Wednesday, 20 May 2020

Dicing with Death!

This was a playtest session of some Gladiator rules provided by Graham Evans. John ran it remotely using his shiny new web camera. It was a chance for John to try running remote games, and he;d come up with a rather ingenious webcam mount which gave us a panoramic view of the table.

In common with most gladiator games, it used a representative 'arena' and we each had individual characters.

The game board was divided into lettered the columns (not being certain that the Romans had rows) and numbered the squares. Figures were labelled with coloured tags (see the orange sample at the top of column “H”) bearing the player’s initials.

Johns webcam was fixed in a static location above the arena, and we all called out our instructions while his disembodied hand moved the figures. There was an initiative system which set the playing order at the start of the game. I was players six, so I got to go after everyone else. I've no idea if this was a  good thing or not. 

We all had similar gladiators who were reasonably experienced (so they didn't just take one hit and die!). We all shuffled around the arena looking for an advantage. Movement was 1D6 spaces, adjusted depending how heavily armoured you were.

Combat was rather novel, it use poker dice. Highest set won. More experienced fighters could make a certain number of re-rolls depending on their skill, aiming to get  a better 'hand' but nether player knew what the other had until the final scores were revealed. This worked very well, and led to a degree of thought and cunning, and (possibly) represented fighters putting sequences of moves together.

There was an early kill. We discovered early on that being knocked over onto the ground when there were still other players able to move was very, very bad. (Being knocked down if you still had a turn to take wasn't so bad) - so the sequence of activation was actually very important.

The rest of us hacked away at each other for some time, inflicting the odd hit. Poor Simon was stunned and spent the rest of the game being belted by other players. His excellent parrying saved him from damage, but the constant attacks meant he never got a chance to recover.

We called it a night after a while and set up for another go the next day.

We all had a bit more idea what we were doing this time, in particular that trying to use armour was a two edged sword (it could result in you being stunned or knocked over), but mainly that as yuo accumulated damage, you had an ever increasing chance of asking for mercy and it being granted. So if you weren't going to win, the best thing to do was get stuck, take some hits then try to live to fight another day. This was really rather clever as it kept the crowd happy, and meant the more experienced fighters (who could take more damage) actually stood a chance of surviving.

I own;t bore you with another blow-by-blow account but here the melee is well underway and someone has already bowed out (took hits and was granted mercy).

The figure in IV is me. I'd been getting stuck in, inflicted lots of hits, taken lots of hits and was planning on going for mercy on my last hit box. Sadly it turned out I'd miscalculated, and my last hit box was literally my last hit box, and I died. Oops. Oh well, seems fate catches up with even the most experienced fighters.

That was a good playtest session and we gave lots of feedback to the designer. Really a very clever design with a lot going on beneath the surface. It would work particularly well in a campaign setting. Recommended. It is due for publication  fairly soon and Graham has reported briefly on the game on his blog


  1. Great write up! Rules are (c) Derek Henderson, but I will be publishing them. Derek reckons they're the only set of gladiator rules where the historical survival stats (c90% don't die) might actually come out in game play.

    1. Thanks Graham, I just sorry the photos don't do it justice, but that is one of the downsides of remote gaming. I expect with Tim's 54mm gladiator figures it would look really grand. I thought it was a very clever gaming system which warrants a lot of replay.

  2. That looks great- been on the search for another set of Gladiator rules for a while.



    1. That's good news. We were worried we might be publishing into an already busy market.