Ave Roma has been on my radar ever since I watched a Runthrough by Rhado. I backed it on Kickstarter the first time it was offered, when it was cancelled and then again the second time, which funded in 36 hours and then some. There are some unique mechanisms in this game from A-Games. I was very grateful to have the opportunity to interview the designer Attila Szogyi.
Attila: A-Games started releasing games in 2014. I was there from the beginning. First, we published the card game Dubab. In 2015, we made a step forward and released a bigger game called Piñata Party. Both games were a decent success and building on that we started planning to grow further and release children’s, family and gamer board games every year. Our mission is to support talented Hungarian board game designers, help to build the gaming community in our country and deliver games with great value.
Tim: How did you get started playing board games?
Attila: I started playing board games about 6 years ago when I tried to find something that our whole family could enjoy. Previously, we liked playing classic card games so somehow the board games came in. We played every Sunday at that time and I really enjoyed that. And from that a really interesting journey started for me.
Tim: Who are some of your favorite designers?
Attila: Stefan Feld, Uwe Rosenberg make games that are closer to my taste, but I respect every type of game, if I see the work behind it.
Tim: What made you want to design a game like Ave Roma?
Attila: To be honest, I was just optimistic and I thought I could make a board game. I like doing things that I don’t know yet… Above that, I like the theme and I started working on that. I know the end result is abstract and a fairly dry euro, but I started the development with a high amount of research about the theme and more importantly I checked hundreds of games and mechanics to learn. I hope it’s worth something.
Tim: Tell us the overall theme and objective of Ave Roma.
Attila: In this game, we are in ancient Rome as influential families throughout the centuries, and our goal is to be the most influential family at the end of the game. There are many tasks that you can do to achieve your quest. You may increase your income, raise buildings, or support wars. If you would like to, you may solicit patrons to help you. You can increase your political influence and/or area influence.
Tim: I am a huge fan of worker placement! One thing that enticed me to back Ave Roma on Kickstarter was the worker placement design. What is the worker placement like in Ave Roma and did any other games inspire you to reach the final version?
Attila: Basically, I tried to find something new, or at least partially innovative and different from other known worker placement mechanisms. All workers have a value from 1-5. The value gives you what you can do on a particular action area. On some actions the low values are good, other spots the high values, and somewhere specific numbers required. All workers have the same color, so here you don’t own any of the workers, it changes throughout the game what workers you can use. All of you start with 1,2,3,4 and 5, but from the first refill phase it will probably mix up. And because of this, you have to think ahead further.
Tim: Along with worker placement, I also love multiple paths to victory. There seems to be many things to do in Ave Roma, can you tell us the different avenues you can use to be successful in Ave Roma.
Attila: There are many things that you can do and you have several ways to score victory points. You can get or trade goods, buy/create buildings, support wars, buy patrons to get help, get political influence or area influence and more. You can try to do only 1-2 thing or all at the same time.
Tim: What part of Ave Roma was the most challenging to design? What was the process behind making it refined?
Attila: I think balancing is always challenging. You change a bit and it can cause several issues in the whole game, especially if it is a complex game. We have tested it a lot (for years), and still I know it can never be perfect.
Tim: What is your personal favorite thing about Ave Roma?
Attila: The worker placement mechanism. I think that is what makes the game unique in a way.
Tim: I noticed there are quite a few modules for Ave Roma that can be added or left out, how do they add to the overall game play?
Attila: Yes, because of the Kickstarter we were able to produce 5 smaller expansions for the game. They are fully independent from the base game and can be used as you like. I like to say, these expansion are just giving you more variation and more ways to score points. What you prefer. You can add just one, two or all the 5. You can play the basic game with none or with some of the expansions as a medium difficulty game or you can make it as heavy as you like.
Tim: Ave Roma really stands out on the table with the circular board. What made you want to make a circular board than the traditional rectangle board?
Atilla: There was a time when there was a half circle Senate on the board, also the Colosseum. At a point I thought it would be cool and practical to have a round board. And it worked, also the testers liked it, so I kept this form.
Tim: How does Ave Roma lend itself to multiple plays?
Attila: I think the replay value is high as the game can be won with several type of strategy. The randomized cards give you different choices in every game as well. Also there is an advanced version in the rulebook, which again a different experience. If you have the expansions from Kickstarter, this replay value is even multiplied as you can play with the 5 expansions in any combination with the base game.
Tim: What other games are in store for A-Games in the future?
Attila: Currently we have 3 other titles. Dudab, Pinata Party, RoboRace (our latest release). All of these are from our family game line. We would like to keep it this way in the future too, having all sorts of games on our palette. Card games, family games and gamer games.
For the next year we are planning 4 new releases. Of course it can change, but currently we plan 2 gamer games in the first half of 2017 and 2 family games (1 card game) before October.
Tim: When you have time for yourself to play games, what game do you play?
Attila: I play with any type of game. I mean really almost any type. We rarely play with the same game more times; we like to try new games every time. Of course, if you are a designer or working in the board gaming community it is essential. We play from the most simple child games to the most complex gamer games. Of course I enjoy the worker placement, resource management games the most.
I want to thank Attila for taking the time out of his busy schedule to do this interview. I will be reviewing Ave Roma soon on the blog, so keep an eye out for it in the near future.