Wednesday, March 28, 2007

27th March - Colosseum

No Steve again this week, so only Richard, Garry and myself. I had pre-ordered the new Wolfgang Kramer/Markus Lubke game, Colosseum, from DoW and according to UPS it was due to be delivered today. It duly arrived on time and we decided to give it a test drive. As usual with games from DoW the production is of the highest quality. The game board and components are very good and very colourful. The box insert is designed so that all the pieces fit neatly inside, attention to detail as usual. I had downloaded the rules and read them on the train on the way home from work, they looked pretty straightforward. After we laid out all the pieces (you get a lot of pieces) ready to start play, I read through the rules. Each player gets a very clear crib sheet detailing the turn sequence and on the reverse all the assets needed to complete each event.

The very colourful board

The game runs through 5 turns, each turn has 5 phases. Investing, acquiring assets, trading assets, producing an event and closing ceremonies. In the first phase you can make one investment - buy a new event programme, buy a season ticket, expand your arena, construct an emperor's loge. In the second phase you can acquire asset tokens, this is done through an auction mechanism. On the board there are 5 markets, each holding 3 assets, the active player chooses a market and then bids at least 8 gold. If he wins the auction he takes the assets and the market is refilled, if another player wins the market stays empty. To be truthful in our game with 3 players the bidding was not very competitive, there always seemed to be something you needed without having to bid up the price. If there wasn't you could let the bid initiator win and see if the refill gave more interesting options. Obviously with 4 or 5 players the bidding may get more competitive, but with 5 markets to choose from with 3 players we didn't need to.

Ready to play after the sandwiches!!

Third phase involves trading assets, the active player can ask for assets or offer assets for trade you can use gold in the trades too. Each player gets the chance to trade, again the trade phase wasn't very busy, it may be different with more players.

The 4th phase is the heart of the game, producing an event. Each event requires a certain combination of assets, musicians, gladiators, horses, lions or whatever. You can produce an event with fewer than the required number of assets for a reduced return in spectators. First you roll one of the special die (2 if you have built the emperors' loge in your arena) to move the nobles around the track and try to get them into your arena. If they do you get more spectators for your event, if they land on a resting space you get an emperors medal. Emperor medals have various functions, you can trade them for 6 gold, add 3 spectators to an event or move a noble 1-3 spaces forwards or backwards, lastly you can pay 2 medals in the investment phase to make an extra investment. You then add up the number of spectators your event attracts, this includes number attracted by the event, plus 5 for every previously produced event, plus 5 if you have a season ticket, plus 5 if you have a star performer tile, plus 7 if the emperor is present in your arena, 5 for a consul and 3 for a senator, plus 3 for every podium you have. You can then cash in emperor medals if you have them for 3 spectators per medal. Phew! that can add up to a lot of spectators, your marker moves on the score track only if the number of spectators your event produced is greater than any other event you have produced. In other words they are not accumalative scores, you only score for the highest event you produce.

The Emperor and a Senator sitting on a resting space

In the 5th and final phase, the closing ceremony, the player with the highest score is awarded a podium, each player must discard one asset used in the event just produced and the last player on the score track can take 1 asset from the leader on the score track. On the 5th turn there is no closing ceremony, at the end of the 5th turn the player with the most spectators wins, gold is the tiebreaker.

End position plus asset tokens, coins, events and star performer tiles

Overall I enjoyed the game, it plays smoothly and only takes just over the hour. I must say I think it will play better with 4 or 5 players, if only to make the bidding more competitive and the trading a bit more involved. In our game it looked like Garry was going to run away with it as he had just bought a large event to produce, Richard was intent on getting as big an event as he could to stay up with him, unfortunately he forgot he needed some gold to buy some assets in the marketplace and this is not something you want to do. To say it held him back a bit is an understatement.

Final Scores
Garry 80, Colin 75, Richard 68

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