Review: Arena for the Gods

Designer: Maxime Rambourg
Artist: Paul Mafayon
Publisher: IELLO
Category: Dice, Fighting, Mythology
Players: 2 – 6
There’s one thing people should know about me: I’m a pretty huge mythology geek. I love the stories contained within each mythology—Norse and Greek being my top two favorite—so when I heard we had the chance to review Arena for the Gods, I knew I wanted a crack at it. So does the game hold its own? Read on to find out.

 

Content Guide

The game takes place inside of an arena. You play as a hero chosen by a specific deity to compete within the arena to strut your heroic stuff. With that said, there’s violence, but it’s not gory or over the top, and health is represented by small red cubes. The Egyptian heroine, Cleo is rather scantily clad. Being set in mythology, magic is also used.

Review

Before anything else is done, the players must choose a scenario. The game comes with 7 pillars that stand on their own and act as obstructions within the arena. It also has traps and fountains of life. If a player falls into a trap, he loses one life point. On the contrary, if he steps onto a fountain of life, he receives one of the life points remaining on the fountain. If there are no more life points left on the fountain, nothing happens. The really cool thing about these pieces is that they aren’t fixed to the board. There are pre-made scenarios contained within the rule book, but players can make up their own scenario and place these components on the board as they see fit if they so choose. I do recommend becoming at least a little familiar with the game before coming up with your own scenarios, but that option is always there, ensuring that you’ll most likely never play the same game twice. Also, while the 3D aspect of the pillars is cool, it does make set up and tear down a bit longer because the box isn’t big enough to fit all of them when they are assembled so you will have to assemble them before every game, and disassemble them once you’re done playing and putting the game away.
Once a scenario is chosen and the pieces are added to the board, players choose their hero and receive their hero screen and twenty health cubes. The game is then split into two phases—the equipment phase, and the combat phase. During the equipment phase, players will bid on what equipment they wish to take into the arena using their health cubes. Each player will receive four pieces of equipment: Weapon, Mount, Armor, and Magic Spell. The equipment phase starts with weapons, and the same number of cards as there are players are laid out face up so everybody can see them. Players then place their bids using their health cubes. The player who bids the highest gets first pick out of the choices, followed by the player who bids the second highest amount, and so on until everybody has a weapon. The same process is followed for the rest of the equipment until everybody has one piece of each equipment card.
Once this is done, it’s time to enter the arena. The player who won the spell auction during the equipment phase goes first, starting with this player and continuing clockwise. Each player takes turns placing heroes on one of the spaces on the edge of the arena—then it’s time to prove to the gods they made the right choice in choosing you.
On your turn, you roll all seven of the 6-sided dice and spend these dice in the combinations shown on your equipment cards. You could also combine two of the same die to perform a basic action. For instance, two swords allows you to deal 1 damage to a player who is directly adjacent to you. As I said, the dice are 6-sided and different combinations do different things depending on what your strategy is. It’s a nice addition that the basic actions are shown on the back of your player screen so it’s always right there in front of you.
Certain cards allow other players to place an exhaustion token on your screen. This means you roll one less die on your next turn per token on your screen. There are also protection tokens which other cards allow you to place onto your hero and remain there until the start of your next turn. These activate your armor card automatically if another player attacks you.
Arena for the Gods is similar to King of Tokyo, but it takes the strategy to the next level with the equipment cards, equipment card activation, line of sight, exhaustion and protection tokens, and the different scenarios contained within the game. Not to mention that your health is kept secret behind your screen so nobody knows how much health you have left. You could be on your last bit of life, struggling to get to a fountain of life to replenish just a little bit of your health, or you could have the most out of anybody at the table. Keep this in mind as you play because when a player runs completely out of health, the game is over.
The art of this game is beautiful. Each weapon looks dangerous, every steed looks mighty, and more importantly, they’ve done a fantastic job of keeping it on theme. Every piece represents its mythology extremely well.
This is a game in which the most strategic players will excel. It’s easy to focus your attention on one hero and leave yourself vulnerable while a couple of the other players form an alliance to take you out. It takes some maneuvering to protect yourself at all times, and you will lose health as the game progresses—the amount of health you lose will be determined by how well you use your surroundings to your advantage, and exploit the weaknesses of your opponents. Keeping a watchful eye on your surroundings and planning your next steps will be key if you are to emerge victorious.
I thoroughly enjoyed Arena for the Gods. It’s a game that has some very real replayability thanks to the different characters, the different equipment cards, and the different scenarios you can play within the arena. I look forward to going head to head with my gaming group and proving once and for all who is worthy of the title of champion of the arena over and over again.
A review copy of Arena for the Gods was provided by IELLO.

Vince Chapman

Vince is a husband, father, and children's pastor in addition to the work he does for Geeks Under Grace.

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