Klaus Teuber





Although the outer appearance of the gamebox might suggest that the new Settlers of Catan-based KOSMOS game Kampf um Rom focuses on the building of the Roman Empire and the warring Emperors, it is the title which must be taken more literally. Thus, Klaus Teuber deals in Kampf um Rom with the decline of the Roman Empire and the Invasion of the Barbarians. So, in the game each player assumes leadership of two nomadic tribes - the Warriors and the Horsemen - and they must lead these tribes from northeast Europe into the former Roman Empire in central and western Europe to plunder cities and eventually to found new kingdoms in Roman cities.

The gameboard is set-up on the table, and although the numbered hex-spaces printed on the rough map of Europe will instantly remind players that they are actually embarking on playing a product of the Settlers-line, they will quickly discover that there are major differences to classic Settlers. Thus, each player positions two figures for his tribes on the starting area in the northeastern corner of the gameboard, and they put one Warrior or Horseman figure and one Supply Wagon into holding boxes for each of the tribes. The Roman Empire on the gameboard is diveded into five provinces, and each of these provinces features a number of cities which will be randomly assigned a face-down plunder marker. These markers will be discover by the players during the course of the game. Finally, three stacks of resources (Wheat, Iron, and a randomly shuffled pasture deck with Horses and Oxen) and a stockpile of Gold are put close by, and from these stacks each player receives a small starting quota to begin the game with.

A round of the game is split into four phases, and in each of the phases all players are allowed to act before the next phase begins. Like in classic Settlers, the first phase is the income phase were the starting player rolls two dice to see which landscapes will yield an income in resources this turn. A player receives resources if he has at least one of his tribe-figures on one of the six crossroads adjacent to a producing landscape, but even if he has both tribes next to the landscape he will only receive one resource of the producing landscape. A special role is taken by the pastures, since here a player may not decide whether he wants to take a Horse or an Ox, but instead he draws a random resource card from the pasture deck and has to stick with what he draws. In total, the starting player has to roll the two dice as often as he needs to roll four different production numbers. Thus, it is not just one number which will yield an income to the players, but other landscapes may produce as well. In a way, this rolling of several production numbers counterbalances the much vaster size of the gameboard if compared to traditional Settlers, since this way the production results will be spread more evenly. The only exception here is a "7" which will not yield any production by instead allows the player to move the figure of a Roman Legionnaire which he can use to cancel production on one space and steal a resource card from a player who has a tribe adjacent to this space.


Next comes the trading & building phase, and here the players may trade their resources with each other and start spending the resources for the benefit of their tribes. Thus, they may buy new population (Horsemen/Warriors) or Supply Wagons for their tribes to increase their strength, or they may spend their resources to purchase development cards. These development cards may bring various one-time advantages during the game (temporarily increase the fighting power of a tribe, gain gold, fast movement etc), but there is also a fair number of Diplomat-cards in the stack which - apart from the one-time moving of the Legionnaire - will stay with their players and give the player with the largest amount of Diplomat-cards in front of him the benefit of two additional Victory Points.

The final phases of a round deal with the actions of both tribes, and here first all players have to act with their Horsemen before they act with their Warriors in the following phase. In the first half of the game the players will move their tribes through the different Roman provinces, trying to plunder cities and collect plunder markers. Movement is done along the edges of the landscapes, and a tribe may move as far as the player desires as long as it uses "free" edges. However, some of the edges also bear an arrow-symbol, and here a tribe only may cross one arrow-symbol for free each turn. If the player wants to move across more than one arrow symbol, he has to pay either Wheat or Gold for crossing each additional arrow. Also possible is movement by Sea along some prescribed routes, but here the same rule applies that only the first sea passage is free and that the player has to pay Gold for making more than one sea voyage.

Once a player has moved a tribe, he may check whether he wants his tribe to perform an additional action. If the tribe is positioned next to a city which still contains a plunder marker, he may plunder the city if his tribe has a strength (figures in its holding box) equal or larger than the defensive strength of the city which is depicted by its number of towers around its city walls. If a tribe has the required strength, the player may conduct a plundering action and he may reveal the plunder marker from the chosen city. The marker will show whether the attacking tribe will suffer the loss of a figure for its attack, and also how may Gold and possibly resources or development cards the player is able to plunder. The plunder marker then will be kept by the player in the holding box of the plundering tribe and play continues with the next player in line.

After all players have acted or passed with both of their tribes a new round begins with the first phase, and this way the game continues until a player was able to plunder cities in at least three provinces with one of his tribes. If this condition is met, the player actually may decide to conquer a city instead of plundering it. To conquer, the same procedure is used as when plundering, but with the difference that a possibly still available plunder marker will be removed from the city without acting upon it. The player puts a Supply Wagon from his tribe's holding box onto the city to symbolize that his tribe now has founded a kingdom, ending the voyage of the tribe and thus prohibiting any further movement of the tribe figure. Instead of moving the tribe in further rounds, the player now may try to enlarge the kingdom by conquering additional cities, and here all adjacent cities may be conquered, providing:

  • their distance to an already conquered city is not more than one landscape edge with an arrow symbol,
  • the tribe possesses enough strength for conquering the desired city,
  • and the player has a Supply Wagon in the tribe's holding box to place on the map and show that the city has been conquered.

The conquering of a city also means a change for a player's possibilities for production. When a tribe has settled down, it will be the landscapes adjacent to the conquered cities to which the player will have to look for production. The more cities a player conquers, the more the kingdom will grow, and this also goes hand in hand with an increased production since now a player has the chance to produce with landscapes adjacent to any of his cities.

Also, the founding of the first kingdoms starts the end-phase of the game, since a player receives one Victory Point for each conquered city so that the number of conquered cities will grow faster and faster as players compete to enlarge their kingdoms.

Apart from cities and Diplomat cards, there are some more options to gain additional Victory Points during the game. One possibility is by trying to plunder a city in each of the five provinces with the same tribe, and if a player should succeed in doing so he will be titled Plague of Rome and get two additional Victory Points. Likewise, a player who succeeds in conquering four cities with each of his tribes will be called Successor of Rome and receive two Victory Points for accomplishing this feat. Finally, there are also two cards with one Victory Point each hidden in the deck of development cards, and here a lucky player might be able to get some additional points as well. The game then is won by the first player who has accumulated 10 Victory Points.

Once again Klaus Teuber succeeded in turning his well-known and reliable playing mechanisms from classic Settlers into a new game by keeping some basic mechanics and adding enough differentiation to allow the final product to be called a "new game". Candamir already was a good example for creating an adventure game out of Settlers, and now Kampf um Rom has become a light and easy going historic simulation which still does not exceed the general requirements of a family game. Very important is the fact that - apart from the run for resources and cities - no direct conflict between the players is possible, so that a city cannot change its owner during the course of the game. This puts a stronger emphasis on the planning of a tribe's movement and a player's decision as to where and when to found a kingdom, since a player might find his kingdom to be quite restricted if the kingdoms and the direct neighbourhood succeed in spreading faster. Also, the avoidance of direct conflicts keeps the playing duration to an average of 90 minutes, since no "epic" battles arise and the players stay focused on accumulating the required amount of victory points to win the game. Seasoned Settlers-veterans will find that the new rules and twists introduced with Kampf um Rom still provide easy access to the game while at the same time these players will be required to revise their long-standing strategies to adapt themselves to the new challenges. Settlers-newbys on the other hand should not be overwhelmed either, and thus the game also can be seen as a suitable starting point for a voyage into the worlds of Catan.

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Copyright © 2006 Frank Schulte-Kulkmann, Essen, Germany