I played for a few hours yesterday and came away with a very positive impression.
As a learning game, I tried the Germanic tribe the Cheruscii. Isolated, strong army, ought to give me time to learn the game, right? Just conquer the cream of the unowned surrounding provinces, build up my civilization and culture, play friendly with any possible threats until strong enough to handle them. The old Civ drill.
Ha Ha Ha!
Out there in the barbarian forests, it is all against all. There is a reason why these people had trouble building up their civilizations, no one is going to allow you a moment to do so. Including regions that do not even look like factions.
My first impression is that they have nailed the situation in the Germanic north, and there are no quick and formulaic solutions. (Or at least such formulas were not apparent to me.)
I was quite surprised, though, to find that despite having watched some videos and having read a lot in the manual, a fair number of game pieces and rules were not so simple.
I thought that battles in forested regions always favored my medium infantry over heavy infantry, but it looked as though this were not the case when defending walled cities. I thought that it took three “killed units” in a battle to equal a victory and a pursuit phase, but that does not seem to be the case and I do not yet understand what triggers battle victory. I thought I understood the impact of support units behind front line infantry troops but found it difficult to know when this modifier would kick in.
And – crucial to gameplay – I found that if you lose a key region for a single turn and then re-take it the next turn, you have to “pacify” the region for quite a while before it reverts to its previous value. Rather a big deal if you plan to be a blob in the midst of weaker barbarian enemies, where you can beat anyone but cannot possibly prevent temporary incursions everywhere simultaneously. (Not to mention raiding)
Lots to wrap my head around, but an extremely interesting game, which so far strikes me as capturing the historical reality far better than other games.