Monday 12 February 2018

Domina - Gladiator Management (PC)

This is an awesome game. 

It's also a good game if you're more wargamer than PC gamer. 

You manage your own ludus, with a stable of gladiators who rank up with training and successful fights.  Besides choosing their training regime (modifying their stats) and equipment through your doctore, and allocating gladiators to fights, there's a lot to do between fights; keeping nice with the town magistrate and military commander, organizing exhibition matches and pit fights, as well as organising an array of specialists (doctors, augurs, architects, spies etc).  It's a simple game with a lot to do. There are constant random events (usually with funny stories) that crop up in a RPG fashion.  I like how you can turn your gladiators into specialists, so you have a tool for every fight.

You can upgrade your ludus significantly with baths to assist healing, practice dummies, etc.

Unlike football management games where no one watches the boring actual games, the "games" in Domina contain hilarious and unexpected pixel violence.

If you want to control a gladiator in fights you can; I personally let the AI control the hilariously bloody pixel violence.  The bouts are varied; gladiators chained to the ground, lions, uneven numbers or gear. I haven't even explored the chariot racing yet.

Domina has a vaguely roguelike vibe (keep characters alive/fed/happy/permadeath) and I found myself trying to keep a few better gladiators alive while heartlessly feeding others to the meatgrinder. Everyone, though, is ultimately disposable, though (like X-COM) ending up with only rookies left late on would be punishing.

It's meant to be played in short bursts - there's no full-featured save; so you can't go back to an older save undo your mistakes - and wipe outs do occur (everyone starved to death in an early playthrough when I ran out of money...).

Why chariot race when you can fight instead?

Buy this game. You need no "gaming" skills. You don't need a good computer. You could download it on dial-up (it's 500MB). It's fun.

Do you like campaign or narrative wargames (Mordhiem etc)
Do you like gladiators?
Do you have a dark sense of humour?

If you answered yes to any of these, buy this game.  The downsides are: I suspect it could get repetitive/would be easy to "cheese"/min-max. It's also more a casual game than mainstay of my gaming time.

Recommended? Yes. A blood-spattered thumbs up!


  1. I am a fan of Gladiator games on the tabletop, but now that you mention them they may suffer from some of the issues Aerial wargames do. The Player is controlling a Ludus, but also micro-managing each Gladiators fights. Is that the right level of command?

    In Domina, at least you can let the AI do all the fighting whiel you manage the Ludus. Would that be something people would want to do on the tabletop, or is it some other style of game such as board game or card game?

    1. I don't think I mind as much for a gladiator game as it is only 2 command levels i.e. manager -> individual gladiator. Remove the ability to control gladiators and you might as well abstract it entirely and remove minis full stop (that way lies card games etc - nope!)

      It bothers me more in say an air combat game where you cross more "command layers" = squadron leader -> flight leader -> individual pilot; or ground combat say "company commander -> platoon leader -> squad leader -> individual sniper."

  2. The Pixel style is rather nice and assumed.
    I you like the kind of game where you manage a roster of warriors with their skills, upgrading their town with campaign aspect, take a look at Darkest Dungeon, you could like it.

    1. Darkest Dungeon WAS on my wishlist until I noticed "turn based."

      Turn-based PC games ceased to be cool around the turn of the millennium. If I want turn based, I'll do proper wargames and get to paint and play with cool toys...

      My exception the rule is 4X style games like Civilization where the management/tracking on the tabletop is prohibitive. Even then, Age of Empires style is usually more fun.