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In Republic of Rome, if Rome falls, everyone loses. Some gaming groups I've been in grok this concept completely and players will make major sacrifices of their positions (donating lots of money from personal treasuries to the state to fight off the Punic Wars in the Early Republic, for example), while others regard Rome falling as a draw, and deliberately play to cause Rome to fall if they think they can't win.

If you have a mixture of both types of player, then the fall-of-Rome-is-a-draw players can exploit the fall-of-Rome-is-a-loss players by threatening to bring Rome down and demanding concessions for saving it. This tends to provoke resentment on both sides.

Does anyone have any suggestions for (a) how to prevent this conflict and (b) how to resolve it before punches start being thrown?

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Punches being thrown? Wow, your group is way more hard-core than mine. :-) –  Monica Cellio Jul 13 '12 at 14:41
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Sounds to me like the game is just doing a better job of modelling senatorial politics than you realize.... :) –  Affe Jul 13 '12 at 17:57

3 Answers 3

up vote 10 down vote accepted

If it's not part of any sort of larger tournament or ranking system, then there's pretty much no difference between everyone losing and a draw, so it's just going to wind up being an issue of perception.

The solution, then, would be to play it in the context of a ranking system or tournament. I don't know the game in question, so I don't know what the possible outcomes are, but you could assign different point values to different results; winning gets you 1 point, losing gets you 0, and Rome falling gets everyone -1. Then people will have an incentive not to let Rome fall; if they do, they will lose rank compared to other players not in that game.

By the way, this sort of brinksmanship between the fall-of-Rome-is-a-loss and fall-of-Rome-is-a-draw crowds may be an intentional feature of the game. After all, it's not all that uncommon for some politicians or political parties to focus so hard on winning their own particular issues that they're willing to put the whole country at risk (state, nation, empire, what have you) if they don't get their way. It sounds like a pretty realistic political situation, if you ask me.

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It could be that the 'draw' players aren't thinking creatively enough; IIRC, the victory conditions become more fluid as crisis approaches (you can, for example, win by being in rebellion when the state goes bankrupt: presumably you then get called in, Monti-style, to sort out the mess). And if your position is strong enough for your actions to bring the country down, you should be able to finesse that into some chance of a win.

Perhaps more importantly, the game is about dirty politics; if the word 'Senate' doesn't make that clear enough, the history (turning a semi-democratic republic into an Empire with you in charge) should. One of the rules of politics is always to keep the minor players happy (literally, in this case), so if the 'loss' players think the game's purely about building up votes and victories, they need an urgent re-think. You need to play so that everybody thinks they have a chance of winning, until your masterplan goes into action...

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The fall-of-Rome-is-a-draw players are right: they realize that, like all games, it's a zero-sum game.

To solve this the other players should make sure that any players that can bring Rome down still have a chance of victory. They have power and deserve the concessions they ask for. It's very interesting from a game theorical perspective.

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That makes sense to me from a game balance perspective - it forces the lead players to hold back, lest a player falls out of contention and tries to force a draw. (Put the other way, no matter how far behind you are, you always have the option of playing for the draw by forcing Rome to fall.) –  Allen Gould Jul 13 '12 at 18:52

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