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Posted on Mar 28, 2005 in Boardgames

Sword of Rome – Boardgame Review

By Fred Schwarz

Centuries forward!

Combat is very straightforward but also has some interesting aspects. It is basically a system of comparing army strengths to each other on a table. The higher strength army gets a die roll modifier in its favor, and the larger the army is to the other, the greater the modifier. There are modifiers for having the better tactically rated leader, fighting in a friendly space and if you attempted to withdraw from the fight or were successfully intercepted by an enemy army. Each side rolls three dice and the player with the higher result wins, with losses applied depending on the individual die rolls. The three dice roll means that combat is never a sure thing. I think this adds flavor to the game and keeps combat shrouded in the fog of war . But the consequences of battle do not end with pulling the dead off the battlefield; the victor gets to change political loyalty of spaces and cities of the loser. One needs to think through the potential outcomes of an attack, especially if the attack is rather weak, before attempting to send the lines of battle of forward. I like this aspect of the game very much.


Et tu?

This game is a real nail biter, which is why I like it. Although it is a game of operational maneuver and political intrigue, it is also one of player gmtsormap.jpgpsychology. With all the things that can go on in a turn in this game, you have to be a strong player who can take his lumps in one turn and rebound the next. Each power is played differently with its unique strategies, weaknesses and strengths. What worked for you last week as the Romans, may not fair so well this week facing your gaming group as the Gauls. Because of its card driven nature, and variable sequence that players will take their turn, no two games of Sword of Rome will be alike. There are many different card combinations and thus many strategies the players can explore. Four-player games are the best at fleshing out the full design, but two- and three-player games can be exciting as well. Because of the highly interactive nature of this system, games played via Cyberboard or ACTS could be difficult to do, and may take a long time. This is speculation on my part, as I have not played an active game of Sword of Rome through one of these media.

This game is great one for a regular group of players to get together and "stick it to each other." It reminds me of the game Kingmaker during the heyday of Avalon Hill. It is however; more involved than Kingmaker and can take longer to play. It would be difficult to complete a game of Sword of Rome in a one evening so be sure your group can meet a few nights in row or weekly to be able to complete the game.

If you like this period of history, you will surely like this game. However, if you are like me, a dyed in the wool panzer pusher, don’t discount The Swords of Rome. This is not one of those "nation building" games of gathering resources and expanding empire. It is a game of action, reaction, thwarting plans and making the best of what you’ve got, and taking advantage of a weakness or situation. There’s just as much fun here in Swords by having your Gauls sack a Roman walled city as there is in having Tigers breach the Russian defense at Kursk.

Learn more

For an excellent article on this period of history go to The Rise of Ancient Rome. This article reads as if it could have been the historical notes for the game. This is a tribute to Mr. Ferrell’s game design that portrays the historical problems facing the leadership of the time period and placing the players in such roles. For more information on the game The Swords of Rome go to GMT’s website:

Author’s Information

Fred Schwarz has been wargaming since the early 1970’s starting with the venerable Panzerblitz. He is a civilian intelligence specialist for the US Army and is also an Army Reserve Infantry Officer. Fred’s other hobbies include high power rifle competition and scale plastic model building. Fred resides in Michigan with his wife and two children.

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1 Comment

  1. It’s also a much better game than Kingmaker.

    The ways you affect loyalty points and the consequences of losing battle are confusing, however, the list of what you can and can’t do is exhaustive and unambiguous, which really helps.