Board GamesReviews

The Architects of the Colosseum Review

The Architects of the Colosseum
Rondel, Tableau Building
Tasty Minstrel Games
Klaus-Jürgen Wrede
Michael Menzel

The Architects of the Colosseum is a rondel-driven game with attractive presentation and simple rules.  Its short playtime and easy-to-grasp mechanics make it a great gateway game and fun to play besides.

In The Architects of the Colosseum, you and your fellow architects will work (ostensibly) together on the titular structure.  However, though you are all contributing to the same structure, each of you is out for the most glory, in the architectural equivalent of gladiatorial combat!

Jess: By which you mean calmly gathering building materials and fulfilling contracts.

Andrew: Pretty much, yeah.

Gameplay in The Architects of the Colosseum is quite straightforward – you will gather resource cards from your various landscape tiles, and then you will spend these resources to build segments of the Colosseum to earn victory points.  Each turn, the active player must move the consul at least a single space around the rondel, the shared circular track which determines what actions are available to you.

The actions are:

  • Expand your territory, adding a landscape tile to your tableau
  • Turn in resource cards to build
  • expand your camp (which dictates your hand size)

When you expand your landscape, the tile you take is added to your tableau, and then the other tiles are slid towards the board to fill the space.  Then, whatever tile is now touching the board from the row you drew from will get ‘evaluated’, and every player will draw a number of that resource equal to the matching landscapes in their own tableau.

For example, if you claim the ocean tile, then all players will get as much grain (the next tile in line) as they have landscape tiles.

Jess: Building up your tableau is really important – the more landscape tiles you have, the more resource cards you will get whenever that terrain produces.

Andrew: And a variety of landscapes means you will increase the likelihood of you getting some cards – nothing feels lousier than when everyone gets to draw cards except for you, because you don’t have any forests or whatever.

Colosseum slices generally get harder to build as the game goes on.

The historical underpinnings of The Architects of the Colosseum are, for better or worse, little more than set-dressing – it’s an abstract game of card collection and resource allocation.  That said, it is satisfying to socket your completed Colosseum into the (admittedly unnecessary) board, lending a physical presence to the ever-approaching end-game condition.

And that moment wastes no real time getting there – though the theme might suggest a plodding, fussy, bookish affair, The Architects of the Colosseum can easily be completed in around 30 minutes by a pair of reasonably quick-thinking players, and not much longer with more.

Changes in player counts make for a different tenor – with fewer players, you’ll get more cards (because you’ll have more resource-generating tiles), your hand size will matter more, you’ll score more points overall, and you’ll get more opportunities to control the game directly.  With fewer, all of that is reversed – cards will trickle in because you’ll have fewer landscape tiles , but your opponents can possibly trigger your income more frequently (so diversity is key), and  everyone will be scrambling to build the sets needed to score.

The Architects of the Colosseum is not a complex game – in fact, when we first looked at the box and the board, we were expecting something far heavier.  What is interesting about The Architects of the Colosseum’s gameplay is how much manipulating the consul will drive your game experience – everyone must move the consul one space minimum, however, it can be moved further by spending movement points (granted by one type of landscape tile) or even victory points if necessary.

Andrew: On the other hand, The Architects of the Colosseum is a generous game.  Getting exactly the cards you need feels awesome, but it never sucks to get more cards, since you can always spend 3-1 to make up for shortages in a given landscape you might have.

Once the final segment of the titular structure is complete, the game comes to an immediate end.  points are tallied, including bonuses earned by determining majorities in the different landscapes, and then a winner is declared.

Sorry about the cat butt – he just wouldn’t get out of my shots.

Jess: On the whole, I was really struck by the accessibility of The Architects of the Colosseum.  It really threatened to be heavier and slower, but it was anything but.

Andrew: I agree, and I think that means it will be absolutely perfect for people looking for a really solid introductory rondel/resource collection game.  If you’re looking for something deep or strategic, The Architects of the Colosseum isn’t the game for you.  But it was definitely fun, which I appreciated.

Variant tiles can change one of the spaces on the rondel, adding some variety to future plays

So, we recommend The Architects of the Colosseum on its merits, with the caveat of knowing what you’re getting into.  If you are attracted to the idea of a complex, thinky game about medieval European architecture…this ain’t it.  But if you’re down for a quick, playable bit of fun with some nice, if somewhat unnecessary table presence, then The Architects of the Colosseum is definitely worth checking out!

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