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Pax Romana 2nd Edition
 

SECOND EDITION COMPONENTS. Please Note that the Second Edition Errata can be located at www.gmtgames.com

LIVING RULES

FIRST EDITION ONLINE RESOURCES

REVIEWS

1st Ed PUBLISHED 2006 

2nd Ed PUBLISHED 2015  (the small amount of errata can be located at  www.gmtgames.com)
DESIGNER Richard Berg 
1st Ed DEVELOPER Neil Randall
2nd Ed DEVELOPER Ralph Shelton
ART DIRECTOR Rodger B. MacGowan 
MAP ART Knut Grunitz
COUNTERS Mark Simonitch, Mike Lemick, & Rodger B. MacGowan 
PRODUCERS Gene Billingsley & Tony Curtis & Andy Lewis & Rodger B. MacGowan & Mark Simonitch

Price: $69.00

GAMES GAZETTE'S VIEW:

PAX ROMANA (2nd ed) (ROMAN PEACE - as if there ever was such a thing)

PAX ROMANA: 
The Ancient Mediterranean World  (2nd Edition) Game Design Richard Berg

This is a massive 2-4 player game on a massive 8-fold mounted board with a fairly massive number of counters (840 small. 176 large and 112 in 3 sizes for the various VPs). The Rules book is a proud 48 pages and the Playbook another 44 pages. You will need to familiarise yourself with the bulk of the Rules but naturally, you need not memorise the full Playbook contents as it contains separately designed scenarios for either or both the Standard and Advanced games. It does contain an extended example of play that players new to GMT will find most useful. The Standard game can be played in an evening once you understand the rules, whereas the Advanced game is more opportune for games where the board can be put aside, still set up, and played in several sessions.

The players each control one of the four major mighty Empires, Rome, Greece, Carthage and The East, from circa 300BC through to the end of the 1st Century BC. The design is for players of any experience, well any gamer with an inkling of what a tabletop war-game plays like, and can be played competitively or for recreating actual battles according to how we understand them to have happened, only using our modern way of thinking to see if there could be a different outcome.

Game Turns are 25 years (thankfully not in real, real time) each and players usually have the opportunity to perform 4 Actions in each GT. Players may not take 2 Actions consecutively but there is no round the table style of turn order. Players are vying against each other for survival, control and stability; basically trying to maintain the stability of their government, survive against their opposition, and control (and expand) their own opening region.

Pax Romana may not be exactly unique in its game play but it does offer some interesting choices for its players. For example, players place AMs (Activation Markers) to show what they may be (note “may be”) going to activate this turn. The first thing is the “may”, they do not have to activate if they change their minds or have been bluffing, and secondly if they do decide to activate the marker they have to pay (in cash, in this case Talents aka Silver) what at first reads like IT but on closer inspection is 1T (1 Talent) per marker activated. This allows for bluffing but also shows, in its own way, something we all know but which is generally omitted from Rules, that money and war go hand in hand together. Income is gained per Turn mainly from control whilst Victory Points are gained each Turn from Geographical Objectives and Civilisation as well as Opportune Objectives; and you need one for the other.

Throughout the rules book there are examples of play. Situations are very well designed and described so as to prove easy to explain during passages of play. I am not blessed with a great memory now, actually my memory has always been pretty poor, so playing with an experienced player who also ensured that whenever necessary the examples were pointed out to me, was what I needed. Forty-eight pages of rules is quite a lot to consume and remember and although some of the rules are for the longer Advanced game you do really need to know virtually every rule to gain complete satisfaction from the shorter, 2-player, one evening, game, or as I said, play with a player who knows this game.

The crux of virtually all tabletop war games, even those with political bias, is almost always the results of battles, though how the battlefields (or seas) are reached can be tactical, strategical or political. Naturally battles, of any kind, are the most exciting part of any war game and GMT ensure the players enjoy the culmination of their strategies by being very thorough in their rules and descriptions, so much so in places that, for example, to describe the lead up to the die rolls that eventually determine a combat result is quite intriguing and mesmerising but due to the careful way they are written, not confusing.

For Land Battles this takes nearly 2 full pages to get the points clearly made. In essence the players determine the odds of the battle with the shift in favour going to the side with the higher number, so using the example in the rules odds of 2-1 for the attacker give them a DRM (Die Roll Modifier) shift of 2. Other modifiers are then determined, Leaders, Cavalry Supremacy etc and then each side rolls a d6 and multiplies their resulting number by 10 to get a percentage.

Thus if Carthage rolled a 1 and Rome a 4 Carthage would inflict 10% casualties on Rome and Rome 40% on Carthage. However we now revert for a moment to the shift number, in this case it was a 2 and in the example this was in favour of Carthage. They can now apply any, all or none of this shift to the result in whatever way best suits them. Thus possibilities here including raising Roman casualties to 30% (Carthage adding 2 to their die roll of 1) or decreasing their casualties by 20% (minus 2 off the Rome die roll) or lowering the Carthage casualties by 10% and Raising the Rome casualties by 10%.

Whichever way Carthage chooses in the example given they will lose the battle as it is the Army with the lowest percentage of losses that wins. Units are eliminated to the value of the losses by BP (Battle Points) at each player’s discretion with fractions of .5 and over being rounded up (2.6 would be 3 while 2.4 would be 2).

Cavalry Supremacy (3 times the number of cavalry than the opposing force in the battle) can be decisive in areas where cavalry are free to charge, so not in wooded or mountainous areas or in general where the enemy have elephants.

Naval Battles take up even more space in the rules but again are resolved by a modified die roll.

So with the crux of a war game being the battle resolution solution, amongst the reasons to play are usually the period and the battles themselves, plus the look/appeal of the board and the pieces. My experiences have shown me that in many cases (generalising here) of tabletop (not miniatures games) games, the more visually appealing the board is, the less attractive and often more fiddly the unit pieces are. For example a well designed, fully detailed map board will quite often have small die-cut card counters that to the older (and failing) eye-sight require being picked up to note what they are and fall over when stacked. These map boards are also often overlaid with hexes that are either so dark they somewhat spoil the decor and detail of the map, or are too light so as to be difficult to discern. Whereas the less information found on the game map, often light or pastel shades used and large hexes or squares overlaying, usually have pieces that are wooden (sometimes plastic) blocks (with affixed unit stickers) that derive their visual appeal from their bright colours and easily noted information.

PAX ROMANA just favours the former, with its fairly detailed map board and small square die-cut counters, but with the exceptional difference of having no hex or square overlay. Instead the spaces are circles, coded for Ports or Land, with either just the City name or the name and a horned helm icon within the circles. Thus although the counters may be (are) fiddly at times there is enough room (marked by lines denoting roads) between each city/circle to allow for ease of unit movement. I am still personally more in favour of larger counters and/or blocks but do realise that neither are truly possible for the number of counters required or the scale of the game (one Land Unit represents between 4000-7000 men for example). It clearly states in the introduction (Understanding the Game) that a Battle actually represents a military campaign, such is the enormity of the History being recalled.

During the Standard game a random event may occur at the beginning of each game turn. In the Advanced game the Events Table isn’t used and instead a deck of 55 Event cards determine possible and wider ranging events. Some of these happen immediately the card is drawn and others may be held over to be played when advantageous to the player. Carthage has a unique use of cards that can be held in hand as they can use these to recruit Mercenaries and ignore the actual event on the card. This is a rule often forgotten by the non-Carthage player(s) and sprung on them by the Carthage player, legally of course, but also usually with a devilish smirk.

The Rules book, as already mentioned, is large and complex. The Scenarios Book or Playbook is almost as large but not nearly as complex because it is mostly describing situations and set ups alongside mini explanations of the historical replication. My advice is to read through the rules or have someone explain them to you and then skip to page 33 of the Playbook and read the extended example of an actual playtest for the Pax Romana scenario.

You will need to understand the abbreviations before attempting this as the set up is derived of abbreviated units for each of the four adversaries. Sixteen Activation Phases are then described in reasonable detail followed by the Victory Phase. How the Victory Phase was determined is then explained part by part, including the calculation of the income in Talents for each Army. This makes it a lot easier to explain this to an inexperienced (even to an experienced) player than by just ploughing through the rules and hoping they all sink in – if you aren’t au fait with the game system they won’t, at least not to begin with. In all honesty I wouldn’t recommend PAX ROMANA for inexperienced tabletop war gamers, it is too heavy, too detailed and too much for most players new to this gaming style – in my opinion. I know some will disagree with me, but I would hate for a new player to buy this game because they liked the period and then find it rather more complicated than they thought. I sort of disagree with the publishers Complexity score, even though at 6 of 9 it is the top end of Medium. I would have rated it at 7 to make iffy players aware of its lengthy and possibly complicated possibilities.

Expect single session games to last between 5 and 7 hours. My apologies but my memory of the 1st Edition isn’t good enough and I must have missed any in-box references as to the differences between the two editions.

    

PAX ROMANA:
The Ancient Mediterranean World  (2nd Edition) Game Design Richard Berg

This is a massive game on a massive 8-fold mounted board with a fairly massive number of counters (840 small. 176 large and 112 in 3 sizes for the various VPs). The Rules book is a proud 48 pages and the Playbook another 44 pages. You will need to familiarise yourself with the bulk of the Rules but naturally, you need not memorise the full Playbook contents as it contains separately designed scenarios for either or both the Standard and Advanced games. IT does contain an extended example of play that experienced tabletop players whether new to GMT or not will almost certainly find extremely useful.

 

 

 

© Chris Baylis 2011-2015