Agricola, Master of Britain is a solitaire wargame that focuses on the struggle of the Roman Legions led by Gnaeus Julius Agricola the Roman Proconsul of Britain from 77 to 85 AD. Agricola spent his time in country as Proconsul attempting to pacify the Britains, consolidate Roman occupation, and subdue the various tribes. The game is designed to allow the player an opportunity to attempt to take on the role of Proconsul and apply military, diplomatic, and economic power to achieve these goals. The player must use their available Legions to attack tribes in outright revolt and then use more subtle tactics and bribery against others to conquer all resistance to allow for the Empire in Rome to prosper. The game uses a 3 Chit-Pull Cup system that represents different levels of allegiance of the different tribes on the island. Each action taken by the player will cause a chain reaction in these cups, either positively or negatively for the Romans. The player must build the right units, investing in infrastructure in the form of Garrisons and Settlements, and build a victory point engine to accrue the required VP’s to meet the expectations of the Flavians and your allies in Britain.
In this series of Action Points we will take of tour of the mapsheet becoming familiar with the various Legionary Camps which serve as staging areas and tribal boundaries and discuss the Roman Legions and how they compare to the game’s 16 different tribes, investigate how the 3 Chit-Pull Cup system works and how the player can manipulate the cups to their advantage, review the Roman Actions that can be taken to accomplish the subjugation of Roman Britain and the special Leader Actions if the Agricola counter is located with the Legion performing the actions, take a look at an example of a Battle and take a look at a few functions that make up the Housekeeping Phase including Raids on Settlements and Forts, Tribal De-escalation, Romanization, Levy new Auxiliaries, Build Public Works and finally score Victory Points.
The mapsheet is an 8 1/2″ x 11″ piece of glossy paper that represents Brittania during the time of Agricola (77-85 AD). There are 19 boxes represented on the map that all have a different and critical function for gameplay. There are also several other large boxes that serve an administrative function.
A full 16 of these boxes are referred to as the Tribal Boxes and represent the presence of various tribes that inhabited Britannia including British, Welsh and Scottish Tribes. Each Tribal Box is identified with the name of a tribe above the box that is generally where those tribes historically were active. There also is a number printed on the side of some of these Tribal Boxes that is referred to as the Leader Placement Number.
You will also notice that there are nearby groups of these Tribal Boxes that are the same color. This color identifies these Tribal Boxes as a Region and will be used for scoring purposes. There are four of these Regions with the colors of Blue, Orange, Green and Red. The Blue Region is located on the southeast part of Britannia and contains the Catuvellani, Iceni, Corieltavvi and Dubunni Tribes. The Orange Region is located on the western edge of the island and contains the Silures, Demetae, Ordovices and Deceangli Tribes. This is the Region that the Roman player will typically start quelling with their Legions first. The Green Region is located in the center of the island and contains the Cornovvi, Parisi, Brigantes and Votadini Tribes. Finally, the Red Region is located in the north and contains the Damoni, Venicones, Taexali and Caledonii Tribes.
The remaining 3 Boxes on the map are the Legionary Camps that act as the home base for the players three different Legions. The player controls the Legio IX Hispania located at Eboracum, the Legio Vigesima Valeria Victrix XX located at Deva Victrix and the Legio Augusta II located at Isca Augustus.
In addition to the various Boxes, you will also see various lines that connect the Boxes on the mapsheet. These are called Movement Lines and Boxes that are connected with these Movement Lines are considered adjacent to each other. There are also double lines called Double Movement Lines which represent the Roman road networks and interior lines and allow for faster movement.
Also located on the map are various larger boxes that assist the player in tracking various functions during game play. At the top of the mapsheet is the Legion Actions Track and the Income Track. The Legion Actions Track is a way to mark the the number of Actions that the player will get to take during that turn with their Legions. Each Action serves a different purpose and we will explore them more in Action Point 3. As an action is used a marker is simply slid down the Track. The Income Track takes care of marking the amount of coin that the player can spend performing certain tasks such as building Public Works in the form of Settlements which will generate additional coin for the player to spend or to bribe Tribes to negotiate a cease of hostility. Building Income is quite important and will be a major focus of the players efforts during the first few turns of the game.
Next on the mapsheet is the Victory Track where the player will track their current Victory Points. At the end of each turn, the player must meet or exceed a printed VP threshold found on the Game Turn Record Track (pictured below) or immediately lose the game. Keeping track of your VP, as well as how many VP you expect to receive each round based on your situation is very important. A careless Roman Proconsul will fail in their effort to quell the rebellion in Britain if they are not aware of this track.
A large focus of the game is on building a Victory Point engine that will provide VP each round and aid the player in meeting their goals. This VP engine will be built through a process of placing Garrison units in conquered Tribe Boxes, and then on subsequent turns, spending coin to build a Settlement and then to improve that Settlement. These Settlements will produce VP only at their highest level and these must be built as quickly as possible. Other VP will come from defeating Tribal Leaders and keeping Regions free of any Tribal units.
Now that we have covered the mapsheet, and you are familiar with its layout and function, we will take a look at the Roman Legions and how they compare to the game’s 16 different tribes.
The players controls 3 different Legions as explained above and has Legionary Units that represent their location on the mapsheet.
The Legionary Units are easily identified as they have the Legion Number, in the form of Roman numerals, printed in large font right at the top of the counter. Located in the middle of the counter is the aquila (eagle standard) and the Legion’s name listed at the bottom. While these Legionary Units don’t give any indication of their combat strength or number of units, the player keeps track of the units under the command on the Battle Board.
At the bottom of the Battle Board are the Legion Holding Boxes. Here is where the player will know what units they have at their disposal as they move around the mapsheet and fight the Tribes. Drawn in the middle of each Legion Holding Box is a symbol of the Legion and the name of the Legion at the top.
At setup, the player is instructed to place various Units in each Legion Holding Box. Lets take a look at the starting Units and give you some insight into the symbols and numbers shown on each of the counters. There are three numbers on each counter and they represent the Unit’s Quality, Attack Factor and Defense Factor.
The Quality represents the experience and discipline of the Unit and is shown by either 1, 2 or 3 aquila symbols in the upper left hand corner of the counter. The Attack Factor is the Unit’s basic ability to attack and is the top number on the right side of the counter. This number will range from 2-3. The final number is the Defense Factor and is the Unit’s basic ability to defend against attacks from the Tribes. This number is the bottom number on the right side of the counter and ranges from 4-6.
Legio Augusta II starts with 3 1-aquila Units. These Units have a 2 Attack Factor and a 4 Defense Factor and are your weakest units. Shown in the picture above are the Tribal Auxiliary Units that are drawn randomly from the Friendly Cup and added to the Legions. At setup, the player will drawn 4 of these Units and add them to their Legions as they see fit. These Auxiliary will attack along side the Legions and have an Attack Factor of 2-3 and a Defense Factor of 4.
Legio IX Hispania starts with 1 1-aquila Unit and 2 2-aquila Units that comprise its forces. These 2-aquila Units are quite a bit better than your 1-aquila Units as they have a higher Attack Factor and Defense Factor.
Finally, your cream of the crop. Legio XX Veleria Victrix starts with 2 2-aquila Units and a 3-aquila Unit. The difference between the 2 and 3-aquila Units is only +1 Defense Factor but I will tell you that makes them very hard to kill and serves you very well in the game as you typically are outnumbered and will have to defend against at least 2 Units more often than not.
The player can use a Leader Action and have Agricola Reorganize Legions by moving Units between Legion Holding Boxes as they take losses but the Units to be moved must be located in the same Box or must be adjacent using the Movement Lines or Double Movement Lines. The player must also keep balance in their Legions as they cannot have any one Legion with 3 times as many Legionary Battle Units as any other. Auxiliaries are also limited as you can only have 2 Auxiliaries per Legionary Battle Unit in any given Legion. One of the best parts of the game is this dance of having to move Units back and forth and manage your location to maximize your impact on the battle field.
The Tribal Units that the player will fight during a Battle are called Tribal Battle Units and are gray as compared to the Blue, Orange, Green or Red Tribal Units that can be hired into your armies after they are friendly towards the Romans. The Tribal Battle Units have two sides to their counters, one that is simply gray and the other that has a red outline. These are used in a special Battle called Mons Graupius, which will be a very tough Battle for the Romans if they are not prepared. These Tribal Battle Units are stored in a draw cup of their own and are randomly drawn out at the outset of a Battle based upon a few factors that we will cover in a later Action Point.
This game is a fairly simple yet very interesting exercise in managing your scarce resources, building an economic engine to create income to build more Public Works and hire additional troops and also build your Victory Points. I have found my plays of the game are each different as you will be subject to the randomness of the cup draw, but I like this aspect as you can actually mitigate this damage by planning, taking actions that benefit your management of your enemies and do those things that will ultimately aid you in building your empire in Britannia.
In Action Point 2, we will investigate how the 3 Chit-Pull Cup system works and how the player can manipulate the cups to their advantage.