Sunday, July 30, 2017

Fall of Rome boardgame (1973 version) scenarios 1 and 2 replay

Introduction
I cannot remember when I got the SPI Fall of Rome game - I would assume in the early 80's.  I played it a few times but the rules were contradictory and sometimes did not make that much sense. There was errata I later found and boardgamegeek now has a consolidated rulebook. I have not played the game since about 1988.  I enjoyed it a bit then and always wanted to get back to it.  I chose it as one of the games in the 2017 6x6 challenge to get me to play it again, and conveniently it has 6 scenarios.

SPI Fall of Rome 1973
This post contains the replays of scenario 1 and 2.  Scenario 1 is a highlights only report with a couple of pictures.  Scenario 2 is a picture and highlights for each of the 13 turns.

Brief overview of the game
The Fall of Rome (1973 version) is a solo based boardgame where you represent the Empire trying to keep it together despite invasions and revolutions.  It is an area based game with counters for the various forces in the game.  Rather than give an overview, here is a link to a great succinct boardgamegeek review of the game.

Also, the same place has a AAR of scenario 1 and 2, the same 2 scenarios in this post:
Boardgamegeek scenario 1 replay
Boardgamegeek scenario 2 replay

The replay for scenario 1 is better than mine with a photo each turn.  I was going to do that but got too distracted by playing!  Scenario 2 is in a similar format of documenting each turn.

Note that a revised version was published in 1997 that I also own and have played once.  It has a bigger map and more things (different types of legions cones to mind).  I liked the simple version and the larger map of the newer version does not fit in my map drawers!  

Game 01 - Scenario 1 (67AD)
Introduction
Scenario 1 starts in 67AD and is effectively a learning scenario.  There is not much chance of internal revolutions, legions will tend to stay loyal when you group them, the chance of barbarian incursions is low and the Roman Treasury is high and it is unlikely you will ever run short of funds.

I played the first turn through the first few steps and realised I had stuffed up the Syrian and the Gallic legion deployment so I reset the game (for those interested the Syrian deployment really needs to have all 6 legions in the 5MP zone, otherwise the Persians will immediately move into any of the other areas and destroy any legions there.  The Legions need to survive a turn so more legions can move in to resist control.
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After that first turn I also realised that the 14 steps within a game turn, and how the game had all the various different forces moving, controlled and their interactions, was too much for me to hold in my head just from reading the rules.  I created a two page QRS in order of the game turn steps with all pertinent info in that steps description.  This has worked really well and in the first two games I only referred to the actual rules twice for some extraordinary confluence of events.

Highlights

The setup for the start.  Rules on the left and some counters around the map board.  Easily fits into one of my map drawers.
Syria was the main focus for all of the game.  The battle in Syria started from turn 1. Rome finally eliminated all Persians on turn 5. I realise they are the Parthians but the game has them as Persians as they are actually that for all the other scenarios.,  The remaining 5 legions in Syria then immediately formed an independent state!  Rome managed to take it all back in turn 9.  The Persians came back and invaded Syria in turn 11. Syria decides to revolt in turn 13 while both Persian and Romans vie for control (Persian 6SP - strength point - and 4SP of militia, and 5 Roman legions all in Syria-A). Syria was finally subdued by the Romans during turn 14.

Turn 13 also saw Gallia and Afica revolt.  No revolutions all game, then turn 13.  On turn 14 - more internal revolts!  In this time period each turn there a 1 in 6 chance of any revolts occurring and even then only about 4 provinces will revolt).  The revolutions were in Britannia, Gallia (again), Africa (again), Aegyptus and Ilyria. The scenario is only 15 turns so Rome has only two turns to fix it!  Luckily to win only requires controlling 78 province points  and I think I was in the 90s pre-revolutions.

Turn 13 with all the rebellions.
Turn 15 more revolts (!) - Hispania and Cyprus were extras.  I did not manage to put them all down but still ended up with 82 victory points so scraped in a win.

End of game (turn 15) after more rebellions in the last turn.
Verdict
In this game there is little chance of revolution, barbarian creation or legion rebellion.  The Roman Treasury quickly gets so high you do not need to worry about it the Treasury..  Also with the Persians: if eliminated like I did, they quickly make gains on their Treasury (unless Roman can conquer Mesopotamia - possible but unlikely) and the Persian treasury is not depleted too far between when the Persian units return and game end.

A few other things I seem to remember I played differently from 20 years ago.  Back then, I bribed the Persians so they would to move.  This is actually never been in the rules - it applies to Barbarians but not Persians.  I also would halve the Persian forces if they did not control a province.  This was also always wrong, again it only applies to the Barbarians.  Oh dear.  This really makes the Persian war interesting and more like history - you have to get most of your legions out to the Middle East to fight the Persian incursions, and likely you will either lose some legions, or they will rebel!

Scenario 1 (starting in 67AD) is really a training game that lulls you in - Scenario 2 is very different and starts in 247AD.

Game 02 - Scenario 2
Introduction
Scenario 2 starts in 247AD and plays out very differently to scenario 1:
  • The chance of some revolutions occurring per turn is 1 in 6 for scenario 1, scenario 2 is one of the worst of all the scenarios - 1 in 3.
  • The Barbarian table has about 1/2 a chance of barbarians appearing, in scenario 1 you rolled once on the table every second turn (so a barbarian force is created on average every 4 turns).  In scenario 2 it is *twice* per turn for an average of barbarian creation every turn.
  • Legion rebellion was a rare event in scenario 1 (only one could occur as a special event.  Now there is a 1/3rd of a chance of rebellion with four legions, and the chance goes up the more legions in a stack.
  • The Roman Treasury starts at zero and you will be lucky to be able to balance the budget (scenario 1 you rarely lost a province and so the tax revenue always greatly exceeded expense and it was easy to create a nest egg).  You need money to bribe barbarians and pay the legions.
This will be tough.  Luckily, the province victory point required is low at 50, compared to 78 for Scenario 1.  Romans start with about 90 province victory points but revolutions and barbarian incursions will quickly reduce that.

Start of game.  Orange markers are to remind me of provinces in control but with no legions present. I use dice on the turn record track to indicate Persian and Roman treasuries.
Turn 1- 247AD
Persians destroyed the legions in Mesopotamia.  Revolutions in a few provinces that were quelled except Thrace.  Spread out the legions a little so they will not rebel.

Oops.  I deleted the picture thinking it was a duplicate of the above, but alas it was end of turn 1.

Turn 2 - 248AD
Revolution in Gallia, Dacia, Thrace, Africa and Syria

End of turn 2 - Syria and Dacia the hotspots.
Turn 3 - 249AD
More revolutions again - Hispania, Illyria, Thrace.  A few others did not start due to having enough legions in the province to prevent them happening (by luck, not planning!).  With a 50% chance of some revolutions happening a turn, I am feeling unlucky with 3 in a row.  Over. it.  But I put down all revolutions except Syria. The Persians are combating the revolutions in Syria.

And I found the "Revolt Militia" counters this turn.  They were with the nationality markers but I never noticed them until now!

End of turn 3 - Syria still contested.
Turn 4 - 250AD
Uneventful; Persians still reducing revolting Militia in Syria.

End of turn 4 - still Syria!

Turn 5 - 251AD
It had to happen eventually - 15 Barbarian Strength Points appear in Scythia.  They will head for Italy next turn and I have put a legion in Illyria to slow them down.  Barbarian stacks have to stop .when they enter an area with a hostile force and if they do not control the province their force is halved due to attrition.  to control a force they need move than 3 times the Legions in the *province* so putting legions in other areas of the province will stop them controlling it.
I put 4 Legions in Syria to prevent Persian control (it is hard to get back if I lose control but it is not so hard if control remains disputed).  A 1 in 3 chance they will rebel, which they do. A  1 in 6 chance of an independent state, which they do.  The Persians and the new Syrian state will fight it out for a while.

End of turn 5.
Turn 6 - 252AD
Revolution in Gallia, Sicily, Dacia (12! that will be hard to put down) and Aegyptus.
Persians defeat the Syrian State - Persians down to 7 strength points in Syria.
In Egypt revolting militia do a 3:1 attack on 1 Legion and get a 1/2 DE result.  Legions ignore 1/2DE results.  This is the first time a 1/2DE has been inflicted on legions in either game.  This is mainly due to not many attacks against legions.  I think as more barbarians appear, and more revolutions, more legions will be getting attacked.
The Scythians move and get an Exchange against Dacian rebellion, and then attrition due to lack of control see only 3 Syrian Strength Points in Dacia and the revolution has been crushed for me.
Meanwhile, in Germania two stacks of barbarians appear. The next few turns may not be great. I thought about bribing Germs but on reflection I think the empire will be fine to let them move.
Lost quite a few legions this turn.

End of turn 6 - Persians control Syria. Dacia, Gallia and Sicilia still in revolt. Germans gathering on the border
Turn 7 - 253AD
Another stack of Germanic barbarians (10SP).  One of the now three Germanic tribes moves into Illyria. The Persians move into Asia but I move in 3 legions to contest control. Their is a fair bit of money in the Roman treasury so bribed the largest German tribe to stay in Germania.

End of turn 7 - Persians invade Asia, more Germans! White marker next to the Germans shows they have been bribed.
Turn 8 - 254AD
Revolution in Britannia and Gallia. 20SP in Scythia.  7SP of Germans make it to Italy. Hanging in there.Roman Treasury is 170 but went down this turn for the fist time.  Also maintaining Germanic bribes to ensure the different tribes don't join up (this is bad).  I think I can handle the Scythians.

End of turn 8 - Germans in Italy :-(
Turn 9 - 255AD
Germans wiped out the 6 legions I put into Italy for a loss of 3 themselves (so Germans down to 4SP and then two at the end of turn as they do not control Italia).  Scythians take control of Dacia on the way to Italia (it is hard to contest without running a big risk of the Legions rebelling).  Finally put down the Gallia revolution.

End of turn 9 - Germans, Scythians, revolts, Persians in Asia.
Turn 10 - 256AD
Revolution in deep Africa that I could not get to in one turn.  German succumb in Italy to the Romans.
Treasury went down again but not by much.  Scythians in Illyria down to 9SP.  For this turn, after barbarian combat (that happens before the Romans move), Romans had only half the Legions on the map than when they started the game. Extra legions do not appear in a scenario but lost legions can be rebuilt two turns after they are lost.  The last few turns have been bloody. had 1/2 the legions I started with this turn.  Four came back at the end of the turn - looking forward to turn 12 where I get a lot more! I am thin on the ground.  Still managing to maintain a 1/3 of legions in contested provinces to maintain control and stop some provinces going over to the Persians or barbarians. Although Syria is a lost cause; I will not be attempting to reconquer it this game - as the Persians now control it, 12SP of Persian militia will appear if I attack.

End of turn 10 - Hanging in there - cleared a lot of the empire of revolts and barbarians (not Illyria and Asia though)
Turn 11 - 257AD
Revolts in Britannia, Hispania, Thrace and Sicilia.  Scythians move towards Italy but blocked by some Legions that are attacked for no effect.  Persians move to attack Legions in Asia, also attack for no effect.
Bribed all the barbarians stacks (more appeared in Scythia!).  I need them not to move and Treasury went down by 30 due to bribes!  I do have 63 victory points but with two tuns to go  it is touch and go if I will still have 50, unless the barbarians don't invade.

End of turn 11. Feeling a bit more confident.
Turn 12 - 258AD
I cannot get to Britannia so have written it off. Pict raiding party appears so that corner of the world will keep themselves busy.  Even more Scythians appear.  I only bribe the 30SP stack of Scythians - I have almost all the legions back and feeling confident.

End of turn 12 - Britannia lost, Persians reinforce army in Asia but otherwise not too bad.
Turn 13 - 259AD
Africa revolts.

Ended with 86VPs.  Quite a good win.  Keeping 1/3 of forces in Provinces to maintain control was key.
End of turn 13 - the empire is mostly still together.
Verdict
A great game and a great narrative.  The only chore is adding up province tax points at the end of each game turn.  There are about a dozen provinces, all with different values.  Takes only about 30-60 seconds and I am not bad at adding up in my head but it does feel a little tedious.  And I was expecting to have to husband my tax credits in this game but never really had an issue with running out.  If a few more large barbarian forces had come out early it may have been a different story - I would not have been able to bribe them to stay, and I would have had a hard time to fight them.  Instead I got a lot of rebellions!
With the QRS, I find that each game turn takes about 7-10 minutes to play.  I rarely played more than one  turn at the same sitting.  It was quite east to find a spare 10 minutes and play a turn and then come back to it later (sometimes a week later) and play the next turn.  The game ideal for that.  You need some markers to indicate the status of some things and I have some I made up for that purpose (mainly if you have ever lost complete control, and which barbarian stack you have bribed.  Remembering the province target for a barbarian stack was not hard as for each barbarian there are not many options - and it is usually Italy!
It played very differently to scenario 1 and am looking forward to the scenario 3.

7 comments:

  1. Enjoyed thanks. that title totally passed me by, it looks to be begging for a re-print with up to date graphics.

    decision Games got most of the SPI rights, I wonder if they ever did anything with this? they did revisit a bunch of earlier titles and they presently are putting out a lot of solitaire stuff.

    I was speaking with a game store owner and they said that solitaire will sell two and a half times greater volume than a standard two player issue.

    Anyway, I enjoyed your return to an early game, I am soon to do the same with S&T 67 Cobra :-) it is 49 years old, my very first boardgame and I have managed to get an unpunched copy. how good is that!

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    1. Fall of Rome came out in Strategy and Tactic 39 and was received with mixed reviews as it was a solo game and there were very few of games around that were specifically designed to be solo.

      Decision Games (Joe Miranda) redesigned it in S and T 181 (1997) with a larger map, different combat mechanism and more chrome. I have played the redesign once and it was OK. The map is too large to fit in my map drawers.

      I have about 10 (hmm.. counting in my head maybe 12!) of the old SPI S and T games that I have never played but would like to one day. And a scattering of other SPI and Avalon Hill titles as well. Not Cobra though and looking forward to your opinion of it.

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  2. Sorry, hit the wrong key (haven't had my coffee yet), that should be 40 years.

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  3. It looks a very interesting game. Thanks very much for the excellent write-up!

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  4. Cheers, Sean, thanks for posting. This would make an excellent solo figure campaign generator...

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    1. Maybe - I think there may be too many battles in a turn. Although you could just pick one a turn maybe? I think Empire or Hannibal are still better choices for a simple campaign generator, and Empire you could play solo.

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