Dale Yu: Review of Caesar’s Empire

Caesar’s Empire

  • Designer: Matthieu Podevin
  • Publisher: Holy Grail Games
  • Players: 2-5
  • Age: 10+
  • Time: 40-60 minutes
  • Played with review copy provided by Flat River Group

caesars empire

Caesar’s Empire is a 2022 release from Holy Grail Games, tasking players to help build the system of roads which all lead back to Ancient Rome.  It is set in the world of Asterix; which may only mean something to you if you’re French…

Per Britannica.com: Asterix is “a small-statured cunning Gallic warrior who, with the help of a magical strength potion, defends his village and goes on comic globe-trotting adventures. Asterix was created by writer René Goscinny and illustrator Albert Uderzo and debuted in 1959 in the French comic magazine Pilote.


Asterix is one of the most beloved characters in French popular culture. He resides in a remote Gaulish village in the middle of the Roman Empire as does his best friend, Obelix. Having fallen into a vat of the potion when he was an infant, Obelix is extraordinarily strong. He is also rather clumsy and is the frequent (if unwitting) source of injuries and accidents in the village. He is not allowed to drink the strength potion for fear that it will make him even more destructive, and his attempts to sneak a draft are the source of many comic mishaps.

Asterix, Obelix, and their fellow villagers regularly scuffle with Roman legionnaires, an activity that the Gauls thoroughly enjoy. Asterix’s adventures carry him to many locales, including Spain, Greece, Egypt, and (precolonial) America. Foreign cultures are portrayed in humorous stereotypes, as are the French. Asterix generally responds to their foibles with amazed disbelief. He inevitably contributes something substantive to the cultures he visits, such as bringing about the Britons’ discovery of tea and the Belgians’ creation of french fries.”

So, now that you know about the background – the Asterix theme can be seen in the characters in the game and the distinctive art style – let’s talk about the game.


The board is a map of the old Roman Empire; with Rome near the center and 40 cities spread out across the map.  These Cities each have a chit placed on them at the start of the game matching the city shape on the board.  Additionally, a treasure marker (of 9 possible types) is randomly placed on the city chit.. The board is crisscrossed with dotted lines, representing the roads between the cities.  Nevermind that many of the lines go across the waters; just imagine that they simply represent the roads which surely stayed on the land.


Each player gets a scoring board, which tells them their color (and has an Asterix character on the left side), and plastic road pieces in their color.  In the game, players will play their pieces to connect new cities to Rome via the roads.  On a turn, players use a simple network-building mechanic. Each time a player builds a Road, they must connect Rome to a new City by placing one or more of their road pieces onto the game board.  As long as you start from either Rome, or a City whose token has already been taken, you may build your Road anywhere you like on the board. This means you may be continuing a Road started by another player!  It is possible to place a road that goes through a previously claimed city.  (The rules show this, but note that the example illustration in the printed rules is incorrect)

Your road building stops at the first unclaimed city it reaches – it will be easy to tell this as the city chit will still be on the board.  The player takes the city chit as well as the bonus token on it.  The bonus token is placed on the scoring grid on their player board.  There are 8 columns for the regular tokens, each column consisting of a single type.  If you get a gold coin, this goes in the special row underneath the grid.  

Once you have done this, you now score your road.  Looking from the city just claimed, trace the shortest path back to Rome.  Each road piece in this road will score 1 point for its owner.  If there are multiple routes that are shortest, the active player can choose which to use.  Furthermore, if the bonus token this turn was a gold piece, each road piece scores double!


The next player now takes their turn, placing as many roads as required to connect a new city to Rome, collecting chits/tokens, placing them in the scoring grid and then scoring the shortest path back to Rome.  This continues until all cities on the board are claimed.  Now it is time for final scoring – there are five things to be scored:

1] Cities – Look at your city chits; score the highest valued chit of each color you have collected

2] Treasure variety – score for each row on your board; more points for more different treasures  (from 0 to 46 points for 1 to 8 different types)

3] Treasure collection – score for each column, more points for collecting more of the same type (from 0 to 20 for 1 to 4 of the same type)

4] Gold – score the square of the number of gold tokens collected

5] Roads – the player with the most roads left over scored 10 points


The player with the most points wins. Ties broken in favor of the most different colors of city chits collected.

My thoughts on the game

Caesar’s Empire is an interesting route-builder that adds in a bit of set collecting as the scoring focus as opposed to route completion.  In fact, all the routes are “shared” – each turn, the board simply needs to add a new city to Rome.  

There is an interesting balance of in-game route scoring versus the end game set collection scoring.  Players may want to make early grabs for specific goods or high scoring city tiles; but those routes played closest to Rome can often score repeatedly over the course of the game.  

The intricacies of adding a city with a route that goes through an already claimed city can be a bit complicated; but once you see it happen once, it’s a neat strategy to employ.   Unfortunately, the illustration in the rules that shows an example for this does not seem to make sense, so you may have to set up your own example on the board when teaching the rules.  The rules otherwise are easy to understand, and they are surprisingly brief.  The substantive part of the rules only takes 3 or 4 pages.

Note that scoring is different based on player count!  In a less that 4p game, there are fewer multiples of each good as well as fewer gold coins; and while it keeps things proportional, it also lowers the ceiling of two of the scoring criteria – making the sets based on variety possibly a little more valuable at lower player counts.  Interestingly, the player boards are double sided, and I thought that there would have been some different scoring values for lower player counts to account for the different set of chits; but inexplicably, both sides are identical.


My only other scoring quibble is with the first step of the coin scoring.  Every step on the coin chart is worth (number of coins gained, squared).  Except for the first step, which is worth 0 points and not 1.  To my OCD math mind, it would have been so much more elegant to just make the scoring be N^2 here.

Much of the artwork is done in the Asterix style, and though I’m not overly familiar with the comic, it seems to match what I’ve seen online and in previous Asterix games that I’ve played.  The components are decent.  I do think the city chits could have benefitted from being a little different from their depiction on the map so that it was easier at a glance to know which cities had been claimed or not.  Yes, I know that it should seem simple to see where a chit has been taken from or not; but with all the things on the board, it can be pretty cluttered.  Having more contrast between the board spaces and the tile would have been helpful.  Also, the player boards seem like a lost opportunity.  At least one gamer mentioned that it would have been better for coin scoring to be either below the coins or used the first visible score as opposed to scoring the number underneath the last coin.  In the end, these are minor things, and they should not detract from your ability to enjoy the game.

Individual turns tend to go quickly – while there is both route scoring as well as set collection scoring; it seemed like most players already knew what they wanted to do when their turn came up.  I personally didn’t think too much about what my opponents were doing as most turns offered me a choice that I wanted to take.  Only when there wasn’t an ideal play did I look at my LHO to see if I could at least take something that the LHO was looking for. 

Games are taking around 30 minutes now that we’re familiar with it, and the overall weight of the game (as a super filler) seems to fit the time allotment.  The varied ways to score points will provide gamers with decisions to be made on each turn; trying to balance the pull of short term versus endgame points.


Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers

  • I love it.
  • I like it. Dale Y
  • Neutral.
  • Not for me…

About Dale Yu

Dale Yu is the Editor of the Opinionated Gamers. He can occasionally be found working as a volunteer administrator for BoardGameGeek, and he previously wrote for BoardGame News.
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