Burning Rome Kickstarter Review

Burning Rome Kickstarter Review

I grew up a stone’s throw from the city of Chester, famous for being an ancient Roman city and having some of them oldest city walls in the country. As such the sight of a man dressed as a Roman legionnaire touting entrance to the Deva museum (Deva being the Roman name for Chester) was a common sight. And because this was such a perfect opportunity for a school trip, I should be no stranger to Roman history, but all that I can remember is that the Romans used to eat dormice.

Burning Rome is the latest game from Emil Larson, and while Emil's first game was an overly ambitions space 4X game that took a very long time to deliver. Burning Rome is a much more straightforward affair being a two player confrontational card game of troop positioning and resource management.

Burning Rome is based upon three columns of the battlefield and the game is spent sending troops to each column in a bid to hammer your opponent into submission. The order in which you place cards down has a big effect on each column’s relative strength. Each card has a basic strength and defence value as well as some form of special ability but cards are played on top of each other blocking off that ability, effectively removing it from the game. Cards also have a skirmish and siege value and the top most card on the stack adds these values in place of their standard attack and defence.
 Burning rome Kickstarter review Roman cards

This means that the game is all about knowing when to play each card as well as slowly building up each legion turn by turn; what starts out as some weedy conscripted infantry soon builds with the addition of elephant cavalry, skirmishers and your finest legionnaires.

Combat is a simple numbers game, at the end of your round you attack, and if your attack value for a column is greater than the opposing defence then your opponent takes the difference in damage. It is for that reason that the game becomes a Roman army version of noughts and crosses (or is that noughts and tens) as you place cards to counter whatever your opponent has placed in their column and try and out place your opponent.

It's not a modern card game without some form of resources management and so you also have to pay to play cards into their columns, and if for any reason your resources run out its game over just as much as if you'd been given a damn good hiding by the opposing armies. It means that you can't just play all of your cards in a massive spending splurge but instead have to think a little more carefully about using your valuable resources.

Burning rome Kickstarter review hannibal cards

Because cards aren’t removed expect in special circumstances, the stakes rise rather quickly and results in a very fast game. After 15 minutes your legion is either vanquished or victorious and a quick shuffle of the cards and you're ready to play again. There is the hint that the final version will include an age based system, where certain units are limited to later in the game but the prototype version didn't include these rules.

Now I have already likened Burning Rome to noughts and crosses (or tic tac toe if you are of an American persuasion) and this can make the game sound a little shallow and well, that's because I think it is. That doesn't mean the game is without decisions, because there are also a whole load of special action cards and almost every troop that you can add to the battlefield also has a special ability. Some of these abilities mean it's possible to defeat your opponent by cutting off their supply line, opening up another strategic option but on the whole you are going to win because your number is bigger than theirs.

Burning Rome Kickstarter card game review

So as you can no doubt tell by now, I'm hardly on fire with enthusiasm for Burning Rome. It's not necessarily a bad game; it's more that I really am not a fan of these micro card games and to stand out it has to do something particularly special or interesting. The game plays quicker than a typical round of combat in a Fantasy Flight Games’ dudes on a map game, battling Star destroyers and X-Wings in Star Wars Rebellion or blasting Ultra-Smurfs in Forbidden Stars are just as detailed but are also part of a larger game where the stakes are raised considerably. I think the real nub of the issue is that Burning Rome game lacks consequences, and I find it difficult to get invested in such a game.

I can categorically say that Burning Rome is not for me. The lightness of mechanics, and speed of play just isn't balanced against an engaging experience or rewarding outcome, but I could see it working really well as the conflict mechanism in a larger, more in depth game. Burning Rome is a bite size snack of a game, and while I can’t deny it’s perfectly edible it doesn’t really leave you satisfied. I suppose it's a bit like eating a dormouse.

Burning Rome is on Kickstarter now.

This Kickstarter preview is based on a prototype version of the game provided by the publisher; the final product may look, play or smell different to that used in this preview.
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