In rare form, Slitherine has (as of this writing) temporarily slashed the price for this game in half. While I might normally say go get the mobile tablet version (on which I have countless hours), this is the perfect price point for this time suck of a game and make no mistake, it's unlikely they'll slash it more. So if you've been on the fence, pick a side now!
Like the very best of games out there, it's a mechanically-simple approach to turn-based racing - chariot racing, mind you - that has clearly been inspired by similarly-themed board games of old. Also like the very best of games out there, its simplicity belies its depth. While races last about 5-10 minutes of real-time at most - making it the perfect pick-up-and-play game - you only have a handful of actions you can do on each turn, Qvadriga provides a tactical experience that gives you the right 'feel' of racing around in ancient Rome.
Unlike the staggered starts of the Olympics, chariots will line up side-by-side or even one behind another with random start positions, leading to seemingly unfair, foregone conclusions. However, unlike the Olympics, it's perfectly okay to kill your opponents or their horses by whipping them to death or smashing your chariot into them, which might also damage their wheels enough to throw the driver out, only to be dragged to near-certain death. Not satisfied? It's also perfectly okay to position yourself to block opponents, often causing them to violently smash into your backside, hurting their horses, and therefore their overall speed. Just be mindful that what you can do to others can also be done to you.
While there are similarities to other racers like Gallop Racer or Derby Owner's Club in that you must manage your horse's stamina during the race (too much damage and they slow down, whip 'em to make 'em go faster at the risk of hurting or killing them), the true depth of the game comes from tactically positioning yourself and upsetting your opponents to get ahead. This will be difficult at first, but you will soon be able to second-guess the guy behind you with a pretty good degree of accuracy. Do you try to take the inside lane and make the turn at speed, risking your chariot flipping over? Do you hang back a little bit so you can whip your opponent from his chariot? Do you smash your own chariot into his horses, hoping to drop his four-horse team to a three? Or do you sacrifice the health of your own horses and whip 'em for that extra burst of speed, possibly slowing you down for the remainder of the race if you bleed them?
With single races available, the meat of the game is actually its campaign mode where the goal is to gain enough fame for your team to be invited to the Circus Maximus, the most electrifying arena in Roman entertainment where you can race for the millions (AND MILLIONS) of your team's fans. Essentially you will start off by picking one of the available historical factions which will give you various starting bonuses, but don't worry too much about that as you will eventually replace all of your drivers, horses and chariots over time. From there, you start racing, hoping to survive those early moments until you can make enough money to afford some good stuff. Nothing will stop you from winning, mind you, if you've got the wherewithall to do so. In between races, you will be able to see your team's fame on the local level (with several cities to make your name in) and on the global level. Then you can manage your team, from pure maintenance to purchasing upgrades with your winnings which includes faster, stronger horses, higher quality and more durable chariots, and tougher and more skilled drivers. Each stat for each component of your entry plays into your tactics for the upcoming race. If you front a team of toughness, chances are you'll want to do your best to take out the city's top leaders (who are easily identifiable by their faction color and the number of wins they hold) whereas a faster team will be more dead set on getting a podium finish. Finally, before each race, should you choose to do so, you can place a bet that your team will win and the payouts are tremendous if you manage to do so. Keep it going and if you don't manage to kill all of your drivers, eventually new venues will open up to you for more glory and fame and money.
Overall this is a wonderful little gem of a title and while it won't necessarily hook you with its bland visuals and minimal sound design, once you figure out its magic, you'll be drawn in wholesale.