Optimates et Populares

“The greatest nation in the world is in decline. A wealthy oligarchy has all the money, land, and power, leaving the masses to starve and struggle under the weight of oppressive debts. A bitter, partisan feud between polar opposites – liberal and conservative – finds no room for compromise. Government, once conducted with dignity and restraint, becomes a dangerous game of brinksmanship and obstructionism. The very foundations of the republic are undermined by demagogues and dictators, using civil unrest to seize power. Opponents are marginalized or made to disappear, with even murder given the veneer of legitimacy retroactively. The result is the collapse of the old order, and the establishment of new, totalitarian regime, with the populace often at the mercy of madmen and idiots, the venal and the vainglorious. ” – Link

” Optimates et Populares is a political game for two players, in which players fight for the primacy and dominance of their ideology. The Populares (“populists”) pursue a liberal and egalitarian agenda that seeks to better the lives of the poor through measures such as land redistribution, debt relief, and welfare programs. The Optimates (or “best men”) aim to thwart this progress, maintaining the traditional rights and privileges of the wealthy elites. Both players seek to win elections and pass laws, and to prevent their opponents from doing the same, using every tool at their disposal – building alliances through influential Senators, buying loyalties, inciting mob violence, and proscription – state-sanctioned murder.

Central to the game is Political Will. Each action you take will cost you some Political Will. The more you accomplish, the more anger it incites in the opposition and its supporters – and so, each action you take also cedes Political Will to your opponent. This creates a dynamic tension in which each player must balance pursuit of his own goals against the backlash that’s just around the corner. Each law you pass will also have subtle (and not-so-subtle) effects on the People of Rome and the Senate, building or eroding support for your overall platform. It’s a careful balancing act – a vicious teeter-totter – a knife-fight on a tightrope. ”

That is what the blurb says…. Lets see what the heck this baby is all about. This is my 2nd play here. ..yeah still fubar..ing..it up!

Grain Dole – Passes unopposed and moves to Blue status 1. [Why? Because we actually played Optimates first versus Populares..Doah. ] The Optimates first used their Political Will coin of the realm to conduct a Senate action and also nudged one of their Senators into the Populares to sow dissent [see below].


Note, I’m consolidated play mostly onto 1 mat. For clarity and visual ease. Each side has a mat and a track to keep score on etc.


Populares convert Senators to their causes using epic rhetoric and debate to cow the newly minted wealthy, the bought and paid for. They seek to capitalize on this to convert the all important Legions to their cause via a massive Circus Maximus.

The Optimates may have been out negotiated but they will not be out spent!

Quickly raising funds they our bid the Populares and use their win with the people to convert

Legions to their cause.


Using the stupor of the populace post games and the despondency of the Populares Senate members empty purses they quickly pass further legislation limiting the ability of the Senate to easily enable Agrarian reform [RED 1].

Some Senators aligned to the people, see the light and convert to the Optimates cause, in an effort no doubt to recoup losses inflicted by their losses in the games.

Optimates now control major offices of Consul & Tribune and they drive a hard bargain. flipping more senators and using a bribe to block the Grain Dole increase. They move to ensure Debtors pay their bills or forfeit their assets [Red 1]. Populares counter seeking to enable all Italians to have citizenship, and this increase their Populace count. This is blocked by the Tribune as not in the best interests of real Romans!

So far the money grubbers have the best of it. With 16 VP to just 8. The switch of control of the Major Office has hurt them, as they were unable to achieve much with the Tribune and Consul. Having the commoners is great but each turn the automatically lose a Merchant, the Legions have shifted wholesale to the Optimates. The path to success looks troubled at best.

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