7th September 2019
Saturday evening. Matakishi's. Game night.
Tonight we decided to play another classic board game. This time it was 'Britannia', a game originally published in 1986, over 30 years ago.
Britannia is a historical game of invasion and conquest and when I say invasion and conquest, I really do mean constant invasion and conquest.
In Britannia, players do not play a single nation or tribe or whatever. Instead they play a colour and each colour has 4 nations of varying size. Each colour will have 1 nation that benefits from a 'major invasion', this explained later.
Britannia is played over 16 rounds and centuries of time. The game starts with the Roman invasion (So around 43 A.D..) and end with the Norman invasion (Around 1066 A.D..).
Even though each player has control of 4 factions, the factions do not appear at the same time in the game. They appear when 'historically appropriate' in various turns throughout the game.
What's in a game?
How's it play?
The rules for Britannia are relatively simple. The complexity comes from the interaction with the other players.
Before the game begins we have set up. Each player chooses a colour and is given all the relevant tokens for that colour, the play begins.
One other thing worth noting are 'major invasions'. Each player will have a faction that has a major invasion at some point. A major invasion means that the relevant faction gets to turns in a row.
Britannia is played over 16 rounds. Scoring occurs throughout the game, but not on every round. In fact not all the factions score at the same time, some factions score on entirely different rounds.
Additionally, when scoring is carried out, different factions score different points for controlling different areas of the board. Which means that different factions may have different priorities. However quite often opposing factions score points for the same regions, invariably pushing them into conflict with one another.
After all the rounds have been completed, points are tallied and highest score wins.
Britannia is a wargame and as such is very confrontational. It's a game that charts the historic invasions and conquests of early Britain. It turns out there were a lot of invasions and conquests! Players will more or less be in constant conflict with other players and there's no way to avoid it.
Combat is a key component in Britannia: Luckily, the basics of the rules are simple to remember. Mostly players will be looking into how to expand into and hold high scoring areas and this drive most of the game's conflict.
Asymmetrical rules make Britannia interesting and quite unique.
I like how the asymmetrical factions give different players advantage at different times. So for example; whoever has the Romans will gain an early lead, but after that they will have smaller factions appear.
Combined with the asymmetrical scoring that gives different players different objectives means that the end score is always unpredictable.
I do have a couple of minor criticisms of Britannia.
Britannia should only really be played with 4 players. Sure you can play with 3 or 5 players, but it's not optimal.
Britannia can take about 4 hours to play, so it requires quite a time commitment. I guess a millennia of invasions of Britain can't be played out quickly!
But these small criticisms aside; Britannia is an involved but entertaining game to play, provided you don't mind a game about conflict with other players.
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