[Boardgame] Republic of Rome

Has anyone else played this game?


Republic of Rome is a boardgame that puts up to 6 players in control of a political faction of Republican Rome. Through these factions, players attract and manipulate senators (as well as their retinues) which in turn are used to run the Republic, be it by occupying important posts (such as Consul of Rome or Pontifex Maximus), taking command of the legions, overseeing a province, debating/voting at the senate, or performing various other tasks (such as acting as prosecutor in a trial).

The game runs in turns divided into seven phases, during which each player gets to do stuff. The core of the game, however, is the Senate Phase, when factions can use their senators to propose and vote on anything from enacting laws to purchasing new ships, to choosing a Dictator or attempting murder. Votes, and thus power, depend on both a senator's influence and size of his retinue of equites, and everything has a bucketload of processes and caveats intended to both simulate the political complexities of roman politics and give room to clever manoeuvres. This phase, thus, can be pretty long (I've had some last for 2 hours), filled with debate, negotiation, vote-purchases, conspiracy, etc. It has a similar feel to Diplomacy in that regard (in fact, the author specifically states that Republic of Rome was originally meant to be a more complex and deep version of Diplomacy. He sure got that right!).

Only a single player can win, but everyone can lose if the Republic collapses (which can be due to a variety of factors, such as excessive war, bankrupcy, rebellion, etc), so it forces factions to cooperate. This creates a very amusing dynamic, by constantly clashing personal interests with the greater needs of Rome, which sows the game with constant treatchery and betrayal. To make things worse, a senator can become rebel and win the game by either conquering Rome or by having a loyalist army up and formally rebelling while the Republic collapses, thus making the controlling player victor. But since a single faction can control many senators, the same player that's trying to build a rebellion with one of his senators can still be participating at the Senate with all the others.

The game is both astoundingly detailed and incredibly deep, which makes for a rather steep learning curve. The manual itself is an ordeal, reading more like a book on roman law than a boardgame at times (when you are at Section 1.17.3 part B "Determining a Trial for Corruption", you've entered a whole new world of dense rules). But once that part is dealt with, boy do you have a wonder between your hands. This game is probably the most fun I've ever had with boardgames; demanding, perhaps excessively long sessions (even the short version of the rules covering the Early Republic will hardly take less than 5 hours. The long one might take several days) are not an easy thing to handle, but they are incredibly rewarding and tremendously exciting.

If you have the stamina and the chance to play it, I wholeheartedly recommend it. Roleplayers in particular will love it, since the game thrives on players taking up the roles of senators and acting accordingly. After all, when you watch the Republic collapse due to the Carthaginians invading after you dilapidated the treasury on circus spectacle so that your constant mismanagement doesn't cause the plebs to rebel, there's a unique sense of accomplishment somehow.
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Jan van Leyden

I own the old Avalon HIll version Republic of Rome and have played in quite often - 15 to 20 years ago.

It's not a "fun" game, but can prove satisfying nevertheless. Alas, the Avalon Hill style of rules, the amount of English text on the components, the level of concentration required of all players, and the unforeseeable time it takes makes it a game of the past. There's nearly no place my current boardgame environment for games like RoR. Maybe later, in the retirement home...:)


David Jose
I'm in the same boat as Jan. I've got the old Avalon Hill version and I played it a bunch, back in 1993. I remember it...fondly(?), but can't imagine not only pouring the time and energy needed into playing a game now, but also in trying to find a group that would be willing and able to do it with me.

Getting more than two members of my old gaming group to show up on a weekly basis for boardgames is hard enough as it is, we can't barely get enough momentum behind us to run a one shot, or online RPG reliably. I can't imagine trying to orchestrate a three-weekends-running of Republic of Rome.

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