Burn, Rome, Burn
Well, another year, another exciting set of games. Over
the two night preliminariess there were six qualifying games,
with one instance of the table falling to the game from excessive
wars. The previously instituted "stop" card was
used once again in the Final 12 cards of the deck, to help provide
some doubt as to the timing of the last turn. Mortality
chits proved decisive factors in three of the prelims, with various
instances of epidemic, mob violence, and victorious commander
death's factoring into the destruction of once mighty factions
For the Final, the Late Republic scenario was once again used,
and it proved to be one of the finer instances of group and individual
play in the history of the tournament. Five of the six
players were previous laurelists, and three could claim past
championships (Sean Larsen, Frank McNally, Tom Phillips). In
a game with this much tournament experience at the table, Rome
quickly turned into a city that could be bought and sold at a
In the first Senate phase, Censor-elect Kevin Barry quickly established
paperwork "processing fees", extorting nine talents
from the table for various "paper-work mishandling"
instances involving profit from concessions. A standard
three talent exemption from prosecutions would become the norm
for most of the game, making the censorship not only an important
political position, but a profitable one as well.
The David Yoon's Pontifix Maximus' veto also became a profitable
thing to have, as it was purchased on several occasions by players
desperate for protection from over-zealous prosecutors. Corruption
was rampant at the Governor level, as many senators sought to
supplement their faction's wealth by confiscating taxes from
the unlucky populace of Rome's far-flung holdings.
Two factions quickly ascended to dominant status in the early
turns through both Statesman cards and political offices. Kevin
Barry was able to grab the reigns of power through his voting
block of senators, and Sean Larsen was able to augment his votes
in Rome through several Statesmen cards. The situation
quickly arose where they could control the Senate by creating
a voting block with one of any of the other four factions.
The third position in this would-be triumvirate was offered to
Tom Phillips at first, the next largest faction. In a surprise
move however, Tom turned down the offer, and Frank McNally quickly
came to an arrangement with Sean and Kevin as to his place in
their new alliance.
The triumvirate wasted no time in seeing to business, voting
themselves the offices of the Senate and providing favorable
governorships to their Senators while ensuring that their voting
block remained the largest. In response to their spurned
offer, Kevin and Sean proceeded with a prosecution of one of
Tom's Senator's who held a Tax Farmer concession, stripping him
of the concession, his prior consul experience, and most of his
influence. A mortality chit would kill another of Tom's
senators the following turns, limiting him to just three Senators
in the game. When Tom asked why there was such vehemence
against his poor faction, Kevin simply responded "You're
still the greatest threat at this table."
Applying the theory of using power while one has it, the Triumvirate
dominated the game for the next few turns, keeping hold of the
offices of the Senate and utilizing the Censor to apply justice
as they deemed fit to the other factions in Rome. But as any
player of the game knows, fate is fickle, and changes would soon
come to Rome.
In Turn 8, several random events would reshape the political
landscape. Due to poor leadership on the field of battle, two
proconsuls were left in the field, unable to defeat the enemy
forces arrayed against them. One of these belonged to Sean's
faction, the Field Consul, another to Frank's faction, the Rome
Consul. This left Kevin's Censor as the HRAO in Rome. The
death of one of Kevin's Senators through the turn mortality chit
further weakened the triumvirate's voting block, to the point
where the three no longer had a dominant block of votes in Rome.
Tom discreetly pointed this out to Kevin, and a new block
was formed, with Sean's, Kevin's, and Tom's factions striking
a side deal. Tom would become the next Rome Consul while guaranteeing
Kevin's Field Consul a favorable battle number and agreeing not
to support any prosecutions against either Sean or Kevin's factions
Tom and Kevin were elected consuls, with Sean receiving the Censor's
office. No prosecutions took place as per the deal. Then
the game got interesting.
The presiding magistrate of Tom's faction decided to recall one
of David's governors from Asia, one of the best provinces, and
send one of Sean's Statesmen Licineus, to govern it. While David
protested and voted against, the new Triumvirate had enough votes
to carry, and Sean gladly sent his senator to reap the bounty
of the governorship. Next, Tom decided to recall one of
Jonathan Squibb's Senators from Illyricum and send one of Kevin's
Senators to govern abroad.
At this point Kevin and Sean realized what was occurring. Sean
sent his tribune to the Senate in an attempt to put a stop to
it by proposing that Tom's Rome Consul go off to war. This
issue narrowly failed but it caused the senate to quickly close
to avert any further 'shenanigans'.
By reallocating the Governorships, Tom had shifted the balance
of votes in the Senate from Kevin and Sean to the rest of the
table, restoring control of the table to the majority. This
would limit Sean's and Kevin's influence in voting matters in
the Senate for the remainder of the game, but was it in time?
The next turn passed with business as usual, with the four other
players trying to catch Sean and Kevin, who had commanding leads
at this point due to their rule of Rome for so long. Wars
were prosecuted to their fullest extent, earning influence for
proconsuls and Field consuls alike. As the deck whittled
away to nothing, the players could sense the game coming to an
end, and began to act for one last turn. Faction and personal
treasuries were donated en masse to Rome, earning additional
influence for Senators. It still wasn't enough however,
as Kevin's well-balanced faction had 20 influence more than any
other, even after the play of a blackmail card by Tom the previous
turn, luring Kevin's best Senator over to Tom's faction. Then
disaster struck, in a most unlikely way.
Both the Rome Consul and Field Consul were stuck in the field
to begin the turn, so the HRAO position fell to Sean's Censor.
This would be the last turn as there were only four cards left
in the deck and one was the stop card. With six initiatives,
the game was almost guaranteed to end.
Of course, the Fates intervened to make things interesting. Sean
rolled a seven on his initiative roll. His random event
came up as the dreaded ten, "Evil Omens". Anyone
familiar with this event knows it is a sign of foreboding, as
it is a negative one to most die rolls for the entire turn, making
most moves that would effect the outcome of the game that much
riskier. Another effect of Evil Omens is that the Pontiff
must pay 20 talents or lose his office. David had the requisite
money, so was able to keep his Pontifix Maximus office.
Next up, Tom's faction. And, unbelievably, another seven!!!
Fortune was not smiling upon Rome. The next random
event came up as another drought, kicking the level to 2. The
dice were passed to David. No random events this time. Next went
Jonathan. Another seven!!!!! What were the odds? And
then another ten, double Evil Omens, negative 2 to all die rolls.
The gods were determined to cripple Rome on this last turn.
Frank rolled and avoided the seven, and drew another card.
Still no stop card. The dice were finally passed to Kevin for
his initiative. Only two cards left in the deck, if Kevin
could avoid a seven he would have a 50-50 chance of ending the
game and winning. The roll was a 4 - and Kevin drew his
card, which did NOT end the game.
At this point it's important to point out that the Late Republic,
while limited to the Final, really is the most fun scenario of
the game to play for several reasons. First, there is a much
higher chance of a successful march on Rome by victorious commanders,
a la Caesar historically. Second, more people know about
the history associated with the time, as you have such Statesmen
as Pompey, Caesar, Crassus, Cicerro et al in the game. Finally,
and perhaps the best reason, is that there are multiple cards
that can be drawn or played that lead to targeted mob violence.
This tends to make everyone very wary of causing a stir in the
Senate as several tribune plays or reaction to tribunes can lead
the player of the card to a faction wide massacre at the hands
of the mob.
I point this out, because as experienced players at the table,
we all should have seen the card that Kevin drew coming from
a mile away. After all, what's the Late Republic without
the infamous Cataline Conspiracy, a plot against the state that
led to the unpopular execution of dozens of prominent Senators.
We all should have remembered this event, as it's taken
out many a front-runner in the history of the tournament. As
the HRAO, Sean was responsible for deciding the faction that
was the target of the conspiracy. Of course he selected
Kevin, as he was clearly in the lead. As a result, Kevin
would have to select a DR worth of mortality chits for his senators
currently in Rome. Sean rolled a 7, which due to the Evil
Omens became a 9. With a couple of "draw two's"
coming out, Kevin drew 11 chits in total, losing two of his Senators
in the violence, a crushing blow.
So, the turn would not end, as the final card left face down
in the deck was the Stop card. One more turn of cutthroat politics
in the Senate, where whoever was in charge would be able to decide
the game. Everyone prepared for the assassinations that would
shortly follow. But before the Senate, Sean had to roll
the HRAO speech number to the people, to see if they overthrew
Rome and everyone lost the game. No real worries, as the
unrest was at zero going into the turn, and it would take something
around a roll of a three on three dice to end the game. That's
where we were all terribly wrong.
The Censor had a popularity of 3 going into the turn, which would
subtract from the dice roll. However, one of the effects of the
Cataline Conspiracy is that the HRAO loses the number of popularity
of the number rolled. As Sean rolled a modified nine, he
lost nine popularity, resulting in a negative six. On top
of that, with a double drought, the unrest moved up two, and
the unprosecuted war moved up another one. This would add an
additional negative 3 to the roll. Factor in the double
evil Omens and that was an additional negative two to the roll.
So in effect, there was a negative 11 to Sean's roll to
the people. So there was still a glimmer of hope for Rome
to survive, a 14 or higher was needed.
Alas, a 9 was rolled, and Rome fell - making the game itself
this year's owner of the wood.
Now we all have seen the game beat the players before, but this
is perhaps the first time that there was next to nothing that
could have been done to avoid this calamitous turn of events.
Tom ended the game with the highest total influence, in part
due to the blackmail play on Kevin's Senator from previous turns,
so he had the dubious honor of being in charge as Rome burned.
It was a very exciting game with a somewhat unfortunate ending
as it is always preferred to have a clear-cut winner produced
through game mechanics - but the game itself was so exceptional
that it can be easily overlooked.
We look forward to next year and another exciting experience
in the Roman senate.