The Roman Empire is crumbling. Betrayal, everywhere you turn. It’s 193 AD, Enemies are crossing the borders, political intrigues are tearing the empire apart and it’s rapidly leading up to the end of the second century. Donning the Purple is a 1-3 player game of politics and war, currently on Kickstarter from Tompet Games.
During the game, you’ll take on a role of somebody within the government of Rome; either as emperor, the emperor’s heir, or senator. You’ll begin the game with plot cards in your hand that can be used for different actions during the game and you’ll also get a hidden agenda card at the beginning of the game, providing you with a secret task to complete during the game to gain extra victory points. The goal when playing Donning the Purple is to get as many victory points as possible. There are four rounds throughout the game with one round simulating one year in Roman history.
How to play?
Each round, symbolizing one year in Roman history, is divided up into eight phases.
- Incoming enemies: Enemies appear and move towards the regional capitals.
- Harvest grain: Harvest grain from the farms.
- Draw cards: Different events occur throughout the empire.
- Player actions: Each player takes their actions.
- Place buildings: The 4 first buildings on the production line are placed on the map.
- Distribute food: Each province that is not controlled by the enemy require 1 grain.
- Collect taxes: Provinces and estates generate income.
- End of year: The emperor receives victory points according to the happiness track.
That’s obviously just a list of phases that happen throughout the game and I can’t explain every single one with great detail but I did want to talk a bit about a few of the actions that you can take during the game that I really enjoyed.
Beginning with the Emperor, players take their turns in clockwise order. If you’re the emperor, you can take a maximum of 3 actions during your turn. The other players can take a maximum of two actions on their turn which makes for a very interesting game. There is also a copy mechanic which allow other players to ‘copy’ specific actions, taking the same action as the current player. It allows the other players to take these actions out of turn, which I thought was a neat mechanic and it also creates a nice flow of the game. Actions are limited and very precious so having this mechanic in place was genius, I found the mechanic heavily influenced actions that were taken during the game and I enjoyed that a lot.
The first action you can take is to move across the board – You can move your pawn 1-3 spaces (provinces) on the map, you can cross regions and travel across the dotted waterways to get to where you need to be but if you want to go into or pass through a province that contains enemies, you must have a greater strength than the number of enemies in that province. If your strength is greater, all enemies in that province are removed when your pawn enters that province. You can use the strength of your plot cards to increase YOUR own strength before the pawn moves. If the strength of a plot card is used, the other effects on the card cannot be used and must be discarded. I love this action as it gives that wargame feel as well as including that area control mechanic which I love so much.
You can Bribe a Senator – One of my favourite actions of the game is you’re able to bribe a senator in the Senate by placing one of your senator tokens in the leftmost available space. The senator you bribe always cost 1 coin more than the senator to the left, again very fitting with the theme and makes the game quite tense at times.
You can Build Estates – The player can build estates to earn money. Each estate on the map produces 5 coins for their owners in the tax phase. If a player chooses to build an estate, it is first placed on the production line. Then in the “Place building” phase, it can be placed on the map. There can only be one building in each province. They can be destroyed by natural disasters or enemies. If they are destroyed, they are returned to the player mat.
You can Build monuments – Build a monument by placing one of your monument tokens on the production line. In the “Place building” phase, it can be placed at the bottom of the player mat. Each monument that is placed back on the mat gives the player a permanent upgrade or victory point. The first monument gives you +1 in strength for the rest of the game. The second monument gives you +1 on every dice roll when assassinating. The third and final monument will give you a straight up 2 victory points at the end of the game.
Then you have the Assassination action – You can try and assassinate the Emperor by rolling a D6, you will then remove as many unused stamina tokens from the emperor as pips on the dice. To help your assassination attempt, you can play a plot card for its strength before rolling the dice, the targeted emperor in the assassination can then defend themselves by also playing a plot card for its strength before the dice are rolled.
You can read more up on specific rules, here: Donning The Purple Rules
I must say that I really enjoyed Donning the Purple, the whole game oozes theme from the tough actions right down to the beautiful artwork.
There aren’t many three player games out there and that’s something that definitely drew me to the game. I am a massive fan of Churchill: Big Three Struggle for Peace which is a three-player political game about Churchill, Stalin, and Roosevelt and the conferences that took place, I love the dynamic of that game and this felt kind of similar. A different theme, of course, but three players taking on specific roles and trying to claim victory is similar in both. I also love that the relationship between the three players is pretty tense throughout, you’re definitely playing the game to win and it’s definitely not a co-operative game but you do want to keep the Emperor happy and that creates a very interesting dynamic during the game. I also love Donning the Purple for the simplicity of rules but tough in strategy gameplay. Decision making is tough but rewarding and with limited actions and I think it fits in with the theme of the game perfectly.
I didn’t get to play the solo version but the fact that one exists is another big tick from me. During the solo game, you will play as emperor playing against certain cards, that sure aren’t going to give you an easy time.
Overall, Donning the Purple was a bit hit with me. Great decisions to be made, wonderful theme and elegant gameplay.
It’s currently on Kickstarter with a couple of weeks left, and you can find the campaign here: Donning the Purple Kickstarter