Munera is a game that immediately caught my eye the second I saw in on BGG. I am a big fan of gladiator games and ancient Rome. I have also been an avid watcher of the TV show Spartacus, blood and sand for the pure visceral combat that it shows. So when I saw this game, I thought “Ooo! This must be Spartacus, the game!” I ordered it instantly and it shipped right out.
Munera is a game designed to simulate the running of a successful gladiator school in ancient Rome. Players go through the process of recruiting gladiators, purchasing helpers and sending their gladiators off to battle to gain fame and fortune. The premise of this game is very exciting and looks very well thought out. After playing the game I have found some flaws that may have been due to the translation, but they made for a difficult learning process and a bumpy ride through our initial play of the game. Despite the speed bumps this game was very fun to play and brought a lot of exciting moments to the evening.
I must say that the instruction booklet of this game was among the most difficult I ever had to read through for a board game. The book was filled with numerous typos and had many confusing attributes that forced me to reread several sections over and over until I understood what was meant.
Part of the flair for the game is the authentic quality and terms that are used throughout it. But this makes the instructions very difficult to get through. The book has a glossary at the beginning that helps this, and I found it needs to be referred to at several points. All the Italian words and names in the game make pronunciation difficult, and the players were constantly stopping and asking what words were and what means what.
The instructions were very vague on a lot of points and flowed very poorly. At many points I found myself lost while flipping through the pages to try and find the answers we needed. There are a lot of questions that arise based on the dynamics of the cards that the instructions just do not cover.
Despite all the typos and translation confusion, after a couple read-through’s I was able to understand the rules and learned that the game play is rather simple.
The art of the game I feel is one of the better qualities it possesses. The art on the cards has an ancient look to them that adds to the aged feel of the game. I enjoyed this aspect very much. The boards of the game are also very well done with the blood splatters and subtle details.
The pieces and cards are a little small and are in some cases hard to read. But this is a minor flaw.
The game also comes with card protector sleeves and I felt that was a nice touch to add to the protection of the cards.
Over all the components are very simple and are nicely put together. I just wish the cards were a little larger.
The layout of the game initially shows a lot of strategy due to the various elements. You have your choice of gladiators and of helpers for your gymnasium, and you get some basic customization to flesh out your strategy. However after playing the game, the element of luck plays heavily into it, and it seems no matter what else is done, if you can roll higher on a 10 sided die than your opponent, you will win.
The special cards that represent your helpers who work in your gymnasium appear randomly and it can be a fierce competition to acquire them, so your strategy is more of an adaptation than a deliberate customization.
The game has a strong random element to it that is prevalent during many phases of the game. Players get a steady supply of event cards that can be played to alter so many aspects of the game. So no matter how good you are doing, a well played card deal you a punishing blow and the only preparation is your lick with a 10 sided die, and the hope that you managed to luck out and get the right helpers to prepare you for the random event.
My favorite aspect of this game is the gladiator combat. This is simulated by rolling a 10 sided die over and over again. And whoever rolls higher deals damage to their opponent. Several aspects of the game allow you to reroll the die, but in the end it is still random chance that decides the victor. During one game, despite cards and skills to allow my opponent numerous rerolls, I won every single battle by a considerable margin because I just kept rolling better.
I strongly recommend playing this game with four players every time. The fact that you have an audience as you r gladiators battle another player adds to the excitement. The game allows the spectator players to bet on the fights and it is exciting to have people cheer for you as you roll ten sider and watch the scales of victory tip in your favor.
Another interesting aspect of the game is the ability for other players to tamper with the outcomes of other players battles. This adds a bit of political intrigue to the game that can turn the tide of victory during battles. And it allows the spectator players to still be included in the action.
The game plays rather quickly from turn to turn, once you memorize the formulas that determine many of the games outcomes. Several events in the game require a roll of the die and you have to add several modifiers that come from your cards, and various other markers on the board. At first this slowed play a little, but after a few battles, we memorized the formulas and it went a lot easier.
Great artwork and simple composition adds to the appeal.
The rolling mechanic is very simple and flows nicely once learned.
The four player political play comes together very well.
Instructions are confusing and vague. There are a lot of circumstances in the game that the rules do not prepare you for, forcing you to decide amongst the players how to resolve the situations.
Extremely luck based. If you enjoy the random elements of a game than this issue will not be a problem.
Overall I have mixed feelings about this game. I had high expectations based on the description and the visual look of the game. However after playing it, I feel the game is severely luck based with very little strategy. You have to make the best of what the game randomly deals out to you and hope you roll better than your opponent, and that your other opponents do not ally against you. But through all those quirks, we still had plenty of laughs and definitely enjoyed the combat aspect.
I feel this game is an interesting concept, and it does come together very well after a couple of run throughs. In the end I will definitely play it again, and never thought rolling ten sided dice repeatedly could be so much fun.
Like you, this game has been on my radar since I saw its great artwork and theme. Your review has seen my enthusiasm dashed and, whilst I've not ruled it out completely, it's now dropped to the bottom of my wishlist. Thanks for your sobering bucket of cold reality.
Obligitory Smart-Ass Comment Here
Yeah, I wanted a Spartacus "the game" as well... maybe Id better look elsewhere...
Thank you very much for your review, every word you write is precious to us!
About the language, i know that roman tongue could be difficult for someone, but we used it to give the Players the very sound of cries shouted into the arena! Anyway, if you want to know hot to pronounce some latin word, i'm here to help you, just ask me, i'm at your disposal!
Having read your criticism, i can say the the first expansions, MUNERA: Ars Dimicandi, will probably fill any design-lack that you could find, i like it very much and cannot wait to release it, just a month to go.. I really would like that you play it!
And more than so, we are happy to announce that MUNERA: Ars Dimicandi will be downloadable FOR FREE, we want to support all across the world the lanista playing our game!
Jonathan "Spartan Spawn, Sworn, Raised for Warring!"
"By the power of truth, I, while living, have conquered the universe."
I think the fact that its not a 'Spartacus' style game is a great testament. I cant way to play my copy and am excited that its not anything like the horrid TV show. Ill leave it at that lest I derail the thread about said wildy inaccurate show.
Cant wait to play Albe! And Im excited about the expansion!
Thanks for all comments,
indeed in Munera there is something of SPARTACUS, but that tv-serie in our opinion has some incorrect historic view (the most evident is not giving to the crowd/editor the choice for the Defeated Gladiator). The most beautiful point of view of SPARTACUS is the Gymnasium of Batiatus, really good: with the Doctore, and the Prostitutes, and all companies of Gladiators is well done.
This is really felt in the game too, imho.
- Last edited Mon Feb 28, 2011 11:17 am (Total Number of Edits: 1)
- Posted Mon Feb 28, 2011 11:16 am
Guys you've done a very very good work: this game is full of historical accurate informations and is FUN! I can't wait to play also MUNERA: Ars Dimicandi!!!
Pressed thumb Albe Pavo!