Tuesday, 10 February 2009


Carcasean boardgame cafe. Mon 2 Feb 2009. Han, Chong Sean and I played Colosseum. Chong Sean has played before so he taught us.

Colosseum is a game about putting up a good show. There are five rounds in the game, in which the players acquire various types of assets and put out shows. Each show earns some money, which can then be used to acquire more assets and put on bigger and better shows. The winner is the player who has put on the best single show ever. So although putting on many good shows is good for earning money, it is more important to have that one very very good show. Throughout the game the players need to plan for that masterpiece, which will usually be performed in the last round, but not necessarily. The game has a lot of planning ahead, like Princes of Florence.

Many things and factored in when determining how good a show is. First the scripts, actors and props. The kinds of actors and props you need are determined by the script that you plan to produce. Different scripts give different number of points. If you have all the required actors and props, you gain the full points of the script. If you are short of some, you can still produce the show, but you will gain less than the full points. Other factors include whether you have star performers, whether there are VIPs attending the event, whether you have sold season tickets, whether you have produced other shows in the past, whether you have been the player with the best show in past rounds, etc. So there is a lot to consider and to plan for.

Actors (actually some of which are trained animals) and props are obtained through auctions, and can also through trading with other players. Most other assets are bought, e.g. season tickets and scripts. You also need to expand your stadium if you want to make use of the better scripts to put on bigger shows.

In our game, my initial actors and props matche poorly against my initial scripts. Both Han's and Chong Sean's were better matched, and I think they both scored the full points for their first two productions. Chong Sean started off quite well, expanding his stadium already in Round 2 in anticipation for the medium production in Round 3. He kept producing the best shows round after round, and Han and I were struggling to keep up.

Then in Round 5, Han produced a superb 86-point show. He had been planning carefully for it, and it won him the game. Chong Sean, despite having 4 podiums from having the best show ever for each of the first 4 rounds, i.e. 12 points, could not beat 86 points. His actors and props did not allow him to go for the higher-scoring scripts. He was at second place, at 73 points. I came last, scoring 57 points.

My actors and props. Maybe I should say "performers" instead of "actors", since there are horses and gladiators. I have the star performer tile for the musicians. You get such star performer tiles when you have at least three of the same kind of performer, and you have more such performers than anyone else. These tiles were all larger than I had expected. They were easy to handle. I think they are about an inch wide.

This is how the overall board looks like. I think it is quite good and quite colourful. The inner area is for the auctions. This is surrounded by the "VIP track", on which the nobles move, and this is also where your stadiums are located. You want to get the nobles to step into your stadium when you produce a show. The outermost track is the score track, where you record the highest ever score of each player's shows.

My stadium in the middle of the game. I had one season tickets (upper left) and the emperor's loge (lower centre) which allowed me to move the nobles more. The blue coloured noble was in my stadium. I think he was the Consul. I had expanded my stadium once. The stadium started with only two pieces - the outer two semi-circular pieces.

The scripts that I had. The first two were free scripts you get at the start of the game. On each script, the top left number is the identification number, the top right number on a coin is the cost of the script. The bottom left number is the points you can gain from the script, followed by the reduced points if you are short of some assets. The centre row show the performers and props you need for the show. The lower right hand corner shows the size your stadium needs to be.

Chong Sean's stadium. This was Round 4, and he had won the podiums for all 3 previous rounds. Now he had two yellow noble visiting. Senators I think. I can't remember for sure.

This is how to match performers and props to your script. I had all the required performers and props, and even had one matching star performer.

In hindsight, I should not have lost the fighting spirit so early (which I think I did). I do think I was in the worst position from the start of the game. But I should have tried harder, even though I probably would have still come last anyway. "It is the goal that is important, not the winning", I quote Knizia. Losing heart in the middle of the game is poor sport.

After seeing Han's come-from-behind victory, I realised that the points that the scripts provide is a big factor. If you can gain the full points from one of the higher-end scripts, you will do very well even if you are short on other things like podiums, season tickets and VIPs.

There is a lot of planning ahead in Colosseum. The part on trying to match actors and props to potential scripts is rather time-consuming, at least for me as a first time player. The process is slow and painful. But I guess experience will improve that.

We played with the advanced auction variant, which is meant for gamers. The basic auction rules is meant for more casual players. I think I prefer the advanced version. It is more interesting. I also think the game will be better with more players. I think it needs more players for the trading part to work better. In our game, I was in bad shape because in the early game Han and Chong Sean mostly had what they needed and thus didn't need to trade, and I didn't have what I needed and couldn't trade for them because neither Han nor Chong Sean really needed to trade with me. So I am guessing more players will be better. However it may also mean more downtime and too much time wasted on failed trade proposals.

Chong Sean wasn't too happy with the components. The back of the board had a little mold. He also said that the touch and feel of the components is somehow off. He said this is because the game was made in China. I think the components are fine. The mold is not severe, and although when I look closely I can see the difference between the components of Colosseum and another game made in Germany, when Chong Sean asked me to touch them I sincerely could not tell the difference. What surprised me was when I let Michelle touch them she immediately could tell which one was inferior. I have always considered her more a gamer's wife than a gamer wife, although she plays lots of games, and even hardcore gamer games like Through the Ages, Race or the Galaxy. It seems she has cultivated a better feel for game components than me. 玩了那么多游戏可不是白玩的.


Cecrow said...

A friend has thought of picking up a copy of Colisseum, but the more I read the more I wonder whether that's a good idea. It seems like there's many better games to choose from that retain this general theme (e.g. we've never tried Princes of Florence).

Chong Sean said...

I enjoy this game very much, and i think this is more enjoyable than "pure strategy" games like Princes of Florence. Coz you can move away other players' nobles, and the trading gives more player interaction.

Mishie said...

OMG! Can't believe you were playing Colosseum too!

I learned / played this game for the first time yesterday at the FLGS and it was soooo much fun. Felt that it was a little bit more like the Da Vinci game in which you build "inventions" as to shows but overall it was good.

It turns out that you can still win without having to "upgrade" so the 4 colosseum.. which is really nice as well :)

Cecrow said...

Finally had opportunity to play this last night; very close 3-plr match (75,75,70). Even though I lost - barely - really enjoyed it. Definitely planning ahead which scripts you'll go for is what the game is primarily about. Next time I'll try harder to get a size 4. Sure there's the luck element of your initial tiles, but I'd definitely like to play again.

Hiew Chok Sien said...

By now it has been 1.5 years since my only play of Colosseum. I remember I enjoyed the planning-the-big-show aspect, watching everything fall into place, making the stars align. The only thing that left a slightly bad taste for me was in that 3 player game the other two players had things they could trade with each other, but I didn't have much worth trading with them. So I was never able to catch up after falling behind in the early game. I guess with more players this shouldn't occur as often.