- Designer: Markus Kettunen
- Publisher: Lautapelit.fi
- Players: 2-4
- Age: 10+
- Time: 40 minutes (publisher says this should be corrected to 20 mins)
“Develop the surroundings of Rome by building houses, villas, spas, and monuments. Just make sure all roads lead to where they’re supposed to… All players get their own set of wooden buildings (houses, villas, spas, and monuments) and a stack of tiles, which they shuffle and draw four tiles from as their starting hand. On each turn, the players play two of their tiles on the table to build the area surrounding Rome (the starting tile) and draw two replacement tiles for their next turn. All tiles contain roads—some more than others. The goal is to build roads so that they are always connected to Rome while offering the players dead ends to build their houses on. Encircling areas with roads triggers the houses inside to be upgraded to villas or spas, depending on their location. Alternatively, players may create empty areas, encircled by roads, to erect monuments. The player with the fewest buildings left (by total value) at the end of the game is the winner.“
All Roads is the second game from SPIEL 2022 that I’ve played that deals with the Roman network of roads – the other being Caesar’s Empire. Each player starts with the tiles and wooden bits in their color. There are four shapes of bits – houses (cubes), villas (houses), spas (discs), and monuments (tall cylinders). Each player shuffles their tiles and draws a starting hand of 4. The double sized starting tile, representing Rome, is put on the table to start the game.
On a turn, a player does the following three steps:
1] play 2 tiles from your hand – placing them so that at least one road on each tile connects back to Rome.
2] Upgrade existing tokens and/or build new tokens
- if you created a road loop with your new tile, all houses inside it are upgraded (to either a villa or a spa)
- If you created a loop with no dead ends inside it, place a monument in the middle of the loop
- If you make a loop that enclosed dead ends without houses at them, build a villa or spa (only at concave side of water)
- If you make a look that contains a trade route space, place a house on it if you like
- Build houses on any newly formed dead ends
3] Draw 2 tiles from your stack
The game continues until all tiles are placed, then each player calculates their score by summing up the points from the wooden pieces they have placed: 4pts for monument, 3 pts for a spa, 2 pts for a villa and 1 pt for a house. Ties broken in favor of the player with the most monuments built.
My thoughts on the game
This year, there have been a number of different games based on the Roman Road system, and I have dutifully tried all of them being a huge history buff (and history major in Uni). All Roads presents you with a somewhat different goal than most road-building games in that you are incentivized to leave dead-ends in the road system.
As you learn the game, you need to remember that the game is brutally quick. The box says 40 minutes, and I can’t for the life of me figure out what circumstances would ever cause the game to run this long. We have yet to have a game go more than 30, and a recent 2p game only took 15. (NB: the publisher has since said the game length should be 20 min on the box)
You only get 6 turns in the game, each placing two tiles – and given the morphology of the map, you really don’t have that many different options on where to place your tiles each turn. Sure, you can’t know for sure where you’re going to place your tiles until the player before you has added to the map; but still, your options are limited. That being said, it is definitely important to weigh all your options because, again, you only get 6 turns. There is no room for a bad or sub-optimal turn.
Most tile placements either provide you dead ends to place houses at or they are focused on closing off loops in order to score points. With the scoring system; it is often more rewarding to make a small closed loop with nothing inside it – to place a 4pt monument – than it is to leave behind dead ends and houses. In addition, as the monuments are the primary tie-breaker, this makes that option all the more appealing.
Once you have figured that out, the only other consideration is trying to leave the map in a state where your opponent is unable to make an easy closed loop. While all houses inside a loop will upgrade regardless of who closes the loop; the player who is able to close loops does get the benefit of free building placement at all unclaimed eligible sites within the loop – as well as any of the trade routes.
While you have to make the most of the tiles in your hand; everyone has essentially the same opportunities as each player has their own deck of tiles which are identical to everyone else’s. The game is lightning fast, and all of our games have been close in the scoring. Is this because we’re a well balanced group? Possibly. Could it be because there aren’t too many ways to distinguish your play from your opponents in only 6 turns? Possibly. But, for something in the super-filler category, it works great. Takes 2 minutes to teach and show examples on scoring, and then you’re off to battle over the roman road network. While not every road leads back to Rome in the game, it’s fun to try to leave dead ends all over the place to build at.
Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers
- I love it!
- I like it Dale Y
- Not for me…