Review: Spartacus – A Game of Blood & Treachery / Designer: Charles Woods / Publisher: Gale Force Nine / Format: Board Game / Release Date: Out Now
The rebellious gladiator's current small screen outing being infamous for its violence, scheming and nudity, you might be wondering how all that red-blooded behaviour could possibly translate to a board game. Well, the nudity is a matter entirely for you (and no, we don't want to know), but thankfully the other ingredients of the TV show are in rich supply in Spartacus: A Game of Blood & Treachery.
This is one of those games with lots of complex little phases, and it initially looks pretty daunting. Certainly, it requires some patience when setting up and you should at least take a look at the rules before getting all your friends round to play. Each player takes the role of a Dominus, responsible for organising the arena battles. The game is split into multiple phases. First up is intrigue, which gives you special event cards that allow you to backstab other players. Each Dominus then bids for the ownership of slaves, gladiators, equipment and guards. Next, the players via for the honour of hosting the games themselves, the winner getting to pick which of his competitors has to risk their assets in the arena. Gambling on the outcome is then allowed, and the two competitors then play a very elegantly designed skirmish miniatures game to work out who wins.
Though all of that sounds complicated, once you get into it, it really becomes intuitive and free flowing. There’s a little grind involved when it comes to setting up assets and some of the intrigue cards can be difficult to pull off effectively. However, though an unlucky battle can damage your chances fairly early on, the way you climb the greasy pole is not to win battles but to acquire influence. They are plenty of strategies available in order to achieve this, and smart players will adapt as the game progresses.
As multi-tiered games go, Spartacus: A Game of Blood & Treachery certainly lives up to its name and is extremely replayable. The length of sittings is adjustable (you simply vary the starting influence), but a normal game should take a couple of hours. The components are of a reasonable quality; photos from the show are used liberally, and many of the events and pictures are directly inspired by the TV series. The plastic pieces of the gladiators are rather fun, though they aren’t detailed enough to delight miniature wargamers. There’s enough here for all types of gamer, but due to the strong adult themes, it’s not suitable for children.