List Price: $44.99
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(Worth 3,595 Funagain Points!)
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"Panem et circenses!" (Bread and Circus Games!) This was the chant shouted by thousands upon thousands of Romans as they poured into the great arenas (circuses) on over 200 holidays per year to enjoy the epic competitions of Ancient Rome. The largest of these arenas was the famous Circus Maximus, erected between the Palatine and Aventine hills. Here, circa 500 BC, spectators were treated to horse-drawn chariot races, in which competitors struggled through 7 laps around a perilous 1200-meter course.
Im a big fan of racing games, especially light ones, such as Formula De or Um Reifenbreite. When discussing these games on the internet, people often discussed other such games that were good racing games, and one games name was mentioned time and time again - Ave Caesar (Ravensburger, 1989 - Wolfgang Riedesser). People talked about how simple and fun it was, with a high interaction factor. Then, when I looked into getting the game, found that it went for fairly high prices. It became one of my holy grails, and after quite a while of searching, I was able to acquire it in a trade.
After several plays, Im exceedingly pleased with the game. Um Reifenbreite is still probably my favorite game of this genre, but for loud yells of annoyance and a good screwage factor alone - this game will often hit the table. It takes about one minute to explain, one minute to set up, and only about twenty minutes to play. A quick game for up to six players with good interaction - this is always a useful thing to have in ones game collection. Ave Caesar is a fun, fun game, and except for its current price (as it is out of print), it makes an excellent addition to any gamers collection.
A two-sided board is placed face-up in the middle of the table. One side of the board is for 3-4 players, and the other side 5-6 players. Each side has four different routes - two different tracks, which can be raced in either direction, clockwise or counter-clockwise. Each player takes a chariot token, a coin, and a small deck of cards. This deck of cards is made up of twenty-four cards, with four cards each, numbered 1 through 6. Each player cuts their deck, and the player with the highest card showing puts their racer in the first position, with the other players following suit. Each player shuffles their deck and draws three cards. The race is ready to go, therefore starting with the first player, play proceeds clockwise around the table.
On a turn, a player plays one of the cards from his hand. They must follow these restrictions:
- If the player is in the lead in the race, they cannot play a 6.
- The player must move the exact amount shown on the card, or they cannot play the card.
- The player MUST play one of their cards, unless they cannot play any of them - in which case they lose their turn, and pass to the next player.
- Movement is either forward or diagonally forward - players cannot move sideways, through other players, or through walls.
- Only one chariot is allowed in each space.
Once during the race, between the first and second lap, or between the second and third - each player must stop in the Imperial Alley. This is very akin to a pit stop, and is a walled off straightway next to the starting line. The straightway is three spaces long on the 3-4 player board, and six spaces long on the 5-6 player board. The player must stop somewhere along this straightway, and toss their coin to Caesar, shouting Ave Caesar! If the player cannot get into the straightway on the second pass, they must stop and wait until they can get into the alley.
After the third lap, the first player to cross the finish line is the winner, and scores six points (for multi-race purposes). The other positions score 4, 3, 2, 1, and 0 points respectively. After several races, or just one - whichever the players prefer - the player that scored the most points is the winner!
Some comments on the game...
1.) Components: For a game that is this old - fifteen years! - the components are rather fantastic. The plastic coins, especially, were not necessary; but they certainly added to the flavor and theme of the game. Ive made everyone I play with shout Ave Caesar when tossing their coin (and believe me, the coins have sometimes been hurled), and everyone has had a great time with it. The cards are of great quality, and I like the fact that not only do they have normal numbers on them, but also Roman numerals. The cards, coin, and chariot pieces all match color perfectly: olive green, brown, blue, red, gray, and yellow. Everything fits exactly into a nice plastic insert, one that holds each set of cards individually. The boards are especially nice, with the spaces clearly marked, and the two different tracks on each side of the board are clearly marked in two different colors. Everything fits well in a very thematic Romanized box - a long one, but thin and fairly easy to fit on the shelves.
2.) Rules: The rules for the game are in German, in a beautiful eleven page full-colored booklet. Fortunately, the English translation is available online for downloading, and is very well done - with pictures in the appropriate places for example purposes. As I mentioned in my introduction, the game is absolutely simplistic to teach and learn, and Ive yet to meet someone who didnt grasp the rules right away. The only rule (one I missed the first game or so) that is different than other race games is that the game order is always clockwise, rather than the player who is in the lead going first. This change is a major one, and really allows a players movement to affect other players.
3.) Interaction: One reason that the game is very fun is how much the players can affect each other. There are several points along each track where there are chokepoints, places where the track is only one space wide. Stopping your chariot in one of those spots can really mess up the person behind you, causing them to be unable to move. Also, with clever positioning, a player can force another player to go into the outer lane on curves. Each players total sum, on all the cards they possess, is only slightly enough to finish each race. If a player is forced to take the outer lane too many times, they can run out of cards to finish the race - causing them to crash, thus losing the race. This, of course, can really affect the way that players race, and people will do their best to foil their opponents with annoying moves.
4.) Strategy: There are other strategy maneuvers in the game. Knowing when to take first position is crucial, because when a player is in the lead, they cannot play any 6 cards, and may be forced to play a card that doesnt help them at all. Also, when should a player give tribute to Caesar - during which lap? These choices are not brain burning, but they do make for a fun and exciting game.
5.) Fun Factor: The game is a blast to play. Yes, players will often be stabbed by others, but because the favor is returned so quickly - no player is eternally irritated. The game is a real blast - and everyone Ive played it with has had a blast. Very few people, both here on the internet, and those I play with, truly dislike the game. There are some who are not as fond as the slight randomness and quickly changing scene - but more people enjoy it than not, and the theme certainly helps matters.
6.) Variants: There are twelve variants in the rules, and many more on the internet. Some of them are better than others, but all of them are interesting and can help the replayability of the game. A few of them that I like more than the others include:
- Non-playing chariots that act as neutral players make games with fewer players more fun.
- Missed turns: If a player cannot move, they also must discard a card, drawing a replacement card.
- Different speed decks: Decks can be created for fast chariots, slow chariots, and average chariots. Each deck is built differently, and all seem to have an equal chance of winning.
Overall, the game is quite fun - one of my favorite racing games, and certainly an excellent filler. One of Ave Caesars best features is the player interaction. Turns go by rather quickly, and there is very little downtime. The entire race is three laps, yet due to each player having an equal deck, its extremely difficult for someone to fall too far behind. This, coupled with how quickly the entire game plays out - makes it one of my top games to bring out when everybody just wants to have a good time. The unfortunate thing about the game currently is the scarcity of it, as it is fairly hard to find, and rather pricey when one does find it. Im not sure the fun factor of the game justifies this rarity factor. However, if you have a chance to pick it up for a decent price, then by all means - do so! You wont regret it, and even if the game doesnt have the depth that one is necessarily looking for, its fun is so great that I believe there are many occasions that youll be delighted that you snagged it.
This is a great game, if you can find a copy. It is very easy to learn, and is quick and fun to play. Players must weigh the simple and evil fun of blocking the players behind them against the exhileration of sprinting far ahead of the pack. The game can test your patience in just following the leader (for now) and spending your finite movement cards to get around obstacles. Ave Caesar is a great game to start an evening with, before moving onto more mentally challenging fare.
Ave Caesar combines simplicity, enjoyment, and a little bit of nastiness to produce a fun game that will appeal to a wide range of people.
Players take part in chariot races, each of which consist of three laps of the track. With a limited amount of movement available, players jostle for the optimal route around the track. If you are forced to go wide on too many corners, then you could find yourself running out of steam and not completing the race.
This game seems to appeal to all age groups and is one of the most played games I own.
Personally, I like it because it is a fast moving game that is a bit of a laugh. It is simple and yet fair. There is a bit of luck involved but good tactics are important. The game also has two boards, one for 3-4 players and the other for 5-6 players. This helps equal the game out no matter how many are playing.
In my opinion, this is an all around good game.