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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.
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…
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:
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!!!!
NOTE: This review was first published in Knucklebones magazine
Colosseum is set in ancient Rome, where the Emperor has called for massive celebrations to “commemorate the opening of the Colosseum”. Players attempt to gather the necessary components in order to present gala shows for the amusement of the people and the glory of Rome. Glory and riches go the player who presents the most outstanding show.
A large board depicts a section of Rome, around which are five arenas where players will conduct their shows. Moving along the track will be six Roman dignitaries, whom players attempt to attract to their shows, thereby increasing their value.
Each player receives an initial supply of asset tokens, two event programs and some coins. The event programs depict the exact assets needed to produce that show, the size of the arena required, their cost, and the points earned when produced. Even if a player does not acquire all of the assets required to produce a show, some points will be earned on a decreasing basis, depending upon how many assets are missing. Players will acquire new event programs during the course of the game, and these programs will require more assets and larger arenas, but will yield more points.
The game progresses through five turns, each following the same phases:
1) Investing. Each player chooses one of the following options:
•Buy a new Event Program. Players will want to acquire additional events, which will require more assets to produce, but yield significantly higher rewards. One of the keys to success in the game is to produce events that can utilize assets used in previously produced shows. This will prevent you from being forced to gather completely new assets for each and every show.
• Expand the Arena. A larger arena is required to present the more lucrative shows. Players can increase their arena in two stages, each costing 10 coins.
• Purchase a Season Ticket. Season tickets cost 10 coins, but add 5 points to the value of each event staged.
• Construct an Emperor’s Loge. The Loge allows the player to roll two dice when moving the dignitaries. This gives the player many options, and improves one’s chances of maneuvering the dignitaries into their arena or obtaining medals.
2) Acquiring Event Asset Tokens. Auctions are conducted for sets of three event asset tokens until each player has acquired a set. Each player may only acquire one set, but there is an online variant wherein players may acquire multiple sets.
3) Trading. Players may trade event asset tokens, attempting to obtain the assets needed to fulfill their programs.
4) Producing an Event. This phase has two steps:
• Move the dignitaries. Players roll one or two dice and attempt maneuver dignitaries into their arena, or onto a resting place, which earns the player a medal. Medals have multiple uses: money, victory points, extra turns or moving dignitaries extra spaces.
• Announce Event. The player reveals which event he is producing, and tallies the points earned. Points are derived from the event itself, as well as the dignitaries, season tickets and podiums present in the arena. Previously produced events contribute extra points, and players earn additional points if they possess star performers in the show, which are gained when a player accumulates three or more identical “live” performers. A player’s high score is marked on the score track, and a corresponding amount of money is earned.
5) Closing Ceremony. The player who has produced the best show to date receives a podium, which is worth +3 for each subsequent production. Each player must then discard one asset token used in their production, and the player who is in last place on the victory point scale may take an asset token from the current leader.
Five turns are conducted in the same fashion, with each player recording his HIGHEST score on the track. This is not necessarily his most recent production, as often a player will delay producing a more gala show until he has obtained all of the necessary assets. Sometimes, players will produce a smaller show just to obtain needed income. After five rounds, the player who has produced the highest-valued show during the course of the game is victorious.
Colosseum certainly fits well in the Days of Wonder line. It is not a “heavy- weight”game, but it is still filled with important decisions and strategies. There is a considerable amount of planning, trading and strategy to employ in order to perform well and present high-valued productions. There is a progression aspect present, as players must build on previous turns’ actions and productions in order to prepare for their ultimate gala show.
I am thoroughly enjoying Colosseum, and each of my games has been tense, and filled with important choices and strategic options. Each game feels different from the previous ones, and the problems presented seem unique. Colosseum is a fun and solid game, and I look forward to more productions that will bring glory to Rome … and perhaps victory to me!