Glory to Rome (Black Box Edition) Review

Glory to Rome card game in play

One Kickstarter game that has brought forth some very strong opinions is Glory to Rome: Black Box Edition.

In Glory to Rome, each player is attempting to help rebuild Rome after the great fire of 64 AD.  To do this, you will need the assistance of clientele.   Each turn, you will select a role from your hand to play (the roles are Patron, Merchant, Craftsman, Architect, Laborer, and Legionary).  After you select your role, each other player has the option to follow you or to "think" (draw cards).  When performing the action associated with the role, you may boost the action if you have any more "clients" in your clientele.  In order to initially gain these clients, you must perform a Patron action.  However, you are limited to your number of clients based on your influence.  You gain influence by building buildings - with the Craftsman and Architect roles.  Briefly, the Legionary helps steal from your neighbors, the Laborer prepares you for other actions (by putting cards in your stockpile), and the Merchant helps you earn victory points.  The game is played until one of the end game conditions is met - either the deck of cards is exhausted, all of the "in town" building sites have been used, or one of the end of game buildings is built (Forum or Catacombs).  At that point, whoever has the most victory points wins - unless the game ended because of a Forum, in which case, the person who has the Forum wins!

Glory to Rome is designed by Carly Chudyk.  He is also the designer of Innovation.  I like to classify his games as "balanced by being broken."  Essentially, what I mean by this is that there are cards in Glory to Rome (similarly to Innovation) that are ridiculously powerful.  For example, there is a building that doubles the number of clients that you may have, and also lets you add an extra client from your hand during every Patron action.  This card is amazing, as it quickly lets you get exorbitant numbers of clients, which then lets you have large bonuses every time any player performs an action.  However, there are other ridiculous cards that can come back and stop it.  Such as the Colosseum, which allows you to use the Legionary to steal clients from your opponents (instead of cards in their hand) and put them in your vault (this is where you get victory points, and normally putting cards here is a much longer process that requires the Merchant action).  So, you are now hurting your opponents and gaining victory points!  There are other cards that suddenly allow all of your clients to count twice.  Others allow you to take all Jacks (wild cards that you normally get in the "think" action) that your opponents play into your hand.  So, there are amazing combinations in the game.  But, building one certain building generally doesn't guarantee anyone the victory.  Especially (and this is the final one I'll mention) because there is a card that allows you to steal any of your opponent's constructed buildings!

playmat for Glory to Rome Black Box
Typical player board with clients, stockpile and vault
One of the other things that I think is really interesting about Glory to Rome is that you can both think and follow in the same turn.  I initially did not believe the people that taught the game to me.  In fact, when teaching other player later, I verified this rule.  If the active player decides to perform an action - Craftsman, for example - you may think and draw cards.  Yet, if you have the corresponding client(s) in your clientele, when the action comes to you, you may still use your clients to follow the chosen role.  This is a really interesting and powerful dynamic.  And it also makes clients significantly more useful.  Instead of having to have the correct card in your hand in order to follow (thus causing your clients to only be helpful if you have drawn well), they are always available.  And, what's more, you can wind up doing quite a bit more on an opponent's turn than on your own.  Thinking to draw cards and then also getting the benefit of the actions is, simply, amazing.

The next thing that I like about Glory to Rome is that there are meaningful (and tough) choices to make.  Every card that you play can be used as an action, as a building, or as material for a building.  But, it is very important to decide which way you are going to use any given card.  Is it more important to start building a building that gives you an amazing bonus, but that you know you won't complete this turn, or is it more valuable to follow the action being performed by the active player?  Would you be better off using that incredibly powerful building to complete the "under construction" structure that you have, or should you keep it so that you can build it next?  What makes some of these choices even harder is that keeping a card for later clutters up your hand.  When performing a "think" action, you are allowed to draw cards back up to your hand size (generally five), draw a jack, or draw a single card.  If you are keeping a card in your hand, then that is one less card that you will be drawing whenever drawing back up to your hand size.

Glory to Rome artwork
Very bland artwork
The final pro that I will mention for Glory to Rome is that I enjoy how the different elements of the game work together and keep each other in balance.  For example, you are limited in your clientele and your vault by the amount of influence you have.  You gain influence by completing buildings.  Yet, it would be really helpful to have a lot of Craftsman and Architects in your clientele to help build these buildings.  Also, in order to utilize your Architects and Merchants, you have to have cards in your "stockpile."  To get cards in your stockpile, you have to use Laborers and Legionaries.  But, you often don't see the immediate benefit by playing these two roles.  However, ignoring them winds up making your other roles useless.  The different elements of the game really flow together well to make a beautiful experience.

My only real con for Glory to Rome is that I dislike the artwork.  Really, I've played (and owned) both this version of Glory to Rome and the previous IV version, and my complaint has been related to production both times.  In the old version, I disliked the box - it was a plastic clamshell container.  The art was very cartoonish, and many people disliked it.  I really had no problems with it.  However, in the Black Box, I felt like the art was all very cheap Clip Art styled images.  This con obviously doesn't affect gameplay, but it makes the overall experience of Glory to Rome a bit worse.

Overall, I give Glory to Rome a 9.0/10 (in either edition).  I think that the gameplay is wonderful, and I look forward to playing it more and more!

If you want another opinion, check out this Glory to Rome Review on I Slay the Dragon. Some other games somewhat like Glory to Rome, also include Eminent Domain, Puerto Rico, and Race for the Galaxy.

I would like to thank Cambridge Games Factory for providing me with a review copy of Glory to Rome: Black Box Edition.


  1. Nice review. As a graphic designer, I do feel the need to point out one thing - don't confuse "clipart" with "design-oriented." True, the "art" on the cards is very simple, but this doesn't mean it was just thrown in. It can be very difficult to come up with design that is a representation of something drilled down to it's basic elements.

    You may not prefer that style of art, but it is a legitimate style. It's more like icons than art, which is okay. I think the "black box" art and design is significantly nicer looking and generally appealing than the original, which had very low quality art that made it look like a crappy kids game (and a horrendous colors scheme.) Even if you prefer one style over the other, the black box is a professional-looking product.

  2. A note on your choice of words: when a non-active player "thinks", he does *not* "follow", he merely performs the actions of his clients. Words are important, here: in fact, the Circus Maximus building gives you the following ability: "Whenever you *lead or follow* a Role, you may gain an additional action from each of your clients of that role"; the point is that Circus Maximus does *not* give you its ability if you thought, even if you have matching clients, who simply perform their action once, as normal.