Time of Crisis is a card driven war game with standard actions and event cards driving you to take on the role of Caesar or to breakaway as a pretender. This great GMT game is complex and meaty, and if you haven’t played it I try to cover the big aspects of the rules in my review. If you have, here are some of my thoughts and strategy tips for helping get you to 60 points plus and the win:
During the game:
Opening Hand: So the first nine cards are the same for everyone, and which 5 do you pick for the first hand? Well here’s two openings that I like:
Firstly take three military and two senate cards. The military gives you enough to buy a second military general, build a unit and then move it to an adjacent province. The senatorial cards give you enough to buy a second senator and install him in the newly occupied province. Two provinces, each with one support – that’s enough to buy a level 2 card.
Otherwise, I like to open with three senate cards and two populace or civic cards. Why? Well that’s enough to get the senator and take another region (not necessarily adjacent) and then use the populace cards to boost your support there. Boosting your support makes it harder to take back. Again two regions, but now three support – you can buy a level 2 card.
Okay that sounds good but what does each combo leave you with for the next round. In the first instance that’s three populace and one senate card – this is okay as one more senate card (from the returning discard pile) will allow the purchase of a Limes (to stop the barbarians) and a third senator. In the second instance, three military cards and one populace card – well that’s a bit trickier…. I would advocate the military is good for recruiting a general, army and moving but the populace needs a second populace card to boost our home territory. It’s that or buy a 2 point populace card at the end of turn one and boost the foreign territory to 3.
Go for Rome: …or breakway. This game is about who is emperor for the longest. Yes okay that’s a simplification but if one player is allowed to hold Rome for a period of 4-5 turns, they will likely win. The only two ways to stop them scoring vast points in this period is to take it back quickly or breakaway. Focus on one of these from the game start to push your strategy.
Level 4 Cards: I like these for achieving the above goal. To breakaway you need the level four populace card, but even to take Rome the level 4 military card makes a military dominated hand much more viable and the senatorial card gives you a points boost. I would always say you want one (but probably only one) of these in your deck. After all, you will probably only take Rome once or twice in the game.
All for one?: This surprised me – I find that going all in on one card set is actually not a winning strategy. I used to focus solely on military, only to find that my enemy used senate cards to unseat my low popularity senators. Next time I used populace cards to boost my defense, only to find invasions from players and barbarians ruining my plans. Then the senate cards, only to find that taking Rome was tricky without a meaningful army! Now I tend to play through by focusing on a two type combination. Broad diversification falls short with not enough high value cards, but a concentration in two helps me build momentum behind tactics: I like to summarise them as (i) siege and then lead tactic (red & blue) or a mobs & robbers (yellow & red) or building points and regional points (yellow & blue).
Where to start: Another key decision every game that players latch on to is where to start. I prefer Macedonia – with sea access to Rome and at least a buffer state with the barbarians, this serves as a good base for low military / high value starting states. If not here, then Asia – similar protection but less mobility to Rome. If I am third, well Hispania is my choice, more remote but well protected and two steps to Rome. Last? I tend to head south of the Mediterranean and almost play as if Carthage is taking control of the roman empire!
Race or Pace: This game is a race to 60 points and if someone gets out ahead they can break away quite quickly, but in reality any player that takes Rome and starts to accrue points will be attacked on all sides. My preference, and particularly in the early game, is to accrue a steady stream of points – especially by building an early Limes and by killing pesky Barbarians. These little areas that gain you a point or two extra each turn are the trickle that will leave you 5 – 10 points ahead late game, and perhaps enough of a lead to make up for not being the emperor for the longest.