$20.00
Ian K
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Colossal Arena is a game that looks quite light. It has a small box, a single deck of cards and a rules book some 3 or 4 pages long. You might assume that this will be a quick-ish fun game of light-hearted revelry, the sort you play at the beginning of an evening's gaming before moving on to the main course.

However if my experience of this game is anything to go by, you couldn't be more wrong. This is a game that will break friendships, shatter trust and cause you to want to leap across the table and ram your cards down your opponent's throat.

Fun times!


Synopsis
Eight mythical monsters are, for one reason or another, going to have a massive fight. This is an official fight in a gladiatorial arena and there are even betting shops working to take your hard earned off you.

So you place your bets and, with your hand of cards, do everything you can to make sure your bet pays off at the end of the game. That, of course, will involve nobbling the other monsters along the way …


Gameplay
There are 12 monsters in the box but only 8 are used in a single game. Once the 8 have been chosen, either through player choice or random luck, you assemble a deck of eleven cards for each monster, each with the a number from 0 to 10 printed on it.

The way the monsters fight is therefore simple. A player puts out a numbered card from their hand on a monster and then the next player does the same. They can either place a card on a monster that doesn't have one yet or they can over ride a current card by placing another card for the monster on top of it – this can turn a 7 in to a 2 or even a 0 in to a 10. Once every monster has a number, the monster with the lowest is eliminated and the next round of combat begins. So far, so meh. Right?

However …

As mentioned earlier, you bet on the monsters and whoever earns the most gold at game end, wins. So if your opponent goes in hard on the Unicorn and then places a Unicorn 8 on it, you're going to want to place your Unicorn 0 on it to try and get it eliminated to make sure your opponent gets no gold.

And on top of all that, whoever is currently betting the most on a monster is considered the monster's “backer” and can activate the monster's special ability.

It's here where the game comes to life. If it was just a case of bet then play your cards, the game would be as dull as all heck. The monster abilities vary considerably (from drawing cards to picking up previously played cards to stealing cards from your opponent to cutting their hand in half for their next turn and more) and the backer of the right monster will often find they get a large advantage because not all monsters are of equal power.

But while you might quickly identify the best monster on the table and make a fast play to become its backer, you can bet that every other player has identified the best monster on the table and you now have a table full of opponents all with a mindset of killing your monster off fast. So maybe go for a mid-level monster instead? But what if you don't draw any cards to help them during the fight and they end up as a barely noticed casualty of war?

Knowing which monsters to back and when to play the cards to help them does actually take more skill than you might at first assume. It's all very well leading with a Minotaur 10 but if the next player immediately plays a Minotaur 0 to override your 10, you're in trouble. Maybe it would have been better to wait for them to play their 0 first and then you could have over ridden it with your 10. But wait too long and the round will be over and the Minotaur will be knocked out!

And just as you are about to make a killer blow, your opponent activates a particular monster which lets them play a second card on their turn thus ending the round before your go and destroying your monster.

This all makes for an incredibly fast, fun and frustrating game play. It is not a game for someone who gets too involved in their games as they will quickly get annoyed. It is not even a game for someone as young as 8 as the game itself states as most 8-year-olds I know, while certainly able to grasp how to play, will find it too aggravating for them. You need a bit more maturity to be able to handle seeing your glorious Seraphim getting slapped through dumb luck and no fault of your own and thus losing you all your gold.


Presentation
The rules and the cards are all perfectly serviceable. If I had to make a criticism it'd be a minor quibble over some of the art being ugly but art is always in the eye of the beholder so maybe someone else would love it!


Summary
A deceptively aggravating and aggressive game where you will need to be able to deal with random defeats and unlucky breaks destroying your game through no fault of your own. If you can handle that, it's a good game albeit not one that you will play all evening.


7 out of 10. A fine start to an evening's gaming provided no one is of a mind to carry grudges over in to the next game!





Note: I have learned from bitter experience with this site that I need to stress that all reviews – including this one – are entirely matters of opinion. I am not claiming that anything I have said in this review is fact, it is all entirely my opinion and I am sure that many others have different opinions. If you wish to reply with yours, I welcome it. I enjoy discussion but will not respond kindly to aggressive replies.
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Jonan Jello
United States
Newark
California
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"Thick as a Snicker" ~ ♫ "Your uncle says to, says to tell you, You are a monkey girl."♫
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CA is definitely a game my family enjoys playing. We just need to play it more often! Good review!
 
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David B
United States
Chesapeake
Virginia
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I've never tried it, but I've always wondered if Knizia ever considered this game without the abilities, kind of like Battle Line without the tactics cards. Regardless, a very fun and tense game. My experience with betting/wagering games is limited, but this is the best of the ones I have tried.
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Jean-Claude Vendôme
France
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pfctsqr wrote:
I've never tried it, but I've always wondered if Knizia ever considered this game without the abilities, kind of like Battle Line without the tactics cards. Regardless, a very fun and tense game. My experience with betting/wagering games is limited, but this is the best of the ones I have tried.


Yep, this game is called Grand National Derby. It's the original game.

This lighter game is the main reason why I chosed to retheme Colossal Arena into Mario Kart : a race with a number of laps (way more thematic imho).
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Black Bart
Australia
Sydney
NSW
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mrVendome wrote:
pfctsqr wrote:
I've never tried it, but I've always wondered if Knizia ever considered this game without the abilities, kind of like Battle Line without the tactics cards. Regardless, a very fun and tense game. My experience with betting/wagering games is limited, but this is the best of the ones I have tried.


Yep, this game is called Grand National Derby. It's the original game.

Avalon Hill (Don Greenwood) developed GND into Titan the Arena, FFG added four additional monsters for the Colossal Arena version.
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