Carthage by SAS Interactive
A Review by Bob Nolan
[Disclaimer: I am not affiliated with the publisher but I have received a promotional copy of the game for this review.]
Product Name: Carthage
Publisher: SAS Interactive
Mechanics: Boardgame, Competitive, Deck Building, Miniatures
Cost: $49.99, Amazon
Genre: Historical, Roman
# of Players: 1-5
Time: 30-60 minutes
Designer: Luke Sienen
Can you survive the Carthage theater and gain enough glory and survive the day? Find out in Carthage the miniatures board game from SAS Interactive.
Carthage, is, at its core, a deck-building game. The cards in your deck (and in hand) are action cards that allow your gladiator to move, attack, or gain favor to help defend against other actions on a hex-based map of a small arena. It’s a take-that game where players try to attack their opponent’s models while gathering glory to buy new cards. The winner is the player who has the last model standing.
Components and Artwork
The artwork in the game is very thematic. Player cards have unique artwork on them and evoke a feeling of being in a gladiatorial arena. The cards also fit the theme and although nice, don’t distract you from gameplay. The artwork on the board is nice, and the hexes and other bits are easily distinguishable. As a color-blind gamer, I did find the red line two hexes in from the outside edge of the arena hard to find, although, that small issue didn’t bother me in the gameplay at all.
The components are nice and have a good tactile feel. You have cards in hand, you can buy cards, the cubes are nice as ways to track armor and glory. I find all the components of good quality. Although subjective, I didn’t grab any of the pieces and think there were shortcuts made in production.
The miniatures are made of plastic and come with colored hex bases so you can distinguish which character is yours in the arena. Although they won’t be winning any awards, they are detailed and interesting enough that the casual gamer should be satisfied while a more discerning hobbyist might find interest in painting their models.
The tokens used are good, thick, cut and punch out without ripping or tearing. The game board itself is durable and will stand enough use and normal wear and tear.
Each player controls a gladiator that must survive the arena in order to win. Gladiators have their own decks of unique cards which are used to perform actions. However, the decks for each gladiator are the same. I think the designer lost a chance of interest at the point by not making each deck unique to the specific gladiator. Although all the decks are the same, the deckbuilding mechanic helps alleviate this issue to a small degree. I think, though, that it was a lost chance at making the game more interesting. Although there was this lost chance, players can choose to play with the unique equipment rules, which are unique to each gladiator. This does help, but, although it adds some depth to the game, adds an aspect that isn’t needed if the gladiators had their own unique decks.
The gladiators have their player boards that show armor, which is essentially their health, and the amount of glory they earned and spent. In addition, the player board has a spot for your deck and discard pile. Each gladiator starts at 20 armor, and once they lose all 20 points of armor, they are eliminated.
There are three main phases in Carthage:
- A theater phase
- An action phase
- Favor phase
In the theater phase, the top card of the theater deck is flipped and sets the mood,
the scene, or theme for the current phase. Some examples of the events on the theater card include “Bellows for Blood” which immediately grants all players +2 glory, “The Will of Hannibal” which says that the players with the most armor lose 2 armor. All theater cards affect players in the arena and can cause some surprisingly interesting situations to occur- Especially, if, in the middle of a game, one player has a lot of armor and has to lose some armor, or, a card causes characters to gain extra movement. The theater deck (event deck) has become a standard part of a lot of modern games and provides appropriate tension during the game.
The action phase is where players draw five cards from their respective decks and plan
which cards to play. These cards are important as they tell you what your gladiator can do- from moving, attacking, or gaining glory, you have to decide which cards to play and when. The first player will play their first card and move their miniature, doing damage or moving hexes, then the next player can play their first card, activating their miniature, and so on, until every player has played one card and activated their miniature. Every player gets a chance to play all five of their cards.
Although every player will play their five cards, you will not be able to use each card. Sometimes, you’ll have fewer cards with movement so you’ll have to keep your gladiator in one place while your opponents move around the arena. Timing is important so you have to plan your card in reaction to what other players play. The cards are supposed to mimic the actions your gladiator performs in the arena, but, you can’t always anticipate or react to your opponent’s exact moves.
The action cards make the game very tactical and strategy is key- Learn to use the right action card at the right time to destroy your opponent’s armor for the win.
In addition to moving, attacking, and gaining armor, the action cards can also gain you Favor. In phase 3, the Favor phase, you use the favor you earned in the Action phase to buy new cards to your deck. This is an opportunity to make your deck special and unique. As stated before, all of the decks for each gladiator are the same, but, the deckbuilding and purchase of cards will make the game more interesting and challenging, not only for you but for your opponent.
The design feels as if the deck-building part was tacked on to an arena combat game. With only a few rounds before one of the gladiators is killed, the players do not have much time to modify their deck.
The game does play smoothly and it appears care was taken to get the gameplay right, the phases and stages flowing, and a feeling for gladiator combat.
The deckbuilding does not get in the way of the gladiator combat.
I played the game several times and although I did feel the deckbuilding aspect was tacked on, I recommend the game for those who like the verses of gladiator combat. The miniatures look good on the board, and the players in my group enjoyed the aesthetic, the gameplay, and the design.
To find this game on Kickstarter, visit: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/sascreative/carthage-easy-to-learn-easy-to-die
To find this game on Board Game Geek, visit: https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/224403/carthage
Or, click your way to the Carthage homepage here: http://www.carthagegame.com/