Published by Asmodee and now over twenty five years old, Ave Ceasar is a quick-playing game in which the players compete to win a chariot race in the famous Circus Maximus in Ancient Rome. Designed for three to six players, they must complete three laps of the circuit and stop in the Imperial Alley to proclaim “Hail Ceasar!” using a limited supply of movement cards.
The board is double-sided, with a track for three to four players on one and a track for five to six players on the other. Each player receives a chariot, a coin (to pay as tribute to Ceasar), and a deck of cards (consisting of the numbers one through six, four times for a total of thirty-six cards). It is from his deck of cards that each player will draw a hand of three cards that will give his movement options each turn.
This being a chariot racing game, the players can only move forward, either straight or diagonally. This is done by playing a card and moving the exact number of spaces indicated on the card. It must be exact, because if a player does not have a card that will move him the exact number of spaces ahead of him, he cannot move. This happens often because only one player can occupy a space and it is part of the game that one player can block another, both maps being designed with several chokepoints. At other times, a player will find himself forced to play a card and make an unintended manoeuvre because it is the only legal move that he can make.
It is also vital to grab the inside lane on either of the circuits. This is because a player has just sufficient cards to get his chariot round the course three times and salute Caesar the once—and no more. If a player spends too long in the outer lane, then he will run out of cards and with his horses exhausted, be out of the race.
Although it would appear that the race leader has all of the advantages with the open track ahead of him, this is not always the case. He cannot play a ‘6’ card, so cannot not easily pull away from those behind him. This means that the others can catch him up if they have ‘6’ cards to hand.
Lastly a player must pay tribute to Ceasar. This means that he actually has to stop in Imperial Alley after the first or second circuit of the track. This can really limit his movement options if another player blocks Imperial Alley, forcing him to go around and try again on the next circuit. Of course, should a player fail to pay tribute, then he cannot win the game.
A race in Ave Ceasar is three circuits of the course. The game is a good filler, but can be played as a league and once the basic game has been played, the game does include several variant rules.
Ave Ceasar plays quickly and easily. It is enjoyably frustrating and its simplicity means that younger gamers will enjoy it as a good, quick race game; but seasoned gamers will enjoy turning Ave Ceasar into a cut-throat affair as they whip the horses and attempt to block each other.