Are You Not Entertained?
Not to be confused with Eternity Games’ Gladiator Manager, a historical sports management game on Steam. This is Renegade Games’ Gladiator Manager, a pixel-art historical sports management game on Google Play. While I have not played Eternity’s game, it apparently includes tactical turn-based combat as a critical feature. However, Renegade’s Gladiator Manager leans harder on the management side.
Gladiator Manager begins with the player arriving in the southern Italian city of Capua to open a new ludus, a Gladiator training ground. After picking your name, you can choose between one of four ethnicities: Roman, Punic, Celtic, or Greek.
Roman characters can be male or female, but the other three are male only. Gender doesn’t seem to affect the game much, but ethnicity does. Born in the heart of the Republic, Romans gain a permanent 20% bonus to Influence, a currency used in political actions. Celts give their Gladiators a 20% bonus to experience points from training, while Punic (Carthaginian) characters start with extra gold. Finally, a Greek character’s gladiators unlock new traits at twice the normal rate. Each also starts the game with a different free armor piece, or a shield, in the case of Greeks.
Note, however, that Greek characters aren’t available from the start. Instead, you need to unlock them as an Upgrade for 150 Gems. The game does this quite a lot. Pretty much all but the most basic armor and weapons in Gladiator Manager are locked behind Upgrades. However, that does not stop them from appearing on the list when looking for new items to outfit your fighters. That makes them feel less like Upgrades and more like parts of the game have been sectioned off. In fairness, you can earn gems in-game, though Gladiator Manager is definitely trying to push you toward the cash shop.
I Am Spartacus
Players start by buying their first Gladiator and some weapons and armor from the market. Each Gladiator starts in a generic Gladiator class, but players can also assign them one of five specialized classes. The Hoplomachus, for example, uses shields and polearms and benefits from a high health attribute. Meanwhile, the spear and net-wielding Retiarius relies on cunning instead of raw strength. You can assign any Gladiator to any class, though their aptitude will vary based on the Gladiator’s stats and skills.
Every week, there will be between one and four active tournaments in the arena, often with different rules and requirements. You can’t directly control the fight, but there are ways to tip the odds in your favor. Properly equipping your Gladiators is part of it, but so is cheating. Before each round, you can spend money to do things like poison weapons or bribe guards to leave the enemy’s shackles on. Before the tournament, you can send one of your Gladiators to try and poison a rival, weakening or even killing them outright.
These tactics might seem underhanded, but rival Ludi will do the same to you if an opportunity arises. Besides, every battle is a gamble, and you want to stack the odds in your favor. Most fights aren’t to the death, but there is always a chance. Even survivable wounds can put your gladiators out of commission for weeks. Occasionally, they will acquire permanent injuries that require expensive and dangerous surgeries to repair.
Outside of battle and training, players will also need to keep their Gladiator’s loyalty in mind. You can buy their loyalty with gifts or even adopt them into your dynasty if they are successful enough. However, disloyal Gladiators will flee to join Spartacus’ uprising, and they may even come back for revenge.
Render Onto Ceaser
This ties into the larger Ludus management system. Players can buy slaves to guard the compound, entertain the Gladiators, or generate income from the nearby mines. You will want at least enough miners to cover your expenses, while the other two are vital to security. Guards prevent escapes and break-ins from rebels, thieves, and assassins and saboteurs from your rivals. Meanwhile, entertainers help keep your Gladiators loyal, so you won’t have to worry about escape attempts.
It’s not as complex as it sounds, though Gladiator Manager is a game with a learning curve. It will be some time before you start to feel secure, and disasters tend to compound each other. Early on, I made the mistake of relying only on three Gladiators. This came back to bite me when one died, and the other two were out of action for over a month due to injuries. You can give your Gladiators opium for the pain, but sending wounded men into battle is risky and slows recovery.
Altogether, Gladiator Manager is a fun little sports sim that will appeal to those interested in ancient Rome. However, it requires a lot of patience for a mobile game, and the “upgrades” feel more like holding content for ransom.
Is It Hardcore?
Gladiator Manager is a fun little sim game that will appeal to those interested in ancient Rome, but the game requires a lot of patience to get into.