Reviews written by mc
Ben-Hur Chariot Scene the game. The very repetitious dice-rolling might be a little outdated these days, but especially once the "advanced rules" are in play - and they aren't any more complicated than the basic rules - there are very few race games which compete in terms of telling such a detailed story, complete with drivers winning by being dragged over the finish line by runaway horses, drivers blinded to attacks on one side having suffered an eye wound, drivers jumping the wreckage of unfortunate chariots, and yes, blades on wheels.
Engine-building, in a way, through the tableau that provides special abilities and income, but your engine is always unsteady and prone to collapse. Take that, certainly, but such moves will often give your opponent points. Simple card play, once you've got it - there are basically 6 card types and 9 actions, some of which are hardly used - and yet, the vast number of cards creates uncertainty and a different story every time. Lots of thematic touches (beyond the ridiculous amount of historical flavour text on each card) - using bandits gives the gunstore owner income; creating unrest on a plantation makes it prone to slave revolt, which could land you in jail. And above this sits the neat victory system that drives the game, in the form of the changing political regime that also changes the suit of victory points you need. Altogether, a magnificent thing that puts the player squarely into the Mexican Revolution, hands them a Mauser Carbine, 2 bandoliers, a posse of banditos and a steady stream of ill-gotten pesos and says, "dale, dale, dale".
This is pretty emblematic of why I play games. It's a ridiculous romp in which you create amusing stories through clever cardplay. It creates arguments about the laws of physics inside a multidimensional labyrinth that kind of folds in on itself. As a result of this house rules are more or less REQUIRED. A bout lasts about half an hour maybe, I don't know, time is flying, I don't care, rack it up again.
Like the box says, play a card, do what it says, that's it. The mechanisms for adjusting the pieces on the board are smooth and the thematic touches if you know the source material are fun. Some of the secret objectives are maybe a little out of whack, but these can be adjusted easily enough.
A nice little race game of the wagering variety. The heart of this game is really the secret bet that is made at the start of the game. Bluffing and negotiation follows.
Once you've worked your way through the thematically representative old-school war game rules this is a terrific 2 player tactical card game, all about balancing the painful hand management decisions and your chances of a timely draw.
An expansion or two will add a little spice but even still the base game is a winner. You can play like a shark or play gently, whatever is required, and it won't break.
I have to admit a soft spot for games that allow the players to house rule or play in a style that suits them best. The main criticisms of the game are that it takes too long and that it is too chaotic, but you can tweak this how you want while retaining the basic programming system which sits at the heart of it. Of course, for me, carefully planning being entirely thrown out the window due to the unpredictable actions of others is gaming perfection.
So easy to grasp, fun to play, especially the instant meta that develops.
Spreadsheeet, the game.