I have taken somewhat of a break from writing these little Action Points over the past 6 months but wanted to get back to them as I really enjoy writing them and sharing my thoughts on the game. A few years ago, I discovered a great solitaire game called The Wars of Marcus Aurelius from Hollandspiele that dealt with the Romans attempting to pacify Barbarian hordes from the north in the Danube provinces during the Marcomannic Wars in 170-180 AD. Now the designer has taken that system and applied it to another period in Roman history when the Goths and Vandals, as well as a pretender named Constantine, were assaulting Rome itself and one man was asked to defend her from her enemies. Flavius Stilicho was a high-ranking general who rose from humble beginnings to become one of the most powerful men in the Western Roman Empire. After many years of victories against a number of enemies, both barbarian and Roman, a series of political and military disasters finally allowed his enemies in the court of Honorius to remove him from power, culminating in his arrest and subsequent execution in 408. In Stilicho: Last of the Romans the player must survive these attacks from enemies both external and internal and quell all three advancing enemies.
In Action Point 1, we covered the Mapsheet focusing on the three Fronts down which your enemies advance, but also covering the different spaces and boxes that effect play such as the Olympius Track, Game Turn Track, Army Box, Leader Box and Recovery Box. In Action Point 2, we looked at the cards that drive the game and examined the makeup of both the Enemy Deck and the Roman Deck. In Action Point 3, we took a deeper look into the Roman Phase and examined how cards are discarded to take one of nine different actions. In this Action Point, we will take a look at a few examples of Battles and how they are resolved, including utilizing your pacified enemies against your raging enemies, a very cool addition to this game that should be considered before using.
Attacking an Enemy
Before we go into examples of Battles, let’s just review the overall procedure of the action. The Attack an Enemy Action allows one of your Armies to Attack the Enemy located on the Front associated with that specific Army Box. Remember, that in order to take the Attack an Enemy Action the player must first discard one card from their hand. The card that is being discarded to take this Action cannot be used for the Event text written on the card. The discard actually commences the Action and is the price paid for the Attack. Think of it as the logistical machinations of supply, commands from Generals ordering movement and localized leadership issuing the order. The player then simply adds up the strength of their attacking Army, playing any Event Cards to modify the Battle before rolling a die, and then comparing that to the total strength of the Enemy you are attacking modified by the Defense Value of the Terrain or the Unrest/Revolt Value of the Diocese where the attack is taking place and adding in a die roll. The process is very straightforward, but there are many elements to remember. The only other thing is the possible use of the Reserve Action to bolster your attack value.
The Reserve Action is a back up plan that happens after you have performed another action by rolling a die to determine its success and found the result lacking. The concept of this Reserve Action is that the Romans commit extra available troops held in reserve, additional money to grease the correct tribal palm or the use of political capital to swing the outcome in your favor. For each card discarded as a Reserve Action, +1 will be added to the already made die roll. You may discard as many cards as you feel you need to, adding +1 to the die roll for each card discarded. This Reserve Action may only be used to boost a few of the actions available including Attack an Enemy, Counter Olympius and Suppress Unrest or Revolt in provinces.
Now that you are reminded about how the Attack an Enemy Action works, let’s take a look at a few different examples to give you a better understanding of the process.
In our first example, let’s take a look at an attack by Stilicho on the Goths who have just entered Italia Annonaria, which is just a few spaces away from Roma. First, we have to identify which of our armies can attack the Goths as the we can only attack a Front associated with a specific Army Box. In the picture below, you will see that we have started this round with Stilicho at the head of the army located on the The Goths Front, which means that they can only attack the Goths and cannot attack any other Front this turn. As we examine Stilicho’s army, remember that each Comitatenses equates to 1 strength value and then is added together with the Attack Value of the leader at the head of the army to come up with the Army’s Attack Value. There are 6 Comtatenses with Stilicho who has an Attack Value of 2 so the Attack Value of the army is 8 (6 for the Comitatense + 2 for Stilicho’s Attack Value = 8). This number will be further modified by a die roll as well as any events played during the battle or Reserve Actions taken.
Next, let’s take a look at the situation in Italia Annonaria. The Goths occupy Aquileia and have a base Attack Value of 5, which is printed on the right side of the counter. This Attack Value is further modified by any Terrain Bonuses that the space provides as well as the Unrest/Revolt Value of the Diocese where the attack is taking place. We are fortunate in this case, as there is no Terrain Bonus and the Unrest/Revolt Value of the Diocese is just 1 as denoted by the Unrest counter shown in the space. This means that the Attack Value of The Goths is 6 (5 for printed Attack Value on counter + +1 for the 1 value Unrest counter in Italia Annonaria = 6).
Each side will now roll a d6 and add the result to their Attack Value to come up with the final Total Attack Value. In the picture below, we see that the Romans (red die) roll a 4 and The Goths (blue die) also roll a 4. This brings the Romans Total Attack Value to a 12 (8 Attack Value + 4 Die = 12 Total Attack Value) and The Goths to a 10 (6 Attack Value + 4 Die = 10 Total Attack Value). This results in a win for the Romans and The Goths are displaced from Aquileia and move back one space Tarsatica toward their Home Space. This was a very simply resulting Attack and just showed you the basics of the system. Now, let’s take it up a level to add in some of the other elements, such as card play, Reserve Actions and even to use your vanquished enemies against your active enemies.
The Army lead by Stilicho had some bad luck after their successful attack in Aquileia as they lost a battle against the Goths and lost one Comitatenses and also ran into a nasty Enemy Deck card called Troops Defect to Constantine III, which required a die roll and saw a one come up that caused the defection of 2 Comitatenses and moved them to the Recovery Box. These are the kind of troubles that the player will run into on a regular basis with the nasty Enemy Deck. This defection has reduced the Attack Value of the army from 8 to 5 and will make their job even tougher as they move on The Goths. Stilicho now decides to press the attack on The Goths and readies an attack into Tarsatica against a now more determined and tougher opponent as they are in familiar territory and know the land and how to use it to their advantage. The Unrest here in Illycrium has also worsened into a Revolt and this will effect combat in this province.
The Goths occupy Tarsatica and have a base Attack Value of 5, which is further modified by the +2 Terrain Bonus that the space provides. Remember that an Unrest marker is present as well but there is an exception to the rule about this Unrest/Revolt Value that if the Diocese that the battle is occurring in offers a Terrain Bonus then the battle doesn’t include the modifier from the Unrest/Revolt in the Diocese. This means that the Attack Value of The Goths is 7 (5 for printed Attack Value on counter + +2 Terrain Bonus = 7).
There are now only 3 Comitatenses with Stilicho who has an Attack Value of 2 so the Attack Value of the army is 5 (3 for the Comitatenses + 2 for Stilicho’s Attack Value = 5). Because this Attack Value is low, the player decides to play a Battle Event called Vexillatio Palatinae, which will give a +2 to the Roman Attack Value for this combat. This modified Attack Value is now a 7, which is the same as the Barbarians. Not too bad. Let’s see how kind the dice gods are!
Not very kind it seems as the Romans roll a lowly 1, which will lead to Olympius moving up the Olympius Track as he shares the dreadful news of a weak attack in the field, but we are in luck as The Goths roll just a 1 as well, which will have the further added result of Demoralizing them and flipping their counter to their weaker 4 side. But that will come after this attack is resolved. This means that the Total Attack Value for both sides is an 8 (The Goths had an Attack Value of 7 + 1 Die = 8 while the Romans had an Attack Value of 7 + 1 Die = 8). This means that the battle is a tie! What happens when a tie results? Well, both sides will reroll. But, wait, the Romans decide that they have invested an Event Card into this battle and don’t want to lose, further weakening their army as they will lose a Comitatenses to the Recovery Box.
They decide to discard their final card to take a Reserve Action giving them an additional +1 to their Total Attack Value. This means that they win the battle with a Total Attack Value of 9 as compared to The Goths Total Attack Value of 8 and will drive The Goths back to Dalmatia. But remember we discussed the result of a 1 being rolled on the Barbarian die during the combat. This result will cause The Goths to be demoralized and their counter will be flipped over to their other side which is weaker and has an Attack Value of just 4 as compared to their Emboldened side and its Attack Value of 5. This Demoralized result though is fading and can be reversed by drawing an Activation Card from the Barbarian Deck that will Embolden them again flipping them back to their 5 Attack Value side. The Goths are now just one space from their Home Space and ultimate subjugation at the hands of the Romans.
Our final example will take a look at the player’s option of enlisting the aid of vanquished tribes to fight your enemies. This is a very cool but costly part of the game and you must make sure that the effort is not wasted as you will be unable to do this often as it will cause your enemies to gain ground on you in the court of Emperor Honorious. What is that old saying? The Enemy of my Enemy is my friend! This statement holds sway in this game as you will want to get to the point where you have the ability to Enlist your defeated Enemies to assist you in defeating those that are still causing issues for the Empire.
For this example, we will assume that Stilicho was able to martial his forces, using some nice Event Cards in hand to ultimately chase The Goths to their Home Space and defeat them. They now are relegated to the Surrendered Tribes Box and will be subject to Oathbreaker Checks from Barbarian Cards to see if they come back into the fight against their word. But they are now an asset that the player can use. We see that Stilicho has lead his army up through Gaul chasing Constantine III back toward his home base of Britain and now has trapped him there where he is like a caged badger who will fight to the death with great ferocity. But, in preparation for the final confrontation, Stilicho will discard a card to enlist the aid of the surrendered Goths adding +4 to the Attack Value of the Roman army.
This will cause Olympius to advance one space up the Olympius Track which is not a good thing because if he reaches the end, his honeyed words and unflattering lies about you will lead to the head of Stilicho being relocated for treason. So, you have to use this action cautiously and with your eyes wide open to the results.
Constantine III occupies his Home Space in Britannia and has a base Attack Value of 5 as he has been previously Demoralized, which is further modified by the +7 Terrain Bonus that the space provides. This means that the Attack Value of Constantine is 12 (5 for printed Attack Value on counter + +7 for the Terrain Bonus = 12). Compare this to Stilicho’s army Attack Value of 11 (5 for the Comitatenses + 2 for Stilicho’s Attack Value + +4 for The Goths = 11). But never fear as the Romans have some tricks up their sleeves in the form of a few cards. The one card that they decide to play before the battle is called Siege Engines and this is a very powerful card that will halve the Defense Value of Constantine III’s Home Space by half rounded up so it gets reduced to a 4. This means that Constantine now has an Attack Value of 9. That is better but there is still some work to do.
Dice are rolled and Constantine III gets a result of 5 as compared to the low Roman roll of just 2. This means that Constantine III appears to have won the battle with a Total Attack Value of 14 as compared to the Roman Total Attack Value of just 13. You might be asking why doesn’t Stilicho use a couple of Reserve Actions by discarding 2 cards to give a +2 bonus which would be enough to win the battle? He would if he only had the cards as he only has one card in his hand!
But that one card is a good one named Scholae Palatinae. It allows the card to be played after the Total Enemy Attack Value is determined to add a +2 to the Roman Attack Value. So in this case, after the result is determined to be just one less than Constantine III’s, playing this card will give the Romans a +2 modifier making their Total Attack Value a 15 rather than a 13 which means that they have put down the pretender Constantine III and are one step closer to winning the game.
I hope that you have enjoyed this look at some examples of different battles. There are many factors that you have to keep in mind and I love the simplicity of the system that does require the player to plan and make preparations to win. You should be trying to get and keep good cards in your hand for when you need them and sometimes this means that discretion is the better part of valor and you shouldn’t just attack because you can. Make your attacks count because when you lose a battle, you will love one Comitatenses to the Recovery Box and this will weaken your army by lowering your Base Attack value and making it more challenging to defeat the barbarians.
In Action Point 5, which is the conclusion to this series, we will take a look at a few points of strategy that will help you do better in the game.