Conquest of the Empire
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Do you have what it takes to become the next Emperor of Rome?
It is the 2nd century AD and the 200-year Pax Romana of Augustus Caesar has come to an end. With the death of the Philosopher-Scholar Emperor Marcus Aurelius, the Roman Empire is without a competent leader. Disorder reigns and civil war looms. Mars will be pleased. It is a time for war. It is a time for Conquest of the Empire!
Over 300 historically accurate, professionally sculpted miniatures are included in this detailed board game. Plus, Conquest of the Empire is really two games for the price of one! Included in every box are rules for both the original classic game, as well as all new advanced rules that give the game additional depth and strategy!
"Will you be the next emperor of Rome ... or food
for the lions?" and
"It's two, two, two, two games in one"
Players of Conquest of the Empire take on the role of potential Caesars in the second century A.D. The 200 year Pax Romana has come to an end and someone must arise to unite the land. Who that person is will be determined through land and sea battles across the empire.
Interestingly, Conquest of the Empire contains two games in the box: the main game, which is a re-issue of a fun, but flawed MB Gamemaster game and Conquest of the Empire II, a new design by Glenn Drover based loosely on Martin Wallace's brilliant Struggle of Empires. Since the original game is more likely to appeal to our regular readers, I'll focus on that one, but that isn't to say that COEII is a bad game. In fact, it is the game more likely to see heavy play among my group for a few reasons that I'll mention later.
COE is a pretty basic light war game and, as such, follows a familiar formula. Players start by placing their initial allotment of troops on the board on one of seven provinces. After initial set-up, players take turns moving troops around the board engaging in combat in order to expand their empire.
Combat is handled using special dice (a mechanic which I'll be the first to admit I'm a sucker for). Players organize their forces into Battle Legions and then roll a number of dice equal to the number of troops allocated for combat. The dice have symbols that match the different unit types (Infantry, Calvary, Galleys, Catapults). Players then match the rolled symbols with the units in the combat-each match is a hit. Pieces are removed and combat continues until one player retreats or in completely destroyed.
After a player has completed movement and combat, they collect tribute based on the number of provinces under their control. Money collected in this phase is then used to purchase new units, cities, and roads.
The game continues until only one player remains on the board or all remaining players agree on the new Caesar.
It's hard for me to describe just how impressed I am with Conquest of the Empire. Though it was always hard not to respect Eagle's production values, in the past I've had some issues with Eagle Games products, especially their rules and playtesting. Here, we have a short, simple rule set that polishes the previous edition's rough areas without producing new problems. Furthermore, the more strategic COE II rules that are included in the box (though not as clearly written) make for an amazing value. I was a big fan of the original COE and remain one to this day, but I really like Drover's new design (CO II), especially the fact that it can be played in less than three hours and features no player elimination. I'll try to do a follow-up review on COE II when I've had more time to get it to the table.
As far as the original's game play goes, I love the fact that tributes are acquired mid-turn instead of at the beginning of the turn. This really rewards aggressive play and is one of the reasons COE doesn't suffer from the "wait/amass troops/attack" rhythm of similar light war games.
I also enjoy the feel that building cities, upgrading them, and building roads between them provides. A much greater sense of empire building is present in the game than in other combat-heavy games with the same theme.
Finally, a component review follows, but I must say that the quality of the components, including the amazingly over-sized map, adds quite a bit to the gaming experience. This baby draws a crowd from across the room, and it simply feels cool to play with all those marvelous bits.
All those elements taken into consideration make Conquest of the Empire my current choice for game of the year. It would be in my top five with just the basic rules, but the excellent COE II just pushes it over the edge.
Conquest of the Empire's box absolutely crammed full of goodness. The game comes with nearly 400 large, well-sculpted miniatures representing the various combat units. These are so detailed that the catapults even feature moving arms. I especially liked that the miniatures were ready to play. So often with games this size it can take hours to carefully remove the minis from their sprues. With COE, these were separated, bagged and ready to go.
The game also includes large plastic coins to represent tribute and high-impact dice with symbols imbedded in the plastic (no stickers here).
Finally, the map has to be seen to be believed. It is huge (46 x 36 inches) and well drawn by Paul Niemeyer. I actually have to add the extension to my dining room table in order to place the map and have a place for the players to organize their pieces.
Pros: Smooth, fast-playing combat
Nice synergy between rules and theme
Have I mentioned those gorgeous components?
A second, fine set of rules included in the box
Cons: Might last too long to get it to the table as often
as I'd like
Players can be eliminated early and have a long time to wait
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.