My son, Superman, is a huge fan of Ancient Rome. This is probably an understatement, but he has quite a lot of ancient Rome stuff, and he’s why I’ve got a big huge ancient Rome history section on my blog. When I saw the same people who made Commissioned (which I apparently need to write about), were making a game about Rome called Soul of the Empire, I knew I’d found his Christmas present for him. It’s great fun for gameschooling.
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Soul of the Empire game premise
Soul of the Empire is an asymmetrical game. There are 4 factions in the game, Rome, Jews, Christian, and the Faction. Each faction has different strengths.
Rome has an endless supply of people. The Jews have the ability to start revolts, which is crazy powerful. The Christians are great in small numbers and can convert the other people easily when outnumbered, but not so much when they have larger numbers. The Faction (Goth, Parthians, Germans, etc) are great at controlling movement.
Starting out we all felt like the game was super broken, but it’s surprisingly well-balanced.
How to play Soul of the Empire
Each faction has its own card, and I played the Christians faction. The Christians goal is to convert 18 people and have a person in Jerusalem, Germania, and Rome. This seems like it should be fairly easy, I just needed to move one person into a mob of people, and then initiates combat, if I’ve just got one person, I stand fairly good chances.
You know what happened? Everyone else figured out that, and they’d see me coming and run away. Like, seriously, they would scatter, which messed with their ability to fight each other, so it was surprisingly well-balanced.
So, to prepare for your turn, you roll 5 dice up to three times, rather like Yahtzee. Your goal is to get either 3 (or more) of a kind, or straight (3,4,5, etc). Each dice in your store, helps you make a movement. In the example up above, I have 2-5 to use, and that means I have 4 actions.
- I can choose a die for movement, and move up to however many the die shows.
- Or, I could use a die to recruit, and like before put up to however many show on the die to put new minions.
- I could start a fight, which uses the combat cards. Interestingly each faction has a different set of combat cards. You have 6 combat cards, and in the case of the Christians most of my numbers were lower, some of the cards have special abilities, but others are flat out the number.
- You could buy power cards with another dice, and those can be played at different points in your turn (the card will say).
As soon as your turn is done, you roll the dice again to make sure your dice are ready for your next turn, also because you can steal other people’s dice on your turn with the power cards, which was one of my favorite Christian abilities, they can be “giving” and donate dice.
Each turn has 3 phases:
- Beginning- play or use power cards
- Middle (okay, this is totally not the actual name)- where you use your dice
- End- set up for next turn, and sometimes use the power cards
Oh, by the way, I discovered when learning how to play Soul of the Empire, my son is terrible at explaining games. TERRIBLE.
As you can see, Jeff, playing the Jews, has several powers cards out. These power cards are amazing to how they change the play of the game.
How to win Soul of the Empire
This is the part I was intrigued by, each group has a different win condition. The Faction needed to take Rome, the Jews wanted to kick everyone out of Israel, and the Romans had to collect a bunch of captives. You could also win by gaining points from some cards up at the top, but almost no one was able to gain those points.
My experience was these points are super hard to win, that may have been the points we drew. I’m guessing you can win through points, but no one has yet.
House Rules for Soul of the Empire
The rules for the game say if after rolling three times, you can’t get 3 of a kind or a straight of some sort you don’t get a turn.
We changed it to say, if you don’t get that, you can choose the highest die you rolled (or I guess, whatever die you rolled) to have one action.
It’s rare to not have a turn, but when it happens, it’s frustrating.
The final call on Soul of the Empire
Jeff said he didn’t enjoy playing it when it was three players, it really messes with the balance of play when you’re missing a faction. So two players, each player chooses two groups to play, but with three players, you’re missing a faction. Each of the factions have an important part to play, so that would be rough.
I also quite love how much history is built into it. Each of the factions are quite true to who they were historically with how their powers work, and their strengths. Technically, they don’t all exist at the same time as a power to be reckoned with, but it’s like a Disney movie, you’re changing history to make your story work.
I also liked that it was about an hour long.