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ALEA IACTA EST

Reviewed by Andrea “Liga” Ligabue

ALEA IACTA EST (Alea/Rio Grande Games, 2 to 5 players, ages 9 and up, 60 minutes; $39.95)

 

Following the way showed by To Court the King and Kingsburg (Spring 2008 GA REPORT), side by side with Roll Through the Ages (Spring 2009 GA REPORT), Alea Iacta Est, from Bernd Eisenstein and Jeffrey D. Allers, is more than a simple dice game. It has been described as a dice-based resourceallocation system and I agree. Rolling dice, at least for me, gives a valuable input to play as long as the game is far enough from randomness. When playing Alea Iacta Est, arguing about bad or good luck is second to making the best use of your rolls.

Before going in the details, a few words about the title: Alea is both dice (in Latin) and the name of the publishers. Alea Iacta Est translates into “The roll of the dice”, a great title that fits very well with the theme of the game.alea1

In Alea Iacta Est, you obtain victory points by taking control of provinces and patricians. Victory Points can also be found in the Senate, from getting tiles, in the Temple, getting “fortuna” and finally in the Latrina. The game last between 4 and 6 turns, according to the number of players.

In a typical 4-5 player game, you have 5 buildings: Senatus, Castrum, Templum, Forum Romanum and Latrina. Every turn a number of provinces equal to the number of players are drawn and placed below the Castrum. A number of patricians equal to the number of players plus 2 are drawn and placed in the Forum. Each player has a color and his own set of 8 dice. In the first turn of each round, each player rolls all of his 8 dice. He can re-roll one or more dice using a “repeat” token. During your turn you have to place one or more dice in one of these buildings. Dice are placed in the different buildings according to different rules:

In the Senatus, dice are placed in a straight sequence (1-2-3, 4-5, 3-4-5-6) and you can only have one set. In the Castrum you have to place dice with the same number (two 6s, four 2s, one 4, three 5s). In the Temple, you can add dice as long as you have one more than other players and a higher sum. In Forum Romanum, you can place one die or a couple. You can always place a single die in the Latrina. There are several options and you have to plan your moves well since you know the dice other players have to place this turn. For example, it is not possible to replicate the same set in Castrum and Senatus (I can’t play two 6s in Castrum if you have two 6s there).alea2

The first player in the Senatus, the one with the longest straight, draws three Senatus tiles and keeps one; the second player keeps one of the two remaining. Senatus tiles usually confers some victory points in the end according to different conditions (like one point for each province, one point for each male patrician and so on) or are special provinces with two colors to make getting VPs easier. The first player in the Castrum takes one province, the second another one and so on. The first player in the Forum Romanum take one of the patricians and so on. It is possible to win more than one patrician and more than one province in the some turn. Placing dice in the Templum offers the opportunity to draw “fortuna” tokens valued at 1 to 3 points, one for each dice. The player with the highest dice sum there will keep 2 tokens, the other players one. Dice left in buildings without prizes are moved into the Latrina for one repeat token each. Repeat tokens are valued at 1/2 point and can be used to re-roll dice.

Provinces are in 6 colors, valued from 1 to 4. Patricians are in 6 colors and two genders (male and female) valued from 1 to 3. You can have two patricians (a male and a female) in each province as long as the colors are the same. Two color provinces allow you to place two patricians of different genders (as usual) but also in different colors. In the end, patricians without a province are valued at 0 and provinces with no patricians are valued one less point.

The game is quite simple and linear but really challenging: you have to think when and where place dice, watching what other players are doing and collecting. You can race for provinces and patricians, fight for Senatus or fortuna tiles. You can try to quickly end an unsatisfactory turn by placing many dice at once in a long straight.

I really like this game because it is quick, fun and not really so “fortuna” driven as you might suppose with so many dice. Another plus is that it scales well from 2 to 5. In a year of some excellent dice games, Alea Iacta Est is one of the best.- – – – – – Andrea “Liga” Ligabue


 

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Fall 2009 GA Report Articles

 

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