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Subject: A deck building game with miniatures rss

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Victor J
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Virtually all gladiator games involve miniatures that are driven by dice rolls. This one is different as the miniatures are driven by cards. I like cards as they can do so much more in a game than the humble dice, and was curious to see whether this is a miniatures games that uses cards, or a card game that uses miniatures.

I am not going to go through the details of how the game works, but in brief, you need 1 to 4 players, the action takes place on a square grid, and each player gets 4 miniatures on the board from a choice of 12 different armaturae. Each player also gets a deck of cards that is identical - there is a group of 12 "standard jugula" cards, and another group of 12 "prima jugula" cards that are a lot stronger and are be acquired during the game. A turn consists of a player taking one action from a possible choice of 6 on a card. There is a campaign mode that looks very good, but I only have played a couple of straight up gladiator fights at this point, not the campaign. So this review is really an initial impression based on a couple of games.

The Rules Presentation

The rulebook is softcover, glossy and with pictures. It comes with a fold out arena, but the counters don't come with the game and need to be printed out and cut. The cards are sold separately, and a deck needs to be purchased for each player. Overall, it can get quite expensive.

There is a lot of humour scattered throughout the rules, initially it is interesting but ends up being over the top and way overdone. It looks like there is a conversion from French to English, and some parts the French text remains (eg on page 23 the description of the Fatalitas card), and the diagrams have French abbreviations, for instance, movement points are "MP" in the rules, but are "PM" in the diagrams.

Otherwise, the rules are quite simple, and easy to understand.

Gameplay

The actual game is very interesting, and there are a lot of options to chose from. You can only do one thing (some cards can let you do more) - do you move, increase popularity, attack, draw more cards, resolve special effects, or buy better cards?

The first game played focused more on the miniatures, and it took quite a while to finish. The fights were logical, and well thought out and relied on tactical manoeuvre. Many times though, the figures did not move or fight (even though adjacent) as players needed to rebuild their hands, or increase popularity. By the end, the result was very close.

In the second game more emphasis was placed on the deck building aspect, and was over a lot faster, the better deck won, and the positioning of the miniatures was not so important. This was a card game that uses miniatures and not the other way around, the card play was king. One player had the Virtus card in their starting hand and immediately bought the 3 star Fortuna card. The other player concentrated on building up their crowd popularity. In the second turn the Fortuna card was played, allowing that player to eliminate all the weak card in their deck. For Dominion players, this was like a super powerful "chapel" card. At this point, the player with the trimmed deck blitzed the opponent, playing good card after good card.

Impressions

This is a game, and good strategy is rewarded over blind luck. It did feel a bit Dominion like in parts, so could even be a crossover game of sorts from deck building games to miniatures. My main concern at this point is that two like minded players could effectively ignore the miniatures at the start of the game and just play to increase their popularity, and fix their decks. There is no incentive initially to get stuck in with the miniatures, unless one player wants to foil the others deck building plans with an early rush. Having said that, the only way to win the game is through defeating the opponents gladiators, the cards don't do this on their own.

I would like to see if there is a counter for the Fortuna card strategy that worked so effectively. It seemed too easy to get the powerful 3 star prima jugula cards straight away, it seemed that more effort should be required for this.

Anyway, these are my thoughts at the moment and would like to hear of other peoples experiences with this game.
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Martin Swift
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Good summary of the game. I am finding this game hard to judge. Like you the first game played quite well but then in the second game it became more like deck building while the action had to wait. I feel there should be some mechanism to require the action to get going. Also I agree that both games were won with the fortuna card being the dominant factor.

I think I need some more play time and thought before I can make a definitive judgement.

P.S really like the campaign though .....
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Steve Burt
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It does say in the design notes that this isn't really a Gladiator game.
It's a deck-building game with miniatures, but I suspect that the real meat is in the campaign game; lots of interesting decision there, including the ability to improve your deck before the game starts, which could allow you to get the jump on an opponent who likes to spend the first few turns stacking his deck.
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Steve Burt
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Just played this again last night for the first time in a while, and really enjoyed it (a 3 player game). It's a very good balance between the gamey deck-building stuff and the on-board manoeuvres.
 
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Steve Burt
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Following another (two player) game.
The counter to the 'deck building' strategy is to use gladiators with range to attack the opponent early; if they've not moved forward a bit they can be severely embarrassed by this. They've spent their 'Fortuna' card with its precious 6 on the dice, and are likely to lose some combats and get wounded from being pushed back into the side of the arena.
This is really a very good game; it's not obvious what the best strategy is, and the best strategy also depends on which gladiators you and your opponent pick, and what cards you and your opponent draw early on. You need to be flexible.
The two player game has more room so the fast gladiators like the velite and the thraex come into their own.
 
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