Welcome to Carthage. The arena is set and your gladiator is ready to triumph over the other gladiators in order to be the last man standing. Who will endure the fierce battle?
Carthage is a game that combines deck building with fierce combat arena. If you have played other deckbuilding games like Dominion, Star Realms e.t.c., you can easily adapt to the rules of this game and play it right away. It is simple, straight forward and personally I like the addition of movement throughout the board. So, let us see how the game plays.
Every player chooses a color (miniature, player board and 10 starting action cards). You start with 15 life (armor in this game) and 0 money (Favor). There is an action deck on the main board of the game which contains more powerful actions that you can buy making your starting deck more powerful. 5 cards of this deck are always face up. There is also an extra deck called Theater deck that every turn affects the game with one of its cards. After you place your miniature on the board you are ready to play!
Draw the top card of the Theater deck and place it face up in the discard pile of the Theater deck. Resolve any actions that may create. Some actions are immediately resolved and some resolve after the action phase. In my opinion, event cards in games have random effects that affect the game in a non-desirable way most of the times. In Carthage, there is a way in the Favor phase to temper with the Theater cards, so this problem is solved and also more options are added to the game.
Draw 5 cards from the top of your starting deck and keep these cards into your hand. The different aspect of this game in comparison with other deck building games is that you play in turn order only one card at a time and not your whole hand right away. So, each player will play 5 times in each turn and must play all of their cards. The various actions include movement, damage, life gain, money gain, knockback and extra actions if you have already damaged your opponents. Once all cards have been played, the Theatre card resolves (if it did not at the start of the turn) and the players move to the Favor phase.
The favor phase is a buy card phase with a little twist. In this phase, a player can buy cards from the 5 action cards that are face up on the game board (cards are placed on a player’s discard pile), but they can also spend their currency on other actions. The extra options players have are: removing a card from their deck (from the game), taking the 1st player token, refresh the 5 action cards and then buy one or mess with the Theater deck and return any card from its discard pile to the top of the deck. Every player does one buying action on their turn and this is continued multiple times until all players do not have enough currency. Moreover, a player can pass even if he has currency left but he can no longer participate in this phase for this round. So be careful when you want to pass on your turn. All Favor returns to 0 and the round ends. This is one game round and the rounds continue until someone is left alive.
That is the game in overall. I forgot to mention that there are also face up arena tokens which have various effects that are resolved when a player moves onto them. When a player moves off of them they are flipped face down for the remainder of the round. At the start of each round at the Theater phase the tokens are flipped face-up.
When you have mastered the game, there are also more options to add to the game. There are advanced rules where you can set up different tokens in the arena, modules that add a complexity to the game (because players have more Favor actions at their disposal), modules that are passive and also additional game modes. Arena beasts are also an extra option for players that want to continue playing when they are eliminated. Beasts are less powerful but they can still affect the game. From what I can see this option is good when you play team battles.
The art is Graphic Novel art style and is very dark and beautiful. The price of the game is fair and a little cheaper than it will be on retail. All the cards have linen finish and that adds a lot to the quality of the game. Also, the shipping costs are low, so you have a pretty good deal if you want to pledge for the game. Unlocking stretch goals add more cards to the game. Buying it from kickstarter will unlock all these extras. If you like deck building games, fighting games and would like to try a game that combines both, check Carthage here!