I don’t even know how I came across this game Colossal Arena.  I am sure I saw it on one of the numerous top 10 lists of the Dice Tower videos. Each time I find a game that I have never heard of before, I start researching it to see if it sounds interesting to me.  This one did, so I bought it!  I decided to buy it because to be honest it was a little bit hard to find and the price was right. I would rather buy it now and try and get rid of it if I didn’t like it than to not get it and regret not trying it before it got harder to find.  Will it stay in my collection or will it go???

Overview

Designer: Reiner Knizia

Publisher: Fantasy Flight Games

Players: 2-5

Time: 60 min

Colossal Arena, by Fantasy Flight Games, is a bidding game in a mythical time.  In the game there will be Colossals battling it out in an arena gladiator style.  At the end of the game, there will only be three Colossals standing.  Who ever has made the best bets on the remaining Colossal’s will win the game.

Game Play

Colossal Arena is played over 5 rounds.  Each round ending when all Colossals have a card played on them that gives them a power rating.  When this happens, the Colossal with the lowest power rating is eliminated from the game.

At the beginning of the game there are 8 Colossals put in a row that will be in the fight. Each of these has a special ability to them.  There are 12 Colossals in all, so each game will have a different set up.  Each Colossal has cards associated with them with a power rating from 0-10.  All of these cards are shuffled together along with two other types of cards,  Spectators and Referees.  Each player starts with 5 betting chips and 8 cards.  The game is ready to be played.

On a players turn they will do a series of actions in the following order; 1. Place a bet (optional), 2. Play a card, 3. Discard Cards (if able) and draw back to 8.

When you place a bet you can choose to plae a normal bet or a secret bet.  A normal bet is when you place one of your chips under one of the Colossals that are on the table.  This is telling other players that you think this Colossal is going to make it to the end.  Betting in the early rounds will get you more points than betting in the later rounds.  Only one player can bet on each Colossal each round.  A Secret Bet can only be played in the first round.  To make a Secret Bet, you take a card from your hand of the Colossal you think is going to make it to the end, place it face down in front of you and put one of your chips on it. Secret Bets are worth the most at the beginning of the game but very tricky due to the fact that you have no idea what is going to happen the rest of the game.  If you place a Secret Bet then your turn is over.

When you play a card you simply take a card from your had that matches one of the Colossals that are still alive and place it uner that Colossal.  The card you play will determine that Colossal’s strength for that round.  If there is already a card under the Colossal you simply cover that one up with the one you play.

The only way you can discard cards is if you have cards of a Colossal that has been eliminated in previous rounds.  On the first round of the game, you will never be able to discard cards because no Colossal has been eliminated.  When you do have cards of an eliminated Colossal….this is when you discard them.  Then draw cards until you get back to 8.

When I have more bets on a Colossal than any other player I then can use his special ability.  So, If we are in the third round and I have bet on the Titan in the first and third round and another player has bet on him in the second, I have power over him.  That means the next time I play a card on the Titan, I can activate his ability.  If the bets are tied then no one gets the ability.

I mentioned other cards are in the deck, Spectators and Referees.  The Referees you play just like the other Colossal cards, only they are considered wilds and can be put on any Colossal.  They have a special power to them as well.  When they are played on a Colossal, it freezes that Colossals special ability for the remainder of that round.  Spectators are a little different in the fact that you play them for a one time ability, then discard them. That would be your turn.

The game will end in two differnt ways.  If the last card of the deck is drawn, the game will immediately end.  So, If it is drawn in the 3rd round there will be 5 titans still remaining. Giving all players a better chance of their bets paying off in the end.  If the game goes all 5 rounds it ends when the Colossal is eliminated leaving only 3.  You count up your bets only on the Colossals that have survived and your Secret Bet if it is still alive and the winner is the one who won the most money.

My Ratings

Components: 3/5

The components for this game are really good.  The cards are nice and thick.  The art is great on the cards.  The betting chips are really nice.  They are plastic discs with a marbled look to them.  I would say the rule book is a little wonky.  They could have done a better job of explaining things.  Over all though, a solid game when it comes to components.

Mechanisms: 5/5

The mechanisms in this game are so simple and extrememly satisfying.  It doesn’t introduce anything new but the way they flow together is brilliant.  The secret betting is great.  Putting you money down on a Colossal in the first round hoping he gets to the end, BUT you have to use one of his cards to do it, making it harder to help him survive!!!  Betting early on Colossals gives you more points but might also “show” your hand to other players on who your secret bet is.  And once you make that first bet, it now becomes a target as do all the other ones.  Having the majority of bets on one Colossal allows you to use their power…..you better use it quick and to the best of your ability because if you have 7 points of bets down on one Colossal……it’s getting destroyed.  But the powers can be sooooo helpful.  I haven’t even got into the part about a Colossal having multiple bets from different players.  If you bet first, you might be able to sit back at let other people do your work for you…..or they might be just fine sacrificing a round four bet to destroy your round one bet.  Every mechanism in this game has so much depth and meat to it that you just smile the entire game whether you are winning or losing.

Strategy: 5/5

The strategy is top notch in this game.  I feel like every choice I make is going to determine whether a Colossal is going to live or die.  There is a ton of “take that” elements in this game but they are fantastic the deeper the game goes…..there might be 4 different players that are betting on the same Colossal and no one wants to destroy it, but if you don’t some one is going to get more points for who bet on it first.  There is a bit of randomness in the game when it comes to what cards you are dealt on each turn.  I think that is part of the fun also, hoping you can get cards to help your cause.  Even though that was the randomness, I almost always felt that my cards could help me or hurt others….which is good.

Replayability: 4/5

There are 12 Colossals in the game and each game you use 8.  Each time you play there will be different abilities out there to try.  And there is just something to this game where it is vicious and mean yet fun and entertaining.  Playing with different people also brings out the replayability.  Seeing how others react and struggle and squirm is something to behold.  It is a tricky thing to be able to use the powers of the individual Colossals, that in itself is a reason to keep playing.

Final Thoughts: 17/20

Every now and again a game comes along and just hits all the right buttons out of nowhere.  Colossal Arena is that game for me.  I love everything about it!  I love the quickness of turns.  I love the depth of strategy.  I love that it has replayability.  I love the smoothe mechanisms that work so well together.  This a brilliant design by Reiner Knizia.  This game will stay in my collection for a very long time and just might creep into my all time top 10 games.  This is a game that when I brought it to my group, Grant and Alexander wanted to play it again…..immediately!  If you ever get a chance to play this, I highly recommend it!  You will not be disappointed!

-Tim