Rise of Augustus, Ave Ceasar and All That Jazz or Euro Game Meets Bingo and It Works!

Ceasar and All That Jazz or Euro Game Meets Bingo and It Works!
Rise of Augustus

Rise of Augustus, a bingo-like strategy card game

While looking for some new games to bring into the store, I ran across Rise of Augustus, one of 2013’s Spiel des Jahres nominees. Spiel des Jahres, for those of you who haven’t heard of it, is a really important gaming award. It translates to Game of the Year. Spiel des Jahres nominations typically only go to the cream of the crop. The publisher’s description on Board Game Geek (BGG) at the time, right off the back of the box, typically told me nothing useful about the game, so I took a look at the comments left by fellow BGGers and ran across this intriguing description:

“I can’t even explain why I like this game so much. On paper it sounds like a random boring mess. But there’s SOMETHING that kind of fascinates me about its simple mechanics. It’s short and snappy and you have some interesting choices to make, despite depending a lot on luck. It feels different from other games in a way that really appeals to me… it’s getting better with each play.”

Another BGGer described it as “7 Wonders meets Bingo.” Bingo?!! In a Euro game?! I had to see this for myself, so I immediately ordered two copies, one to open for a demo, one to hopefully sell. Rise of Augustus arrived and in it we found an exceedingly fun and addictive game.

It is indeed a Euro game with Bingo mechanics. Who would’ve thought you could ever combine the two? Can Strategy and Bingo really mix? Indeed they can.

Rise of Augustus mobilisation tokens

Rise of Augustus mobilization tokens.
Photo courtesy of EndersGame.

In Rise of Augustus, you and up to five other players each begin the game with seven legion meeples and three Objective cards depicting a combination of symbols (swords, shields, chariots, catapults, standards, daggers and jokers). As the town crier announces the mobilization tokens she pulls from the bag, you and your fellow players cover a matching symbol on one of your Objective cards, Bingo-style, with a Euro-style wooden legion meeple. You can only place one legion per token pulled. If you run out of legions, you can optionally move a legion from another post to the symbol just pulled. When all of the symbols of a card are covered with legions, you’ve completed that Objective and yell “Ave Caesar!”

If more than one player announces “Ave Caesar!” after the same pull, they complete their conquests in order, lowest objective number first: removing all legions from the card, carrying out any immediate power provided by the objective, moving the objective to their controlled objectives area (above cards in progress), claiming rewards if possible and desired, and finally selecting a new objective from among the five face-up on the table. Completed Objectives are considered Controlled, earning you points and potentially rewards with even more points. Your goal is to earn the most victory points and win the game.

The Objective cards in Rise of Augustus come in five flavors, providing either: 1) straight points, usually quite a few; 2) an immediate one-time benefit for you upon completion; 3) an immediate one-time attack on your opponents; 4) an ongoing permanent power; or 5) end-game bonus points.

Immediate, one-time benefits you’ll encounter, include:

  • Receive one or two additional legions.
  • Automatically complete one of your Objectives.
  • Choose an additional Objective, so you can work on 4 at once instead of 3.
  • Place one or two legions on corresponding spaces of your objectives.
  • Rearrange the legions on your in-progress objectives as you see fit.

Immediate, one-time attack powers, include:

  • Force your opponents to remove one or two legions from their Objective cards.
  • Make your opponents clear all of the legions off one of their Objectives.
  • Require your opponents to give up one of their controlled (completed) Objectives.

Controlled Objective cards with ongoing permanent powers, denoted by an hour-glass symbol, allow you to treat one particular symbol as another and vice versa. For instance, all shield token pulls can count as chariots and vice versa. The end-game bonuses provided by some cards include earning points for: each controlled objective of the same color (grey, green, pink, orange or red) or each matching symbol on your controlled objectives. The latter cards always have a stated maximum points you can earn in this way.

Rise of Augustus reward tokens

Rise of Augustus reward tokens

In addition to the Objective cards, players can earn three types of rewards.

  1. Color rewards award points for being the first to acquire either three grey senators, three green territories, three pink territories, three orange territories, or one of each.
  2. Number rewards grant you points when you have successfully controlled two, three, four, five or six objectives. However, you can only ever acquire one number reward. The hard choice here is whether to grab a low-point number reward while you can or hold out for a bigger reward risking that an opponent might take it first.
  3. Resource control rewards are awarded when you complete an objective with gold or wheat on it. They tend to change hands frequently as players vie for control of those valuable resources. Tie or exceed that of your fellow players to take the reward.

The game ends at the end of a round in which one or more players complete seven objectives. Total up the points on controlled objectives and rewards to determine the winner. A handy score pad is provided to help with that.

Rise of Augustus scoring example

Scoring Example.
Photo courtesy of EndersGame.

The components of Rise of Augustus are top notch. The square objective cards feel nice, sort of linen-like. The artwork is pretty and suits the theme well. The reward tiles are of heavy card stock, the cloth bag typical of Euro games, and the red wooden legion meeples add a really nice touch. The box is large for the components provided. I assume it’s to provide plenty of room to accommodate expansions. With all of the currently unutilized resource symbols depicted on the cards (anvil, lion, wood, aloe, stone, wine, brussel sprouts, tusks, slate, urns, sheep, elephant, crocodile, wool, medicine, carpentry, cloth, beer, fish, potatoes, rock, horses, silver, amber, emeralds, grain, olive oil, silk, jewels, ostrich, paper, pig), I expect the expansions will be many and varied.

Replayability is excellent both because of the large number of objectives in the deck – you never know what will come out in each game – and the randomness of the token draws. There are lots of opportunities for strategy: in the objectives you choose, which card you place your legions on, and the timing of completing your objectives.

I’ve played Rise of Augustus with 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 players. It’s one of those very few games that play well with any number. A six-player game doesn’t take much longer than a two-player game. Games typically run 30 minutes or less. Players with analysis paralysis (AP) can make the game run a little longer by taking their time selecting replacement objectives, but they can’t extend it too long.

Rise of Augustus is an excellent, light game appropriate for players of almost all ages (even the youngins can play this – make one the town crier to keep them involved throughout the game). It’s extremely quick and easy to teach, though the rules are not the best organized and clearest I’ve ever seen. For your first game, just give each player three objective cards, instead of making them choose three from six. They’ll understand how best to choose in their next game and you’ll get everyone playing and yelling “Ave Caesar” that much quicker!

Rise of Augustus supports 2 to 6 players ages 8 and up. I don’t see any reason players as young as 4 couldn’t play, too. Play time: 30 minutes or less.

Honors:

  • 2013 Fairplay À la carte Winner
  • 2013 Gioco dell’Anno Nominee
  • 2013 Gioco dell’Anno Winner
  • 2013 Golden Geek Best Family Board Game Nominee
  • 2013 Le Lys Grand Public Finalist
  • 2013 Meeples’ Choice Nominee
  • 2013 Spiel der Spiele Hit für Familien Recommended
  • 2013 Spiel des Jahres Game of the Year Nominee
  • 2013 Tric Trac Finalist
  • 2014 As d’Or – Jeu de l’Année Nominee
  • 2014 Guldbrikken Best Family Game Nominee
  • 2014 Juego del Año Finalist

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Copyright © 2013-2015 by Tina G. McDuffie. All rights reserved.
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