Menu

DAS ENDE DES TRIUMVIRATS

Reviewed by Herb Levy

(Lookout Games; 2-3 players, ages 12 and up, 60-90 minutes; about $50)

 

Ancient Rome in general and the quest to become ruler of the Roman Empire in particular, have long been popular themes for games. In Das Ende des Triumvirats, designed by Johannes Ackva and Max Gabrian, that theme is tackled once again with some unique and challenging twists.

Das Ende des Triumvirats comes bookshelf boxed with a mounted mapboard, 60 brown cubes (representing Roman legions), 6 Civil Servant tiles, 11 yellow Citizen cylinders, a “battle bag” and for each player, a set (in red, blue and black) of cubes, governors (large cylinders) and a character plank. (Although the game has little foreign text on the components, an English language version of the game from Z-Man games is scheduled to be released in June or July for about $50.)dasendebox

The board depicts the Mediterranean area divided into provinces. In one corner of the board, you’ll find the political arena, divided into three areas, one per player, where the voters are placed. Each player starts with two in his area and the other five in the undecided section. In another corner is the competence track where players chart their ability in political and military matters and, finally, a track for charting turns. But the main focus is on the provinces.

When the game begins, each player controls five provinces. Provinces come in three varieties: political, military and competency. At the start, each province holds 2 legions which are at the disposal of the player controlling the area. The player, himself, is represented by a small square “plank”. His governors, one for each province under his control, begin either in or out of the square in the province that shows what the province produces. Production is either two legions (for a military province), two gold (for a political province) or one of each resource (for a competency province).

All players place two of their cubes on the first space on each of the two competency tracks and toss two more of their cubes into the black “battle bag”. Remaining pieces (cubes and governors) remain as reinforcements. Now, in turn order, starting with red, then blue, then black, the game begins.

All turns follow three phases:: supply, movement and actions.

First, the active player moves his governors. If IN the supply box, the governor steps out; if OUT, the governor steps in. Empty supply boxes produce resources which are immediately placed on the board. (If gold is produced in the province occupied by the player’s plank, the gold is immediately claimed and placed in that player’s reserve for future use.) If a Civil Servant is in the province, the governor is placed ON the servant counter and REMAINS there so that province will produce EVERY turn. Plus, players always receive from Rome two resources of their choice which may be placed in any area under their current control.

Players may move their planks and have up to four movement points to spend. Traversing each adjacent area cost 1 MP. You need to move your piece into a province to pick up gold there. The plank aspect of the player piece comes into play as players can transport legions (or Civil Servants) from province to province by simply picking up legions, placing them on the plank, and carrying them along. (If crossing a sea area WITHOUT legions, the cost of movement is 1 MP less.) Moving into a province controlled by an opposing player triggers a battle.dasendboard

Battle resolution is simple and straightforward. Depending upon how many legions are involved, cubes are drawn from the battle bag. The number of cubes drawn is equal to the LOWEST number of legions involved in the battle. But, in any case, no more than three cubes are drawn. For each cube drawn of the attacker’s color, one defending legion is eliminated. The cube is then returned to that player. Same thing for the defender with attacking forces eliminated and the cube returned to the defender’s cache. (If an enemy player’s plank is in the province, by definition his defense is strengthened, so the attacker loses two legions.) Now, remaining legions are eliminated, one by one, until only one side (or neither side) has legions left.

If attacking legions remain, the province has been conquered, the attacker’s governor replaces the defender’s governor and the defender gets compensation. (First loss enables the loser to add a cube to the battle bag. Lose a second time, and that player may INCREASE one of this competencies by 1 step.) If the defender’s character plank was in the province lost, the plank must “escape” and moves into one of his other provinces at no movement cost. However, he LOSES 1 step in EACH competence in which he was leading. (Leading is defined as being ahead of at least ONE of the other players.) If the defender wins (and he wins if NO legions remain after battle), the attacker must retreat.

Finally, the active player may do up to THREE actions – at a cost. The first action costs 1 gold, the second 2 and the third 3. Actions available depends on the location of that player’s character plank. If in a military province, a player may move his military competence UP 1 step and/or add two cubes to the battle bag. (If you’re not leading in military competence, adding cubes costs an additional 2 gold.) If in a political province, a player may move his political competence UP 1 step and/or move a citizen from undecided into his area OR from alignment with another player into undecided. (If you’re not leading in political competence, citizen movement costs an additional 2 gold.) If in a competency province, a player may move his political competence and/or his military competence UP 1 step.

When a player has finished his turn, any province with more than 6 legions present has the total reduced to 6 and the turn marker is moved ahead one space – until it hits the Elegio space. At that point, the round is over and an election held. The player with the most citizens in his area is elected Consul. As a reward, that player gets a new Civil Servant which may be placed in any of his controlled provinces. However, THREE of his citizens are immediately returned to the undecided area.

Play continues until one player reaches one of the three victory conditions: be elected Consul for the second time (or have six voters in his section after being elected once), control nine provinces, or reach step VII on both competency tracks.

Competency may be the oddest path to victory as you reap benefits by, paradoxically, showing signs of being incompetent, receiving an upgrade in competency if you lose two battles in a row. (An ironic reward but a necessary balancing mechanism in the game.) Competency tracks move inexorably to the the final level so a player who is striving to reach the end of the track may seem invincible. At that point, other players need to put the pressure on by attacking and defeating that player’s plank. It is the only way in the game to move BACK a player’s competency level.

Civil servants are a valuable resource, not to be minimized. Since they guarantee production on every turn (rather than every other turn), they are an enticing target for your opposition. The presence of a formidable military group in their area for protection is a good idea. But, to optimize their worth, civil servants need to be on the move so resources you need (be it gold or legions) can be harvested to the max.

Travel is easy (you can traverse the board from one end to the other in a single turn) making military defense hard to maintain. You cannot set up a defensive perimeter or build a line to protect weaker provinces. Everything is exposed, making a military strategy a bit harder than you may expect.

The draw bag modification to battle is an interesting touch. It can be a factor in a battle’s outcome but cannot repel an attack from an overwhelming force. Attacking a player who has fewer cubes in the bag is tempting as he is less likely to be able to score a defensive hit.

The game is vulnerable to a kingmaker problem, where a player cannot win but can determine which of the other two will, a problem inherent in many three player games. But this can be mitigated if players maintain an alert eye on what their competitors are doing and strive to maintain a balance between opposing forces at all costs. Balance is key and requires a different mindset from other territorial control games. Easier said than done – which is one of the challenges of the game. (Of course, this potential problem disappears when playing the two player version.)

Das Ende des Triumvirat takes on the challenge of empire with a unique perspective and is remarkably balanced. All three methods to victory – political election as consul, military domination of 9 provinces and competency in military and political spheres – are equally viable. It also stands apart from many games of the genre in that it is suitable for three players, an odd and unusual number. But it is the “tightrope mentality” of play that sets the game apart as players must strike the right balance to win – or fall! – – Herb Levy


 

Have feedback? We’d love to hear from you.


Spring 2006 GA Report Articles

 

Reviewed by Herb Levy (TriKing Games/The History Channel, 2 players, less than 30 minutes; Starter packs - $12.99 each) Going back in time and playing "what if?" history is something that has appealed to people since forever! What if great warriors from the past met in combat against each other? A tantalizing question for which there is no definitive answer. But, in an unusual partnership ...
Read More
(In our quest to find fresh and intelligent voices about games, we welcome Chris Kovac, a gamer from our neighbor to the north, Canada. Chris writes: "I have been a gamer since my University Days in the 1980's. Initially a wargamer, I was converted over to Euro Games by a friend when he introduced me to Homas Tour (The Bicycle Racing Game) in about 1992 ...
Read More
Reviewed by Ben Baldanza (Abacus, 2-5 players, ages 10 and up, 60 minutes; about $30) Ah, to live in a mansion in sunny California! Everyone gets their shot at this dream in California, this new game from Michael Schacht. But the bad news is that the mansion needs a lot of work. Rooms must be renovated and furniture acquired and, of course, this means spending ...
Read More
Reviewed by Herb Levy (Hangman Games, 3-5 players, ages 12 and up, 90-120 minutes; $30) Alan Ernstein has presented us with several well received games over the last few years including Tahuantinsuyu (Summer 2004 GA REPORT) and Ars Mysteriorum (Summer 2005 GA REPORT). This time, Ernstein dips into his bag of tricks to bring out a "sparkling" game combining crystals and deal making in Crystal ...
Read More
Reviewed by Herb Levy (Warren, 2-6 players, adult, 30-60 minutes; $24.99) Whenever an intellectual property strikes a massively responsive chord in popular culture, you can be sure games based on that property will appear in its wake. We've seen this before with comic characters, TV shows and, certainly, with books turned to films (e.g. Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings). So it should be ...
Read More
Reviewed by Herb Levy (Lookout Games; 2-3 players, ages 12 and up, 60-90 minutes; about $50) Ancient Rome in general and the quest to become ruler of the Roman Empire in particular, have long been popular themes for games. In Das Ende des Triumvirats, designed by Johannes Ackva and Max Gabrian, that theme is tackled once again with some unique and challenging twists. Das Ende ...
Read More
Weather? Whether or Not? In the aftermath of the 2006 New York International Toy Fair, I found myself faced with two questions: Whether? and Whether or Not? As the Fair opened this year, there was a lot of uncertainty as to its future. Some Fair participants had voiced a wish to move the Fair, which called New York City home for over 100 years, to ...
Read More
Reviewed by Herb Levy (Hans im Glück/Rio Grande Games; 2-4 players, ages 12 and up, about 45 minutes; $24.95) One of the most popular and respected creations of the prolific Reiner Knizia is Euphrat & Tigris, a true gamer's game that challenges the most hardened Euro style game player (and featured in the Spring 1998 GA REPORT). Euphrates & Tigris: Contest of Kings is Knizia's ...
Read More
(With the Euphrat & Tigris: Contest of Kings card game getting feature treatment this issue, we though it would be a good idea to see how its parent game, Euphrat & Tigris, was received back when Kban gave it a good look in the Spring 1998 GA REPORT) EUPHRAT & TIGRIS (Hans im Glück, 3-4 players, 60-90 minutes) Reiner Knizia has been one of Germany's ...
Read More
Reviewed by Herb Levy (MindtwisterUSA, 2 players, ages 6 and up, 3-30 minutes; $24.95) Some game conventions encourage you to sit down and play games. But the New York International Toy Fair doesn't quite work like that. While there are miles of aisles of displays and no shortage of people who will tell you how a game plays and demonstrate it for you, it's an ...
Read More
Reviewed by Herb Levy (Otero Games, 2-4 players, ages 10 to adult, about 30 minutes; $19.95) Abstract games are a genre of play that attracts devoted fans. One of the better new entries in this field is called Roundabout. As you might suspect from the name, the goal is to get your pieces around and about the board. Roundabout comes with four sets of game ...
Read More
Reviewed by Herb Levy SHEAR PANIC (Fragor Games, 3-4 players, ages 10 and up, about 45 minutes; about $50) I've written literally hundreds of reviews of games over the years consisting of a couple of million words. But I'm about to use a word that I have NEVER used in all those reviews over all that time. Adorable. The pieces used in Shear Panic are ...
Read More
Reviewed by Herb Levy (Days of Wonder, 2-5 players, ages 8 and up, 30-60 minutes; $39.95) Some companies have been fortunate in finding a game with the strength and popular acceptance to not only create a loyal following but serve as a springboard for variations on that game's popular theme. Mayfair has The Settlers of Catan (Fall 1996 GA REPORT), Rio Grande has Carcassonne (Summer ...
Read More
Reviewed by Jon Waddington (GMT Games, 2 players, about 3 hours; $57) Nominally, Twilight Struggle is a wargame about the Cold War. For those too young or too distracted to remember, the Cold War was the conflict following World War II between the forces of capitalism (with the United States taking the lead for the West) and communism (with the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics ...
Read More

If you enjoy games, then Gamers Alliance is right for you!