Optimates et Populares features a really interesting and engaging gameplay concept that manages to capture the feeling and ideas of late Roman republican politics quite well. Both players try to outmatch each other in their influence in the senate, in the election into high political offices, in their relation to the plebs, the legions and the merchants. Bribery, murder, spectacles for the masses, legislative actions, the possibility of "vetoing" the opponent's political efforts and much more generate a very interesting, multi-facetted experience. Every single decision has its consequences. I especially like the fact that the game works almost completely without the luck factor (there are only two instances where luck is important), almost the whole game works like a very intricate balancing of powers, every step is risky, every plan can fail. While the Optimates-player (the old, corrupt nobility) tries to keep as much of the "status quo" as possible by hindering reforms, the Populares-player tries to use his initial popularity with the masses to get political offices and push reforms. Both sides play different and there is still much room for experimentation. I play the game only solitaire, but it works surprisingly good, even almost without random gameplay elements it feels very dramatic. The presentation is well done as well - the manual is very readable and without ambiguities, the general art of the game is pleasant and unique.
I can wholeheartedly recommend this game for everyone interested in the political concepts of the late Roman Republic - but also to everyone interested in politics generally. Even if you are not interested in politics, the gameplay is so intricate and at the same time highly elegant that I would also recommend it to everybody interested in unique gameplay concepts.