…it was the year 193 and purple was the new orange. One would have thought life to be fine and dandy but if not for ludicrous numbers of sneaky plotters. So much so, it was becoming nigh on impossible to go out to the local crappatorium for a morning constitutional without being accosted from all sides by hordes of back stabbers…obviously only those approaching from the rear stood a chance of successful backstabbing but considering where I was heading for, and after a night of debauchery and feasting on liquorice coated curried gunpowder, approach from the rear would not be that advisable!
Press play for a certain Romanesque ambience to accompany your read
Come with me as I don my finest purple and take a solitary stroll through the political minefield of a crumbling Roman Empire!
I came to bury Caesar, not praise him…..hang on I’m Caesar in the solo variant! Curses! There’s no avoiding it! It’s time I was Donning the Purple by Tompet Games …wish me luck on my inaugural plunge into the Classical Art of Roman bathing and communal toilets!
What’s All The fuss About?
It’s new, it’s Romanesque and it is on Kickstarter right this very Latin moment, need I say more?…apart from it is fully funded!
Well I suspect I do, for me and myself are completely in the dark with only I showing a slight hint of purple about the nether regions. Enlightenment is in order, me thinks.
Welcome to the falling, crumbling, decaying Roman Empire of A.D. 193. Once rulers of the known world, and probably some parts unknown as well, internal politics have created fractions within the once stable empire. At its borders hordes of barbaric, disgusting, non-bathing, uneducated enemies are lurking, famine crosses the land like a…like a… a gigantic…hunger inducing thingy, whilst political intrigue tears at the structure from within .
Victory points are what it is all about, obviously, but it is the four years of gameplay that will determine a victorious ruler. By four years I do not imply this is a lengthy game but refer, rather, to the number of rounds players have available in order to achieve their dominance (each of those rounds abstractly equating to the passage of a year in the life of Caesar)
The game focusses on factions within Roman leadership all vying for that coveted role of great leader but to get to that point the needy masses need to be kept happy, fed and content. Invading enemies need quashing and sturdy back support is required as your closest political ally could, without warning, stab you right in the back.
I am hesitant to compare this game to other titles, especially the likes of GMT ‘s COIN series and Hollanspiele’s Agricola Master of Britain, but it really has (for me) a very similar feel to both those styles of game but without the length and complexity of the COIN games and a noticeably larger scale than Agricola. It is the ‘feel’ or experience one gains that make it similar but it most definitely plays in quite a different way to both.
Immersion or Subversion?
Although I have only played a print and play version of the game so haven’t experienced some of the rather exquisite artwork, the game itself really does a great job at plunging us into the world of Roman politics. The mechanics governing game play make sense and the actions to be taken by we, the ‘wannabe’ Romans, make us feel like we are heading up an empire in the face of adversity (namely marauding hordes of sword wielding maniacs on every border, food shortages, demanding populace and a deceptive Senate…you could almost hear the crowds yelling…”no I am Farticu….No I am Farticus….No We are Farticus…all wearing papier maché Russell Crowe masks! Yes I can safely say I was immersed in Roman antics during my play.
There is an element of card driven gameplay in as much as event cards are drawn that may have holistic effects on the game and plot cards that are drawn for individual players to make use of (these may be used by players to additionally influence the flow of the game). The plot cards, I must say as an aside, have a nice implementation of mutli-functionality. The cards have numbers that can be used for supplementary defence against attack, for abilities and action bonuses, making them a highly prized commodity.
There is an element of area control where Rome has food production sites and region Capitals to protect against invading hordes. Certain pieces are permitted movement, invading hordes systematically march upon regional Capitals after random placement. There is conflict but it is a very simple numbers game. The highest presence in an area defeats the lower some actions & events can also influence this) so there is no complexity of war-gaming as the basis is more concerned with political intrigue.
There is also action/resource management, as a finite number of multifunctional discs provide action point, used a little like workers in worker placement games and the health or stamina of a character. These can be employed in a variety of tasks enabling development of civilised development (making Roman structures that please the inhabitants and give players bonuses for future actions), powering the movement of pieces, buying grain and so on.
Some discs can be reclaimed at the end of a ‘year’ to be redeployed in future turns but some actions require a constant presence taking them out of the game. This aspect probably poses the greatest challenge and is at the heart of the game. What does a player do? How can they optimise actions whilst planning for future turns. This is not a super heavy brain burning euro but does provide a very strong level of choice conundrum. There are a number of score tracks to monitor; food, building production, population happiness and the state of the senate but as victory points are awarded for achievements &various actions, without an overall victory point tracker, it is unlikely anyone knows who has until the endgame scoring. This is a nice touch, to add suspense and mitigate runaway leaders causing despondency to less fortunate players. A deck of agenda cards also give each player a unique list of target goals that will earn additional victory points
The game turn itself looks a little like this *eyes lower to diagram below and widen at the quality display but then squint unconvincing* No!…this is not my computer trickery, I pinched the image from the kickstarter page as it explains with far more clarity and focus than I ever could
Wood Chits and Cardboard Bits
I cannot comment on component quality as I made a print and play version…so its only as good as the draft print in black and white (what a cheap skate I am)…but I have a series of Roman photographs of the ink on papyrus sketches made that were taken from the original stone engravings to give you an idea of what it looks like on the table. There is an interesting interview with Petter Schanke Olsen of Tompet Games on More Games Please about the art choices for Donning the Purple.
The photos of components on the campaign page look amazing as do the illustrations for event cards…they, too, look fabulous. The graphic layout of cards and player boards is presented in a clear and logical manner and the prototype components I have seen on youtube playthroughs look impressive.
I get the feeling that this will evolve as the campaign progresses and content is added, but as it stands, it already looks and feels like a polished game (before any fine tuning)
Edit: Having received the finished product now (Oct 1018) the stock photos from the Kickstarter campaign look like the real thing.
I am pleased to say the quality of components in the production copy really stands up to the mark. The custom shaped tokens are a nice touch but cubes are also included if a more simplified aesthetic is required by players.
Meeples and Standees
- Designer: Petter Shanke Olsen
- Publisher: Tompet Games
- Art: interviwe with Board Meetings about art in the game https://www.moregamesplease.com/art-in-boardgames/2018/2/26/donning-the-purple-the-art-in-kickstarter-1
- Kickstarter page for current campaign (26/01/2018) https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/332396604/donning-the-purple?ref=profile_backed
- Playtime: 70-90 minutes
- Gangs of One: 1-3 players
- Age of Consent: 14+
- BOB: 2018 (kickstarter edition)
Boardgamegeek Page: https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/221155/donning-purple
This is an unusual title in that it provides three games in one. Not three separate games but three ways to play the same political theatre. I have not played the three player nor the two player mode but have watched run-throughs of said methods of play and fundamentally it is the same game but slightly altered approaches enable each mode to work for its player count.
Now for we solitary gamers how does it fair? I am always on the look out for ways that allow solo players to experience multiplayer games with equal enjoyment of the same process. Now the solo game does play differently here. There is an element of constant switching of rolls between players as the Caesar title is passed back and forth when game circumstances dictate. This is not replicated in the solo game because we are Caesar throughout. This is us pitting our wits against the game. There are no fussy flowcharts, no Bots, no ambiguous AI’s and no…”play the game to beat your own score” rubbish. No. There is a set procedure for introducing rampaging enemies, for controlling their advance on our regional capitals and a simple incremental increase of power within the Senate (which, if not kept in check by us, will storm away and creat a dizzying number of victory points for the game) So we battle against simple obstructive enemy, growing unrest in the Senate, weather conditions, events and everything else the standard game is able to throw at us.
There are some minor setup changes but on the whole the way the game plays is no different. It is Donning the Purple but with a snug fitting robe for one. I wasn’t sure what to expect going in to this because, to be honest, having played several coin games and a number of Caesar themed games I wondered how “samey” this would turn out to be…my fears were certainly quashed at the first game. It plays well, provides opportunity for so much forehead tapping, beard stroking contemplation of moves and throws in an ample amount of cleaver action control mechanics. Yes it is another game set in Roman times, yes it is compulsory to wear a purple toga side saddle but this is not just another game. It feels crisp, well thought out and generates a pleasantly different game experience to those I have previously bunged on to the table in the middle of Mediterranean Europe.
The Real Nitty Gritty (thanks to Carbon Dragon for suggesting this section)
- Winners and Losers: The basic playing of the game is pretty simple. You have a finite number of action points to take actions as you see fit. You reap what you sow, as they say. I cannot comment on the 2 or 3 player variant, but as a solo player this is not an easy stroll in the park. We are not talking brain melting, number crunching super heavy Euro gaming here. No! This is tactical, resource managing, unruly uprising bashing that plays smoothly, simply and offers a high level of tactical decision making. It is tricky to win, to stay alive, to become ruler of all you survey but it is not a daunting impossibility. I believe it offers a really good level of challenge without the brain burn.
- Rules is Rules is Rules: The rulebook is 20 odd pages long but is heavily inter-strewn with illustrations of play. It explains the state of play in order and is digestible with only some situations that require looking up. I didn’t come across any issues with my gaming and, as the copy I have is still prototype, there is going to be rom for improvement/fine tuning.
- Lucky Buggers: All in all Donning the Purple does not rely on luck. It is unfortunate when certain event cards are drawn, but as with real life events, there are just some things we are unable to predict. Enemies can sneak up on you but there is a call for vigilance to negate this. The only dice rolling ‘luck’ element that could frustrate some is rolling the glory dice after defeating enemies. The result is always positive but 4/6 sides result in money. 1/6 sides give an opportunity to draw a useful plot card and a further side allows a used stamina/action token to be reused. Obviously players will be desperately short on stamina and pray for 6’s…frustration may ensue for those players, for sure…but for this reason I do not do the lottery.
- Ups and Downs: There is a dark, somber feel to the game that, for me, helps perfectly emphasise the historical struggles that were ever present in the turbulent Roman era of political intrigue.
- Footprints All Over Both Side of My Table: I can only guestimate at this stage the over all size of game as component size and quantity may change between now and production. That said, the map I have is roughly 35cm x 54cm. With the single player board and the card decks (plus assorted counters I was able to comfortably fit everything within a 70cm x 90cm space.
- Building It Up Just To Knock It All Down: There is a pretty quick set up time with this game. Once the map & player board are out there is just a case of adding the action discs, a number of tokens to the senate, grain, happiness and production track, then once the plot deck, hidden agenda and event decks are in place we are away. The board needs populating but this is actually part of the game so needn’t be considered as part of set up. So long as components are stored well (separated/bagged up) I doubt it will take more than ten minutes to set up a solo game and probably less to take down again. There are only 3 sets of coloured cubes and a small selection of victory point tokens so we are not going to be overwhelmed by a ridiculously complex set up.
Me, Myself and I:
Having just written about it, I suddenly feel compelled to play again. I thoroughly enjoyed the game play. Me and myself will, no doubt concur, that this is a title that solo players should investigate further. The rule book is under 19 pages long, explaining how all aspects work with pleasant clarity. It is not a super heavy Euro, as I have mentioned, but that is a good thing. It is quick to set up, straight forward to play and has a depth of play that keeps one thoroughly engaged for the 70-90 minutes it takes to die…I mean win…no I don’t.
I do mean die. But dying is part of leading a great nation and so long as you have an heir to take over the reigns, you’re laughing all the way to the communal lavvies. It is, I must point out, a simple game to win…earn more victory points than the Senate…but by the Gods it’s a tricky journey to get there and there are so many ways to loose the game. (If all the enemy cubes end up deployed on the map, die without an heir, the enemy control regional Capitals…well you get the idea!)
A simple game is deceptively complex, diverse and challenging. If you like open toed sandals, Rome, Latin, ruling the world or just want a thoroughly entertaining game experience then this is a title you must have a look at over on Kickstarter…or must have, full stop if you are reading this after the campaign end. There are a goodly number of plot cards and event cards to keep things interesting game after game. Add to that, the secret agenda cards and the ever changing furum cards that give extra gaming options, I think there is going to be a lot of replay-ability in this game…and goodness knows what goodies will be added as the Kickstatrter campaign builds momentum. Yes! I feel highly impressed with Donning the P!
Yay or Nay
If you have not been able to tell yet by my reaction that this is a resounding Yay, you need to be savaged by your guide dog. Donning the Purple is a fantastic, intricate puzzle solving exercise of the most politically backstabbing kind. It lies, cheats and uses brute force to march through the landscape for a BSoMT 1d8 die roll of (7). If you have not already backed this project, I strongly urge you to. The solo game will not disappoint.
…Obscenis, peream, Priape, si nonuti me pudet improbisque verbissed cum tu posito deus pudoreostendas mihi coleos patentescum cunno mihi mentula est vocanda
And with that said I feel the need for an extra thick, platform sole on my sandals as I must appear a tall, powerful and confident leader. *looks in mirror, strikes pose, checks to see if bum looks big in purple then unstrikes pose as it is obvious my medals are showing….
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Something For The Weekend, Sir?
(currently on Kickstarter http://kck.st/2EQ9H0z)
- jPlay runs through a solo game of Donning the Purple
- Ant Lab Games play through the two player variant