource, I can play that claim card (so long as I have been dealt it), and the Emperor may be encouraged to go for that resource type since I will help him get VP for conquering it. The problem still remains where I could really want another Culture icon, but I did not draw the Claim card that has a Culture icon on it. Furthermore, I could really want a Culture icon and a Food icon, and I can only play 1 Claim card (right?) - or I might want Food, but only if the Culture combat is successful, else I don't care about Food anymore. None of that is addressed by the Claim cards.

Other cards support different interesting things - like Fleets or Legions. I might need extras of those in play, thus I'll support the Emperor's campaign if he basically saves me money by buying warriors for me. Some of the other cards don't really make any sense though - why would I want the Emperor to attack a Barbarian province? Why would I want to support the 3rd campaign without knowing what it'll be - especially only in the case that the first 2 don't fail (which I have no way of knowing)?

Other cards still seem less like a negotiation and more like "I think you're going to do THIS, so I'm going to play this Claim card so that when you do it, I get some VP" - like developing provinces, it probably doesn't help me if you develop provinces (in fact, if you leave them undeveloped, that's VP for me!), and you're likely to develop as many as you can afford on your turn anyway, so playing a Claim card that supports IF they develop 3 provinces seems like a way to mooch a VP if you see there are 3 available provinces to develop.

Some cards like "Patronage goes to a God not picked before" seem even less useful, as it seems even less likely you'll be able to score off of it (unless you think you know which God they want to bribe AND that God hasn't been bribed before), and it can't really help you either.

I think that in order for the Senatorial Claim cards to really work, each player would need to have a full set of them, so that they can freely choose which to play each round, but even then I think it's still too limiting for the game.

I do not think the Claim cards can handle the quintessential situation that *I* think ought to be central to the voting/campaign mechanism, which is this:

"I want a particular resource on my turn, so if you want a Culture icon, I'd support you in THIS Culture province, but not THAT one (because THIS one is adjacent to the thing I want to get on my turn)."

How Claims Work

Seth

For starters, thanks for your comments. Then, as a disclaimer, this is not written in stone. We are still playtesting cards and rules. Still, to give you an overview:

In the basic rules, each Senator receives 4 Claim cards at the start of the turn. They have to place 2 of them face up in front of them for the Emperor to see. There will be 6 Claims cards for the Emperor to deal with. If playing with less than 4 people (3 Senators), extra cards are randomly drawn from the Claims deck to get the 6 required Claims to the table. These cards are revealed before the Emperor spends his treasury and places his assets on the map (they influence his strategy greatly).

When the Emperor announces a military campaign, he MAY choose to pick a Claim card before the voting, to make sure the Senator who played it will vote for his initiative. If he does, the Senator will score 1 point whether the campaign fails or succeeds. Then the card will be taken out of play for the reminder of the turn.

The Emperor needs 2 approval votes per campaign to win a voting. This grants him a powerfull +2 to his d6 die rolls. As the Emperor wins ties, this greatly reduces his luck dependance. "Virtual Senators" (with less than 4 players) only vote for, if their Claims are addressed by the Emperor; else they always reject.

As a Senator, if the Emperor hasn't picked your Claim, you can vote freely. This is where the complex negotiation may happen. If the Emperor is running for all his 3 available campaigns (he usually will, just for points), this negotiation will always take place (else, the Senators are really lame playing their cards). Playing the "3rd campaign support" card or the "hit barbarians" card induces the Emperor to keep campaigning. Chances are, he will have to make an additional unplanned investment to take advantage of those Claims, so you are actually weakening his early campaigns for an uncertain bonus to him. Same as requesting more developing or fleets (you may never benefit from); they make him spend extra money inefficiently to gain the political leverage. All these cards get picked a lot by Senators during actual play. Remember you have 14 Aureus (coins) to spend per turn (12 actually if you deduce the mandatory offering to the Pantheon), so buying 3 fleets could mean half your budget.

As for Senators motivations, they seldom want a particular territory to be attacked. On the contrary, they almost always focus on resources (wherever they may be). The map is wide enough as to have few possible choke points. Be certain the Emperor will always try to use a claim in a way that favors the Senator the least. This is consistent with the game's general strategy. The Emperor will also place his assets and conquer lands in a way that favors the next players the least. It is meant to be that way. Plus, I don't want Senators forcing what the Emperor has to do, just influencing him (kind of like a "controlled event" effect).

Finally, advanced rules will allow Senators to pick any two Claim card they want, one at a time, in two rounds order. That will spare me the need to give a full set of Claims to each Senator. But I still have to playtest this feature a lot more.

Any more ideas on Senatorial Claims are more than welcome. I finally set up a whole bunch of people to playtest them! Thanks!

6 months later... I have

6 months later...

I have been reminded of this game, and dug up this thread again. I'm wondering what, if anything, has come of playtesting this mechanism. Here, I'll respond (6 months later) with a new eye...

Pastor_Mora wrote:
For starters, thanks for your comments. Then, as a disclaimer, this is not written in stone. We are still playtesting cards and rules. Still, to give you an overview:

Not set is stone - of course! I think I was trying to encourage you NOT to set those rules in stone ;)

Quote:
In the basic rules, each Senator receives 4 Claim cards at the start of the turn. They have to place 2 of them face up in front of them for the Emperor to see.

This is the crux of the problem I see with the mechanism.

I think some of the other stuff you said is interesting and compelling, and may work in its own right, but only drawing a subset of cards still means I cannot "vote the way I want" - just in a different way. Now I can either get a VP or else vote the way I want on a campaign - and that's not really up to me. If I want to encourage a player to attack a particular region, I could play some card that doesn't matter for that reason and then use 'complex negotiation' (haha! I just accidentally typed "begotiation") in order to do what I'm suggesting people just do from the beginning (without the Claim cards).

Quote:
There will be 6 Claims cards for the Emperor to deal with. If playing with less than 4 people (3 Senators), extra cards are randomly drawn from the Claims deck to get the 6 required Claims to the table. These cards are revealed before the Emperor spends his treasury and places his assets on the map (they influence his strategy greatly).

I understand this part, and it could lead to some more interesting decisions for the Emperor... once there are 6 cards up, he will have to weigh the dice bonus in combat with having to satisfy the card. However, there are 2 things about that that I don't care for in this implementation...

1. The Emperor already had interesting choices to make - the purpose of this change was to address the participation of the SENATE, not the Emperor. true, the Senate gets to choose which cards re available, but they're choosing from a subset.

2. This is not much different then simply ignoring the Senate (mechanically) and turning 6 cards up at random from the deck, and allowing the Emperor to get an approval vote (from the game) for satisfying the condition on the card.

So while I like the interesting choices this introduces for the Emperor, I don't think it introduces interesting choices in a worthwhile way for the Senators.

Quote:
When the Emperor announces a military campaign, he MAY choose to pick a Claim card before the voting, to make sure the Senator who played it will vote for his initiative. If he does, the Senator will score 1 point whether the campaign fails or succeeds. Then the card will be taken out of play for the reminder of the turn.

The Emperor needs 2 approval votes per campaign to win a voting. This grants him a powerfull +2 to his d6 die rolls. As the Emperor wins ties, this greatly reduces his luck dependance. "Virtual Senators" (with less than 4 players) only vote for, if their Claims are addressed by the Emperor; else they always reject.


All well and good, but I don't think it address the problem.

Quote:
As a Senator, if the Emperor hasn't picked your Claim, you can vote freely. This is where the complex negotiation may happen. If the Emperor is running for all his 3 available campaigns (he usually will, just for points), this negotiation will always take place (else, the Senators are really lame playing their cards).

Exactly. So why mess around with the claim cards at all? The idea behind these claim cards is neat, but I think it would be better implemented by simply turning some number of them face up from a deck each turn, and allowing the Emperor to 'win' the virtual senator's votes with them (maybe instead of stacking the Votes deck as in my previous) suggestion.

Quote:
Playing the "3rd campaign support" card or the "hit barbarians" card induces the Emperor to keep campaigning. Chances are, he will have to make an additional unplanned investment to take advantage of those Claims, so you are actually weakening his early campaigns for an uncertain bonus to him.

... Or he'll NOT campaign, since he wasn't planning on it or prepared for it, and you will not get a point. No skin off the Emperor's back.

Quote:
Same as requesting more developing or fleets (you may never benefit from); they make him spend extra money inefficiently to gain the political leverage. All these cards get picked a lot by Senators during actual play. Remember you have 14 Aureus (coins) to spend per turn (12 actually if you deduce the mandatory offering to the Pantheon), so buying 3 fleets could mean half your budget.

This is where the mechanism gets very interesting [i]for the Emperor[/i] - but not for the Senators.

Quote:
As for Senators motivations, they seldom want a particular territory to be attacked. On the contrary, they almost always focus on resources (wherever they may be).

I think I disagree with this. Yes, they want resources. But they may well not be the same resources that the Emperor wants.

My "quintessential example" above discusses this:

"Seth" wrote:
"I want a particular resource on my turn, so if you want a Culture icon, I'd support you in THIS Culture province, but not THAT one (because THIS one is adjacent to the thing I want to get on my turn)."

What I mean is that while you MIGHT want to take a resource I want in exchange for my vote (so you get VP for your campaign), you're (a) more interested in getting resources YOU want, and (b) not always able to reach what I want.

If the resource I want is not adjacent to the current Empire, but the resource you want is... it's likely there's another instance of the resource you want that may also be adjacent. In other words there may be 2 locations where you can get the Culture that you want. Suppose one of those locations is adjacent to Food and one is not, and let's say that I really want Food on my turn. I now have something to bargain for. It might not matter to you WHICH Culture you get, but it matters to me because I want access to Food on my own turn. So if you are planning your campaign, I can use my vote to encourage you to attack the Culture that is next to the Food, not the other Culture province. If the Emperor is strong enough that he does not need my vote, maybe he ignores my plea, attacks the Culture province that's NOT adjacent to Food (so I cannot reach my Food so easily on my turn), and I will simply vote AGAINST that campaign.

That's exactly the type of negotiation that I think would be good to have in this game. Your Senatorial Claim card plan has that, but only if you do not choose the card I put up. And since I only put up 2 cards, I could negotiate for that 3rd campaign if I wanted, but why limit it that way? Why not make that type of thing the primary negotiation between players?

Quote:
The map is wide enough as to have few possible choke points. Be certain the Emperor will always try to use a claim in a way that favors the Senator the least. This is consistent with the game's general strategy. The Emperor will also place his assets and conquer lands in a way that favors the next players the least. It is meant to be that way. Plus, I don't want Senators forcing what the Emperor has to do, just influencing him (kind of like a "controlled event" effect).

I agree with all of this, I just don't think the Senatorial Claim cards does it any better than open negotiations.

My suggestion (if I even remember it) had the Senators (players) voting as they choose for each campaign, and the deck of cards voting for the virtual senators (noon-players). That deck could be stacked with FOR votes by various actions. Instead of (or in order to add FOR votes to) that deck, perhaps a random assortment of these Claim cards could be turned face up to give the Emperor some interesting choices to make (though I think they already have enough choices to make).

Quote:
Finally, advanced rules will allow Senators to pick any two Claim card they want, one at a time, in two rounds order. That will spare me the need to give a full set of Claims to each Senator. But I still have to playtest this feature a lot more.

I think that will just result in it taking more time to do something I think ought not be happening in the first place, so I don't care for it personally.

Quote:
Any more ideas on Senatorial Claims are more than welcome. I finally set up a whole bunch of people to playtest them! Thanks!

I know it's been a while, and I don't know if you've put any thought into this game since February, but there you go.

Keep thinking! :)

Game Journal 12: Opus IX Learnings: To Non-Blind PT Again

I've been away from the forum these days, so I'm sorry to all concerned for my lack of updates. With Opus IX, voting as it works now (gameplay wise), even if it doesn't crash the game, I see it as a major design flaw. It needs a rebuild and that rebuild needs to be properly tested. That's why I'll take a step back in the development of the game to the non-blind playtest stage again.

I'm assembling three gamers groups of local playtesters to try opus X with them. New voting will follow hulken's variant (thanks!). Well, more like my interpretation of it. This scales back complexity, number of components, and (so far) playing time.

It also gives something for Senators to think about while the Emperor does his initial planning, so it reduces downtime in half. This evolved during PT into a "silent" planning phase (with Senatorial Claim cards played faced down and revealed simultaneously), and an open negotiation phase when the voting takes place. In the free-vote version (this is how it actually behaves during PT), the Emperor does the thinking first (and Senators watch) and then Senators do the thinking (and Emperor watches).

I'm also developing a "layered" rulebook divided in two parts. First part covers the basic game and components, and then each individual page adds a single new advanced rule and the correspondant component. This distinction may be even used to spit the game in basic family + gamers expansion releases.

These are major changes that require proper attention before being exposed. I don't want to burn the game's reputation among blind playtesters. I was trying to make more elaborate statement about this, but life got on the way. Now I have to travel for a couple of weeks...

I'll keep thinking!

Game Journal 11: Opus VIII learnings

What we’ve learned playtesting version 08 (opus VIII)

Playtesting version 08 has provided some deep improvements to the game. As playtesters become more acquainted with the game mechanics, more thoughtful feedback is received each day. Special thanks to Seth and Daniel for their valuable feedback of Opus VIII!

These improvements, though they enhance the playing experience, I think they pushed the game from the “2-light” complexity to the “2.5-medium-light” level. I hope these changes provide more appeal to gamers while still keep Roman Emperors as the family game it was always meant to be. I have my concerns about having to roll-back everything so as to keep the game’s broad appeal. We’ll test and see…

Major improvements are:

Roll-back from the Emperor losing ties rule, now Emperor wins ties. At this point, in a campaign with Senate support, the Emperor has a 50% chance of winning a battle with just a roll of 1! (it cannot get less luck dependant than this really). And that’s it. “Ties” chapter closed for good.

Advanced rule for randomizing defending armies (Scouts tokens). This is especially useful if you have been playing solo for a while; because you end up using similar strategies every turn (it is you who makes every move after all). Group playing is naturally more random but this can still apply.

Added the Leader Vote card with both approval & rejection options that players can buy with their unspent Aurei. This keeps coins saved in previous turns from mixing with current coins available. Plus, it will hopefully simplify the whole Senator’s bribing deal (removed) and satisfy players that dislike not having the chance to always vote the way they want (now they can, for a price).

Added the Hold Circus Games action in the Returning to Rome phase, to transform unspent Aurei into Legacy Points. This helps to keep the Leader Vote card count limited and reduces the penalty for players that couldn’t achieve a Wonder in their turn, helping to keep them in game.

Polishing improvements include:

Rearrange the rules to move tax collecting into the Emperor’s first action phase (renamed Sovereign Phase) because you need to acquire your income to perform your offering to the gods.

Event playing priority now follows round order (clock-wise), so the next player in turn decides the event the Emperor will face (use to be the last in turn). This makes choosing events intelligently much easier, making them more relevant overall. The next player in turn can figure more clearly what Wonder he doesn’t want the active player (Emperor) to get.

Passing on events is specified as a one-time opportunity. If you pass once, you cannot play an Event in that turn. So if every Senator passes once, no Event will be played in that turn.

Added 11 Scouts tokens to the tokens file to use with the random defending armies advanced rule.

Further explanation about how to apply Events in solo-play (targeting provinces at the player discretion). Also, now rules say that if the Event is inapplicable you are safe for the turn.

Changed Venus bonus to +9 approval votes (all of them).

Added a rule to resolve tied final Legacy Scores (the greater Wonder builder wins).

Added Emperor’s Avatars to be used by players as scoring pawns.

Added the “0” resources markers initial position in the board’s resource tracks.

Clarified the use of Legions for consecutive attacks. Added names in Legion tokens.

Split historical references and notes out of the rules paragraphs to separate text boxes in italic format

Improved the initial setup explanation (Getting Started chapter)

Sorted Gods by alphabetical order in the God’s Blessings player aid

Added some more flavor images from game components in the rules

Made some syntax corrections here and there in the rules

I hope you can now understand why this new version has taken a couple of month to see the light. Current files in the Roman Emperor shared folder were updated to playtest version 09 (opus IX). I will appreciate if playtesters could pay special attention to the changes made in this version so as to provide any feedback on them. Any other comments are always welcome.

My kind regards,

Pastor_Mora

PS: I’ll start working on a parallel 16-turns version (an expansion that will also include more Wonders, Events and Votes cards). It will include a personal loot of resources to cover the increasing cost of the extra Wonders needed. Do you think 16 turns makes the game too long?

Game Journal 10: Opus VII learnings

Roman Emperors – Playtesting
What we’ve learned playtesting version 07 (opus VII)

Playtesting version 07 has provided mainly some polishing improvements to the game. As the design gets closer to its final version, changes will naturally tend to be less significant but important nonetheless to get the best playing experience out of it.

Relevant improvements are:
• Extended playing setup for single player option
• Rules now include an explanation on resources, resource markers, assets and provinces types
• God’s Blessings player aid included in the rules
• Assets Tokens file included in case common bingo chips are hard to come by

Polishing improvements include:
• Fleet-resources (not Fleet-assets) are now called Lighthouses and are depicted as such in the board. Some Wonders cards were also modified accordingly (sorry about that…)
• Increased benefit in patronizing Venus. Changed from +5 Approval Votes to +10 of them. Venus was the least preferred goddess in the pantheon, as her bonus was perceived by players as lacking certainty.
• Decreased benefit in patronizing Vesta. Changed from +5 Aureus to +4. Vesta was the default preferred goddess in the pantheon, as her bonus could be applied in many ways.
• Clarifying the “Barbarians” event card effect description to properly explain that provinces will be raided by barbarians before the active player can build his wonder. Later version stated it would take effect “before scoring takes place” which enabled the player to build his wonder and leave the next player with less resources.
• Removing of the “No favored cult” sentence in the first 3 wonders (Columpna, Pyramis and Templum), to keep the Wonders deck language independent.
• Added a tiled-board file for easier printing in four A4 or Letter sheets.

Three changes were introduced from playtest results back in version 06. They all achieved an overall satisfactory reception but I think more playtesting is still required for them:
- Bribes from Senators have the same effect as Emperor’s (2 votes for 1 Au) 80% in
- Buildings can only be placed in provinces with Legions 70% in
- Emperor looses ties in combat (the most debated change so far) 60% in

Current files in the Roman Emperor shared folder were updated to playtest version 08 (opus VIII).

RULES POLL: Should the explanation on how the voting works must be included the Politics Phase (when you assemble the vote’s deck) or in the Military Phase (when the voting actually takes place)?

NEW VERSION POLL: Should the Events deck be language independent? (by replacing some cards)

I will appreciate if playtesters could pay attention to the changes made in this version so as to provide any feedback on them. Any other comments are always welcome. My kind regards,

PS: PM me to join the playtesting team!

Game Journal 09 - Finding a Publisher

Roman Emperors – Publishing
Finding a Publisher

While Roman Emperors is been blind playtested, I’ve devoted myself to survey for a publisher interested in the game. Although it is pretty much true that the board game industry is a small market and that “everyone knows everyone”, once you as a designer set out to find a publisher, you’ll find out that “small” isn’t as few as you thought.

This may not apply if you design in a not-so-widely-spoken language, but is especially true if your design is in English or German. I’m finishing up a Spanish version of Roman Emperors to check on publishers from Spain and I’m having an interview with an Argentinean publisher next week. Given the fact that not a single euro-type game has been published in Argentina so far, I don’t have many expectations about it.

Additionally, designing from the dark side of the World has its own restrictions, mainly regarding mobility. For example, there was the Rio Grande contest recently, and the prize was to present your game in the Chicago Fair to the publisher himself. Traveling to “get” my prize would mean as much money as printing 1000 copies of the game on my own. Not a feasible option…

Anyways, from my first glance at US publishers, I chose Indie Games for a number of reasons. For starters, because Roman Emperors is not a costly game to produce, so a small publisher could pick it up. Second, the man behind it, Travis Worthington, had also made a very good game set on roman times (Triumvirate) so I thought he would at least like the theme. But the main reason was their requirement for accepting a submission: having at least five (positive) blind playtesting reviews from established BGG members. I think this barrier is both fair and attainable. Plus, it would benefit the game no matter whether the publisher finally accepts it or not.

I have two BPTs reviews so far, and I’m looking at three more probable ones. So I’ll stick with Indie Games for the time they take to check Roman Emperors. Still, I’m pretty sure I haven’t checked every publisher around (or even be able to) not even properly checked everyone I did came across. So I have a question for you all:

Can you think of a publisher that could be interested in Roman Emperors?

I know a public recommendation could be compromising for some of you, so PM me if you wish. You can trust me to keep your hint just between us.

Thanks in advance. Keep thinking!

PS: playtest version 08 incoming! (adds solo play) PM me to joint the playtesting team!

Game Journal 08: Blind Playtest Open

Roman Emperors – Playtest
Blind Playtest Open

Well, I’ve made some approaches around with Roman Emperors and small publishers have been more accessible and helpful than I thought they would. It is a small niche market where everyone knows everyone after all. I see this in the good sense. I’ve gained some interesting pointers just by being casual with them.

Anyway, as finished as the design may look like, blind playtesting is a fixed pre-entry requirement. Especially when you are a non-native speaker: your rules should be proof-read by native speakers, preferably from both sides of the ocean. Having proof-read many “native’s” rules myself, I’m not quite sure how to feel about this… whatever.

As it stands right now, the game has achieved 17 group sessions (non-blind) and many more solo ones (those are hard to count). As been played once a week, it will be a long time before it gets to my minimum standard of 15 sessions per player setup. That would be 45, since it’s a 2-4 players game. Plus, the game has a fair chance of becoming a 1-4 players setup, so…

I’m not in a hurry here. The long pilgrimage for a publisher is just beginning, but I don’t want to stick with the minimum and reviewers would appreciate more diverse feedback on it. So I’m opening the game for blind playtest from BGDF members.

The game is quite solid at its seventh version, so I don’t foresee major changes required (ironically, other than making Venus more attractive to players). You only need to print 6 pages for cards, 3 pages for the rules, and the board (A3 size preferably or tiled A4s), plus some few bingo chips. Quite a bargain components-wise actually!

I’ll use the files I’ve stored in a dropbox so you can access them whenever or wherever you want (www.dropbox.com). Just PM me with your Email address (so I know who you are here) and I’ll send you the invitation to the shared folder.

I know Civ-War euro’s are not for everyone, but I’m pretty confident I’ll manage to get some insightful feedback from you guys. Thanks a lot.

Keep thinking!

Game Journal 07: First Turn Sample

Well, I’ve been talking about Roman Emperors for a while now. I hope that everything made sense somehow. But just in case, I’m posting a sample of the first game turn.

Check REmp_Sample_Turn.pdf above.

This is a remake of the “core strategy post” I planned to do. It is a little heavy at first, in the preparations part (especially the Events), but gets lighter when the interaction starts. It’s more reader-friendly this way. Turns are actually much shorter than what you will take to read this 3-pages sample. The full 12-turns game never lasted beyond 2 hours for us, and there was much playtest debate around them.

That will be pretty much it, as for what the design itself concerns. I’ll be posting some news as I get feedback from publishers. A whole new chapter of the story starts from now on. Thanks for your helpful comments and support.

Keep thinking!

Game Journal 06: Roman Politics

Roman Emperors – Turn Summary
Roman Politics

One thing I gave a hard thought about when designing Roman Emperors was downtime in group playing. If in a game there are six or more players, or the player turn is long, the others will hardly keep focused on the game. Sometimes texting starts or people just stand up and wander off to get themselves a coffee. I try to address this issue by adding actions a player can perform in the other player’s turn. In this case, the politics phase was the chosen mechanic.

Before the Emperor starts his military campaigns, the Senate is called to show support (or not) to the endeavor. All non-active players portray these Senators and cast their votes in every campaign according to their own preferences and the tendencies shown by the political factions they represent.

The mechanic includes a vote’s deck with a base number of approval or rejection votes. More votes (for or against) are added to the deck from events, bribes (both from the Emperor or the Senators) or good deeds of the Emperor (developing provinces). The resulting deck is shuffled and dealt to the Senators. They, in turn, have to administer the votes in their hands (their political faction’s mood) for their own benefit.

Winning a voting means the Emperor gains a bonus to his die rolls in the military campaign (representing a higher morale of his army, additional resources, easier levying, etc). Conversely, loosing a voting means the Emperor will be penalized in his rolls.

These political calculations are of great importance to the successful accomplishment of the Emperor’s goal. Will he spend all his money in Legions and deal with the Senate’s constant rejection? Will he spare something for civil development so as to bias their opinions? Will he just use bribes to buy out those pesky aristocrats? Will he patronize Venus for her political support or Jupiter for his mighty hand?

The voting phase of the game adds player interaction, negotiation, back-stabbing and even cooperative thinking. It is the most complex phase of the game; not rules-wise, but in terms of strategic thinking. There has been much debate over this phase during playtest. I has been polished a lot to fulfill its part.

I personally think is the most fun part of the game (I like RPGs), but deep-thinking gamers (abstract’s lovers) tend to like the preparations more. I think the mix of many different mechanics and little downtime makes the game really easy-going and very appealing for gaming groups that are not so focused in one particular type of gameplay.

Combat is very simple really, so I think I’ll post a sample turn next time, so this all makes more sense. This journal has spawned many questions maybe I would have never come up with by myself. Thank you all.

Keep thinking!

Great idea!

I've discussed this aspect of the game a little bit with Pastor_Mora outside the forum, so this post is more for other readers' benefit than for his...

I love this idea of other players as senators with votes for or against a military campaign. I especially like it if the players have some vested interest in the outcome of their opponents' campaign - otherwise they'd probably just vote AGAINST all the time. But the idea of this game appears to be that whatever you conquer on your turn, I'll be able to use on my turn - so I may well vote FOR a campaign if it will get me the resources I want for my turn! As long as there are reasons to for Senators to vote both for and against, then this can be a really interesting mechanism.

That said, I think it can't be a false decision either - if I'm a senator and I want to vote AGAINST a campaign, but I can't because I only have FOR voting cards to play (or whatever), then that's kinda lame - I didn't really get to have my say. If I recall, the current rules allow a player to weight the Voting card deck with YAY votes in order to help ensure a positive outcome (which is a good thing) - but the way it's resolved is that cards from the weighted deck are dealt to the Senators to vote with, so if you weight the deck enough in your favor, chances are good I won't even be able to vote against you!

I think a better execution of this would be to allow Senators to contribute either YAY or NAY votes to the deck, and the active player can do what they can to add additional YAY votes (the deck would start with some number of NAY votes to begin with), and then after all those vote cards have been added tot he deck, a more mechanical mechanism would be best - something like "shuffle and draw 5 cards, you need 3 YAY votes to win the support of the senate." That way, each player can make their decision based on strategy, not availability of voting cards.

Aside: Suppose the mechanism WERE "reveal the top 5 cards, you need 3 YAY votes to win." Then suppose those 5 are removed and the rest of the deck is carried over to the next campaign, with senators getting another chance to add Yay/Nay votes to it... if you happen to draw 5 YAY votes in the 1st campaign, then the deck may be a little bit weighted against you now! That could be neat.

The idea is

The idea of the deck is to represent the mood of your political faction. As a Senator, you are the leader of the political faction and you are only able to "administer" somehow the mood of the members of your party, not just command them to vote as you wish. Thus your options are limited by the vote cards in your hands. You may not be able to oppose the Emperor if he has spent the whole roman treasury just bribing all the Senate! You may not even be able to support him if everyone hates him! LOL

With this mechanic, I tried to address several issues:
1) lazy players: some will vote always for or against without much concern
2) unfair partners: some will unfairly favor another player (say, his girlfriend)
3) excessive restrains: the Emperor may find it easier to just levy more Legions and forget about the Senate, effectivelly "bypassing" the stage and ignoring the permanent grumble of the Senators, thus spoiling the fun interaction
4) no free action: Senators voting should not be a "free action", if you want the NAY votes to appear, put your money where your mouth is.

Your idea of Senators bribing for approval votes is great, really. The situation has come up during playtest but somehow I just didn't pay attention to it.

As for your other idea, I'm trying to keep the deck small, and it would take a lot of cards to counter the possible mathing of results by players. Plus, if cards are shown, the "bluffing" factor is spoiled and it's being used a lot during playtest (with fun results).

Many thanks for your feedback Seth. If I get this thing through, you are at the top of my credits!

Game Journal 05 - The Map

Roman Emperors – Turn Summary
The Map

Some time ago, in this forum, a post about the Cairo tiling draw my attention. I was so dazzled by its beauty that I swore then I would use it in one of my games somehow. Well, the opportunity aroused with the Roman Emperors board. Check it here:

http://www.bgdf.com/node/3226

The map comprises different provinces. The Senatorial Provinces (with SPQR) are your starting ones and they collect taxes for the Emperor every turn. The Imperial Provinces (with Resources) are progressively conquered by the Emperors during the game, and yield the resources required to build Wonders in Rome. The barbarian (outer) provinces are hard to conquer and will yield no resources, but can score you some victory points with a successful military campaign without leaving the next players more resources in their hands (let them do their own dirty work!). Finally, there are also maritime areas in which you can place fleets, so your Legions can reach the farthest regions in your turn.

After seen many games set in the Roman times, but with their boards pasted over actual maps, I began to wonder if they had such an exact cartography at that time, or if borders were so clearly drawn. Anyway, the map could have being drawn in hexes, and that would look less shocking to usual gamers, but I’ve being drifting towards disliking hex patterns the more I look at them (and I get way too many chances to…). Maybe the publisher will finally decide against this board, but I don’t mind. As for playtesting concerns, it presents info in a clear way and allows comfortable placement of tokens in the board. There is no “does this province borders that one?” issue, or the pesky tiny provinces so common in area-(something) mechanics. The rules also help to avoid clustering, as there can be one legion and one building at most in every province (or just one fleet in a maritime region).

Regarding the board, I think the key notes about the build-over-previous mechanic used in Roman Emperors are two: first, the map is simpler; and second, it helps balancing. You may easily figure out on your own why that is, but let me point out something as an example. The first player is presented with the possibility to invade 17 different provinces. That’s 2/3rds of the map to choose from! If I had to present that same amount of choices for four players in different factions, well, my map must have been 3 or 4 times bigger (else I would have to add some sci-fi wormholes or fantastic teleportation spells!). As for balancing concerns, the provinces function much like the squares on a chess board. Even if some look like more favorable than others at first; that changes constantly. It depends what you and your opponent(s) do in turn. Can you say a chess board is unbalanced? Well, you’ll find out that even if this board is much more complex, it cannot favor you or jeopardize your opponent unless you use it wisely.

Thanks for reading. All feedback so far has being constructive and much appreciated.
More to come. Keep thinking!

PS the Cairo tiling thread here http://www.bgdf.com/node/2888

Game Journal 04 - Events (Parcae)

Roman Emperors – Turn Summary
Play an Event

Group playing often means that most players become “spectators” most of the time, having to wait for another player to finish his turn. This game features some out-of-turn actions to reduce the downtime for group playing. The first of those is playing a Parcae (The Fates) event card against the current Emperor, just to make things “a little more challenging” for him.

The addition of events, as usual, adds replayability to the game, for they present different circumstances every time you play. Another point of adding events to a game is to increase randomness, but this is not the approach I took in Roman Emperors. In fact, the events are onset by non-active players, including an extra stage of strategic thinking and even quick negotiation among them.

The later version of the events is meant to replicate (counter) the gods powers, but to a lesser extent. This may drive the Emperor to resort to a certain god in order to counter the event effect. For example, if you are facing a Catiline Conspiracy (extra negative votes in the Senate) you may have to worship Venus yourself (for extra positive votes). Same with the Cilician Pirates sinking your fleets, maybe Neptunus can be of help there. Sometimes, countering the effect of the events is the only way to build a certain wonder (playing Minerva, goddess of wisdom, against the Heretics event), or else you won’t be able to obtain de required resources for it.

I like how this works overall, especially for experienced players, since it’ll be difficult to have a set strategy to use in every game. Fate (not randomness) will be an important factor in the availability of your choices, and you’ll have to deal with it when the time comes.

I’m attaching the events cards in the images library to give an idea of those. Thanks for all the feedback received so far. The sixth playtest version is almost done.

More to come. Keep thinking!

Pastor_Mora wrote:Roman

Pastor_Mora wrote:
Roman Emperors – Turn Summary
Play an Event

Group playing often means that most players become “spectators” most of the time, having to wait for another player to finish his turn. This game features some out-of-turn actions to reduce the downtime for group playing. The first of those is playing a Parcae (The Fates) event card against the current Emperor, just to make things “a little more challenging” for him.

The later version of the events is meant to replicate (counter) the gods powers, but to a lesser extent. This may drive the Emperor to resort to a certain god in order to counter the event effect. For example, if you are facing a Catiline Conspiracy (extra negative votes in the Senate) you may have to worship Venus yourself (for extra positive votes). Same with the Cilician Pirates sinking your fleets, maybe Neptunus can be of help there. Sometimes, countering the effect of the events is the only way to build a certain wonder (playing Minerva, goddess of wisdom, against the Heretics event), or else you won’t be able to obtain de required resources for it.


I have to say, this doesn't sound too great to me. I guess it's not clear when the Event is played - sounds like before the God is chosen for the round.

If the event cards effectively just force you to choose a particular god, then that's kind of lame - instead of making a strategic choice on my turn, my opponent just forces me to choose the god that cancels out his event card.

That might not be the case, but if it is then that would not be too cool, I don't think. if the choice was more like "well, I COULD cancel that event card by choosing THIS God, OR I could let the event happen and choose this OTHER God and use it's benefit..." then that would be more acceptable.

Also, I'd worry a little bit about 'false strategy' - giving the event cards to the players rather than simply drawing one off the deck may seem like it gives the players a strategic choice when it's not their turn, but in actuality it may not.

I do agree with you though about events being a good way to make the game different every time. I just think they have to be implemented in a good way or sometimes they turn into more trouble than they're worth.

The fake choice issue

(First of all, yes, the events are played before you pick a patron god, then…)

I see your point. The short answer is that events do not force the Emperor to choose a god, but they could increase the risk of some of the choices available to him. I will have to leap forward to take a glimpse of the “core strategy” post here to make it clear.

Basically, in every turn you should have three wonders to aim to. One will be easier, requiring you to conquer a single province, or even none. The second would be harder (two provinces required), and the third the hardest and most rewarding (three provinces or two provinces that are particularly hard to reach and conquer).

In every turn, the Senator players will have to choose which of these goals they will be affecting. Sometimes they will try to decrease your chances to reach the hardest. As you have lower chances by definition to reach it already, you may be tempted to aim for the second hardest, with much greater chances of success, but with less overall scoring (taking the “conservative” strategy). You could still “go for it” nonetheless. On the other hand, they may choose to jeopardize your chances of reaching the second hardest, possibly tempting you to take the “wild” strategy and go for the big prize wonder. You could also choose the “ultra-conservative” strategy by aiming to your easiest wonder, and compensate your low wonder scoring with civil development paid by the military expenditure saved.

But this is not just a group decision. Each Senator will try that you aim to a certain wonder, because your conquests would yield him the resources he will need to build his own wonder afterwards. But then, you may not have the event card you need to twist the Emperor’s choice. But you may have a card that could block another player from playing his… *panting*

I haven’t received playtest feedback of a “Fake Choice” issue regarding events. In that case, I haven’t particularly asked for it. I’ll add it to the version 06 playtest docs. Thanks a lot for your input.

Keep thinking!

Game Journal 03 - Build a Wonder

Roman Emperors – Turn Summary
Build a Wonder

One of the many legacies of Rome was their monumental architecture and engineering feats. The Emperors conceived their great projects as part of their heritage to the history of Rome. The building of a wonder for the city is a great part of the Roman Emperors game; it scores you a large bonus to your Legacy Points.

But to build that precious wonder you require many resources, which can be obtained in the provinces (once you subdue them in your military campaigns). Although the building part is actually performed at the end of your turn, picking your wonder project will guide your actions right from the beginning of it. Even before that, the other players will try to figure out which wonder you’ll be trying to build and play events (Parcae cards) to make it harder for you to do so. On the other hand, you will have your patron God to help you with your quest.

The strategic choices here are also many. But they may be narrowed to: will you risk having to succeed in all your military campaigns so you can get enough resources to build a great wonder? Or will you be cautious and go for a project that doesn’t demand you such a large effort? You have to bear in mind that expanding the frontiers of the Empire also helps other players get resources for their projects, but winning military campaigns and building great wonders score you many points. In my case, I just go for the great prize whatever the cost (I would have made a great megalomaniac roman emperor!), but other players avoid recklessness and build up the basics, upgrading the provinces and using the resources already available to them. That grants them the support of the Senate and the people of Rome (SPQR). Yuk!

I’m attaching a picture of the wonders available. Same as with the patron god’s cards, the art is all public domain. Because the names are in Latin and the icons are fairly intuitive, they are effectively multilingual. You can see the amount of resources required to build them and the amount of Legacy Points they grant you when built in the different stages of the game.

Again, if you are a publisher and want to know more about this design, feel free to contact me. More to come.

Keep thinking!

Game Journal 02 - Honoring the Gods

Roman Emperors – Turn Summary
Honoring the Gods

The first action a player takes in his turn is choosing a God to honor during his reign. Each God will grant him some bonus during his turn. So the choice will depend on the strategy conceived by the player.

If you are planning to expand to the farthest points of the known world, well, you should call upon Neptune (lord of the seas) to grant you some free extra Fleets.

If you are really scarce on Legions, you could honor Pluto (lord of the underworld) to spare the lives of your soldiers, so they can keep fighting.

If you are (leading, and so,) facing a troublesome Senate, you could devote your reign to Venus (lady of love) and she’ll grant you some extra support.

Strategy considerations are many. I’m attaching the Pantheon cards image in the Prototype gallery to give you a glimpse of what I’m talking about.

The design used is fairly simple, as gods images are all public domain by now. I also used descriptive icons to remind players of the cards effects. I think only Pluto is not so intuitive. As I didn’t post the rules here yet, I added the text anyway. I’m thinking they could also be inserted in the game board in a sidebar.

More to come. Keep thinking!

Sounds great!

This part sounds awesome, and the images/text seem very intuitive.

Does each player's turn basically consist of controlling the Roman empire for a [year/decade/non-descript length of time]? Seems like that could be cool.

Yes, one at a time

Players portray a Roman Emperor one at a time, for a non-descript length of time, because historical ones did for very different time frames. Anyway, I'm thinking of adding the Emperor's names and portrait in the turn tracking line. But with no other historical reference or customization, because it would be impossible to balance out. Thanks.

I'm curious what the turn

I'm curious what the turn structure would look like... So it's my turn, I'm at the reigns of the empire... I get to choose which god I want to help me - then what? How much stuff do I get to do?

Turn structure

After you choose your patron God, you'll be praying him to help you because it's "Events time", and the other players will be bombing you with their Parcae cards. So after that comes the economy aspect. You collect, and then spend (in developing Provinces, buying Fleets, bribing Senators). Not so much as to run out of funds for your real work: military campaigns. That’s when you launch your attacks with (or without) the Senate backing you (players vote on each) and add provinces to the Empire. Finally, you return to Rome (victorious?), just in time to inaugurate the Wonder your ordered built before you left (and hopefully carrying enough resources to pay for it).

I'll post every part of the game in some order. As you are a producer, you get to peek ahead. PM me if you wish to. KT!

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gamejournal | by Dr. Radut