Cambria, designed by Eric Vogel and published by Vainglorious Games, is an area control & dice rolling game for 3-5 players lasting 20-30 minutes. Players represent Hibernian warriors attacking the thinly protected Roman fortresses and roads near the end of the Roman occupation of Britannia.
Players take turns rolling dice and placing cubes or the Legion pawn onto the roads that lead to the fortresses. When a fortress is completely encircled by cubes, the player with the clear majority of cubes becomes the winner of the victory point token on the fortress. Some fortresses award points to the clear second place majority holder (if one exists). If no clear second place majority holder exists, the points are not awarded.
Unlike games like Samurai which awards tokens as soon as a city is encircled, Cambria only awards victory points when a single clear majority holder exists. If a tie exists for first place, the fortress and its victory points remain contested.
Cambria relies on the outcome of rolling two dice for the placement of cubes. On their turn, players roll the dice and are allowed to place a single cube on an unoccupied road that leads to a fortress represented by either of the dice. For example, if the roll was a three and a five, the player could place a cube onto a road that leads to a fortress designated with a three [b]or[/b] to a fortress designated with a five. If doubles are rolled, the player is allowed to place a cube on an unoccupied or occupied road (allows for the removal a rival player or the Legion pawn).
Fortresses are worth from two to six victory points so, as you might expect, rolling a one has special meaning. A roll with a single one and any non-one (e.g. a one and a six) grants the player the option of placing a cube normally (using the six) or placing the Legion pawn on the road represented by the non-one die (i.e. the six) The Legion pawn is allowed to kick off rival players when placed and places a block on awarding points since a fortress can only be awarded when it is encircled completely by cubes. If double ones are rolled, then the player must move the Legion pawn.
Any time the Legion pawn is moved by a player, that player has the option of placing a cube onto one of the unoccupied ships to the west of the land mass. The cube remains on the ship and can be used on subsequent turns to modify the value of your roll. Immediately after rolling the dice, at the start of your turn, you may choose to modify one of the die using any single cube you have placed on a ship in a previous turn. For example, if you’ve rolled a three and a five and you have a cube on the three ship, you may remove the cube from the three ship, and convert the five to a three. After the optional conversion, your turn progresses normally with the new values on the die. You are free to remove a cube from a ship without modifying the roll (for purposes of placing the cube on a road).
When six or fewer fortresses remain on the board, the game ends and final scoring takes place by evaluating all remaining fortresses for a clear majority awarding points as if each fortress was completely encircled.
The winner is the player with the most victory points.
The cubes are plastic. The Legion pawn is wooden as are the victory point tokens affixed with stickers showing their point values. The board is a small, non-folding, rectangle of chipboard affixed with the map. The dice are smaller than I expected but functional. The box is oversized and very thin and showed a fair amount of top down crushing/deflection. You would not want to stack anything on top of this game.
The artwork is relatively austere (shades of light green), but functional.
I’ve played Cambria numerous times covering all numbers in the allowed player range and I’ve played the game with adults in my gaming group and with my kids. I must say that the game is fun. The randomness of the dice is mitigated to some degree by using cubes on the ships. In the end, you are at the mercy of the dice so the game is not heavy.
The play time is short making it perfect for a lunch-time game at work. Given a smaller box and maybe even a foldable board, one could reduce the size of the game dramatically.
The game does exhibit a fair amount of “take that” by allowing players to knock other players off juicy spots on roads and by dumping the Legion pawn in a hotly contested area. I’m not fond of the end game grab of incomplete fortresses as this can cause a wild swing at the end of the game.
With three players the board feels wide open but not overly so. It takes more of your own cubes to encircle the higher numbered fortresses which means you’ll be less involved in the lower valued areas. I’ve played games that flowed very quickly and were over in 10-15 minutes and I’ve played knock down, drag out, games that have taken 30-40 minutes to play.
With four players, the contention for cities is higher but both games I played with this number were very short. I’m unsure if that was due to the luck of the dice or a knee in the curve somewhere.
With five players, fortresses were highly contested, and there was a lot of blocking going on with the Legion pawn. However, there were a few rounds where people passed having no place of interest to place a cube. I can only surmise that five is just slightly too many players although I did still have fun.
I do wish that there were some ways to mix up the layout of the map in some way to keep the game interesting. Fixed map games like Hacienda enjoy a large following of home-grown maps that keep the game interesting and I wish that there could be some way to spice the game up a bit after multiple plays.
I also wish that there was a two-player variant of the game although I suspect that that would require some form of ghost third player like Alhambra.
I’ve rated Cambria a 7/10 mostly due to its simplicity of play, size, short time length. It’s not a “brain burner” but it really does fit well as an opener/closer for your game nights or for an after lunch game while at work.