All work and no play leads to the Arena Maximus…
Well I didn’t name this blog “A Programming Gamer’s Blog” for no reason, this blog post has absolutely nothing to do with my work (web development), or even programming at all! Today I am writing about a board game I picked up recently from Mighty Ape called Arena Maximus. When I bought it, it was going cheap in one of their Daily Deals (I’m addicted to that page…) so I thought I’d grab it and have a go with my family.
Surprisingly enough it was a lot of fun with great artwork that appeals to most audiences. Now the story behind the game is that you and up to 4 friends/enemies are chariot drivers in a fantasy set coliseum, to win is very simple, cross the finish line first. The board is a series of tiles that you reveal in groups of 3 when the player in front reaches the last face up tile. This doesn’t seem so bad initially until you realise that if you are going really fast and are in front you don’t know whats under those face down tiles! Before I go on I’ll say here that each tile is either a blank piece of track, the 1 healing station or a hazard – hazards cause your chariot damage relative to how badly you failed it. The unknown face down tiles quite handily slow down the player in front as he/she can’t know in advance what to prepare for.
Now the other main mechanic in the game (apart from the optional spells, that I haven’t tried out yet, but add a whole new level of strategy it seems) is how you navigate the hazards, attack the other players (lots of fun in that) and change your speed is the card deck. This deck has a mixture of ‘Reign’, ‘Whip’ and ‘Magic’ cards that combine together at different points in the game for different affects. I’ll outline a few turns for you now so you can get the feel of the game.
In my turn I start out with the cards I have left over (keep that in mind) and the ‘Whips’ in my speed pool; these go in front of me on the table. Now at this point there is 3 pieces of clear track in front of me and I have 1 ‘Whip’ in my speed pool, this means that this turn if I do nothing else my chariot will move forward 1 space. Now as you probably have guessed the point of this game is to get round faster than everyone else, to this end I have 2 ‘Whip’ cards in my hand and play them to speed up to 3 for extra speed!! (SideNote: each chariot has a limit to how much you can change your speed pool each turn) Next I replenish my total cards in my hand to 7 (that’s 4 in the hand and 3 in my speed pool), I draw a whip, 2 reigns and a magic card. Next I move my chariot – this is generally the fun part. Moving your chariot means you have to move exactly the number of tiles as I have ‘Whips’ in my speed pool. There isn’t anyone in the first 2 tiles in front of me so I charge my chariot on ahead towards the third tile which has an opponent in it! As I move into the third square I decide to ram him twice using 2 ‘Whips’ and 2 ‘Reigns’ (a magic card stands in as a ‘Whip’ in this case) dealing a big 4 damage as he cannot counter (He only has 1 card, and he needs the same number of cards and the same type to counter). Happy in this victory I then attempt to barge past into the square, to my horror he his one card was a reign card that he plays to block me from entering the tile ending my turn!
That was just a short overview of what goes on in a turn, there is more complexity involved when you also have to avoid the track’s hazard’s and the other players attacks. In regards to the learning curve as long as you keep the rule book handy when starting off you should have all the rules down by the end of the first game (Read the hazard’s effects – they’re all different), but your first game will take about an hour as you question everyone else’s moves. I enjoyed playing this game a lot and look forward to playing it again, a well written game that appeals to everyone.