Caesar and Cleopatra
by Tom Warin
Caesar and Cleopatra
Board game manufacturer:
Rio Grande / Kosmos
Number of players:
A fun, attractive game that’s fairly easy to pick up but which has enough depth to keep you interested over a series of games.
The game and gameplay
Caesar and Cleopatra is a two-player card game where a single game should last around thirty to forty minutes. One player is Caesar and the other is Cleopatra, and the aim of the game is to seize control of the Roman empire by gaining the support of patricians, represented by Patrician cards. This support is gained through the exercise of Influence and Action cards.
There are five groups of patricians of varying sizes: Senators (five), Censors (three), Praetors (five), Aedilis’ (three) and Quaestors (five). Each player has fifty cards (thirty seven influence and thirteen action). There are eight vote of confidence cards and eight influence bonus cards.
The cards are of good quality and attractively illustrated. The instructions are comprehensive and well written.To begin, the Patrician cards are laid out on the table between the players, one column of cards per group. Influence cards are numbered from one to five. Each player sets aside two of each number and then lays down five cards, one per patrician group, to represent their initial influence. The remaining five cards are the starting hand for that player. The remaining influence cards are shuffled and placed face down in front of the player.
There are thirteen Action cards for each player. The player can arrange them in the order they want them to appear and then lay this deck face down in front of them next to the influence deck. A beginning player can choose to simply shuffle their action deck if they aren’t sure about how to use the Action cards.
Each player takes one influence bonus card which they keep to themselves until the end of the game. The eight vote of confidence cards are placed between the players.
Each turn, a player can choose to be active or passive. In a passive turn, the player simply discards cards and chooses new cards to replace them. In an active turn, the player can optionally play one action card, must play one (face-down) or two (face-up) influence cards, must draw cards (from either their Influence or Action decks) to refill their hand to five cards and must draw one vote of confidence card.
If the vote of confidence card is drawn for a patrician group, then all influence cards played for that group are turned face up. The player with the most influence points for that group wins one of the patrician cards. The winning player discards their highest valued card from the group and the losing player discards their lowest valued card.
If a Philosopher card has been played then the result is reversed and the player with the fewest influence points wins a card from that group.
If an Orgy card is drawn, no vote is taken. One of the orgy cards directs you to reshuffle the vote of confidence deck, so the order of votes for the different groups is unpredictable.
The Action cards vary in usefulness. Assassination, which allows you to remove one of your opponent’s face up cards and Spy, which allows you to examine your opponent’s deck and remove one card are obviously powerful.
The Veto card allows you to stop an Action by an opponent. The Scout card allows you to turn all of your opponent’s influence cards in one group face up. The Wrath of God card removes all influence cards from one group. The Castling card allows you to swap two of your influence cards face down.
At the end of the game, points are totaled as follows: one point for each patrician card, one point for gaining a majority in a patrician group, one point for gaining all the cards in a patrician group, and two points for achieving the terms of the influence bonus.
Pairing a higher valued influence card with a lower value card is often a useful strategy as it will prevent you from losing a high value card if you lose a vote of confidence.
If you don’t have much firepower in a group, then a Philosopher card can be good way to turn the tables. It’s fun trying to figure out where your opponent might have played a Philosopher card and trying to neutralize it (Philosophers cancel each other out).Pros and cons
The game plays smoothly and there’s enough depth to keep you interested and coming back for more. Although experienced players will have an advantage in terms of knowing how to arrange their Action deck, inexperienced players can still have a lot of fun. It’s a good game for a couple to play and to learn together.
The artwork on the cards is very good.
As a card game that packs down pretty small, it’s good to take on the road.
It’s a minor quibble, but the cards are long and thin, which makes them a pain to shuffle, with my sausage fingers at least. This makes regular shuffling of the vote of confidence deck a little irritating.
Rio Grande/Kosmos have a wide range of two-player games and they vary considerably in complexity. In my experience, Caesar and Cleopatra falls somewhere in the middle of the spectrum. Luck plays a role from the random order of votes of confidence, but the weight of the game is on strategy. There’s enough depth here to keep it interesting, but not so much that it serves as a barrier to entry for less experienced gamers.
It’s an enjoyable game that’s a good next step if you’re looking for something more strategic than Lost Cities.