Nova Roma review

Nova Roma Review

Your family is working to make a name for themselves as Emperor Constantine builds a new capital for the Roman Empire. Each player represents a family that is working to impress the Emperor. Choose your path to victory and gain valuable followers in Nova Roma from Half-a-Kingdom Games and 25th Century Games.

Building an Empire

We first checked out Nova Roma when it came to Kickstarter back in 2022. This medium weight Euro from Stan Kordonskiy with artwork from The Mico is now gracing tables around the world.

Nova Roma action selection grid

At the heart of this game is an action selection grid in the central board. Each player is given an estate board and mosaic board along with 3 patricians that are deployed to the grid. This action selection grid plays host to 8 different actions that are randomly placed during the setup of the game.

In each of the 6 rounds of Nova Roma you’ll place a patrician, gaining the two actions at the cross-section of the grid. The Emperor token shows up on the grid, empowering players who place their patricians in the same row or column. Actions have a power level that is boosted by the Emperor token or same colored patricians that show up in the row/column.

Each of the unique actions are more advantageous at a higher power. This grid becomes more crowded as players try and maximize the power as they take their two actions with each patrician.

Nova Roma estate board

Jumping Into Action

Let’s talk about some of the actions available on the board. Players start the game with 2 follower cards and can gain more with the Recruit Action. These are cards that can give you end game bonuses or end game victory points. Taking this action allows you to recruit new cards to your hand and play a card to your display.

The Upgrade Action gives you influence and lets you add a new tile to your personal estate board. These tiles will give you more resources as you take the Produce Action, hiring and placing artisan tokens on your board. Taking the Trade Action gives you resources and money that will be spent throughout the game. The Race Action lets players race horses to earn victory points and win annual racing bonuses.

Nova Roma sailing action

The Sail Action allows you to visit other areas of the Roman Empire, earning bonuses and victory points. The Build Action allows you to vie for control in 3 different districts in the top corner of the board. The most helpful of all the actions is the Petition Action. Here players can use any of the other 7 actions at the cost of spending the influence they have gained.

Nova Roma has lots of paths to victory, and trying to do all of them is the easiest way to fail. I know this from experience. Each section of the board feels like a mini game that players need to lean into in order to get the most out of it.

Holding Forum with the Emperor

My favorite part of Nova Roma has to be interacting with the action selection grid since this grid is always randomized. With 4 actions on each axis, it’s possible that the two actions you want don’t cross. This makes players work to find a solution to get the actions they want. The Emperor token adds extra power to a row and column but also takes up a valuable space from the beginning of every round.

Nova Roma patrician tokens

Follower cards are nicely illustrated in the unmistakable style of The Mico. Each follower will give you a bonus in one of three ways. There is a persistent bonus that is ongoing, a once a round bonus that can be utilized, and end game scoring. This is one of the best ways to make the most of each action. Getting a couple followers in the early game can put you in a great spot in the later rounds.

The balancing act between resources, money, and influence, can be tough as action spaces fill up each round. Each player will track horses, wheat, wine, stone and wood on their estate board. Players can increase these resources through finances or assigning artisans to their estate. Nova Roma is one of those games where you always want just one more action, and this is what keeps drawing me back in.

Nova Roma follower cards

Each time I approach Nova Roma, I lean into a different section of the board, basing it on what my opponents are working on. Beside the random setup of the action selection grid, each player is given a mosaic board that has a random setup. Players can claim achievements (one per round) as they accomplish them. If players want to get the most out of this board they have to race in the hippodrome to unlock more tokens.

This mosaic board is a neat idea but doesn’t seem to have a ton of value. Sometimes chasing these achievements distract players from larger points that are available on the board. If you can accomplish these achievements during normal gameplay, then great! We’ve seen very little value in trying to accomplish these goals for end game points.

Nova Roma Mosaic board

Final Thoughts

I’m a big fan of The Mico’s art style, and it really shines across Nova Roma. Once players are familiar with the 8 action types, the iconography is very intuitive. When needed, the rulebook is well organized and is easy to reference.

In 2-player games, players are given Legionnaire tokens that serve as blockers on the action selection grid. These 4 extra tokens mimic other players taking up important action spaces. I was surprised how well this worked and kept the game very competitive. In a 4-player game, the importance of having the first player marker cannot be overstated. Taking the Petition Action allows the player to spend influence to take the first player marker for the next round.

Nova Roma buildings

I really enjoy the flow of Nova Roma and it’s been very easy to teach newer gamers. The strategy is deep, but the turns are simple to grasp. I’ve been impressed with how tight our 2-player games have been, and the random setup of the action selection grid keeps every game fresh and challenging.

Nova Roma is a strong addition to our game library and one that will hit the table often. The game doesn’t outstay its welcome and players are often making a final push to maximize their points.

Nova Roma is available at your local game store, the 25th Century Games webstore or online through Amazon today.

This game was provided to us by the publisher for review. Read more about our review policies at One Board Family.

Highs

  • Randomized setup makes every game slightly different
  • Lots of paths to generate points
  • Variety of follower bonuses are excellent
  • Legionnaire blockers keep the game competitive at 2-players

Lows

  • The mosaic board seems to have little incentive to lean into

Complexity

3 out of 5

Time Commitment

4 out of 5

Replayability

3.5 out of 5

Ryan Gutowski

I'm a huge fan of strategy games and pretty much anything that involves "city building". My love of board games goes back to my childhood and passion for building relationships with others.

Subscribe
Notify of
guest
0 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Ryan’s TOP 10 Games of 2021

Castles of Burgundy Review

2022 Holiday Buyers Guide

The King’s Guild Review