Time of Crisis: The Roman Empire in Turmoil, 235-284 AD is a hybrid wargame from GMT Games that uses many mechanics familiar to traditional Euro gamers such as deck-building to tell the story of the Crisis of the Third Century in the Roman Empire.

The game uses cards as the driver of actions that players can take by creating influence points. These influence points are used to build and move armies (Military), seat new governors and improve their standing in the provincial senates (Senate) and build good will and control public opinion (Populace). Therefore cards are a major part of the game.

The first expansion to the game called The Age of Iron and Rust adds 9 new cards to use and provides for new strategies and tools needed to become emperor. In this set of Action Points, I would like to cover a few of the new cards and show you how they are used and take a look at the solo Bot system that was added in the expansion.

In this first Action Point we will take a look at the very powerful Military card Spiculum.


The spiculum is a late Roman spear that replaced the pilum as the infantryman’s main throwing javelin around 250 AD. Scholars suppose that it could have resulted from the gradual combination of the pilum and two German spears, the angon and the bebra. As more and more Germans joined the Roman army, their culture and traditions became a driving force for change. The spiculum was better than the old pilum when used as a thrusting spear, but still maintained some of the former weapon’s penetrative power when thrown. It’s very cool that the designers added this card to the game as a direct homage to the historic setting of the game. It also makes sense how it is used in the game as a preemptive ranged strike on your enemies.

This new Military card is a nice addition to the game as it gives you a real advantage in your military actions if you are the attacker. The card costs 4 political points to purchase and is a very key advantage to any pretend emperor who is focused on gaining the throne through force of arms. Because of its high cost though you most likely won’t be able to afford it until at least round 3 or 4 as you will be trying to place your governors in new provinces and increasing their support level so that you generate more political points to be used to improve your deck through card buys.

The card is very easy to use as it provides 4 influence points that can be used to add new Legions to your forces (red points equal to the number of Legions in your army after you add a Legion) or train weakened Legions (1 red point) move your Legions into position to attack your enemies (1 red point per region you move into) and to initiate battle (1 point). But in addition to the influence points created, you can play the event anytime during your turn.

In the above picture, the green player plays Spiculum to move an army from Galatia, which is two provinces to the east (2 red points), to Thracia and to initiate a battle (1 red point) with the red player’s Legions located in the provincial capital. This will leave 1 red point that could be used to move another army one province, create an army if they have an available general in their Available Leaders box or train a Legion by flipping it from it’s reduced side to it’s full strength side, even to the army participating in this very battle after it is finished. And the event is going to be used after battle is initiated but before the dice are rolled. I told you it was a great advantage. Powerful!

In the picture above you can see that the defender (red player) has a Militia and 2 full strength Legions defending the capital while the attacker (green player) has 3 full strength Legions. The green player has the advantage but this is a bit of a risky attack as his edge is only very slight. But, before dice for the battle are rolled, the green player uses their Spiculum event and preemptively throws their javelins by rolling 2d6 and inflicting hits on 3+. As you can see, the rolls are good with a 5 and 4 which will inflict two hits to the defenders. The defender decides to eliminate the lone Militia (as it can only take one hit and hits only on a 5+) and begrudgingly absorbs the final hit by flipping one of his full strength Legions to its reduced side which weakens it considerably as his to hit number falls from a 3+ to a woeful 5+. One other thing of note. I didn’t mention the “exploding 6’s” in this game’s combat system because I didn’t roll any but if you roll a 6 on any combat, you get an additional bonus dice to roll that can inflict another hit. And guess what? If you roll another 6 with the bonus dice, you will hit and earn an additional bonus dice. Talk about choice! Now comes the battle which has now flipped in the favor of the attacking green player.

Dice are rolled with the defender rolling 2d6 needing a 3+ to hit for the full strength Legion and a 5+ for the reduced Legion. The green player’s Legions are full strength and roll 3d6 needing 3+ to hit. In the below pic you can see that the green player rolls well with a 4, 3 & 3 scoring 3 hits while the defender rolls poorly only hitting with its 5. The 4 would have hit in a normal battle if the Spiculum wouldn’t have been used but because it scored a hit it reduced the Legion making it’s to hit more difficult!

The battle is won by the green player as they scored 3 hits during the battle compared to the defender’s 1 hit. This will result in the green player gaining 2 Legacy (or VP) and the red player’s force being totally wiped out. The 2 hits with the Spiculum event inflicted before the battle don’t factor into the total hits to determine a battle winner but softened up the defender by eliminating one unit, thereby taking away a d6 roll needing a 5+ to hit from the Militia and increasing the number needed to hit from 3+ to 5+ for the reduced Legion. A big swing in a close battle that could have had a much different result. From this you can see the power of this new Spiculum card from The Age of Iron and Rust expansion for Time of Crisis. And there are even cooler cards we will take a look at.

In the next Action Point, we will take a look at two cards, the Senate card Triumph and the Populace card Demagogue.

If you are interested, you can read our written review posted in September 2017 for Time of Crisis: The Roman Empire, 235-284 AD and our designer interview with Wray Ferrell and Brad Johnson for The Age of Iron and Rust expansion.