Review: Spartacus A Game of Blood and Treachery – gladiators from TV

Spartacus: A Game of Blood and Treachery - packaging

Life in ancient Rome was not simple. If anyone knew well, it were slaves. Gannicus was one of them. Three days ago, he was still a free man, but a sandstorm caught him off guard. Particles of sand stabbed him to the ground, where he hid behind his long scarf. When wind stopped and the dust settled, he finally opened his eyes. There were men on horseback everywhere around his. There was no chance to run away. His walking trip to the capital city with shackles on his hand and feet, tied to horses, is only a vague memory.

Now he is a slave, who will fight for the pleasure of emperor and his guests. But there will be many affluent lords in the audience, who can cover you under their wings and take home with them. They still love this bloody fun more. He heard that even the best fighter may lose his life out there. Although he succeeds in defeating all, he may then be thrown to some hungry animal, that tears him to pieces. And first big match of Gannicus is today..

But you do not get the role of a gladiator himself. Instead, you take the position of noble dominus, head of one of the families in the famous Roman city of Capua. Now you already guessed, that this will not be a coincidence. This board game is really based on famous TV series with Andy Whitfield in the lead role.

Spartacus: A Game of Blood and Treachery - game is ready

This license was chosen for their game by Sweigard Sean and under supervision of Gale Force Nine Studio, which is currently also responsible for graphic design. Original idea and concept of the game, however, came from the head of . All pictures are taken as photos from the show, but yet they manage to stick together and create a nice atmosphere in the game. Its probably thanks to quality of HBO’s show. Distributor is company called . from New Zealand (hence Battlefront Miniatures Europe Ltd. for our continent).

Aportrait of the hero, bloodied and holding a sword, can be found on the lid of the box. At first glance, it is obvious, that this will be no peaceful game. In the bloody gladiatorial world, you find a place not only for the battle itself, but also intrigues and political decisions. These are responsibilities for dominuses of individual families. And this role belongs to you.

In becoming the greatest ruler of the city will help you game board in the first place. It shows you a fighting arena. Except hexagonal spots in the middle, you will find also a crowd around and some free interactive sites in the corners – a position for placing your bets, for example.

Spartacus: A Game of Blood and Treachery - game is ready

Each player is described by his family card, which is your main asset and represents your home. The upper edge is bordered by number scale ranging from one to twelve (and limit of cards in hand beneath). At the bottom, you will also find illustrations and treasury, where you will store your accumulated finances, and text with special abilities of your family. To their right is a graphical representation of your initial assets in gold, gladiator, slaves and guards. These are also four basic currencies in the game. The board contains also arrows and text indicating, where around it should you store your assets in the form of cards.

Spartacus is based on a lot of cards, that will represent your property. Their decks can be divided into two parts – market and intrigue. In the former market, you will find mostly cards oriented horizontally and depicting gladiators and slaves. Along with them, there are 62 cards of shuffled cards with equipment – weapons or armor.

Spartacus: A Game of Blood and Treachery - game in progress

And then there’s another pile, which contains intrigue cards. Again, it is formed by three types, which are color-coded with sidebar. You will meet blue intrigue cards, red reactions to various events in the game, and brown card of house guards.

For the game, however, dice of three colors are also important – red, blue and black. Each refers to some martial qualities of your gladiator – attack, defense and speed. You can use up to four pieces of each color to solve battles in the arena. Finally, you get a pile of tokens from a variety of coins, injury, champion markers and affection of audience. Another round tokens belong to individual families, which divide them among themselves.

This division will take place at the beginning of the game, when each of the opponents chooses one house, he wants to play for. If you can not agree, rules recommended roll of the dice, which determines order, in which you can select. This gets you dominus board, one gladiator piece and initial number of characters. They are dealt from starting deck of cards, so coincidence certainly does not decide here. You put specified number of gold to your treasury and scatter cards on the left (slave), right (gladiators) and down (guards) from your board.

Spartacus: A Game of Blood and Treachery - board detail

According to the chosen length of the game, players mark initial state influence on their scale to 7, 4 or one. The lower the value, the longer the game. Center contains big game board and shuffled decks of available market and intrigue cards. This makes everything ready to play, which is definitely a pleasant surprise.

Each round is divided into three phases – intrigue, trade and arena. In each of these all opponents come into play one after another, with plenty of opportunities to influence and improve your position in the game. Although at first glance quite a lot of things is happening each round, everything builds on itself and there are no hidden rules, that would threw obstacles in your way.

We begin, however, quite unexpectedly with activity, that is not part of these three phases. Its income. You can see it actually as a kind of preparatory phase, which happens at the beginning of each round. Allows you to prepare exhausted cards and make dice rolls to heal wounds. Least favorite part is payoff. You get one penny for every slave, but you will immediately need them to maintain gladiators. Each of the fighters gets reward in the form of one golden coin.

Spartacus: A Game of Blood and Treachery - game in progress

Now we finally proceed to intrigue phase. Various tricks and politics simply must precede everything else and without proper lobbying, you can not even have hope of succeeding. Politics begins with each player getting three random cards from a shuffled intrigue deck.

Players now, starting with the host (= the first player whose position is obtained later in the course), have all the opportunity to play cards in two ways. Simpler of these is exchanging cards for finance. But some cards are too good to spend them like that. You gladly keep them for the future. But you must also constantly bear in mind existing limit of cards in your hand, which can be raised with increasing influence of your house.

To play intrigue, you must have sufficient influence. The stronger the cards are, the more powerful your family must be to use it. Select target of the attack and ask others for help. During this phase, you can always negotiate any agreement, promise or offer money to avoid attack, everything is allowed. There are no limits for bargains. In case you get support from other players, you also gain opportunity to play stronger cards – equal to sum of influence of both (or more) families.

Spartacus: A Game of Blood and Treachery - cards

Before evaluation itself, opponent has chance to play response cards to thwart enemy plots. If he fails, text on the card is evaluated. Defender can also use guards. He can have them played in front of him or hold them in his hands, in both cases, he can send these men in arms into defens. It is up to you, whether you keep guard card in your hand, where it costs only space towards hand limit, but your opponent does not know about it, or play it on the table for all to see.

But success of such a defense is not certain, because guards are also human. This decision will cost you guard in any case, but to successfully avert the threat, you have to roll the dice. In addition, you can also activate abilities of your slaves, gladiators, or a specific skill of your family, if they are bound to intrigue phase. All your moves can be played in any order and number until you are satisfied. Then you have no choice, but to discard cards, so you do not exceed card limit and pass the word to the next player.

Following phase consists of buying, selling and trading among players. Only at this moment, cards can change hands. Market is also followed with an auction of few cards revealed from the market deck. Their number corresponds to number of players in the game. Players secretly offer gold in their hands and highest bid takes the card. Only after all cards have a new owner, phase continues with another auction – for host of the next tournament, who has many nice advantages in his role.

Spartacus: A Game of Blood and Treachery - minitaures

And this is the moment, when you can finally enter the arena. Battle always takes place only between two men, who will stand against each other. Players can secure a place on the hot sand only with entreating, begging or bribing host (who won last auction). He has undeniable right to choose dominuses, who can select and send forth their man into the match. If you refuse offer of the host, you lose one point of influence and the host must choose a different dominus. You can always choose anyone, inlcuding yourself.

Players send one gladiator of their choice. If he already fought and won favor of the audience (or even champion counter), he will bring his owners a financial gain only with presence in the fight, regardless of its outcome. All players can then bet not only on victor, but also to fact, that some of the fighters gets hurt, or even that he loses his head!

Gladiators have three parameters, showing how strong they are in the arena. These are red attack, black defense and blue speed. Each property reflects color of dice, that will be used. According to the number of individual abilities you learn, how many dice you need for your fighter. The number of dices also represents number of lives of your gladiator.

Spartacus: A Game of Blood and Treachery - game is ready

Number of blue dice determines speed and distance, at which your hero is able to move in the same round. You can attack before or after the move, it is up to you. You attack your opponent using all red dice, while your opponent rolls his black dice for defense. Both players then align resulting numbers in descending order into rows against each other. Individual pairs are then compared to see, if there was a hit or block.

Your gladiator’s usually experience some injury with each attack. For successful hit into your flesh, you must remove one dice of those, you have entered the arena. However, you can choose, which ability you’ll sacrifice – would it be speed, defense or attack. This gradually reduces your combat capabilities. Once someone gets into a situation, that he should hand over last dice of one of these three colors, he was defeated. Number of dice, that remain in gladiator’s pool will determine, what will happen to him.

On the contrary, winner receives favor of the audience (a token), which will bring you income next time he steps into the arena. In addition, dominus owning victorious gladiator receives immediately a point of influence. Then you only need to evaluate player bets and game can continue again from the beginning with income phase.

Spartacus: A Game of Blood and Treachery - cards

Game ends, when some player reaches twelve points of influence. But they are counted only at end of each of the three game phases, you cannot win during them. This may lead to shared victory. Such situation must be resolved in final battle in the arena. We will not even talk about, how thrilling this fight is.

is a nice and bloody surprise for all us players. This gladiatorial sport is practically new to boardgaming, although they were some games in the past, but this is definitely the most interesting. It brings everything to you, these great battles should contain – blood, drama and politics. And all these parts create a whole, that is much more.

Each of stages the game consists is completely different and includes other ways to play. Yet they serve the same interest and complement each other. On top of all this remains battles in the arena themselves, which are always an inevitable outcome of your actions. But if you can not arrange enough influence for your family within walls of the palaces, you will render your fighters useless and succumb to more aggressive and shabby.

Spartacus: A Game of Blood and Treachery - player boards

Intrigue attacks can be defended using responses or guards. Game brings difficult choices into these situations, but they all involve hiding your actual condition. Bluffing, bribery and alliances are an integral part of the game, which will many players welcome with joy.

But while first two phases have no base in luck (except card draw for auction), arena leads you towards a pile of dice rolls. Blue are really just for decoration and because of the compactness of the systém to mark your health. Actually, you are not rolling them. However, black and red, that’s another story. Every injury is a stroke of luck, as is actual victory in battle. And its so much fun!

Theme based on television series is a bonus for fans, who would buy this game probably in any case. However, if you do not know the series or have not watched it yet, even then we see no reason, why you can not enjoy this game.

Spartacus: A Game of Blood and Treachery - cards

Nevertheless, there are several requirements, you should meet. Above all, you must not mind, that all players are constantly under attack and it’s all based on dirty tricks and intrigue. But this is just, how it went in Rome in that time period. You must simply sweep your paths to victory and paint it red. There is no other way.

A great advantage of Spartacus can be described as speed of setup, which includes only the initial distribution of property among players. No preparation is required with actual playing surface. In addition, game time can be set by altering starting influence of players. Time then ranges between ninety minutes and more than two hours, when you play full game involved maximum number of players.

And the number of opponents needed to play is a little limiting factor. You cannot play Spartacus, unless there are three or four players. Because of the blood and content of the game, it is officially recommended from seventeen years up, but we think, that even kids around fifteen years can try to run their first gladiatorial contests. They will enjoy it.

No, this game really is not for everyone. Spartacus should be avoided by players with peaceful nature, and those, who can not harm others. Even in the game. Victory can not be reached differently, than with help of promises, lies and a little luck.

Spartacus: A Game of Blood and Treachery - cards

And who would mind, that fights are actually random? You feel incredible tension in the moment, when your gladiator is directly participating, but also otherwise, since you probably made some bet on one of them. This game is simply able to move everything, that belonged to this ancient sport on the table.

Game exudes atmosphere and you feel, that you really are building your empire on the blood of slaves and gladiators. And that is, why whole match is full of cutting your opponents in all their limbs and everywhere else. If you are looking for a game, where everything is allowed, and which revels in direct conflict, then Spartacus is ideal choice for you. Even the game time does not feel long, and it very quickly runs away even in the full game.

Spartacus: A Game of Blood and Treachery perfectly lives up to commitments, that was inherited with its name. Blood and betrayal plows your way into position of the most influential family in the Roman city. Gladiatorial games are the best place, where you can knit your intrigues. Plunge into cold walls, that form an arena in the middle of hot sand and let screaming spectators voices flow through you.

DesignerAaron Dill, John Kovaleski, Sean Sweigart
ArtistCharles Woods
PublisherGale Force Nine, LLC, A1 Games, Battlefront Miniatures Ltd, Games Factory Publishing, Heidelberger Spieleverlag, Kronos Games (Krogam), Marabunta, Zvezda
Year Published
# of Players3 - 4
User Suggested # of Players Best with 4+ players
Recommended with 3, 4 players
(130 voters)
Playing Time180
Mfg Suggested Ages17 and up
User Suggested Ages16 and up
(49 voters)
Language DependenceModerate in-game text - needs crib sheet or paste ups
(28 voters)
CategoryAncient, Fighting, Miniatures, Movies / TV / Radio theme, Negotiation
MechanicAuction/Bidding, Betting and Bluffing, Bribery, Dice Rolling, Grid Movement, Hand Management, Movement Points, Sudden Death Ending, Trading, Variable Player Powers
ExpansionSpartacus: A Game of Blood & Treachery – House Calavius, Spartacus: Acerbitas Promo Card, Spartacus: Champions of House Batiatus Card Set, Spartacus: Dolor Promo Card, Spartacus: Hadrianus Promo Card, Spartacus: Magnetius Promo Card, Spartacus: The Serpents and the Wolf Expansion Set, Spartacus: The Shadow of Death, Spartacus: Zephyros Promo Card
FamilyAncient: Rome, Country: Italy, Theme: Gladiators
Primary NameSpartacus: A Game of Blood and Treachery
Alternate NamesSpartacus: Ein Spiel Über Blut und Verrat, Spartacus: Le Prix du Sang et de la Trahison, Spartacus: Um Jogo de Sangue e Traições, Spartacus: Un Juego de Sangre Y Traición, Spartakus: Krew i Zdrada, Спартак. Кровь и песок

Infos courtesy of boardgamegeek.com. More Infos.

Review: Spartacus A Game of Blood and Treachery – gladiators from TV
Final word
partacus: A Game of Blood and Treachery is exactly, what its title and main hero name promises to be. Treason and intrigue are the centre motive of this game, where several different families are fighting for power. You use not only gladiators for this purpose, but also guards and lots of spies, whose service are at your disposal to do very nasty things. Game contains sophisticated series of events (phases), which seem really spreading at first. Options are vast, because you will have to auction several times, but also play cards. And each round, it all ends in the arena, where your heroes clash. Money reward not only those victorious, but dominus receives income for famous gladiators entering arena or betting on several types of dominance. Everything is allowed, including beheading. You use dice not only to defend and attack, but also as a counter of your remaining lives. Players hur each other, until there remains only one standing. Game has incredible atmosphere, but may seem too complicated to less experienced players. Spartacus: A Game of Blood and Treachery does not feign. It offers experience in bloody sport, which you will not easily forget..
Reader Rating0 Votes
Pros
excellent adaptation of gladiator fights from popular TV show
intrigue, politics and fights
customizable game time
players bet on battle outcomes
your fighters gain popularity with each win
fight is interesting, although based on luck
tense and deep experience
connects game mechanics, including auctions
Cons
arena fights are always only for two players
difficult and longer game can be daunting for beginners
4
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