RISE OF AUGUSTUS
2-6 players. Best with 3+
Paolo Mori (Libertalia, Ethnos)
Hurrican Games (Sidababa, Mr. Jack)
Set Collection, Variable Player Powers, Press Your Luck
I first played Rise of Augustus in February of 2017 at the Playthrough Gaming Convention in Raleigh in their free to play area. I was looking for a new game to try with two friends and I remember the size of the box catching my eye. I had never heard of the title or the publisher, but it was the standard Days of Wonder size, which gave me a reassuring feeling that it was a reputable company. After spending a great deal of time reading the six-page rulebook, we were surprised by how much we enjoyed the game and my friend and I both bought our own copy within the week, having played it twice that day alone. I would learn later that night that it was the runner up to the Spiel Des Jahres award in 2013, tragically losing to Hanabi and that the designer also designed Libertalia, a great hidden role game.
Rise of Augustus is a quick bingo-style game played simultaneously by all players. Each player is trying to cover a series of symbols on their objective cards in order to complete their objectives, scoring points and/or gaining bonus powers as a result. The symbols are pulled from a bag one by one, with the town crier (bingo caller) announcing the result to all parties who place the symbol simultaneously. There are several rewards to incentive specific paths to victory; in addition, objectives can give you points or grant bonuses to make future completion easier. The game ends when one player has completed seven or more objectives.
The game is quick to setup and can be realistically played in under 30 minutes. I have seen several instances where two games were played in a lunch break of one hour including explanation and teardown. Rise of Augustus does not take linear or exponential time based on the number of players because the turns are simultaneous, allowing the game to scale well with respect to game length.
There is no hidden information in Rise of Augustus other the distribution of objectives in terms of color, which one can easily infer based on the value of points given for acquiring them (the Orange reward is the most valuable and therefore the least frequent). The distribution of the symbols is made known through player aids detailing the breakdown of each symbol. Since objectives are always face up once in play, and player can consult the rulebook openly or ask a question about what an objective does.
Luck will play a large factor in who wins, making the game easier for newcomers to enjoy without knowing the various strategies. However, there are some basic concepts that can be easily discovered by new players such as going for points vs going for engine style cards. There is not necessarily a runaway leader problem without perfect luck, and players will have ample time to catch up. You can handicap yourself as the experienced player by giving them three good objectives and yourself three poor ones during the initial objective selection phase, which always helps increase the parity during the first playthrough.
Catapult! Catapult! Rise of Augustus will inevitably have players clamoring for the specific symbol they need at the most opportune time, which draws them into the game. There is genuine excitement in shouting “Ave Caesar!” on completing an objective, hoping that you get to resolve before any other player. There is a race to get rewards before other players and a great “go big or go home” mechanism in acquiring brown rewards, of which you can only acquire one and must take one or pass until you qualify for the next level, which may never come.
For a Spiel Des Jahres nominee, this game is surprisingly inaccessible when compared to award winners, particularly Hanabi, which can readily be found in Target, Barnes and Nobles and other mass market stores. Another comparable would be 2014 runner up Splendor, which is also found in mass market stores unlike 2014 winner Camel Up. I have not seen this game in any of my local game stores. Rise of Augustus is available on Amazon, however, for an extremely reasonable price of $23 with prime shipping. For a family friendly game that supports six players well, $23 is an excellent price point. Lastly, I have seen this game referred to as both Augustus and Rise of Augustus, which may cause some confusion during searches.
As short as the rulebook is, Rise of Augustus can be surprisingly obtuse to learn if no one in your group has played before. I had to read the rulebook three times before I knew how to begin playing, and it wasn’t until midway through the first playthrough that we understood the flow of the game. The rulebook arrangement is extremely awkward and the pictures are too large, making it difficult to determine where the game is actually described. The symbology on some of the objectives can be difficult to decipher, but fortunately there is a summary sheet with examples on the back page. Once the rules are learned, however, they are minimal and easy to communicate. The only confusion may arise from the five stages of resolving objectives, the finer details of which many players take time to fully grasp.
Short – 10/10
Public – 10/10
Reasonable – 9/10
Exciting – 10/10
Accessible – 7/10
Demoable – 7/10
Overall – 8.8/10