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Subject: Great bloodthirsty fun! rss

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john miller
United States
Seattle
Washington
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Circus Maximus is a great Avalon Hill game. It's goal is simple and direct: be the first one to race your chariot three laps around the board while fighting the other racers along the way. Movement rules are simple, although there is some bookkeeping along the way. Combat is equally easy, since there are only two kinds of attacks you can make: whip attacks or ram attacks, and each kind of attack can be against an opponet's chariot/driver or against his team of horses, with varying (and random) results.

There's an initial setup phase where you choose your driver, chariot, team speed, and team endurance. You get four points to distribute so you must decide what configuration you want -- should you go with an average (1 point) in each category, or maybe spend 2 points for your team speed, while sacrificing team endurance (0 points).

Pros:

-- Great bloodthirsty fun. Ram your opponents' chariots until his wheels fall off! Whip his horses just before he goes into a turn and watch him slide into the wall! Talk smack! The crowd demands blood!

-- Relatively short game. Even with eight players, you can race three laps in a couple of hours, provided everyone is familiar with the rules, or that you have a GM to keep things moving.

-- Despite the simple movement and combat rules, there are a surprising number of strategies that one can employ throughout the game. You can make multiple attacks against multiple opponents, or you can spend all your movement points to race past them. Players must conserve their team's stamina, so sometimes it's smart to wear down a nearly exhausted opponent. Chariots racing too fast around corners can flip, so maybe that's the time you force your opponent to an inside lane or whip his horses to make them speed up. No two games are the same.


Cons:

-- It sucks to be last. If everyone gangs up on you, or even if you suffer a few bad dice rolls, your chariot and horses can easily become damaged, and it's less than fun when you're left in the dust with two wobbly chariot wheels while your opponents lap you on the track. Of course, part of the strategy is making sure that you don't suffer that damage in the first place, but once you're lagging, your turn usually consists of trying to catch the crowd or waiting for them to lap you so you can get one good hit in. This is the point when most people lose interest, especially newbies.

-- Bookkeeping. One must keep track of a handful of stats on their chariot sheet as the game progresses, and, although this is not hard, it takes away from the action, and it's easy to forget that you need to tick off a point here or there.

-- Although the rules are fairly straightforward, I feel the original Avalon Hill rules are overly wordy and convoluted. The outline format of the rules makes it seem like wallpaper at times, and some of the charts (e.g., the Corner Strain Chart) can be converted to simple formulae that makes the game go a little faster. It took me a few practice games to get all the nuances down exactly, and I'd recommend that you cut your learning curve by playing with experienced folks, if possible.

-- The cardboard counters that represent the chariots and horses are relatively small, and like most counters they are hard to manipulate when the board gets crowded, and they're easily scattered or lost. Three-dimensional miniatures add greatly to the playability (and fun) of the game, but even cheap plastic tokens are better than the cardboard squares.

-- Less than optimal fun with only a few players. With eight (preferably boisterous) players (and possibly a GM to keep things moving) it's full of action, but if you can't round up the full complement of players, don't bother.

Despite its flaws, CM is excellent fun, especially with the right crowd. There are campaign rules for playing a "season" of races, which I've never tried, but look like a lot of fun. I recommend that all players agree on a prize (a steak dinner works well) for the winner, with minor prizes added for the first player to complete each lap, or to be the first one to flip their chariot.
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Steve M.
Canada
Calgary
Alberta
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If you like Circus Maximus you should check out Circus Minimus from The Gamers... all the fun and faster playing rules!
 
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Mark Crane
United States
Orem
Utah
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And Circus Minimus is on sale for $10 by the publisher.
 
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Robert Bowsher
United States
Hilliard
Ohio
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CM works pretty well if one person is the gamemaster and handles all the tables. That way, the only rules the players need to be really familiar with are the strain rules.
 
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