Author Topic: Replacing Rome  (Read 19472 times)

Jon Shafer

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Replacing Rome
« on: March 05, 2013, 01:45:43 PM »

A few people have asked me why At the Gates doesn't actually have “Rome” somewhere in the title. Wouldn't that help inform people of what the game is about? I can see where this question comes from. However, its exclusion is very much not accidental.

The Empire may have defined this era - but their time is over. They still have an important job, but are ultimately a tool to achieve an end. Let’s dig into what that means in terms of gameplay.

What is Rome... For?

When I first started on the design of AtG I wasn’t sure exactly how I wanted Rome to fit in. I knew that they wouldn’t be playable, but that was about it. So I decided to use history as my guide.

A common misconception about the time is that the Romans and barbarians were at each other’s throats until one of them finally collapsed. In reality, this was one of the most diplomatically active eras in history. It was a fairly brutal time, and alliances shifted constantly as everyone was doing whatever they could to get ahead. The very fabric of civilization was unraveling, and customary diplomatic rules were thrown out the window.

I resolved that whatever form the diplomacy mechanics took the game needed to have this fluidity. It should be possible to make friends from enemies on a dime. Holding grudges is liable to cost you big time over the long run. The Romans might be your long-term enemies, but they could also be short-term allies.

Another fact that many people aren’t aware of is that the Roman Empire actually split in half around this time. The western empire “fell,” while the east lived on as what we today call the Byzantine Empire, although they still referred to themselves as the Romans right up until 1453.

I wanted both the eastern and western Roman Empires represented, as having multiple non-playable “superpowers” on the board presents some exciting gameplay possibilities. You might be working with one but fighting the other. You can try buddying up to them both. They could even fight each other. This decision also helped narrow down the year in which AtG should start, as the division didn't occur until late in the 4th century.

Because of the asymmetry between the Empire and barbarians, I realized the Romans could help set the pace and provide structure to the game. Matching history, they start as incredibly strong but grow weaker over time - the reverse of the player. My goal is for the first third of the game to mainly be about getting your feet under yourself, the second to be the consolidation phase where interaction with Rome is key, and the final section to be a race to be the first to finish them off.

The Romans are obviously your enemies, but it's incorrect to think about them in only this way. Their goals and behavior are completely different. They don’t found new cities or migrate etc. They’re just trying to hold on. It’s ironic because the Romans liked to think of the barbarians as tools to help their own interests, but the opposite was also the case!

Making Nice

Now that I had some promising themes to work with, I had to actually find ways to hook them into the gameplay. It was fairly easy to translate Rome's superpower status into interesting mechanics. Since they're not on a level playing field, as I designer I can basically do whatever I want with them.

The obvious implications are that you really don’t want to get on the Romans' bad side, as annoying them is an invitation for a large number of legions to show up on your doorstep.

Not attracting the wrath of Rome is good and all, but you need carrots to go along with the stick. No matter how useful an AI ally is, it's you'd nearly always rather have his armies and resources for yourself, making conquest the more fruitful route to take. There needs to be reasons to want to work with them.

And so Romanization Perks were born. Originally, it was possible to acquire "technologies" in other ways, but I realized interacting with the Romans would be elevated to a whole new level if that was the only way you could develop.

At first I was hesitant to go this route, as it's a very different approach from the traditional research system in most 4X games. But the fact that you had to be proactive to earn the bonuses was too strong a temptation to resist. I loved the idea of needing to get out there and mix it up, rather than being able to succeed by hanging back and watching the world fly by.

But what would you actually do to earn these Perks?

This is where the diplomatic requests system comes in. There needed to be a way to actively build a strategy around earning Perks, instead of waiting for Rome to knock on your door asking for a favor. It later developed into the core feature for the entire diplomatic system.

Taking Down a Giant

Rewarding friendship with the Romans was a major focus of mine, but there will inevitably come a time when you have to take the gloves off and face them head on. But if Rome just sat there all peaceful-like, it would be suicidal to pick a fight. I knew I needed to find ways to open up chinks in their armor and tempt players to jump into the fray.

There were a variety of nasty occurrences that afflicted Rome during this era, from civil wars to bad emperors to plagues. This gave me an idea for a random events system specifically targeting the Empire.

A particularly brutal emperor might annoy one of his generals, who leads an outlying province to revolt. An incompetent emperor might be the target of a palace coup and replacement by an ambitious subordinate. The emperor could die and be replaced with a child, resulting in all sorts of chaos. A major defeat in battle can be followed by a series of events that can nearly tear the empire apart.

The need to adapt one’s strategy doesn’t have to be a direct influence like the weather. The value of this random events system is that it provides surprise opportunities that haven't been planned for, but might still be worth exploiting.

Roman events and map generation are the only two places where randomness has a major impact in AtG. As many of you know, I love randomness but prefer to only sprinkle it lightly on my projects. A more heavy-handed approach works in these cases because it creates a new environment for players, rather than affecting them directly. A plague hitting humans and killing off their units would be very frustrating - but the AI behind the Romans has no such feelings!

For pacing reasons, there are restrictions on the frequency with which these events occur - they can’t be too common or too rare, as either extreme could derail the experience. However, it’s easy for us to add an option to remove these restrictions for players who really do prefer a truly random game, so if that's your preference there's no need to fret.

So what happens when you do actually fight Rome and win? Capturing new resources and territory is always helpful, but I also wanted a special reward for taking on Rome instead of some other random kingdom.

My answer was earning a Romanization Perk every time you capture a Roman city. This is a serious bonus, and intentionally so. I want there to be a strong tension between fighting the Romans, working with them and staying out of their way. Should the Romans become embroiled in a civil war it might be a good chance to sneak in and grab some goodies.

Keeping players on their toes is one of my goals, and the Romans do an excellent job of that. But defeating the Romans can win you more than just bonuses...

A New Era

As with Rome's role, for a long time I didn't have a clear idea of what I wanted AtG's victory condition to be. In fact, there’s a good chance it changes again! To help guide me I once again returned to history.

When I think about this era I think about the inevitable fall of the Romans and the subsequent transition from late antiquity to the medieval Europe of knights, the Crusades and chivalry. This suggested a passing of the torch.

Completely conquering the Romans sounds cool, but anyone who’s played a 4X game before knows how tedious this can actually be. This also conflicted with the downward arc that takes place in the endgame of AtG - if your empire is starting to weaken the last thing you’re going to be able to do is swallow up a huge rival. So I decided to simplify it down to capturing the capital of either the eastern or western Roman Empire.

But this alone was too simple, as it could be easily exploited by players in the early game. My solution was Glory, which is basically a score counter. You can’t win the game until you’ve amassed 1000 Glory through conquest, diplomacy, development and other achievements.

Thematically, the accumulation of Glory represents you planting your flag and proclaiming to all that you’re important - and here to stay. Any newcomer has to earn the trust and respect of the old guard. And in AtG, you are the newcomer. The Huns were clever, powerful and virtually unstoppable. But even they proved to be just a flash in the pan.

Victory is probably the one aspect of the game most likely to change. Building up a score counter doesn’t really scream “fall of Rome!” to me, and I’d prefer a system that has an even stronger tie to the theme.

This is one of the reasons why we’re targeting a mid-2014 release. While the game superficially appears fairly far along and could be released this year, we want to make sure every piece fits perfectly. The only way to really know that is by taking the time to find out. I think it's better to have a great game in a year and a half than a decent one in six months - and I'm pretty sure most of you would agree!

- Jon
If you have any questions, please send me a private message here on the forums or an email at []. Thanks for your support!

Re: Replacing Rome
« Reply #1 on: March 05, 2013, 02:25:48 PM »
i would love to see human basic emotions being put into play in the diplomacy minigame where the other factions are jealous/envious of your acquired friendship and try to undermine it, or think poorly of you as the 'romans dog' and so you have to keep a lot of factors in mind when choosing a path to take diplomacy wize (forgive the language, i just re watched the entire rome mini series again haha)

so many cool things can happen in diplomacy and they can all be intertwined in schemes within schemes, all with single purpose, to become more rich and powerful and one day beat rome at its own game.

Imagine you can play out roman families or cities against one another :D the endless delight of possibilities! Divide and conquer at its best.

Re: Replacing Rome
« Reply #2 on: March 05, 2013, 06:32:06 PM »

Thanks for all these great insights into your design philosophy for the game.

So from my understanding, the game starts in 375 and ends somewhere around 476 (mimicking the establishment of Odoacer's Kingdom of Italy). So we're looking at around 1200 turns of AtG fun (almost a Marathon game for Civ V!). Of course victory could be attained a lot sooner than 476, but I'm just using the numbers I've seen in the video and mentioned in your interviews for the purpose of thinking through the victory conditions.

Here's the question that I have... for victory you currently need to attain 1000 Glory and capture one of the Roman capitals (Rome or Constantinople). Historically, Rome fell first and Italy was turned into a Barbarian kingdom. However, the question is whether these two victory parameters are enough.

Obviously, the fall of Rome or Constantinople is a great victory parameter and one worth keeping.

However, does building up Glory before capturing Rome work with the theme and the time period you're aiming for?

Perhaps Glory should be something you gain after conquering Rome. Maybe it comes from establishing a real kingdom, one that isn't just a flash in the pan. It comes from building something from the ashes of Rome. What if the Fall of Rome is really just the beginning of the end? What if you have to prove yourself as a leader and gain recognition from your neighbors (other Barbarians and/or the other half of the Empire) as a Kingdom?

Would this be engaging? Or would folks prefer to conquer Rome and call that the end?

I don't know. I think conquering Rome works thematically, but the question is whether you want to imitate the Sack of Rome in 410 or the Fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476. If you want the later, then you might want to think about how the player can win the peace and establish a Kingdom.

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Re: Replacing Rome
« Reply #3 on: March 05, 2013, 07:26:52 PM »
There might be a way to use the romanization perks to fulfill the purpose of glory points. Maybe require a certain number of perks to take Rome, or, depending on how tree-like the romanization tree ends up actually being, have certain high-tier perks that don't give a bonus, but you need one or two of them to win. Though I guess the latter wouldn't work so well if you can swap out perks too easily.
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Re: Replacing Rome
« Reply #4 on: March 05, 2013, 08:50:47 PM »
I'm greatly enjoying all of the updates. It's a pleasure to get a peek behind the curtain for a game that's not just about the magical "monetization."

This particular update seemed particularly good to me, as it begins to get at the big picture within which AtG is set.

Specifically: why did Rome fall, anyway? After all, as Jon points out, the Empire survived numerous bad Emperors and a host of other ills for many years.

As has no doubt already been pointed out many times (and will be many more), this is a game, not simply a simulation. But history can be a useful guide to gameplay when you're trying to find the fun in the collapse of an entire civilization. (Not that it's fun for those actually living through it, but you know what I mean.)

The greatest book I've ever read on the morphology of civilizations is The Evolution of Civilizations by the late Georgetown history professor Carroll Quigley. Spengler and Toynbee (and Gibbon for the Romans) were important and worth reading. But Quigley uniquely identifies the underlying reasons why civilizations come into being, how they grow and stop growing, how they perish, and what happens afterwards.

Specifically (though I won't go into all the wonderful details), Quigley defines a civilization as a "producing society with an instrument of expansion." A society is a group of people with a distinct culture; a producing society is one that (surprise!) produces more than it needs to survive, rather than by simply gleaning; and an instrument of expansion is some socioeconomic/political set of rules by which some of what that society produces goes to a few people who re-invest that excess in order to fund new forms of production.

For Rome, that instrument of expansion -- and the ultimate cause of their collapse -- was slavery. Rome was able to prosper in its early days as it expanded because it collected new sources of labor and knowledge through conquest. The vote was a precious thing, given only to citizens, but anyone who followed the basic rules could participate in the "civitas" to some useful degree. Slaves performed the basic tasks, allowing citizens to generate "excess" wealth, which Roman leaders invested in the building of infrastructure such as roads and in practical technologies like hydraulic cement.

This worked for a while. Eventually, as Rome's borders expanded beyond the ability of Classical-era command-and-control capabilities, the rate of expansion slowed. There were no longer enough slaves coming in to allow an excess to be generated for reinvestment. Those at the top stopped reinvesting the produced excess and began simply consuming it for themselves. (This corresponds to the "triumphal works" era that Spengler notes as the Spiritual Winter of a civilization.)

As Quigley points out, once the public realizes that the rate of expansion has slowed, or even gone negative, that civilization leaves the Age of Expansion and enters an Age of Conflict. This phase is marked by wars of conquest, irrational behaviors, and eventually the breakdown of literacy and even law and order. Spengler and Toynbee would dust their hands off at this point and declare, "Well, that about wraps things up for that civilization." But Quigley uniquely notes that it's possible to return to an Age of Expansion -- in fact, Western civilization has done it twice.

Quigley's model is that unless the broken instrument of expansion is either reformed (by fixing what's broken) or circumvented (by finding a new instrument of expansion), that civilization enters ages of Decay. At that point they are either absorbed into or conquered by some other nearby, younger culture, possibly forming the basis of a new civilization (if it develops an instrument of expansion of its own).

Which is what happened to Rome. Slavery failed; it was not circumvented and could not be reformed. And when it did, Rome fell. The shards of Classical civilization were split among the nearby "barbarian" cultures, primarily the young Islamic culture and the even younger Western European culture. Eventually the West would recover some of the lost knowledge, particular in the 11th century as texts of mathematics and civics, preserved and improved on by the Arabic civilization, infused the West with the knowledge it needed to endure the attacks of its southern neighbor and begin its own Age of Expansion.

And maybe that is a partial answer to the question of finding a victory condition for At the Gates. What would be better than to end the game, not on a sour note of failure in the destruction of a great civilization, but in planting the seeds for future greatness in new civilizations to come?

Re: Replacing Rome
« Reply #5 on: March 05, 2013, 10:09:26 PM »

The concept of ending the game on a hopeful note is essentially what I was trying to get at in my post, too. The Fall of Rome may be a key event of this era/game, but building something to grow out of its ashes would give AtG just the right end note.

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Re: Replacing Rome
« Reply #6 on: March 06, 2013, 03:48:28 AM »
iteresting ideas
maybe completion of the romanization tree should be required to win? or one of its branches?
and it wont be possible without capturing either of the capitals?
upon completion, a kingdom is established; and to make it harder and more interesting, all other barbs may turn against the player aiming to destroy his kingdom and he should withstand their onslaught a number of turns to win.

Re: Replacing Rome
« Reply #7 on: March 06, 2013, 08:47:36 AM »
One problem I have with CivV is that once I know that I will loose or that most probably I will not win the game I quit it. I know not all people do this, and I even end games loosing but only when at least I have a chance of winning. This can be tied to the lack of interest on mid game part, when you know all your actions are meaningless, you are either too weak or the opponent has grown too strong. Not sure if these sorf of competitiveness will take place with the different factions, but I may become part of the problem.

For the end game I would think of two scenarios, either Rome falls or not (or partially with one side falling). The player can have influence on what the end game will be, but most probably it will not be entirely in its hands. So not until the late game you can really know what the end game will be, throughout the game you have accumulated glory points, those glory points can be either for or against Rome. At the end if Rome falls then the glory points related to that end will count more towards the score than the others.

So if a faction is getting a lot of glory against Rome for example you could try to go against it by avoiding the fall of Rome and those glory points will worth less than yours. Doing this to avoid the sense of not being possible to win the game at the middle of it.

About glory points I will try to reward all player actions/decissions, not only the ones about warmongering. I see this as a flaw in CivV, aggressive play style is usually the best strategy for winning. The only player I will not reward with glory is the passive one, even if he is getting stronger by just following the tide without involving in any relation or conflicting decission.

Re: Replacing Rome
« Reply #8 on: March 06, 2013, 10:50:05 AM »
Someone on the AtG Kickstarter page mentioned holding Rome for a certain amount of time (1 year? 2 years? More?) as being one of the victory conditions. That seems like a fair idea to me. Of course if AtG went in this direction, then Jon would need to design something to make the "consolidating power" time period interesting and unique. Perhaps you have to make certain choices when you take Rome that will affect how you consolidate your power.

Do you sack Rome? If so, then it might take a lot longer to consolidate power, but you'd get a lot of money. If you don't sack Rome, then you might have to choose who to cater to... the nobles or commoners... with different effects on how the game ends and what you have to do to consolidate your power.

Maybe the nobles and commoners could make requests of you over the year or two that you're consolidating power. Each request you fulfill moves you closer to "victory." For example, the commoners want to be feed. If you give them the food they request, you gain more influence over Rome. Once you have a certain amount of influence, you're named King and the game ends on a hopeful note.

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Re: Replacing Rome
« Reply #9 on: March 06, 2013, 11:32:44 AM »
Quigley uniquely notes that it's possible to return to an Age of Expansion -- in fact, Western civilization has done it twice.

Not only the western civilization, the Roman Civilization also had several of these restoration periods.

As far as I know one of these periods of Restoration was the Christianization of the Romans. It actually helped maintain the empire when it crumbled in 3rd century AD.

The last Age of Expansion is attributed to Constantine the Great, who established the Christian Religion to be Roman State Religion. As a consequence the title Pontifex Maximus (Roman Highest Priest) was abadonded by the emperors and eventually passed on to the popes. It was the time when the office of pope came up, since then they are considered "mightest representative" of christian culture. The emperors gradually took the role of "Protectors of Christianity".

Concerning the victory conditions, I agree that conquering Rome is too simple.. - and how does holding Rome for X-turns make a more satisfying victory? Imho in history it makes little difference if the "barbarians" hold Rome for one year or three years..

I find the idea tempting that the pope's grace is a victory condition. The player can earn it by protecting the Roman church against pagan threats. This could be done in several ways.. Same thing could work for the orthodox church in the east..

Re: Replacing Rome
« Reply #10 on: March 06, 2013, 04:06:38 PM »
Victory condition is tricky, I feel like a civilization has no victory condition only defeat condition. The goal of teh game is to not lose rather than win. But that's be a bit boring so I could see two possibility.

1) After doing something (maybe out of a list of many something) the game select everyone who hate you in the world and have them band together and attack you (similar to shogun 2) and you win once you manage to stop that war. The event could be getting high enough in romanization or capturing rome. This way diplomacy remain important even as you draw closer to the victory event since the more teh world like you the less you're gonna have to fight against.

2) This one is much different. You could actually set up the game in "modern time", say have an historian write a book about your ancient civilization (could be the game introduction) to write that book he/she would would collect information from every source avalaible (yours and your ennemy) and so the goal of the game would be to have the greatest book/legacy in modern time (everyone remember rome, egypt, mongol, but barely anybody remeber most of the barbarian.

To accomplish this there are many way, one them being destroying unsavory record of you (the winner write history and all) another would be leaving monument another would be leaving very large impression of you, say starting a huge war with a very literate civilization. Since it seems like you start the game without significant writing ability, that could be one of the major romanization perk to be gained, writing about yourself. And then at the end you could have random image of your legacy in modern time, like from the worst being your civilization name being an insult in modern life to the best being having large museum dedicated to you.

Re: Replacing Rome
« Reply #11 on: March 06, 2013, 09:33:17 PM »
Not only the western civilization, the Roman Civilization also had several of these restoration periods.

chretzel, not to argue but to provide a different perspective, Quigley observes that although they can look similar, there is a critical difference between a true Age of Expansion and a Golden Age.

An Age of Expansion is characterized by an increasing rate of invention and of pushing boundaries both geographic and intellectual. The public are generally happy because they can see that they're doing better every day.

A Golden Age, while it has the look of prosperity, is basically the people eating up what's left of the seed corn -- it's a last party before the lights go out. Less poetically, the difference between the two is the difference between a non-zero-sum game, where some can win without others losing, and a zero-sum game that's all about trying to consolidate what you can get while you can get it.

Golden Ages (per Quigley's examples, including Classical civilization) are periods at the end of the Universal Empire phase that may follow an Age of Conflict. A Universal Empire is what you get when, after years of infighting in an Age of Conflict, one (usually peripheral) state has conquered all the others either militarily or culturally. Thus peripheral Sparta defeated core Athens in the Peloponnesian Wars beginning in 431 B.C., peripheral Thebes defeated Sparta (371 B.C.), Macedon under Alexander conquered Greece and much of the surrounding area by 338 B.C., and, finally, peripheral Rome held most of the western Mediterranean by 250 B.C. and was the undisputed master of the entire Mediterranean region by 146 B.C.

With the elimination of inter-cultural boundaries, the fixing of standard weights and measures and the dropping of internal tariffs, things seem to be looking up. There's finally some internal peace... but the external wars have to continue in order to acquire by conquest what's no longer being produced internally (because the instrument of expansion is no longer investing surpluses in new invention).

This is when a Republic becomes an Empire. That's a sign that greater internal control has become necessary to maintain the appearance of progress. Rome's Golden Age started around A.D. 96 with the murder of Domitian and lasted till around A.D. 193 -- the Year of the Five Emperors -- at which point the Senate was a hollow shell and would-be rulers simply took power by force, assassination, or bribery. Constantine's rule was, I would say, not so much a restoration, marked as it was by civil wars and repeated battles on the Empire's edges, as a brief holding pattern against the oncoming night. There just wasn't any way a slavery-based culture could maintain itself indefinitely.

As slavery failed to be able to support itself, much less continued expansion, the western Empire decayed into squabbling over scraps. This is where Quigley points out something very interesting, and very much related to part of Jon's design for At the Gates.

Around A.D. 200, the weather north of the Mediterranean changed. Instead of the cool rainy weather that had supported vast forests, the much dryer climate turned forests into grasslands... which made it vastly easier for horsed barbarian tribes to converge on Rome. The dryer weather also made it harder for the slaves on the latifundia to grow food, meaning more were needed for that work, which left fewer and fewer available for the legions needed to defend Rome's territories and, eventually, Rome itself.

Assuming the time period of AtG fits, it would be really interesting to see that historical change in weather played out for us to deal with as a strategic opportunity.

Again, not demanding that you buy into all of this; I've just found Quigley's interpretive structure a very useful model for explaining how civilizations change. (Actually, there's more to it, including some bits that seem tailor-made for designing a real "civilization" game around them, but this wall of text is already more than enough!)

Given all this, I'd like to see victory in AtG defined as being the culture that gets to claim the mantle of inheritor to the majority of Greco-Roman culture. That might be the Eastern/Byzantine Empire, or the Arabic culture, or the Western tribes, or even the nascent Russian culture, all of whom shared in the spoils. I'm not sure how the mechanics of this might work... but somehow the idea of ending with a feeling that civilization, in some form, always endures somewhere, feels much more satisfying than just collecting Glory points and occupying a city....

Re: Replacing Rome
« Reply #12 on: March 07, 2013, 06:37:43 AM »
Flatliners, thankyou for that insight you gave me into the writings of Quigley. It seems like a book worth reading, in particular regarding how the weather changes are connected to the decline of Roman power due to transformations in economic structures during that time.

The role of Constantine is indeed arguable. On one hand you can definately say that during his long reign (306-335) he helped stabilize things and he even conquered new territories at the empire's peripherie. His reforms in administration extented the lifetime of the Roman Empire. However I see that these achievements are not sufficient to meet Quigley's defintion of an Age of Expansion, that you gave us. Whats probably more important about emperor Constantine, he made way for the city of Rome to become the central hub of Christian Catholic religion, which outlasted the great Roman Empire and which became a dominating institution for the following ages.

Regarding the victory conditions, I couldn't agree more to your final statement. It is just hard to implement the mantle of inheritor to the majority of Greco-Roman culture as you call it.
Jon already said that he is looking for new ways to win the game besides collecting Glory Points, so let's hope for the best.

I already suggested the main motivation for the player could be to be crowned "Emperor" as a final goal. However that would be impossible for all pagan faction leaders like Attila the hun. It is also questionable to stay within timeframe as was pointed out before.

Re: Replacing Rome
« Reply #13 on: March 07, 2013, 10:58:43 AM »
I feel like taking Rome should be late middle game, not the end.  I feel the stages of the game should be more like:

Roaming band, surviving harsh landscape at the edge of civilization

More specialized tribe, finding it's niche, and learning to exist side by side with other tribes and Rome either through war or diplomacy.

As Rome weakens, our tribe moves in to take it's place learning from Rome and becoming a more stable, and sedentary kingdom.

With our star rising and Rome's falling, our tribe and others move in and we take Rome.

The remnants of Rome and the other tribes form separate kingdoms, and we vie for supremacy with war and diplomacy with these new kingdoms that have risen from the ashes of Rome.

We dominate the other kingdoms either though war, diplomacy, intimidation, or trade and rise as the  inheritors of the Roman legacy, like a Charlemagne or Holy Roman Empire.

Re: Replacing Rome
« Reply #14 on: March 07, 2013, 11:48:07 PM »
I think it's pretty cool that AtG is a solid prototype game with only a vague victory condition.   ;)

Glory points do not bite me though.  Taking a Roman capital, yeah that seems like a solid part of a victory.  So what else?  Or better, what else's?

How about:
a) Religious/Diplomatic victory, need a certain % coalition of remaining barbarian tribes supporting (legitimating) your conquest of the ex-roman empire.
b) Domination victory, control given % of all remaining cities/settlements.
c) Warlord victory, have beaten x amount of opponents (or have destroyed many more armies than lost... or some such).
d) Cultural victory, have so many (or top tier) romanization perks that your cultural superiority is acknowledged by all.
e) Or...

So beyond particular ideas this is a plug for multiple victory conditions (even if they all involve capture of a capital) - replayability rocks.

From a design perspective I would think that firming up victory conditions would help in shaping/refining various game mechanics and their roles.
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