Bad Cat Games first came to my attention with ElemenZ, a cool riff on King of Tokyo with a lot going for it. So, when I got to meet founder and designer Justin at UKGE 2017 and sit down with the Gladiatores I was excited. Since then I have played the new prototype a number of times, and what was solid in 2017 is even better now, namely the core fighting system.
The fighting revolves around some clever, deeper paper, scissors, stone variant. In other games with deck-based fighting the deck often represents your health - run out of cards and you dead - GKR Heavy Hitters for example. In Gladiatores your deck is your stamina, this means that as you play your cards you have to be wary of running out and choose your moments to counter and block.
I mentioned paper, scissors, and stone but in truth this is a lot more complicated but also excellently designed with the graphics telling you exactly what card counters another and what you may be vulnerable too. Fights are given structure by an event card, which influences the amount of crowd favour (measured in petals), and glory on offer, as well as the betting odds.
The initiating fighter will play a card and their target must decide whether to accept the consequences of that card or if they can and want to counter, block or feint it and if this is worth using their stamina for. If they do the initiating player then has the same decisions to make. This clever back and forth feels as close as a card game can get to the cut and thrust you'd imagine a gladiatorial combat would involve.
Gladiatores - Place Your Bets
If you are playing two player this fight is the meat of the gameplay, and although it may be possible in some situations to win without winning the fight, but winning the fight is the best way. However, add some more players in and betting enters the arena. You place a secret bet on a fighter, which doesn't have to be your own, and reap rewards for their placing. So, if you want to tank your fighters chances, or use them to protect the person you've bet on before falling on their sword you can.
It's recommended you play more than one event so this can give you a chance to experiment with different tactics both in fighting and betting. What I've liked about this is, group depending, the stories that emerge from this. While there is no guidance for this, we have the rich history of, um, history and failing that Spartacus and Gladiator for help!
Game to a Murdered Designer
Gladiatores comes to Kickstarter imminently so if you have been looking for an engaging card based fight game then you should check this out. But it's also more than this, providing a fun group game with emerging stories as you gamble, feint and stab your way to glory.