I never thought I could talk about gladiators and bridge in the same context, but there you go
Trick-taking games have been around for a long time. A really long time. Generally speaking, players have a hand of cards and try to play the highest or lowest value card to win the round or ‘trick’.
There are plenty of variants to these games, and a lot of us have played most of them at some point. Grandparents may have been involved. Games like Clubs, Euchre and Spades are all old favourites. Another trick-taking game Hearts was played by generations of Windows users as it was included in every Windows from Windows 3.11 to Windows 7.
One thing almost all of the classic games are missing though is a cohesive theme. Yes, you have a few games these days with pictures on them (like Pairs) or seasonal themes (like 12 Days of Christmas), but they don’t quite tell a story. You just do what the rules say to win a hand.
So Conor McGoey and Inside Up Games decided to fix that. Do you really need the highest number? What for? It’s just a number! But do you have the highest ranked Gladiator, the warrior that is sure to defeat all opponents? That’s how you win a round!
But how do you win the game? By the crowd telling you that you win of course! So while your Gladiators may win a ‘trick’, you want to only collect positive crowd favour points to win the game.
And that is the basic premise of Gorus Maximus, a bloody trick-taking game currently on Kickstarter.
Now, this will not be a game for everyone. Gladiatorial combat is probably not a theme you want to bring out in front of small children, and the cartoon violence and gore will both cement this feeling and put off others. The cover alone will give you a good idea of what to expect.
For people that know trick-taking games, there is probably only one other key selling point you need to know – Gorus Maximus has a working two player mode. That’s right – an actual fun way to play a trick-taking game with only two people. Head over to the rules and the Kickstarter page and see for yourself.
So how do you play Gorus Maximus? Well, first you have to set up the game.
You build a deck of Gladiators by adding a number of Schools (basically card suits) and shuffling the deck. This allows the game to scale and is partially what makes the player count of 2-8 players viable. Each school has one gladiator of each rank, and a stronger gladiator beats a weaker gladiator of the same school.
In each round of the game, there will be a Preferred School (the Trump Suit) that will win against all other gladiators. This becomes important information as you play, as you want to keep as many trumps as possible.
Each player is then dealt 10 cards from the deck, and the player to the dealers left begins play. This player at the start of the Round chooses the Gladiator they wish to play, and this sets the Initiating and Preferred schools.
From here, in order, every player then plays a card from the Initiating School if they have one. If they do not have a Gladiator from the Initiating School, they can play any card. If that card is not from the Preferred School they will not win the Bout (the Trick). The exception to this is the Challenge, but I will go into that after describing the ‘standard’ round.
After every player has played a card, the Bout is over. The player with the highest ranked Gladiator from the Initiating School then takes the cards and puts them face down in front of them, and plays the next card from their hand. This card now sets the Initiating School, but the Preferred School remains the same until the end of the Round (or a Challenge). This continues until all players have played all cards in their hand.
Once the Round is over, players will then add their Crowd Favour (the little number in yellow below the School information). The player with the highest Crowd Favour wins the Round, and a Token. Ultimately, it’s the first player to win three rounds wins the game.
Challenges are a fun way to change the Preferred School during play. During play, if you play a card from a different School but the same Rank during the bout, the Preferred School immediately becomes the School you played.
So for example, the Preferred School this round are axes. A player leads with 11 Arrows – a very strong initiating card. The next player can’t beat it, so they play their five Arrows, hoping their higher Ranks will hold up later. The third player then plays their five Fists, immediately changing the Preferred School and becoming the current winner of the bout.
Challenges are the only time a player can choose to play a card not from the Initiating School during the bout, but it’s not an instant win. Nothing is stopping the next player from challenging from your Gladiator. The Challenge rule fires from the last Gladiator played, so timing is everything!
Gorus Maximus looks like a fun, easy game that can scale well for a wide range of players (and even teams). I can’t see myself playing this all night, but as an opener or closer for a games night or just a way to pass a bit of time waiting for something else to start, it looks like a lot of fun.
Until next time,