Glory to Rome

Let’s talk about a great game you can’t buy unless you want to sell your kidneys.

As we enter another week of quarantine, I’ve spent a lot of time playing games with people over the internet. This week, it was Glory to Rome in tabletop simulator, a board game with a really weird ass history. While I could spend time writing about that, I’d just be retreading ground already covered by Cyrus Farivar, in his article on arstechnica. So yeah, if you want to see how a Kickstarter can go horrifically wrong, and why being in a relationship with your only translator for your production line might be a bad idea, go read his stuff instead. It’s fascinating.

(Side Note: I find the failure of Glory to Rome especially interesting as the only components for the game are paper and cards. It’s all cards! No complex inserts, no expensive plastic models, nothing. Where’s the Jason Schier of the board game industry? There’s probably a fascinating and horrifying story about global supply chains in this thing.)

So instead, lets actually talk about Glory to Rome. I had a lot of fun with it. I was playing with three other friends, one of whom had played before. I also got crushed, coming in last place. Generally speaking, I get pretty salty when I lose games, and while there was some of that, I mostly want to play it again.

Probably the thing I find the most impressive about Glory to Rome is the same thing I sorta mocked it for up above: the only component is cards. The cards are your resources. The cards are your buildings. The cards are your victory points, your actions, and clients. The game manages to pack a stupid amount of functionality into each card WITHOUT making them illegible or hard to read. (Unless you’re playing on tabletop simulator with blurry scans. In which case, yeah, they can be a bit hard to read.) But the fact of the matter is, the game feels like it does a lot with very little.

The second thing about Glory to Rome that I find interesting, and would be helpful if I played it again, is how fast the game is. Most building games I’ve played tend to sorta drag out near the end, getting to the point where you’re playing kingmaker, or where you’ve lost, but the game keeps going. Glory to Rome ends with a bang. Of the four people in our game, I would say the two highest scoring players earned most of their points in the last two to three rounds of play, in one person’s case, scoring around 20+ points in one turn. (My end game score was 12 total. 3rd place was 13.) There’s an explosive energy to it by the end.

I honestly don’t really have any nitpicks with the game, and honestly, if I could, I’d go out and buy a copy. But you can’t, and no one can. At the time of writing, Ebay shows maybe two copies of the first edition, clocking in at about $130, and a single copy of the “Black Box Edition” at $425 (To be fair, that’s including the $50 shipping. To be unfair, that’s probably more then it would cost you to go and get an entire copy of the game professionally printed.) The next several results are all for games that describe themselves as “Glory to Rome-like”.

If you want to play it though, there is still a way to do it. First, you’d need Tabletop Simulator installed, and then, theoretically, you would need to go and find a mod version of the game in the workshop. You know. Theoretically. And playing this way would still cost about $20 per person, since you’d all have to buy a copy of tabletop simulator.

But it would still be cheaper then buying the actual game.