Main Event Games · Reviews

Review of Carthage

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Game: Carthage

Designer:  Luke Seinen

Published: SAS Creative

Players: 1-5 players

Playtime: 30-75 Minutes

Play Type: Deck Builder/ Take That

Synopsis:

You have entered the ring for gladiatorial combat. You face fierce competition, and only one may survive. Battle your way through the arena to be the last one standing.

Game Play:

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Carthage is played over a series of rounds. Each of these rounds has three phases. During the phases players will have the opportunity to do actions, build up their deck, and control future game play.  Their goal is to bring all of the enemies armor down to zero and still be standing. The last player standing is the winner.

Lets take a closer look at the phases. The first phase in each round is the Theater Phase. During this, players will take the top card from the theater deck and put it face up in the discard pile. The card will have some modifier for game play, whether it be an incentive during the action phase, giving health to the most injured player or potentially giving extra glory to all players. There are twenty cards included so there is plenty of variety. These cards may help lay out a strategy for players to follow as they play.

The  second phase is the action phase. During this phase players will have drawn five cards from their personal deck. They must place those cards and do the corresponding action, one at a time. Players must finish the action from one card before starting the action of the next. There are four basic actions in this game: Movement (blue foot), Healing (green helmet), Damage (red blood splatter), and Glory (yellow trophy). Occasionally a card will have a slash between to symbols meaning players must pick one. Additionally, there may be certain cards that have a white cloud around the damage action. This means if a player does damage then they are eligible to take the second action listed. Some damage will also have a Knockback (hexagon with an arrow) symbol next to it, that symbol means you knock back the opponent one space. Players will continue playing one card at a time in turn order until all players have played all cards.

The third phase is the favor phase. During this phase players able to spend any Glory that they received during the last phase. Players can do the following actions by spending Glory:

  • Purchase New Cards- Players can spend the cost in the top left hand corner of the cards in the market to purchase that card and put it in the discard pile.
  • Initiate- Player takes the Starting Player Token
  • Focus- Players remove a card from the discard pile of their player deck.
  • Evaluate-Discard the five action cards in the market and place them in the focus discard pile. Then replenish the market.
  • Lobby- Choose one of the discarded Theater cards and place it on top of the pile. This action can be taken by multiple people, each place a new card on top of the other card on the theater deck.

After all players have used their favor, the board resets and players start again with the theater phase. Players cannot save Glory between rounds. Play continues like this until only one player is left alive. In the case of a player elimination when playing with more than two players, the eliminated player has the option to become a beast. They take the corresponding beast card and may only do that action each turn. Beasts cannot win the game.

Components:

The components in Carthage are a mixed bag. The player boards, central game board, and cardboard tokens are all high quality.  The designer also was the artist for the game, and the artwork is phenomenal. It is reminiscent of the movie Mad Max. Each player board has both a male and female side. The player boards and central board are all laid out in a way that is easy to understand, and simple to explain to new players.

I have concerns about the components in two areas in particular. First is the insert..or lack there of. The game has a slight cardboard insert that does essentially nothing when putting the components away. There were also not plastic bags included for the punched tokens, which seems like an oversight. If players don’t choose to create their own system of organization, they will open their box to a mess of cards and tokens. This problem is easily solved by the player adding plastic bags though.

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My main problem with components is the miniatures. They are beautifully sculpted with a lot of detail.  Exactly what I would look for as a painter with a miniature game. However, I would never even attempt to paint these miniatures as they are the most flimsy and fragile miniatures I have seen in any game I have ever played. I think if you look at them hard enough they might break (well not really, but you get my point).  Since opening the game we have already had swords pop off, just by gentle game play.  I am someone who takes good care of my games, but even with that care the miniatures were breaking. I cannot imagine playing this with someone who does not show care when handling piece.

Overview:

Positives:

Easy to Teach

  • Easy to Teach
  • Clear Symbols
  • Great Artwork
  • Innovative Mechanics
  • Replaybility

Negatives:

  • Flimsy Miniatures
  • Player Elimination
  • No Insert
  • Weak Gameplay at 2 Players

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Carthage provides a new take on deck building games, and does so in a way that may appeal to players who do not generally enjoy card games. Players who like the look and feel of having a board in front of them are more likely to enjoy Carthage than other deck builders.  It is also a great choice to teach someone who has never played a deck builder who to play one. The symbols are very easy to teach, and there are not a ton of special abilities for players to have to learn. Once they understand the basic symbols, they will be able to play the entire game without difficulty.

Carthage provides replay-ability in a variety of ways. Some of these ways are a variety of scenarios to set up, diverse action and theater cards, equipment cards that can be added to the game, and a variety of beasts for players who are eliminated to try. While the player elimination can be a turn off for many players, at least Carthage does make an effort to keep players engaged in the game. Beasts have the capability to do one action, so they may be able to attack someone who consistently targeted them or heal someone who assisted them. That being said, doing the exact same action over and over again will get boring fast. Players may not be fully eliminated but because opponents know what the beast will do each turn, they can easily play around them, making the beasts particularly ineffective.

Similarly, game play for two players seems to overstay its welcome a bit. It becomes a really long game of cat and mouse. This game is especially good at four or five players however as there are so many more variables to plan for. There is also a solo variant of the game, which I personally have not tried, but may be enjoyable for players who are looking for another solo game to add to their collection.

Carthage is a great choice to introduce new players to a deck building game, especially if playing at high player counts. Game play is easy to follow, and the cards are easy to understand. It still has the feel of a more traditional boardgame, but still introduces the basics of a deckbuilding game. If you enjoy deck builders like Clank or Tyrants of the Underdark you may enjoy this game, or if you like direct combat games like Blood Ragec Cry Havoc or Arcadia Quest you may enjoy Carthage. You can find Carthage to purchase on Amazon or on Ebay.

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