Donning The Purple is a game where you and up to two others vie for victory points by being the most successful Emperor of Rome. You’ll need to destroy Barbarian hordes, feed the citizens and keep control of the senate, all whilst fending off the long knives of your rivals looking to usurp the throne.
The game can be backed on Kickstarter: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/332396604/634493568?ref=391030&token=13ec151e
Donning The Purple
From Tompet Games, this Euro game is full of theme, tension, and great components. We played a prototype version of the game, so everything you see here is not necessarily final production, but if it were anything similar to what we played with I’d be happy. The artwork on the cards is original, the board is very clear, and the playing pieces are good quality.
One of the players will be the Emperor, whilst the other are pretenders, attempting to assassinate the Emperor and wrest control of the senate and the grand armies of the Empire. As the Emperor, you have the ability to rake in a significant amount of victory points that the other players cannot get. However, that type of reward comes with a lot of added responsibility. Only you can control, and create the legions for the Army to be able to fend off the raiding barbarian hordes, only you can build aqueducts to avoid famine, and only you can choose a new heir.
But don’t worry, you wont be doing it for too long, because the lure of those precious VP’s will encourage the other players to plot your demise, take the throne and try to do a better job.
The game is divided into a few phases: The barbarian hordes invade, and are placed in regions based on a die roll. They will then sweep through the land occupying farms, destroying precious buildings, and killing weaker armies. After this food is generated by farms free of barbarians and famine. It will never be enough to feed the people though, so you’ll need to let them go hungry, or spend your precious gold on importing grain – for a price.
After that a number of Event cards are pulled that will affect the game in a variety of ways. They involve natural disasters that kill troops or destroy buildings, in-fighting amongst the senate that might kill senators, spikes in the price of grain, or even an influx of wealth to the Emperor’s opposition. These add a lot of variables to the scene and can really hamper your reign as Emperor. The Event cards can feel a little swingy, but know that every Emperor will pull at least four of them each turn; so it’s not just you that is getting hosed.
Players will then take turns, starting with the Emperor, using their stamina tokens to take actions on their own player board. You’ll build estates to gain future tax money, monuments to gain abilities and VP’s, bribe senators, and fight barbarians all in the name of the Empire. You might even assassinate the Emperor, ascending the throne yourself – just remember to make sure you’re the next in line as the heir before doing so!
The game is very tense, as the core action taking mechanic (called stamina) is also your lifeline as well. An assassination attempt will involve a die roll, modified by any devious plot cards played. The result is then deducted from your unused stamina and put in your used stamina. When you have no unused stamina you succumb, and perish. This means the more actions you take, the closer you are to dying or being killed. Its possible to die of natural causes and rest assured: You will. This mini economy of actions vs. health is a really fun mechanic and very well designed. Every time you die you’ll take a -1 VP token. Whilst you want to avoid them at all cost, they are not unavoidable nor insurmountable.
The person at the end with the most VP’s wins. The game plays in an hour or less, especially with only two players, although I highly recommend it with the maximum player count of three. There are only four rounds, so the game does not overstay it’s welcome and this helps keep the hurt feelings from all the backstabbing and conniving to a minimum because the game isn’t a three hour investment of emotion! I love the short playing time. It means the game is knives-out immediately. The action between players is furious, fast and then, all of a sudden, and even before it seems time, it’s all over. When the dust settles the victor is determined, and then it’s time to play again: believe me, you’ll want to!
You can back the game on Kickstarter here: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/332396604/634493568?ref=391030&token=13ec151e