Caesar and Cleopatra is a card game which simulates two rivals competing for the support of the Patricians of Rome. Using identical decks of cards, each player places influence cards on the various factions and uses action cards to further manipulate play. Patricians are "captured" during play, however having the most Patricians at the end does not guarantee victory. It's far more important to have the "right" combination of Patricians within the various factions.

The Patricians are broken down into five factions. Three of the factions contain five Patricians each, the other two contain three each. At the end of the game, players receive points as following:

One point for each Patrician.
One point for having three or more Patricians in the factions with five members.
One point for having two Patricians in the factions with three members.
One additional point for having ALL the members of any faction.

In addition, at the beginning of the game players randomly pick a card which will assign one of the factions with five members as their "secret" faction. It is possible that both players will have the same "secret" group.

Players receive two points for getting three or more Patricians in their "secret" group.

Thus, the best strategy is not necessarily to get all the Patricians you can. It's far more important that you get the RIGHT Patricians and in turn, deny these factions to your opponent. It is a truism that SOME Patricians are more important than others . . .

Key Scoring Considerations:
The five member factions are the Senators, the Quaestors, and the Praetors. These are also the only factions which can be assigned as the "secret" groups for each player. I like to think of these factions as the ones where there is the most leeway for making a mistake. In other words, if you let your opponent take one of these cards right away, he still needs to take TWO more before he gets a bonus of any kind. Thus, with one exception, I don't focus on these three factions right away.

The three member factions are the Censors and the Aedilis. I think these small groups are the key to winning the game, and here is why. If you can take just two cards in one of these groups, you've already gained three points (two points for the Patricians and one point for having the majority). Getting all three cards in these groups is worth FIVE points (three for the Patricians, one for having the majority and one for getting them all). In comparison, getting three Patricians in one of the five member groups only nets you four points (three for the Patricians and one for the majority).

This is why I say from a purely mathematical standpoint you should go for the small factions right away and leave the big ones alone, at least at the beginning of the game . . .

Of course, there is an exception that I mentioned earlier. That has to do with the "secret" faction that you are assigned at the beginning of the game. My advice for that is to do everything possible to make sure you get that bonus. In that instance, the three cards you get in that group are worth SIX points (three for the Patricians, one for the majority and two for the secret bonus).

Of course, if everyone does this, it's going to be a slaughterfest for those Censors and Aedilis cards while the rest end up going for peanuts, so obviously there is more to the game than this . . .

Stacking the Action Deck
One of the more interesting things about Caesar and Cleopatra is the ability to stack the action deck at the beginning of the game. My wife likes to let the random hand of fate determine which cards she will get during the course of the game, I prefer to know in advance which cards I can expect to get. I think this twist gives the game an interesting flavor.

The Action Deck Contains:
Assassin (4)
Scout (2)
Spy (2)
Wrath of God (1)
Caesar/Cleopatra's Veto (2)
Egyptian/Roman Castle (2)

I prefer to stack the Action deck something like this:

C/C Veto
R/E Castle
C/C Veto
Wrath of God
R/E Castle

Here is my rationale: First, the initial cards that a player lays down are always hidden. This makes the scout very valuable toward the beginning of the game. As play commences, it's likely that more cards will be placed face up, so the scout's importance diminishes somewhat. In addition, the first few plays are unlikely to be of critical importance, this is why I save the first C/C Veto card until the first 1/3 of the deck has been played. This is the same reason I delay the R/C Castle card until this point - this card is most valuable at the midpoint of the game when there are a lot of cards on the table, and ironically, also at the end when influnce cards are starting to become scarce. Lastly, the Assassins are always handy (especially as "Veto bait") so they are sprinkled through the deck.

If you have a favorite way to stack the action deck, please e-mail me with your list. Also include your rationale - I think it will be fun to see what other people think about action deck strategy.

General Game Strategies:
I think Caesar and Cleopatra is an excellent mix of luck and skill - the inability to predict any particular vote of confidence can be moderated to some degree by remembering which votes have already come up before the deck is shuffled. The ability to hide influence cards can be critical. Lastly, the interplay of action cards on each other's strategy makes for a game that is tense and filled with decisions.

In general, it's obvious to point out that a good player should mentally keep track of which faction votes are still in the voting deck. Any faction that has already experienced a vote should be less of a concern, absent any other considerations such as its possible "secret" status or if it is the last card and the opponent has all the rest. While the rules don't state that you can't go back through the deck to see what has been played, I think it is poor form. Reserve a little bit of your short-term memory and keep track in your head.

At the beginning of the game, remember that Cleopatra always goes first. It might be wise as Caesar to hold back a bit in initial placement. What you don't want to happen is that you place a 5 influence card on something and it immediately gets beat by two 3's. You lose the 5 and the Patrician - not a good outcome. It might be wise to consider this at the early stages of the game and save those fives for a turn or two later.

A second consideration is to make sure that you do not put the sixth overall card on any faction. An exception might be if you are reasonably sure that there is an excellent chance this faction will call for a vote (there are two cards left in the deck . . . ) and/or if it is necessary to set yourself up for winning the following Patrician in this faction. Placing the sixth card gives your opponent the opportunity to force a vote.

On the other hand, if your opponent places the sixth card on a stack, try to take advantage of it. A bird(Patrician) in your hand is far more valuable than a possible one based on the vagaries of the vote card. Be sure to analyze the vote total and play so that you are still in the lead after the forced vote. Then you have the chance to pick up yet another Patrician, giving you two for the turn!

When using the spy card, carefully consider which card to eliminate from your opponent's hand. Usually an action card is your best bet, however if he is stuck with rather weak ones (perhaps a scout when you have no hidden cards) a high value influence card can really hurt as well. Also, the Philosopher cards add such a level of uncertainty that I will generally eliminate them from my opponents hand if given the opportunity.

The rules don't specify when the Veto card actually is used, whether before or after the specified action is enumerated. We play that it occurs after (thus the opponent says which card he is assassinating, which faction is being 'Wrath of God'ded, etc.) and so therefore, it's important to carefully consider the effect of the opponent's action before deciding whether to Veto it. If you can live with the consequences (they don't seem that great), let it happen. Save the Veto card for the next time when it might be a little more important. In all cases, it can be fun to pretend you have a Veto card whether you do or not and engage in a little disinformation - "I suppose I'll let you do that . . ."

As you reach the end of the game, carefully consider how many influence cards you have. If you can get your opponent to play all her cards while you still have some remaining, you will get one or more "free" turns in which to play. This is where careful play of the "Wrath of God" in the middle of the game can really have a huge effect at the end. If your opponent has four or five cards on a faction with several patricians left and you play the "Wrath of God" on it, you will force him to replace most or all of those cards over the next few turns. This in turn will likely leave him short of cards toward the end of the game. It might be wise to hold off playing two cards toward the end and hope your opponent runs out. Even a couple extra turns will let you capture the last two or three Patricians, or at the very minimum prevent your opponent from getting them.

Suggestions from other players . . .
I invite other players to e-mail me with suggestions or play tips for Caesar and Cleopatra. I will list them here and offer my own comments. I hope to hear from you soon . . .


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