Greatest secret agent in the world!!!
Roll Call: Mark, Dan, Marty, Brian, and Steve
Circus Maximus: Steve's been lobbying for a game with a bit more "theme" than most of our current fare so we pulled out Circus Maximus. I figured it has enough tables/charts, cutthroat play, etc. to satisfy Steve's thirst for chrome and blood.
Circus Maximus is an AH game from the 1980's featuring chariot racing. There are always at least 8 chariots in the race, so some players get more than 1 chariot to control (in our case it was Marty, Dan, and myself). You then assign 4 points to each chariot to boost the driver's skill, team speed, team endurance, and chariot weight (read armor). This enables you to customize your chariot to your desires. Some folks like the slow heavyweights capable of dishing out punishment, some like the sprinters, some like the middle of the road.
Mark Hur I took a Driver +2 and Team Speed +2 (which I boned up completely by rolling on the 0 speed table for), and Mark Hur II took a Heavy Car with Team Speed +2.
It was not a friendly race, right from the start. On the very first turn I moved both my chariots first (chariot turn order is governed by chit pulls). Not good. It just made my chariots the biggest targets for the other 6 chariots to follow. Steve Hur and his hell chariot (heavy, +2 driver) came gunning straight for Mark Hur I. Before he knew it Mark Hur's best horse was dead courtesy of a box cars roll for damage by Steve. Scratch one chariot from contention.
Coming into the first turn there was plenty of horse/driver whipping and chariot bashing. So much so that Dan noted that there was no way we'd make it through a 3-lap race at our current rate of endurance loss. In fact only Brian had a team with high endurance (70+?), most of our teams were in the 20's and 30's.
But endurance wasn't going to be the big problem. Survival was. Marty Hur II's was the first chariot to flip. He flipped in the first turn, courtesy of a corner strain roll of 16 or 17. Luckily for Marty Hur II he was at the back of the pack when this happened (in fact only Mark Hur was behind him, and well behind him at that after cutting loose the dead horse). Marty Hur II managed to cut himself free from the reins, but had to take the long route off the track when Mark Hur I bore down on the inside lanes, intent on running him down.
Nearer the front of the pack Steve Hur and Mark Hur II's heavy chariots battled it out. They both took significant wheel damage, and that spelled their eventual doom. Soon after one of these clashes Steve Hur was called to do a wheel check due to damage and failed it with a roll of '3'. Steve Hur was promptly being dragged behind his team after his chariot's wheel fell off. He managed to cut himself loose and made for the sidelines. Next it was Mark Hur II's turn to face the piper. Dan Hur raced up in his chariot to deliver a wheel to wheel smash and somehow got the better end of it (despite the "weight" or "armor" difference in chariots). Mark Hur II's chariot took a couple more points of wheel damage and then his wheel came flying off also.
But Mark Hur II wasn't nearly as lucky as Steve Hur and Marty Hur II in cutting himself loose. First off he was a wimpy driver, and secondly he'd already taken some damage. His rolls for freedom fell short and he was dragged until dead a few turns later. His limp body, what was left of it, would finish the race long before Mark Hur I.
So after one lap we had half the chariots out of the race, 3 had flipped and 1 was hopelessly out of contention with a 3 horse team and a top speed of 9. Therein lies the flaw in the game. Steve and I had nothing to do for the next 2 hours. Steve started perusing the rules for Wooden Ships and Iron Men and pawing at his new ASL purchases, while I was forced to play a game I had no chance in. I should've turned over my Mark Hur I chariot to someone else and played a 2 player game with Steve. But I was the rule guy also, so I was still busy handling questions and mechanics and felt responsible to do so. In other words, it just never crossed my mind, otherwise I would've been outta there in a heartbeat!
After that the race became less bloody with a lot more maneuvering and tactics taking place. All the heavy chariots were down due to their over zealousness and lack of luck. Brian Hur whipped his horses for speed every turn, he had the endurance to burn, and he needed to since his chariot was rather slow. Dan Hur I and Brian Hur vied for the lead, while Marty Hur I and Dan Hur II waged a small private battle not far behind them.
About midway into the second lap Marty Hur I decided to leave Dan Hur II and their feud behind in order to contend for the win. Brian Hur and Dan Hur continued to battle for the lead. Mark Hur I made them nervous as they lapped him, but he was unable to do anything worthy of note, especially after Brian Hur grabbed his whip.
All this time Marty Hur II was trying to get off the track. He was badly hurt and was only moving 2 squares a turn. That wasn't fast enough. Despite his precarious position in the lead Dan Hur I decided that Marty Hur II was unworthy of life and ran him down in cold blood. Dan Hur's team barely missed a beat.
Brian Hur took the inside corner on most turns, tempting the fates with +4 and +5 strain rolls. His luck held steady. The rest of us finally figured out that we too had endurance to burn and the horses fell under the lash (well at least those of us who had a whip to lash with) as the third and final lap approached.
It was Dan Hur I over Brian Hur by a nose coming into the last turn. And that's when Brian Hurs luck in the corner's betrayed him. He needed to clear the corner in one turn, but was forced to double sideslip farther into it instead, and so his max speed and ability to strain his horses was limited at a crucial point. Dan Hur I pulled further ahead while Marty Hur I passed him by.
Down the stretch Dan Hur I held onto his lead for the win over a charging Marty Hur I. Brian Hur was not far behind. All three chariots crossed the finish line on the same turn.
I don't quite remember the finishes but I believe it was something like this…
Dan Hur I takes the laurels
Marty Hur II -6
Brian Hur -9
Dan Hur II -20+
Mark Hur II -70+ or so, I might be a little generous in that estimate.
The game is quite a hoot to play; there was plenty of laughing and hollering going on during our session. Especially the first lap. And it really does the chariot racing theme justice. Lots of chrome keeps you interested in your driver's fate even after his chariot has been flipped! There's also campaign game rules with betting, driver health, etc. But it does have the "problem" of player elimination and length of play. Also it suffers from lousy production values. Three boards that come apart easily make up the course, everyone drove their chariots into a crevice at least once, and who uses little square cardboard chits as pieces these days?!? Seriously, it could use a production update, and perhaps some streamlining of the game, charts, rules, etc. to make it more streamlined in mechanics and quicker to play. It's hard to spend 4+ hours on a spruced up race game when Formula De, Das Motorsportspiele, etc. are available.
I enjoyed it, but I wouldn't want to play it again without a backup plan for the eliminated drivers. Everyone else enjoyed it also, Steve the most, despite his early exit.