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 Action Point 1, we took a tour of the map and examined the differences between Civilized, Wild and Wilderness Provinces. In this Action Point, we will first take a look at the Turn Track and the set number of Talents the player will receive each round and then look at the Roman Phase and the various actions the player can take including Raise Legions, Move those Legions to invade Provinces and conduct Roman Combat and Build Cities.
Turn Track and Roman Income
Before we get into the bulk of the focus of this Action Point, I wanted to explain to you about how the player will gain Income each round and take a look at the layout of the Turn Track.
The Turn Track is a guide to provide the player the information needed to carry out the actions of the Romans during the Roman Phase as well as the Barbarians during the Barbarian Phase. The Turn Track is broken down into 4 different areas of information for each year listed. First is the Turn information including the turn number listed on the far right side of the box in parenthesis. Below that is the Income information where the player is informed how many Talents will be gained this round. The final two boxes are information that is used during the Barbarian Phase including in what Province that the highest die rolled Barbarian Wave will be placed and what Provinces if rolled will represent Civilized Barbarians.
The main part of the Turn Track that I want to focus on this post is the Income box. As you can see from the closeup below, the Roman player will receive a grand total of 5 Talents during Turn 1. This is not a lot and will only allow the player to purchase 2-3 Legions to be used in conquering the Provinces around Rome to begin the process of building a Victory Point engine. Each Legion costs 1 Talent while building a City in a Civilized Province costs 2 Talents and in a Wild Province costs 3 Talents. The setup starts the game with 12 Cities on the map located in Hispania, Cisalpine, Sicily, Carthage, Greece, Rhodes, Asia, Cilicia, Egypt, Syria, Palestine and Mesopotamia. The problem is that these Cities are not under Roman Control and therefore will not provide Victory Points to the player. The player must build Legions and move them out to begin the process of dominating the region by conquering the existing Cities.
Income is the pinch point in the expansion of the Empire and will be the means of great concern for the player. It takes a few turns for the Income to increase significantly but as early as Turn 3, the player will earn 12 Talents, which continues only for 2 Turns before beginning to decrease over the next 4 Turns before there is an upsurge in Turn 9 followed by alternating ups and downs. It is important to, “make hay while the sun shines” so during Turn 3 and 4, it is now the time to go for it and expand as much as possible.
The Roman Phase is where the player gets to do all their main business, which includes Raising Legions, invading Provinces and building Cities. The Roman Phase starts off though with a Build Random City Sub Phase.
Build Random City Sub Phase
The player consults the Random City Table pictured above which is located on the Player Reference Card. The player will roll 2d6, using the first number rolled for the column and the second number rolled for the row. I like to use a red and blue die to perform this step as it makes it easier. In our example, the player rolls a 5 for the column and a 4 for the row, which equates to Cilicia. If the rolled Province does not currently contain a City, the player will place a City counter in the space. This can be either an enemy Province or a friendly Province if a Control Marker was placed their previously after the Province was conquered. If friendly, the City doesn’t cost any Talents to build and will be controlled by the Roman. If it is an enemy Province, the City is placed and the Roman player will have to march a Legion in to conduct combat.
If the rolled Province already contains a City, then nothing happens and this step is over. If the Province is inhabited by a Barbarian Army, whether Civilized or Uncivilized, this doesn’t prohibit a City from being placed. Early on in the game you will find that this step doesn’t place many Cities as you already have Cities starting in most of the named Provinces at setup. But, as your Empire begins to contract and crumble to the invading Barbarians, you will find that this step gains a new City on the map that you simply have to eye and invade to control without paying the usual 2 or 3 Talents to build. You will hate this step at first and come to love it near the end. Next, we move to the Generate Income Sub Phase.
Generate Income Sub Phase
We already covered this topic in the paragraphs above so I will not go over the process again here but will give you my thoughts on this part of the game. The Turn Track can be your friend in that it gives you a look ahead into the future of the Empire and what challenges you might be facing. You can see your Income for the next few turns and plan accordingly. You also can see where the Barbarians will most likely come from by consulting the Highest Die row and the Civilized row. This will give you insight into what areas are ripe for invasion and where you might need to beef up. I like to think about this Turn Track as a form of Oracle who can divine the future and give me guidance, although a bid vague, that will help to form my choices and decisions.
For example, if I know that my Income will be low for a few turns, I tend to try and build more Cities during the turn before the Income level falls. Don’t get me wrong though. I don’t just build without a plan though. If I don’t believe I will have enough Legions to defend the Lines of Communication between these Cities, I won’t spend my money on Cities just to see them burn and be removed by those hostile Uncivilized Barbarians but will instead invest in defense by Raising a few extra Legions. If the Barbarians in certain areas might end up being Civilized, I will maybe build a few Cities in that area as they won’t be destroyed by these type of invaders.
The final important part to know about the Income Sub Phase is that you cannot save Talents over from one turn to the next so spending them all is important. If you have a few Talents left, and have accomplished what you wanted to with building of Cities, consider simply buying a few extra Legions to place strategically around the map. Now let’s see how you can spend those Talents in the Conduct Roman Actions Sub Phase.
Roman Actions Sub Phase
Building Cities and Legions, moving those Legions around the map, and then attacking enemy Provinces are actions which can take place in any order the player wishes in this sub phase. For example, a player can purchase a few Legions, placing them in friendly Roman controlled Cities, move an existing Legion to join up with the recently purchased Legions, then move that stack of Legions to invade and attack an enemy Province, build a City in that recently sacked and now controlled Province, and then purchase another few Legions to move against another enemy Province across the Mediterranean, etc. Let’s now take a look at each of these actions.
Build Cities and Raise Legions
Legions and Cities can be built in any friendly Province. Legions cost the player 1 Talent per Legion. Cities cost 2 Talents to build in Civilized Provinces (remember these are red on the map) and 3 Talents to build in Remote Provinces (white on the map). Cities cannot be built in Wilderness (black) or Wild Provinces (Gold). Newly purchased Legions can be moved on the turn they are placed into a friendly Province and there is no limit to how many Legions can occupy one province or be built each turn. The only exception being if you cannot afford to pay the 1 Talent cost to build.
A Province can only contain 1 City so in order to build new Cities the player will be forced to move around the map and invade and conquer Provinces. This is easier said than done though as you will find that you cannot necessarily gain the advantage on your attacks and it comes down to a 50/50 roll, unless of course you add in some of the Optional Rules which we will cover in a later Action Point.
Legions, including newly raised Legions, can move from Province to Province as many times as the player wants each turn. There are the following restrictions thought to movement. A Legion can only be moved from Province to Province linked by a Line of Communication. If the Legion moving from a friendly Province would leave no Legions in that Province, the player should place a Control Marker to denote it is friendly.
Here is an example of what I am trying to convey. A Legion in Asia located in a Roman controlled City wishes to move to Syria where there is another Roman controlled City. The Legion will need to follow the Lines of Communication connecting through Cilicia to get there (here it is not important why the Legion wants to get there, maybe they are interested in the sunny Syrian beaches on the Eastern Mediterranean for some well deserved R&R). But there is a problem. The Province of Cilicia is not friendly and will stop the movement of the Legion. You might also ask whey they don’t north through Pontus, down through Armenia to Syria. But, this LoC has a similar problem as Armenia is not friendly.
In order for the Legion to move through the LoC to Syria, it will first have to fight the enemy Province. A Legion can be moved from a friendly Province linked by a Line of Communication to a hostile Province. The Legion moves to the enemy Province and immediately initiates combat.
When a Province is unoccupied, which being defined is that there is no City or Barbarian Army located in that Province, the Legion will roll a single 6-sided die. On a roll of 1-5 the Province is conquered and becomes friendly. If the Legion rolls a 6, the Legion is eliminated and the Province will remain a hostile Province. Think of this action as a Roman Legion being harassed or ambushed by the occupants of the Province who are not trained soldiers. Easy to kill but there is a chance they will land a lucky blow and defeat the Legion.
Once the Province is conquered, the player will place a Control Marker in the Province to signify that it is friendly and can be built in later in this turn, or now if the player so chooses and can pay the cost of 2 Talents. The Legion can now continue to move to its destination of Syria as the Line of Communication now connects two friendly Provinces. Now let’s take a look at the different types of combat situations.
Conduct Roman Combat
There are 4 possible situations that lead to combat when a Legion occupies a hostile Province. There also is no difference between a Civilized and Uncivilized Barbarian Army during combat. Each of the types are treated the same in combat and only differ during their movement and attacks, which we will cover in the next Action Point.
Unoccupied Province – we covered this in the example of movement above.
Province Containing only a City – when the Province a Legion is moving into contains only a City, with no Barbarian Army in the Province, the player will roll a single 6-sided die. On a roll of 1-4 the Province is conquered and the City is captured becoming friendly. If the Legion rolls a 5 or 6, the Legion is eliminated and the Province will remain a hostile Province.
Province Containing only a Barbarian Army – when the Province contains only a Barbarian Army and there is no City in the Province, the player will roll a single 6-sided die. On a roll of 1-3 the Barbarian Army is defeated and the Province becomes friendly.
The Barbarian Army counter is removed and the player may place a Control Marker. On a roll of 4-6 the Legion is eliminated and the Province will remain a hostile Province with the Barbarian Army still in place.
Provinces Containing Both a City and Barbarian Army – this is the most involved part of combat but is really very simply as well. When the Provinces contains a City and a Barbarian Army, the player will roll a single 6-sided die. On a roll of 1-3 the Barbarian Army is defeated and removed. On a roll of 4-6, the Legion is eliminated and the Province remains a hostile Province.
If the Barbarian Army is removed, roll another d6. On a roll of 1-4 the Province is conquered and the City is captured becoming friendly. On a roll of 5-6 the Legion is eliminated and the Province remains a hostile Province with a City in it.
Pretty simple and I know that many of you will say too simple! I will say this before I wrap this post up. The game is not about combat. If you wish to play a game with the intricacies of Roman combat, I would suggest a game like SPQR from GMT Games. Solitaire Caesar will not be the game for you unfortunately. The game is more about the management of the Empire over a 2,000 year period and staving off invasion after invasion to remain a relative civilization and to score Victory Points meeting a threshold compared against history. The joy of the game is in planning, defending your Empire, falling back and consolidating Legions at a choke point that you know any Barbarian invasion must come down to get at the heart of the Empire Rome. The rise and fall as you will see ups and downs. Sometimes, you will also realize that you have no hope of defending your few remaining Cities as your Legions have been decimated and you are facing a 10 Army Barbarian stack (in this case you would have been very unlucky and rolled high on two dice that also were placed in the same starting Wild Province) from the north dead set on invading the boot of Rome. You will not be able to stop them, but you might be able to hold out until during the next round you are set to gain 8 Talents and can buy several new Legions to mount a passable defense to make it a few hundred more years. This is not a tactical level skirmish game. Just remember that as you sit there in judgement on this one.
But never fear. As I mentioned there are some Optional Rules that give you more of a skirmish type game with the powerful Emperor Legion, the Skilled General, things like Donatives where you can use your scarce Talents to encourage your troops to greater heights, Bribery to get rid of a tough stack of Barbarians and regain a City. There is hope for you who seek after this type of experience….so don’t get off this train just yet. I promise you it will be worth the ride!
In Action Point 3, we will examine the Barbarian Phase and the differences between Civilized and Uncivilized Barbarians and how they move and attack along their invasion routes.