This is a preview of For Glory, a forthcoming game designed by Alex Wolf and published by Spielcraft Games with art by Jacob AtienzaCrimzon Studio. For Glory comes to Kickstarter on February 4th, 2020. I was provided with a prototype copy of the game to write this preview. All images provided by Spielcraft Games.

Greg and I went to Protospiel Chicago in 2018 and met Alex Wolf, who was demoing his design for For Glory. He pitched it as a two-player deck building game, which is a string of magic words for Greg and me. We are always on the lookout for new games that are specifically designed for two players and we both love deck builders.

In For Glory, two players compete to gain glory for their ludus (gladiator school). The first player to earn six glory from arena battles wins the game. Players build decks that include: gladiators to fight in arenas; patrons that boost the influence of a ludus and allow more gladiators to be played and sometimes offer bonus abilities; scheme cards that often provide income; and tactics and reaction cards that are used in battle. The game alternates between Machination phases where players build their decks and play out cards and Arena phases where battles take place. I am not going to post a rules walk-through here, but the rulebook is available online.

The game design is elegant. When we left Protospiel, we decided to keep in touch with Alex to get updates about the game’s development and then one year later Alex sent a prototype of For Glory to us with examples of the deluxe metal coins and markers. The components in the prototype are great: the standard coins and markers will hold up to lots of play and the deluxe metal components — I mean, who doesn’t love metal components?! — look and feel wonderful.

The card layout felt intuitive to read for an avid game player and the rulebook has a great card anatomy explanation. With the prototype cards, some of the icons got lost in the background, but the brand new card design fixes that issue, so I do not anticipate it being an issue with the published version.

My favorite thing about this game is the tension that the design builds between the player’s choices (card purchasing and gladiator placement in arenas) and resource management (coins, tactics, reactions). During the Machinations phase, players must manage their available coins so they can attract patrons, gain gladiators, learn tactics and reactions, and hopefully have a little left over in case they need to make a late gladiator registration. Then, during the Arena phase, players must decide the right moment to play specific tactics and reactions in order to win the battles. Players can see which cards their opponent purchases, but they have no idea which cards will show up in a battle, so there is a wonderful tension of balancing your own abilities while trying to anticipate what your opponent might do.

For players who like building an engine, there is definitely opportunity to do that in For Glory. Building your deck is not just about getting the best cards – you need to build a flow with your cards, no matter what they are. You will also need to balance your gladiators between two arenas, so pairing gladiators whose abilities work well together can be a huge benefit. The tactical style of the game is very interactive between the gladiators’ abilities, the tactics and reactions cards each player has, and the tension that builds between each action taken. In addition to building your deck, there is a way to manage culling your deck, as well, to remove less powerful cards as your deck evolves. Every decision feels important.

The play time from the publisher is 60-90 minutes, which feels pretty accurate. While your first play may take longer as you learn the rules, subsequent plays can definitely be played in an average of 75 minutes. The flow of the game is fluid, the player aids and rulebook clearly define examples and outlier situations. Every question that came up during play was answered in the rulebook.

While gladiatorial combat is not a theme that I naturally gravitate toward, the description of the game design made me want to give this game a try. Having played the game, I can see several themes that the design engine would work well for and I look forward to seeing more games from Alex in the future. If you are looking for a two-player deck builder that creates tension and is highly interactive, then you should play For Glory. Look for it on Kickstarter on February 4th, 2020!

Here are Greg’s thoughts on For Glory:

The components and cards are excellent. The card layout is useful and I like the art style. In our prototype copy, the only issue was that the art was dark and some of the icons were not easily identifiable (namely the small icons in the card text that such as the attack icon where the card granted a boost to attack). This does not appear to be an issue in the art shown in the facebook posts so this doesn’t look like a problem for the end product.

The theme weaves nicely with the mechanics. There is the feel of managing your team of gladiators and balancing your efforts and coin to win over patrons to help keep your team running. There is the balancing of money in the coffers as well as fluid coin (from the cards). One must also balance these efforts with tactics/reaction cards to improve on the gladiators’ effectiveness. Then there is the tactical nature of the game in choosing how to split your team between arenas. Sometimes it simply pays to send in a few gladiators even if the fight is a lost cause.

This is a deck builder that rewards managing your deck well. It’s not merely a matter of getting better cards in there. One must find cards with synergy. While the deck is building over the course of the game, the cards often live outside the deck for multiple turns. There is an interesting management to bloat. Gladiators sent off to arenas are no longer in the deck until the fights begin. Patrons often flow through the deck once, and then become part of your tableau. Tactics and reactions can be stored out of deck to later be retrieved at a cost of coin. A single card that offers coin or the ability to cull often provides a thought-provoking choice of getting the money you may need now or improving the efficiency of your deck. This all leads to a deck that could be played lean and effective.

Every action in the game feels important. Having coin on hand helps mitigate a lack of coin in cards. It gives that extra reach to buy more expensive cards or to pay to get extra gladiators into fights. There is a balance required between patrons which provide the necessary influence to allow more gladiators in fights. Tactics and reactions are needed to make gladiators effective and can turn the tide of the fight. The gladiators you commit to each arena are meaningful decisions that have an effect that ripples through the game. With the arena powers, winning over the right arenas can provide the necessary boost to win others.
The fights are tactical and engaging. The mechanics are simple and fluid but the available cards make for exciting fights and provide enjoyable problem solving. 

The pace of the game is done well. As fights progress, more gladiators are typically needed to provoke the start of fights. This allows decks to grow in strength and gives a nice build-up to each battle.

From mechanics to theme, For Glory is in my top three favorite two-player games.

Greg Principato Jr.

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