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Vae Victis Kickstarter Preview

Quick Look: Vae Victis

Designer: Enrique Dueñas González
Artist: Gaetano Leonardi
Publisher: 2Tomatoes
Year Published: 2019
No. of Players: 2-6
Ages: 10+
Playing Time: 20-40 min

Find more info on BoardGameGeek.com

WARNING: This is a preview of Vae Victis. All components and rules are prototype and subject to change.


tl;dr: Semi-cooperative game set in the downfall of Rome. Quick little title with tough decisions, but very little that's new.

Getting to the Game: Setup is pretty easy--each player gets a Curia and Limites goal card, and 8 coins. Place all three boards in the center of the table, and start each of the markers on their respective tracks. Create the favor deck by using two cards per player, add 1 or 2 traitor cards if you're using that variant (depending on number of players).

Your mission here is to accomplish both your goals by the end of your turn*. If you manage that, and also Rome hasn't succumbed to internal strife or external hordes, then you've managed to gain the emperor's favor--wealth and power will follow the rest of your days.

*The rulebook says that the last thing you do on your turn is "Check if the active player has won," but then proceeds to clarify this by saying, "Once the active player has gone through their phases, if there is no victor, pass the dice to the next player..." This is confusing and only the beginning of my issue with the rulebook as a whole.

Playing the Game: Each turn you'll get to roll the dice to see which of the pressures on Rome are of most import right now. You can remove one of the three dice for free, and pay a coin each to ignore up to both the other two if you desire. These dice will move the barbarians towards the walls of Rome as well as clog Roman sewers and deplete wealth. After that, you can support Rome through waging war against the barbarians, looting the treasury for yourself (which is somehow good for Rome?), and advising the emperor on how to run the city. After that, you go to work for yourself, choosing to influence Rome through gaining Intrigue cards at the baths, Orating at the Senate, or acquiring Forum cards. 

All of this feels fine, but not particularly exciting. In practice, you're pulling levers to keep certain markers above certain lines. You're not allowed to let any given marker fall below the red line, unless you're the traitor (more on that in a bit). So, you'll find yourself being forced to give up coins when you don't want to towards the end of the game just to keep the game going long enough to secure a victory for yourself (or worse, someone else) through war and the senate; a fitting end, considering how Rome actually fell. 

Overall, Vae Victis (latin for "Woe to the conquered") does what it sets out to do: put the players in charge of managing the rapid decline of a civilization, and even deal with a traitor. If you manage to acquire one of the traitor cards from the Favor deck, you can reveal it, give up your current Curia/Limites goals and now your only job is to sink Rome through any of the available tracks. Do so, and you win and dance as Rome burns. The issue with this is that if you're playing a 2-player game, or not playing with the traitor variant, the Forum cards are essentially worthless. They do allow you to remove a die on someone else's turn, but without a traitor, you're ostensibly working together, so there's very few (not zero, mind you) reasons to do this. The rest of the game limps along like this, waiting for someone to win.

I won't say that this game is entirely without fun moments. Pushing and pulling on the paths, figuring out how to feint your way through your objectives to fool your opponent(s) into doing your work for you, and managing the many needs of Rome is fun when it works. The rulebook won't do you any favors, though, as it's denser than it needs to be, with unclear language and conflicting info--see example to the side. Another good example is the following: The curia cards are explained in the rulebook here, but how they function and what you need to do to secure their results isn't explained until you flip over to the Senate section later on. I expect this minor stuff to get resolved as the prototype nature of this preview is hammered out, but it makes learning the game well enough to give you, gentle reader, a good grasp of how it works rather difficult.

Artwork and Components: As everything is still in very heavy prototype status, I don't have much to say here. I'll say that Leonardi's art evokes a very strong feeling of his previous title(s), The Captain is Dead. If you like that art, you're going to feel very at-home here.


All of the game's components are work-in-progress, so I can't weigh in on these, either. The coins above are from a different game.

The Good: Gameplay feels well balanced. Otherwise hard to say, as so much is still in flux with components.

The Bad: Missing the "Aha" moment required by a board game. Feels like a slog at times.

Score: Vae Victis fails to deliver on the promise of managing the decline of Rome, instead feeling like you're managing various dials that have been separated from their theme. There are fun moments to be had, but they're too few and far between for my personal tastes. I'm giving Vae Victis a score of Nero.

Check out Vae Victis on:


Coming to KICKSTARTER April 2, 2019!

Nicholas Leeman - Reviewer

Nicholas has been a board game evangelist for over 10 years now, converting friends and family alike to the hobby. He's also a trained actor and works summers as one of the PA announcers for the St. Paul Saints. He lives in Minneapolis, MN with his board gaming wife and son.

See Nicholas's reviews HERE.
Vae Victis Kickstarter Preview Vae Victis Kickstarter Preview Reviewed by The Madjai on March 20, 2019 Rating: 5

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