In Solitaire Caesar the player will attempt to replicate the rise and fall of the Roman Empire from 350BC to 1453AD. The game is fairly simple in its rules overhead as well as the different pieces that the player can control but was designed as an introductory wargame covering one of the greatest Empires in the World’s history. Players will lead Legions around the map, taking Cities, conquering Provinces to build up additional Cities and protecting against the continual onslaught of Barbarian tribes from all directions of the compass. Each turn the player will score Victory Points from controlling cities and will track those throughout the various scenarios or full play campaign attempting to replicate or even do better than the historical result.
In this series of Action Points we will take a look at the map and examine the differences between Civilized, Wild and Wilderness Provinces, look at the Roman Phase and how the player raises Legions, invades Provinces and builds Cities, examine the Barbarian Phase and the differences between Civilized and Uncivilized Barbarians and how they move and attack and finally we will cover the Optional Rules and some simple strategies.
Tour of the Map
The map used in the game is a simplified area movement configuration of the Roman Empire at its height stretching from Hispania in the west to the Near East including Mesopotamia, Palestine and Babylon in the east, the whole of North Africa on the bottom edge of the map with cities/regions such as Egypt, Carthage and Cyrene identified and to the north including Scandinavia, Germania, Gaul and Britain. The map consists of Provinces that are linked by Lines of Communication in the form of different colored dotted lines with arrows.
You might look at the map and wonder a few things such as where is the rise and fall of other civilizations during the same period and why don’t you have to interact with them? It appears to me that the designer simply took a 30,000′ view of the Empire and stripped the map down first to its purest representation of the region. I am by no means an expert on ancient Roman history but it seems that the Lines of Communication used capture the main invasion routes of the Barbarians to the various areas of the Roman Empire. We will discuss this a bit later during our look at the Barbarian Phase but you can in some ways game this system by trying to guess where the Barbarians will be coming onto the map by reading the turn track. Some might think this is cheating but remember that each turn is 100 years and Rome had many eyes and ears in the provinces who were keen to the intentions and moods of the Barbarian tribes and would have at least some inkling of where trouble was brewing.
Different Types of Provinces
As you look at the map, you will notice that there are several different type of colored text used on the names listed. There are four general types of Provinces identified on the map as follows:
Civilized (Red) – these are the most common of the Provinces and lend themselves to building cities.
Remote (White) – these Provinces are located further from civilized areas and cities cost more to be built in them. There are nine Remote Provinces including Britain, Belgica, Rhaetia, Dacia, Moesia, Armenia, Albania, Babylon and Mauretania.
Wilderness (Black) – these Provinces are on the board to represent staging areas where Barbarians simply move through on their way to the borders of the Empire. Cities cannot be built in these Provinces.
Wild (Gold) – these Provinces are identifiers for where Barbarian invasions commence after being determined at the start of the Barbarian Phase. Cities cannot be built in these Provinces and Roman Legions cannot enter them. There are five of these Wild Provinces including Nord, Steppe, Parthia, Arabia and Berber.
Provinces are either considered friendly or hostile and will effect whether the Roman Legions can move through them to reach other Provinces or must first stop to put down the locals and make the Province friendly. Connecting the Provinces are Lines of Communication.
Lines of Communication
There are two types of Lines of Communication identified on the map including Sea and Land. The type of Line of Communication only effects Barbarian fighting strength. The Sea LoC’s are colored Blue and Land LoC’s are Orange. If a Barbarian tribe moves into a city via a Blue LoC, their fighting strength will be reduced in the form of a Dice Roll Modifier (DRM) of -1. This can make a huge difference in these battles as the roll is typically a 50/50 thing where a Legion will be removed on a roll of 4-6 but with the -1 DRM would require a 5 or 6 to remove a Legion. These areas can be used as a major speed bump and I always try to have at least one Legion in these type of coastal cities as the Empire shrinks.
Sequence of Play
As we round out our trip around the map, we come to the handy dandy Sequence of Play printed directly on the map. I find that I enjoy solo games much more when this is printed directly on the map for easy reference. Having to go back and forth to the rulebook for each and every turn can be a bit tiring but this game has it all right there on the map.
Solitaire Caesar is an entry level solitaire wargame that attempts to replicate the rise and fall of the entire width and breadth of the Roman Empire covering nearly 2,000 years of history. As you can imagine, there is a lot to cover over that history and this game doesn’t dive into many of the aspects of this great civilization but is really focused on the invading Barbarians and trying to hold them off for as long as possible. The game actually extends into the 15th century but the early rise of Rome and fall of the West is the most exciting period of the game as there is quite a bit to do and the Empire is still producing Talents to spend on arming new Legions and building Cities. But then the inevitable invasions come and the game changes to one of simply surviving as you try to scratch out a few meager Victory Points each round. The final few rounds of the game can be very depressing as you are not able to replace your lost Legions and you will see your cities be overtaken one by one until there are only a few left. I actually enjoyed hanging on to the bitter end just to see if I could do it. This game is simple. Simple fun and shouldn’t be taken too seriously from a deep gaming perspective. There are some optional rules that add a lot of flavor that you can add in once you get comfortable with the base game but overall this one is a good solid game that requires the player to use some strategy, guile and a bit of luck to hang on.
In Action Point 2 we will take a look at the Roman Phase and how the player raises Legions, invades Provinces and builds Cities.