Mare Nostrum: Empires from Academy Games is a sprawling epic battle where players build an Empire to try to rule the Mediterranean. Players will choose a country and starting Hero to wage war on the opposition and build up their economy and civilization in order to dominate the region. This type of game is usually not my cup of tea, but when we played it during International Tabletop Day, it really made an impression on me….both good and bad….
The part that I fell in love with in Mare Nostrum: Empires was the Political Tracks. At first I was like what point does this have? After about 3 turns, the light clicked on….and I realized that this element is fantastic. So when you lead in one of these political tracks, either Trade, Military or Cultural…..YOU get to decide what order players play in those phases. It makes a huge difference when trading to be able to go early to get some of the rarest goods (such as lumber), or to force an opponent to build or move his military before you so you can react to his choices. It is a fantastic mechanism that has been used in the design to enhance the turn order that can make a big difference. Not only that but you can force other empires to duke it out and just sit back and enjoy the show.
The game tends to lean toward the “turtling” concept of being the most effective way to win. There are a couple things that lead me to this conclusion….1.) Fortresses are just too easy to build. Only needing 3 different resources to build one is just too easy in my opinion. If they were the same price as the 6 cost trading tents, it would be a bit harder to build. The price wouldn’t bother me except for the reason that, 2.) it is pretty hard to overcome them. The fortresses automatically add 5 to your battle total for each attack and it also eliminates 1 hit in a battle. In order to win battle in a territory that has a fortress, you literally will have to commit a handful of armies to take one out. If someone has a fortress with 2 armies along with it….don’t even bother! If they only have one army, you better bring 4. Leaving the rest of your Empire ripe for the picking. Our group has played it 2 times now and the winner was the one who just sat still and made a defense that couldn’t be touched…..OH, and it has DICE combat…..which is something that I HATE and it HATES me too!