Reviews of Obscure but Interesting Games III – Imperium Romanum II

IRIIWhile still around ancient era boardgames, I’d have to bring forth the classic that got me interested in the ancient board gaming in a first place. Of course it was Imperium Romanum II from long defunct West End Games, designed by Al Nofi. The reason for this nostalgic trip to obscurity is that apparently Decision Games has some plan to publish renewed edition of the game and would like nothing more than have IRII brought to modern standards, and if at all possible, improve the game play (a lot). Subject is fantastic, very few have even contemplated with the thought to cover the whole Roman history in a single game. Of course peaceful centuries are excluded – but luckily they were few and far between.

Old IRII was not terrific game. It was not terrible, certainly it was playable still ten years ago when I last had a four player game of it, but even then it was very badly outdated, and I will remember forever the supply rules and huge skyscraper stacks of slippery – and weird thin counters that would slide all across the board from slightest kick of a table.

Certainly, it had it’s flaws: supply rules, replenishment rules and battle system were not really something that one would find nice to handle. They were not impossible, but one could not stop wondering if there really was not better way. IRII was also notoriously long, and in multiplayer games, it had a tendency to turn rather quickly rather ugly. IRII was not balanced in a way that three, four or six player should be. It was all too easy to kick out one player, because the empire or faction had no real staying power. This is something I like in Pax Romana. Seemingly indestructible, but fragile empires, that rely on each others for their continued existence and fine balance of power they exert.

On the positive side, there were some really nice things, such as cities that existed in certain periods, and road networks. Cities had arrows that pointed out during which era they were present, and when not. It was very easy. Road system was not printed on the map, but they existed in certain provinces at certain times. Another nice feature that made it possible for same map to span over so much time.

What to say? After all those years, every now and then there is desire to have the game on the table, but then I remember that while scenarios are well written, interesting and enticing, the poorly executed things in the game core engine return me back to the reality. There is really no group to play IRII at it’s original iteration, but hopefully Decision Games will make it anew.

So, good luck and hopefully we see a game that can finally cash the promises of IRII.

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