Of all the games I own, of all the games I will ever own, I expect Colosseum is the only one I will ever win for being nice. It was given to me as a prize at Wellycon (two days of just playing board games) for being the ‘fairest’ player, or something like that. When my name was called out I was sure there must be another Jon Brown in the room, but there wasn’t. I gleefully took my swag and instantly proved I wasn’t worthy of it, by lauding it over my fellow players.
One of the great things about winning a game at a board gaming convention is the fact that someone there will already know how to play it, which saves a huge amount of time trying to decipher the rules. Two kindly souls stepped into the breach and we got to play half a game before we ran out of time.
The game runs over 5 turns, and in each turn you get to put on a show in your arena. Shows come in three different sizes, everyone starts with a couple of puny shows that only need a few performers (like gladiators, horses, harpists, etc.) to put on, but bigger ones can be bought. Bigger shows need a bigger arena, so you can expand your arena over time and bigger shows need more performers to take part in them. Performers can be acquired in two phases of a turn, the first is a bidding phase where the players bid on batches of performers in the centre of the board. After that comes a second phase where the players can trade with each other.
The aim of all of this to be the player who puts on the single most spectacular show in the whole game, in terms of spectators. Apart from the size of the show there are all kinds of other bonuses you can get that add to the number of spectators, like selling season tickets, having dignitaries come to your arena and getting hold of star performers.
Last week I finally got to play a full game of my prize and I’m quite charmed by it. One thing I particularly like is the fact that you have to introduce your show to your fellow players and give a little bit of hype to it. This can be particularly entertaining if you’re putting on a show with one or two performers missing (done at a penalty to the number of spectators who turn up) and you have to make excuses for their absence.
Colosseum is fairly simple to play, partly because it is highly structured, so an eight year old should be able to enjoy it, maybe with a little help from an adult on the forward planning side of things.
If you like the idea of putting on shows in your very own Roman arena and like decisions, but not so many that your brain aches, then Colosseum is a winner.