Die Baumeister des Colosseum
- Designer: Klaus Jurgen Wrede
- Publisher: Schmidt Spiele
- Players: 2-4
- Ages: 10+
- Time: 45 minutes
- Times played: 3, with review copy provided by Schmidt Spiele
Schmidt Spiele is honestly one of my go-to publishers each year at Essen. It has been a long while since I didn’t find a “hit” there at the annual show. Admittedly, usually I tend towards their smaller (often dice-based or card-based) games such as Noch Mal, Mosaix, or Team Play. However, each year there is always at least one big box game that I give a while to see if it’s any good. The one catch is that oftentimes the Schmidt games are never published in English, so you sometimes have to do a bit of throwback translation and pasting to be able to play the game…
This year, the one which caught my eye – due to the wonderful table presence – was Die Baumeister des Colosseum. In this game, players are competing construction firms – each trying to build as many parts of the Roman Colosseum as possible. As the game progresses, a gorgeous 3D colosseum arises out of the game box. When you’re at a game show or convention, it’s the sort of thing that makes people stop and look at (and take pictures of). Given the track record of the publisher as well as my overall positive view of the designer’s portfolio (yes, even the non-Carcassonne titles), this was something I really had to try.
As far as I know, the game is still DE-only, but there are a number of unofficial translations floating around, and using them and a bit of assistance from Google Translate – I feel very confident that we are playing the right game. (It also helped to be able to run a question or two by my friends at Schmidt to be certain!)
The game has a board which shows a circular track of seven spaces. The consul marker is placed on the starting space of the track. Each of the seven spaces is associated with one or two specific actions. There is a second board which sits on top of the box insert – this has a oval pattern of slots in which tiles will be placed as the Colosseum is constructed.
Each player gets a starting land tile which has a horse cart on top (with 3 wheel spaces), a tent showing a hand size of 4 cards, and two random landscapes (out of four different possibilities). Each player gets a marker that they place on the left most of the three wheel icons. In the center of the board, there are four areas for long colosseum tiles – these are filled from the deck, and then four columns of four land tiles each are placed in the appropriate spots.
A start player is chosen, and each player in turn order gets one VP per space away from the start player. Additionally, each player is allowed to choose one resource card of their choice to start the game.
On each turn, a player must move the consul at least one space clockwise. The first space of movement is always free, and it costs one spot on your wheel track to move an additional space. If you cannot move your wheel marker to the right any more, then you cannot move the consul any additional spaces. Wherever the consul stops, you take an action that corresponds to that space.
In two of the spaces, your only option is to take a tent tile. If you pay a card from your hand, this tent tile is added to your row of tents (starting from your starting tile) – and each tent tile increases your hand limit by 2 cards.
There are four spaces where you have the option of taking a Colosseum tile or taking a land tile. If you choose to take a Colosseum tile, you pay resource cards matching those depicted on the Colosseum tile and then place said Colosseum tile into the growing structure in the box insert. (You can always use three cards of a type as a wild). You will earn VP equal to that shown on the tile. Note that if you build one of the final three pieces, you will also get a 1, 2 or 4VP bonus. Place a new Colosseum tile from the deck onto the now empty board spot.
If you choose to take a land tile, you take the tile closest to the board in the column corresponding to the space where the consul marker is. You add this tile to your growing tableau of tiles. The remaining tiles are then pushed towards the board. If this was the final tile in the column, a new column of 4 tiles is dealt to the area. Either way, a resource collection is triggered – whichever tile is now closest to the board in this space is scored. All players look at their own board area and collect one resource card per tile they have matching this type of landscape. If the top tile is a farm with wagon wheels, all players reset their wagon wheel counter to the left most space. As a final option, you could choose not to take any cards/wagon wheels and take a single VP instead.
In the seventh and final spot on the movement track, you only have the option of triggering a resource collection. You can choose any one of the five landscape types and all players score this depending on how many tiles they have of that resource. In the advanced game, there are three different double sided action tiles which can be placed on this spot and one of those six actions is chosen at the start of the game to be here.
The game continues until the final piece of the Colosseum is built. At this point, the game immediately ends. All players have received points along the way for building pieces. In addition, there is some end game bonuses. Each of the six tile types are evaluated. If a player has sole majority in a tile type, he scores 4 VPs. If there is a tie, all tied players get 2VP. Further, each player receives 1VP per 3 cards left over at the end of the game.
My thoughts on the game
Die Baumeister des Colosseum is a really good family game. As it stands now, it would be one of my personal nominees for Spiel des Jahres if I were a jury member. The rules are easy to teach, the game plays quickly, and the 3D colosseum has the sort of eye-catching presentation that the jury seems to love.
That being said, there is actually a pretty good amount of game here. The first decision is where to move the consul. The good news is – all of the information is out in the open, so you know what all your choices are. Early on, there is a lot of tile taking – as you need to have tiles to build up your card collecting engine. Of course, you could choose to gain wheels instead – and this will give you more flexibility with the consul movement. One important thing to also keep in mind is what your LHO may want to do. If nothing else, you could move the consul as to block the action (usually a Colosseum tile build). If torn between two equal non-awesome moves, sometimes it’s worth it to at least make your LHO’s turn less appealing as well!
The game escalates organically. As play moves onwards, the Colosseum tiles require more and more cards to be built. They are also worth more VPs (in general). Of course, as players have collected more land tiles by then, each player is also getting more and more cards each time that they are scored. A clever player can look at the different tile columns and see what are the chances that each type of tile will be scored in the future, and this may determine which land tile types he wants to get now. At worst, you can trade them in at 3:1 as wild cards.
The artwork is simple and clear. There really aren’t too many icons to deal with, and other than the rules, the game is language independent. Now that we’re familiar with the rules, you honestly wouldn’t know that we had a DE-only version if I had taught you the rules verbally.
Games easily finish around 30 minutes, but there is a lot of jockeying and competition in that short time. Near the end, there may be even a little sandbagging as players try to get in the right position to finish one of the final three tiles to the structure in order to gain the VP bonuses associated with those last three builds.
The form factor is nice. The 3-D board is nice to look at and the vac tray holds all the pieces nicely. I actually found an extra piece of cardboard around to keep everything tightly in place, and I’ve been happy with the setup even without my beloved storage baggies…
Die Baumeister des Colosseum has been one of the pleasant surprises of Essen 2016 crop, and as I stated at the top, it is one of my current choices for SdJ nomination (with equal weight being placed on the game as well as the physical appearance). For our group, it is a definite super filler, and one which should hit the table a number of times in the coming year.
Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers
Joe Huber (4 plays): I’m not convinced that Die Baumeister des Colosseum has a Spiel des Jahres nomination in its future, but it’s certainly a possibility. It’s a fun, light game, with enough going on to keep gamers involved. But while I enjoy it, it also wore out its welcome in my collection, for me, after my 4 plays. I’d still like to play the game more – but there’s not enough variety – and the game mechanisms aren’t thematic enough for me – to keep in my collection. Dale is right about the 3D Colosseum – it is really nicely done.
Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers
- I love it! Dale Y
- I like it. Joe H., Doug G., Craig V
- Not for me…