Theme and What is it?
Gorus Maximus jumped out at me and kneed me in the chin among a group of other games when I was picking one for my first review here on MeepleGamers. I could barely contain my excitement as I then furiously tried to open the game to no avail. Hard to open game box aside, when I finally did pry it open, I was pleasantly surprised by a game with a lot of charm and quick and easy fun factor. (Seriously though, some thumb notches would have been great.)
This is a very simple game to learn and play, but requires a lot of experience and strategy to fully master, as with a lot of trick-taking games. I love games that have very little set of rules that generates complexity from within and have a lot of subtle nuances. Gorus Maximus was actually the first-trick-taking game that I got into and introduced me to the genre. The theme is 1st Century B.C. gladiatorial games. You are trying to gain political favor by recruiting the most brutal and spectacular gladiators ready to fight to the death in the Colosseum to the crowd’s amusement.
Players are dealt an equal amount of cards until the deck is depleted (except in 1v1 games). Then, they take turns playing out a bout (trick), whoever wins the trick collects all the cards played and place them face down in front of them. These tricks are continued to be played out until no one has any cards left. This signifies the end of a round. Players count up the points on the cards they’ve gathered and whoever has the most points will gain a Crowd Support Token. A new rounds starts after that. The game ends when a player has accumulated 3 Crowd Support.
What makes the gameplay stand out from the slew of other trick-taking games are a few rules the game employs that twists the genre in interesting ways. The biggest game changer are the cards’ individual worth. Certain cards are worth negative points, which allows for strategies in which you purposefully lose and give up your negative cards to the “winner”. This allows for a lot of strategy and careful consideration to your plays. The way trumps work in this game also allows it to be more exciting. A player can trump a card with any suit, as long as it is the same rank as the card that was just played. This can cause crazy situations in which a trump is then immediately trumped by another card. Lastly, a little detail that adds more flavor to the game is how the rank 0 cards have variable worth in points. At the end of a round, whoever has the 0 card with the suit that matches up with the last trumped suit earns 5 points, wildly swinging the round in their favor. With careful planning, this strategic element can be a driving factor for how the game plays out.
My initial impression of this game were mixed. On one hand, I fell in love with the absurd style of the game, but on the other, I was disappointed by how such explosive art was for such a simple game. I was picturing a giant board (how did I picture a giant board when the box itself was small? My imagination is too wild for its own good) with different warriors and creatures on it battling it out with a mutual thirst for blood and mayhem. I went into this game blind after all. This feeling of disappointment, however, quickly turned into a feeling of surprise and appreciation for how the simplicity of it created complex as well as exciting game situations that emulated the feeling of frenzy of a gladiatorial game.
Game Build Quality
The quality of the cards is fantastic. The cards feel durable, not to mention satisfying to play. The texture and grooves of the cards go the extra mile making the handling and playing a pleasant experience. The box itself has a bit of an issue when it comes to actually opening it, as I have mentioned prior. Opening it every time, not just the first time, becomes a chore. Of course, you don’t want to put too much pressure on it when opening, unless you want to play 80 card pick up, but it almost seems necessary. The game comes with eight support tokens that feel nice to handle, though they aren’t very necessary, as even the game agrees with me – there are five Crowd Support cards that can substitute the tokens if you can’t be bothered with them or if you have the game on the go. My biggest complaint with this game is the way it handles how players keep track of the current trump suit. It comes with one card that has all the suits on it and a card clip that can be clipped to a position of the current suit. This clip is too harsh on the card and can bend it. Just stick to a coin or anything other than the provided clip and you should be fine.
Amazing. The art is what drew me into the game. The cover itself is what is going to be selling this game. Inside the box, the cards all have wacky and unique characters on them with various degrees of bloodiness, from super bloody to ultra bloody. One minor complaint is that it is almost too gory, but at the same time, not, if that makes any sense. The style is very cartoony and slapstick. I am a person that can fully appreciate this kind of art, but it might not be for everyone, especially if it’s parents’ looking for a game to play with their kids on game night. They might be turned off from the blood, turning down an otherwise innocuous and rather fun game.
The game is very fun to play. The more players, the better. The game is exceptional in creating various emotional situations. Tacking on a ‘-4’ onto an otherwise successful trick for an opponent can be a very joyful and sadistic experience, or a very angry experience for the receiver. Having the preferred suit trumped multiple times in succession creates a lot of tense and exciting rounds that simulates the chaos that ensues inside the Colosseum. The game gets better and better the more strategies you pick up as you play.
Age Range & Weight
This game is very easy to learn and play. The genre is very old and prevalent. So, if you have some people that are familiar with any trick-taking game, they are already 99% ready to play. However, the game flows very fast and can be a little challenging during the first or second games if the players are new to it. Particularly, when there are multiple trumps that occur one after the other and the preferred suit keeps on changing; this can be a little confusing to new or younger players. The way the game plays really promotes fast rounds, and it is up to the veteran players to accomodate for new ones.
Again, the art might put off some younger players or parents, but you really can’t please everyone. The slapstick gory nature of the game shouldn’t be compromised for a select few who can’t stomach it. At the end of the day, it’s really not that bad.
I had a blast playing this game. My chin is still a little sore but I’ll get over it. If you are into trick-taking games, this game is definitely worth a look. Otherwise, if you’re into simple and exciting, but also strategic card gameplay, also be sure to take a look.