I LIKE Enemies of Rome (Worthington Publishing, 2017). The RockyMountainNavy Boys like Enemies of Rome. We have played it four times in the three weeks since it arrived in the RMN house. This level of repeat play is unheard of and a true testimony to how good the game is and how it fits the RMN game night. As good as Enemies of Rome is…I sense the RMN love affair with this game is quickly reaching the point of a major breakup.
So what is the problem?
We play Enemies of Rome even though we intensely dislike the scoring mechanic. Victory in Enemies of Rome is determined by Glory Points. In the rules as written (RAW), players earn Glory Points by attacking and winning a battle in an area. Defenders do not earn Glory Points even if they win. At the end of the game the player with the most areas gets a bonus of 3 Glory Points. A player can lose 2 Glory Points if they attack an area with another player’s Legions and do not win the battle; they do not lose Glory Points for losing against the enemies of Rome. The player with the most Glory Points is the winner. In the event of a tie, the tied player with the most Legions on the board wins.
Sounds pretty straight forward. Battle, earn Glory Points, and win.
Which doesn’t sit right with us. Victory in Enemies of Rome goes to the one who has won the most battles; the board state is irrelevant (except in a tie when it is the number of Legions, not areas, counted).
Another problem as I see it is the Event Cards in the game don’t support the Glory Point mechanic. To be clear, we have only played the three-player version of Enemies of Rome. After playing a few times (**SPOILER ALERT**) we have noticed that many of the Event Cards place enemies of Rome onto the board. When this happens a battle usually follows. Legions are expended in battle, but no Glory is won if these battles occur in areas the players already control. Indeed, a considerable number (maybe half?) of all battles in the games we played are against the enemies of Rome in areas already controlled. This means half the lost Legions, half the victories won, count as nothing.
[I fully realize that the “non-player” enemies of Rome are available to use as a proxy force. The ability to move the enemies of Rome on your turn is powerful as you can position the enemies of Rome in a more favorable manner to make your next conquest easier or you can use the enemies of Rome as a proxy army to batter down an opponent.]
One other Event Card effect (**SPOILER ALERT REMAINS**) we noticed is that in the later stages of the game the arrival of the enemies of Rome often challenge one to keep areas they already control. One (major) impact of the cards is to force battles in controlled areas. Battles that are won don’t mean anything for there is no Glory Point earned for keeping an area you control. The battle system does not allow for retreat either; battles are to the death so there is no “save your troops” mechanism. The net effect is that players in the end game grow weaker as many battles are fought for no Glory Points.
In each of the games we played, at least one player was “besieged” for the better part of the game; that is, constantly fighting in areas already owned. As noted, these constant battle use up Legions but do not gain Glory Points. This player was at a constant disadvantage. It was very apparent that this player was going to lose as there is no “catch up” mechanism other than to win battles in other areas – battles that the player often cannot fight because the constant attrition of Legions fighting to just hold areas already owned prevents a build up of forces for attacking new areas.
We have already tried a few house rules to find a better experience. Instead of the player with the most areas getting a bonus we added the number of areas as a straight addition to Glory Points. Neither seems enough. We tried awarding bonus Glory Points (2) for an unused Intrigue Talent. In the next game we are considering changing the rule to make any victory in battle a Glory Point – even when defending. We may give a 2 Glory Point bonus to the player with he most Legions on the board. These changes certainly seem in spirit with the RAW where Glory Points only come from battles and the number of Legions on the board is an ingredient of the tie-breaker.
There is too much goodness in Enemies of Rome and we have already invested considerable playtime in this game to simply walk away from it. We will keep trying to find a balance. I am curious as to what the game designers have to say. So far, the forums on BoardGameGeek have several player comments but nothing from the designer.
Featured image courtesy Worthington Publishing.