- For ages 8 and up (publisher suggests 12+)
- For 1 to 3 players (solo, competitive, and cooperative)
- Approximately 60 minutes to complete
- Active Listening & Communication
- Counting & Math
- Logical & Critical Decision Making
- Pattern/Color Matching
- Strategy & Tactics
- Risk vs. Reward
- Visuospatial Skills
- Cooperative & Team Play
- Hand/Resource Management
- Area Control
- Child – Easy
- Adult – Easy
Theme & Narrative:
- New champions enter the arena to do battle, and this time, they brought their pets
- Gamer Geek approved!
- Parent Geek approved!
- Child Geek approved!
The crowds were becoming wrestles. No longer were they satisfied with the Gladiators who fought and died bravely, spilling their blood upon the sand. The crowds wanted more and the owners of the arena obliged. From the far reaches of the Empire, new warriors have arrived, bringing with them exotic weapons of death, fantastic animal combatants, and new heroes to cheer for. Once again, the crowd was content.
Hoplomachus Series, designed by Adam Carlson, Josh J. Carlson, and published by Chip Theory Games, is comprised of new Unit and Tactic chips. Each add-on is built around a central theme. The quality of the chips are excellent, with easy to read numbers and text.
Note: This review does not cover how to play with the Hoplomachus Series, since their use is already described in the base game. If you are not familiar with the base game and want to learn more, read the Hoplomachus: The Lost Cities game review.
Each of the Hoplomachus Series add-ons is summarized here. For the most part, their use within the base game is identical to the other Unit and Tactic chips with very few exceptions. Any player familiar with the base game’s rules will have little difficulty incorporating the new chips into game play.
Blades Edge contains 5 new Equipment and 5 new Champions suitable for solo, cooperative, and competitive game play. Pompeii, Xanado, Atlantis, El Dorado, and Rome all receive new heroes to cheer for and equipment to use. No new rules are introduced for the Blade’s Edge Champions. The Equipment chips do require a brief explanation, however.
Equipment begins within the arena, face-down, with up to 3 Health chips on top of them. The more Health chips placed on top of the Equipment chip, the harder it will be to obtain it during game play. Players must attack the Equipment chip, removing the Health chips in the process. Once the Equipment chip is free and clear of Health chips, it can be picked up and used by a Unit. If that Unit should perish, the Equipment chip remains and can be picked up again.
A few of the more menacing Equipment chips include:
- War Horn: Provides Unit with the “Rally Cry” Alternative Attack. This allows the player to move each of their Units 1 hex space. This is considered a free move and it can be taken before normal attacks resume.
- Trophy: The more you kill, the more the crowd loves you. For every Unit defeated while the “Trophy” Equipment Chip is being used, 1 Crowd Favor/Turn is given to the player. Even better, the number of defeated units stack, making this a very popular item to claim, becoming more powerful the bloodier the sand becomes.
- Pilum: A nasty javelin with a nasty surprise. The holder of this Equipment chip can make an Alternative Attack, targeting an enemy Unit 2 or 3 hexes away. Once it hits, it sticks. The “Pilum” Equipment chip is placed underneath the targeted unit and can be picked up and thrown again.
To learn more about Blade’s Edge, visit the game’s web page.
Beast and Master
Beast and Master fuses together the strategic might of a seasoned warrior with the cunning of wild animals. Each of the 5 cities is given a Beastmaster and their Beast. This add-on is focused on competitive game play. When using them in the game, both Beastmaster and Beast are added to the draw bag. While the Beastmasters are interesting, of more importance are their Beasts.
- Pompeii: Mist Panther
- Xanadu: Slateback Gorilla
- Atlantis: Sea Crocodile
- El Dorado: Emerald Falcon
- Rome: Armored Rhino
A Beastmaster’s Beast is essentially a living weapon that only listens to the Beastmaster’s voice. Of course, that also means that the Beast is only useful if the Beastmaster remains alive. As the game progresses, a player will need to make sure both Beastmaster and Beast are in good health if they want to use them as a team. While the add-on doesn’t make the game more difficult, it does give the players more to consider. When combined, the Beastmaster and their Beast give the player more Abilities, Alternative Attacks, Innates, and Specials. Each Beast is unique and brings something special to the arena. A few of the more interesting abilities of note are summarized here.
- Distract: Send your Beast to harass another Unit, causing them to take no actions this round.
- Mad Charge: The Beast locks eyes on its target and runs right at the Unit.
- Death Roll: The Beasts sacrifices itself and does massive damage to the unlucky Unit it’s attacking.
To learn more about Beast and Master, visit the game’s web page.
Legends of the Sand
Legends of the Sand adds 2 new Gladiator Units and 1 Tactics chip for each of the five cities. These chips are added to the draw bag when players select their city during game set up. The new chips fit seamlessly with the base game’s components and are suitable for solo, cooperative, and competitive game play. The Gladiator Units and Tactics chips are hybrids of existing chips already present in the game. This provides the player with new Units and a Tactics that take the best aspects of other chips and fuses them together into one offering. No overpowered Gladiators or ridiculous Tactics here, however. Nothing is made out of balance with the new chips being present. What is made available are new ways to strategize your way to victory and a new tactic to deploy to wow the crowd. A few of the more interesting Tactics and Abilities are summarized here.
- Flurry of Blows: Attack as normal against an opposing Unit and keep rolling again and again until either the Gladiator misses or their target is cut to ribbons.
- Disarm: Time this Tactic right and you can permanently remove an opposing Unit’s Basic Attack.
- Taunt: Jeer and sneer at an opposing Unit, forcing them to advance and use a Basic Attack. Doesn’t sound too great until you realize you are forcing your opponent to move into a situation they might not have wanted.
To learn more about Legends of the Sand, visit the game’s web page.
Individually and together, the add-ons for Hoplomachus: The Lost Cities are the proverbial icing on the cake. They will do very little to persuade an individual to enjoy the game if they already do not and anyone who does enjoy the game will welcome the new Units and Tactics like an old friend. They are easy to use, fit seamlessly into the game, and give the players something new to think about. Once you add them, I doubt you’ll want to remove them.
The term “add-on” is “spot on” when it comes to the Hoplomachus Series. Each of the add-ons throws in more of what the base game already has provided, but comes at it in a slightly different way. The best example is Beast and Master, combining two warriors together that must work separately and in unison. This feels new at first, but a player will quickly realize that both Beast and Beastmaster are using the same rules built on the very solid foundation of the base game.
Like I said. Icing. Cake. Yum. And so on…
All of our groups enjoyed the add-ons and approved them. However, they also collectively agreed that they only provided value to the base game when they were all included. According to one Gamer Geek, “Each one of these is pretty good, but together they are awesome.” I concur. None of the add-ons will increase a game’s length significantly and introducing any of them into a game is very easy. In fact, I didn’t tell some of the players that I added the chips to see if they noticed. They didn’t until the Beasts and their Masters entered the arena. Otherwise, each new chip feel right into the game and was played with without issue.
I would recommend these add-ons to anyone who already has the game, especially Beast and Master. I wouldn’t suggest these to someone who doesn’t or just purchased the game. There is a lot to learn and to explore in Hoplomachus: The Lost Cities that will keep players occupied for many game playing sessions. I don’t belive the add-ons should be introduced until players feel like they have fully explored the base game’s depth. That way, when the new add-ons are introduced, they will provide the players an opportunity to re-explore, re-evaluate, and re-purpose all of their strategies and tactics. Which is a lot of fun.
If you are a fan of Hoplomachus: The Lost Cities, these add-ons will be a welcomed addition to your arena. Expect to be taken by surprise by some of the new chips and how quickly your plans for victory can be trampled. Especially if that new chip is a bloody huge charging rhino.
This game was given to Father Geek as a review copy. Father Geek was not paid, bribed, wined, dined, or threatened in vain hopes of influencing this review. Such is the statuesque and legendary integrity of Father Geek.