Wednesday, June 26, 2013


Augustus came to my attention as it's one of the nominees for the SdJ this year. I am always on the lookout for a good mid weight game that I can play after a weighty game or something I can play with my kids.

Augustus fits the bill nicely. Its been nicknamed the Roman Bingo game and its easy to see why. The base mechanic of the game is Bingo, but instead of crossing off numbers on a grid you are sending your roman legions to take control of provinces or gain favour with the senators.

Opening up the box you get a score pad, a large stack of cards that show the provinces or senators, a bag of red centurion meeples and a number of tokens that fit into a cloth bag.

Setup is easy, every player gets 7 centurions and 6 random cards. From these 6 cards they must each choose 3 to put into play and the rest are discarded. Picking which cards to keep takes a little bit of thought but as the game is quite light and pretty quick its not a great loss if you make a mistake. 5 cards are then drawn to make a pool in the center of the table.

Each of these cards is broken down into different areas. On the left is a number of symbols, these match the tokens that are drawn from the bag. To score the card you will need to have a centurion on each of these symbols. Some are more common than others, for example there is only 1 yellow dagger in the bag compared to 6 crossed swords. On the right there maybe an icon that tells the players what happens when they score the card. This can range from adding gaining extra centurions to removing centurions from other players cards. Finally at the bottom of the card there is the number of victory points the card will score at the end of the game.

So you can see, its nice to have a balance of cards and maybe pick ones that work together.

The tokens are then put in the bag and someone starts drawing. Each time a token is drawn its type is announced, each player may then put a single centurion onto a card each time they have a symbol that matches. Once a card is filled they shout out "Ave Cesar" or "Bingo" and they remove the centurions and activate the cards effect.
There are 2 joker tokens in the bag, each player can determine what it represents to them, then all drawn tiles are put back into the bag and shuffled. So the bag is re seeded several times during the game.

They then get to draw another card to replace the one they have just scored. Now, there are a number of bonus tiles that users can score. These are scored when certain conditions are met, such as 3 green provinces or one of each colour. There are also some bonus tiles that you can only grab when you have scored that number of cards, if you miss it you can't go back. So there is a little bit of a push your luck while you are holding out for the higher scoring bonus tiles.

Play continues until someone scores 7 cards. Victory points are totaled up and the winner is announced.

Augustus is a light game, you have to think about the cards you are trying to score and making sure you grab the bonus tiles when you can. A game normally takes 30 minutes, so you can get a couple of plays in quite easily.

So far its been enjoyed by family and gamers, I think its got a good chance of winning the Sdj this year. If its not this then it will be Hanabi which is another of my favorites.

Friday, January 18, 2013


There are some themes that always seem popular, Zombies, Ninja's and Pirates seem to top the list. By adding one of these to your games you are more than likely to sell a few extra copies but it doesn't mean its going to be a good game.

Luckily Libertalia is a great pirate game that works its theme into the mechanics very well.

The aim of the game is to amass the most booty after 3 weeks of sailing the high seas. You do this by playing character cards each with there own power and initiative value. Powers are played out and booty is picked up. At the end of each week the booty is counted and any other effects dealt with. It all sounds very straight forward and it is, which makes it a good gateway game that non gamers should be able to get to grips with.

Setup is very straight forward, players each take there deck of 30 pirate cards. Every deck is the same so its how you use your cards that matters. The ship board is put on the table along side the scoring track.
The youngest player then shuffles his cards and deals out 9. The rest of the players then take those same matching 9 cards from their decks. Then the main board is seeded with booty tiles. There are spaces for 6 sets of tiles, each set is equal to the number of players. These are drawn from a bag and placed face up so everyone can see what booty is on the horizon.
6 rounds are then played out, one for each day of the week except for Sunday.
In each round players secretly pick their pirate and place them face down on their own player board. The cards are shown and placed on the main board in numerical order. The lowest being the ships parrot and the highest a Spanish officer. Card powers are then dealt with in order as long as they have a dawn symbol on them. Ties are broken with a second number.
Once all of the cars have been resolved, you go backwards through the cards with players picking a booty tile from that days area. Any card with a dusk icon also gets to use its power. Cards are then moves to the players pirate den.

The powers are varied, ranging from moving your booty to other players, discarding other players cards or just earning booty coins if they are still alive. Knowing what to play when and how the cards interact is part of the fun.

Night powers are then resolved if you have any pirates alive in your den. These usually allow you to earn more booty depending on what pirates you have in the den.

This set of actions runs through 6 times, with players using their pirates to hopefully get the best pick of the booty tiles. Finally Sunday is a day of rest. Booty is counted and scored and any pirate with an anchor symbol on display is resolved. All booty is then returned to the bag, pirate cards are returned to the box and the youngest draws another 6 cards.

Now things get interesting as players will have a mix of old and new cards, and again its what they choose and when will determine what booty they score.

After running through this 3 times for 3 separate weeks the final scores are tallied and the winner is the pirate with the most booty.

The mechanics are very simple, its using the pirates at the right time that's the key. Some of the booty tiles are good, some are bad so being able to move the cursed ones to another player helps. Also some of the booty tiles will kill off your pirate or even a pirate in an adjacent pirate den.

Libertalia supports up to 6 players and a game should take about an hour to play. Its more than a filler game and less than the main event of a gaming evening. But its a very good game with some lovely artwork and components. It's quite possibly my favorite pirate themed game.