Prufrock's Wargaming Blog

Prufrock's Wargaming Blog

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

To Byzantium

I've had a strange wargame restlessness over the last week which manifested itself in a hobby room clean up and then the taking down of games from shelves, the opening of them, the furrowing of brows, and then the putting of games away because for one reason or another they weren't quite what I was looking for just at that moment.

After doing this over several nights with Sword of Rome, Sekigahara and Caesar XL, I finally hit upon Solitaire Caesar as the possible cure for the malaise.

Solitaire Caesar is one of those games that I wish I had designed myself. Simple map, simple rules, simple set up and engaging game. You start off controlling the city of Rome around 300 BC and, over the course of seventeen hundred-year turns, look to expand throughout the Mediterranean region and fend off attacks by the various game-controlled barbarians.

Each turn you get a different but set number of talents which are used to recruit armies or build cities. After you have done your turn (ie, turned fertile areas into deserts and called it peace) you roll to see which barbarians attack and in what strength. Once the barbarians have done their thing you tally up how many cities you control and note it down. At game's end you compare your total city score against a table to see how well you did.

I said that it was one of those games I wish I had designed myself, but the reality is that I couldn't have designed it, because the simplicity is the result of good research, extensive playtesting and clever design - all things which tend to be absent in my own rules-writing.

The great strength (or weakness, depending on how much of a control freak you are) of the game is that it relies heavily on the dice, and so the game is more about creating a story than plotting a foolproof path to Mediterranean conquest.

Anyway, after all that lead up, Rome Prufrock style was a bit of a disaster: I lost control of the eternal city somewhere around 150 AD and Byzantium a century later.

So, not so much a solitaire Caesar as a solitary one!

It was a nice little gaming interlude and just the thing I needed. The game has actually given me a couple of ideas for future projects, but these, knowing me, will likely never come to fruition!

Here are a couple of shots of the game (note that while my version is print and play, there is now a proper boxed edition available from White Dog Games):

Ouch; just lost Rome to some marauding Germans.

...and then Steppe types and Africans decided to join the party.
Inevitably, given the title of this post, we will finish with a little bit of William Butler Yeats from the website (about time we got some culture on this blog!).

Sailing to Byzantium

That is no country for old men. The young
In one another’s arms, birds in the trees
—Those dying generations—at their song,
The salmon-falls, the mackerel-crowded seas,
Fish, flesh, or fowl, commend all summer long
Whatever is begotten, born, and dies.
Caught in that sensual music all neglect
Monuments of unageing intellect.

An aged man is but a paltry thing,
A tattered coat upon a stick, unless
Soul clap its hands and sing, and louder sing
For every tatter in its mortal dress,
Nor is there singing school but studying
Monuments of its own magnificence;
And therefore I have sailed the seas and come
To the holy city of Byzantium.

O sages standing in God’s holy fire
As in the gold mosaic of a wall,
Come from the holy fire, perne in a gyre,
And be the singing-masters of my soul.
Consume my heart away; sick with desire
And fastened to a dying animal
It knows not what it is; and gather me
Into the artifice of eternity.

Once out of nature I shall never take
My bodily form from any natural thing,
But such a form as Grecian goldsmiths make
Of hammered gold and gold enamelling
To keep a drowsy Emperor awake;
Or set upon a golden bough to sing
To lords and ladies of Byzantium
Of what is past, or passing, or to come.


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