Colossal Arena board game
by Chris Bowler
Board game manufacturer:
Fantasy Flight Games
Number of players:
Colossal Arena is fast playing game of gladiatorial combat in which you attempt to ensure your Creatures survive and your competitors’ do not. The game is fast paced, fun and competitive, although the theme feels a little pasted on.
The game and gameplay
Colossal Arena is designed by Reiner Knizia and is one of the Silver Line Games by Fantasy Flight. This means that the game box is small enough to carry around and the game plays fast enough to play during a lunch break.
In the box are 12 decks of 11 monster cards each with the numbers 0-10 on them, 11 Spectator Cards (also labelled 0-10), 2 Prefect cards, 1 Magistrate card, 12 Monster Cards, 25 Chips (5 of each Colour) 10 Reference Cards (2 of each colour).
To begin the game, deal out eight of the 12 Monster Cards in a line on the table. The remaining 4 are returned to the box along with their corresponding decks. Then shuffle the 8 decks that correspond to the monsters in play together, along with the spectators, prefects and magistrate to form the draw deck.
Each player is then dealt 8 Cards. To win at Colossal Arena, you must be the player with most gold at the end of the game. Only monsters that survive all five rounds pay out. You can place bets during each round of the game but you only have five chips with which to bet.
Each bet is worth a different amount depending on when it was placed. A secret bet (placed only in the first round by placing a chip on a card from your hand) is worth 5 gold, an open bet in the 1st round is worth 4 Gold, 2nd round 3 Gold, 3rd round 2 Gold, 4th Round 1 Gold and the 5th round 0 Gold.
On your turn you can do three things. First, place a bet if you want. To do so place a chip above the monster you want to bet on. You can bet multiple times per round but only once per turn and only on monsters with no bet above them for this round. Secondly you must play a card or pass but only if you cannot play a card. If you play a monster card you place it face up under the monster it depicts. The number on the card becomes that monster’s Combat Value.
If you also have bet more Gold than anyone else on that monster, you are its backer and can activate its special power.
If you play a spectator card it can be played on any monster. The number on the card becomes the monsters Combat Value, but no one can use that monsters special power until after the spectator has been covered by another card. The magistrate and prefect allow you to reclaim cards or possibly cause other players to reveal their secret bets.
The last thing you can do on your turn is discard up to 3 cards showing monsters that have been eliminated. After that, if you have fewer than 8 cards you must draw cards until you have a full hand again.
Once every monster has a monster or spectator card under it look to see if any single monster has the lowest combat value. If so that monster is eliminated and the round ends. If there is a tie, the round continues until there is a lowest. After all five rounds have been played only three monsters will remain. All bets on those monsters pay out, the player with most Gold wins.
Pros and cons
Colossal Arena is fast paced and fun. Fighting to keep your monster in the game can be a real struggle.
The production quality is very high. Having 12 monsters and only using 8 gives you a nice amount of replayability. The play time is around half an hour and the box is small enough to carry around in your bag or pocket. All the special powers help to provide extra tactics and stop the game being about the luck of the draw.
Setting the game up and putting it away again can take a fair amount of time because not all monsters are used in each game. The theme is really superficial as most of time you focus on the numbers rather than the arena combat.
This is a fast, fun and easy game. Like all card driven games you are sometimes at the mercy of the deck but your ability to keep one of your bets secret, combined with the special powers helps to make the game feel more tactical.
The cards are hard to shuffle because they are really thick which is good for durability, but not so much for shuffling. The game is really simple to play, but secret bets and backers/special powers, are difficult to explain to new players.
The Colossal Arena board game is a direct conflict game, but because it’s over quite quickly it doesn’t cause arguments or hurt feelings (most of the time.) The extra monsters helps make this game different every time, the small size makes it portable and the small price point makes it great value.