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Columbia Games
Cards from Columbia Games' Julius Caesar allow players to command armies or do the will of the Gods.

Two war board games offer the promise of cunning strategy and epic adventure: Warparty from Lock 'N Load Publishing, and Julius Caesar from Columbia Games.

In Warparty, two to four players take on the roles of the noble "Humans and Dwarves," or the evil "Undead and Goblins" in a fantasy realm. Each group starts out in one of the four corners of the board, then gradually begins to expand its borders with basic infantry units. As players conquer more territories they acquire more wealth, which can be spent on more units or upgrades to their home city.

Players can also buy heroes, powerful units that can be used to enter dungeons and fight monsters, or can be used in battle to smash enemies. Heroes gain experience points, which allow them to become stronger, and gain cards, which they can play to enhance their power. Players can also use their wealth to found new cities to use as bases for future assaults or for defending the homeland.

In dice-rolling combat, units are organized into rows,(infantry in the first row, archers in the second, heroes in the third), and each unit has the ability to defend itself from an opponent's hits.

The game ends when one team has 50 economic points more than its opponents, or at the end of 12 game rounds, where victory points for cities built and destroyed determines the victor.

The above description is the barest overview of the rules, and does not even come close to communicating the epic scope and thrilling drama of this game. On its surface, the game resembles in mechanics many other war games on the market, such as Axis & Allies and Conquest of Nerath, and yet Warparty manages to create something that feels new and fresh.

The fact that the teams move at the same time makes for a fast-paced, kinetic experience, and various hero cards with their multitude of powers offer a plethora of strategic choices. The ability for units to defend themselves is a wonderful touch, ensuring that an enemy's attack doesn't necessarily mean the end for your unit. It is a unique mechanic that adds a world of dynamic tension to every roll of the dice.

A truly fun, exciting and uncommon gaming experience, players will really take to this game. Spectacular artwork, theme, and game play make Warparty an easy recommendation, and just may be a contender for best board game of the year.

The Roman Civil War between Caesar and Pompey is the setting for Julius Caesar, which uses blocks to represent Roman legions, leaders and fleets on a map of Rome's Mediterranean empire. Two players assume the role of one of the Roman antagonists and must defeat their opponent by capturing cities and leaders to gain victory points. The game is over when one player has accumulated 10 victory points, or after five game rounds.

At the beginning of each turn players are dealt cards that allow them to move armies or levy new forces. A levy can either bring new block units into the game (at designated cities for each unit), or heal hit points on existing units. Some cards represent the various Roman deities, which give players special powers or the ability to play dirty tricks on their opponent.

Blocks are placed upright, facing only their player, adding a fog of war element to the game. When units do battle they are revealed, and each unit's initiative rating determines when it fires in battle. Combat is not simultaneous, so units destroyed early do not get a chance to fire back. Hit points are tracked by rotating the block.

After five card rounds have been played, a winter phase allows players to check if victory conditions have been met, and naval units must return to port.

Julius Caesar is a fun and engaging war game that succeeds largely through a combination of its deep strategy and relative simplicity. The theme works really well here as history unfolds in new and exciting ways. The dice-rolling battles are intense, and the block mechanic is easy to learn and a lot of fun to play.

Games like Julius Caesar also can provide a great introduction to important historical topics for players, and that is always a plus. If you like historical war gaming or are new to the hobby you won't be disappointed with Julius Caesar.

Both games are recommended for ages 12 and up and play in less than three hours.

Cody K. Carlson holds a master's degree in history from the University of Utah and currently teaches at SLCC. Cody has also appeared on many local stages including Hale Center Theater and Off Broadway Theater. Email: [email protected]