Barracks Emperor

A historical megagame about the Roman Empire during the Crisis of the Third Century, focusing on the tumultuous period from 248 to 285 CE, when barbarian invasions threatened Gaul, the Danubian provinces, and the Orient, while a succession of soldier Emperors fought for control of Rome. During the worst phase of this anarchy, the Roman Empire split into three, with unity only being restored through heroic efforts. It was also a time of religious change, with the spread of Christianity, and a close association between successful Emperors and heroic cults.

In this megagame we play to find out if the Roman Empire survives, and if it survives what does it change into?

For a quick overview of this period of history, here are some links to youtube videos:

For more detailed background, I recommend the History of Rome podcast, starting with the Severan dynasty.

Where and When

The physical Megagame will be held on Saturday, 16 October 2021 at the Newlands Community Centre. The game will start at 10am and finish by 5pm (New Zealand Time). The online component of the game will be hosted on Discord (for communications) and Zoom (to stream map information).

Covid: The Megagame will be held at Alert Level 2, but will be postponed if at Alert Level 3 or 4. At Alert Level 2, a maximum of 50 people will be allowed in the venue.

Parking: There is a free car park nearby, but on Saturday mornings there is heavy use for sports. The venue is on the number 52 Bus Route.

Food: Free tea and coffee will be available. There is a supermarket a short walk away, along with several takeaway shops.

Buying a Physical Ticket

Tickets are on sale at Lil Regie. Prices are $50 (patron), $20 (waged), or $10 (unwaged). Generous patrons will have our thanks, but will not have any extra privileges in the game. The extra money from Patrons will go towards bling for the game, and extras for everyone at the event (e.g. free tea and coffee).

Buying an Online Ticket

Tickets are on sale at Lil Regie. Virtual tickets are intended for players outside of Wellington. Discord and Zoom information will be emailed out to all online attendees a week before the event is held. Generous patrons will have our thanks, but will not have any extra privileges in the game. The extra money from Patrons will go towards IT equipment for the game.

Refund Policy

All ticket fees paid to Lil Regie are held until after the game is run. If you are unable to make the game and get in touch with Dillon at, before the game is run, a full refund will be arranged.

Facebook Event Page

Facebook event is here. Updates about the game will be posted there.

Player Roles

There will be 20-50 player roles in the game. Most of the player roles will be Roman, with one team of players for the Sassanid Empire, and another team of players for the Palmyrean Empire. The barbarians on the Rhine and Danube frontiers may be a non-player threat of constant raids and occasional massive invasions, but if we have enough players there will be a couple of Barbarian roles. Roman player roles will include:

  • The Emperor
  • Senators (wealthy aristocrats), who have the following roles:
    • 2-3 Dux (regional commanders in Gaul, the Danube, and the Orient)
    • Up to 24 Legates (commanders of one to three legions)
    • 3-6 Senators (in Rome)
  • Equestrians (knights, socially inferior to senators), who have the following roles:
    • Commander of the Praetorian Guard (the Imperial bodyguard)
    • Governor of Egypt (and commander of its legion)
    • Commander of the Legio Parthica III (stationed just outside Rome)
    • Commander of the Urban Cohorts (a paramilitary force in Rome)
    • Commander of the Praetorian Fleets (naval fleets in Italy, and the naval training reserve)
    • Court officials (in charge of the imperial household or mints)
    • An envoy responsible for diplomacy

The city-state of Palmyra is a wealthy Roman client state that briefly became a splinter empire controlling many of the provinces in the eastern part of the Roman Empire. Plamyrean roles include:

  • King Odaenathus, Roman senator, team leader
  • Queen Zenobia, wife of Odaenathus
  • Septimius Zabdas, chief general of the army
  • Septimius Zabbai, general of the army
  • Cassius Longinus, rhetorician and philosopher, team diplomat

The Sassanid Empire is a new dynasty in the Parthia, their cavalry forces are feared by the Romans and have often inflicted severe defeats against the legions. Sassanid player roles include:

  • Shapur, team leader, commander of the army
  • Kirdisro, viceroy of the empire
  • Peroz, chief of the cavalry
  • Hormzid, son and heir of Shapur
  • Kartir, Zoroastrian priest, team diplomat

There are many tribes of barbarians to the north of the Roman Empire along the Rhine and Danubian frontiers. The historical record is sparse when it comes to the names of barbarian leaders. As a construct for the game, the barbarian teams on the Gaul and Danube maps will each have several chieftains, with the team leader role rotating between players each turn, and a team diplomat.

If there are more than 40 players, there may be an option for a number of roles based on Rhetoric (making speeches). This might also be part of the team diplomat roles. In other megagames this would be called a media role, but for this game the roles will have a religious element:

  • Christianity (Orthodox or Heretic)
  • Zoroastrianism (on the Sassanid team)
  • Imperial panegyrist (praiser, deliverer of eulogies)
  • Traditional pagan cults (e.g. Jupiter, Mars)
  • New pagan cults (e.g. Mithras, Sol Invictus).

As this was a time of economic decline in the Roman Empire, there is unlikely to be a dedicated trading subgame unless there is very high interest in the megagame (more than 40 players).

Faction briefings

The following faction briefings are available to read:


Casting of player roles will be done either a week after all tickets are sold, or a week before the game starts, whichever comes first. Players attending the game in person will be assigned Roman roles. Players attending the online part of the megagame will be assigned Palmyrean, Sassanid, and Barbarian roles.

Key Player Decisions in the Game

This was a time of violent strife, military mutinies, assassinations, and a devastating plague. Players can expect their roles to change during the game due to promotion or needing a replacement character due to mortality. The timescale for a game turn is three years – roughly the median length of an Emperor’s reign during this period of crisis.

The key decisions that players make:

  • If my legion revolts, do I try and crush the mutiny (my troops might murder me) or become an usurper (the other players might murder me)?
  • If there is an Usurper in my region, do I support them and march on Rome, or do I try and crush their revolt? If we march on Rome, how many legions stay behind to defend against the barbarians?
  • As a Barbarian, when, where, and how hard do I attack the Romans? Do I accept Roman bribes to hold off an attacking, or to support a civil war faction? Can I get to Rome and sack it?
  • As Emperor, which Senator do I send out to take command of Legions or to act as a regional Dux? Can I trust my equestrians to remain loyal? Can I bribe people to stay loyal? Do I lead Roman armies in person or delegate the risk to another commander?
  • As a Senator, do I support the Emperor, or conspire to replace them with a better general/politician?
  • As Dux, I can’t afford to pay for everything, so who do I choose not to pay – the legions, the navy, or the civic government?
  • As Dux/Senate/Emperor, which policy option/reform do I choose this turn?
  • As a Legion commander, how do I defend most cost effectively against barbarians? All out defence will wear the legions down – do I try and get lucky with smaller units?
  • As a regional team – do we stay loyal to Rome, or do we declare independence and form a splinter empire?

As a historical game it will feature a range of reform and policy options that were a factor in history. While the historical outcome saw the Principate of the early empire transform into the Dominate of the late Empire, with a stronger central government and a decline in influence for the Senate and the city of Rome, this is not the only possible outcome. Alternate history, such as steam engines, flamethrowers, or machine guns or gonzo stuff like dinosaurs and elves, will not feature in the megagame.

Example of a playtest map. The final game maps will not be too much more complicated than this.