At Board’s Eye View we can always find room for another social deduction game, even if many of them do seem to be merely variations on a theme. Indeed, often the only variation is literally just a change of theme from games that have gone before. Not so with Yan Yegorov’s Liberatores.
Subtitled, The Conspiracy to Liberate Rome, Liberatores is set in Ancient Rome. Players are senators who are conspirators in the plot to kill Julius Caesar. As you might expect, each has a hidden role with one of three separate agendas: Republicans want to kill Caesar to restore democracy; the Agent is working to save Caesar; the Competitor, however, only wants to kill Caesar in order to install himself as dictator.
There are notable hidden role games that are true board games – Battlestar Galactica and Homeland come immediately to mind – but the large majority of social deduction games are essentially card games. Liberatores seems to bridge the gap between the two, both in terms of game play and playing length. The game ostensibly takes three to six players, tho’ it is better with five or six, and you can expect a game to run for around 45 minutes.
The downside of Liberatores is that it carries a slightly higher rules overhead than most social deduction games, with game play that is perhaps less immediately intuitive. Money in this game is tight but the resource that ultimately matters for scoring is influence. On a player’s turn they must always take one of three actions: bribe a citizen to join the Liberatores’ and increase their influence, hire a citizen for themselves or another player in order to use that citizen’s special abilities, or send a citizen to Caesar. The latter will increase Caesar’s influence but will grant income from Caesar. In addition to their main action, players can also hire servants (couriers and informers) for themselves or other players. This can be a help or a hindrance. Played cannily, these can force players into actions that may help identify their hidden role.
Since you need money to win influence and you can only get money by seeming to help Caesar, much of the game play involves bluffing and accusations about whether a player is tanking the Liberatores’ cause because he needs cash or because he is really the Agent. The Republicans will be working for a co-operative win but they need to try to work out who among them is the Competitor: the Competitor will steal the win at the end if he has more personal influence than any of the other Republicans at the point where the Republicans succeed in assassinating Caesar. If you play with six, then two of the players will have hidden roles as Competitors
Taiwanese publishers Moaideas Game Design have come up with a bunch of quirky but interesting games over the past few years. Liberatores is no exception. It’s worth the extra effort to learn a game which is a definite step up from the usual social deduction experience.