I was lured in by the attractive (and explosive) Glory to Rome: Black Box Kickstarter campaign. I hadn't paid much attention to Glory to Rome before its Kickstarter campaign because of the ugly packaging, but when I investigated the Black Box, I knew it was a game I had to have. After many false starts in their postcampaign production, backer's remorse set in. Now that I have the final product in hand (nine months after the projected delivery date), what is my verdict on this gamer's card game? Read on!
How It Works
Glory to Rome is a role-selection card game for two to five players in which players are tasked with rebuilding Rome after Nero's crazy conflagration. Each card has several potential uses in the game. It can be played as a role to lead or follow; as a structure to provide a bonus ability, influence, and victory points once built; as a material used to build a structure; or as a filched material sold on the black market (for victory points).
|The camp card and rulebook have illustrated examples,|
easing the players into this deep game.
If a player leads a role on his turn, the other players have the option to follow or think. To follow, a player plays a matching role card from his hand. Once each player has thought or followed, the leading player takes his action first; the others, in turn order, take their actions.
That's the basic flow of the game, but there are several areas where cards are placed that impact the flow of the game. First, a player's clientele allows a player to perform extra actions of his clients' roles whenever that role is led. A player's stockpile holds building materials until they are used to fill structures or enter a player's vault. The vault is where a player locks his stash of filched materials until the end of the game. The size of a player's clientele and vault is limited by that player's influence, and the only way to get more influence is to complete structures, which provide additional influence based on the value of the material used to build.
|Cards serve multiple purposes and are color-coded.|
There is also a stack of site cards for each kind of building. When laying a foundation for a structure, there must be an available site card on which to build that structure. Once the structure is built, the site card is added to a player's influence to increase that player's clientele and vault size.
Now that you know the basic areas in the game, there are six roles in Glory to Rome, and each role involves moving cards from one area to another:
- Laborer allows players to move cards from the pool to their stockpiles.
- Craftsman and Architect allow players to lay foundations for structures and to fill them, from their hands and stockpiles, respectively.
- Legionary allows players to take materials from their fellow players and the pool for their stockpiles.
- Patron allows players to move cards from the pool to their clientele.
- Merchant allows players to move cards from their stockpiles to their vaults.
|An example of a camp card.|
I need to try to temper my remarks, or I will go off the deep end in praising this game. Here goes: This is hands-down the best game I've played recently, and it's one of the best games I've played period. (How's that for tempering?)
Okay, I'll get back to the overwhelmingly positive after I discuss some negatives. As you can see from the pictures, I bought the Black Box edition of Glory to Rome. The reason is that the original edition has terrible art, and that has always turned me off to the game. (Considering how good the game is, though, I now think it's worth enduring terrible art if you must.) More specifically, I kickstarted the Black Box edition, which, to put it mildly, was not a good experience. But since this is a review of the game and not of my experience procuring it, I'll leave my displeasure at that.
There are, however, some negatives with the components of the Black Box edition. There is some bubbling on the box top as has been noted (and noted, and noted, and noted ad nauseum) on BGG. The Jack cards arrived chipped. My thoughts on this? If Kickstarter backers hadn't had to wait through a seemingly endless string of delays, incompetence, and misinformation, they would be overwhelmingly pleased with the components.
|My jacks came pre-chipped, but as the card is the same on|
both sides, this doesn't affect gameplay.
In fact, I am. The cards for Glory to Rome are on, simply, the best cardstock I have ever seen in a hobby game. (The closest second is the cardstock used in Race for the Galaxy and Tournay.) The cards bend easily to shuffle and snap back into place. They're a lot like the fancy $4 decks of cards you can buy in the grocery checkout lane. I'll say this: I am an avid sleever (every card-centric game I own is sleeved, including Dominion and all its expansions), but I couldn't bear to sleeve Glory to Rome. The cards are simply too magnificent.
In addition, the camps are on sturdy cards and are well laid out. They look fantastic and play well in practice. The flow of information on them was so helpful to me and others that it didn't take us as long to pick up and play the game as it probably should have. Also, in the Black Box edition, the art is fantastic. Granted, it's not as lighthearted as the original (and the game is, in many ways, lighthearted), but it's a better indication of the strategic depth than the original art was. And the ribbon marker in the insert is a nice touch: it prevents the camps from getting dinged in their removal from the box.
Am I disappointed in the box bubbling? Not really. The chipped Jacks? This isn't a playability issue, but it's a little bit of a bummer. All in all, the components exceed expectations (even if they aren't perfect), especially since the price point is not that much more than the earlier, uglier edition.
|My camera isn't great, but I tried to get a close-up of the|
beautiful and sleek linen finish. Seriously, these are the best
hobby cards I've played with.
Did someone say overpowered combos? "This game is broken!" But here's the deal: each game I've played, I think one player has said, "That combo is too powerful." And it's a different combo every time. The truth is, there are so many cards that can work together in Glory to Rome that the combos are seemingly endless. One combo may be the dominant strategy in today's game; another will rule the day tomorrow. When my coworkers and I were first learning the game, we would read each other the structure cards just to make sure we all knew which special abilities were on the table. After hearing each one, I would sigh and think, How am I going to top that? Of course, when I'd read my building abilities, the other players were thinking the same. Glory to Rome is an interesting case of gaming gestalt: the game is formed from disparate and seemingly imbalanced pieces, but when they are added together, they balance each other out.
|This is what the table setup looks like.|
Glory to Rome is also very interactive. Because the game is a role-selection system that allows players to capitalize on what other players are doing, there is no sitting around. You can always follow if someone else leads a role. In fact, much of the game is knowing when to lead, when to follow, and when to think. There is also interaction in the pool. Players must consider what will be in the pool when their turn comes around (is it even worth it to follow when they'll likely get the worst of what's available?). They must also carefully consider what they use to lead or follow. It's true that each card can be a building, but each card is also a material. Leading the merchant or patron role can be dangerous because the pool can quickly become flooded with extra stone and marble or merchant/patron clients. Of course, adding these cards to the pool right before your turn? That's not so bad. Glory to Rome is definitely not multiplayer solitaire (a [just?] criticism leveled against Race for the Galaxy).
|This is a nice insert. Even has a ribbon!|
Interesting decisions galore
Good graphic design and rulebook ease the learning curve
Steep learning curve, especially if you've not played a similar game
Lots of "cards with words" (requires familiarizing yourself)
Can lend itself to analysis paralysis
Want another opinion? Check out @BGJosh's Glory to Rome review.