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The current decade might probably be the best time for the revival of the strategy genre. Age of Empires and The Settlers have made a triumphant return, while a number of promising indies and AA games are scheduled to be released soon. This makes the genre ripe for experimentation – a genre where features from other genres can be mixed to make it more unique. Expeditions: Rome brings the cream of management simulations to the heated genre of turn-based strategy and adds a few pints of role-playing for extra points. The game takes place during the peak of the Roman Empire, set after the 2nd century BC during the Roman conquest of Asia Minor. The game tries to put together the historical events that happened during that time, bringing back famous characters that one might expect to find in history books.

Without further ado, let’s get down to business.

All hail Roma!

Expeditions: Rome follows the life of the great Consul Lucius Licinius Lucullus, being told from the point of an imaginary ally of the Roman Senate (and one of the wealthiest oligarchs in the Roman Empire). The story follows the political intrigues in the Senate of Rome, the body that took calls on various aspects of the lives of ordinary Romans everywhere in the Empire. It tells the conquest of Asia Minor by Consul Lucullus in his campaign against Mithridates, the ruler of Pontus. While the main focus of the game is on the military aspects (helping Rome conquer the rebellious kingdom of Pontus), it also deals with the social and economic conditions prevailing during that time. While I appreciate the historical accuracy of events portrayed, I also like the addition of fictitious elements to make the story more grand and epic!

Expeditions Rome is all about Consul Lucullus and his military campaign against Pontus.

The story isn’t set in the urban landscape of Rome, but in the fortified camps of Roman soldiers filled to the brim with heavily armoured legionaries – all ready for battle. The camps aren’t the best place for civilians, but that’s exactly where the main character ends up in due course of the story. I hated how long the introduction stretched out – it takes quite a while before one is introduced to the main elements of strategy and management in the game. Eventually, you’re handed your own legion to run – and that’s when things are really kicked into overdrive (and half of the game’s advertised mechanics come into play). Once the ball gets rolling, it doesn’t stop – you are made to conquer territory after territory and use brutal force to pacify them in the name of the Roman Consul. Imagine being forced to join the military just for clearing your family’s name (references to characters from popular TV shows or movies is totally coincidental) – if you think some of the more “fictional” parts of the story seem a bit absurd, you won’t be wrong.

The game’s missions generally follow a more linear approach to what needs to be done. However, in a multitude of situations, the player might need to figure out which path they need to take. Some paths have better rewards than others, while others offer better chances of success. There is a mission where you travel to the temple of Apollon, and you help the wife of the now-deceased Roman governor of Mysia to retake her territory from her Greek usurper – this mission can be completed in a number of ways, and allows you complete freedom to approach the objective in your own way.

The story employs multiple branches of conversation just like a conversation.

Each companion in the game has a unique story of their own to tell. They also bring their own sets of skills to the battlefield, and will never abandon you at any point in the campaign (unlike your army). I found that some companions are more likeable than others, but it doesn’t mean that the others don’t have their own story to tell.

Veni, Vidi, Vici

Expeditions: Rome is a new take on the strategy genre, with numerous elements of simulation games added in for more realism. You are tasked with managing all aspects of a Roman camp – from constructing buildings, recruiting soldiers, managing resources to leading battalions as well as specialized groups of praetorians to take over critical resource sites and even enemy camps and cities. Management privileges are granted after the player is elevated to the status of the Legate of Legion Legio Victrix following an ambush by Mithridates’ army. Construction involves constructing special buildings like the barracks, the bath, the workshop, the infirmary, and so many more. Each building can be built and upgraded in time, increasing the efficiency of the building. The buildings, however, do not operate without men actually manning them – so praetorians need to be actually assigned to them for the building to actually work. Each building has a purpose of its own – the bath helps rejuvenate soldiers and increase their morale (and incidentally, their opinion of you as a Legate), the barracks brings up recruits for hiring, while the infirmary is used to heal injured soldiers. The level of micromanagement offered because of the various layers of strategy in the game is what kept me captivated for long hours while playing it.

The strategic world map allows you to decide your next move on a global scale.

If you’re a fan of the strategy genre, you’d definitely expect some level of resource management. There are many resources in the game – though they can be broadly grouped as micro or macro resources. The macro resources are the stuff that can directly be used in transactions – stuff like slaves, food, medical supplies, and denarii (the Roman currency of that time). Micro resources are the stuff that you need to keep the wheel of life going in the fortified Roman camps already garrisoned by your forces – like manpower in the form of centurions and praetorians, and resource sites like lumber mills, quarries, farms, and mines. The resources minted from these sites are used to upgrade your garrison and make it stronger, while men are to be used in special operations (as well as special pop-up events that come up while travelling on the world map). See where this is going? There’s no end to the strategic depth in resource management! In the end, it falls onto the player to make it work properly. Of course, it is much harder to acquire good military recruits and resource sites (sometimes the entire legion has to battle it out for control for resource sites) than slaves or food – finding a balance between the various types of resources available and planning upgrades in advance can help unwary players a lot.

It’s the actual turn-based combat that really blows the game out of the water. Combat takes place in a grid-based format, almost in the same style as the XCOM games. Every unit type has special powers of its own, which deal a different amount of damage. Archers prefer to shower enemies with arrows from a distance, while rogues prefer to move behind enemy lines and backstab them. A team can be composed in any way the player sees fit – giving rise to a multitude of options on how to handle scenarios. You can all out with archers and kill enemies before they even reach you, or take fights behind the big shields of your heavy units – the choice is all yours. I generally kept a homogenous team in most of the missions as it ensured that I was not taken by surprise by anything. Some unit abilities are ridiculously strong, while others seem unreasonably weak. The best ability I probably came across could be “disarming”, an ability so ridiculously strong it is very fun to use and causes anxiety when it’s used against you. Unlike XCOM, soldiers downed in battle are only “injured” and can be healed at the nearest camp (unless you prefer playing at the toughest difficulty, where they are killed altogether).

Ground combat pits a special team of 4-6 units of your army against a cohort of theirs.

If you are tired of playing XCOM style battles, Expeditions: Rome also features large battlegrounds where armies clash against one another. The only problem with this is you only get to see a two-dimensional top-down representation of both armies while they clash against one another. Centurions lead your legions in the battle against enemies, each having perks of their own (and they continue to get more as they level up). All of these “large” battles are auto-resolved and the battle could go either way – but it mostly depends on the choices taken at several points in the battle. At several points in the battle, you are asked to take a call on what strategy to use to resolve a particular situation. A storm could strike the battlefield, allowing you to take the call to either push the enemy through the winds or hunker down and wait for the storm to blow over. This is probably the most RNG part of the game, but it still strikes a strong chord as a relaxation from the otherwise monotonic micro-management of resources or the specialist turn-based battles the game has to offer.

Glory to the Roman Empire!

Expeditions: Rome really defines its own mark in the genre with mind-blowing graphics and unit designs that are sure to keep most players captivated. I really liked the unit design for most Roman units – most of which are done to maintain historical accuracy. I do feel that the Greek units did look pretty inferior and more like a reshade of their Roman counterparts. The environments also look gorgeous, designed while keeping the historical setting in mind. The best fact is that the game runs pretty flawlessly on last-gen cards without major framerate issues of any kind!

Meeting new characters is…..fun.

The game manages to make a mark in sound fidelity too. If you don’t find the battle music struck in your head, maybe you’re playing the game wrong (and that’s fine!). Even the music used to show the passage of time when no conflict is happening is also glorious. Some of the voice actors (particularly for the companions) have also outdone themselves, enforcing the image that they seek to represent within the game.

Comitia Curata

Expeditions: Rome is a decent game with a huge focus on micro as well as macro-management that makes its mark in the small genre of strategy games. I’d recommend an immediate buy if you like turn-based games and want one with a decent blend of RPG mechanics in it.


Expeditions: Rome released on 20th January 2022 on PC (Steam, Epic and GOG). Key received from publisher for review purposes, with no riders.

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