What is this game about?
Like its older siblings, The Lost Cities and Rise of Rome, Hoplomachus: Origins is all about gladiatorial combat. Teams of gladiators, represented by very high quality poker chips, fight it out by moving strategically around an arena that is printed on a neoprene mat. Lost Cities and Rise of Rome, however, are much larger in scale. The boxes are enormous, and the arena mats are huge. Hoplomachus: Origins is a much smaller and tighter game. (Cheaper, too!) The three arena mats that come in the box are closer to mouse pad size, and there isn't a lot of room to dance around. Also, rather than select your gladiators by pulling them blind from a bag, Hoplomachus: Origins asks you to draft your own teams when you play. Instead of large scale battles, Origins offers players several shorter and smaller challenges to complete.
How does it play solo?
Hoplomachus: Origins offers competitive PvP play, but it also shines as a solo game. Included in the box are twenty solo trials, which start out easy but quickly become blisteringly difficult. They can get pretty tricky, and the AI definitely puts up a good fight. In some ways, the challenges offer more variety than what you find in the earlier Hoplomachus games.
I love the quick, brutal battles that Hoplomachus: Origins offers. For players who like shorter and tighter play sessions, Origins might be the better choice. For its size, Origins offers tremendous replay value, partially because you will need to replay challenges. On some of the tougher ones, you may have to experiment with which combinations of gladiators you use until you get it just right. And you can't just find a team you like and stick with it all the way through—the drafting rules, level requirements, and strategic considerations change with every trial, forcing you to be a more versatile player. There aren't as many units in the box as you would find in The Lost Cities or Rise of Rome, but Origins offers more than enough variety to keep you entertained for a while.
That said, I do miss the larger scale battles that are possible on the larger arena mats. Origins battle maps are very tight, and the solo trials are very structured. I enjoy the breathing room that Lost Cities and Rise of Rome can give me.
Do I recommend it?
Definitely. Chip Theory Games has a lot of expensive products, and Hoplomachus: Origins is on the lower end at $60. If you want an affordable entry point into the Hoplomachus series, Origins is a very good choice. This is especially true if you like shorter games with lightning fast setup. Origins is also a game that is mentally challenging enough to keep you coming back for more.
I'm interested in Hoplomachus. Where should I start?
I think you have two options when getting started with Hoplomachus. In my opinion, for gameplay purposes, it is best to start with The Lost Cities and then work your way through the games in order of their release, meaning you'd move on to Rise of Rome and then to Origins. However, if you want a smaller, faster, cheaper game before you commit, then you ought to start with Hoplomachus: Origins. The solo trials are awesome and you will love it. But honestly, if you start with Rise of Rome, you'll like that one too. This is a fantastic set of games.
Overall Rating: 4 stars
5 stars — I love it!
4 stars — I really like it.
3 stars — I like it.
2 stars — It's OK.
1 star — Meh.