Updated: Apr 27
Designed by Kelly Forrest, Christian Forrest and Holt Gray, and published by Gray Forrest Games, 44 BCE is a game of intrigue and manoeuvring that represents the power struggle in Rome after the assassination of Julius Caesar.
The 3-5 players each represent one of the protagonists: Agrippa, Mark Antony, Brutus, Cleopatra or Octavian. It's a semi-cooperative game but with shifting-sand alliances. Each of the six rounds pits all the other players against one - designated for the round as the Imperium Maius (IM). The twist in this game, distinguishing 44 BCE from most other 'one vs many' games, is that the IM is likely to change from one round to the next...
Players are jockeying for position across three fields of power: political, military and social. Those working semi-cooperatively against the IM need to collectively beat the IM in two of these three fields of power in order to force a switch of IM.
This is a game involving much negotiation and intrigue. Players will be spending cash to build structures which give them influence. They spend influence and loyalty to enlist recruits (cards that can be used to contest for power). Resources are finite so they need to be used wisely... Players can use influence to bolster a recruit to help them beat the IM but you can't spend influence on your own recruit. This is a clever device that helps turn 44 BCE into a Diplomacy-style game. But remember, the 'many' are only working semi-cooperatively. They can reach agreements over what cards to play and what support they'll offer but none of the deals are binding... As Julius Caesar found to his cost on the Ides of March, you never know who might stab you in the back until you see the daggers drawn.
The rules include a two-player variant (essentially the three-player game but with a dummy co-conspirator). It's useful for teaching the basic mechanics of the game but it fillets out the Diplomacy element which, for us, was 44 BCE's standout feature. We've especially enjoyed 44 BCE at higher player counts (four & five players) because that's where the negotiation and double-dealing really shines.