Saturday, October 17, 2015

I am.. Spartacus!

Last night after work, my friends Jeff, YF and K. and myself sat down at a local boardgame café here in Toronto to play Spartacus: A Game of Blood and Treachery by GaleForce9.

We played with all the rules and cards of both expansions, as well as the following variant in the game as the last time we played, we found that slower gladiators were at at disadvantage. This time, the variant worked well:

I went early after work to set up the game and luckily I found a quiet corner in the Boardgame lounge.

Pretty soon though, it got crowded typical of a Friday night as tons of MtG card players showed up, but our section was relatively quiet.

YF and K. are not gamers per se, but fans of the show, so Jeff and I guided them through all the normal boardgame conventions. I was worried that it would be too much information overload for new players, but both of them I think got the hang of the game mechanics pretty soon.

It's not a complicated game but it has layers of strategy, with constantly shifting tactics.. there is the arena strategy jockeying for position, when to play the correct scheme at the right time, influence strategy (go full blown to 12 influence and win, or slow and steady as everyone picks on the strongest), gold management decisions, slave and gladiator considerations (who to buy, who to sell), auction decisions, etc. It can be a handfull, but that's what makes this game appealing. Not only is it dripping in the TV show theme, but there is lots of juggling on what to do.

YF brought his Spartacus shirt. (I have to get one, one of these days).

He was House Solonius (I kept saying "Good Solonius" throughout the night), while K. was House Batatius, Jeff was House Tullius and I was House Glaber.

Given the learning curve as is normal, K and YF started off slow and conservative....

Pretty soon though, they like Jeff and I, both became proper and ruthless slave masters.. Selling slaves without a thought, renting them out for gold, sending untrained slaves and low level gladiators into the arena to face vets like Spartacus and Crixus.. their lives were thrown away to get any advantage in the game. Betting that our own slaves will get wounded or decapitated.... Whatever.. the gold must flow!

And the schemes and plots against each other... Aaah.. it started off slowly, but pretty soon, all of us were robbing each other, poisoning each other gladiators, rigging matches, rigging auctions ( I lost a good gladiator Pericles that I won the auction, only to have the auction rigged against me when Jeff played a card)..

All in all, it was in the spirit of the TV show.  And of course, I hammed it up telling my opponents I was going to gut them like a fish in the arena, wailing against their treachery while making plots of my own.

Lots of "arena bait" met their end in the sands..

I was beset with low level scum throughout the game, not worthy of the arena, and was forced to pay dear gold for good gladiators that others had. K. for instance, charged me 8 gold for Auctus when I know she paid less.

Such are the fortunes of a proper Dominus.

Auctus by the way did not last long, as he lost in the arena surprise surprise, and Jeff, who was Host, gave me the thumbs down.

At one point, Jeff was leading, but treachery and everyone nervous about him soon got him in 3rd place. K. and YF though, were starting to pile up the gold and the influence. Beginner's Luck, or the Favour of the Gods?

K and YF were neck and neck both hovering near the 10 and 11 influence points while Jeff and I were at 9 and 8 respectively.

YF at 11 Influence Points, told me he was waiting to play the "Jupiter's Cock" scheme card and amassed a huge stockpile of gold to try to win the auction for host, which if so, will get you +1 influence and reach 12. He was about to win the game, when Jeff quietly sold Spartacus which we all found strange.. All of us also didn't find it strange that he kept overbidding for slaves the last couple of turns. I suspect most of us thought he was doing it just for the income stream (every slave gives you 1 gold, every gladiator costs 1 gold). But no....he robbed YF of the win when he played 3 scheme cards he was holding, sending a whole truckloads of slaves to the mines (or something similar), which got him 3 influence points one after the other for 12. He did the risky slow-and-steady route while keeping a low profile as YF and K were near 10 and 11 and fought each other.

He snuck in the win just as YF was about to win.

That as they say, is classic Jeff and also, in the best spirit of the TV show. Treachery, by Jupiter's Cock!

All in all, an enjoyable evening. I think for fans of the show, as YF and K. were (as well as myself and Jeff), it was an enjoyable immersion playing the part, and I hope they want to try it again.

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