Augustus : conquer the Roman bingo

As an archaeology graduate I feel like I own too few games that have a nice theme related to archaeology or history in general. I was itching to add a new proper game (not just a tiny card game) to my collection and ended up buying Augustus (also called Rise of Augustus) by Hurrican, which I had seen a playthrough of on Youtube. Augustus is basically a heavily themed bingo, with some twists, set during the early reign of the first Roman emperor: Augustus Caesar. So deploy your legions and secure the favour of the emperor in this race to become a Roman consul.


The Basics

augustus-boxThe mechanism in Augustus is classic bingo. No, it’s not a boring old person game, it’s just the basic mechanic. You want to complete objectives to collect favours and points. This is done by the town crier pulling tokens from a bag and everyone putting a legionary meeple on the corresponding icon on one of their objective cards. Once all the icons on an objective card have been claimed by your legions, you declare Ave Caesar! Your legion meeples are then returned to your reserve, you receive points, and you resolve potential special abilities the objective grants you. Since there’s now an empty spot in your row, you then pick a new objective. But lets look at the components more closely and how you can receive bonus points.

There are two kinds of objective cards: provinces and senators. The provinces come in three different colours: green (north west = a lot of modern Europe), purple (east = mostly modern Turkey), and orange (southern provinces = the Mediterranean coast of Africa). Each province card shows you where on the map that province is located and what kind of resources you can gain from it. However, in the actual game only gold and wheat are of any use to you – the rest are really just there as art.

augustus-cards
Examples of cards of each province colour + a senator: Mauretania is worth 6 points per orange province you complete, and can give you gold. Thracia lets you put two of your legions on icons of your choice on another other objective. Bithynia can give you the wheat bonus and makes it possible for you to put a legion on the shield on future objectives when the crossed swords are drawn and vice versa. The senator Cirillus lets you play with a fourth objective card for the rest of the game. This combination of completed objectives would grant you the 6 point bonus.

Each player can claim a number-of-objectives bonus tile when they finish that many objectives. However, you can only claim one such tile, and not retroactively if you forgot (unless you lose an objective and have to do another one) – so it is risky to try to hold out for the 10 point one! But you can claim however many of the other tiles you wish. From left to right in the game example below the bonuses on the second row are for 3 senators, three green provinces, one province of each colour + a senator, three purple provinces, and three orange provinces. Once again it is whoever is first and remembers to claim the tile that gets it. When you finish an objective with gold and/or wheat as a resource (in the example you can see two different objectives with wheat), you can claim the appropriate bonus tile. As long as you have the most wheat and/or gold you get to keep that bonus. If someone surpasses you, they get the tile. I’ve seen that people create their own bonus tiles for other resources to spice up the game, which could be pretty neat.

augustus-setup
A game four draws in, with one player represented at the bottom. No Ave Caesar yet! But hopefully she will be able to finish the leftmost objective (Corsica et Sardinia) soon and claim the wheat bonus.

 

The rules state that when one of the two joker tokens are drawn from the bag, each player chooses where to put their legion. However, I really like the idea of letting the town crier decide what the joker represent, making it the same for everyone (which Dad vs Daughter on YT suggested). That way the game becomes a little bit harder and more interesting and also gives a meaning to being town crier. Why else would you swap?

The game has some great art and I really appreciate that the provinces are real Roman provinces with goods that could come from there (e.g. Bithynia had very fertile valleys so they could’ve provided wheat, and Thracian horses feature in Greek mythology). While they might not be actual provinces under Augustus (e.g. Commagene in the example picture was an independent kingdom at that time but was later made into a Roman province) it is still a really nice touch. My Roman history is spotty at best but I recognise enough names to appreciate the attention to detail. Sadly the senators do not seem to have existed at any point, but the names are at least mostly Roman so that’s something.

The game takes up quite a lot of table space which you might not expect from a bingo type game, but I quite like it as it makes the game feel substantial. The box is also pretty darn big for what’s in it, but that’s what publishers tend to do. They have a standard size for the boxes no matter the actual size of the game inside. The box also doesn’t have an insert beyond the kind of “let’s half the actual inside space” type. Instead you get some plastic ziplocs to store your cards and tokens in (the meeples already come in one). However, the game components are of nice quality. The meeples are well painted wood and the tokens are doublesided and have a nice thickness. The cards have a somewhat unusual shape in that they are squares rather than rectangles and they too are of nice quality. I should also note that my game is the Nordic version, which is the only one with that particular box art. The others have a full colour version of the art from the card backs.

Augustus is a lovely game that is easy to teach and quick to get the hang of. You will find a strategy that works for you (will you be someone who goes fast and aims for the number bonus, or will you try to get three orange provinces and the wheat?) and it also depends a lot on the hand of six cards you’re dealt in the beginning. There is no in-game text that has to be understood. The names of the provinces are in Latin anyway, and are really just for flavour. So this really is a game that anyone can play! It works well will two players, but every two-player game I’ve played so far has had both me and my different opponents remark that it went too fast and demand another play through. But it is easy to apply house rules to make the game longer. Instead of stopping the game at seven finished objectives – make it nine! A 3-player game is a bit more tense, requires a little more strategy, and takes a little longer, so the seven cards work fine then. 4+ player games would be very interesting to try and I can imagine them being quite exciting.

Now, get in your time machine and rally your troops. You wouldn’t want to let the great Augustus down!

THE SPECS

  • Title: Augustus (or Rise of Augustus)
  • Designer: Paolo Mori
  • Publisher: Hurrican
  • Players: 2-6
  • Time: 30 min 
  • Type: set collection, cards, tokens
  • Size: medium/large
  • Release year: 2013

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