Number of Players: 2 – 6
Year of Publication: 2005
Julius Caesar, The Roman Geezer, Squashed his Wife with a Lemon Squeezer:
So as far I can figure Conquest of the Empire is just a table top version of Rome: Total War and being a huge fan of that game I’m also a huge fan of this game. In many respects it’s cooler; because you’re playing real people you actually feel some sense of victory when you crush them! But on the other hand, it’s obviously far more limited than Rome: Total War. To illustrate my point this is a picture of the Rome: Total War map:
And this is a picture of the Conquest of the Empire board:
Now, there are two sets of rules to this game, as I explain in the History and Interesting Facts part of the post but this post is only covering the Classic rules, as we haven’t had the time to play the other rules. Hopefully there will be another post covering the other set of rules before the month is over, so keep an eye out for that.
What’s In The Box:
- 1 Game board (see picture in introduction of it laid out)
- Province tokens
- Some of the Chaos tokens (the ‘X’s at the bottom of the other sheet are also Chaos tokens)
- Influence/control tokens for each colour (except the bottom row)
- 2 Instructions Booklets:
- 1 for the Classic rules
- 1 for the new Conquest of the Empire 2 rules
- Black game pieces consisting of:
- 1 Caesar
- 4 Generals
- 20 Infantry
- 10 Cavalry
- 6 Catapults
- 8 Galleys
- Yellow game pieces, the same as black
- Blue game pieces, the same as black
- Purple game pieces, the same as black
- 25 five-talent coins (Silver) 50 ten-talent coins (Gold)
- Red game pieces, the same as black
- Green game pieces, the same as black
- 8 Dice (for some reason ours has 12 but it did come from a charity shop)
- 16 Fortifications
- 16 Cities
- 1 deck of cards
- 20 Roads
Playing The Game:
Objective: To capture the other player(s) Caesar
The aim of the game is ultimately just to capture the other player(s) Caesar, which can lead to a fairly short game if you get lucky and the other person is careless; or if the other person is careful it can be a long complex game of strategy and well thought-out battling.
You start in one of the six starting provinces, these are shown on the board and the instruction book denotes which are available relative to how many players there are. The tribute scale at the bottom of the board is used to mark your income per-turn and increases if you capture provinces and decreases if you lose them depending on the worth of the province (marked on the board). you start on 15, as you home province is worth 10 but it also has a city in it which adds an additional 5.
Each turn is broken up into 6 sections:
- Collect Tribute
- Destroy Cities
- Purchase New Pieces
- Place New Pieces
So first up is movement, normal pieces can only move when attached to a General/Caesar. When they’re attached they form a legion; a legion may be up to 5 pieces (of any type) and then the General/Caesar to make a legion of six pieces overall. Without roads normal pieces may only move one space (being from one province to another) in a turn, however General/Caesar may move two, so they may move with a legion and then one further turn on their own. However they cannot fight by themselves – but are useful for conquering unoccupied provinces. The exception to this is roads; once on a road a player may move as far along that road as he/she likes. Galleys are the only units that can move without a General/Caesar, they can move up to two sea provinces even with no units in them.
The second part of a players turn is combat. Combat occurs when you move your pieces into a province occupied by an enemy and once you have finished all of your moving.
Combat is somewhat similar to Battle Cry! (as reviewed here) in that it uses dice with symbols that show which piece have to be removed. You role as many dice as there are piece in your legion (up to 6) and the defender does the same. the relevant pieces are then removed according to the symbols on the dice, and either you fight again or one player retreats. Generals/Caesar are the last pieces to be removed from any legion and can only be captured when the rest of the legion has been destroyed. Captured Generals are kept by the winner and can be bartered with later in the move, if Caesar is captured the person who loses their Caesar has lost the game and is out.
The next phase of a move is to collect tribute, that’s as simple as it sounds, you look at the tribute scale at the bottom of the board and collect the amount of tribute you are due.
The next phase is to destroy cites, you can do this in provinces you own if they are about to be captured to stop the other player gaining any benefits from them. This phase doesn’t have to be done as you may not be in a situation where its required.
The next phase is to buy pieces. You use your tribute to to buy pieces to build a bigger army. Pieces initially cost:
- Infantry – 10
- Cavalry – 20
- Galleys – 20
- Catapult – 30
- Fortified City – 50
- City – 30
- Fortification – 20
- Road – 10
However when inflation is trigger the first time (marked by the change in the tribute scale at the bottom of the board) cost doubles, when its triggered again (by the second change in the scale) the cost triples from the original prices.
The very last phase of a players move is to places his newly brought pieces. All new combat units must be placed in the home province of the player buying them, ships are placed on the coast of that province, or on the closest coast if you are landlocked. Cities are placed in the relevant province that you want a city in, only one city per-province and only one fortification per-city. Roads can only be built between two cities in adjacent provinces but multiple road sections between multiple cities can be used to make one long road.
This process is then repeated until there is only one players Caesar remaining.
Now, like most games on this blog I don’t claim to be a master ,but here are a few things I picked up that are important:
- DON’T FOR GET ABOUT YOUR CAESAR! That’s how I won the game we played, he was left in a province by himself. Always know where he is and always have him protected away from the action (unless you have no choice but t0 have him in the action.)
- MONEY IS POWER! Conquering provinces is important to generate more tribute so you can buy more units so you can have more power.
- DON’T FORGET ABOUT SHIPS! Ships look like they can be a very useful tool to attack your enemy where he/she is not expecting.
- DON’T FORGET YOU CAN DESTROY YOUR OWN CITIES! Also destroying a city will destroy a road that runs between it and another city as roads can only exist between two cities. This could help slow a fast enemy advance.
- BRUTE FORCE IS KING! Due to the luck/probability of the dice actually being 100% tactical is difficult, so just out manning the other player in all conflicts is advised.
History and Interesting Things:
- While I have stated the publication date of the game as 2005, and hyper linked the 2005 game on BoardGameGeek, the original version of the game was released in 1984 by Milton Bradley and it’s sole designer was Larry Harris, Jr.
- However the original version of the game’s catapult rules were considered to be “broken” so the 2005 version of the game was issued with two sets of rules, one that was similar to the original rules but with fixed catapult rules (the classic rules, the ones played in this article) and another completely new set that were based on Martin Wallace’s Struggle of Empires (these are Conquest of the Empire II rules).
- The original version of the game also had different combat rules and the rules in the 2005 version were changed along with the dice that have images that correspond to the different units.
- The game is thought to be very similar to the game Axis & Allies, this may be because it’s also designed by Larry Harris, Jr. (and because of this Axis & Allies is obviously going on our Games We Want page).
- It was a 2006 Golden Geek Best Wargame Nominee
- The original version of the game is now completely out of print and therefore a prized collectors piece.
- However, that’s what Wikipedia says but you can buy a 1984 original copy from America for around £55 on Ebay here (eBay listing was active at time of publication).
- The game is set in the Roman Empire after the death of Marcus Aurelius. So just after this happened:
(This may be from the film Gladiator and therefore may not be historically accurate).
- Like I said in my introduction, the game really is a physical version of Rome: Total War, just less complex and in some ways more fun.
- It is also the largest game we have played to date, which makes it just a little bit more awesome.
I like this game, I like it a lot, but I was always going to – as I said in my introduction, it’s just table top RTW. However this version of the rules has quite a lot of ambiguity but with careful reading and a bit of logic you can think your way through this. There are a few thing I think should be done differently, for example you should be able to build units in places other than your home provinces, other cities would have had barracks and been able to train men etc. Also it just feels wrong to collect your money half way through your turn, everyone knows turns begin with collecting money, it’s true of so many games, both table top and computerized. However I understand the building units one turn and not being able to move the till the next because it represents a training time.
The biggest issue with this game though is this:
POOR BOX DESIGN! Now you may say that this is irrelevant to the game in the sense that it doesn’t affect game play. But it does, if you’ve had to spend 20 minutes sorting out pieces because there in a mixed mess you’re not going to have the same amount of fun playing the game as if they were all sorted already in a vacuum-formed tray in the box like 90% of games I’ve played (like Battle Cry!.) The only other game I’ve come across to rival this is the Pirate of the Caribbean edition of Buccaneer! Which you can read my rant about at the end of the post on it here.
But all in all Conquest of the Empire is a good and fun game (perhaps not quite as good/well thought out as Battle Cry! and definitely not as versatile). It’s also very large which for some unknown reason makes it more exciting…
We’ll have to wait and see if the other way of playing it is as good or perhaps better.
P.S. I (Miriam) wouldn’t usually add on to a post like this, but it was more like 2 hours sorting time than 20 minutes which makes this, in my opinion, an epic design flaw… Especially when trying to determine if all the pieces were still there.