Et tu Brutus? ...
Republic of Rome enjoyed
another good turnout in 2001. The numbers aren't growing significantly,
but continue to hover in the 30's. That's one of the points
I'd like to discuss here: how to increase participation. Other
things I'd like to hit are the continued debates over When The
Knives Come Out, over what to do if Rome falls (especially in
the final), scheduling, and choice of scenarios.
One player and I had an extended discussion about how the
tournament makes a new player feel. This is interesting because
one of my main concerns has always been making the tournament
attractive to new players. However, this person (who was a new
player this year) was rightfully concerned with the bottom line
experience for him. In my mind that translates to whether or
not he will come back in 2002, which is not necessarily the same
thing as what made the tournament attractive to him in 2001.
I do a lot of things for brand new players. Heats stand on
their own feet... you can join the tournament during any heat
and if you win you advance. No continuous rounds, no overall
tournament scoring (other than as a tie-breaker for final alternate
players). I offer individual tutoring, either with myself or
with another knowledgeable player (though I feel that the structure
of the game is such that a player can easily pick up the rules
on the fly and have an enjoyable experience).
I can't physically watch every minute of every game, and thus
inevitably at some point new players are in the hands of the
This is where we had an issue this year. Two specific instances.
The first was when one player threw a game to another. Apparently
the other players in the game took exception to that, which I
can certainly understand, and had a NPE (negative play experience).
On the other hand, Republic of Rome is a game of negotiation.
If the other players allowed a situation to arise where one player
felt necessary to do this for another player, then they have
no basis for complaint. Either they (1) alienated that person,
(2) that person knew the recipient outside of the game, or (3)
that person was in a position of kingmaker for somebody and it
was a coin flip.
There are some other possibilities (such as insanity) but
I believe we can eliminate those as extremely unlikely. <smile>
Furthermore, in this particular case, I know that (2) and (3)
were not true. Therefore this person felt alienated by everyone
else and threw the game to the one person who was friendly to
him. My feelings to this conclusion are mixed. On the one hand,
the people who were rousted deserve the loss. In fact, I'm a
little upset with them for fostering negative feelings. I don't
care who wins and how, but when someone else doesn't enjoy the
game I have issues. I have further issues that apparently the
entire table had a NPE. Even the winner had mixed feelings about
On the other hand, it's a multiplayer game. Inevitably, cabals
arise. That's the nature of the beast. The saving grace of RoR
is that there is a glass ceiling on such cabals. You can only
pump each other up so much before you are forced to look outside
for "safe" candidates for office. If a player sits
through the first two hours with little interaction, I can see
how that player might feel left out. I can also see how that
player might voice that opinion in such a way that the cabal
members take umbrage. Thus, they might (despite that it is not
a good idea) continue the cabal beyond that point.
Moral of the story #1: if you find yourself doing well in
the early game, be friendly to those less fortunate. At some
point the tables will turn and you'll find yourself in their
power, and it's much to your benefit for them to remember you
in a good way. In fact, cabal members should be vying amongst
themselves to see who can be the kindest to the rest of the board.
It's a game of negotiation, people. The skills you hone in the
Senate will do you in good stead in real life, too.
Moral of the story #2: if you find yourself on the outs in
the early part of the game, take it in good graces. You'll enjoy
the game much more, and you'll find that when the tables turn
you're much more likely to leap ahead. That's the thing about
multiplayer games: you don't want to be ahead in the early game
because then you're seen as a threat. You want to sneak up and
leap into the lead at the end. But you can't do that if you're
seen as a sore thumb.
Back to the point at hand Participation. I'd like to
see everyone make an attempt to improve their approach to other
players, especially new players. I'd also like to see everyone
try to recruit someone. I'd be happy to volunteer to sit with
them and give them the basics. Not all the subtle things that
make a tournament winner like some of you (because I'd be the
first to admit that some of the players know a lot more about
this game than I do), but the things that will allow them to
The new houserule this year (of variable time limits) seemed
to work. Only one game had a lot of assassinations (I was playing
in that one myself) and that was primarily because I (as GM)
had randomly determined that this game was to run close to the
end of the variable time limit. So the players pretty much knew
when the last turn was coming up, and The Knives Came Out. As
games of olde, it was fast and furious!
Previously, I had seen this as a negative: when people knew
the last turn was coming, everybody pressed all their knights
for money, everybody bought influence, and everybody stabbed
everybody else. It was too unnatural and came down to blind luck.
While some luck is a part of the game, this was just too much
in the face.
However, in this particular game, I believe all the players
enjoyed themselves tremendously (I know I did!) It was the best
game I've played in years. So that might color my opinion, but
I'm feeling that the variable time limit is good enough.
My fear is that I'll have to resort to calling all games on
"time" early in the variable window, otherwise we'll
still have too many "predictable" games. However, if
I do this, then all it will do is move the stabbing earlier.
Perhaps the solution is to have most games time out early
in the window, with perhaps a third going into the latter half
of the window. Then, people who jump the gun have a significant
chance of regretting it, and we still have a good number of games
without the artificiality of the Final Turn. And the few times
when we do have such a game, that might be refreshing (as in
Feedback would be very welcome.
WHEN ROME FALLS
Well. In previous years, in the final it was in the best interest
of the person in the lead to allow Rome to fall. If Rome falls
in the final, then that person wins the tournament!
In the heats, it's not an issue because I have a rule that
no-one advances (and this has happened in the past). I'm mixed
on this because frequently there is some chance of a catastrophic
roll (triple ones or the like) which will end the game, especially
in the Early Republic scenario. I hate knocking an entire table
down because of such blind bad luck.
Back to the final, that was an issue at WBC 2000. To try and
prevent this, I instituted a rule this year that if Rome fell,
then the Senate members would vote to see who won. The theory
was that this is a game of negotiation. Players would take this
into account. They also would vote for who they thought played
the best game (not necessariliy who was in the lead of the Influence
race during the final turn). Also, remember: there are multiple
victory conditions. Doing well in the Influence race does not
necessarily mean you played the best game.
At the final this year, it was shown that the new rule allowed
a person not in the lead to allow Rome to fall, and thus throw
the game back into the arena of negotiation.
As I have previously stated my opinion on negotiations, again,
I have mixed feelings. On the one hand, I think this was fine.
On the other hand, it bothers me that this might result in a
NPE for the person who at the time was in the lead.
At this point, I'm at a loss. I'd welcome any and all advice
for how to improve this situation for WBC 2002. My only criteria
is that any proposed solutions have to deal with all the situations.
I don't want an incentive for Rome to fall - no matter what.
I also want a solution which will not result in a NPE for one
or more of the players.
I've noticed a phenomenon over the past few years. Wednesday
night is always well attended. More than 20 players, consistently!
Often more than 30. Thursday night is consistently about half
of Wed night.
Part of this is because the 4-5 winners from Wed have no more
reason to play. Part is probably because there are an increased
number of other fun tournaments on Thursday night.
Regardless, I'd like to ask for suggestions as to other acceptable
options. Do we want Heat 2 on Friday morning? Do we want three
heats? And, is Saturday night for the final a good time?
I'm mixed. I'm about ready to totally eliminate the Early
Republic from consideration for the indefinite future, because
of the requirement for everyone to work together to fight the
many barbarians. This decreases the option for wheeling and dealing,
and also decreases the possibility of a successful revolt (which
I'd like to increase).
I like the Late Republic because it allows the most flexibility
in negotiations. However, it's somewhat more complex than the
Middle because of the increased number of woogy Laws that come
Therefore, I'm considering standardizing on the Middle Republic
for all future tournament games. Feedback would be welcome.
Thank you for listening this far, and for braving through
my soapbox orations. Genuine advice, honestly offered. I hope
it was taken in the spirit in which it was intended.
Hope to see you at the Republic of Rome tournament at WBC
Will "Sandy" Wible
| Sean Finnerty
| Nicholas Benedict
| Will Wible
| Kevin Barry
| Tom Phillips *
| Henry Rice III
* Voted Consul for Life through Tournament House Rule