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Subtitled "Architects of the Eternal City". Rivalry in old Rome for the most spectacular buildings and dominance in the Roman prefectures. Whoever uses the 90 blocks and 40 roofs best will win. There are four rounds to a game: Each round has a building phase, an auction phase, a scoring phase and a card drawing phase. In the building phase, players decide on the height of the buildings and build them at the side of the board; if they have the necessary permit, they can build on the board itself. A building is finished when it has a roof; the first roof in a prefecture determines the shape of all other roofs. In the auction phase players can auction for temples, wells and amphitheaters, earning extra points. This is a beautiful production.
Alan Moon is an extremely prolific designer, and has produced many excellent games, such as his recent Ticket to Ride, and the often highly lauded Elfenland. Several of his games have been done in conjunction with Aaron Weissblum, another prolific designer, and those games are often quite good! My favorite of the lot is Capitol (Schmidt Spiele, 2001 - Alan Moon and Aaron Weissblum), one of my favorite building games.
There is nothing about the game that I dislike. Most people highly dislike the scoring mechanism, but I found it unique and thematic. The components are extremely top-notch, and the strategy in the game, tempered by a small amount of luck, is so good, and so much fun - that after a game, players are usually ready to play again. The entire theme of the game is slightly irrelevant to the game mechanics, but the theme (building in ancient Rome) is an enjoyable one. The building fun can occasionally overshadow actual strategy - a phenomenon that I also see occasionally in Manhattan. However, the game plays so easily that many casual gamers ask to play it more, yet at the same time it offers a good set of strategies for those who are looking for a deeper game.
A game board is placed in the middle of the table, divided into nine areas. Each area is one of three colors (pink, purple, or light blue), has five to seven small squares (building sights), may have one or two fountain squares, and has one large square for improvements. Each player takes a Stop card in their color, as well as all the roof pieces of their color. Three stacks of cards are shuffled (Roof, Floor, and Permit) and are put next to the board face up. Two Roof cards, two Floor cards, and four Permit cards are dealt to each player. A large stack of wooden blocks (Floors) is placed near the board, and each player receives six of them players use these blocks and some of their roofs to create the following buildings: two one-story buildings (one with round roof, the other with triangular roof) and two two-story buildings (also with both types of roofs.) On the sides of the board, some Fountain, Amphitheater, and Temple tokens are placed, next to four pillars which are used as a scoring mechanism. One player is randomly chosen to go first and receives the First Player Marker - an oval cardboard token with a picture of a Roman senator on it. This player goes first in the first round (there are four rounds), with play proceeding clockwise around the table.
The first phase in each round is the Construction phase. During this phase, on a players turn, they may play one of their cards or pass (which removes them from play for the remainder of this phase). If a player plays a Floor card, they take two floors from the general stash and build buildings with them. They may start new buildings, or add to any existing building in front of them that has no roof. If the player plays a Roof card, they may put either a round or triangular roof on one of their buildings, completing it. If a player plays a Permit card, they may place one of their complete buildings onto the board. The area must match the color on the Permit card, and the building must be put into an empty square. The first building in each of the nine areas can have any type roof, but all subsequent buildings must have the same type of roof. The first building must also only contain one floor, while later buildings must have floors that equal or exceed the highest building in that area. When all players have finished playing their cards (have passed), the phase ends; and play proceeds to the Improvement Phase.
During the improvement phase, two fountains are auctioned off, as well as an Amphitheater or Temple (depends which round it is). All three types of cards have numbers on them, with values of 1 to 8. Each player takes all their remaining cards and arranges them in a face-down pile in front of them. All cards that they have above the Stop card in their deck are the cards that they have bid towards the current auction, while all those below are not used. (A player may put the Stop card at the top of the pile, if they dont want to bid.) Each player turns over their cards until they reach their stop card, and then the sums of the values on the cards are compared. The player with the highest sum wins the auction, discards the cards he used, and takes the item he won - placing it immediately on the board. (Ties are broken by the highest individual card played, then by turn order). Fountains can be placed in any empty square on the board, while amphitheaters and fountains are placed in the large square in each area (there can be only one per area).
The next phase of each round is the scoring phase. Each of the nine areas on the board is scored. The player who has the most floors total in each area scores 2 points plus one point for each fountain. The player with the second most floors scores 1 point for each fountain only. All ties are broken by the player who has the tallest building in that area. Temples double all points scored in an area. The scoring markers are moved accordingly, and the game proceeds to the end phase. During this phase, starting with the First player, each player draws six cards - from any pile(s) they wish. The player who has the most floors in any area that contains an Amphitheater gets two additional cards, with the second-most player getting one card. After all players have drawn cards, the Start marker passes to the player on the left, and the next round occurs. After the fourth round, the player with the most points is the winner!
Some comments on the game...
1.) Components: When one opens the box, the absolutely stellar components just bring about a rush of good feelings. The wooden blocks for the buildings are a good size, and stack well, and look pretty nice with the brightly painted roofs on them. They do not fall easily, which is good, because a lot of them are placed on the board. The board is very colorful, and has a lot of eye candy, representing a gods-eye view of ancient Rome. The three colors for each area are distinctly different, and match the color on the cards well (havent played this game with a color-blind person, but I suspect that they may have some problems). The cards are of a small size, but since they are extremely simple in their use, dont need a lot on them - basically a picture and a number. Everything about the game is very thematic, from the pictures on the cards, rulebook, and box - to the colorful board, to the cardboard insert in the box, which is designed to look like a small city. Everything stores well in the box, and the name and decoration of the box cause this game to be often requested from my crowded game shelf.
2.) Scoring pillars: There is a lot of antagonism from folk about the scoring mechanism in Capitol. However, I really like how it works - even though I know that Im in a very small minority about it. Basically, there are four pillars, one of each color, that slide underneath a cardboard strip - each pillar slid so that the number of the players current score is showing. Peoples complaints generally center around the idea that the pillars slide. I cut out another strip of cardboard and glued it to the back, causing the pillars to slide between the two strips of cardboard. This keeps them sliding fairly smoothly in our games - and we havent had any problems. Still, I can see (barely but grudgingly) how this could cause some problems for some folk.
3.) Rules: The rulebook, sadly, is in German - but suitable translations are available on the internet. The rules are very uncomplicated, and I doubt much reference to the rulebook would be made after the first game. The game is extremely simplistic to teach and learn - and while the strategy may elude many first time players, the game itself plays out smoothly.
4.) Strategy: I mentioned in the beginning that this game suffers from a minute problem that Manhattan also has. New players sometimes get so caught up in building huge buildings - warring for a certain area - that they ignore the overall picture, and lose the game in the process. There are a lot of opportunities for players each turn. The face-up decks, in particular, are pretty interesting. At first, this concept really threw me for a loop - very few other games keep decks face up. But then I realized that this added to the whole strategy for the game. If I really dont need a Floor card but the top Floor card is an 8 value, should I take it anyway? These decisions, once made, usually seem to be wrong, and cause players to want to play the game again.
5.) Auctions: Im a huge fan of this auction method. Its basically blind bidding but done in a very ingenious way - using the Stop cards. It works really well, and players enjoy it - it keeps tensions high. You must win some of the auctions to strategically place the tiles where you need them, but you cannot win them all. So its part of the strategy to win certain auctions. The Amphitheaters in particular, while seeming to be weaker than the theaters, give a player a huge advantage in future auctions - two cards makes a huge difference in the game.
6.) Theme and Fun Factor: The theme is nailed onto some good mechanics, and it works really well - one of the better thematic German games Ive played. The game is not quite as fun as Manhattan, but is probably a better-designed game, with more opportunities for strategy. I have yet to play this game with anybody who didnt enjoy it and ask to play it again. Even some of my friends who are jaded against more intellectual games liked this gem quite a bit, and asked for a repeat. This, of course, always pleases me.
Capitol is indeed a great game. It has a decent amount of luck in it - with initial card draws, but really emphasizes tactics over luck. It plays excellently with three players (its okay with two), but a four-player game really shines, as players constantly must try to outmaneuver each other. As long as players dont get caught up in a blood feud (Ive seen buildings that were ten stories high - ridiculous for this game), the results of games are fairly close. People are intrigued by any game that lets them build things, and Capitol capitalizes on this attraction nicely. If you have an opportunity to pick this game up, dont let the fact that its in another language deter you. Its one of the best building games you can get, and even more so - its a lot of fun!
Capitol is a terrific decision-making game. It has the feel of momentum as every successive move you make has impact that builds throughout the game. And despite this, early mistakes can still be compensated for in later rounds because the later rounds are more consequential (due in part to the temples).
What I think is unique about the theme is that the laws (i.e. regarding permits to build, only allowing one type of roof in an area, preventing shorter buildings than the last one built, etc) make the game feel more like a simulation add they add a lot of flavour to the game. While the rules themselves may not be all that accurate, I would suspect the city planners in Rome did lay decree about what would be allowed to be built in certain areas. A nice touch by the designers.
As highly as I regard this game, I will outright say I don't like the prescribed auction rules. I have adopted, what I call, 'The Taj Mahal' auction system and it works so much more strategically and with more satisfying game play:
The start player makes his bid with any number of cards, let's say he plays one card with a value of '8'. The next player must make a bid that surpasses 8 using any number of cards. So Player 2 puts down two cards: a '6' and a '7'. Player 3 must now bid higher than 13, so he puts down all four of his cards that total 16. The bid goes back to Player 1 and if he wants to stay in he must beat 16. The auction continues until last man standing.
There is less guesswork this way since you are allowed to respond to what each player bids rather than setting your one bid before the auction has started.
I want to add that, as a 3-player game, Capitol may just be the best game out there that supports 3 players. Maybe even better than Taj Mahal because it is more accessible to non-gamers and, at four rounds, a quicker game overall.
Which is my favorite game of all time? This or El Grande? Depends on the day.
This game is simple to play, elegant, and begs me to keep coming back for one more play.
The board is fugly, with pukey colors. Now that it's out of print, buy it before it's off the shelves forever.
This game is pure Moon genious.
In my earlier review I gave this game 4 stars. After several plays, I must elevate that to 5. This game simply works and works well.
The reason I find I like this game so much is that the strategy is clear as glass. There are other games I might enjoy as much - maybe even more like Puerto Rico, but what makes this game shine is the strategy is much clearer. Sometimes after playing Puerto Rico or Carcassone (2 games I love), I come away saying: 'Wow, that was fun, but exactly how did I win that game?' This game is much more clear cut. I also like the idea that on each turn you know how many points everyone has.
Three things I mentioned in my earlier review I also wanted to clear up.
First, I have found you can come from behind. The leader in the first round does not necessarily hold up. One game we played found my son coming from last place in a 3 player game all the way to first with a huge last round. I am finding come from behind victories more common as we play.
Second, the game plays well with 2, 3, or 4 players. Playing with 4 might be more crowded and slightly more fun, but with 2 it feels more like a chess match. I love it either way.
Finally, the components could be better but at least I found a fix for the scorekeeping device. Go to the following web site: www.thegamesjournal.com/articles/FixingCapitol.shtml and follow the instructions given. I did just as he said with the only exception being that I could not find 1/16' thick magnetic sheets. The ones I used were just the standard sheets sold in craft stores. It still works great. For about $2 it's worth fixing it.
Four of us played 'Capitol' for the first time recently and we all agreed, it's a great game. It's not hard to learn, but the options available and the player interaction makes for a fun, tense, and exciting game. The bits are really wonderful - if you ignore the scoring device, which is silly (we just used paper and pencil) - and you get a real sense of 'building Rome' as the game progresses. I've given this game five stars and would put it second to 'Carcassone' as my favorite game.
When I first got Capitol and read over the rules, it just didn't sound like it would be all that much fun. When I explained the rules to the first group of gamers to try it with me, everyone had a skeptical and somewhat perplexed 'wha...?' look on their faces.
We were all quite apprehensive. Then we started playing...
Just a few minutes into the first turn, it became instantly obvious that this was an outstanding little game! And it only got better as we played on!
Like all great games, the design is one of streamlined simplicity, yet it's full of strategic depth and open possibilities. There are just so many wonderful little elements in this game that work together to create a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts: the sequential rounds of card play that force you to stay one step ahead of your competitors or hold back until they commit themselves to a particular building, the restriction of roof types within a neighborhood, the auctioning and strategic placement of fountains, and the replenishment of cards from face-up decks forcing you to decide between necessary resources or auction points, just to name a few...
An amazing game. Highly recommended!
OK, so it was all I could come up with for a title for this review. The truth of the matter is that Capitol is truly an awesome game. Once again, as so many times before, when I introduced this game to my parents, the losing streak commenced immediately. One of these days, I'm going to teach them a game that they can't pick up so quickly (yeah, right). Personally, I find the ease of rules a bonus to teaching the game. It goes to show how much thought has gone into a game to make it simple yet balanced and fun yet strategic.
How much do you sandbag to try to win improvements? How many floors in a building is enough before you need to place it on the board? There are only 4 rounds. How much can you do in that time frame?
This is another in the 'I'll never regret buying this one' category. Bring out the inner architect in you. You won't regret it.
Recently, someone in our gaming group (thanks, Robert) forked out and bought all 3 games. They're all good in their own way, but in case you can only spring for one or so, maybe this will help (biases are all mine):
I group them together because we refer to them as the 'wooden block games'... so much for affinity.
Medina, which I reviewed earlier, has quite a bit of tension and plays well already with 3 players. The decisions are difficult in that they involve a bit of poker gambling in terms of when to claim a palace, and tough tradeoffs between the placing of palace pieces and controlling the caravan of men. City walls get typically decided a bit later as people will hold off committing there until they have a clearer vision of the ownership of the palaces. There can be a significant point span between first and last place, and dumb moves here and there are not killers (though they do aggravate quite a bit) because the board gets so complex and there're a lot of points at stake everywhere.
Torres at first (we play the intermediate version, where you take 3 cards and choose one) feels like a much more 'bounded' board. The tiles are aesthetically very pleasing, the colours of the leaders, sharp. There's quite a bit of tactical play, and other than one card (which we found to be both confusing to beginners as well as nearly useless compared to the rest of the deck), the cards can allow significant swings in point scoring. The fairness factor being that we all have access to the same cards, and it's only their random shuffle at the start that keeps the game from becoming a 3 player [page scan/se=0599/sf=category/fi=stockall.asc/ml=20]Go game (by that, I mean no luck). It playes well with 3 or 4 players. One thing that we found a bit odd is how, after playing a fairly long and involved game, the difference in scoring between first and last place is under 10 points. Observing that over a few games made some players try to optimize fewer mistakes onto their play, resulting in the same point spreads but longer games. That's not good, and we've had to resort to abuse of the obvious culprits to correct the situation.
Capitol has nice wooden bocks, an interesting commitment to 'roof capping' like Medina (whereas Medina calls for the capping of one of four colours, Capitol has equal but limited roofs in dome or steeple shape), a chance to back out of the round's proceedings to save yourself for the auction (similar to the problem you'd encounter in Taj Mahal, though with different mechanics: do you bet the farm to score extra cards early, or to score points giving temples later on?), a stressful commitment to building stuff outside the board that may threaten or be threatened by someone else (the longer you can delay capping a building, the better), or worse, building stuff that may end up being wasted (this is a horrible feeling, though more palatable when you corner someone else into that situation). The point spreads from first to last can be significant; the opportunity for error and strategic goof-ups in a 4 player game, very hard to suffer. You regret much here. Your commitment in your round could be for naught if someone else messes up the board, or grabs other space. Never mind the feeling of horror when someone grabs a fountain at auction with no cards bid!
I think that Capitol is the most interesting and rich of the three, combining tradeoffs, limited resources, commitments, blocks and cards, and building and auctions, and is really fun with 4 players. My only criticism would be the point counters, which try to work as a cheesy slide ruler and are always about to get knocked around, losing the valuable information.
I have dabbled in Go, and I'm a master Chess player, so perhaps because of this I find Torres amusing but no more than that. I guess the impact of the cards on the game is too large, and since everyone will have access to the same cards, it boils down to a matter of timing, perhaps. I'm trivializing an excellent game, of course, but I'm trying to rank the three in relative order, so please forgive the analogy to illustrate the relative merits.
I would have ranked Medina as second in terms of interest. However, it is much harder to master than Torres and thus likely will hold less appeal to the wider audience, and certainly won't be a hit around the family table. This is very important also, and why I recognize that Carcassonne is a game of the Year, while most people sadly can't even spell Serenissima.
In summary, I recommend Capitol as the best of the three, and you pick your second based on the sophistication of your group (Medina is more serious). Enjoy!
I must say that the more I play Alan R. Moon's games, the more I like them. I started off playing King of the Elves, and that quickly grew on me. I went on to try Elfenland, Union Pacific, and now Capitol. All of these games have a simple elegance to them that is hard to describe. When I first got into German games, Moon's games sounded too simple, and not exciting enough, but Mr. Moon's 'simple' games seem to just grow on you.
The latest one is Capitol, a pretty looking game with lots of cool wood pieces. The object is to build a thriving Athens-like city by developing districts with buildings and improvements. On your turn, you can build buildings higher, put roofs on them, or place them in a district. That's pretty much it. Sounds boring? It's not.
There are 3 different zones, each with 3 districts. And you have to hold cards that will let you build in those zones. On top of that, you only have a limited number of roofs--those roofs come in 2 different shapes which affect gameplay tremendously. If you have a triangle building, but the district is zoned for half-circles, then you can't place it there. And on top of all that, the cards you use to build, roof, and place buildings are also the cards you use to bid on improvements like fountains, temples, and amphitheatres. Bid too high and you won't have many cards to build with. Bid too low and you miss out on the special benefits that improvements bring.
One complaint I've heard is the graphics. That really surprises me. With the exception of the floating pastel colored squares (what ARE those things, and WHY do they float off the ground?) the board, the cards, and the box are beautiful. The art doesn't really match, but it doesn't bother me at all because the art is unique, and it uses a very pleasant palette.
If you like Alan R. Moon's games, this one is a hit. If you like light strategy games, this one is a hit. And this game is one I would recommend as a great family game. It is a bit more abstract then some others, but its simplicity and three dimensional development are great hooks for families.
I have no problem recommending this game to nearly anybody. Great tension, tough decisions, but ultra-simple gameplay. Alan R. Moon has done it again.
I've really enjoyed all three of the Alan Moon / Aaron Weissblum big releases so far this year--San Marco, Capitol and Das Amulett. All three games have such a unique overall feel and it is nice to see them each appealing to different individual gamer tastes. Of the three, my personal favorite is Capitol. I've played Capitol about a half dozen times now and feel that Capitol is one of the best new games I've played this year (2001) and probably the best AM/AW designed game to date (IMHO). It supports 2-4 players on the box, but I've only played it with 4 players (which I have a hunch is the best number to play this with). The two main mechanisms involve the building up of an area and then an auction to improve those areas on the board. The game feels smooth from start to finish--and you are always anxiously concerned about the current phase while keeping an eye on the possible future phases. Your turn to play comes around very quickly so the downtime is minimized (there is a little bit of downtime in the end-phase when you draw cards back up into your hand but this is fairly short). There are 4 full rounds to the game--and each round has 4 different phases--a construction phase, an improvement phase, a scoring phase and a End/Draw phase. Most of the work comes in the construction and auction phases where areas are contested on the board and improvements to areas are done (to increase their value for scoring). There is a nice tense feeling in the construction phase as you need to use your cards to build up and put roofs on your buildings and move into an area--but your opponents also want to grab territory and so often there is a bit of nuclear escalation in watching players build huge structures to match eachother. But you need to commit some smaller buildings--the main rule in building is that you must build into an area at an equal height or only one-greater in height than the current tallest building. The same cards you use during the building phase are the cards you would use for the auction mechanism (in addition to an 'action', each card has a point value as well)--so if you 'spend' too many cards in the building phase you are left with fewer cards for the auction (and any cards spent in the auction leave even less for your next turn of building). The scoring phase gives points to the most influential and 2nd most influential in an area so the goal is to put the most building blocks into an area (not necessarily the tallest). In the draw phase, you get to choose your replacement cards from three face up stacks, so even though you are at the mercy of card distribution, you have some measure of control over what cards you take. Good clean system, nice interaction between the players and a game that I have enjoyed playing over the past few months. The scoring track included is, admittedly, not very good--a series of 4 Roman 'columns' which are slide up and down like a slide-rule which is very easy to bump (although it certainly looks nice). A pad of paper works much better--or for the bit-lovers among you a 4-track cribbage board would be ideal. I'll strongly recommend Capitol--especially to those of you who like a planning and building games. Capitol is currently only in a German release--but there are no language dependent components and rules translations are readily available. Playing time averaged about 90 minutes with 4 players.
First, I confess that this is a very preliminatry assessment. I have not even played a complete game. A friend and I squeezed in 2 1/2 rounds of the 4-round game while waiting for a meeting to begin. I suspect it is better with 3 or 4 players, but it was very exciting and involving for 2 players. The 50 minutes we spent both learning and playing was enough to tell me that 1) this is a very absorbing game; 2) it will probably rank in my top 3-4 all-time favorites; 3) we can't wait to play a full game with more guys; 4) we saw that the strategic level was far beyond what we were playing. Our strategies changed as the game unfolded.
Overall the game bits are beautiful--the colorful board, and neat wooden blocks enhanced the play and provided a cool visual presentation. The rules are well translated and easy to understand and explain. The game length is about as long as advertised. The tension is wonderful, with that wrenching feeling of needing to do 5 things when you can only do one. The strategy seemed to intensify with each succeeding round.
Each builder (player) begins with 4 'completed' buildings (a completed building consists of one or more 'floors' and a 'roof'). In addition each player receives 2 'roof' cards, 2 'floor' cards, and 4 'permit' cards. These are used to 1) build buildings, 2) 'cap off' buildings, and to 3) place them on the board in one of the 9 districts of the city of Rome.
Each of the four 'rounds' of the game consists of 4 phases:
First, the Construction Phase requires careful analysis of what other players are doing and where they are placing their buildings. Strict building codes require buildings to have certain type roofs, and to be certain heights in order to be placed. You do not want to waste resources on a building that can't be placed on the board due to the building codes. Further, you must decide when to place your buildings on the board. If you place that 1-story building there now, will another player immediately place a 2-story building in the same area and take control? Or, do you wait and let someone else place a 1-story building and then you top him with a 2-story building? Should you add another floor to an incomplete building, or start a new building? So you are continually watching what others are building in their 'off board' building sites. Finally, when you drop out of the building phase and conserve your cards for the Auction Phase? The cards you don't use in building are available for bidding in the next phase. So--do you build, or do you concentrate on bidding?
Second, the Auction Phase involves the tension between what you need and what you are willing to give up to get it. It seems with every move there are trade-offs. To get that fountain you may have to part with a Permit or Roof card you desperately need for the next round. Will it be worth it? Will someone bid higher? Do I need to save my cards for building, or use them for bidding? Should I use the Roof or the Permit card for bidding? What are my plans for the next turn? Should I go for this fountain, or wait for my chance at the Amphitheatre?
Third, the Scoring Phase is pretty straightforward--no gut-wrenching decisions here; instead, you will be repaid for your genius or failure in the two preceding phases.
Fourth, the End Turn requires careful planning and crucial decisions as you refill your hand. Since the decks are 'face-up' you are able to see the top card in each of the three decks and choose the cards you want in your hand! This gives you some control over the kind of hand you will work with during the next round. Do you take the #1 Roof card, or the #8 Floor card? You might need the roof, but the #8 card would help you during a future Auction (Improvement) Phase.
Decisions, decisions. Do you build many smaller buildings and get a 'presence' in many areas of the board, or do you build larger buildings and concentrate on fewer areas? Do I place my buildings now, or wait for others to go first? If you wait too long--you lose. If you strike too early, others may easily top what you do.
Just a partial playing of one game was enough to enthrall me. I have rethought my strategy and studied the game several times since (sign of a great game). I am impatiently waiting for the chance to play it with my friends. This game is a capitol idea--right up there with Euphrat & Tigris, Settlers of Catan, Princes of Florence! I highly recommend you try it.
The game components of Capitol are excellent, with wooden playing pieces, a colorful gameboard, and attractively rendered cards. The exception is the odd 'scoreboard,' consisting of four yardstick-type strips in the player colors, held loosely together by another piece. The scores easily get skewed when someone bumps the table, or one slides on strip, only to inadvertently drag the neighboring one with it. A simple, standard scoring track would have been much better. We use a pad and paper.
Those who have played Manhattan will recognize this game when they first lay it out. Both games have to do with constructing buildings in 9 different districts, with cards (in this case, the Permit cards) determining in which district new construction can be placed.
But that's where the similarity ends.
In Capitol, buildings are constructed and completed off-board, requiring considerable more advance planning for placement on the board. (Tip for play: always ensure that you have at least one triangular roof and one round roof for the final round of play. If you have only one type, you'll preclude youself from building in half the districts, making it easier for opponents to counter you or avoid competition.)
The most significant difference, however, is in the auctions for fountains, amphitheaters, and temples, all of which impact the scoring in the districts in which they are placed. The players must use the Roof, Floor, and Permit cards in their hands --- each of which has a numerical value printed on it --- for bidding in the auction. Cards used in bidding are discarded after the auction, naturally generating some very tough choices between how many cards to bid and which cards to retain for future construction.
Yet one more interesting rule has to do with the bidding itself. Players select the cards they are bidding with and arrange them so that they are on the top of their held cards when laid down on the table. A 'stop' card separates the bidding cards from the cards to be retained. A player can bid nothing simply by placing his/her stop card on the top. This auction mechanism adds a little more spice to an already-excellent game.
True, there is an element of 'luck of the draw' in the card play, but Capitol's scoring and auction rules add considerably more strategy and tactics to a system like Manhattan's, and makes Capitol a very challenging and fun game. Our group --- which seemed to grow weary of Manhattan a year ago --- has found renewed interest in 'building' games with Capitol.
While I love building with the beautiful playing pieces, I am not happy enough with the mechanics to give this game 5 stars. In fact, I am prejudiced against all games that seem to be strategy games on the surface but are best played when one views the game as a political game. This game fits squarely in that category for me. Even the best player in the world could not overcome two average players who decide to work together. This is almost always the case in multi-player games where one player's gain is another player's loss. If this game were more social in nature, I would forgive the problem because half of the fun would be the interaction. In this case, the game is mostly strategic so players are not interacting, laughing, or playing as much as I would like for a game that is mostly decided by politics or by accidentally evading conflict. On the other hand, many player (perhaps most) like this type of game so perhaps this review will convince you to buy it. The mechanics do make for a game where anyone can win which is nice for casual gamers who play with fanatic strategists or for people who play with young kids. As for me, there are so many 5 star games out there that I consider this game as a waste of valuable closet space. Of course, if it turns out that non-gamers love this game, I will have to change this review. Any size box is worth a few extra converts.
As many others have noted, the scoring gimmick is incomplete. I simply glued two sides and a back to the mechanism so that the pillars slide in a tightly fitting case. While this is not a perfect fix, all it required was glue, scissors, and some of the left over card board from the punched out pieces.
I had heard so many glowing reports of this game, I just had to try it. My overall perspective after 4 games is that it is a good, solid, strategic game. Not the best, but very good. I played with kids, (good players of strategic, german style games) and they also had a similar attitude. Pretty much a solid 4 star ranking. The decisions (turn angst) are grueling and is what makes this game shine. There is some luck in the cards, but that is somewhat minimized by your being allowed to select from the 3 different piles. By the way, kids can play this game well. They won 3 of the 4. But then again we play a lot of german style games so they are not your normal candy land, or monopoly game players.
I do have one concern that I have noticed mostly from reviews of game sessions on boardgamegeek.com and to some degree during our games. The first round seems critical to a fault in determining who will win this game. If someone takes an early lead, they seem very difficult to overcome. It doesn't seem logical though, because players can work together against someone if they wanted to. But from reviews it doesn't seem to happen. I'm curious if anyone else has noticed this. Has anyone had games where a player who was last in the beginning came from behind to win?
My major complaint is the game components. What happened here? The components start off well enough - the wooden blocks and colored tiles are a very nice touch and the board (even though some have complained) looks good to me. It fits the theme and is well laid out. Also I have heard complaints about the colors of the squares, but the version I just purchased from this website has red, white, and a very dark blue or black. Not the pink, purple and light blue in previous reviews. This game has nowhere near the beauty of games like Elfenland or Settlers of Catan, but let's face it, we're talking ancient Rome here. So far, so good, but after that the components go downhill. OK, lets start with the scorekeeping device. Do I need to say anything more that hasn't been said? People are right - it's bad. Use pencil and paper. Next, the cards are small size cards. Not horrible, but try shuffling those things. A standard-sized card would have just looked nicer and been easier to handle, but that's just preference. Next, they use sturdy cardboard stock for the fountains, amphitheatres, and temples. They're OK and get the job done, but I would have much more preferred some sort of 3 dimensional figures for these. This again, is strictly my preference and I thought would have made the game look much nicer.
With all that said, I would still highly recommend this game. Yes, I knocked the components but I must admit much of that is personal preference. Don't let that stop you from buying this game. The game system works and works very well and the plus is that it plays within an hour. The fact that it plays quickly, almost no downtime, great theme, and is fun, caused me to almost give this a 5 star rating, in fact I was torn between giving this 4 or 5 stars. I finally opted for 4 because of the following: First, the people I played with felt it was a solid 4 star game, but did not quite deserve a 5. Second, although I felt it might be a 5, I just can't include it in the same class as Puerto Rico or Settlers of Catan. Third, I don't think the replay value of this will be as high as those mentioned in the 5 star category. Finally, the components could use some improvement.
Final thoughts Buy this game - I doubt you will be disappointed. A solid four and a half stars.
P.S. In response to review before this, I think the game scales very good at 3 or 4. Two works well also in my opinion, but not quite at the same high level. Just my opinion.
I will not cover the mechanics. I'm sorry but I'm only giving it 2 stars. The reason is that if your initial deal of cards has low numbers, there is no chance of winning the auctions for the temples, fountains and ampitheatres. Each round builds on the next: You need to win the auctions for the ampitheatres to get more cards to win the auctions for the temples to double your score. If you miss out on any of these auctions, there is no chance of catching up. I really enjoyed the game the first several times but we finally realised that what you can do is pre-determined by the first deal of the cards that you get.
Zoning regulations can actually be fun. Hands are drawn from faceup stacks of numbered Floor, Roof, and Permit cards, in any combination. Discard Floors and Roofs to complete buildings off the board. Discarded permits show the color of a district where completed buildings can be placed, starting with a height of one story and subsequently rising no more than one floor higher than the previous building. A district's first edifice dictates the type of Roof for all its others. At round's end, those with most Floors in a district score. At auctions, the highest value of cards offered wins monuments that increase a district's score, or allow its leaders extra cards. What's best--using cards for construction, or saving them for auctions? I'm floored!
Once again, the early adopters on the newsgroups showed this as one to consider from the Nuremburg haul and as the rules were posted onto the net, it enabled me to understand the game before I bought it. (Not that this made any difference as the designers have now a sufficiently good track record for me to buy unseen.) The Moon/Weissblum combination is really motoring now, with more titles in recent months than any other combination and I believe their quality is rising. Capitol confirms this increase in game class. It is a game about placing buildings on a board and scoring points for them. The higher the buildings, the more valuable are those buildings.
The board is split into three coloured zones (pink, purple and light blue -- not my choice but it makes the board colourful); each zone has three areas, containing from 5 to 7 squares. On these squares players will place buildings which are constructed from wooden blocks, representing the storeys, and completed with roofs. In order for a building to be placed on a square, certain conditions must be met: the building must be complete (have a roof on) and must be at least as high as any existing building in that area; the roof type must match the roofs of existing buildings (there are two type of roof); and a permit card must be played that matches the colour of the zone.
This sounds pretty onerous, but in fact is intuitive from very early on in the game. Cards are dealt out at the beginning from three separate face-up packs -- roofs, permits and floors. A player's turn consists of playing one of these from his hand of cards. The floor card allows two more floors to be taken from the central store and the player then has to decide what to do with them -- either start a new building, or add them to buildings already in front of you, thereby creating taller buildings. Once you have decided, you cannot undo this move later on, so you often create new buildings, as this is a relatively safe move.
The roof tile cards finish a building and prepare it for future placement on the board. The choice of when to cap the building and with what type of roof is really hard, as there are only 5 rounded roofs and 5 pointed roofs for each player and four of these are used in the set-up at the start.
Finally, the permit cards allow you to place a building with a roof into an area. As each permit covers three areas, there is considerable choice about where these can be used.
A round is completed when all players pass and there is then an auction phase. The first two auctioned items in each round are fountains, which occupy one space in any area. Auctions are quick -- each player plays any of his cards (roofs, permits and floors) face down in a pile. All the cards have a number in the range 1 to 8, which is only used in auctions. A stop card is inserted where the player wants and all players turn over their cards one at a time until the stop card is reached for all players. Simple and effective. The winner discards their cards and the next auction takes place. The final auction in a round is always a more valuable building. In the first two rounds, it is an amphitheatre and in the last two a temple.
When the auctions are complete, a round concludes by taking the scores. The winner of an area is the person who has the most floors in an area. Often this is the person who has the highest building, which is used as tiebreaker when the floors do not produce a winner. The winner of each area scores two points, plus one for each fountain in that area. Some areas have fountains already printed on the map and further fountains can be added to any area as a result of the auctions. The next placed player scores only the number of fountains. Scores are doubled if an area has a temple. Finally, the players get 6 more cards to their current holding of cards, with a bonus of 2 if a player wins an area that has an amphitheatre.
So having outlined the rules, what is the game like? In a word: excellent. I have played the game 5 or 6 times now and each game has had different problems to solve. However, the common issue to each game is timing. Since you can only carry out one action per turn, you have to be constantly watching what the other players are doing. If one player exhausts their roofs of one type, then they are in a weak position to counter you in some areas. In another case, if a player is building a tall building (say 4 floors already), then there are usually only 1 or 2 places to place that building, which can be useful to you, as it limits what they can do in other areas. As the game is sequential, someone has to build and this allows you to place a building of one more floor into that same area and (re)capture that area. In order to overcome this problem of placing buildings, I have seen some players not compete much in the first round, because by the beginning of the second round they will have a large hand of cards and more options as a result. The other tactic that is good to use in order to avoid taking a decision is the floors card, as you can always use the floors to start a new building or add to a half-constructed one and thereby defer either completing a building or placing one on the board..
The fountains are incredibly useful for completing an area, as you cannot build on a square where a fountain has been built. So an area that has only two squares left could be completed with the placement of two fountains or buildings.
The limitation on options is clever -- you need to have the right blend of cards, as well as the right mix of coloured permits. It is no use having a building ready to play in a keenly contested area if you do not have the correct permit to play. As in many areas of the game, the balance is good, as when you receive more cards at the end of a round, you draw them from the face-up decks one at a time and may not get the coloured permits until you have used several card picks. This makes the areas with amphitheatres well worth winning, as they enable you to draw extra cards. I have found the most valuable auction to win is the first temple as it doubles the scores in one area for two rounds, but knowing this, players can prepare for it and know to bid high.
All the games I have played have been close, which suggests that the game is well balanced and that there are several ways to win. No-one has found a perfect solution, as much depends on the way the buildings are constructed and even small areas can be useful and score a vital 2 points towards your score. The only poor aspect to the game is the scoring markers, which don't work well and are completely superfluous. Pencil and paper are perfectly OK for this. But this is just quibbling of course and I highly recommend the game as one of the gaming delights of 2001.