By Eric T. Baker
The Roman conquest of Briton in ad 43 is modeled in the new board game from Avalanche Press, Rome at War: Queen of the Celts. This is the third game in the Rome at War series and in nine scenarios it portrays the major events of the Romans’ 40-year campaign that gave them rule of all of Briton and Wales and parts of Scotland. The scale is that of Roman cohorts and British warbands, and most of scenarios can be fought in under two hours.
Although the game models the highlights of the whole campaign, it is the subject of the seventh scenario that gives the game its name. Boudicca became the queen of the Iceni (who lived in what today is East Anglia) when the Roman-imposed king, who may have been her husband, died. The kingdom was left to Rome in the king’s will; when Boudicca objected, the local Roman officials whipped her and then forced her to watch her daughters’ rape. The officals made the mistake of leaving her alive, however, and Boudicca bided her time until the main Roman force was sent to campaign in Wales.
Boudicca’s rebellion drew more British tribes as it went along. Her army sacked several Roman towns and killed thousands of people. They defeated one Legion, and by the time the governor, Suetonius, returned from Wales, he was reduced to retreating before Boudicca’s superior numbers. Only when he was finally convinced that he could get no reinforcements did Suetonius make a stand, and it is this final battle that the game models. In the real world, it was a rout by the Romans, but in the game, players don’t have to repeat the Britons’ mistakes.
All of the battles depicted have similarly deep stories. There are three maps, two rule books (one for the base Rome at War rules and one for these scenarios), 88 oversized counters, and 154 square ones. There are counters for all the unit types needed, including chariots and even druids. Game play is focused on the leaders since they give the armies their initiative and action points. Unlike many ancients games where two lines simply move forward and clash, there is quite a bit of maneuver in Queen of the Celts, particularly as units take damage and commanders try to rally them. Not a hardcore simulation, but an entertaining one.