I grew up reading Asterix books and having adventures with the residents of a little village in
Gaul, so I was excited to get my hands on a copy of Caesar’s Empire from Holy Grail Games.
Even though the game focuses more on the Roman emperor’s expansionist goals, it brought a
lot of nostalgic feelings, especially with the iconic art style. I always found the books to be like
the little sibling of Tintin stories. They were less complicated, sillier, and faster to read. That
feeling of light, fun, easily digestible adventures translate well into this game.
In Caesar’s Empire, your goal is to expand the borders of Rome, reaching more cities in the
far flung reaches of Europe. You control a number of roads (which are little 3D Roman troop
models) which you’ll use to connect these new destinations back to the capital. (Of course all
roads must lead to Rome.)
The map is broken up into different-coloured areas with specific locations to place city tokens.
Each city token has a different value to it. After the cities have been placed during setup, each
one is randomly seeded with a Treasure token. These can range between gems, wheat, wood,
perfume, and so on. They all start with the same value to players, but that will change as they
start collecting the different types. The only standout treasure is gold, which has a different
scale for scoring.
The rules for Caesar’s Empire are quite simple. On your turn, you are going to lay down roads to
connect a new city back to Rome. This will usually require one or two roads from your supply,
but sometimes you might want to make a longer route. Interestingly, you can connect back to
Rome using route that your opponents have laid out, giving you a lot more tactical flexibility.
When you connect a city, you take the city token from its place along with the treasure token.
You can hold onto the city token for end game scoring (worth the value depicted on it). The
treasure token goes on your player board where it will be scored on two different scales.
You player board allows you to hold the spoils you’ve collected for the glory of Rome. You
score points for them at the end of the game both for collecting the same type of good (more
of the same you get the better) and for diversifying your portfolio (more different types the
better). This pulls you in a couple different directions depending on the goods you’re going
after and the random layout of the board. Gold has its own scoring track, which can lead to
major points if you are lucky enough to get a lot of them.
After placing a road and collecting your tokens, you score the shortest route back to Rome.
This earns you (and anyone else that has roads in the route) one point for each road. That is
unless the collected treasure was gold. In that case, players double their points for that route!
Another incentive to go after gold!
A game of Caesar’s Empire ends when the last city on that board is connected back to Rome.
That may seem like an arduous task, but it actually flows very quickly. I haven’t had a game last
past 40 minutes. Players score points for the treasures and for city tokens they’ve collected.
However, they’ll only score one city token (the highest) from each colour. This can make a
difference in your decision making during the game.
Caesar’s Empire feels a little bit like “reverse Ticket to Ride“. In this game, you’re laying out
routes to make sets rather than making sets to lay out routes. The rules are very easy to grasp
for players of all skill levels. While hardcore gamers might be a bit underwhelmed by it, there
are lots of interesting decisions to make. Coupled with its short play time, it’s a perfect game to
bridge the gap across different experience levels.
I loved the art by Alexandre Bonvalot and Joelle Drans. Theycaptured the feel of the original
Asterix art by Albert Uderzo perfectly. It made me feel like I was playing out a story in that
universe. Just like the comics, this game is easy to get into and have fun with as long as you
don’t take it too seriously. It’s my new go-to gateway game and even one I’ll play with more
intense gamers to start or end a game night.
Whether you grew up with the comics or not, there is a lot of accessible fun to have with
Caesar’s Empire. Available now.
A review copy of Caesar’s Empire was provided for this article.