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In Colosseum each player is a Roman impresario -- producing great spectacles in his or her arena in the hopes of attracting the most spectators. Players earn wealth and glory for each event run, using it to create ever more ambitious events. They will need to improve their arena, find the best performers, lure the Emperor and his nobles, and manage assets for long-term success to be granted the title of Grand Impresario.
- 1 game board
- 5 arenas
- 10 arena expansions
- 6 pawns
- 5 Emperor's loges
- 10 Season Tickets
- 2 Roman dice
- 90 Roman coins
- 30 Event programs
- 152 Event asset tokens
- 7 Star Performer Awards
- 18 Emperor Medals
- 6 Event Summary sheets
- 1 Storage bag
- Rules booklet
Average Rating: 4 in 4 reviews
Initial reports of Colosseum (Days of Wonder, 2007 – Wolfgang Kramer and Markus Lubke) were not as thrilling as other Days of Wonder games, and I began to wonder if this might not be the first game from that company in recent years that wasn’t great. There were rumblings of comparing it to Princes of Florence, another Kramer game that has garnered some rather high ratings (although I find it merely “good”). Still, the theme was one that intrigued me – of producing shows in ancient Rome, and I was sure production values would be high.
Once again, I really don’t understand early criticisms of the game (I should stop reading early previews!). Not only was Colosseum better than I had heard, but it has quickly become one of my favorite games in a long while, causing me to bring it to the table again and again. There is a smattering of luck throughout the game, but everything ties nicely with the theme; and I found that while Colosseum seems light, there is an undercurrent of real strategy. This medium weight game is, in a word, delightful; and I can see it being played many years from now.
Some comments on the game…
- Components: After Cleopatra and the Society of Architects, I
really didn’t think Days of Wonder could increase their quality, and
Colosseum indeed isn’t full of the plasticky goodness of that game.
Still, there are a TON of cardboard counters in the game, all of which
are beautifully illustrated. The board and box are also extremely
nicely designed; and as the game board is built up with the different
arenas, it really has a tremendous, thematic feel. The resin pawns in
particular are pretty nifty – the emperor pawn is the neatest piece in
the game. I did have a few small minor problems with the components.
The coins were in various denominations, colors, and sizes but were
only marked on one side, resulting in occasional confusion. Also, the
box is a different quality than previous Days of Wonder games and was
fairly difficult to open. Finally, while I think it’s cool and
thematic to have Roman numerals on the dice, I soon realized that many
people are fairly bad at recognizing them and was constantly reminding
people the difference between a “IV” and a “VI”. Still, minor
nitpicks in a tremendously produced game.
- Phase 1: In phase one, a player has a choice to invest in their
arena via four methods.
- Expand their arena (costs ten coins, can be done twice). This is useful because larger programs demand a larger arena to be put on, and because it offers more spaces for visiting dignitaries to land on.
- Purchase season tickets (costs ten coins). This adds five spectators to all shows.
- Constructing the Emperor’s Loge. (five coins) This allows a player to roll two dice when moving the dignitaries.
- Buy a new Event Program. (price ranges on program picked) This allows a player to buy a new program for future events with the better programs having a higher cost.
- Phase 2: In phase two, players will bid on markets in the middle
of the table. Each market has three tokens placed it in, which are
usually tokens that match the twelve different types needed for the
various programs. Occasionally, markets will have “wild” tokens or
tokens that award medals or double builds, making them especially
valuable. Players, in turn order, open up bidding on one market
(minimum bid of “8”), and each player may win only one auction per
round. Players start with a certain amount of tokens (based on the
players in the game), and this, combined with the auctions, helps
determine a players’ strategies. Folks who like fierce bidding should
beware that the bidding is usually rather mild, because often players
will want different sets of tiles, and there’s enough to go around.
The market fills up quickly, and it makes the game slightly kinder in
this regard. I’d like to make a side note that I really enjoy how the
types of tokens (gladiators, ships, musicians, comedians, priests,
horses, lions, chariots, cages, torches, scenery, and decoration) make
perfect sense with the theme. While I’m sure the game was balanced
around how many of each token is available, it’s nice to see that the
programs seem to match the tokens they require (for example the
“Cavalry of Spartacus” program needs three gladiators and three horses).
- Phase 3: In phase three, players can trade tokens and/or money
with one another. Initially I thought that this was a fairly
easygoing task, as players normally will not need or want the same
resources. However, as players get more experienced at the game, this
trading gets fiercer and more competitive. Players are knowledgeable
enough to look ahead to the future and will trade aggressively with
this in mind. Also, there are seven “star performers” that provide
bonuses to those who have the most tokens of some types; and a player
doesn’t want to give these stars up too easily, even if they don’t
need the tokens. Finally, some of the tokens are rarer than the rest
(for example, there are only ten cages, but twenty gladiators), again
making competition fairly fierce.
- Phase 4: In this phase, players roll a die and move one of six
nobles around the track on the board. Moving these nobles (one
emperor, two consuls, and three senators) is useful for a few reasons:
- Move them into a space in your arena.
- Move them out of a space in another player’s arena.
- Move them onto a “resting spot” space, which immediately awards the moving player a medal.
- Production: At the end of each turn, players will want to produce
one of their events. There are thirty events in the game, and each
player starts with two small events, although they can purchase much
larger ones later on. Each event has a required number of resource
tokens to put it on, although a player can produce them with fewer
tokens for fewer points. When a player produces a show, they add together
- the spectators that the event gives (more resources, more spectators – ranging from three to fifty)
- 4 spectators for any star performers they have that match a resource used in the event
- spectators for each senator (3), consul (5) or emperor (8) in their arena
- 5 spectators for each season ticket they have
- 3 spectators for each podium they have (this is awarded to the highest scoring player each of the first four turns)
- 3 spectators for each medal they discard
- 5 spectators for each previous smaller even they have already done
- Phase Five: In phase five, the player who has the highest score
in the game receives a podium (worth three spectators) for their
arena. Each player must then discard one token that they used in
their event (attrition), and then the player who is in last position
on the scoring track may take a token of their choice (one of the
basic twelve) from the player that scores the highest. This presents
players with an interesting choice on some turns. Should a player go
all out and produce the best show that they can, hoping to win the
podium and get a little more money; but knowing that they may lose one
of their valuable resources to another player? I’ve had to make that
choice in a few games that I’ve played, and no matter which way I’ve
picked, I’ve always second guessed myself and wondered if the other
option was better.
- Five rounds: The game only has five rounds, which really puts a
pressure on players as they must build and do as much as they can so
that they can really put on a stunning show in the last round. While
the starting tiles a player gets may determine their initial strategy,
a player can utilize trading and auctioning to get pretty much
whatever they need by the end. In this way, I think that the game is
better played twice, as players have a much better knowledge about
what to expect at the end. It is very critical that the entire game
is about the final show you put on, and players must constantly be
looking ahead. This is one of my favorite aspects of the game.
- Theme: There are some that may be put off by the box cover, which
immediately makes you think about the tremendous fights and action
sequences Hollywood has associated with the games in the Colosseum.
So it is understandable that some may be a bit depressed by the fact
that the game is all about putting on productions. But I found it a
neat change of pace and was certainly glad to play a game with a
refreshing theme that fit the mechanics well.
- Medals: Players get medals through some auctions, and by landing
notables on the “resting places”. Medals can be used for three
spectators in an event, exchanged for six coins, or can be used to
move a notable up to three spaces in EITHER direction. Even more
importantly, two medals can be discarded to allow a player to purchase
two things in Phase one. This makes medals invaluable, and players
must take care not to discard them willy-nilly in the early phases of
- Fun Factor: The game builds and builds to a very climatic
showdown with everyone putting on their best performance in turn five.
This is a game that grows in excitement, and although the bidding and
trading phases may be mild (this will most likely depend on your
gaming group), they are interesting enough to make the game more than
simply luck of the draw or roll. Yes, there are roll-and-move
mechanics, as the Nobles move around the track. Players must deal
with the programs and tiles they are initially dealt. But I have felt
(especially with experienced players) that the player who makes the
sharpest decisions wins the game, and it’s often close enough to be a
nail biter at the end.
I highly recommend Colosseum; it’s a beautifully produced game that has some real strategy behind it. I would call it a medium-weight game, and it’s certainly easy to teach and learn; but I cannot fathom why some would call it too lucky. The comparisons to Princes of Florence are perhaps somewhat valid, but that game is dry and dusty, while perhaps nicely designed. Colosseum, on the other hand, is a game that invokes the theme of the Roman era and gives players a lot of fun, easy choices in a game that lasts about ninety minutes. Easily one of the best games of the year!
“Real men play board games”
This review comes after playing my first game and doing so with a group of relatively beginner level gamers.
Introduction of the game to players:
This is possibly the best game I can think of for being able to explain the game to newer players. The player's summary sheet covers most everything and introducing the parts of the game will cover most everything to get started. In other words, there's not a whole lot of 'we'll explain it when we get to it' going on.
Breaking Paradigms and Pre-conceived notions:
This was quite the paradigm breaker for myself and my group. We are all so anxious, based on our experience, to get started building, buying and moving that we all missed the forest for the trees!
So let me take a step back and explain for the rest of you who may jump in too quick too. The game is only five turns long. You win by producing the single largest event during the game. So, there are two key points:
- In general, your largest event will be your last of the game,
the fifth one you will be able to produce. (each turn you are
generally able to purchase and produce larger events).
What this meant to us who rush in too quickly is that everything
you do in the first four turns is done in a way to let you maximize
the value of your final event. In other words, put aside the
tought of trying to have the biggest event each round to start
with, or buying things just for the sake of buying them because
they will 'help you now' - In this game, you want to help yourself
- Realize that, in it's basic form, having only 5 turns means that
you can only purchase five items during the game.
Keeping our eyes focused on the final goal, there are two things
you need to do to produce a superior final event - First, you need
to expand your arena to full size - and that's two purchases.
Second, you need to produce an event every turn, and they need
to be able to get increasingly bigger to earn you enough money
to afford that final large event. That means, very possibly, that
you will have purchased two medium sized events
That's 2 expansions, and three event purchases. That means you just used all five turns just to purchase your basic needs.
This translated into learning that the addional action tokens are VERY valuable and that I now know how wrong I was when I first wondered why anyone would want to spend two emperor medals to buy an extra item!
This is a very good game, and I now know that every action counts heavily and with only 5 turns the tension is just right. And interestingly enough, when we looked up at the clock, we found we had played for longer than we had thought because the game flowed so nicely.
Just remember to step back and keep an eye on that last event!
Had the opportunity to finally play Colosseum this weekend. That's one of the drawbacks to a game that has a 3 player minimum. The other factor in a 3-player min game is they usually take over 2 hours to play. If you can overcome these barriers (finding enough players/having enough time etc.) then you should enjoy Colosseum. Gameplay is relatively simple to learn, but as the headline says....the setup's a pain the butt. There are so many little die-cut counters of all sizes and shapes. The money is kind of neat, but the 1's and 2's are nearly indistinguishable from one side. I Played my friends Kevin and Chris, and Chris won, found the best strategies right off. Which is unusual for Chris as he usually looses, but this weekend I think he won every game we played except one?
Anyway, after the set-up the game moves pretty fast, and is finite, which is a feature I like in many games. Carcassonne for example, is finite game, even if you have 500 sets of tiles to play with, the game will end at prescribed moment. Games like Axis & Allies, although fun, can either be endless, or end too quickly. This game has 5 rounds, and a limited amount of times you "improve" your hippodrome, and by your ability to produce popular shows. The game essentially plays out like Ticket To Ride (T2R), and it's offspring. You are given 2 SHOW tickets, which seem like destination tickets in T2R. In order to produce the play you have to possess the minimum required assets shown on the card. Assets are things like, lions, gladiators, orators, horses, and scenery. These can be replenished in the bidding phase of the game which comes prior to the show production phase. Once you produce a play, it earns you points, translated into gold coins, and prestige if you have a senator, consul or the emperor visit your theater during a show. The senate is moved by each player on their turns, and they can even move them OUT of your theater, so be careful about that. I know this SOUNDS complicated, but it's really very easy to play once you try. We did a trial run of 1 round as an open handed round to work out the phases, but after that we started a new one from square one. I suggest the same approach for you if you intend to buy this game. If you've played ANY of the T2R Series then you have the upper hand. Honestly in retrospect this game has it mechanics from Alan R. Moon, but is from designer Wolfgang Kramer, who authored Torres and Tikal. With clever use of the neat wooden dice (provided), you can move just the right amount to get 2 of the senate into your hippodrome. But it all doesn't matter in the end, if it's not making you money. Chris won with just his starting hippodrome (2 tiles) and hoarding money buy purchasing a season ticket counter every turn. So in this sense the game seems unbalanced, even if you're able to produce a play every turn, like I did, you can still be beat out by someone with lots of +5 season tickets. Still though we all agreed at the end to play it again, we almost played it once more right then, but decided on something else instead. So the bare facts, it's a pain to set-up and put-up, but it's a lot of fun to play, and there is some strategy there too, plus....if you like any of the T2R Series, then you'll definitely love this. I give it 4-stars for the unbalanced scoring as I perceive it, and for the obvious T2R mechanics.
And remember you can't pass "GO" if you don't play the game!!!!
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