Welcome to The Game Shelf!

After getting into the board game hobby at the end of 2014, we've decided to share our thoughts on the games we're collecting on our shelves. The collection has certainly expanded over the last few years and we've been making up for lost time!

Sometimes our opinions differ, so Amy will be posting reviews every Tuesday and Fi will post on Thursdays. We hope you enjoy reading some of our opinions on board games - especially those for two players.

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Tuesday, 15 January 2019

When in Rome:- Forum Trajanum


Game: Forum Trajanum

Publisher: HUCH!

Designer: Stefan Feld

Year: 2018

Forum Trajanum is a 2-4 player tile laying game of sorts in which you seek to make the best district in order to impress the emperor Trajan. You will utilize your workers in order to construct buildings to efficiently create your forum, but along the way you will have to ensure that you build in the way the emperor desires if you want to maximise your points. You can hire citizens to help you along the way, but while useful they do need paying and resources spent on them are not spent on your forum. With a careful balance of buildings and workers behind you can you please the emperor the most and be invited into his inner circle?
Each turn 2 cards will be revealed from the 3 decks that mark the duration of each round. These 2 cards give you 2 symbols which are found on your player grid, you can take 1 worker off of your board for each of these cards so long as it is on the axis pictured. The back of each of these worker tiles tells you which rewards you get, but life isn't so simple, you get to choose one of your 2 tiles to keep, and pass the other to an opponent. This will leave you with 1 worker tile of your own and a new worker tile from another player, and from these you must choose 1 tile to gain the rewards from!

These rewards can be money, new citizens or upgrades to one of your tracks, but most commonly you will receive meeples. Builder meeples can be red, blue, yellow or green and they allow you to build buildings of their respective colour. Grey meeples can build specialized buildings which advance you on a track (which in return gives you rewards) when you build them. Brown meeples are assistants that can be spent along with a coloured meeple to treat it as another colour. Finally the white meeple can be spent to ignore one of the grid reference cards or as a pair to gain the benefits of both your tiles this turn. You only get one build action per turn so you have to plan your land carefully, however  there are double sized buildings that can either be 2 of the same colour or a colour with a set grey building attached, these are very useful if you have the space to build them, though do limit your choices somewhat.

Each player's board starts covered in tiles, but as you take the tiles every turn you free up land to build buildings on your forum.

All of these actions are use to gain points in some way. Placing the coloured buildings allows you to place your tiles out onto a central grid with areas in the 4 colours, with rewards going to people who finish an area of the grid, get large groups of their tiles, or place their tiles next to the eagles printed on the board. Once per game you can uncover the cranes in each of your corners, giving you points for each building of the same colour you have. Grey buildings advance you on their respective track, giving you access to any of the rewards lower on the track than your marker. The exception is columns which instantly reward you points. At the end of each round you also gain points for each unique grey building in a row of your forum. Each round the emperor has assigned you a task to build your forum in a certain way or have certain sets of worker meeple in your supply. Each time you achieve these requirements you gain additional points.

At this point you might be thinking "point salad" and you are right to an extent, there are no really bad choices as almost everything leads to some points, but working out which one leads to the best results is where the challenge lies.  Gaining additional citizen tiles might give you extra player powers, but then you need to spend at least some of your time making money to pay them, and money is rather scarce. Resource management is very much the name of the game, since you don't know what your tiles are going to give you it's almost worth assuming you will get nothing and planning ahead to survive droughts of certain meeple.

Each round has a special scoring mechanism, build things the right way or have the right resources and you can be in for the world of points!
Forum Trajanum is certainly a very good game, though for me the theme is as dry as stale biscuits. Sure you're in Rome, but your not even doing exciting Roman things, just building some buildings to make the emperor happy. But past the theme you'll find a game that's clever and tactical The mini draft of worker tiles each round creates for some interesting dynamics -you can even try to starve your opponent of certain resources if you are feeling particularly cruel. The greater rewards for doing certain actions early can create some quick early game leads, though often at the cost of optimal long term play. The game feels very well tuned with all our games being nail-bitingly close. However the game does always feel like it ended before I did everything I wanted to do. The fast gameplay is something I very much enjoy, though there can be a few moments where AP can flare up, particularly when choosing which worker to play. Overall Forum Trajanum is a game that I would happily play again should someone ask, but because the theme doesn't appeal to me much I don't think I'd ever choose it as a game to play myself.

7.5/10

Forum Trajanum was a review copy provided by Asmodee UK. It is available at your friendly local game store for an RRP of £49.99 or can be picked up at http://www.365games.co.uk/.

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