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[Review] Glory to Rome

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Joined: 03/23/2011

I read the rules for Glory to Rome (Cambridge Games Factory, 2005 - Ed Carter and Carl Chudyk) and had no idea of how the game worked. I played through about 10 turns of the game and still didn't have a clue; the game was that detailed, much more than I ever would expect from an independent game company. However, halfway through my first game, everything suddenly "clicked". Still, several games later, I'm learning new nuances of the game, but at least I know what's going on!

Playing it with a group of "gamers" is best, because Glory to Rome is without a doubt an involved Eurogame - I would almost classify it as "heavy". It has a steep learning curve but offers a huge amount of options each turn. All that being said, it's an extremely fun, involved game with several paths to victory and is quickly becoming one of my favorite new games I've played recently. It is certainly not a game to pull out in many circumstances, and takes a while to explain to new players, but is a very rewarding experience, and is full of one of my main requirements for a fun game - variety.

Glory to Rome is about the rebuilding of Rome after Nero burns it down, as players seek to be the ones who earn the most fame during the rebuilding of many of Rome's structures. Each player is given a "Camp" card, which acts as a reference card, and also forms four areas in front of the player: Their Influence (which starts at two), their Clientele (in which they can place cards equal to their influence), their Vault (again, can hold cards equal to a player's influence), and their Stockpile. Players also should keep an area clear where they can build new buildings. There are six different site cards (Marble, Stone, Wood, Rubble, Brick, and Concrete), and a pile of each is placed near the center of the table - each pile containing one card for each player in the game (maximum of five). A pile of "Order" cards is shuffled, and four are dealt to each player, along with one "Jack" card. The remainder of the Order cards are shuffled into a deck, with one card for each player flipped face up and placed into the "Pool" in the middle. The player's card which comes first alphabetically is the first player and is given the Leader card. Play begins with him and passes clockwise around the table.

To understand the game, one must realize that each Order card can act as three things. It can be a "Role" (Laborer, Craftsman, Legionary, Architect, Merchant, or Patron), a Material (that matches one of the six sites), or one of forty different buildings. A Jack can only be played as a "Role", but can be any of the six.

On a player's turn, they may either play one of their cards in front of them as one of the roles, or "think". Each other player, in order, may either play the same card and take the same action, or "think". Thinking allows a player to either take a discarded Jack into their hand, draw up to five cards, or draw one card (if they already have one card.) The roles allow players to take different actions:
- The Patron allows a player to take a card from the pool and add it to their clientele. On future turns, a player may take an action using their Clientele cards rather than playing one. For example, if another player leads with a Laborer card, and I have one in my Clientele, I can simply use that one instead of wasting one from my hand. Alternatively, a player can play a card from their hand AND use their Clientele cards to take the action twice (or more!).
- The Laborer allows a player to take a card from the pool and add it to their Stockpile as a material.
- The Merchant allows a player to take a card from their Stockpile and store it face down in their vault.
- The Legionary allows a player to play another card from their hand as a material card. The may take one card from the middle that matches the card they played and stick it into their Stockpile. Also, the players on either side of them must also give them a material that matches that type, unless they have none - in which case they say "Glory to Rome". After putting all cards received in the Stockpile, the player retrieves the card that they played as a material card.
- The Craftsman card allows one of two things. The player may play a card from their hand as a new building, placing it in their building area with a foundation that matches the material type of that building. If no foundation of that type is available, a player may not build a building with that material. OR, a player may add a material card from their hand to one of their unfinished buildings. When a building is finished (each material requires one to three cards of that type to finish, which is shown on the card), then the player places the foundation card in their Influence area, to show that their influence has increase by one to three points. The player can then also use the special powers of that building.
- The Architect card is identical to the Craftsman card, with the exception of the fact that when adding material to a building, it must come from the Stockpile instead of the player's hand.

After all players have taken the action, all cards played are placed in the pool, except Jacks, which are placed to the side for people to draw if they wish. The Leader card is passed to the next player, who begins the next round. Play continues until either the draw deck runs out, all the Site cards have been used, one player builds the Catacomb building, or a player has won by building the Forum (alternate victory conditions). Unless the Forum's victory conditions have been met, all players total their victory points. Cards in the vault are revealed, and the player with the most cards of each type receives a bonus chip. Players sum up their final scores by adding the value of each card in their vault (from one to three), three points for each bonus chip and points equal to their influence. Some buildings also give extra victory points. The player with the most victory points is the winner!

Some comments on the game…

1.) Components: The game is made up primarily of a huge stack of cards of decent quality, although I would have preferred round corners. The artwork on the cards is cartoonish but fits the theme well and adds a bit of flair to the game. Each of the different roles and material types is in a different color; and even though the cards hold more information than usual, they're fairly easy to tell apart. The chips aren't really necessary but are nice big plastic chips and help with final scoring. The Camp cards are helpful in slightly delineating each area that a player can place cards into, although I thought that a player mat would be quite helpful. After mentioning this to the company, they created one that is available at While not necessary, I found that the player aid did help several people understand exactly where to place each card. The entire game comes packaged in a plastic bag, which while functional, was not as convenient for me as a box, where I've since relocated the cards.

2.) Rules: My summary of the rules seems fairly simple, I suppose; but after going over the twenty-four page booklet, I was rather confused. Another twenty-four page booklet is included that explains in detail about the different buildings, but even with both rulebooks, I still had a few small questions that I emailed the designers about. The best way to learn Glory of Rome is to play it and assume that your first game will simply be a learning game. Players who have played similar role selection games such as San Juan will pick up on the game easier; but most people take a while to understand the mechanics, and others realize just how to play the game during final scoring. The game rules are a bit overwhelming, and it takes me about fifteen minutes to explain a game, using a lot of examples to do so; but the resulting experience is worth it. I'm not sure the rulebook is the best in the world, even though it includes several examples; but a nicer, updated one is available online.

3.) Strategy: The thing I enjoy most about Glory to Rome is how there are multiple paths to victory. A player can try to throw as many cards into the vault as possible, and indeed this will often produce the majority of a player's points. But a sneaky player might be able to build the Forum, which allows a player to win if they have a one Clientele of each type. And a player has so many options that it can be quite dizzying. Should you build small, easy buildings to increase your influence, allowing more Clientele? Which roles will you put in your clientele? Which buildings should you build? While there are lots of options, nothing ever really slows the game down, and the theme of the rebuilding of Rome actually comes through, as players see their group of buildings expand and grow.

4.) Buildings: With forty different buildings to build, a player has a multitude of options and choices. Examples of buildings and their effects are:
- The Market - Increases the size of a player's vault by two.
- School - Allows a player to "think" twice, drawing two cards.
- Shrine - Increases a player's maximum hand size by two.
- Wall - Gives a player a victory point at the end of the game for each two materials in their Stockpile.
- Palace - Allows a player to play multiple cards of the same type for multiple actions.
- Road - Allows a player to use any material when building stone structures.
The buildings can add a bit of chaos to the game - especially when a lot of them are built, but none of the powerful ones come cheaply; and deciding which to build can make a big difference. Some buildings are built simply so that their owner can increase their influence, while others are built simply to decrease the number of site cards, rushing the end of the game.

5.) Time: The rules say that the game takes about forty-five minutes, which is drastically too low in my opinion. Yes, if a player builds the Catacombs, they can end the game quickly; but a player will only do that if they are assured of victory, which I don't think is always easy to tell. Usually, my games (excluding explanations) have taken about 90 minutes or more; and even though players are involved each turn, I would in no way call the game short. Fortunately, as I just stated, downtime is almost nonexistent, as a player quickly takes an action, and then the next player, etc. One is always thinking about what they are going to do next.

6.) Interaction: There is a good deal of interaction in the game, as players can steal cards from the others via the Legionaries, steal buildings (by building a Prison), and taking cards moments before another player can. It's an intriguing game, and the fact that all the cards have three complete different functions helps keep things even more interesting. The interaction isn't too cutthroat, as the Legionary takes one card, at best, and a player has the chance to respond; but no one is going to call this game a "solitaire" variant.

7.) Fun Factor: For me, the fun factor in this game was high, simply because of the different choices I had each game. Yes, one is constrained slightly by the cards that they are dealt, but players have so many choices that every game I've seen so far will play out completely differently. The game plays slightly less smoothly than perhaps it could have - maybe it could have been more polished. However, I'm extremely pleased with the game and think that it's a solid, intriguing design.

Of all the games Cambridge Games Factory has produced, this one is by far their best work. It's complicated, to be sure, and will most likely only appeal to someone who's looking for a more complex game, but the payoff is tremendous. The components are doable, the strategies multiple, and the fun high. If you're looking for a role-selection game that offers a large variety of options, then I highly recommend Glory to Rome. Keep an eye on Cambridge Games Factory; if they produce more games like this one, snatch 'em up.

Tom Vasel
"Real men play board games"

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