Conquest of the Empire
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This game rocks. Without the modified rules, catapults become a limited commodity that all players race to purchase. In the original game the 30 or so catapults that came with the game were an intentional game limit, so you only ever fought a battle till the number of catapults lost in a round equalled the number you could purchase back during the purchasing phase.
I am in total agreement concerning the playability, speed, and enjoyment of this game. It really is by far the best game of this series-- way better than axis and allies and fortress.. you don't need weeks to play and the strategy and side shifting make it way more enjoyable than dip. or really any of the other strategy board games. I wish it were around more. Its a great 2-3 hour play
Conquest of the Empire is the finest of the MB Gamemaster Series games; it's a multiplayer struggle to be the last man standing (but nowhere near as acrimonious as Diplomacy). As a pretender to the title of Caesar, you marshal your infantry, cavalry, and catapults, and collect tribute from provinces under your control. All troops must be led either by a general or your caesar (but don't lose him).
Building cities allows you to collect more tribute, and allows you to hook up your provinces to facilitate quick movement (one of the neater parts of the game--you can move from Asia Minor to Carthage in one turn, thanks to those roads). Galleys allow you to sail across the sea and engage in naval combat. At two points in the game, inflation hits and the prices for units double, then triple, which puts the squeeze on the players who have not expanded their influence or taken others out of the game. A turn consists of movement, combat, purchasing, then placing your units (always in your home capitol). Combat is handled through targeting a unit in your opponent's force, then rolling a die. The presence of a catapult or fortified city may allow you to hit that target better, a feature called 'combat advantage'. We have found that gaining combat advantage is just a luck fest using the normal rules, though, so we play by the Burns House Rules.
We have found that the Burns House Rules really do a lot to make the game fairer in a couple of ways: the players are more balanced, and catapults are not tanks. They are these:
1. No more than two catapults in a legion.
2. Catapults can be hit on a 4 or more when they become the only units in an attacking force. So you need to 'screen' them with other units. I must credit my sources, though--I got this off the Internet from Mike Montesa. Thanks!
3. Arabia and Tingitana are worth 10.
4. Mesopotamia is adjacent to Arabia (this is unclear on the board). This, plus the previous rule, go a long way to balancing out Numidia and Egyptus, who start off without much access to cash.
5. You have to lose both capitol and caesar to be knocked out of the game. If you lose one, the taker gets 50 tribute as a bonus, and you get your caesar back (if that's what you lost).
6. Italia starts first. This is important, as Italia is one of the weakest positions on the board.
I may yet have more tweaking to do; reducing the number of catapults in a legion makes the game play better, but has the effect of lengthening the game. But all in all, my group has found that with these rules, Conquest of the Empire is a very satisfying war game. It's hard to come by nowadays, sadly, but if Avalon Hill's recent reincarnation as a Hasbro division becomes successful, then I would bet that they would consider this gem for a re-release.
Whether you own the game or not, if you're interested in discussing Conquest of the Empire further, let me invite you to a Yahoo! Group devoted to the game, administered by Don Hessong.