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Via Appia – A gimmicky stone pushing game with a lot of heart.

Game Information
Via Appia
DesignerMichael Feldkötter
ArtistMarko Fiedler, Claus Stephan
PublisherQueen Games
Year Published2013
# of Players2 - 4
Playing Time45
Mfg Suggested Ages8 and up
CategoryAction / Dexterity, Ancient
MechanicPress Your Luck, Tile Placement
FamilyAncient Rome, Queen Yellow Wave Box Series

Info courtesy of boardgamegeek.com. More Info.

When I had the game described to me, the first thing that was mentioned was this mechanic where you shove rocks through a “grinder” in a fashion very similar to the quarter pusher machines you see at the fair or arcades.  I was sold, lets play!  You see, I love it when a game incorporates such a “gimmick”.  I admit that they are often cheesy, and do nothing for the game play, but when they are done well, it’s amazing.

Via Appia is a game about building a road between cities.  There are three sections of road to be built, and each requires stones of different shapes and sizes to complete.  The person to most efficiently build the road, and move along it the quickest to the next place, will receive victory points for their efforts.  And, just like with most resource management games, the person with the most victory points is the winner.

On a turn, each player takes one of several possible actions: you can take money or raw materials, you can move along the road, you can place rock tiles on the road, or you can send rocks through the crusher.  The crusher is really the fun part of the game.  It’s a card board pedestal with a lip on both sides to keep all of the “stones” in.  However, both ends of the pedestal have no lip and thus you can force stones out.  If you choose the crusher option on your turn, you put one of your raw stones at the edge of the track, and push it in using the “pusher” tool, this forces the stones to move, and hopefully fall out the other end.  The different sizes of stones corresponds to the different possible stone tiles that you can use to build the road.

The game play feels like a big game of chicken.  I find this to be an interesting thing, but some of my players found it down right disheartening.  You see, each action that you do benefits the next person.  If you crush stones, you can end up packing the stones tighter, which will make them more likely to fall for the next person.  If you move from one city to the next, it becomes cheaper for your opponents to move along the road.  If you play road pieces, it can allow you opponents to zoom ahead of you.  If you take raw materials, the benefit for doing so becomes greater for the next person.  So every action you take has to be weighed, will it help you more than it can potentially help your opponents?

Besides some players not enjoying the game of chicken, one downfall of the pusher mechanic (which I enjoyed), is that it’s significantly easier to manipulate from one side of the table than the other.  This either forces players to get up and move around the table each time, or be at a disadvantage.  You might think that “a push is a push”, but you do have an ability to affect the outcome through careful, skillful pushes, because unlike the pusher machines in the arcade, you can angle the pusher slightly to get the maximum outcome.

Review of
'Via Appia'
Mechanics:         (although, I love the pusher)
Price ($47.99):   
Overall Rating:    
(Middle of the road, not bad, not great)

After having played the game a few times now, I would play it again, which says something quite positive about its mechanics, but I’m not dying to play it again, which is also telling.  The game has a pretty uniform strategy for winning, and while you can vary it up slightly, you can’t deviate very far.  This lack of variable paths to victory make it less than appealing for a lot of repeat play.  But I do love that pusher… so you can probably talk me into another game or five.

So as I mentioned earlier, a good gimmick can make a game outstanding.  I personally really like the gimmick, and if they substituted it out for something more standard (a die roll perhaps), I would have a very different opinion of this game.  The gimmick is the selling point, and it was executed as well as I think can be expected given the nature of the beast, but without it the game would feel very dry and simply an exercise in patience.

This entry was posted by The_Null_Entry on Wednesday, September 11th, 2013 at 12:55 pm and is filed under Board Game Reviews, Resource Management Games . Editing for this post was performed by Molly Ellis . You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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