The opening stages of the game played out pretty quietly. I decided to forgo my usual attempt at an unorthodox opening and went for two red, three blue. Ian began in Egyptus, me in Africa, Martin in Pannonia and Joe in Gallia.
Ian quickly found himself with his hands full: the Sassanids were the most lively barbarians of the evening by far and if that wasn’t enough, barbarian leaders kept coming out. He had one to deal with in Galatia after a turn or two and there was a Priest King in Syria, annoyingly right between his two regions. Martin took on some Alammani and when Joe picked up the dice to roll for the barbarians, Martin asked “Are you going to roll well?” to which Joe said he would. And he did: he got two hits.
After I noticed that Joe’s dishwasher makes the same grumbling noise that his dog makes, he became Emperor! The first of the the evening at 9 o’clock. Then a shock: Martin became Emperor on his next turn. He was, he admitted, just trying to weaken Joe’s army in Rome when he won the battle. Joe retreated and Martin moved in. Then, since he had one blue point and a spare governor, he decided he’d have a go at taking over the Empire. And he won! Thus ended Joe’s eleven-minute empire.
I asked if a moving army can stop in the sea. “Not without drowning,” replied Joe.
Martin’s lead was too great to ignore, and Joe and I took regions from him, weakening his support in Rome, hoping that Ian could stop Martin from benefiting from another Emperor turn.
He couldn’t. Instead he took out his frustration on some barbarians. Martin’s next move was “a bit of a repair job,” as he simply put back all the changes we’d made.
I became increasingly irritated by the Nomads’ apparent shyness on my African border, so I considered attacking them for points but I didn’t want my army so far from the action in Rome. Another barbarian leader popped up among the Sassanids at this point, much to Ian’s sarcastic delight.
Joe attacked Martin in Rome and forced his army out of the capital. He then had two dice to get two votes and become Emperor again. He rolled 3-1 and his plans were ruined.
Ian failed to kill the Priest King and that Sassanid leader decided to take loads of his friends and move into Syria. It was looking bad for Ian. Emperor Martin clearly decided that the matter of the Priest King needed to be sorted out, so he moved an army into Syria and killed him. Ian just sighed.
Ian's complicated situation
Joe lost to the Franks in Gallia but beat the Alammani in Thracia. Then, at 10.21, he became Emperor again! Despite forgetting he had a Basilica for an extra die, he still won an election in Rome.
Ian took Asia and reinforced his Syrian army with a view to taking out a few barbarians. This was just as well because on the next crisis roll, yet more Sassanids crossed the border into Galatia.
Martin fought Joe in Rome, but didn’t win. Both were weakened though. The rest of his hand were all blue. Martin wanted Rome and one other region, eventually choosing Asia. He rolled for Asia first with two dice. He ended up with seven votes: 6-6, 6-6, 6-5, 4. He was appalled that he’d used up all his sixes on Asia. Of course, we know that’s not really how dice work. But, then again, maybe it is because Martin then failed to get elected into Rome.
I invaded Rome and beat Joe. Now I needed five votes from six dice. With my first roll I got four votes and a six among them. I re-rolled the six, but failed. I blame me for rolling the die into the barbarian chits, which stopped it’s natural path too soon. I’m sure it would’ve been another six otherwise.
My army in Britannia, not doing much
Joe’s next move was accompanied by the sound of his dog rattling her empty food bowl accusingly. And then Ian’s luck turned. While Joe was occupied with his pet, Ian became Emperor at 10.55. And he killed some Sassanids in Gelatia too for a bumper scoring round. I was now in danger of finishing last.
Martin lined up an army to take out two Alamanni. Despite there being four dice against two, there were no hits at all. Disappointed, he used his Flanking Manoeuvre, but to little effect. Just one hit for each side. “Well, that was fucking shit,” was his considered opinion on the matter.
The board at 10.48pm
After staying in play for ages, Bad Auguries finally went! Relief for everyone, except Ian because now Zenobi turned up in Egypt. His fourth barbarian leader of the game.
Joe had a dilemma. He had three blue points but he wanted both of Martin’s weakest provinces: Britannia and Asia. Boldly, he went for both and succeeded! Martin noted that they were “exquisitely vulnerable,” so Joe popped a Quaestor on both.
The scores now (as we began turn nine, according to Martin) were Joe 56, Martin 52, Andrew 42, Ian 39.
Ian then took out a load of barbarians in an impressive three pronged attack, defeating a barbarian leader and two Sassanids in Syria, Zenobi in Egypt and then, for fun, he invaded the Goths massing in their homeland and finished them off too. His regions were now finally clear of barbarians and Emperor Ian was up into second on 54 points.
Martin used his Pretorian Guard to force his way back into the Senate. At 11.45 he became Emperor again! He also killed some Alamanni for cheap points and triggered the end of the game.
On my final turn I attacked the three Nomads who’ve been sitting there motionless all game, just because they were annoying me so much. Then, at 11.49, I became Emperor too! I needed just one vote, with my army still occupying Rome. I had seven dice. I used them all. Five votes! Success!
Joe now had some sums to do. Become Emperor and tie with Martin on the Emperor score track, or get points elsewhere? The sums were so complicated that he had to stand up!
Thinking on his feet
In the end, he went for an election. He had nine dice to get eight votes. He only got seven votes: two ones and no sixes. Tragic. And so, after four (very short) hours, the game ended
What an epic. In every sense of the word. Also, this time there was no single player that gets left behind (usually me) on the score track. It was all pretty even. Of course, I like to think that since I was Emperor at the end of the game, that is a victory of sorts. Right?
Martin’s away in February, but surely we have to play when he gets back: Beware the Ides of March and all that.