Kickstarter Preview: Carthage
by Derek Funkhouser
May 11, 2017, 4:10pm
The buzzards circle high above. Watching. Waiting. You struggle to rise. Blood soaks the sand. Indistinguishable cheers bombard your senses. Wiping sweat and blood from your brow, you attempt to rise. He lumbers nearer. A muscled mass of a man; wielding the largest sword you’ve ever seen. You stumble yet again, your muscles failing. You scream out of frustration. He stands over you and you finally accept your fate. You close your eyes and the world fades away.
The ground opens and a tiger emerges. It leaps and knocks the Gladiator to his back. The tiger is relentless, clawing and biting. He screams in agony. You remember the man, only moments before. This man claimed your life. Now you will claim his.
Introduction to Carthage
Ordinarily a game rarely lives up to its own motto. Carthage is no ordinary game. Easy to learn, easy to die; truer words were never spoken. Carthage is a fast-paced, action packed showdown to the death. A unique deck builder in a genre crowded with great games. If you’ve ever wanted to fight your friends and family to the death, without going to jail, Carthage is for you! If you haven’t had those urges, but you enjoy immersive, tight gameplay, Carthage should find a place in your collection. It’s straight forward; play cards from your hand to gain actions and fight your opponents to the death. The last Gladiator standing wins!
Each round of Carthage consists of three phases: Theater, Action and Favor. Players will fight to the death until there is one Gladiator standing. Every round, players will fight for position, gain armor (health) and win the favor of the crowd to gain better cards for their deck as well as activating special arena actions.
This phase sets the stage for the round. It gives players a goal or an immediate effect for the action phase and helps deliver an immersive experience.
This phase is the meat of the game. During this phase, players will play cards from their hand to gain various actions:
- Movement (Boot) - Move your Gladiator X spaces on the board, as indicated on the card.
- Attack (Blood Splatter) - Attack an adjacent player for X amount of damage, indicated on the card.
- Armor (Helmet) - Move your Armor (health) up X spaces on your Character sheet.
- Favor (Goblet) - Move your favor points up X spaces on your Character sheet.
- Impact Bonus (Red Splatter and White Burst) – A card with a white burst behind the attack symbol deals additional damage only upon a successful attack.
- Knockback (Hex with a Horizontal Arrow) – A damaged opponent is knocked back a hex.
Movement, Armor and Favor are the driving force behind Carthage. After each player has thoroughly completed the five, essential D’s of any Gladiator: dodge, duck, dip, dive, and dodge, players will move to the Favor phase.
Players will use the favor points they’ve accumulated during the Action phase to activate Arena actions. During this phase, players can purchase new cards for their deck, gain the 1st player marker, focus their deck by removing a card in their discard pile or lobby the crowd to search the Theater discard pile and put a card back on top of the Theater deck. The Favor Phase ends when all players have either passed or have used their favor points. It’s important to note that your favor points will not carry over after each round; use it or lose it!
What did I love?
The game. The setting. The art. You name it, I loved it. Overall, I can’t speak highly enough about Carthage. Ease of access and game length is the most important factor when I review and evaluate a game. I can see Carthage getting ample table time at all player counts. The rules are accessible for players of all experience levels and the game plays quickly, ~60 min for 4 players. I liked the art, though some of the cards are a bit difficult to distinguish what is happening on them and the flavor text was too small (though I’m told that will be fixed!). It reminded me of the comic styling of 300. The myriad of modular rule sets create a fantastic variance in gameplay and the 2v2 Chain Match is one of the coolest, thematic optional modes I’ve seen in any game. I would be remiss if I did not talk about the best mechanic in the game, Arena Beasts. If you are like me, you don’t enjoy being eliminated. You sit there, sulking, formulating a plan to secretly enact your revenge while you watch as the table dukes it out for victory. Sulk no longer! Enter Arena Beasts! When a player is eliminated, they can choose to enter the arena as a beast; Tigers, Lions and Bears, oh my! Avenge your death on the Gladiator who killed you or rampage ruthlessly against the field. Arena Beasts keep the game moving and allows everyone, eliminated players included, to stay engaged.
What would I like to see?
Variable Gladiator powers and Projectiles! These would be AWESOME additions to an already amazing game. *cough* Please add these as Stretch Goals! *cough*
If you love deck-builders and/or crushing your opponents in deadly hand to hand action, Carthage is 100% for you! Deck-building is one of favorite mechanics and Carthage will absolutely find a spot on my shelf.
Be vigilant fellow Gladiators! Carthage will enter the Kickstarter Arena on May 17th and I promise WE WILL ALL BE ENTERTAINED!
Please note, I was not paid nor was any service offered to me to write this review. I was given a review copy of the game, which did not include finished miniatures. All artwork is subject to change. This review comes from my own, personal experience after playing Carthage.