I will not deny it, I am a huge fan of TV Series Spartacus: Blood and Sand. The movie was engrossing, very interesting, bloody, with focus on details. It was quite refreshing – not a mawkish history of a Thracian warrior, taken into custody and becoming a famous gladiator who gloriously defied Rome. It is much more complicated, multi-layer story with many secondary plots.

When I learned there is a boardgame based on this series, which – surprisingly – was owned by one of my best boardgame friends, Kuba J – I knew I would like to give it a try. There was couple of occasions when we almost managed to bring that title to the table, but there was always something more important. Finally, on one warm July weekend evening, Spartacus finally was played!

The Game

I think couple of sentences about the game will be in place here. In Spartacus: A Game of Blood & Treachery (full title), each player takes on the role of Dominus, head of a rising house in the ancient Roman city of Capua. Each house is competing for Influence to gain the favor of Rome. Through a combination of political schemes and glorious battles on the arena sands your house will rise in fame and stature. As Dominus, you have a variety of resources at your disposal. Guards protect you from schemes launched by rivals. Slaves run your household and earn gold. Gladiators compete to bring glory to themselves and influence to their Dominus.

There are three main phases in each game round:

  • The Intrigue Phase is when players launch their Schemes, hoping to raise their fortunes while undermining their rivals. Schemes and Reactions are represented by cards in the Intrigue Deck. Players wield their Influence to put their Schemes into play, often asking for (or bribing) another player’s help in hatching the most complex plots.
  • The Market Phase is when players buy, sell and trade Assets (Gladiators, Slaves, Equipment and Guards). Players also bid against each other to acquire new Assets at Auction. Wealth is not the only path to success as players bluff and bargain with each other to acquire the Assets they covet.
  • The Arena Phase is when the bloody games are held. Gladiators from two rival Houses are pitted against each other in a brutal fight for glory. The spectacles of the games are represented by miniature combat on the arena board. Fighters pit their Attack, Defense and Speed dice against one another to determine the victor. All players seek to increase their fortunes by betting on the outcome of the gruesome conflict. Fighters who emerge from the arena victorious gain Favor and their Dominus gain Influence.

The goal of the game is to become the most influential house in Capua, securing your family’s power for years to come – in other words, reach 12 influence points. During the game, players will bribe, poison, betray, steal, blackmail, and undermine each other. Gold will change hands again and again to buy support, stay someone’s hand or influence their decisions. Well, sounds like a game for not feint-heated? Oh, definitely it is!

The Sessions

With below set of screenshot let me provide even more details about Spartacus game, showing this on example of our 4-player’s game. I love picture-rich session reports so that one will not be any different. Enjoy! You can click on each of below pictures to enlarge it.

In my first game I was give Glaber – appalling figure from the TV series but pretty interesting house in the boardgame.
While Intrigue, Market and Bidding phases are important components of the game, the true core is Arena. Above gladiators from two famous houses (I think it was Kuba J and Natalia). Red dices are for attack, the black ones – for defense; you set them in order, from highest to lowest, comparing both strings with ties going to defender.
There is also third statistic (blue dice) for each arena fighter – speed, which allows to control initiative and provides info on number of hexes you can move your warrior.
The true Gladiator would be nobody without proper equipment. You can have weapon, armor and special – above set of my Spartacus.
Teokles vs. Gannicus. When two giants face each other, a fantastic fight ensues. After each won fight, your warrior gets one favor of the public. After third one, he becomes Champion of the Arena.
This is how play area looks like for four players; each of us is plotting and the clash of interests settles on the Arena.
Final situation at the end of the game for my House. 4 gladiators, full equipment, some money and 11 VPs!

What a tense game it was – and decided on the arena as far as the winner is concerned. Whenever somebody was too much ahead, the rest of the players were focusing on him/her. In the end Kuba G finished with 12 VPs, me and Kuba J with 11 VPs and poor Natalia with 8. Definitely, a game to remember!

Spartacus: A Game of Blood & Treachery – first impressions

Let me share now my thoughts and experiences regarding the game:

  • It has multiple dimensions – intrigue, market & bidding, arena – which is fantastic and makes for a multi-dimensional game, where victory points can be scored in various ways
  • We have tons of negative interaction – you really should not play it with unknown people or the ones who can feel touched by others ganging up on them; we had perfect set of players for this and everybody had a great fun, but be just aware of that aspect
  • The quality of components is fantastic, both miniatures, tokens but also arena.
  • I sense it can have a great replayability, as we can choose among many gladiator houses, there are hundreds of intrigue cards, you can get – including expansions – almost 20 unique gladiators; so hours of fun!

I am really glad I finally could play that exciting game and familiarize with it. We really had tons of fun and suspense, doing all the ugly stuff to each other. I am pretty sure we will have another session!