Friday, 13 March 2015

From the Clouds - Spartacus


A Very good intellectual property board game. You control a ludus in Roman times, back stab, bribe and undermine at every opportunity. Each turn an arena combat will have at least 2 players involved. They will potentially duke it out to the death, if your involved or not you still have the opportunity to gamble on the outcome of the match up.

Build up your ludus from a basic setup by outbidding the opposition in the market phase, buying slaves, gladiators, equipment and the 'Host' option. I'll come back to that later. Pay out or receive coins depending on how many slaves to gladiators you have and then proceed with trying to gain points through clever card play.

Art, Graphics and Components
Not the best I have seen in board games, however it is very functional and fits very nicely within the character of the game. Lots of coin tokens and a load of cards. Cards are for the intrigue phase, that have the ability to effect yours and your opponents ludus and the market cards that have the characters from the show. It would have been nice if they were all hand drawn, but Gale Force 9 did a good job in making the screenshots tie in nicely.

My favorite bit is the arena board and miniatures. The miniatures are really nice, even though I have not yet done mine, I know and have seen some amazing paint jobs on these models. The board is a nicely depicted arena with a splash of blood here and there.

Rules and Initial plays

Not a very big rule book and it has pretty big text, with lots of diagrams and pictures assisting in explaining the rules. I found it pretty easy in learning the rules from the rule book and have found that each time I have taught the game it is relatively straight forward. There is pretty much 4 games going on, that have been expertly entwined together that makes Spartacus the game it is. You could even teach each phase as it happens, I don't believe you could win or lose in the first round of the game or even give yourself a lead that you couldn't be brought down from.

You are only disengaged for a minute or two each round for your general upkeep. Once the intrigue phase starts, through the market phase and into the arena phase. You should be well and truly engaged with the other players through out.

Through the intrigue phase you will be rebuking and committing intrigue through out this phase. Gaining influence for your ludus, effecting your opponents ludus' and particularly bribing and coercing left right and center.

In the market phase you will be choosing how much coins you will be bidding and trying to out think your opposition.Leading then into the arena phase where at least two players will have fighters committed to the arena. You all have the option to place wagers on the outcomes of the battle, ensuring you will all be engaged.

Decision points
​Primarily for me the key decision points are in the market phase. However their are still valid key decisions made through out the other phases.

In the market phase you will be blind bidding for items, slaves and gladiators. A number of cards will be placed face down, one is turned over and then you place your coins you want to bid into your hand, close it and place it over the middle of the board. Once everyone has done
this, everyone reveals their bid, with the highest bidder claiming the item and paying what they bid.

All other players retain their coins and then continue. The final thing you bid on is the host option. A very key manouevre, worth an influence point and you can dictate the arena battles and if the loser dies or survives (Unless they were decapitated).

One of the key decisions is in trying to figure out how much can I afford to bid and then determining how much the other players will bid and only then placing one more coin the the next highest. I get a big smile when no one bids at all other than one player and they have put 10 coins in their hand.

To summarise, this game is not complex and not difficult to teach. The game play entwined with the theme is amazing and the social dynamics of the table is great. Gale Force 9 have done a really stellar job with this title. When it came out, it was a surprise and was at a great price too. I now have the expansion, so I can play with 6 and it introduces 2 versus 2 arena battles.

I have not covered the battles and you may not think that they are important, but they are. I love the battle mechanic with the dice and the fact that pretty much all the gladiators have unique abilities in addition to their statistics. If your not in the battle, you have the option to gamble on the outcome and I have even been known to take coins for advice mid battle for players.

Always remember coins can flow quite freely as bribes, extortion, etc. Just keep it within the context of the game and try starting out with 1 influence and going up to 12. Makes it a really strategic game in regards to building your ludus and if not try starting out on 1, but finish on 7. This way you need friends to get higher intrigue cards into play.

I really have a great time with this game and I'm looking forward to seeing the X-Men game using the same core mechanics, however I am wary as I do not know how that will work.