Saturday, July 12, 2014

Curse of the Dark Pharaoh

Curse of the Dark Pharaoh is the first of the small expansions for the Arkham Horror board game, of which I have written about previously.  Unlike the large expansions, which add new towns for your characters to explore and encounter eldritch horrors therein, this expansions serves to change the theme of the existing town of Arkham, Massachusetts, where the base game takes place.  There is a new exhibit at the university, showcasing ancient Egyptian relics and artifacts, but of course things aren't as they may seem on the surface, and the exhibit is the tool for an ancient evil to arise.

Players can use the expansion in one of two ways.  First, you can simply mix the location encounter cards into the existing decks (the permanent exhibit method), which gives the players a small chance to encounter cards specific to the expansion each turn.  Alternately, the players can use ONLY the encounter cards from the expansion (the traveling exhibit method), which focuses the game squarely on the expansion and its events.  I actually prefer to play with the second method, though due to the small number of location cards, after a couple games it will likely get old.  So, I recommend playing a game or two using the 'traveling exhibit' method, and then you can decide if you want to mix the cards into your base game on a permanent basis or only use them on occasion.

I think this is a good expansion (though if you dislike ancient Egyptian themes, maybe not one for you.  It works for me, though.  Please note that there is the original edition of this expansion from 2006 (the one I have), as well as a revised edition from 2011.  The primary difference is supposed to be improved game mechanics and some rewriting of card text to add clarity and remove confusion.

Saturday, July 05, 2014


The next random game from my collection is a game that at the time of this writing almost 35 years old, Gladiator.  I have the standalone game from 1981, but the system was part of the original Circus Maximus game (which included the gladiator combat and chariot racing) from the late 1970s.  The standalone game was published by Avalon Hill.  In this game, each player controls a gladiator, and the game can handle up to six players, working either individually or in teams (though teams makes the most sense if using different types of gladiators).  Gladiators are rated based either on their armor type (light, medium, or heavy) or by their weaponry (the Retarius).  The mechanics are that the game is simultaneous.  Each turn is composed of eight movement phases, and in each phase the players will write down on their gladiator record how they want their gladiator to move (if he moves at all).    This makes for an interesting "cat and mouse" game, where knowing how your opponent is likely to move can give you an edge.  The whole point of movement is to get you next to your opponent (where combat takes place, unless you are a Retarius), but preferably in his rear, not his front.  Being in your opponent's rear gives you combat bonuses.

Combat is a mix of plotted actions and die rolls.  Each gladiator has a number of Combat Factors, which indicates how well they fight.  These Combat Factors are divided up between attack and defense, and then further sub-divided for the five different body areas (head, chest, groin, arms, and legs).  Attacks against a body area are handled by taking the attack amount, subtracting the defense amount, and then using the total to find the proper column on the combat table.  You then roll three dice to determine whether the attack misses entirely, gets blocked by the defender's shield, gets parried by the defender's sword, or if you hit.  A shield block gives the attacker a chance to damage the defender's shield, a weapon parry gives the defender a chance to drop their sword, and a body hit means you roll on a separate damage table to determine how many hits you do.  Each body area has its own pool of wounds.  If all wounds in an area are lost, the gladiator is killed.  In addition, as wounds are lost the gladiator's Combat Factors are reduced.  So getting wounded reduces your ability to attack and defend effectively.

Overall, this game works fairly well, and can feel nice and tense.  It does bog down a bit in the mechanics, though (lots of dice rolling, lots of table lookups).  It's a nice game to have in my collection, but it isn't going to hit the table much.