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Subject: Colossal Arena as a 2-player: INTENSE! rss

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The Dave
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I recently ordered Colossal Arena (CA) from Barnes & Noble, but most of my gaming group is out of town, so my friend and I sat down to play it. After several plays I feel qualified to attempt a review of CA as a 2-player game.


Component Quality: When I got the box, at first I was like "Is this it?" But upon opening everything up, I was impressed. The cards are thick stock, with a nice laminated finish. The boarders are white, so they should wear well with repeated use. The betting tokens are on the small side, but are a sturdy plastic with little swirls in them to make them more attractive. While you don't get much, what you do get is very nice. It bears mentioning that the rules are also well-printed on quality glossy paper, and have clear, colorful illustrations.

Ratio of ease of play to fun factor: This is where the game really shines. The rules are straight-forward - even more so than the rulebook would lead you to believe. You start with 8 monsters on the table, a deck of cards, and each player gets five bet tokens. You have 8 cards in your hand at all times (unless playing with the alternate end game variant), and each turn consists of four phases.

On your turn you may make a bet on any monster that (A) hasn't been eliminated yet, and (B) no other player has bet on yet in the current round. You then play a card on any active monster. If you have more money bet on that monster than any other player, you may choose to use that monster's special ability. You then discard up to three cards and draw back up to 8. The last phase is that you check to see if all monsters have a card played on them in the current round, and if so, if there is a single one with the lowest value. If so, it is eliminated and a new round begins.

Now there are few nuances in the rules that make it a tad more complicated than that, but that's about it in a nutshell. My friend and I had never played the game before, and we were rolling in full out strategy mode in about 10 minutes. I think you could teach this to a group of complete newbies and it might take 15 minutes for everyone to catch on and be into the game.

But is it fun? YES! The first one or two rounds are sort of chaotic with only two people, as it's very easy to make a major mistake that could really hamper your chances at winning. This made me pay more attention in each of the next games, and that in turn helped me appreciate the strategy in the middle and end rounds. By the last round of our first game, we were silently plotting ways to kill each others' monsters, and the tension was thick with the possibility that the next card you laid could be the one that propels you to victory or sends you spiraling to defeat.

I think this may be one of the highest ease-of-play to fun-factor games I've ever played. It's quick to teach, and extremely fun to play.

Replayability: We finished our first game and then immediately started another. And then another. The next night we played two more quick games. It didn't get old, and I feel like we are each just scratching the surface of how to play this game strategically. There are so many choices to make. For example - do I bet on many monsters in the first round to take advantage of their special powers, but risk losing bet tokens in later stages, or play it safe so I can conserve bet tokens, but fall victim to my opponents' use of the special abilities? Do I play my prefect now and take back that centaur, or do I wait until the serpent is on the board?

Plus with choosing only 8 of 12 monsters each time, you get a lot of variety just in the starting combos of monsters.

VERDICT: I love this game. I can't wait to play it again, and honestly I'm not sure how I'll like it as a three or four player game. With two it feels like a real battle. I imagine that with more players the theme of multiple monsters competing in an arena will shine through a bit, but I love the strategy of going head-to-head with one other player. The game is quick to set up, easy to teach, and very fun to play. I'm not sure what else you would want in a game!
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Judy Krauss
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I used to play the earlier incarnation of this game, Titan Arena, 2-player, quite often. I agree that it plays very well 2-player and is a fun game.

Nice review. thumbsup
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Holger Hannemann
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I played Galaxy: The Dark Ages a lot, which is a spin-off of Colossal Arena. I tried it as a 2-player game, but it really fell flat.

Glad to hear that Colossal Arena is better. Maybe I should trade my copy for CA.

Nice review, Thumbs up!
 
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László Horváth
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This one hits the table quite often in our group too.
I prefer to play it with more people, but at 5 You have much less control. Anyway, a great game!
And a nice review!
 
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Martin Ralya
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I've never tried CA as a two-player, only with 3-4 -- you should definitely give it a shot with more, as well. And I should give it a shot with two, based on your review!

Part of the enjoyment for me with 3-4 is knowing that you may not get a chance to "fix things" before you're turn comes around again, so every gamble becomes a slightly bigger gamble. The flipside of that is less control, so I can definitely see where the loss of tension in one area would be made up for in others when playing with two.
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Per Sylvan
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Great review!
I've played Colossal Arena as a 2P-game quite much.
However, I think that the Ettin's ability is a bit overly powerful in 2P?

I mean, getting to play 2 cards is so much more powerful then any other ability. In 3P, 4P or 5P, then it is much easier for the other players to get rid of the Ettin, so I dont feel it to be as big an imbalance in those games.

What do you other people think??
 
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The Dave
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Perry wrote:
Great review!
I've played Colossal Arena as a 2P-game quite much.
However, I think that the Ettin's ability is a bit overly powerful in 2P?

I mean, getting to play 2 cards is so much more powerful then any other ability. In 3P, 4P or 5P, then it is much easier for the other players to get rid of the Ettin, so I dont feel it to be as big an imbalance in those games.

What do you other people think??


I've read before that the Ettin is unofficially banned in two player games for exactly the reason you mentioned. We eventually came to the conclusion that you have to ban the Ettin in two player games otherwise it is either too powerful, or it's the first creature targeted for death. Either way, it messes with the balance, like you said.
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