Circus Maximus:The Review

Sorry for the long wait. It’s been a couple weeks now since I’ve played it, but I think I can stil give a decent review. I played it with my nephews Eric and Nick. Nick ended up winning. Usually that would signify an unworthy game, one with design flaws, or at least a pure luck based game, but I still enjoyed it. 🙂

First off, the rules say you should always play with at least eight chariots, but with only three of us for our first go at it, we decided to limit ourselves to just two. After playing it with six teams, I think it would have been better if we had taken on a few extra. With less than eight teams, I think a lot of decisions that you’d be forced to make because of all the congestion of horses and chariots isn’t there.

To start off, you must build your team. You have 4 points to allocate into four categories. These categories are Driver, Chariot, Speed, Endurance. Each category can have from 0 to 2 points allocated to it. The Driver category would give a bonus anytime the driver attempts a corner too fast or takes part in combat. The bonus ranges from 0 to +2. The Chariot category determines what type of chariot you have, which will figure in when you damage another team from ramming them. The types are Light (less damage), Normal, and Heavy (more damage). The Speed category determines what table you roll on to find your team’s speed. The more points allocated gives you a better chance for a speedier team. Finally, the Endurance category determines what table you roll on to find your team’s endurance. Endurance is used a lot during the race, when your voluntary straining your team (boosting max speed), involuntary straining in a corner (taking a corner too fast), when your horses are attacked by other chariots. So you need to decide what type of race you want to run and allocate your points according to your strategy. This is done by each player secretly before the race. Then everyone reveals their points and rolls on the appropriate tables. You also roll for how many hits your driver can take.

Starting position is randomly determined, the closer to the inside being the more advantageous. However, the starting positions are offset so that the inside team has farther to go initially, just like in a sprint foot race. From the there the race is ready to begin. Before a turn, each player takes like 5 seconds and writes down their speed for the upcoming turn. The max speed is the sum of your horses speed plus your current driver modifier. This could be affected by other things that happen during the race.

The order which the chariots move in is randomly drawn each turn. Each team has a color and colored chits are drawn at random to decide who’s turn it is. When it’s your turn you move your team down around the track expending movement factors up to your selected turn speed. Each action you do uses MFs. Moving to an inside lane takes more MFs than it does to drift to the outside. Attacking by whipping or ramming also takes MFs. When you are being attacked, you can either take the attack, brake if possible to avoid it, or swerve if possible to avoid it. This is where more congestion on the track would make for some more interesting attacks. In our game there was an awful lot of braking and swerving going on.

The corners are by far the biggest decision you’ll face in the game. Each lane in a corner has a certain speed associated with it. Unlike Formula De, where you must stop a certain number of times in a turn, here you can go as fast as you want. However, if at any time you’re chariot is in a corner and your total speed for the turn is greater than the lane speed, you must undergo corner strain. Your horses lose endurance, you could possibly have some other type of damage occur, or have a chariot flip and end your day. This is the juggling act of the game. You try to plan where you’re going to end your turn before entering the corner or find the right lane to enter and take your chances with corner strain.

The first chariot to complete 3 laps is the winner.

I enjoyed this game. Being a big fan of Formula De, seeing another race type game of a different era was a big factor in this buy. Our Formula De games tend to drag on for quite a while, but this game seems like it might take less time. In our first game of learning it and each worrying about two chariots, it took roughly two hours. Once we get more familiar and get some others into it, I think this could be speeded up. And an increased bit of bloodshed would add to the fun. The campaign version of this game looks pretty cool. You have a stable of teams and drivers that you race throughout a season of races. The winner isn’t the player who wins the most races, it’s who makes the most money from racing and betting. This way, you could even have non-racing players who just bet. It sounds fun, but who ever has that much time for that many races?

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One Response to “Circus Maximus:The Review”

  1. Shindo Says:

    Sounds pretty cool. If I remember correctly, this was always the game the hardcore ASLers would pull out at the end of a long tournament day to blow off some steam.

    May have to look into it one of these days. Right now, I have way too many games that aren’t being played to even think about getting new ones. :-/

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