Circus Imperium

Circus Imperium (Fasa) is basically a chariot racing game. Imagine a scene from one of numerous old movies dealing with ancient rome. You hear the thunder of horses hooves as the chariots race, side by side. Some charioteer whips his opponents horses, and they whinny and crash... someone else gets thrown down to the track, only to be eaten by some horses, which then turn on their driver for whipping them!

Ok, so it has some differences.

C.I. is set in FASAs futuristic The Overlord Government series, which is completely uneccesary to enjoy this game. It's chariot racing all right, except with tempermental carnivorous beasties pulling hover-chariots.

The Play

There is a map (actually, two different sizes, which is nice) of either on oval or figure 8. Each player gets one sheet to keep track of their chariot, beasts and driver. (This uses the simple, take a point of damage, mark a box off idea that you can find in many a game. You'll probably want to make a lot of photocopies, though.) Each player, in order, moves any number of spaces (up to the maximum indicated by the health of the beasts). If you move through a corner space at a higher speed than the number printed on it, you have to draw a cornering card, which may make you slide out 1-3 lanes (possibly into a wall). You might get to move in lanes, too. Each driver gets 4 skill points which let you look at a card, shudder, then say "I want to redraw." So you have some control.

After you've finished moving your alloted spaces, you can whip the beasts, which result in a whip card. This might injury your beasts, move you 1-2 spaces, damage the front of your chariot as your beasts give vent to their feelings, or a combination. Or, it might result in the dreaded frenzy. More on that later...

Of course, while you are moving, you can slam into other chariots, which causes you some damage, but it causes them more. And, you might be able to start a chain reaction, causing endless suffering to many chariots and keeping the makers of said chariots working...and if you slam into someone you might force them into a wall and a nasty tumble...

After everyone has moved, then there is a brief, simultaneous combat phase, where you can whip other beasts, throw tridents, and the like.

The first to complete three laps wins. At the end of each lap, in order to keep things interesting, the last place chariot's beasts are frenzied. A frenzy can also result by overwhipping your beasts (although even one lash might be too much, As I've said, they're touchy beasts). When your beasts are frenzied, the move their normal movement + d10, which can lead to a quick visit to the outer wall in a corner. They slam into any chariots unlucky enough to be infront of them, and the beasts take damage from running at a break neck speed.

Of course, this is a race, so frenzying tends to get you back into the pack; but the price can be high.


This game is nice. For $20, you get a game that can handle 2-10 or more players (obviously, the more players, the slower the game is going to be). The counters are nice, you get cardboard cutouts of romanesque buildings if you want to take the time to assemble them; the rules are hysterical and fairly easy to read. However, they are a bit unclear on certain technical points in the timing. But this is a beer and pretzels game, make a quick ruling and go on.

The rules are expandable, having a fairly simple basic game, then adding in more rules (obstacles, gladiators, figure 8 tracks, etc). The basic game is fairly simple, but has enough chrome on it to allow you to perform all of the traditional chariot moves (like jumping from chariot to chariot, cutting your beasts loose and riding on their backs, being dragged by chariots, and all of the stuff that makes movies great).

I think the best way to comment on this game is this: I've owned this game for about 4 years, and I still play it. Not incredibly often; but every time I play it I enjoy it. And you are almost guaranteed to have at least one hysterical amazingly(un)lucky I-Can't-Believe-It event per game. (Such as the time Eric Moore took a frenzied team at maximum speed through a corner almost completely unscathed; or the time when we had one chariot have no less than half of the players trying to drive it at one point or another, as they jumped into it...)

I play it, my wife will play it, Chris "Why buy games when Brian and Dave have them?" Esko got a copy for himself. Need I say more?


This was written by Brian Bankler.

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