Quadriga by Slitherine: Not your Daddy’s Circvs Maximvs.

SRP: $9.99
Released: Jun 15, 2014
Version: 1.0
Size: 302 MB
Language: English
Seller: Slitherine Software UK Ltd.

I love Chariot Games and have for a long time.  Avalon Hill’s CIRCUS MAXIMUS was a fortuitous purchase early on in my gaming existence; I have played it many times.  I play chariot games at conventions.  I set up a PBeM Site for Circus Maximus and Minimus back in the day.  Dare I say it, I even designed a slightly less than serious chariot game myself, now free in epub.  So I have an opinion or two about what I’m looking for in a chariot racing game.    A chariot racing game should have the players assume the roll of the aurigae, or charioteer.  There should be a defined command set that restricts movements in and out of lane.  Horse endurance HAS to factor in.  Also the durability of the Chariot, the skill of the driver, even the health of the driver.   Plus lots of happy to glad little rules like driving over wrecks, whipping your team, whipping the other driver, ramming chariots, and other situations that a charioteer would realistically find him or herself in in an actual race.  There are some great chariot racing games out there; my favorite is the classic Circvs Maximvs from Avalon Hill, and they all handle simulating the requirements of a decent race game in similar fashions.

Click Quadriga to go to product page

When Matrix/Slitherine announced Quadriga for the PC just a few months ago, I jumped on it and bought the download edition.   I played it a few times; and to be brutally honest, it wasn’t floating my boat.. Maybe it’s the different graphics being offered by the PC Game, or seeing it on my (old) laptop screen that wasn’t blowing me away.   So I wasn’t playing it much.  I may re-install Quadriga on my new laptop and see if it plays better now.    However, when I heard the announcement that Slitherine had done it again, and ported a PC semi-wargame to the Ipad, I jumped on that one too, even at the rather dear price of 9.99.  I took a chance that it might play better on the Ipad and I liked the idea of having a game I could resolve a chariot race with during half a lunch break.   I’m glad I did!   I’m not sure why I’m reacting this way; perhaps the touch control  is more satisfying than the mouse, or maybe it was the crappy processor on my older laptop that made the PC version less satisfying, but I find myself playing the Ipad version much more than the PC.

That’s the interface; the design is very good indeed.

Selecting a faction. Factions in Quadriga follow their real historical precedents, and provide the chariot team with certain benefits in either constitution (heart), skill (star), speed (arrow), size (lightning), endurance (blood drop) and quality (hammer). I think, anyway..

It’s clear the design team had someone that’s cracked open a history book at some point in their lives. The historical elements are rock solid– color factions that provide teams with certain benefits is kind of a must if you’re trying to simulate the historical chariot racing that happened in Rome.  The next step in the game is to customize your team, which seem to be a direct lift from the board game Circvs Maximvs:

An Aurigae gets four points to spend in addition to the benefits from your faction. Here, I spent 1 extra on Rugged chariot, an extra two health and an extra Speed on the team.

After a team is put together, the next step is the race itself.. this is another element of the design that satisfies some of the elements that are a must for a good chariot game– an easy to understand command set that will regulate movement in and out of lanes, whipping, braking and various other driving tasks.

This is the order set for Quadriga, which pretty much encapsulates most of the maneuvers you would expect in a Chariot Game: moving in, moving out, whipping, braking, accelerating, etc. If you’ve played Circvs Maximvs, you recognize this already.

The order menu is a big plus for me; it probably is the reason why I like the Ipad version better than the PC version, even if it’s only a subtle difference at best.  During a race, time is broken into standard small segments.  At the start of the segments, the menu flashes up on top of your chariot.  You choose an option, and it executes.  The AIs select and execute their moves simultaneously, and all chariots move ahead and we see what happens.  It’s the same game engine on the PC and Ipad, but it’s just.. I don’t know, more handy on the Ipad.

An example of the pop up order menu in action, Ipad verison.

As is the case with many of Slitherine’s latest releases, there is no PBeM play capability built into the game. So you’re playing against a pack of AIs that are making a movement decision based on the current conditions and executing it, just like you. That makes it pretty hard for the AI’s to cheat, and actually, not a bad contest. I suspect the AI is making the best choices available to it going into a turn, and as a result, will perhaps be less aggressive in the “crash your chariot into your opponent out of spite” mode. Most games I have played so far, *I* am the reckless and aggressive player, not the AI. I crash more often, make stupider decisions, and often end up being dragged behind a team of horses for my pains. It’s a tough life in the Circus Maximus.

Let’s take a second to look at my gallery of pain.

Yes, that’s MY chariot to the left there. Lesson 1: Corner Strain.

The game handles a lot of elements of chariot racing that are rolled for in boardgames like circus maximus; but just happen “under the hood” in Quadriga. For example Corner Strain, which is a critical design element for a chariot race, just happens.. somehow, in this game, and if your chariot hits the limit, it flips. It’s actually probably more severe a procedure than the boardgame.

Ha ha! Can’t catch me! I can’t help but win now.. unless, of course, I do the stupid and whip going into a turn, right? I mean, who DOES that??

Making another lucky guess with the lane change.

In this game, it’s important to visualize where you end up at the END of your movement as much as where you are now. Collisions are frequent as the AIs are doing what you’re doing, making a guess and hitting the “go” button.

As mentioned, CORNERING is a major source of ass pain in QUADRIGA. This appears to be a threshold feature, rather than a die roll: in Circus Maximus, you roll to “not flip” if your chariot is going over a certain safe limit. In Quadriga, if you are over a threshold, you just crash, that’s the long and short of it.

Win by watching your speed and taking some risks. Your little green menu track will turn RED for almost impossible risks and AMBER for moderate risk in turns. That’s about as much feedback as you get in Quadriga. If you see red going into a curve, you might be screwed unless you can haul back on the reins.

Sooner or later, you’ll be dragged behind a chariot. If you have ENOUGH endurance, you might still win if you have enough of a lead. Chances are, though…

… you’ll end up DEAD!!

So that’s about all I can say about actual gameplay.. it meets my personal threshold of what a Chariot Game ought to be — fast enough, involves a certain amount of plotting, then executing, has an easy set of commands that are even easier with icons, and most importantly allows you to screw over other teams. That’s the Circus Maximus experience in a nutshell.

And it’s fun! Lots of fun!

Summary: There’s some more to go over. Quadriga does have two modes of play, a single race and a campaign module that I haven’t explored in depth. Basically, Quadriga comes out of the box with many different courses. If you race a single race you could run on almost any one of them. During a campaign game you race on many of them sequentially. I can see where this would be a draw and help to personalize the game narrative. I’m having fun playing the single races out of the box right now.

So to sum it all up, it sure ain’t your dad’s Circus Maximus, but it has everything Circus Maximus did plus more besides. I’m shocked, I’ve had nothing but good things to say about Slitherine games for three reviews in a row. I promise to be more curmudgeonly in the near future.

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