Review – Caesar!
|PSC Games, Floodgate Games
Caesar! is the follow-up to Blitzkrieg!, and it makes the same promise of a 20-minute wargame. How does it play? How do these games compare? Let’s find out.
In Caesar!, 2 players vie for control of Ancient Rome. The game is played on a map board, which is divided into a number of regions. Players take on the roles of Caesar and Pompey, and they alternate placing influence tokens on the board, trying to control the different areas around Rome.
Players’ goal is to place all their control markers on the board. The first player to do so wins and becomes Rome’s dictator. At the start, both players shuffle their influence tokens into a bag and draw 2. Control markers are placed alongside the board.
The turn sequence is pretty simple. First, the active player places an influence token on an empty space along a region’s border. Each token shows 2 numbers, and the tokens are placed such that they straddle 2 regions, with 1 number in each.
If a player’s token fills the last empty space around a region, they take that region’s bonus token. Then, the players compare their influence in the region, and the player with the higher total places a control marker there. (If tied, the space remains empty.)
Bonus tokens grant an immediate action, such as:
- Take another turn
- Draw an extra token from the bag
- Flip an opposing influence token face down, negating its value
- Place additional control markers if you control this region
Controlling adjacent regions is also beneficial, as it allows players to add extra control markers. (Again, placing control markers is the object of the game.)
Once a player has placed their influence token and resolved any triggered effects, they draw a new token and end their turn. Play continues like this until someone wins by adding their last control marker.
Caesar! definitely seems like a relative of Blitzkrieg!, but the games are different enough that they both feel like distinct ideas. Among the characteristics they share, both games are 2-player, 20-minute experiences, with token-bag drawing and area influence at their core.
The board geography in Caesar! is much more significant than in Blitzkrieg! In Blitzkrieg!, players don’t think about things like adjacency of regions; each section of the board is its own, individual tug-of-war. In Caesar!, however, it matters not only which regions tokens are placed in, but also the status of surrounding regions. Players have to balance the desire to collect bonus tokens with the need to control connected areas.
Because bonus tokens go to the player who places the last influence in a region, players often want to avoid placing the second-to-last influence, since doing so would set their opponent up to finish the region and claim the token. This aspect reminds me of the pencil-and-paper game “Dots and Boxes,” in which players want to avoid drawing the third line of a box. Players can try to put this off as long as possible, but eventually the board will fill up and they will have no other choice.
The game also includes 2 expansion modules for extra variability. These introduce new bonus tokens; the poison tokens add a new loss condition and allow players to attack each other, and the centurions provide extra influence markers that players can choose willingly, rather than drawing blindly from the bag. I really like both of these modules and recommend including them in every game. There is also a solo mode, in which the human player competes against an automa opponent.
The production of Caesar! is once again minimal, with a board, 2 draw bags, player screens, and tokens. It’s functional, if a little on the plain side. The rules are thorough, but a bit confusing in the way they refer to control tokens versus influence tokens—as a gamer, those feel synonymous to me. The inclusion of more detailed examples in the rulebook would have helped with clarity. On the other hand, the box art nicely matches Blitzkrieg!, and the games look great next to each other.
Between Caesar! and Blitzkrieg!, I like the latter slightly more, though I certainly think there is room for both in a collection. (Admittedly, my preference for Blitzkrieg! may stem from my own personal interest in World War II.) Both titles have a good mix of tactics and strategy, with gameplay subtleties that reveal themselves over time. You can’t go wrong with either game, but side by side, I give Blitzkrieg! a slight edge.
Still, I really like Caesar!, and I recommend it to fans of 2-player games. The idea of influence tokens affecting 2 regions is fascinating, and it makes for some tough decisions. If you’re looking for a snappy area control game for 2 players, give Caesar! a try.
A review copy was provided by Floodgate Games.
The Bottom Line
Caesar! is an excellent follow-up to Blitzkrieg! The games certainly feel related, but they are different enough that there is room for both in a collection. I like Blitzkrieg! ever so slightly more, but Caesar! is a strong game in its own right.