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AUGUSTUS
designed by Paulo Mori  artwork by Vincent Dutrait published by HURRICAN
for 2 - 6 players (4 players for optimum game time and enjoyment) aged 8+
This is the first game that I have played from the Swiss games company HURRICAN, and on this showing
I cannot wait to play more. The quality is excellent - one of the reasons it was nominated for Game of the Year
and received several other nominations and awards - (list found on BoardGameGeek).

2013 Fairplay À la carte Winner
2013 Golden Geek Best Family Board Game Nominee
2013 Le Lys Grand Public Finalist
2013 Spiel des Jahres Game of the Year Nominee

        

The game mechanic is a strategy version of Bingo - okay that's putting it in a rather simple and provocative
manner but it sort of is. The 23 mobilisation tokens which show the resources that are needed to claim the
game winning objective cards are placed into a black sack and drawn one at a time (similar to Bingo balls
being drawn) and the players look at the objective cards they hold and place a marker (a wooden soldier in
this case) on one of the icons that match the drawn resource. One player continues to draw tokens until one
or more players has filled am objective in which case the player (or players) call out Hail Caesar (or Bingo!)
to claim their reward.

The reward is always the choice of a new objective card, from the five face up on the table, and possibly also
a bonus being one of the special objective cards which give VPs at the game's end. So how do you get these
bonuses?

At the start of the game 5 objective cards are placed in the centre of the table face up for all to see. Then the
players are  given 6 objective cards, dealt randomly from the deck of 88. From these they have to select 3 - the
remainder are returned  to the deck which is then shuffled and placed face down to form a draw pile which will
be used to replenish the 5 as they are taken in reward. The players also have 7 soldiers - wooden pieces - which
are placed on one of the resources (if there  is at least one) showing on their (the players) face up objectives. Each
objective card has a number of resource icons and a VP value (sometimes just a ?) plus possibly a power - the
reward cards have only VPs.

      

Starting with 3 objectives face up in front of them, the players aim is to collect 7 (possibly more) objectives that they have
fulfilled and moved up into the area above their objectives - cards here are considered to be under control. When a card is
placed in this area you may then, and only then, use its power unless it has a "?" in place of a VP value. These cards score
either only at the end of the game if they have a power which specifies that an icon on their controlled objectives is worth
X points or they allow, during regular play, two icons to swap places, for example one card shows a Chariot and a Catapult,
which means if a Chariot is drawn a Catapult can be claimed, and vice-versa. The other powers allow for the player to gain
additional soldiers or place soldiers on any of the icons they wish - similar to the Joker which also allows choice when drawn.

 

One player draws the mobilisation tokens and all players mark one of the same icons. This can be interrupted when Ave Caesar
is called out - if more than one player calls at the same time the objectives are considered in numerical order. When a reward is
taken a new one is immediately placed from the draw pile so that all players have 5 to select from each time. Once the Joker token
is drawn the round ends and the next player clockwise puts all the previously drawn tokens back in the bag and commences a new
round. if the Joker is drawn as the first token then the round is cut short but it is still a round.

If a player has placed all their soldiers onto their cards and yet have not completed an objective they can freely move one of them
each time a token is drawn that shows an icon they want; eventually they should fill a card then all the soldiers on it are returned to
them.

There are three types of Bonus Award cards: The laurel leaf cards can only be claimed immediately the correct number of objectives
are won and only one laurel leaf bonus award can be held by a player - swapping them is never allowed so you have to be courageous
when deciding whether to claim the prize, or hope to be first to the next number of objectives. This is when you note how many objectives
the  other players have and how many soldiers they have on them. If you think you can win the next objective before anyone else then
the  VPs are higher on the next reward (up to 6 objectives). What you cannot do is wait and see. If someone else gets to the same number
as  you and then surpasses your objective total thus claiming the higher reward you cannot then claim the previous award - if you don't
claim the prize immediately you lose it.

The objective cards fall into three sections - Immediate Effect, Permanent Effect, and At the End of the Game - these are colour coded.

The Objective bonuses go to the first player to meet the demands - 3 of the same colour objective etc - and once taken cannot be lost. The
Gold and Wheat bonuses can change hands as other players equal or beat the number of Wheat/Gold objectives - note I said "equal" as
well as beat. Thus the first player to complete a Gold or Wheat objective is given the Bonus card, but if another player later (even in the
same round) completes a similar objective then the award is passed on. Only the player who holds one or both of these awards at the end
of the game gets the 5 bonus points.

So as I said, Augustus is like Bingo; the anticipation of the draw and the hope to complete a full house keep the game exciting and surprisingly
very playable. The other night we played it with friends who hadn't played it before and after the first run through they (and us) were eager to
play it again. I tried different tactics in each game - collecting sets of 3 objectives in the first game and in the second game I went for low valued
objectives that allowed me to grab a high bonus and finish the game quickly - the game ends when the Joker is drawn, players have scored any
objectives for that round and at least one player has 7 objectives under control. This is a dangerous tactic though because there is no bonus for
getting the 7th objective under control and if you have gone for low VP cards it is quite possible that another player will have less under control
objectives but which score more than yours.

The objective cards mainly have illustrations that are for show only, just the politicians, Gold and Wheat have pictures that are an actual part of
the game. The Politicians usually have powers that involve the movement of your soldiers; as previously stated Gold or Wheat gives you a Bonus
card. The other objective cards have illustrations that can be seen - for your first few games anyway - like they should mean something, but they
don't and that is sometimes confusing. Even more confusing is that Wheat can be solo on a card but Gold can be on a card amongst other items.

This is a type of game which can be played by new players within 15 minutes of opening the box - the rules are that short, well written, very well
illustrated and exampled, and easy to understand. A game can be played by 4 players within an hour and yet they will all have been in with a good
chance of winning and all will be satisfied by the result - win or lose. It is a happy game and it is a friendly game where even the cards played against
opponents aren't demoralising - you can bounce back into contention and still win the game, and that is a good thing. There is a little luck or randomness
in the game, that will always happen when a deck of shuffled cards is involved, but each player has their own choice of which cards to collect, where to
place their soldiers (obviously this does depend on spaces available) and when to go for the bonuses.


 

© Chris Baylis 2011-2015