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Posted on Dec 15, 2006 in Boardgames, Front Page Features

Pax Romana – Boardgame Review

By Chris A. Cornaghie

Whether an AM is drawn or is played initially, the player must pay one talent of money to take any actions. No money, no moves; in Pax Romana, unlike many other games on ancient conflict, money is essential to a campaign. In the advanced game, the player draws a card from the event deck, plays it if required, otherwise the card may be saved and/or the player may play other cards in his hand at this time. After the first round of AM play, a marker is drawn and the player follows the above; pay a talent, draw a card, and then conduct operations. A player may perform one of the following; 1) Expansion – one major move with an army or fleet and two minor moves with an individual unit or leader; in place of a minor move the player may build a town or city, which of course costs money. 2) Recruitment – should disaster or a golden opportunity present itself but which would require additional troops or ships, the player may use his AM to recruit more, but again must have the money. 3) Call a meeting – this is the only use of an AM which does not cost money, the game does not allow players to form alliances without this action. It is almost impossible to prohibit table talk, and really, do you want to? Players may use money as bribes at any time, but to combine armies, exchange control, or anything else requires this action. In the advanced game, the player must have the Alliance card to take this action.


Activation markers are drawn until none remain; so as each power will use one AM in the initial round and then three more in the remaining activation phases, the player will need at least 4 talents of money to use all. The movement of an army with a leader is determined by adding the leader’s campaign rating to 1D6, the movement of an army without a leader or an individual unit is 1D6. As an example, the Carthaginian 4-6 Elite leader (Hannibal) with an army and which throws a 5, can move 11 movement points. As with Rise of the Roman Republic, the army may move, have combat, move some more, sack a town, be transported by sea, attack again, etc. to the extent of the movement points available for that phase. As the force could use each AM drawn, an army can travel a long way in the ancient world; march from Spain to Italy and fight several battles along the way. The entire 2nd Punic War would be condensed to one turn (25 years) of 4 activations for each power. Forces may also be intercepted in their moves, withdraw before combat, and conduct sieges. Naval movement and combat follows the same basic idea; fleets may move, fight, move again, transport, etc.

After all AM’s have been drawn, forces must check for isolation. Units must be able to trace a supply route by land and/or sea or be in a town or city. If not, attrition will apply.

Combat, land and naval, uses a dual die roll for attack and defense, with a large number of modifiers for shifts on column of losses by percentage.

As would befit a game of such scope, stability and civilization play a major role in game terms. A power gains victory points through having more towns and cities than other powers, any power loses stability for having more heavy infantry or legions than civilization points from towns and cities. In other words, a power cannot simply build military units without using some actions to increase the number of towns and cities; which is essential since they also produce money. A power may lose or gain stability points due to loss of territory, barbarians or slave armies in your home provinces, raising militia, or losing your capital. As stability declines the power will become susceptible to unpleasant events or cards from your opponents.


The last phase tabulates victory points, adjusts stability levels, and returns all used cards to the deck to be re-shuffled (Can Spartacus recur, oh, yes he can!). The game grants victory points for geographic objectives, civilization points, and opportunity objectives. Opportunity objectives are purchased openly (note again the importance of money), but the exact objective is secret. Most require control of territory, as “Control Hispania,” and add a dramatic aspect to the game. Why are the Romans suddenly so interested in the Aegean Sea? Could be enough VPs to win.


Pax Romana is a blend of a standard wargame with percentage combat loss, variable movement, changeable player turn sequence, and special event cards. The game design allows for tremendous replayability. Due to the nature of player activity order, event cards, and dramatic movement rates, no games are ever the same. A player can very easily be drawn into grandiose schemes of conquest, only to find his rivals in his backyard in short order. The event cards provide all the historical possibilities, but with the added consequence of being able to apply to any power. (Spartacus in Carthage). It is a truly an enjoyable, entertaining, and thoughtful game. A must for the ancient world gamer!

Armchair General Rating: 94%

37/40 — Gameplay
15/15 — Components
18/20 — with “Living Rules” 6/5/06
15/15 — Replay Value
09/10 — Reviewer’s Tilt

Pax Romana by GMT can be viewed at

Author’s Information

Chris A. Cornaghie is a practicing attorney in Memphis, Tennessee. His introduction to wargaming began with U-Boat by Avalon Hill in 1960, which he still plays from time to time. He has played all the classic AH, SPI, GDW, Battleline, Yaquinto, GMT, Columbia and many other wargame titles. Luckily he found a hardcore group of wargamers in college who have continued to meet through graduation, law school, marriages, birth of children and divorces (not necessarily due to gaming). Throughout it all the one constant has not been baseball, but wargaming. The group has playtested for many game companies over the years (and still does) and he has co-authored articles for the AH General and Fire and Movement. A history major, he is always interested in any game on ancient or Roman periods.

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  1. Thanks for the explanation and review