Calvin’s Commentaries: Romans vs Britons

Romans vs Britons is yet another outstanding two-player abstract strategy game created by Jon Hather and Gothic Green Oak.

I have previously reviewed The Defence of Pictland and Vikings vs Saxons and both have a ‘feel’ of being created decades, if not centuries ago, and yet they were tons of fun to play and explore.

Romans vs Britons is just as good.

“The invasion of Briton in 43 AD by the Emperor Claudius, while not perhaps over quickly was, in the end, decisive,” provides some background flavour on the rule sheet. “Roman military power was far superior to that of the Britons, and the numbers deployed were often greater. The Britons were disorganized and poorly armed. In fact, of the recorded larger battles, the Romans won all. However, while the Romans did achieve conquering status, it was not without loss. The Britons were sometimes successful at ambushing smaller numbers of soldiers causing exasperation amongst the Roman commanders.

“This game is set in a small valley, through which runs a Roman road along which are marching a small number of Roman soldiers returning from campaign further away. The Britons, though less well armed and poorly organized, have surprise on their side, and are also able to attack the Romans from both sides. The Romans, though militarily superior, are tired after their campaign and long march. It turns out that this is an evenly matched battle.”

Being able to play a game with at least some basis in history is a blast.

Both sides have twelve wooden soldiers, with a leader arranged in two groups on the board. As in other games in this series, the board is leather, which is very cool.

The end game is simple, much like checkers, to capture the enemy to a point where it is defeated, or those remaining escape or surrender.

All men (soldiers and captains) move orthogonally any number of squares until obstructed by another man or the edge of the board. There is no diagonal movement.

Capture is by orthogonal custodial movement. Two soldiers can capture only one enemy man between them at a time.

However, a soldier and a captain, or two captains together, can capture more than one enemy man, (think a line of enemy pieces).

Captured men are removed from the board, not to be returned.

A man can be placed between two enemy men only if he is taking part in capture himself. Otherwise placing a man between two enemy men will result in his capture (ie, suicide).

A neat element of the game is if the losing side is reduced to four men (captains or soldiers) and these four men can escape, each to a corner of the board, then the losing player may declare that the game is over and the winner has won a lesser victory. The winning side may, of course, if sufficient men are available, block the corners, forcing the losing side to fight on.

This is another rather brilliant abstract strategy game that anyone liking checkers or chess should seek out at

Thanks to fellow gamers Adam Daniels for his help in running through this game for review.


About Author