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Posted on Nov 15, 2007 in Electronic Games, Front Page Features

Great Battles of Rome Review

By Jim Cobb

Passed Inspection:  Exciting gameplay, fine graphics, nice historical abstractions

Failed Inspection:  Details not always historical; doesn’t force players to use historical tactics; must download a third campaign

How much abstraction can a game contain and still be called “historical”? How accurate in terms of detail should a game purporting to reflect historical tactics be? Great Battles of Rome definitely pushes the limit of credibility but still manages to maintain enough authenticity not to fall into the fantasy category. Published by CDV under The History Channel’s label, this Slitherine-designed game traces Rome’s military history from its beginning as a large village to the Civil Wars. Scholars of this topic may turn up their noses at first but, given time, they’ll realize that the game captures the essence, if not the precise elements, of the chronology. The game, building on the Legion Arena engine, also manages to be quite fun while pulling off its historical legerdemain.


Around the Old Campfire

Great Battles of Rome comes with two campaigns: the short tutorial campaign that supplements the thirty-page manual where the player leads Rome’s neighbors, the Latins, and a 70-battle Roman campaign. The first campaign must be played before the second can be unlocked. A third slot is visible for the Celts but that campaign was omitted for lack of History Channel film footage. An unofficial patch that contains this campaign can be found here. The usual video and sound options can be found at start up along with a slider to set the three difficulty levels.  An arcade mode to turn off the command feature is also available.

Play actually starts in the player’s army camp. Here, the squads – not maniples or cohorts, of 48 men available are shown with seventeen characteristics from armor to amount of ammunition. All these factors are summarized with levels and experience. The Roman campaign starts with three inexperienced squads: militia, skirmishers, and light cavalry. The player’s cache of gold and fame is also displayed here. Victories at difficult levels yield more wealth and fame. Each unit has a large animated picture that seems broadly accurate for the unit type. Units can be customized by renaming them and changing the color of their clothing. After each victory, the “army” returns to camp where casualties can be replaced by expending fame points and units which performed well can receive promotions and enhanced skills in armor, weapons, morale and cohesion. Players can also dip into their treasury to upgrade weapons and armor. The most ingenious item for purchase and upgrade is the standard, vital to morale. New unit types can be bought as the game goes along, leaving the player with the choice of disbanding an experienced, well-armed older unit to get the money to buy a more advanced but unproven and under-equipped advanced type. The progression of Roman unit types follows history in general; from citizen militia triarii and velites to legionnaires interspersed with assorted auxiliaries.

The other unit in camp is the player’s alter-ego, the leader. While leaders can receive advanced skills and equipment like the other troops, they have special functions. Commanders have a radius within which troops perform better. Leaders also have limited command points for issuing direct orders in battle. The numbers of command points can be increased by certain skills given to commanders and by giving squads skills that decrease the cost of giving them orders. Thus, losing a leader in battle will drastically reduce units’ effectiveness and may lose the battle outright.

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  1. I am very disappointed ,there are no patches or fixes for this game.I am running an amd 5000 with 4 gigs of ram two sli 512 meg Nvidia video cards and I cannot get this game to play. I was really looking forward to it.

  2. yup this game dont work, if u have newer good drivers and stuff u cant play it, my friend can on his old pos comp though.

  3. Names of the leaders of all the ROME battles ( won)
    Date of birth
    What battle(s) they won
    Were tthey successful?