|Game Name:||Hoplomachus: Origins||Published Year:||2015|
|Game Publisher:||Chip Theory Games||Player Scale:||1-2|
|Game Designer:||Adam Carlson, Josh J. Carlson||Run Time:||15-30 min|
“Ave, Imperator, morituri te salutant”
The Hoplomachus series brings us back to ancient times, to fight as a group of gladiators in the Roman arena games. There are currently 3 games in the series, but I will talk about the more recent one released, Hoplomachus Origins. On this one, instead of playing in the arenas of Rome, you’ll be playing in 3 different arenas of other civilisations trying to gain fame to finally make it into the greatest arena. This game differentiates from the other two in the series as the fight conditions change and it incorporates a drafting mechanic at the beginning of the game.
How it plays
The first part of the game corresponds to the drafting. The two players will have to choose, one at a time, the gladiators and tactics they wish to use for their combats. There are different gladiator houses that you can choose from and you can mix as you wish. You will choose a total of 8 chips, and in every combat, you will use a maximum of 6. You’re also limited to use only one champion per combat, though you can draft multiple if you wish, these are more powerful gladiators.
There are two different kinds of chips you can choose from. Gladiators, which have different abilities depending on their class, and different stats. There is a wide range of abilities in the game, ranging from basic attacks of different kinds to alternative attacks or passive abilities. This is one of the most interesting parts of the game as depending on the different mix of abilities you have in combat you’ll have different strategies. The other kind of chips are tactics, these are special abilities you can deploy in a fight to temper with your opponent or aid you, but at the expense of taking the space of a gladiator.
Once the draft is done, the fights begin. You will play on the 3 arenas, but at in a randomly chosen order. Every arena has a different objective. In the Atlantis Arena, the first gladiator deployed will be your leader, which will have double the life, and the objective is to kill the other leader. In El Dorado arena, both teams have a treasure chest, and your objective is to carry it to the other side of the arena. And the third arena, Xanadu, you’ll need to control the centre of the arena, where at the beginning of the round you’ll score a point for every gladiator you have in those hexes and whoever gets to 6 points first wins the fight. Alternatively, you can always win by killing all the gladiators from the other team.
The fights play with a very simple set of rules: deploy, move, attack. In a player’s turn you will be able first to deploy a gladiator and/or tactic, then you’ll be able to move all your gladiators deployed in previous rounds and finally attack with those gladiators. Then is the other player’s go. As you can see the gameplay is very simple, but there is a lot of strategy behind your choices, as the fights are brutal and fast to play, every decision matters.
As a handicap for the winner, the player who’s lost will choose one of the chips in the opponent’s pool and will eliminate it from the game. Also as you are running a house of gladiators you will earn and lose reputation as you keep winning or losing. This reputation will hold for all your games of Hoplomachus Origins, and will modify the drafting rules at the beginning of every game just for you. This is a very cool addition to the game, that you don’t need to use if you don’t like it, but is a very cool system to compare scores with your friends, and remain in the top of the reputation chart will be a real challenge, as for every 10 reputation a harder handicap will come in effect.
The solo game
The game comes with specific solo rules, in the form of 20 different trials. In the solo game, you will face different challenges against special champions. You will only draft 6 and the rules for drafting will be different for every trial. These start quite easy but will rapidly increase in difficulty and will be a real challenge in the latest ones. The premise of the solo game is that once you win a trial you can go to the next one, and if you fail you can attempt it once more or you will fall to the previous trial. The opposing team will follow some simple AI rules to move and attack, plus the champions will act depending on the dice rolls.
The game system is very simple, so is very easy to explain and get going, but there is so much strategy in those combats with all the different abilities, that makes every game unique and very challenging to master. There is a lot of interaction between the different gladiators that you can exploit in your favour. Fights play in 5/10 min each, so is very fast to play, and it makes for a very interesting game in such short gameplay time. Just using this game, you have 33 different skills, not counting the different basic attacks. The game comes with a total of 20 Gladiators from 5 different schools, plus 8 tactics. But the good thing is that if you own the other games you can mix the units to have a bigger pool for the draft, increasing the choice and replayability of the game even further, which is already big. The solo mode is very well implemented and makes for a challenging and very entertaining game that plays fast and is quite different even if you replay the same trial.
Component wise, this is very high quality, the games are not cheap but they are worth every penny, not just for such a good gameplay but you get top notch components. All the information is displayed in the heavy poker chips and the art is quite good. The arena maps are on neoprene mats with very cool art. This game is the cheapest of the 3 in the series so it makes a good entry point if you are interested. The games can only be purchased from Chips theory games website directly, they do that to keep the cost down as and now they support EU friendly shipping with very reasonable prices. The box is quite big and it comes a bit empty, but they will probably release more content for it in the future, plus there are already a few mini expansions that are compatible if you want to increase the pool of gladiators.
The good: Lots of strategy and tactics involved in the game and it plays fast with simple game mechanics. The components are very good quality. The solo game is excellent. The house reputation is a neat addition to the game.
The bad: The price is high, you get quality, but it might put some people off. For me is worth it, and this is the best entry point being the cheapest of the three. It will take a few games until you see some abilities in play and start forging your tactics.
That’s it for my review of Hoplomachus Origins folks.
I’ll see you around in the arena and don’t expect mercy!