Anyone who has played a Europa Universalis game knows that the name essentially equates to grand-scale, complex strategy. You're not just trying to win a battle, you're trying to win a world. Neither do you only have control of your military and a couple diplomatic options; you have an entire arsenal of choices at your disposal, each as effective as a full-scale conflict, many more preferable. It's a strategist's dream, but has always been held back for small reasons that tend to build up, much like a pile of dirt pellets suddenly and inexplicably become a mountain.
The latest chapter of grand strategy takes place when men above the university age wore togas and woman held pots above their head, at least if television re-enactments are to be trusted. That's right, you're in Rome now, and we'll have none of that musketeering nonsense. Here we fight with swords and arrows, preferably launched from bows. The game takes place between 250 years of Roman war and conflict, from the days of the war with Carthage, to the beginnings of the actual Empire.
You'll begin with selecting the nation that you want to lead. This can be anything from a massive, empire-spanning legacy to a tiny two-province no-name location. Both bring their own challenges and problems: managing a small nation may be easy, but with the military might of a large country, few can oppose you. That is, until you get assaulted on multiple fronts. Problems indeed. As for victory conditions, however, it's all up to you. Become a merchant power, lead the world in diplomacy, or of course, just take to the fields of war and conquer all your opponents.
There are a lot of aspects of nation-ruling that you need to get your head around if you want to become more than just a tiny footnote in the pages of history. If you've played previous Europa Universalis games you'll recognize a lot of the mechanics, but with a Roman twist to all of them. Unfortunately a Roman touch doesn't fix the interface problems that still plague the series. There have been some big improvements since previous installations, but large issues still plague the computer screen.
Tiny buttons, menus within menus within menus, it all can make it a real chore to play. Worse still, it chases away those who might derive pleasure from the title just because simple acts are so daunting and difficulty to pull off. This isn't even counting the slow pace of the game. We're talking iceberg-speed here.
As with all the EU games, management is the name of the game, more so than just any other real-time strategy title. You can't just send your men to war time and time again, unless you want their swords and spears suddenly levelled at you, tired of war. You might also find that particularly charismatic generals have suddenly decided that they want you throne, or maybe one of the people you've appointed to power feels the same. Loyalties are pretty important if you want to avoid a civil war.
The vast options available to you mean that the game is going to draw in anyone who wants this kind of tactical freedom on a large-scale (keep in mind battles are fairly automated, so you had better know what you're doing before sending troops forward). Unfortunately, many problems plague EU:Rome, making it really hard to recommend to gamers, especially those who want to begin their foray into the genre.
Troop management can be a big problem, such as destination changing that requires weeks of travel to be wasted. Then there is the problem in troop arrival synchronization, where you can't tell multiple groups of troops to arrive in a location at the same time; you've got to manage this yourself lest only half of a twenty-thousand-strong force arrive at a big battle. There are some serious multiplayer issues as well: while you can set up a server for others to connect to, but it requires trading your IP addresses, feeling outdated and not really worth it.
In the end, though, if you've got the enough interest in this title to actually pick it up and play it, it's unlikely that its minor problems will create enough of a mountain for you to be stopped by it. The interface needs work, more options in some areas need to be present, but overall it's a great strategy title that is pretty much unmatched. When you want to 'civilize' some barbarians with the blade of an empire, Europa Universalis: Rome is the game to play.