Aqua Romana is a tile-laying game where players build Roman aqueducts. Theme doesn’t make much sense, as usual — the players score points for the length of aqueducts, so efficiency flies out of the window. However, the Roman theme is used well in the art, and the board is a real treat for eyes.
Follow the masters
The game has an interesting indirect mechanism for laying the tiles. There are four types of tiles (straight, curve, crossing, parallel curves) and each of the type has few builders for them. The builders move on a track outside the board. The workers that build the aqueducts can build a tile, if they see a builder — seeing means being on a same vertical or horizontal row with the builder.
When a tile is placed, the worker advances to the end of the tile and the builder takes one step forward. Now the worker might see another builder. If no builders are in sight, the player misses a turn, but gets to move any builder one step. This is unfortunate, boring and happens too often. Sure, some forward planning can reduce the missed turns, but it’s still quite annoying.
No space to score
One more twist: the scoring track has limited space. In each space there’s only room for one worker (except three and seven points, which can accommodate three workers). So, when an aqueduct is finished, the worker is placed on the highest free spot on the scoring track starting from the length of the aqueduct. So, finishing your aqueducts fast is a good idea. It’s also possible to quit an aqueduct early (otherwise the aqueduct is done when it runs to the edge of the board or side of a tile).
Aqua Romana is not a bad game, but I found it mediocre and boring. The four-player game is a bit too chaotic for my tastes, and the two-player game isn’t much better. The game is fairly easy, though, and wouldn’t be a bad choice for someone who’s looking to advance from Carcassonne to something new. Seasoned gamers will find little new in this offering.