“The Titanodon are coming, prepare defensive posture”
Elisa clutched the handle of her rifle and felt the gentle content hum of her Media armor. This was her first sortie as a Probatus of the glorious Guardia Adamantis, Holy Rome herself, and she swore to herself that she wouldn’t be found wanting. Silently assessing the situation, the Praetorian prepared herself for the obvious next command.
She raised her weapon and steadied it on top of the shield raised by her fellow Praetorian, a hulking brute in Heavy armor named Matteo. The small group of Soldiers huddled together in their makeshift turtle posture and waited for their commander to give them the next orders.
Matteo’s armour was a shining bronze cut with red filigree signifying his rank as a Triarius. Attempting to steady her gun, Elisa fount the giant metal shield of Matteo was shaking.
“Matteo.” the Probatus asked her defender. “are you trembling? You will throw off my shot with your fear.”
“Not fear.” the giant answered, his vocal augmenter growled. “It’s anticipation.”
Their commander unsheathed her pistol and sword and shouted to her Praetorians.
Elisa centered her sights on a large reptilian brute running towards her position. Its body was a rush of red and grey scales and the only thing in focus was its oversized maw full of sharp teeth, red with fresh blood from kill. Red from the blood of one of Rome’s citizens. She pulled the butt of the weapon to her shoulder and gritted her teeth.
“Do me a favor cadet.” Matteo grumbled.
“What's that?” Elisa asked
“Leave a few for me to kill” Matteo readied his spear for the oncoming alien charge.
Augusta Universalis is a game created by Luca De Marini that takes place in an alternate history where the Roman Empire conquered the Earth and its people and where they ushered in a spacefaring culture that spans throughout our solar system and beyond. It’s a strong mix of grim dark science fiction and classical roman aesthetics with modern-day nods and call backs that are both creative and thought provoking. Like many alternative history settings, Augusta Universalis demands players suspend their belief and pick up blaster and sword to protect the Empire, all while wearing power armor.
Roman legionaries in Power Armor fighting Dinosaur Aliens and Nazi’s on Mars, got it? Great, let's move on.
Here are 4 reason why you should play Augusta Universalis.
1) The story
To say that the setting of Augusta Universalis is dense is somewhat of an understatement to be completely clear. This isn't a bad thing depending upon what you want from an RPG setting, I myself adore a setting that is rich and deep with lore and history (just look at my collection of White Wolf games for proof). However, for new narrators and players this can be an hurdle. This game features a lot of unfamiliar terms to most players. If attempting to run this game with new players a strong session 0 where everyone learns about the setting and collectively builds their Praetorians is strongly advised.
The setting features an interstellar Roman Empire that has (mostly) united and absorbed the rest of humanity and is defiantly capable of playing to different genres. The game describes it’s setting as “ Unchronia” or Roman Punk. You can be stationed in Holy Rome herself, protecting the Imperial Senate form threats both political and militaristic, out upon the sands and ring cities of red Mars beating up Nazis, or exploring the boarders of our solar system. The variety the game offers is impressive.
It reads as a love letter to both world history and science fiction and I dig it.
2) The Rules
Augusta Universali’s system is run on the Dark Destiny 2 engine, a quick paced system that involves the player in the narrative right along with the narrator, creating a wonderful layer of multifaceted storytelling which is striking. Players are rewarded for adding to the narrative, so your game feels more like a collective story than a singular narrative driven by one party.
Utilizing basic questions of what, why, and how, this system strips the mechanics down into easy and quick actions letting the story move at a brisk pace. While I am still experimenting with the Dark Destiny 2 system, I am impressed and intrigued with ways to utilize some of its mechanics.
3) NPC’s and Foes
While the story is engaging, I find myself crazily drawn to the Beastarium and the utterly unique foes that your Praetorians are pitted against. Featuring spacecraft and transports, political dissidents and aliens, the Beastarium is chock full of great antagonists despite is small size. From Martian Nazis (yup you can punch a Nazi in this game. It’s fun. I recommend it, 5 stars), interstellar Dinosaur men with laser (speaking my language), rebels, mad max style techno barbarians and alien ooze monsters… there is a lot to enjoy here. Hopefully they keep this growing in future expansions (and give us more reasons to punch Nazis).
4. The Art
This book is stunning. The artwork done by Fabio Porfidia and Gaetano Carlucci ranges from the more classical roman aesthetic to Science Fiction elements and really manages to merge them well. This merging allows readers and players to buy into the setting quickly and sets the stage for storytelling in a way that would have been more daunting without it.
The many different character options are beautifully rendered and explained through the art. Higher than most of the books in my collection, Augusta Univeralis benefits greatly from its artwork and is another fine example of how words and artwork can push a product forward into greatness.
The art is worth the price of admission alone.
All in all, Augusta Univeralis is a unique and clever game and it definitely deserves a place on your bookshelf and countless hours on your table. You can get your copy of Augusta Univeralis here.
Per aspera ad astra, my fellow Praetorians.
Michael Jacobson is a freelance writer and an Active Duty US Sailor. His work has been featured in products like Snowhaven 2nd Ed, Night Horrors: Shunned by the Moon and more coming thru the pipes. When he isn’t running games, running in general and drinking Dr.Pepper he can be found fanboying out about Dinosaurs, Star Wars and turtle of both normal and the Ninja Mutant variety.
All blog materials created and developed by the staff here at High Level Games