Pandemic: Fall of Rome
Just about everyone is familiar with the popular Pandemic series of games. One of the latest additions to the series is Fall of Rome (“FoR”), in which the plagues have become barbarian hordes (Huns, Ostrogoths, Visigoths, Franks/Anglo-Saxons, and Vandals) and the CDC has become the imperial government, struggling to hold together a crumbling empire.
However, rather than trying to “eliminate” the barbarians (though there is a lot of that), your goal is to form alliances with them to co-opt them into the Empire. The game does an interesting job of showing how the decline in “internal” legions leads to a need recruit allied barbarians to defend the Empire against the other barbarians.
After a long wait to play since receiving FoR as a gift for my birthday, I played two games of it in the last week, one with the family and one with the group, and enjoyed both of them. This version is more “on theme” for me, since I am a big history fan – particularly of ancient Rome. However, the game is essentially Pandemic (like all in the series), but with quite a few interesting twists.
The main mechanics are the same. There are: a map with cities, the two decks (with event cards – you can super charge some of these events, but it could mean a further decline in the Empire), a track for decline of the Empire (it moves down each time a city is sacked, which is the same as an outbreak in the original game), forts (research centers), the same number of actions (though the actions differ), and the characters with their special abilities.
Each character is some form of Roman leader or group. You will recognize many of their special skills from Pandemic, but a few are unique to the game.
One of the big changes you will note is how barbarians (diseases) are added to cities. In the original, if you draw a card with a city, a cube is placed there. However, in FoR, the barbarians start in their home territories and work there way toward cities by following one of their tribe’s invasion paths (they must have a cube in the city or in an adjacent city). The tribes’ invasions paths are shown on the map and on the cards.
Another big change is the need to recruit legions to fight the barbarians (this is how you “cure” in this game). You are limited to how many you can move with you and they are fragile, but you can always recruit more at a fort or add barbarians from allied tribes to your army.
Each character has some sort of additional attribute in battles, which are activated when the eagle result appears on the dice – some of these are not so great, by the way. You are limited to rolling no more than three dice or the number of legions in your army and, based on the circumstances, you may not want to roll all of them.
The primary goal is enter into alliances with all five tribes. In the meantime, you must prevent much of the same things as in the original Pandemic. The Empire cannot collapse, there cannot be so many barbarians from a tribe on the board that more cannot be placed, and you must not allow Rome to be sacked (there is an entire set of cards targeting Rome that enters play after the first “Revolt” card is drawn from the Player Deck, which are the epidemic cards).
If you know Pandemic, this is a quick game to learn and is just as quick a play as the original. Even if you do not know the original, the learning curve is shallow. We had a great time with it and look forward to playing some more.
Be sure to vote for this game for the cruise!
See you onboard,
Gaming By Sea