Monday, September 5, 2011

We Who are About to Die...

Political duty discharged, I can now concentrate on an exercise in self-indulgence: news about the solo gladiator campaign I am running (for myself, natch).

My first few “sessions” have been enormous fun, recalling some of my better winter Detroit days spent in my cozy basement playing the schizoid as I switched army sides. It certainly beat the hell out of shoveling snow.

As I reminder I am running Red Sand Blue Sky, a nifty set of mano et mano Roman Gladiator rules from Two Hour Wargames which specializes in a range of mini skirmish rules that blend in RPG elements. Significantly, their rules also have nice elegant and easily workable rules for running non-player forces which makes them invaluable for solo or same-side efforts. (I should also add that their honcho, Ed, is a stand-up guy who has fond memories of white box OD&D.)

For figures I seem to be flying through the options. My first bout I tested with the full-color paper counters and paper arena that come with the rules, though was quickly unsatisfied and switched to stop-gap medieval-era 28mm minis while I waited on packages to arrive from afar.

My original intention was to run them with some very nicely sculpted (and dirt cheap)1/72 scale plastic figures from Pegasus. When the box arrived I was again happy with the sculpting, but groaned silently a bit as I opened up the box and saw all the multiple detached parts in needing of glue.
From the Pegasus set. Nice midgets.
For the record, when it comes to miniatures projects nothing turns me off quicker than the need to apply some epoxy. Something about having to sit there for minutes over and over again, with all that squiggly crap a-fixing itself to the pads of fingers just drives me bonkers.

So off to find another alternative. Fortunately I found a good short-cut with the Ludus Gladiatorus sets. These sets features five pre-painted 28mm Roman gladiators with their own mini-game and some icon-faced d6s. While I typically—like most mini grogs—look down my aquiline nose at pre-painted I am in the mood to jump right in now with a minimum of fuss.

RSBS has several starting options for solo gaming: playing as a single gladiator, a school of gladiators, or as the owner of said school. I want the full range of experience with the extended campaign rules so I opt for the last.

Month One
Kutalikus Cacophonus, an almost-famous Dacian gladiator freed by the Emperor in 153 AD has returned to seek the roar of the crowds and the smell of fresh blood—at least on the more lucrative and less dangerous end of the arena. No longer slave he is now lanista (trainer-owner) of a new ludus (gladiator school) in Corinium Dobunnorum, a rough-and-tumble town in the dreary, rain-besotted frontier province of Britannia.

Kutalikus' goal here, besides becoming stinking rich, is to ultimately move the school up from the backwater sideshow through the various tiers (RSBS has four each having a minimum cash level in aurei to get to) up to the “Big Show”: the Coliseum in Rome.

While wealthy he has a way to go with his 5,000 aurei at start.

Lacking grist for his fighting mill, his first action in month one (campaign turns are monthly) is to trot over to the local slave market to size up some likely targets. Looking over the flotsam and jetsom of those on the receiving of the Empire's might, he finds four broad-backed candidates and begins bidding on them.

First up on the block is Terius from K's homeland of Dacia. Though he is pretty average (savvy 2, strength 2, speed 2—all the baseline scores), out of tearful sentimentality he starts bidding and picks him up at a reasonable 9 aurei.

Next up is Maximus from Hispania, despite his cinematically-grandiose name another mediocre but passable acquisition. Maximus goes for a bit more at 15, K. decides what the Pluto and buys him too—as he does for yet another Mr. Average, Draco from Germania at 12.

Murmillo helmet
Finally though he eyes up a real catch, a Bluto, a local boy and former criminal sold into bondage. Bluto is tougher and faster (savvy 2, strength 4, speed 3) but the bidding war gets a bit pricey all the way up to 30. Caught up in auction fever, he gets bought anyway.

The wily Dacian puts his new no-so-willing recruits through the tough pacing of his school. He's only satisfied with one, Bluto, enough to put him through the paces of the upcoming day of games. Bluto gets trained up in the kit and fighting style of the Hoplomachus, an armor, shield and spear carrying style.

In order to beef up my ludus with some real muscle—and field a full complement at the next round of games (each day of events has 1d6+4 matches in it), he makes the rounds to see what gladiators others lanistas may trying to off load. He is satisfied with four decent looking types:

Decundus, trained as a Murmillo, dude with sword and baroque fish-helmet (savvy 2, str 3, spd 4).

Sertius, trained as a Secutor, a “chaser” with sword, ornate helmet, and large shield (savvy 2, str 2, spd 3, Brawler special trait).

Secius, also a Secutor (sav 3, str 3, spd 2, Frenzy trait).

Secimus, trained as a Thraex, “Thracian” with a Griffin-helmet, small shield and sica (long wicked dagger) (sav 3, str 2, spd 2, Brawler).

Kutalikus buys gear for them and puts them through the paces preparing for next month's games.


  1. You should come up some time to Austin and run a game. We miss your spectacles in miniature.

  2. While I'm putting together some of my 88 Wargames Factory saxons, I find podcasts are the ideal way to pass the epoxy (or rather polystyrene in this case) wait times.

    No, I have no ambitions to call up the Fyrd for DBA or something, but a nice set of skirmish rules would be cool. The first priority was just to have oodles of minis to lay down when required. There's a horde of berserkers in Castle Zagyg as I understand it. Plus, the 30 rat men, 40 orcs, 20 goblins, 40 skeletons and such need company. The 20 elves are yet to be assembled.

  3. @Kenny
    I am a bit overextended still down here, but I'd like to pay y'all a visit one of these weekends. The game works well same side or even head to head if we want to get all adversarial.

    RSBS is also good for multi-player since the matches only run about 5-20 minutes each, the low time commitment being one of the reasons I picked it up. So rustle up the posse.

    Is a patience problem for me. I am generally the same way about painting, but the gluing is something you absolutely can't cut corners on.

    I love the fact that manufacturers are now producing 28mm plastics (like your Saxons). With the increasing choice of range they really could become revolutionary cost-savers when it comes to fielding an army.

    At some point I will finish that damn spell list (the sheer number in D&D being the stumbling block) and have a suitable fantasy supplement for my medieval small battle rules.

  4. You realize, of course, that such a system simply begs to be adapted to the Hirilakte Arenas of Tekumel....

  5. I'm wondering what inspired you to start playing this game ...

    FYI, if you want to use prepainted 28mm minis, there were a number of gladiators produced for the now-out-of-production game Heroscape.

  6. I am a closet lover of all things Gladiatorial. I wrote a little article on Open D6 Renaissance on the topic:
    for use with the "MiniSix" set of rules. Keep posting on the topic Chris! Looking good.

  7. Oh, and Italeri makes a very affordable set of gladiators, in several scales:

  8. Those are pretty models. I get what you mean about the gluing. The extremes of approach have their own attractions - either pulling the models out of the packaging and being able to use them as is, or going the whole hog, glue, greenstuff and all. The ruleset looks interesting too, and it's my kind of all-in set.