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Colosseum» Forums » Sessions

Subject: Colosseum - Session Report rss

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Greg Schloesser
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Jefferson City
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Note: My full review of Colosseum will be published soon. What follows is an abbreviated version.

Days of Wonder is known for releasing games that have very high production values. They don’t skimp on quality, even if this does cause their games to have a higher price tag than many others in the industry. As a result, each new release is eagerly anticipated by many gamers, and Colosseum was no exception. My interest was heightened further when I learned that the game was being co-designed by Wolfgang Kramer, author of my three favorite games.

Colosseum is set in ancient Rome, where the Emperor has called for massive celebrations to “commemorate the opening of the Colosseum”. Players will attempt to gather the necessary components in order to present gala shows for the amusement of the people and the glory of the Emperor and Rome. Gladiators, comedians, musicians, horses, chariots, ships, scenery – all and more are needed to ensure that the Emperor will be pleased. Glory and riches go the player who presents the most outstanding show, attracting the most spectators.

The game progresses through five turns, each following the same phases:

1) Investing. Each player chooses one of the following options:

Buy a new Event Program. Events range in cost from 13 – 40 coins, with victory points yields of 17 – 50. Each will require a different set of assets. One of the keys to success in the game is to attempt to produce events that can utilize assets used in previously produced shows. This will prevent you from being forced to gather completely new assets for each and every show.

Expand the Arena. The first two event programs with which players begin the game only require a small arena. Newly acquired programs will require a larger arena. Players can increase their arena in two stages, each costing 10 coins.

Purchase a Season Ticket. Season tickets cost 10 coins, but add 5 points to the value of each event staged.

Construct an Emperor’s Loge. The Loge allows the player to roll two dice when moving the dignitaries. This gives the player many options, and improves one’s chances of maneuvering the dignitaries into their arena or obtaining medals.

2) Acquiring Event Asset Tokens. Auctions are conducted for sets of three event asset tokens until each player has acquired a set. Each player may only acquire one set, but there is an online variant wherein players may acquire multiple sets.

3) Trading. Players may trade event asset tokens, attempting to obtain the assets needed to fulfill their programs.

4) Producing an Event. This phase has two steps:

Move the dignitaries. Players normally roll one die and move one dignitary clockwise around the track the corresponding number of spaces. However, if a player has constructed an Emperor’s Loge, he may roll two dice. He then can move one dignitary the combined number of spaces, or move two dignitaries, using a different die to move each one. The objective here is to maneuver a dignitary into your arena, or onto a resting place, earning the player a medal that has multiple possible uses.

Announce Event. The player reveals which event he is producing, and tallies the points earned. Points are derived from the event itself, as well as the dignitaries, season tickets and podiums present in the arena. Previously produced events contribute an extra five points apiece, and players earn additional points if they possess star performers in the show, which are gained when a player accumulates three or more identical “live” performers. Finally, players may surrender medals to earn an additional three points apiece. A player’s high score is marked on the score track, and a corresponding amount of money is earned.

Players must strive to build upon previously produced shows by acquiring events that use many of the assets a player already possesses. New ones will be needed, but it is foolhardy to attempt to produce a show that requires too many different assets. Players may produce a show they previously produced, but lose the +5 bonus for that show.

5) Closing Ceremony. The player who has produced the best show to date receives a podium, which is worth +3 for each subsequent production. Each player must then discard one asset token used in their production, and the player who is in last place on the victory point scale may take an asset token from the current leader. While this isn’t a major setback for the leader, it does help the player who currently resides in last place.

Five turns are conducted in the same fashion, with each player recording his HIGHEST score on the track. This is not necessarily his most recent production, as often a player will delay producing a more gala show until he has obtained all of the necessary assets. After five rounds, the player who has produced the highest-valued show during the course of the game is victorious.

Colosseum certainly fits well in the Days of Wonder line. It is not a “heavy-weight” along the lines of Puerto Rico, Caylus or Princes of Florence, but it is still filled with important decisions and strategies. There is a considerable amount of planning, trading and strategy to employ in order to perform well and present high-valued productions. There is a progression aspect present, as players must build on previous turns’ actions and productions in order to prepare for their ultimate gala show. At first, early turns may seem pointless, as ultimately only the top show wins the honors. However, these early rounds are essential in acquiring the needed assets and arena features in order to be in position to present that one stellar production that will carry you to victory.

In spite of some mitigating factors, it is still quite possible to find yourself in a situation wherein most or all of the dignitaries have already passed your arena, and it is highly unlikely you will be able to maneuver any of them into your arena for your production. This is palatable in the first few rounds, but if this situation occurs in the final round, it can be fatal. Players must keep a careful eye on this situation, and try to position dignitaries so that they will have a good chance of being able to move them into their arena when they produce their gala show.

There is also a “luck of the draw” present in the initial distribution of event programs. It is possible to receive two events that use essentially the same assets. This makes it easier to plot one’s course of actions for the game. On the other hand, receiving two event programs that require completely different assets makes life much more difficult. However, it is not an impossible obstacle to overcome.

A final word is in order concerning the components. While all are perfectly acceptable and of high quality, the game is filled with cardboard. The only wood are the seven cute dignitary pawns, some of which have laurels and togas, and the dice. Everything else is cardboard, although thick and nicely illustrated. Gone are the impressive three-dimensional plastic pieces that made games such as Cleopatra and the Society of Architects and Battle Lore so visually stunning. While such components aren’t necessary to play and enjoy the game, they certainly do add to the experience and its appeal. I can only imagine just how cool the game would have looked if the arenas were three-dimensional. Ahh, well … I guess it would have added considerably to the game’s cost, as well as the size of the box.

I have thoroughly enjoyed all of my games of Colosseum. Each has been tense, and filled with important choices and strategic options. Each game feels different from the previous ones, and the problems presented seem unique. That may well change with more and more playings, but for now, the game feels fresh. Colosseum is a fun and solid game, and I look forward to more productions that will bring glory to Rome … and perhaps victory to me!

After enjoying a lead through the third round, I stumbled badly, unable to acquire all of the needed assets for my final gala production. Bo, who was in dead last following the third round, presented outstanding productions in both the fourth and fifth rounds, keeping just ahead of Byron to capture the victory.

Round-by-round scores:

Round 2: Greg 38, Rhonda 37, Bo 32, Alison 23, Byron 18
Round 3: Greg 47, Byron 46, Alison 42, Rhonda 38, Bo 32
Round 4: Bo 78, Greg 47, Byron 46, Alison 42, Rhonda 38
Finals: Bo 87 Byron 83, Alison 77, Rhonda 74, Greg 70

Ratings: Greg 7.5, Bo 7, Byron 7, Alison 6.5, Rhonda 6

 
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Scotty Dickey
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Brandon
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Thanks for your review and session report. I had heard your initial impressions of the game earlier on a podcast - possibly the Dice Tower. I've always appreciated your opinions. I agree completely with your basic assessment of this game. I have to say, however, that I thought it was somewhat unfortunate, if not unfair, to criticize this game for not having the same type of components found in Cleopatra and the Society of Architects. For all the nice components in that game, I would much rather play Colosseum. As you wrote, the components in Colosseum are very high quality, just not large and plastic. I've played Colosseum several times this weekend. It was a terrific success with every group who played the game with me. I enjoy the game quite a bit myself and am looking forward to playing again soon. Basically, I feel a bit defensive about this game because I believe that it suffers from the unenviable circumstance of being the next Days of Wonder game to be released after BattleLore. When I consider some of the other Days of Wonder releases, I can't help but think that Colosseum would have been welcomed much more enthusiastically had it been released at another time. It isn't BattleLore. It isn't Cleopatra and the Society of Architects. However, it is a wonderful new game that is a worthy addition to the list of hits from DoW and a game that will get to the table far more often than either of those games.

Again, thanks for your comments. I'm glad to hear that you recommend this game. I hope others will heed your recommendation and give this game a chance.
 
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Greg Schloesser
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otscotty wrote:
Thanks for your review and session report. I had heard your initial impressions of the game earlier on a podcast - possibly the Dice Tower. I've always appreciated your opinions. I agree completely with your basic assessment of this game. I have to say, however, that I thought it was somewhat unfortunate, if not unfair, to criticize this game for not having the same type of components found in Cleopatra and the Society of Architects. For all the nice components in that game, I would much rather play Colosseum. As you wrote, the components in Colosseum are very high quality, just not large and plastic.

Again, thanks for your comments. I'm glad to hear that you recommend this game. I hope others will heed your recommendation and give this game a chance.


Thanks for the comments, Scott! I do thoroughly enjoy Colosseum, and feel it is an excellent addition to the Days of Wonder line. As I said, the game is perfectly playable with the components included, and they are of high quality. I just wish the game had received the same treatment as Cleopatra and Battle Lore. 3-D arenas would have been SO neat. That's not a knock against the game, which is fine. I just think the experience would have been enhanced even more with more impressive bits.
 
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Eric Knauer
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Heathrow
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I actually prefer the components and artwork in Colosseum compared to Cleopatra and the Society of Architects (IMO, the plastic toy-like pieces in Cleopatra seemed a little tacky). I liked that DOW showed some restraint with their latest game.
 
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Scotty Dickey
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eknauer wrote:
I actually prefer the components and artwork in Colosseum compared to Cleopatra and the Society of Architects (IMO, the plastic toy-like pieces in Cleopatra seemed a little tacky). I liked that DOW showed some restraint with their latest game.


I realize that it is a matter of personal preference, but I completely agree.
 
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