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Awards

Rating

  • Artwork
  • Complexity
  • Replayability
  • Player Interaction
  • Component Quality

You Might Like

  • Easy to learn, hard to master
  • Bonuses can be won even when losing provinces
  • Every turn feels like it has an impact on the game

Might Not Like

  • The appearance of the game
  • Drawing of influence tokens means luck is still at play
  • Games can be swingy, but can also go relentlessly in one person’s favour
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Caesar! Seize Rome In 20 Minutes! Review

CAESAR!

There’s not a lot of area control games that can be played in twenty minutes. Even fewer of them would be brazen enough to brag about it. So, does Caesar! Seize Rome in Twenty Minutes! do what it says on the box?

Caesar is a two-player game which plays out a power struggle between Caesar (otherwise known as Julius Caesar) and Pompey (otherwise known as Portsmouth Football Club). Designed by Paolo Mori, each player takes turns deploying their legions to try and seize control of the Roman Republic. The way this is done is very, very clever.

Rome Wasn’t Built In A Day

Each player starts the game with twelve control markers. These signify who is in control of a resolved province. You win the game by being the first person to have all twelve markers in play, either on the board or under a senate token. How do you get your control markers on the board, I hear you ask? By gaining influence in different provinces of course!

Each player has a draw bag filled with influence tokens, of which they draw two and hide them behind their player screen. Each influence token has a symbol on them, which relates to where it can be placed on the board. These are either sword, shield, boat, or laurel. They also have two numbers on them which add up to a total of six (four in the case of the laurel). Finally, they have a line down the middle of them because you are not placing these tokens into a province. You’re placing them on the border between the two.

Taking It In Turns

Each player places one of their influence tokens on the border between two provinces matching the symbol. Laurels are classed as wild and can be placed on any border space. This is where the decisions start to get a bit crunchy. Most tokens add up to six, meaning if you place a token with a 6/0 split, you’re likely going to win one province, whilst handing the initiative over to a neighbouring one.

As the game ticks along and provinces are fought over, some may start to become closed off. Each province has a bonus token on them which acts in different ways. The player who closes the province off gains the bonus token. Then, the player who has the highest influence in the province places their control token onto the vacated space. The bonuses of the base game are:

Tactics – allows you to take another turn immediately

Might – allows you to flip an opponent’s control marker or influence token

Wealth – allows you to draw an additional token from your draw bag

Senate – allows you to place control markers under the senate token equal to the number of senate tokens you’ve won. This one is only possible if you also won control of the province

Et Tu, Pompey?

These bonus tokens add an extra dimension to the game. You can throw a province just to gain its bonus. For example, if you are losing heavily in a province and there’s only one space left, you can place an influence token on that border, closing the area off but gaining the bonus. Yes, you might be putting your opponent one step closer to victory, but if it’s a province you have no chance of winning, it’s worth getting the bonus as a consolation.

The cherry on top of this area control game is the benefit that comes from having neighbouring provinces. If you take control of two provinces which are next to each other, you can also place a control marker on the space between them. As soon as someone places their last control marker either onto the board or under a senate bonus token, they win the game.

There is so, so much to love about Caesar! Firstly, the box doesn’t lie. You can easily get through a game in twenty minutes, often less. Secondly, the game on face value can look and feel basic, but there are so many crunchy decisions to make. Every decision feels like it has an actual impact on the outcome of the game.

More advanced gamers might also like the puzzle of trying to figure out their opponent’s moves. Even though you can’t see what is behind their screen, you know they have the same choice of influence tokens as you. If you can see they have already played their 6/0 boat token, they can’t use it again. This knowledge might influence your own tactics and keep you a step ahead of your opponent.

The solo variant of the game is also good. There are three levels of difficulty, which range from easy (which in my opinion is far too easy) to hard (which I haven’t even come close to winning). The rules for the solo game, like the rest of the rule book, are straight forward and succinct.

Roman Ruins

Whilst all this is great, there is an elephant in the room. An elephant that really isn’t easy on the eye.

The design choices that have been made for Caesar! are… interesting. A couple of months ago, there was a board game challenge on social media to pick your three best looking game boards. I think it’s fair to say that Caesar! probably wouldn’t make my top three. The screens are also quite thin and flimsy, but the “stars” of the show are the draw bags. They certainly evoke the feeling of grandma being let loose in a souvenir shop at the Colosseum after one too many limoncellos. It’s clearly a deliberate choice, as Blitzkrieg, Mori’s other “play in twenty minutes” game has a similar aesthetic.

Carpe Diem!

I hope the appearance of the game doesn’t diminish people’s willingness to give it a chance. I don’t think I’ve ever played just one game of Caesar! I’m always willing to set it up and go again straight away. If you are wanting to introduce someone to the area control mechanic, Caesar! is a very good place to start. It’s a very simple teach, and a couple of turns can really swing the game back in your favour. Rome wasn’t built in a day, but control of it can be seized in a lot less time.

Zatu Score

Rating

  • Artwork
  • Complexity
  • Replayability
  • Player Interaction
  • Component Quality

You might like

  • Easy to learn, hard to master
  • Bonuses can be won even when losing provinces
  • Every turn feels like it has an impact on the game

Might not like

  • The appearance of the game
  • Drawing of influence tokens means luck is still at play
  • Games can be swingy, but can also go relentlessly in one persons favour

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