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Tiago Perretto
Brazil
Curitiba
Parana
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Thinking about my next move.
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So, if my only options are these, then I shall...
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About Arena: Roma II:

1) What is it?
Arena: Roma II is a dice game mixed with hand management. In it, players are rulers trying to either overcame the other by being the greatest, or subduing the other to the ground.

This is a smart, and sort of quick - but almost leaving the filler niche -, game that puts both players in head to head conflict. Though most 2 players game have high interaction, not all allow one to mess with the other side, using different ways to achieve confrontation. But in a game with Arena in the title, one better put blood on the sand, and maybe some bread and circus.

While the game is short-ish, it can be prolonged, as players can keep making the opponent lose points, almost at the same rate the other gains them. This can make the play going and going. Still, there are several ways for it to end inside the 30 to 45 minute mark, therefore this is more of a "heads up" than a "you have been warned!", as the end condition for the game is in the hands of the players - there is no round limit.

Since Arena: Roma II is a dice game and has blind draw of cards, you bet there is luck build into it. However, the game provides a lot of options in every turn, even if not the best as it could be, nor one you truly wanted to do. One will simply have to deal with what Fortune has given.

2) How do you play?
Every player starts with 10 points. The player's turn is divided in three phases:
a) See how many spots for cards are open. The player loses 1 point for each open space;
b) Roll the dice - there are 3 of them. If all of them come up with the same number, the player may roll them again;
c) Actions. There are five possible actions, almost all of them the players can make more than once and in whatever order they want:
c.1) Draw cards. Uses 1 die - player draws as many cards as the number shown on the die, but always only keeps one of them;
c.2) Gain money. Uses 1 die - player takes money from the bank equal to the number shown on the die used;
c.3) Bribe. Uses (normally) one die. The player pays to the bank money equal to the number shown on the die used, and then activates the card placed in the Bribe spot. This action can only be used once per turn;
c.4) Play cards. Doesn't use dice, but the player must pay the amount shown on the card in order to place it somewhere on her side of the board, besides one of the numbered spots or in the Bribe spot;
c.5) Activate cards. Player use the one or more dice to activate the cards. The cards placed are all beside a number (from 1 to 6) on the board - this is the number the die must have in order to be used to activate that card.

Cards are divided into two types: character and construction. Cards usually serve for one of two purposes: acquire points or attack the other side. To attack, the player follows what the card says, but most required the roll of the attack die: if the player rolls equal to or higher then the defense number of a card, the card is destroyed, and it goes to the discard pile.

The game ends as soon as the victory points supply is empty or when a player has zero point. The winner will be the person with the most points!

3) Which are the decisions made during play?
Mostly will be what to do with the dice. Either will be activate a card of that number (if possible) or use the die to gain money or to draw cards - and when drawing cards, only one the person can keep, so it is important to choose wisely.

There are other decisions to be made: what card to play and where. And when activating cards, several of them will allow the player a choice - like, which building to destroy.

All the turns will present the players with at least three or more decisions to be made - not all hard or with lasting effects, but with some weight in each.

4) What are the good things in the game?
- Good production value;
- Easy to teach and to play, with all the supplementary information clearly written on the cards;
- A fine set of options for the players in each turn;
- Allows for a more aggressive approach, one focused in producing points, or a mix of both;
- Manages to have strategy without be a zero sum or have perfect information.

5) Which are the bad news?
- A bigger box than it truly needs;
- Luck of the draw and in the rolls are a good part of the gameplay;
- A more "in your face" type of 2 player, which might not fly well for many;
- Cards with important text in each of them - it does required knowledge of the language;
- End game is player driven and it can stay in a gain/lose level, not truly advancing towards the end, and because of this, it can last for more than it should.

6) How do you feel while playing?
With a distinct feeling that leaving in Rome wasn't all that nice. You pay for things and people to work for you, then they are dragged to the Arena and killed - you don't even receive some compensation. You build a nice Triremis, and the Ballista sinks it. You build a Portus, and the Ballista sinks it. You build an Aquaeductus, and the Ballista sinks it. Everything sinks in Rome. But it is better than see a Bestia eats your Offertorium, as you know marble probably isn't good for its stomach. But this is Rome, a place where your Praedator can steal a battering ram for you - they simply knew no limits back then, with all the orgy and wine.

Arena: Roma II can pass a hopelessness at some points, with you gaining points only to lose them on the next turn, without really moving forward, only trying to prevent going backwards. Still, attacks depends on rolling well the combat die, which means there are chances of failure, and some players might want to avoid this and go for the sure thing, making the game more friendly if both go light on attacks.

Arena: Roma II offers several paths for players to follow and decisions to be made every turn, even if some of them are restrained by the dice rolls - and, unlike some of other Feld dice placement games, Arena: Roma II doesn't really have ways to manipulate the the results you get - there are cards that give re-rolls or a +1 bonus when rolling to attack, but the first isn't a sure way to help and the second is only for single situation. To cover some of this, there are the money, bribe and card draw spots - any result on the dice can be used on these spots, but, for money and cards, the higher, the better, therefore luck still has its fingers all over it, and for the Bribe, is the other way around - the lower, the better. Still, there are ways to use any number the dice show.

In the end, Arena: Roma II hits many right notes, but it might not resonate well with all kinds of players, specially as it can be a somewhat agressive 2 player, a type many, that constantly play with the same partner and don't want to get under the skin of each other, normally try to avoid. Be aware, however, that Arena: Roma II isn't a "take that" sort of game, with mindless bashing repeated all the time. There are agressive actions, but they cost a die, have chance of failure and don't produce points - meaning they tend to be more a delaying tatic than an end on itself. Therefore, Arena: Roma II is smart and well made enough, leaving plenty of room for clever plays and different strategies, and it receives my recommendation, even if I, personally, look for more laid back 2 players games.

Regards,


Image credit: Bernd



To read others reviews in the same format and/or follow new ones, go to or subscribe to this geeklist: Down to the basic reviews.
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Carthoris Pyramidos
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Thanks for the accurate review! I really like the viciousness of this game, but I agree, not everyone will.

I haven't encountered too many situations where I felt like I was at the mercy of the deck or the dice, though. There are a lot of ways to manage the randomness, especially with the bribery space.
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ozzy perez
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This game is a 10 for me. It took me 10+ plays to really appreciate it's subtleties.
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Ken Thibodeau
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SapoLJackson wrote:
This game is a 10 for me. It took me 10+ plays to really appreciate it's subtleties.


Exactly the same here.
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Jack
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This is one of the few lighter games that I will always play. My 10 year-old daughter particularly loves the viciousness. That either says something about her or the parenting job that I've done. devil
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David B
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The way this game can get stuck in a cycle where both players are gaining and losing points resulting in a long game ruined it for me. This is the type of game that should play in 15 to 20 minutes, but I had a couple that extended well beyond an hour. At that point I got rid of it.
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ozzy perez
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pfctsqr wrote:
The way this game can get stuck in a cycle where both players are gaining and losing points resulting in a long game ruined it for me. This is the type of game that should play in 15 to 20 minutes, but I had a couple that extended well beyond an hour. At that point I got rid of it.



That unpredictability is one of the things that I love about it.
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Jack
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Hey, what do you know? Another game that you and I both agree on, Ozzy.
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ozzy perez
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senorcoo wrote:
Hey, what do you know? Another game that you and I both agree on, Ozzy.



How many is that now? I lost track ninja
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Jack
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Enough that if my wife throws me out, I'm moving to Florida. devil
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Carthoris Pyramidos
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I really like the material components for this game, except for the VP tokens, which I find annoying for some reason. I replaced them with FFG "green gaming tokens":
https://www.fantasyflightgames.com/en/products/fantasy-fligh...
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ozzy perez
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senorcoo wrote:
Enough that if my wife throws me out, I'm moving to Florida. devil



Brilliant as usual my friend
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Ken Thibodeau
Canada
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Quebec
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Do we have a priest nearby?
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Jack
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I don't know about FL, but it's legal in RI.
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Pasvik -
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pfctsqr wrote:
The way this game can get stuck in a cycle where both players are gaining and losing points resulting in a long game ruined it for me. This is the type of game that should play in 15 to 20 minutes, but I had a couple that extended well beyond an hour. At that point I got rid of it.


Funny, that never happened with us, although we played this game and its brother Roma loads of times. If we got (seldom enough) to a sitation of somehow stability-postions this never lasted longer than 30 min. Fair enough for me!
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Jack
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I think I had that happen one time in all my plays where it went back and forth like that.
 
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Carthoris Pyramidos
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I agree that the game should play in under 30 minutes, and I have once or twice had it draw out to 45. But smarter play should make for shorter games also.
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