Over the past few weeks I've been doing some housecleaning and that's involved reviewing my game collection.
This in turn has caused me to pull out a few venerable designs and re-examine them.
Those of a certain age will recall that during the 1980s, Milton Bradley made a concerted push into the burgeoning wargaming market with their Game Master series, which combined high production values and plastic army men with a design philosophy that was closer to Risk or Stratego than Advanced Squad Leader.
The most prolific offspring of this project was Axis and Allies, which has spawned endless variants, both official and player-driven. However, that was not the first offering, and earlier this week I dug into a battered copy of it's predecessor: Conquest of the Empire.
This was a multi-player strategy game of the Roman Empire at its height. The players are rival claimants for the imperial purple, and they fight out their contest on an excellent map of the Empire.
I bought my copy from a classmate, and it was already well-used and missing all the money tokens. That didn't bother me because I had no interest in the game as written, but instead used it as a test bed for various alternative mechanics.
Thus my first actual playing of the game was only a few days ago. It kind of sucks.
I was warned about this from my classmate, and I now see that it was true. I won't go into detail, but if you are expecting the classical design excellence of the peerless Shogun (since renamed Samurai Swords and maybe renamed again), you're in for a huge disappointment. Combat consists of single die rolls to eliminate individual units, which is a grossly inefficient way of fighting battles. Apparently this was before MB figured out that hurling fist-fulls of dice is not only faster, but much more satisfying.
There's also an inexplicable rule for inflation that I won't go into, but essentially it punishes players for capturing too much territory.
All that being said, the game still looks beautiful, and a single page of updates should suffice to make this the high-quality social experience it was meant to be. I'll post it once I get a chance to try them out.