Glory to Rome
I’ve played both the widely popular card games Dominion, and 7 Wonders, along with a few other strategy card games and I have found that they all have something in common; while I’m playing them I think about playing Glory to Rome.
Glory to Rome is about the rebuilding of Rome after the great fire. Players are striving to gain the most influence for their role in bringing Rome back to its former glory. The mechanisms are as simple as are the choices, but what is fun is that it’s not obvious what will happen as you play out the game. Each turn the lead player will choose to either lead or to think. Other players will similarly choose to themselves think or to follow. That’s it for the turn structure – the fun is in the details, however!
Thinking is simply drawing cards according to a few rules: draw up to your hand size, or draw one card, or take one Jack. Leading is selecting a card from your hand to execute it’s client role. Following is to play a client that matches the one lead and likewise execute that client role. Each card has multiple purposes; that is it can be used as a client, as a material, or as a building. Cards are colour-coded and simple to identify: purple cards can always function as either Patron clients, marble material, and one of several special buildings like the Temple, the Basilica, or the Forum. There are also yellow (Labourer/rubble), brown (Architect/wood), red (Legionary/brick), grey (Architect/concrete), and blue (Merchant/stone) cards that also have many special building options. There are also six Jacks kept separate from the draw pile that can be played as any client card in a pinch which helps prevent getting locked out of an important action by unlucky card draws.
After each turn, the cards played to lead or follow are placed into the central pool. This pool is seeded at the start of the game in one of the more clever integrations of determining start player and setting up a game. It is from this pool that you will be taking clients and materials from and thus a key element of gameplay involves understanding how to best get the cards you want into the pool just before it is your turn to take them to use. Buildings like the lovely Vomitorium are pretty important for this…
By executing the various client actions, you will build up resources that enable you to do more on future turns. For example, the Patron action lets you add clients to your camp; for every particular client that you have recruited you will get an addional free action when that role is lead by any player. This is a very useful engine as you get the action regardless of whether you follow or think. Another example is the Laborer action which takes material from the pool to eventually either store in your Vault for influence at the end of the game or for adding to a foundations to make a building.
It’s the buildings, however, that make the game unique – there are 40 different buildings in the game each with a special ability that breaks a rule and gives it’s builder an advantage. While some like the Catacomb or Forum are quite obvious in how they work, most of the buildings are more subtle and will be understood through repeated play. These buildings really give the game a great amount of replay value as there are not enough of any one of them to count on getting it at the right time in any individual game. Moreover, there are many combinations hidden among the interactions that you will discover during play.
At the time of its publication in 2005 the idea of having one card have multiple purposes was a fairly new one that has since appeared in many other successful games. I find that Glory to Rome still provides me with the best replay value as I never feel like I am playing ‘multiplayer solitaire’ or just following a set script of actions (which I find is the case for more recent strategy card games). It was reprinted in 2010 and at about $20 it is a bargain in terms of play value when compared to other comparable games which cost about double. I highly recommend picking it up before it goes out of print once more.