My first game playing Carthage was with my son which turned into one of my top ten all-time game experiences with my kids. It was SO much fun. We both felt transported to an ancient, sandy arena surrounded by screaming, blood-thirsty fans trying to outmaneuver, attack, build armor, gather weapons, and be the last to survive!
Play as a gladiator bent on destroying all other gladiators to become the last one standing! You’ll move around the hex arena, gather armor, appease the crowd for valuable favor (to build up your deck of powerful combinations), and outwit your opponents. Be cautious of the curve-balls the arena will throw at you! You’ll start as a small, weak gladiator and progressively build your deck to become a powerful warrior before whom others flee.
You will be blown away at how immersive and fun Carthage is. It is balanced (with players progressing at a good pace together), it is challenging (Should you fight or flee? Build favor or focus on attacking?), and it will suck you right into an ancient amphitheater bent on giving its crowds a blood-splashingly good time!
The deck-building component reminds me of Dominion or Star Realms in that you have a small set of basic cards to begin with to which you’ll add powerful cards to increase your advantages. While you’ll focus heavily on a particular strategic direction in these other games, you’ll need to have a balanced focus on movement, attacks, and crowd-pleasing antics in Carthage.
While pleasing the crowd seems like a wasteful and superficial thing to do in real life, it was literally a life-or-death decision in gladiator times and is massively important in this board game. “Are you not entertained?!”
While the game says 13+ (probably for the blood splatters on pretty much everything!), the basic game itself can be played by much younger, even 7-8 years old. If you can read well, you can play and have a ton of fun with Carthage.
Tips & Tricks
- Take full advantage of the arena tokens! As balanced as this game is, you’ll want to clamor for every advantage you can get your blood-soaked hands on.
- Be very wary but also take full advantage of moving-and-attacking actions. I’ve been eliminated multiple times by a well-played move-in and attack card. Combined with an arena token, this can be a very powerful combination!
Scoring & Wrap-up
Overall, I give Carthage a very high 8.5 out of 10 for the following reasons:
- It has crazy high replay value with all of the different setups, additions, cards, features, progressions, and modes that are included in the basic game. Even with all this stuff, the most basic mode is still a ton of fun, especially with kids!
- The gladiator miniatures are incredibly realistic. While I have virtually no artistic ability, they almost make me want to try my hand at painting them. But I won’t as they’d morph from studly gladiators to cartoonish clown freaks.
- The combination of thematic artwork, quick gameplay, and imagination sucks you into an immersive gaming experience not for the faint-of-heart!
- I’m a big fan of creative ways to select the starting player. Carthage is probably my all-time favorite as the starting player is chosen by the last player to have bled. How awesome is that?
- It’s an excellent game for 2 players as well as 3-5, a rarity for multi-player games.
- In free-for-all mode especially, players can get taken out really quickly. It reminds me a bit of King of Tokyo where players can get ganged up on and eliminated really early on. Game time is pretty quick (less than an hour), so it’s not too much of an issue.
- I feel dumb calling this out, but this is obviously a fighting game and is very targeted. If kept light, it’s an absolute blast. I would think twice before playing with those uber-competitive players who get personally offended (or offensive) when playing “fighty” games (can you picture one right now??). =-)
All-in-all, I would highly recommend this game for engaging game nights, teenagers, parents playing with each other or with kids (depending on your comfort level with blood!), and for fans of light to mid-level strategy games.
Disclaimer: I received this game for free in exchange for my review, but believe me, I post authentic reviews every time and will be brazenly blunt if needs be.