Updated: Dec 13, 2022
In Alex Pchelintsev's Ave, Leo! players are gladiators competing in the arena against each other and against a lion. This probably conjures up images of Spartacus - the 1960 movie or the 2010-2013 TV series - but if you're expecting blood and guts you'll be disappointed. Ave, Leo! is actually an almost entirely abstract action selection game where, rather than engaging in combat with other players or with a hungry lion, you're seeking to collect gold by landing your pawn on the gold dice.
Ave, Leo! is designed for 2-6 players, and tho' it doesn't invoke the spirit of Spartacus it's nonetheless a good tactical game. The game is set up with the lion piece in the centre hex of the board, surrounded by six gold dice. For the first round a number of green movement dice are rolled, depending on the number of players, plus the red lion die. These are all custom six-sided dice (green: 1, 2, 2, 3, 3, 3 and red: 1, 1, 2, 2, 3, 3). On your turn you select one die and move in a single straight line the exact number of hexes indicated. If you land exactly on a gold die, you remove it and earn one gold (recorded on players' individual tracks). Sounds easy, except that it costs one extra step to move into a hex adjacent to the lion or another player. If you take the red lion die, you move the lion the indicated number of hexes, again in a single straight line, removing any gold dice that the lion passes over en route. When gold dice are removed they are added to the pool of dice to be rolled and picked in the next round. Pick a gold die (1, 1, 1, 2, 2, 3) and you get to position it the indicated number of hexes from the current position of the lion.
You can see, therefore, that Ave, Leo! is all about manipulating positions on the board to optimise your own options for picking up gold and denying options to your opponents. You, the lion and other players' gladiator pawns are really only obstacles that make it harder for an opponent to collect gold. And if a gold die is adjacent to the lion and two gladiator pawns, it will be impossible to pick up even with a movement die of three steps...
With its simple rules, Ave, Leo! is an easy-to-play abstract game that will appeal to older children and adults alike. It scales well for different player counts, tho in our Board's Eye View plays we enjoyed the tactical manoeuvring most with four or more players. With two players it can be something of a dance for positional advantage - perhaps a bull-fighting theme would feel more appropriate. As is so often the case with three-player games, a mistake or weak play from one player tended to hand an advantage to the player that followed them. Regardless of player count, our games mostly took 20-30 minutes.
Tho' it uses dice, Ave, Leo! isn't a dice-chucking game of luck. If you enjoy abstract strategy games, then Ave, Leo! could be just what you are looking for. Ave, Leo! is published by al-Khwarizmi Games. Art is by Paul Titov.