As a birthday gift I got a new board game for two players: Caesar and Cleopatra. But after a few rounds I wondered whether the rich get richer in this game, or that both players get equal opportunities.
In Caesar and Cleopatra two players, Caesar and Cleopatra, compete for the vote of the patricians. The player that is the most influential in the right group at the right moment will get the vote of a patrician of that group. The goal is to get most of the votes of the patricians.
In you turn you play influence cards with a certain value on your side of a patrician group to increase the chances that you get the vote of this group of patricians. At the end of your turn draw a vote of confidence card. This card directs a group of patricians to voice their current preference for one of the players. For example, if you draw the Censor card, the player with the highest influence at the Censors will get a card from this group. In total there are 8 confidence cards. One for each faction, the other three are orgies: two normal ones where nothing happens and one orgy requesting a reshuffle. A patrician cannot be drawn twice, unless the reshuffle orgy has been drawn.
In each turn you try your best to get more influence point at your side of the patricians than your opponent has at his side. But you only get to play one or two influence cards each turn, so you want to play them strategically. It seems smart to have as little as possible, but just a little more influence than your opponent; to win with only one point difference is the best. But because you try to keep your lead as small as possible, your opponent has the opportunity to close the gap in his turn. In general, the distribution of influence is more advantageous for you at the end of your turn than at the end of your opponent’s turn, you prefer drawing a vote of confidence card than an orgy. However, if you draw an orgy, your opponent has the chance to redistribute the influence cards in his favor. But not only this, the probability distribution swifts in favor of your opponent.
The game has the following probability distribution.
|Amount of patrician cards in the deck||Chance you draw a patrician||Chance after 1 orgy||Chance after 2 orgies|
|5||5/8 (63%)||5/7 (71%)||5/6 (83%)|
|4||4/7 (57%)||4/6 (67%)||4/5 (80%)|
|3||3/6 (50%)||3/5 (60%)||3/4 (75%)|
|2||2/5 (40%)||2/4 (50%)||2/3 (68%)|
|1||1/4 (25%)||1/3 (33%)||1/2 (50%)|
The chance for the first player to draw a patrician is 63%. If he draws a patrician, the chances of the second player to also draw a patrician decrease to 57%. After all, there are relatively less patrician cards in the confidence cards deck. But if he draws a normal orgy instead, the chances for the second player increase to 71%. Drawing an orgy will thus not only give your opponent the opportunity to change the distribution of influence cards in his favor, it also increases the chance for your opponent to draw a patrician.
This double drawback is not the only flaw of the game. The probability distribution favors the first player: he has namely 63% to draw a patrician. Most of the time he will thus do so. The chance that the second player will then also draw a patrician is only 57%, it is thus less likely that the second player draws a patrician than the first player. This advantage for the first player continues until there is a reshuffle. And because the second player has bigger chance to draw the reshuffle-orgy than the first player, this again gives an advantage to the first player.
Does this mean that you should never play Caesar and Cleopatra? That’s too strong. Assessing your opponent is a big element of the game and really fun to do. Overall the game is super exiting and engaging. But because of the unbalanced probability distribution, loosing really sucks. Only play this game when you’re a good loser.