Review - Senator

Another older review, reposted here...

by Eric Lang
Published by Fantasy Flight Games
Review by David Fair

I have played this game three times thus far, with 3, 4, and 5 players. I am not a huge ancient Rome aficionado, but the theme, with each player taking on the role of a Roman Senator, and vying to claim credit for advancing certain Agendas, while backstabbing your opponents attempts to do the same, did intrigue me.

First, the components: Fantasy Flight Games have done an excellent job with components lately, and while this is no War of the Ring, the components are quite nice. The Cards are sturdy and thick, though they would benefit from a linen or other finish, and everything else is made from heavy-duty chipboard. The graphics are appealing and very well done. The numbers are the Cards are particularly easy to read, even at a large table.

The goal of the game is to complete the most Agendas in three turns, when the game ends.
To begin the game, each player takes all the Cards of a color and a scroll marker. The Event Cards are shuffles and placed to one side, and the Agenda tokens are shuffles and placed in a pile. There is also a veto and two Consul tokens which are placed near the Event Deck.

The games is played over three rounds, and each round is played in three phases: Setup, Debate, and Clean-Up.

In the Set-Up phase, a number of Agenda tokens are pulled from the pile, turned face up, and placed in a line. This is called the Docket, and determines what will be available to the players this round. After that, the top card of the Event Deck is revealed.

In the Debate phase, players use their individual Decks to attempt to win an Agenda token. Each player has seven Cards: two 1’s, three 2’s, one 5, and one Assassin (marked with a Gladius). On the first turn a player chosen at random, and on subsequent turns, whoever was last to win an Agenda token, chooses a token (Agenda, or Consul) and may play one or more Cards. Each player in clockwise order may play one or more Cards or pass, and once you pass, you are out, though you leave your played Cards on the table. You may play additional Cards if your bid has been raised when the auction gets back around to you, but you cannot “make change” with the Cards already on the table. This play continues until one player remains in and is awarded the Agenda token, or an Assassin is played.

If an Assassin is played on the auction, then the auction is dead, and no one is awarded the token. If an Agenda token was the subject of the Auction, it is returned to the pile. If a Consul token was up, it is turned over (revealing a red “X”) and is unavailable until the next round. Everyone who played any Influence Cards must discard them, including the player who played the Assassin. The player who played the Assassin then selects the next token to put up for Auction. It is important to not that a player may select a token and immediately play an Assassin on it, to make it unavailable this round to anyone else. This can be a good idea if there is one token that benefits the other much more than it does you, or if it would be particularly bad for you to end up with.

When a player wins an Agenda, he is immediately able to exercise that Agendas special power, and then he may award it to any player (including himself). Each Agenda conflicts with 2 others (except for the Imperial Agenda, which does not have any conflicting Agendas). The awarding may cause a conflict with another Agenda that is not yet complete (completed Agenda are free from conflicts). If a conflict is created, the player with the newly awarded Agenda must discard the new Agenda and any existing Agenda in conflict with it. Ouch!

The winner of the auction then discards the Influence Cards used, and the others return their Influence Cards to their hands.

When a player wins a Consul, he moves all of his incomplete Agendas to the area behind his scroll, indicating that they are now complete (and free from potential conflict). He then discards the consul token; it cannot be used again this round. The winner of the auction then discards the Influence Cards used, and the others return their Influence Cards to their hands.

If there are remaining Agenda and/or Consul tokens, and at least one player still has Influence Cards, then there is another debate, other wise, you proceed to the Clean-Up Phase.

In the Clean-Up phase, everyone returns all discarded Influence Cards to their hand, and the Agenda tokens are shuffled again.

Event Cards
There are 6 Event Cards, and each of them affects all players: One adds additional Agendas to the docket, one causes the losers of a debate to have to discard their played Cards, one disallows Consul to be selected, another remove imperial Agendas, one restricts each player to playing no more than 2 Influence Cards, and the last requires the players to play at least 2 Influence Cards.
Likewise, there are 6 different kinds of Agenda tokens, though there are 5 of each kind. Each Agenda has it’s own special power: One allows you to recover a discarded Influence card (but not an Assassin), one allows you to discard a second Agenda (or Consul), one allows you to take a second Agenda, without gaining it’s power (it cannot be a Consul), and one allows you to force all your opponents to discard a card type you name. The final one, Imperial Agenda, is only able to be given to the person who won it, and they receive it already complete; i.e. behind their scroll.
The game was fun, overall, though I disliked the Event Cards, feeling that they added little to the game. We all felt the game was fun, and the auctions were tense and filled with tough decisions. I liked the game best with 4 players. With five, there were too many Assassins, and with three, it was often easy for one player to let two others fight in the early auctions until he could win the final ones relatively cheaply.

The game box says it plays in 40-60 minutes, and all but our first game came in at under 45 minutes. Overall, it is a decent, though not great, filler game, and well worth the prices you can find it for online.