Great Game...Sub Par Rule Book
I'm actually working on a FAQ page for this game right now because we came across several things that weren't laid out specifically in the rules but there were things that were inferred that made us not sure 100% if we played correctly. The game itself though is AMAZING!
I love this game! It really burns my brain a bit as I'm trying to figure out the balancing act between getting all my resources up while also trying not to go bankrupt and oh...scoring things at the right time. This game packs a punch! Setup takes a bit as there is a LOT of chit to deal with, and between rounds is a lot of chit as well. But all in all - this game is going to stay in my collection for a looong time because I have no other game like it.
I'm giving this game a 4 star because I believe the goods outweigh the bad and bring this game to an above middle ground status...but if I could give it 3.5 stars I would. I LOVE getting this game to the table. I love some of the unique components and I love the "seasonal" element to the worker placement mechanism. However, every time I sit down to play I seem to forget that this game is a card game cleverly disguised as a board game. I have yet to see someone win simply by building up their fields and delivering orders through the standard worker placement mechanisms. Instead, to win this game one MUST work any special action cards to their advantage to maximize their point potential. In fact, I have seen players win without delivering a single order. It's that part that sometimes has me walking away a little disappointed because for me it breaks the theme just enough to make me feel like I had the better wine producing vineyard, but an opposing player just got the right card at the right time to win. I've also had a couple wins where it felt cheap because I drew the card that pushed me over the edge on a final turn, meaning that the strategy that led me to that point was secondary to the simple luck of the draw.
Days of Wonder Edition - 5 Stars
If all that matters to you is the gameplay - you can get any edition of Colosseum and love it. However, I believe the DoW edition of this game stands head and shoulders above the later releases simply due to the artwork and components. When this game is on the table people walking by stop, and look because the game simply has amazing table presence. Personally, I'm not usually and auction/negotiation game guy....but this one is the exception to the rule for me. With just 5 rounds and the winner is the player who has the single best round, colosseum is a game of meaningful decisions and tense negotiation all the way through. And don't ignore the the consults, senators, and emperor...having them in your final show could just be the difference between victory and stunning defeat.
I love this games because it has a pretty simple rule set, is easy to teach, and has a good mix of luck of the draw and decision making. Player interaction is minimum in the sense that the only way you mess up other players is by taking the tiles they were planning on taking, however, this happens more often than you would think!
A Very Underrated Game
Ok...Let me make a case for you that this game is HIGHLY underrated. You need a 5-6 player game to play with a group of gamers non-gamers...or mixed, that you can finish in about 20 minutes, that is capable of having stand up at the table moments, but needs to be taught in 5 minutes. Sakura. Is. This. Game. I don't recommend it with less than 4 players, but man oh man is this ever my go-to game ESPECIALLY with new gamers. There is just enough decision making in the choice you make of which card to play out of your 5 cards that gives you the feeling that you are in control but just enough luck that makes you want to shout with frustration when you played card #40 hoping to go near last and everyone else played cards #50 and above making you go first, hit the emperor and end up behind almost everyone as a result. This may have been my most played game in 2019 just because it's so easy to teach, but so fun to play. And I know, some people may say that the situation I laid out off the top is rare - but I disagree. Whether it's a family gathering or a group of friends, I often find myself in situations where I have time to teach 3-5 people a game of Sakura and they would have no interest in learning something more complex.
My Favorite Game of All Time
I have almost everything Scythe related. I fell in love with this game shortly after it was commercially released and my love for it has not waned years later. It's a perfect mesh of complexity with iconography that once understood (which is easy to do) feels simple! The different factions work your brain in every which way - and you over time you will realize that there is a group of people that believes every single faction is overpowered....which to me means that they are pretty balanced (well...as balanced as asymmetric factions CAN be). Scythe will always be a collection essential for me.
A Plethora of Stuff Going On
I played a AFfO with an expansion that added islands. It is a well thought through design, no complaints with the artwork, but for me there was simply too much going on. I'm sure with repeat plays I would get more out of it, but the mechanisms just did not speak to me. My subjective rating is 3 stars - I would play it again, but only in select circumstances. Also - I love teaching games, but I would never want to attempt to teach this one.