Honestly after something like a year and half, I couldn't even remember what I had actually backed on kickstarter! When a small box from Red Republic Games arrived on my porch, I was going to be pleasantly surprised. Cutting open the box, buried in the foam peanuts were a bag with cards (including art cards), 10 special "AR" marked dice, 3 bags of minis, and a mini rulebook. At first I was a little surprised by the way everything arrived, no blisters, no box, etc. I've only ever backed 3 kickstarters (not a big KS fan), and this was the first I had received. I expected to receive more of a final, shelf ready, finished product, complete with the bells and whistles like blisters. Maybe this type of packaging is the norm for kickstarters, maybe it's not. I'd hope the final product would include things like boxes with art, and I suspect that it will, or else it will have a hard time sticking out on a shelf. Moving on from here, I'll start talking about the individual parts...
The dice. I believe it was a KS exclusive, it came with 10 of these, which feature the Arena Rex logo on the 6-side. They are nice looking, larger d6's, with an almost marble-like look which fits in with the Roman theme. 10 is more than enough to use for attacks, defense, and/or favor dice. In my case, I plan to use them for Favor dice.
|Art cards. Game Cards are below...|
Now, the rulebook itself! It's an interesting size, the square cut is different than the normal rectangle mini rulebook you typically see. I'm curious to see if this is a special mini rulebook and they'll have a normal, full sized book for the game shelves. The cover design is interesting, very minimal, very modern, and it works. The cover has a interesting texture to the stock, and the pages inside are a nice, thick stock. The inside features the same beautiful artwork that initially drew me into the game, as well as rules, scenarios, and a bit of fluff about the Arena Rex world and the factions, as this game does take place in an alt-history world. The rules themselves are short, easy to follow, and there are plenty of nice looking diagrams to go along with them. I'll get into the rules and gameplay a bit more later on. The one thing I am a little on the fence with is the 2-staple binding. On one hand, it almost felt cheap at first, especially when I looked at the care that went into the design, the quality of the stock etc, but on the other hand, it is probably better in the long run, as you don't have to worry about glue wearing down, or pages falling out from continual usage. (Not that you'll need to consult the rulebook much, as the game is easy to pick up.). So, I'm ok with the binding choice in the long run...
There was also a small pack with the special plastic bases Arena Rex uses, and the special tokens for the fatigue mechanic. (More on the fatigue mechanic in the gameplay section)
|Marcus Furius on the sprue...|
|You can see the pieces I had break off during assembly....|
Gameplay wise, not a lot has changed in the overall main rules since my earlier playtesting, so I feel pretty confident talking about the games as a whole based off my earlier experiences. Typically games are 3v3, 5v5, or 8v8, there are mounted models and large models that take up additional spots on your cohort. Unless playing a specific scenario, games are to always to the death of one side. There are a couple of things that set this game apart from the others on the market, and one of the main ones being the fatigue mechanic that is pivotal in this game. Essentially there are 3 fatigue states: ready, fatigued, and exhausted. Performing an action (aside from their first move, which is free) or a reaction results in them moving up one fatigue level, and if a player is feeling risky, they can push their gladiator one step further to an exhausted state. It's risky to do so because while a single gladiator is allowed to move from a fatigued to a ready state at the start of each turn, an exhausted gladiator is stuck doing nothing until their controller initiates a "clear turn". (pretty much skipping his/her turn). I also mentioned reactions that *ready* gladiators can perform, these are done in response to an opponent's action, and usually cost a fatigue level. These reactions include: moving to get out of melee range, to assisting in defense, to counter attack
ing or attacking an opponent trying to run out of melee. Gameplay essentially boils to down to a delicate dance of death on the sands. Of gladiators moving in/out, their opponents reacting to those movements, of attacking and counter attacking. The stats are simple: MOV - how many inches a gladiator travels, ATK - how many attack dice get rolled vs the defender's DEF or defense dice rolled, and the defender's ARM- which determines how much damage a gladiator can absorb before starting to mark damage off on their card. A roll of a 4+ equals a successful hit, and a defensive roll of 4+ negates a success from the attacker. A gladiator may also use a "favor dice" generated through various game effects, usually giving/taking damage, which represents the favor of the crowd, generates an extra success on 4+. Which brings us to the next interesting mechanic of Arena Rex, the damage tree. Starting at the top of each unique damage tree, you travel down the path, 1 box for each success that was not negated by a successful defense. In the damage tree are several effects, ranging from damage, pushes, to repositions, gaining favor dice, etc. Terrain also plays into all this, as knocking into columns, spike walls, and pits all have various effects, so often you'll be combining these effects throughout a fight. A gladiator may move in, do some damage, knock his opponent into a column or another gladiator, forcing them to gain extra fatigue, then close in for the kill. That's the game in a nutshell: a quick, brutal skirmish of gladiators upon red-stained sands!
I hope you enjoyed my review of Arena Rex, it took a lot longer than I anticipated to finish. As I mentioned before, the minis are beautiful, just take your time during assembly, and be careful of the small bits during gameplay. Gameplay is quick and brutal, with several factions available, including mounted warriors, monsters, and beasts, so it should be easy to create a large variety in your games.
See you on the sands...