Pax Romana Title Graphic

Nick Glading {}
Anthony Amorteguy {}

instructional objective

The game will reinforce the important information of Roman history that students would typically be tested on during the SAT or AP History tests. Learners will reinforce important names, dates, and events, while gaining a deeper understanding for the difficulties of expanding an empire and costs to maintain it. Thus, the students will learn from their own successes and failures while emulating the Roman Empire.

Most questions are formatted similarly to AP and SAT questions. This game can be used as a supplemental preparation for these tests.

The following California standards and rationale have been targeted:

Historical Literacy

  • Analyze cause and effect
  • Understand the reasons for continuity and change

Geographic Literacy

  • Develop an awareness of place
  • Understand human and environmental interaction
  • Understand human movement

Economic Literacy

  • Understand the basic economic problems confronting all societies

Content Standards - Grade Six

  • Standard 6.7: Students analyze the geographic, political, economic, religious, and social structures during the development of Rome
  • Chronological and Spatial Thinking 3: Students use a variety of maps and documents to identify physical and cultural features of neighborhoods, cities, states, and countries and to explain the historical migration of people, expansion and disintegration of empires, and the growth of economic systems
  • Chronological and Spatial Thinking 1: Students explain how major events are related to one another in time

Content Standards - Grade 10

  • Chronological and Spatial Thinking 1: Students compare the present with the past, evaluating the consequences of past events and decisions and determining the lessons that were learned
  • Chronological and Spatial Thinking 3: Students use a variety of maps and documents to interpret human movement, including major patterns of domestic and international migration, changing environmental preferences and settlement patterns, the frictions that develop between population groups, and the diffusion of ideas, technological innovations, and goods

learners and context of use

Target learners are high school AP history students (11-12th graders) who have just completed a thorough segment on Roman history. AP students are typically highly motivated to succeed, especially on their SAT and AP tests. Many students are already very interested in history since they are above average scholars, and the individuals who are less interested are most likely seeking more enjoyable ways to gain and study the knowledge of history.

Although the game was intended for classroom use, it could easily be played at home in study groups to study for a test or just for fun. The game is designed for four players, however it would be quite easy for the entire class to play together in four separate teams.

The game can be played multiple times to continue to reinforce the subject matter for testing. A good strategy for multiple games is to keep record of who (or what team) completed the game in the least amount of turns (meaning they missed the least amount of questions during the game). This strategy would encourage students to master the knowledge and attempt to win the game on just 1 turn!

Although the game was designed for high school AP history students, the content can easily be adjusted by the professor to better fit the target audience. The teacher can tailor the questions more closely to the content they are actually teaching, making it possible that the game could be played by learners from middle school all the way through college and even master or doctoral students.

object of the game

You are Julius Caesar (or Caesar Augustus if you prefer) and you begin the game in Rome, preparing to conquer all of Europe (at least as far as the greatest extent of the Roman Empire). The goal is to conquer all of the territory the Romans once conquered, province by province, by overcoming your enemies, barbarian tribes, and devastating sea storms without being overwhelmed by the swelling costs of maintaining an empire.

The first Caesar to conquer all of the Roman provinces wins. Game play can be modified and the win can be awarded to the first player or team to acquire 75 Civilization Points (CP), or any other pre-determined CP level.

game materials

The following are lists of game materials need to play the game.


Other Materials:

  • 1 6-Sided die
  • Denarii
    • You may us plastic poker chips (representing 1 denarii, 5 denarii, or 10 denarii). You may use "coins" from a craft or toy store.
  • For marking territories gained, you will need:
    • Dry erase markers, or
    • Colored games pieces (similar to Risk game pieces)

Sample Game Pieces

Game Pieces Illustration

Game Board

Game Board Illustration

Came Cards Reverse

Question Card Illustration Fate Card Illustration

time required

Game setup would take only minutes.

Lay out the game board. Place the Question Cards and Fate Cards on their appropriate squares on the Game Board. Each player gets a Player card and 10 denarii. Place additional denarii in separate place next to game board.

The actual length of game play would most likely be around one hour, or could extend to an additional class period, depending upon how well the students know the material.

A short version of the game can be played by using the modified rules described above and in detail following; "Quick Start Rules".

the rules

Game Structure:

  1. All players start game with 10 denarii (it can represent hundreds or thousands of denarii, whatever you think is most appropriate)
  2. Players roll the die to determine who goes first, then play continues clockwise.
  3. A turn starts with the player receiving the taxes from their provinces (adding up the tax value for each conquered province)
  4. The player may choose either to move one space or stay at their current location in order to conquer the territory on which their playing piece sits
  5. When moving onto sea spaces, player must take risk of being hit by a major sea storm and having their fleet destroyed, and thus being automatically sent back to Rome. Roll the die to determine this. If you roll a 1 you are hit by a storm and your fleet is destroyed. You must move your piece back to Rome and you lose your turn. If you don't roll a one, move again. You must repeat this risk roll EVERY TIME you move onto a sea space
  6. Each player must start off by conquering Italia
  7. In order to conquer a territory, a player must draw a question card and answer it correctly.
  8. If the player answers correctly, they conquer the territory, mark it off on their player card, and receive denarii equivalent to its Tax Value (from plundering). The player then gets to go again
  9. If the player answers incorrectly, they draw a Fate Card and follows its instructions (which can be either good or bad) because not all losses were always bad
  10. Finally, to complete your turn you must pay your Empire Maintenance fees, by adding up the total number of provinces you have conquered and checking the Maintenance Cost Chart on your player card. Pay that many denarii back to the "bank"
  11. It is now the next player's turn
  12. Play continues until one player conquers all of the provinces (or reaches a set amount of CP Value)
  13. When a player reaches 25 CPs, their influence has increased enough to merit an additional general to be used to conquer territory. When a player has acquired an additional general they can move two different pieces and conquer territories in two different directions, thereby covering more territory. Also, now each general must be defeated (by incorrectly answering a question) before your turn is over

Game Play (one turn):

  1. Calculate tax income
  2. Move one space (adjacent territory) or stay to answer Question to conquer present territory
    • If answer is correct: mark off territory and collect taxes
    • If answer is incorrect: draw a Fate card
  3. Pay Empire Maintenance fees

Note: Each player is playing on the same board simultaneously (essentially parallel realities).

Quick Start Rules:

Essentially the same rules as above, however each player begins with 20 denarii, Italia, and an extra general. Also, players must only reach 50 CPs to win.

design process

Nick Glading

The first thoughts I had coming up with this game was a deciding upon a content area that I was already familiar and interested in. Due to my interest in history, I chose the Roman Empire. I also felt that it had plenty of content to cover and is usually taught in school, so it would be appropriate. I'm also enjoy Jeopardy and Trivial Pursuit, so I wanted to incorporate questions into the game. Also, from my experiences in learning history, I always referenced the maps provided to help me place what I was learning. For that reason, I felt it was important that the game board be an actual map of the Roman Empire. It serves the purpose of making the game more enjoyable, while also keeping the content in context, and reinforcing geography. We even added a small touch of inserting various Latin names for the provinces and bodies of water to add a extra subtle area of content.

Initially I thought of dividing up the Roman Empire into 5 separate regions which would be conquered by answering questions that were directly related the content of that specific region. However, upon going deeper into the content I realized that some regions had much more content than other areas and this would be too difficult. We also considered dividing the content into different categories, like Emperors, Religion, Major Battles, etc., but again we didn't like the fit with the game play.

Instead we opted to divide up the questions into two time periods, Rome until Augustus, and the Empire after Augustus. The questions will be assigned to the territories that were in Roman possession during each time period. So we color coded the provinces on the map to represent all of the territories of the Roman Empire until 44 BC, and then the rest of the territories that were conquered after that. The two different types of Question Cards are assigned to each region, with the content being specific to that particular time period.

Another aspect of the game that ended up changing was how players would move along the board. Initially we were going to have set paths the players must travel along, answering questions on colored dots. We didn't like the rigid feel of movement, and the lack of player choice, so we changed the movement to be province by province, like Risk.

A major point I wanted to stress was the difficulty of maintaining and conquering a large empire. We juggled with this concept for a while, until finally incorporating the concept of taxes and maintenance fees. The vital part being the increasing maintenance costs with increasing amount of territories, representing the growing costs of corruption, revolts, etc. Once we came to this decision it made it easy and appropriate to assign different tax values to each province based upon the importance and significance of the resources they provided to the Empire. This was also done with determining the Civilization Value of each province, which is based on the difficulty of conquering and/or maintaining control over each province. These two aspects are critical to the game. They give the player control of how strategically conquer the territories which would benefit them the most and help them win the game the fastest.

All of the details came into focus from digging deeper and deeper into the content of the Roman Empire. I basically had to review the entire history of the Empire to get a feel for its structure and the different hot points. To help us clarify and simplify game play, we had numerous conversations with different friends about the game for further brainstorming, and game tested the prototype to make sure the game was playable. These conversations and prototype tests were essential to bringing it all together in a way that was simple and made sense, while still being challenging and fun.

What I found to be most important in making a game is really knowing your content. Only when you fully grasp the extent of your content can you determine how your game should be played out.

Anthony Amorteguy

I had a similar interest in ancient history as Nick. We discussed the overall subject matter and felt we both had sufficient interest to devote the time to constructing this game.

Initially, I envisioned a game similar to military strategy games. Essentially played on maps with a hexagonal overlay. The players would move through each province taking control of major cities and eventually the province itself. As we further strategized game play, we saw that the length of game play was going to be too extensive. Knowing that this was targeted for classrooms, where extended board layout was usually not possible, we needed to design a game that can be effectively played in a class period or less.

We worked on a race type game idea, but that was quickly discarded as too artificial. We needed learning elements that emulated the rigors of an expanding empire that accentuated the stresses placed on the entire empire as it expanded further out with new territories.

We then decides on a game that emulated the game play of Risk. This added a level of realism that a race game cannot match. Additionally, by modifying the goal for winning (i.e., conquer all or set a CP value for a win) we could effectively control the length of game play to match the classroom situation.

A major advantage of this particular game is that it will be adaptable to a variety of classroom settings. We have supplied the structure for game play, but the teacher can easily modify the content be printing his or her own question cards, effectively tailoring the game to the particular classroom.

My learning through this process was focused on how to keep it simple. To many variables quickly and exponentially complicate the game rules. When we first discussed the game with Karl (the class Graduate Assistant) he sat glassy eyed at the depth of rules and scenarios we laid out. So many in fact, I really can't remember all of them. Nick and I realized that the direction we were heading was not realistic for the targeted players.

I think in the end, our game is effective and simple enough to meet its stated instructional goals without be so complicated as to take a class period to learn the rules.