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Subject: Light and enjoyable development game with a nice theme rss

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Green Knight Games
United Kingdom
Cheltenham
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Colosseum is the latest in a line of high-quality products from Days of Wonder. Its historical theme will no doubt invite comparisons with its sister game, Cleopatra and the Society of Architects, but I have to say that they are very different games. Where Cleopatra was something of a hybrid, Colosseum is a true development game.

In Colosseum, players are Roman impresarios – producing great spectacles to attract the most spectators to their events. The player who staged the single most successful event during the game is the winner. During the course of the game, players can improve their arenas, buy new Event Programs – enabling them to put on more prestigious events – and bid for the Assets (Gladiators, Musicians, Comedians etc.) which are essential for their productions. All of these factors contribute towards the number of spectators that an individual event will attract.

First Impressions
Colosseum comes in a hefty box, weighing in at just over 2kgs (4½ lbs), packed with a six-panel foldout board and 10 (yes, 10!) sheets of die-cut components. In the bottom is a moulded tray designed to take all the punched out components. DoW have thoughtfully included a visual guide to where the components all fit. Punching out was a doddle as the individual components just fell out of their sprues. Separately packed in a small card box are the delightful hand-painted wooden pawns representing the Senators, Consuls and the Emperor. The two wooden dice with Roman numerals were a nice touch. The ten-page rulebook was typical DoW offering – clear, concise and well-illustrated.

The board is illustrated to represent the map of five Roman towns, each with space for an arena – one for each player. The board map is highly detailed; there is even a smoking volcano in one corner. The five arenas are linked by a road between the towns, along which the Nobles (Senators, Consuls and the Emperor) must process. There are five markets in the centre of the board where players can bid for the Asset tokens on display. Around the outside edge is a scoring track from 1 to 100.

Rules
The rules are available online so I shall give a brief overview.

Players have to manage three things:
- their Arena
- Event Programs that they can stage
- the Assets required to appear in a program
Players have control over the movements of the 6 Nobles. If your arena enjoys a visit from one of these figures when you stage an Event, you receive a spectator bonus.

Players start with 2 randomly drawn Event Programs, a random set of Assets and some money (30 coins). The game consists of 5 turns during each of which, all players have a chance to stage an Event. Each turn consists of 5 phases:
1. Investing: players can expand their arena, purchase extras to improve their spectator numbers or the chance of a visit by a Noble. In particular, this phase is when players can purchase a new Event Program from the 20 on offer. However only one purchase can be made per round. Expanding the arena is important as it allows the staging of larger and more lucrative Events.

2. Acquiring Event Asset Tokens: Each of the five markets holds 3 random Assets tokens drawn from a cloth bag. Players may bid for one or more of the markets. Bids must start at 8 coins, which quickly limits the number of markets that even a wealthy player can buy.

3. Trading Event Asset Tokens: Players may trade Asset tokens. Note that the player with the highest number of a particular Asset (above 2) can take the star performer token with a bonus of +4 if that Asset is used in an Event.

4. Producing and Event: At this point each player announces the event they are staging and show that they have the necessary Asset tokens. A shortfall is allowed, but this will reduce the resulting spectator numbers. The results are tallied and reflected on the score track, which shows the highest spectator count achieved so far by each player. Players receive coins equal to their spectator number.

5. Closing Ceremonies: The highest scoring player that turn receives a bonus Podium to add to their arena, and must donate one Asset token to the losing player.

A small but important aspect of the game are the Emperor medals. These awarded for landing a Noble on a resting place, or drawn from the Assets. The Emperor medal allows you to move a Noble backwards and other benefits. Two medals allow you to make two purchases during the Investment phase.

After five turns, the winner is the player who staged the single most successful event during the game.

Historical Theme
The Roman theme is maintained throughout the game, from the excellent illustrations and the clothing on the pawns down to the Roman numerals on the dice. The Event names are particularly entertaining: How would you fancy an afternoon out to see the Cavalry of Spartacus or the Anthem to Cupidion. I just can’t wait for the movie version of the Dialogues of Pluto! The Roman coins are an authentic reproduction (albeit in card), but see comments under Bad Stuff.

Game Play
Three of us, Susan, Alan and Owen started playing late one evening and I was concerned that we would get tired coping with a new game and the whole session would degenerate into arguments about rules. As it turned out we enjoyed the game, had no problems with the rules and finished within reasonable time. Owen wanted to play again!

Susan started with a mixed hand, but is good at development games and worked hard at making the best of her resources. She took an early lead and held it for the entire game with a final score of 86. Alan’s opening hand clearly sent him down the Poet & Painter route (see below). He didn’t make the best choices buying events and held the middle position for the whole game, finishing with 64. Owen dragged woefully behind for the entire time, staging the same Event four times (missing out on the +5 bonus for each previous event). However he pulled something out of the hat for the final event, staging one of the largest events and finished second with 68 points. Owen had chosen to expand his arena twice, enabling him to stage the biggest events. Susan did the same but Alan did not and was only able to put on middle-sized events.

We found that a player is very constrained by the Event programs and Assets that they have drawn at the beginning of the game. If you don’t have any gladiators at the start, then you probably aren’t going to have a chance to bid for gladiators and make up the deficit. So you are forced down the poetic route, staging Odes and Anthems rather than combat events. This doesn’t make any difference to the outcome, but it does limit your choice. Bidding tended to be vigorous; there was little point in finishing a round with money in hand. In the investment phase there is a constant choice between expanding the arena and buying a new Event program. There comes a point in the game when both of these actions are necessary, so saving up two Emperor’s Medals solves the problem.

We were concerned that the game suffered from the ‘runaway leading player’ syndrome. Once Susan had gained the lead it seemed impossible to overtake her or constrain her efforts, although in the final turn, Owen managed a spectacular comeback from four poor initial rounds.

Two days later we played again, this time with four players. Once again, Susan started with an impressive lead but by round four the others had caught up and the four score markers were in a tight bunch. Alan attempted a high-risk strategy of buying an Event in round four that he could not stage until round five, when he had extended his arena. During the last round some desperate bidding and trading took place in attempt to secure the star performer bonuses and try to eek the vital few points out of the game, but at the final tally, it was Alan’s strategy that paid off with a score of 84.

Bad Stuff
Only minor points. The game refers to the coins as simply coins and doesn’t bother to assign them a Roman coinage name like Denari or Sestertii. Also the coins only have the numeral on one side, necessitating constant flip-over. The spectator numbers are very small: 20 – 50 at a typical event, with a theoretical maximum of 100. It must have been very lonely in those arenas. Presumably this was done to keep the maths simple, in keeping with a family game. The dice had white numerals on natural wood, which made them hard to read. The dice illustrated in the rulebook had black numerals.

Summary
We found Colosseum a light and enjoyable game with a nice theme. By the second game we were beginning to appreciate the subtlety and many possible strategies in the game. It curiously reminded us of Age of Steam with the constant balancing of expenditure, the requirement to plan ahead and the bidding round. Colosseum however is much lighter and not as abstract.
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Universal Head
Australia
Sydney
NSW
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Game summaries and reference sheets: www.headlesshollow.com
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Nice review, thankyou.
 
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Surya Van Lierde is pure Eurosnoot and proud of it!
Belgium
Michelbeke
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The pawns aren't wood, they're resin.
 
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Stephen Jones
United Kingdom
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sbilbey wrote:
...The spectator numbers are very small: 20 – 50 at a typical event, with a theoretical maximum of 100. It must have been very lonely in those arenas. Presumably this was done to keep the maths simple, in keeping with a family game.


This troubled me also: it just seemed to diminish the theme of the game a bit, so when I was explaining the rules to the players, I took some artistic license and said that the spectator numbers should be considerd be be thousands (yes, 1000 x the theoretical maximum score would be twice what the Colosseum in Rome could apparently take but, hey, it's only a game, right? :-))

sbilbey wrote:
The dice had white numerals on natural wood, which made them hard to read. The dice illustrated in the rulebook had black numerals.


I found this an odd colour choice too...I frequently had to pick the dice up to read them. DoW, please consider producing some black-numeralled dice in any future reprints.
 
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Colin Jennings
Austria
St Wolfgang
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Interesting to see that you had ‘vigorous’ bidding for the assets. In our first game, also 3 players, the bidding was almost non existent. With 5 markets there was always something to go for especially when the bid initiator wins the bid and the market is refilled. Also not a lot of trading went on. Money is vital to buy the bigger more prestigious events too, so you can't just splash out all your coins bidding. I can't wait to play with more players to see if the bidding/trading is more competitive. Really enjoyed the game though, production top notch as always with DoW. Agree about the dice too, bit hard to read.
 
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Steve Kearon
United Kingdom
Cardiff
Wales
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Thanks for the good review. A few points:

sbilbey wrote:
Acquiring Event Asset Tokens: Each of the five markets holds 3 random Assets tokens drawn from a cloth bag. Players may bid for one or more of the markets. Bids must start at 8 coins, which quickly limits the number of markets that even a wealthy player can buy.


Irrespective of how wealthy they are, each player can win at most one auction each round.

sbilbey wrote:
Alan attempted a high-risk strategy of buying an Event in round four that he could not stage until round five, when he had extended his arena.


Since you can always buy the two arena extensions you might need, where is the risk? On the other hand, if you were to buy the extension first and the event in the next turn, there is the risk that someone else might buy the event.

sbilbey wrote:
We found Colosseum a light and enjoyable game with a nice theme. ... It curiously reminded us of Age of Steam with the constant balancing of expenditure, the requirement to plan ahead and the bidding round. Colosseum however is much lighter and not as abstract.


While lighter than Age of Steam, I wouldn't describe it as light. In particular, it doesn't seem significantly lighter than Kramer's earlier game Princes of Florence, with which it shares some features.
 
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Green Knight Games
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Cheltenham
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Thanks for the positive feedback.
Surya wrote:
The pawns aren't wood, they're resin.
Fair point. I did wonder how they had been shaped.
coljen wrote:
Interesting to see that you had ‘vigorous’ bidding for the assets.
I think this is to do with player personality and playing 'history'. We tend to have a determination not to let other players win a bid.
SteveK2 wrote:
Since you can always buy the two arena extensions you might need, where is the risk?
You're right. It was the correct order for the purchases. Having someone else by the Event you are after was a problem. The risk was in not being able to get the assets, as the event required a large variety.
SteveK2 wrote:
While lighter than Age of Steam, I wouldn't describe it as light.
Perhaps Light/Medium would have been a better rating. It is certainly a family game, but for older chidren (10+) I should have given our playing ages: Alan - 49, Susan - 45, Owen 17, unamed fourth player - 14
 
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Darren Copple
United States
New Ipswich
New Hampshire
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Quote:
I should have given our playing ages: Alan - 49, Susan - 45, Owen 17, unamed fourth player - 14


Having an unnamed player must make for interesting table talk:

"You, who's name shall not be spoken, pass the onion dip."

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Randall Silver
Belgium
Gent
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It was Hastur?
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