Essen Preview #22: First Impression SwordFish (Ghenos Games) and rules preview Gladiatori (

I’m going on with my previews/reviews on games Italian companies are releasing in Essen.

Since the rules of the games are available on BGG and I think most of Opinionatedgamers readers are more than capable to understand a rulement in my rules preview I don’t want to offer something that will take more or less the same time to read, repeating how the game works phase by phase. So, starting from this preview, I’ll try just to catch impressions, emotions and perplexity gained by the rules reading, trying to offer something that is not in the rule but what I get from the rules.
In the first impressions I’ll try to go in more details.


Designer: Pierluigi Frumusa, Davide Rizzi
Publisher: Ghenos Games
Players: 2-6
Ages: 14+
Time: 75 min

Played 2 times: 3 players and 5 players

Swordfish is a game about the fishing of swordfish in the trouble waters of Atlantic Ocean. Players are hiring captains, renting fishing boats, buying fuels and baits and then voyaging to full of fish areas. Once filled the boat with fish they have to navigate back to the harbours to selling fishes. This again and again until the end of the 15th turn.

The main idea behind this games is that the best fishing places are far away from the harbours and also easily struck by the storm. There are 4 types of fishing areas going from orange, the worst, then to the green blue and finally the red, the best one, the Flemish Cup. The map has harbours on the left and ocean on the right. There are also difference between northern harbours, closer to the good fishing areas but much more expansive and southern harbours, cheaper but farest but also the best ones to sell the fishes.

You have to manage this variables during the game deciding where to hire captains and rent boats, where to sail and finally where to sell. Since money are actually VP of course any decision has a deep impact on your final result.

The turn sequence is easy: purchase, movement, weather, fishing and selling.

In the purchase phase you buy everything you need. Captains, fuels and baits can be saved from travel to travel but boats are just one-trip rents. There are different type of boats varying in cost, speed, fuel request and cargo space. We go from a simple 4 VP boat with just enough space for 1 fish to the expansive 25 VP boat with enough space for 4 fish. Boats usually move just 1 space without spending fuel or 2 (sometimes 3) using fuel. With the starting 20 VPs you can usually just buy a single captain, a small boat, some fuel and baits.

Flemish Cap or other good fishing areas are usually no less than 6-7 space from the harbours so you really need to be sure to have enough fuel for going to and back otherwise you can spend half of the game just moving a single space going home.

In the movement phase you can move all your boats. There is a stacking limit of 3 boats in open sea and just 1 boat in each fishing area so, in a 4+ players game, could be a problem.

In the weather phase we just flip a card telling how much the storm increase. The cards are usually go from -1 to +3 with the main idea that, sooner or later the storm will hit the good fishing areas.

In the fishing phase you can fish 3 times: baits, rolling a D6 going from 0 to 6, or fishes, spending a bait and drawing a counter from the bag of the appropriate color. If you like the fish you can load it on the boat otherwise you can let in the sea and draw again. With the small boat carrying just 1 load it is something that happens quite often. There are also Mako Shark that are really gold-brick and prevent you to fishing again in that turn. I think that the random part in the drawing, like in Thebe, is not excessive but the 0-5 random element in fishing baits is sometimes frustrating in a gamer’s game with meticulous VP management.

Finally there is the selling phase where you can get VP for you fish.

After two session I have not a clear idea about the game: I like the graphics of the map, the theme and the general mechanic of the game. I like the idea to differentiate the northern and southern harbour and the risk correlated to the arrival of the storm. I like the care of the particulars, the differences between the fishing area and the drawin bags mechanic that really have the feeling of the fishing. How much all this things really reflect on the game is not really successful. You have a real slow start and before your “engine” start to work you need more than half of the game. You have many turn passed just waiting a boat going back home and if you make a mistake (not loading enough fuel), you are cut-off from the winning race. The northern harbours are too much expensive for the little advantage to being closer to Flemish Cap and, actually, are not used too much. I don’t like the micromanagement in the preparation of the weather deck: probably a table with random results could have deserved the same results. Finally the great andomness in the baits fishing is not adapt with the other mechanic that make you take strict decision how to spend your moneys/VPs. Of course it is a game not for occasional players: the rules are not really complex but there is a lot of decision in how to spend your money and I think, in agreement with Ghenos Games standards, it is a good simulation of the swordfishing affairs.


Designer: Michele Quondam
Players: 1-4
Ages: 12+
Time: 90 min

As told in the beginning of this article I’m not going in the details of the rules bt trying to offer, according to manifesto, my opinions about the game.

What is Gladiatori about ?
Gladiatori is a game that mix a bit of boardgame (it is played on an hex map displaying the arena), a bit of miniature games (actually instead of wooden pawns and/or counters you have miniatures) and finally a sprinkle of deck-building, that nowadays is stylish.

You build your characters and starting deck, you will use the card to move, fight and recover and you hope to be better than other players at the end of the 6th turn. It looks like a perfect 2 players game (most of you, probably, are thinking about Drako with a deckbuilding prelude) but you can play also with 3-4 players and also with team. I think the game will be really better with 4.

What is, for me, innovative, in this game ?
Every round you have to decide which cards keep in your hands to use as actions or special moves and which ones use to prevent damages. That’s actually the great idea of this game and, if it works, will cleverly simulate the choose between been aggressive or more cautious.

There are action cards, energy cards, feint cards, special cards and objects. Of course each card has a points value when used to prevent damages and (apart from the 4 basic action cards) a cost used in the building phase. Gladiators are also characterized by abilities, skills and powers. The main idea of the game is that fighting is strenuous and during the combat you will lose cards (to prevent damage) and will reduce your ability, both in offence and defence.

Another nice idea is that strength attacks depend by the number of cards played and dexterity attacks by the cards you have in hands: of course attacking with force make you less agile.
Cards are recovering in the end of the round according to your resistance. So not all the cards will be again available in the next round!

Of course the game is much more, with almost 14 pages of rules (in Italian), 9 powers, 8 special moves and the possibility to include animals in the arena. There is the full range of options and choice in the characters creation: which skills ? How many points in the different abilities ? Which weapons and special moves to include in the deck ? To make a soft start there are premade decks/characters that I think could be a good idea to use. There are also campaign rules to keep you characters alive from battle to battle. The box will contain more than 140 cards, 4 miniatures, 3 dice and something else.

Here a link to Michele Quondam (designer) vide-tutorial part1 (17 minutes!)

The tutorial was with a prototype version but you can have an idea of the game (as long as you are able to understand Italian)

About Andrea "Liga" Ligabue

Andrea "Liga" Ligabue is a game expert contributing to many games related international projects including Gamers Alliance Report, WIN, ILSA Magazine and Boardgamenews. Member of the International Gamers Awards Committee is coordinator of Play - The Games Festival and founder of the project Ludoteca Ideale.
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