Someone must be buying historic city-building games because this year we will see three set in ancient Rome with another one the way in 2007. First out of the gate is Glory of the Roman Empire, an obvious title for a game that follows an obvious path.
Glory borrows a bit from 2004’s Children of the Nile. Instead of money, you need specific goods to build and maintain structures. Your entire economy is based on the provision of these supplies, and as long as your citizens are satisfied in their needs, the city is considered a success. Basic wooden huts will upgrade to better housing when surrounded by the right buildings in the neighborhood, but a higher class of resident comes with more needs to satisfy.
Even first-time city builders will find satisfying these needs remarkably easy. Except for the frequent fires and the risk of overstretching the slaves who carry everything around, there is little sense of challenge. Buildings never degrade in status, and your citizens are very patient. This makes Glory of the Roman Empire a great starter city-builder for that little historian in the family.
But even the tiniest Tacitus will be amused for only a little while. Even as you change maps, you won't get a sense of real progress. Once the short-term goals of the campaign scenarios are met, you are prompted to choose another city for more short-range goals.
Many structures are only doled out on a schedule; they're available only if you have met certain city conditions. While this gives this you lots of minigoals to meet, it also keeps much of your city looking identical. There are too few building styles and types to give your Rome a character much different from your Pompeii. If weren’t for the dramatically different landscapes, each city would be a carbon copy of the one before. It’s a shame there are too few maps to make use of the varied terrain.
Glory of the Roman Empire walks a thin line between being welcoming to newbies and too basic for your average builder. Even as an intro, it is only useful for a session or two, so you may be better off waiting for the next one to come along.