So these are the rest of the red gladiators, and a simple review of the game after that. This was pour first true game with the models as well. These are the the ‘spares’ from my remaining models and this completes all the painting I have done so far for the Jugula. These are a set which can be used for fill in’s in the other ludus as well. One of the minor issues with some of the crusader mini set’s is there are a few . I do like how the dark red shield on the left side. I tried to put some marks on the shield so it would not look as pristine as some of the other shields in this group and I think it came out well really. I also like the difference in the skin tone on that model vs. the others. You can see the differences in skin tone between the figures.So this is the end of my Gladiator painting for now. I will come back to this later but for now this is the lot, as it’s clear I will want to add a few more figs to my collection – especially of certain missing gladiator types. What I have though did give me enough figs for 4 players with a reasonable amount of choices of figures. I thought I would write up a mini-review – more thoughts on the game than a true review. You can find full reviews of the game in different places on the web as it has been out for a year or so now.
The first game that we played using Jugula was a 4 player bash. Nothing like jumping in at the deep end. You can see a few pictures below of the game – the lighting was not that great but you’ll get the feel of it from them. None us of had played the game before and I was the one person who had read the rules throughout. In the end though that really did not make that much of a difference. As it was picked up quickly by all and had very little need to refer to the rules after a turn or two. After explaining the rules and the use of the cards we got stuck in.
The game is really about play management with you managing your hand of cards (which allow you to do things), popularity with the crowd as well as gladiator movement/combat. It’s not just about the fighting in the sand. Each turn you have to make decision on what to do. You get to do one of the following – draw more cards, move gladiators, fight with gladiators, gain popularity, add a better card to your deck or do a special move. Without special cards your guys move or fight – they also allow a limited level of healing etc. Each decision is based on the cards in your hand as you use a card to do one of those actions. Different cards are better or worse at the various actions. Many times you might avoid attacking to get more cards, increase your factions popularity, or play special cards which allow you to do multiple different things, or special actions.
The actions/decision each turn is an interesting mechanic which keeps everyone involved and makes every decision in play important. That means for our group at least that the game was engaging and challenging. The use of cards as a die roll mechanism as well increases the importance of the card control mechanic. All I can say is this seemed to work very well in our first game. It was clear that some gladiators are much better vs. certain others so added to all this is the trying to get the right match-ups and pairings for your fights. This is another layer to the game. So overall although the game is not that complex the card mechanic adds a lot to the system. It’s a very different game than is typical for Gladiators and that’s in a good vs. bad way. We did not try the campaign system although that is advanced as well and reminds me a lot of bloodbowl.
With 4 players we had a good time and to be honest it did at times feel a little like a one of those professional wrestling matches on TV, with all kinds of gang fights and interesting tactics happening. As that on is likely not that far from a modern version of gladiator fights (although with a script vs. life or death) it might not be as bad an analogy as it first seems.
Overall, the game was a great success. Jugula is definitely a different game – not a wargame per say but not really a card/board game either. It’s not going to be everyone’s cup of tea. Those looking for a traditional game can continue looking, Jugula is not for you. Those who want an engaging gladiator themed game should take a look at it. All of us who played it enjoyed the game. As a final data point I believe the game has got at multiple of the players now looking to do their own figures for the game, so that tells you how much fun was had in a material manner.