Game Review: Cataphract
Posted On April 9, 2020
# of Players: 2
Time: 4-6 hours
Game Type: Top End War Game
Gamer Type: Hardcore-Lifestyle
Play War Games and Learn History
The Cataphract is a favorite ‘mounted unites’ units from history. Speed, strength, and the awe-inspiring nation come together to make this late Roman unit a site to see. When I saw the title Cataphract in the review box GMT Games sent to be looked at, I knew this game was going to have some big horseshoes to fill. But like all of GMT’s other offerings, Cataphract is fun to play and does justice to the war game genre.
Cataphract starts strong with three different story lines. It is part of the great battles of history series from GMT. There are historically accurate descriptions of three major campaigns, (Justinian, Late Roman A, and Lat Roman B). Each one is exquisitely detailed and really draw the player into the battle. They are complemented by internal, and external, histories that inform, as well as entertain, the player. This earns GMT games a stellar 9.5 out of 10 for story.
The artwork is done in the classical style of the period. This includes accurate maps and box graphics. They should, however, have a premium addition that allows for minis, rather than chits, for the pieces. Having these would give more of a classic feel to the game. The current chit based system, with the military pieces, gives it a 1960’s mod vibe. Minis would have to be a ‘premium’ add on, as this game comes loaded for war with hundreds of individual chits. The art is great, adding to the military feel of the game. It gets a 7.5 out of 10 for artwork.
The mechanics of the game are GMT military ‘Great Battles’ mechanics. This makes comparing them to other games almost unfair. Cataphract is a well developed, well-balanced system that allows the players to have realistic control of the forces in the game. Given its system complexity, it is not for the beginner. Once the system is learned, however, most of the GMT games can be played with a fast learning curve. This earns them a stellar 9 out 10 for mechanics.
The strategy in this game is similar to other games by GMT. Like the others, the player is the general. This means that they can build, and equip their army, however they choose. Since it is a historical game, it has no ‘crafting.’ The world is their empire. They can follow the advice of past generals and repeat battles, or go their own way. There is just enough randomization to the game that the outcome is not always certain. This means that they can win where great minds have lost, or vice versa. This earns them a 10 out of 10 for strategy.
Finally, we have the novelty score. There are not many games that represent the Cataphract as the namesake of a game. If one is a fan of Calvary, they will likely love this game. The one problem with the novelty is that it is a system game, which means the mechanics are part of the system. It is a great system. This gives Cataphract a score of 6 out of 10 for novelty.
Cataphract: An Upper Echelon Game
Overall, this is a monster of a game. GMT never fails to impress with their great lineup, but this game is also a very strong foray into the classical era. With a total score of 42 out of 50, Cataphract is in the upper echelon of games we have reviewed. This is not a beginner game, but it is also not as complex as other high-end war games like, ‘Next War: Korea‘ or ‘Husky 8.’If you are a war gamer, then this is a good game for your shelf. If you are looking to get into war gaming, than this would be a great game to begin with.
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Dr. Christopher Smithmyer is a writer for NRN, the Vice President of International Affairs at Brav Online Conflict Management, and an Adjunct Professor of MBA Business at Doane University. He is also part of the founding team at BlackWalletLTD, one of the leaders in stable coin 2.0 ecosystem maintenance. Dr. Smithmyer’s focus is international business and finance, along with reviews of board games, weapons platforms, and survival items.