Saturday, January 1, 2011

Sword of Rome (GMT)

Game: Sword of Rome (GMT)
Participants: Bob H, Jim D (HeavyD), Joe C (YJ) and Myself
Time: 2.00PM – 6.30PM

We were once again able to get four people together over the holidays (New Years Eve) for another go at SoR. This time we had all recently played and we were ready for action. We chose sides based on each guy getting a new power. Bob got Rome, HeavyD was the Etruscan/Samnite player, YJ was the Gauls and I was the Greeks. 

The Gauls (YJ) opened by raiding 2-3 Etruscan spaces. This prompted HeavyD to activate the TA Gauls for an incursion over the Alps, raiding a couple Gaul spaces. Bob started off building an additional city while I made a move on the Carthage VP city on the far side of Sicily. I think at the end of the first turn we were still flat on VPs. Turn 2 started a downward spiral for the Etruscans. YJ did another string of raids in Etruscan spaces while dealing with the TA Gauls, who were eventually eliminated. I took the Carthage city and Bob got another walled city up. Thus I was up a VP and HeavyD was down one or two. Rome had not taken any VP cities but was getting bigger. 

Eventually HeavyD lead the Samnites against Rome’s Southern most city capturing it before Bob could get there. HeavyD then had to rush the Samnite army up the Etruscan lands to help them out as they were starting to go under due to Gaul pressures. Having taken the Carthage city I moved against the captured Roman city, taking it on turn three. Thus at the end of turn three I was at +2 VP, with a total nearing the auto-victory level if I held on over the course of the next turn. 

This of course led to the other three players doing everything in their power to lower my VP levels. I lost the Carthage city and the Roman City, and then was forced to recapture a couple of my own cities due to loosing battles and event cards as well as Carthage incursions. Eventually they removed the auto-victory threat, but by then it was really a two player race as HeavyD had lost nearly all of the Etruscan starting lands and YJ was on his heals having lost three battles in one turn. All this time Bob was quietly building new Roman walled cities (for the extra CU they generate each turn) amassing a huge army (20-25 CUs). 

HeavyD moves the Etruscans while YJ watches.
In spite of this, HeavyD kept on messing with me and tried to liberate Etruscian lands, now being conquered by the Romans. So by turn 6 Bob was clearly going to run away with the game. I had gained about three VPs and was still in the lead, but Bob was going to be netting +3 or 4 VPs a turn while I was flat and HeavyD and YJ were too far back to get back in the game. Bob had a huge army and was clearly going to run away with the game, so we called it at the end of turn 6 or 7, Bob getting his 2nd win in his 2nd game. 

This game is pretty interesting in the way that is drives players to do certain things to stay in it (i.e. keep the game going by not allowing another player to win). This is generally a mechanic of multi-player games and usually not a pretty one, as one player gets ganged up on while if he gets too far out in front. For our group this is sort of new as we play TNW mostly when we do MP games and that game is a little more linear in its multi-player dynamics. The thing we found in our last two playing was that one player would get out in front, then the rest gang up on him, staying on him perhaps a turn too long, allowing another player to suddenly shoot out to a win while the other two players are hopelessly left out as they are so far behind.

The other aspect of this game that is a little troubling is what I’ll call the slippery slope phenomenon. This is when one player starts off by being aggressive and suffers setbacks, losing a battle or two or a VP city or two. Once he falls behind, he is faced with getting even more desperate and doing desperate things to try and right his ship. The combat system in this game is extremely risky, one should only fight when he can win and win big, otherwise it’s better to sit back and be conservative. This has lead to one player being effectively out of competition very early in each one of our games. Once this happens that player is in a spot to become a king maker due to the way the game handles minor power activations. We as a group need to figure out how to get out of this cycle. I am guessing that once we get some games in with other people (new people that we haven’t played with) that might enlighten us a bit. 

Until then, SoR will go back on the shelf and we’ll stick to the highly reliable TNW for our multi-player wargame needs, coming back to SoR when we need a break from TNW.


  1. Good report. Hmm, the player mix might have something to do with it. All players must realize Rome can't be allowed to build cities unchallenged, EVER. In our games we always frustrate the Roman power on that issue. But your main point of one player getting far out ahead then getting crunched might be a tactical mistake by that player. Any player needs to bide his time until the situation allows him to jump for that elusive auto victory before anyone can stop him. Also, I have seen the game flip leaders in just a few turns due to the VP system. However, any player doing consistently desperate things always reduces his chances of winning in any game, there is not much to change there. Was there a lot of besieging in your games? I find it a low cost effective way of taking cities down. Johan has another good approach by putting himself in favorable locations which compel his opponents to attack him which allows him to win more victories. Having a fifth player or changing out one or two could change your dynamics dramatically. Just some thoughts. -Chris Longtin

  2. Chris,

    Thanks for your input. One of the reasons we want to get another game in with some of you guys is to mix up the player dynamics and also to see how you guys play it. I hope we can get something going in February.