Main Event Games · Reviews

Review of Foundations of Rome

Game: Foundations of Rome

Designer: Emerson Matsuuchi

Published: Arcane Wonders

Players: 2-4

Playtime: 60-90 Minutes

Play Type: Tile Placement/ City Building


You are an architect tasked with building the ancient city of Rome. Your goal is to secure land and build glorious buildings throughout the city to increase your renown. By building various buildings, you will be gaining glory for yourself, and with that bringing glory to the Roman Empire.

Game Play:

Set up for Foundations of Rome is surprisingly quick and easy, despite the large box and impressive components. This is largely due to the fact that the game has a very well developed storage system that allows players to receive their player board mostly set up. Additionally to each players’ tray, there are three communal boards that need to be set up. Player markers must be placed, and starting lots must be drawn. Each player will start with six lots they can build on. All remaining cards will make up the Deed Board. 

Once setup is complete, players will take turns until the deed pile for the era is fully depleted and all cards on the deed board have been purchased. Once this happens, each player will get one additional turn. On a player’s turn they will complete one action from the list of three available. The three options are building a building, purchasing a deed, or taking income.

When players choose to build, they will look at the lots they have available on the city board. They will then determine which building they would like to place. Once lots are purchased, buildings have no additional cost, so players should focus on which buildings will fit within the lots they have purchased. There are three types of buildings and within those types are different sizes of each. Larger buildings typically have more benefits than smaller buildings. The three types of buildings are Commercial, Civic and Residential. Commercial Buildings mainly focus on earning the player’s coins, but larger buildings do give some points at the end of the round. Civic Buildings allow players to gain points based on what buildings surround the Civic Building. Residential Buildings allow players to gain population. Players gain points based on their population during the end of round scoring. 

When constructing a building, the player must have the appropriate lots to fit the building. Sometimes players may opt to remove smaller buildings to allow for larger buildings to take their place. Players may only remove buildings that are smaller than the building they are placing. Any removed buildings return to the player’s board. 

When players take income they gain five coins plus the number shown on their Commercial Buildings. When players purchase deeds, they will look at the Deed Board, and determine the value of that specific deed. Deeds will be valued in ascending order on the board, with the cheapest being two coins and the most expensive being ten. When one is purchased, the player will slide the remaining cards down making each cheaper and fill in the blank spot. Then place their player marker on the acquired lot. 

Players will continue until all lots in the era have been purchased. Each player will take an additional turn, and then era scoring and reset will occur. Each era, players will gain points according to the era on the deed board. Players will gain points for Residential Buildings, uncovered Commercial Glory Points, and Civic Buildings. For Residential Buildings, players will gain points based on their place on the Population Track. The player in first will gain the numerical value they are on, plus an additional value depending on the era. Each other player will gain points based on the value of Population for the player directly ahead of them. 

Civic Buildings will score according to the symbols on placed buildings, giving points to the player for any orthogonally adjacent buildings. Commercial Buildings give points based on the uncovered Glory Points symbol on the player board. Additionally at the end of each round, players will gain the coin value uncovered on their player board. The exception being the last era, where players will gain points instead of coins. 

Once all scoring has concluded, players will replenish the deed board and continue play. The game ends after three eras. 


Foundations of Rome’s components are the star of the show. The game includes three dimension city building tiles that will eventually fill in a city board. This gives the feel of watching the city being built before your eyes as players place their own additions into the city. In order to help cut down on set up and clean up time, each player has their own tray that is stored within the box ready to set up. This was one of my favorite features of the game because it makes the game very quick to get into. In these trays, players will have their buildings, icon tiles, lot markers, and score markers.

The game also includes a variety of cards including lot cards, player aids, and invocation cards. In addition to the cards the game includes three boards: the city board, the scoreboard and the deed board.

The production value of this game is incredible. This was clearly one of the goals while producing Foundations of Rome and it can be seen throughout the various components. The buildings with the fitted icon tiles provide great table presence, and the individualized lot markers for each player allow for a very clear visual of who owns which tile. 



  • Easy to set up
  • Scales well at each player count
  • Quick and easy to learn
  • Great table presence
  • Simple, yet engaging strategy


  • Set up can be very luck based
  • Large and somewhat unwieldy box
  • High cost
  • Limited interaction in base game

Foundations of Rome is a stunning game that provides a lot of opportunity for enjoyment. Players who enjoy games like Bunny Kingdom, Castles of the Mad King Ludwig or other similar tile laying games will likely enjoy the mechanics of Foundations of Rome. The base mechanics are extremely simple to teach, and each player has a player guide for reminders. There are also modules and an expansion that can add a little complexity or replayability for those interested. I love that this game is so quick and easy to get to the table and start playing. That being said, the simplicity of the game can lead some people to feel that it is overproduced and too expensive for the length and complexity of game play.

Personally, I love the aesthetic of the game, and feel that its production value is a large part of what makes it stand out. If aesthetics are not extremely important to you as a gamer, this will likely not be worth the investment. The second printing of the Kickstarter just completed in August, and to get into the game players would be looking at a $200 USD or more investment. For many players, this will be too high of a cost for a single game with limited complexity. Additionally, for those who frequently need to bring games elsewhere to play, the box is extremely large and heavy. It can make it difficult to bring with you to new locations. 

That being said, I do feel that the simplicity of the game is a benefit in many ways. It is a game with a wow factor visually without complex or difficult to follow rules. The game scales well between 2-5 players, but I do tend to prefer higher player count games as I think the Civic Buildings have more of a chance to shine in those higher player count games.  While there is no direct player interaction within the game, where players choose to put their individual buildings can have an impact on your overall score and having more variety of buildings down can help a player when they are trying to decide upon their strategy. 

In addition to struggles with price point, the complaint I have seen the most at our table while playing this game was the luck of the draw setup. Sometimes one player will get lucky and have the majority of their plots nearby or in an advantageous position while other players are more spread out. This can make it difficult for the other players to get some of those higher scoring buildings down. Players could potentially fix this with a house rule involving drafting, but rules as written may frustrate some players. 

Overall, while I would not suggest this game for everyone, I do think that there is an audience that would really enjoy the game. For those who do not mind paying more for a higher production or table presence, this is going to be a great game to easily get to the table. The ease of setup and simple rules set make it a frequent flyer at our house because it can be retaught and ready to go in about 5-7 minutes. Also, while the rules are pretty simple the actual decisions can be rather thinky and can provide players with interesting choices to make throughout. I do not suggest this game for players who are looking for complex or challenging game play, for players who do not often get the same game to the table multiple times or for players who want to bring games along with them while traveling or playing at stores. While I enjoyed the game and have found it to be worth the price, everyone has different values and things they are looking for from games, and definitely with this in mind, Foundations of Rome will not appeal to everyone.

One thought on “Review of Foundations of Rome

  1. Hey! It’s been a while, good to see you active again. Hope things are alright. Thanks for this review, Yeah, I loved the aesthetic but 200 dollars is a bit much. Gotta say that it looks beautiful going up though.


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