…And You Thought Your Job Was Tough…
- # of Players: 2-5
- Ages: 13+
- Designer: Luke Seinen
- Publisher: SAS Creative
- MSRP: $48.99
Carthage is a close combat deckbuilder that pits players against one another in gladiatorial combat.
What I liked
- The game is balanced well
- The artwork is more suggestive than explicitly violent
- You have a choice between male or female art on your player board
Playing The Game
At the beginning of each round
Carthage takes roughly 45 minutes to an hour, depending on the number of players. This makes it great for groups who don’t have 3 or 4 hours to play, but it would also be right at home as part of a longer game night as well.
The rounds in Carthage each take five turns per player, and more players
Obviously, the more players you have the more downtime you will run into. However, even when played with four players my group didn’t really have any issues with downtime.
A theater card is drawn at the beginning of each round, and can have an instant effect, remain in effect for the whole round, or have its effect at the end of the round, depending on the card. These effects can be either beneficial or detrimental. They can effect every player, or just one. This was a mechanic I really enjoyed since it could easily change the situation every round. Effects include everyone taking damage, giving armor to the weakest player, and preventing players from entering or leaving the center areas of the board. This kept the rounds fresh, and sometimes help the underdog a little.
These cards make up the bulk of the game. Nearly every action you can take involves an action card. Without the proper card, you cannot attack, move, gain favor, or restore armor. So purchase them with care.
Favor is the “currency” of Carthage. During the favor phase of the game it can be used to purchase or discard action cards, lobby (reuse) a theater card, purchase the first player token, and so on. While favor is always important, and always desirable, it is most useful at the start of the game when all you have is the starter deck. For the most part it is best to pick up favor cards when there are no better options.
While not the sexiest action, movement serves a very utilitarian function: chasing down your opponents or running from them when you need to. If you find yourself without a movement card you are not going anywhere, and all the damage cards in the world, with the exception of the javelin, will do you no good.
Armor is the only stat in Carthage, and as such you need to keep it in mind when purchasing cards. While movement gets you up close with your opponents, and damage let’s you hurt them, armor keeps you alive when they hurt you back. If your armor reaches zero it means you are likely not walking out of the arena. Very rarely is it a waste to pick up a card that restores armor, especially if it also gives move or favor at the same time.
Damage cards are where the action really is. This is how you win or lose the game and buying cards that cause it will likely be where most of your favor goes. A word of caution though, I would suggest getting damage cards that have other attributes besides damage. The reason for this is that, with few exceptions, damage is only useful against adjacent opponents. So, any damage-only card you play when not adjacent to an opponent is a wasted action card. Thankfully the designer did not include many
Arena tokens are a lot like theater cards, they add a little spice to the game and can help or harm you, depending on the token. The helpful ones are once per round bonuses that restore armor, give favor, add movement, or harm an adjacent opponent. Very useful in a pinch. The not so helpful ones can be used with a knockback to hurt
If the term gladiatorial combat isn’t enough of a hint, the artwork for this game is aggressive, though not overtly so. I did not see any artwork depicting violent acts, there is, however, the suggestion of violence. However, the artwork is neither gory or explicit.
I did have one player voice a concern, however, that the game does not accurately depict what gladiatorial combat was actually like. She contends, that while violent and bloody, Gladitorial combat rarely ended in death or dismemberment.
Carthage is a wonderfully executed