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Ludus Senatus Kickstarter Preview


Quick Look: Ludus Senatus
Designer: Brian Compter
Artist: Eduardo Garcia
Publisher: Concrete Canoe Games
Year Published: 2019
No. of Players: 2-4
Ages: 12+
Playing Time: 20 minutes

Find more info on BoardGameGeek.com


Review:
Whenever I hear or read the word "senate," be it in English or Latin, my first thought, without fail, always turns to Sheev Palpatine (yes, he has a first name, and yes, it's Sheev), senator-turned-emperor in the Star Wars universe. Needless to say, his lines "I am the senate" and "I love the republic" rule my thoughts while playing, and I (personally) think it's hilarious.

But Ludus Senatus isn't about Star Wars (even if the pasty white bloke on the back of the cards has an uncanny resemblance with the Senate himself, Sheev Palpatine). Shocker, I know. Rather, it's about making sure your vote align with the vote of the senate so you look good to your peers. This is done by savvy use of hand management, actions, and the ability to emulate Palpatine's cunning in order to get the senate to sway their vote your way (if you don't have the heart to vote on their terms).

There's a lot more going on than what it may appear at first glance, and the mechanics feel smooth, with enough "take-that" (moving cards from one player's tableau to another, thus giving them votes they'd rather not have) to make games come alive.

My Experience
The politicking in Ludus Senatus makes for a fun game. It's a combination of memory, hand management, and take-that that makes things a little too realistic (politically). There is no shame here, and if one player is obviously working toward a majority senate vote of "yea," there are a few ways to make a mess of things so that it will be either a definite "nay" (by swapping out cards), or a who-knows-what-it'll-be (due to playing cards face down).

One thing I really like about Ludus Senatus is that the cards retain their facing when moved around, so face-down cards move to the middle face down, and face-up cards move around in like fashion. Because of this, there's a memory element going around that is fun to mess with by using an action to flip cards face up or face down. Good times, especially when a card gets flipped down and you've been too busy remembering the other face-down cards that you forgot to remember what that face-up card was, and now it's face down, and now you're hosed. 

I found the gameplay to be wonderfully engaging and the player interaction to be a lot of fun. Of course, some players may not be as down with the take-that shenanigans as others, so they may not think it as enjoyable. But, that's each player's prerogative. As for me and my house, we will serve--and get served--with a laugh, a grimace, and a friendly reminder that "Oh, it's on!"

Setup:

Setup with three players. Leave room for seven cards in the middle.

First and foremost: shuffle the deck, and place it in the center of the play area. Each player draws three cards from the top of the deck and places them face down in front of them. This is what makes up each player’s personal tableau. The next top card from the deck is flipped and placed face up next to the deck. This is the discard pile (and there will always be only one card in it. Ever.). Make sure there is room in the middle of the table for seven cards, which will be where the common tableau is built.

Gameplay:

They majority of cards in the middle have a majority of nays to yeas (4-3), and all players with at least two "nays" in their personal tableau gain at least one point. In this case, only the bottom player has majority "nays" in their tableau. Because there is only one player with majority, that player gains two points.

Taking turns and starting with the first player, each player takes one of two actions. This could entail placing a card from your tableau to the common tableau, and then adding the top card of the deck or discard pile to your personal tableau. Alternately, you may flip a face-down card in your personal tableau so that it is facing up. When doing this, you take the action(s) listed on the card (as indicated by the icons at the bottom of the card). Actions include:

Swap: Swap any two cards between any tableaus. This may include the card in the discard pile as well.

Peek: Take a peek at one face-down card in any tableau.

Flip: Flip on card face-up or face-down.

The action icons on the cards (from left to right): Swap, Peek, and Flip.

Basically, you—the players—are voting on things. What things? Well, that’s not outright spoken, so feel free to make stuff up (if you so desire). Players are trying to align the votes in their tableau with the votes in the common tableau. Thus, if you have a majority of Yeas in your tableau, and the common tableau also has a majority in Yeas compared to Nays, then your vote aligns with the senate.


Because you see eye-to-eye with the senate, you get two points if you are the only one that matched majorities. If other players match majority as well, then each of those players gains only one point. The first to five points wins, and then you can claim ownership of the senate!


Theme and Mechanics:
The theme is none other than the roman (Republic?) senate, where politicking is more important than what you actually vote for. One might argue that it fits with today’s political scene (pick a country, any country…), in that senators are more worried about what the rest of the senate think than, you know, voting for what they think is best. Then again, others may argue against that idea. Either way, it’s fitting for a political theme. I’ve read enough fantasy novels with political intrigue at its core to know that this is exactly how it works. 

The mechanics seem to fit well, also. Keeping information close to your chest, saving your ace, so to speak, for when it will do you the most good, and getting the inside scoop of what others have in front of them is all very thematic. A good mix of "take-that," memory, and hand management.

Artwork and Components:


There is a lot of purple in the art. Considering purple is generally thought of as Roman (historically, I guess), it fits. The art is cartoony (kind of has a Disney’s Hercules vibe to it), and I’m not saying that the guy on the back of the cards is Mr. Sheev Palpatine incarnate, but I’m not not saying it, either. (OK, fine. It’s his spitting image. And I love the game even more for it).


The Good:
  • The sehhhnate
  • Sheev Palpatine’s spitting image on the cards
  • Saying “I am the senate!” upon winning
  • Small footprint and up to four players
  • Interactive gameplay
  • Fun actions that really make the game shine
The Meh:
As mentioned earlier, some players might not like getting messed with in their games. That aspect of Ludus Senatus isn't really that big, but it's there, so if you're not into that sort of thing, then that may be a turnoff (I say "may" because, like I said, I didn't find it to play a super huge part in the game).

If you've got a bad memory, this one may prove difficult (sorry, Mum). Again, it's not a deal-breaker by any means, but it would make things a bit more challenging, trying to remember what that one card is and--did I turn off the oven today? I'd best go check on it... Crap, what did I come in this room to do?

Final Thoughts:

Sheev or no Sheev, this guy looks like he could overthrow the senate and build a galactic Roman empire.
It's small, it's colorful (power power to purple lovers, such as my wife), it plays relatively quickly, and it's fun. It's not super deep, but good games don't need to be. I found this one to be a good mix of a bunch of mechanics (see above). I like how more than two people can play this, and with just 18 cards, that's saying something. The designer did a great job balancing this game, as well as making actions that are important to coming out victorious without trolling the other players too much. In the end, I'm a fan (and not just because of the Star Wars quotes that come so easily). I'll be bringing this with me traveling, and certainly wouldn't say no to a quick game or two on any given day.

Players Who Like:
If you want a chance to say "I am the senate" at any given moment, this is the game for you. Also, if you like hand management, a bit of "take-that" (in swapping cards from other players), and diplomatic intrigue (ok, that one's pretty light, but I'll add it anyway), check out Ludus Senatus. I think the biggest one, though, is if you are looking for a game that plays more than two players, fits in your pocket, doesn't have a big footprint, and is quite enjoyable.

Check out Ludus Senatus on:

                 

On KICKSTARTER now. Campaign ends April 11, 2019.



Benjamin Kocher - Editor and Reviewer

Benjamin hails from Canada but now lives in Kentucky with his wife and kids. He's a certified copyeditor through UC San Diego's Copyediting Extension program. He's a freelance writer and editor, and covers everything from board game rule books to novels. An avid writer of science fiction and fantasy, it comes as no surprise that his favorite board games are those with rich, engaging themes. When he’s not writing or playing games, Benjamin loves to play ultimate Frisbee, watch and play rugby, and read the most epic fantasy books available. Follow him on Twitter @BenjaminKocher and Instagram @Kocherb, and read his board game-inspired fiction at BenjaminKocher.com.

See Benjamin's reviews HERE.

Ludus Senatus Kickstarter Preview Ludus Senatus Kickstarter Preview Reviewed by Benjamin Kocher on March 29, 2019 Rating: 5

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