Saturday, 3 December 2016

Blood Sweat and Cheers - two example turns.

The murmillo, Lycus, shifted his grip on the gladius as the humidity of the afternoon made his palms slick with sweat. So far, the bout had gone all his way. His opponent, Satyrus, was new to the arena, unsure of his own abilities, hampered by unfamiliar surroundings and the claustrophobic intensity of a thraex’s elaborate helm in the full heat of the sun.

Nevertheless, he moved fast, that thraex. The razor-sharp edge of his wicked, curved, blade had come close lacerating Lycus’ shining torso a number of times. Only the murmillo’s months of drill had allowed him to bring around his mighty shield just in time to save his skin. A lucky jab had allowed Lycus to draw the first blood of the bout. Satyrus was bleeding, but was not so hurt that it would greatly impact the rest of the fight.

The crowd were roaring now – cheering Lycus on to continue his attack, driving him, compelling him to stay on the offensive. How long would he be able to keep it up though? How long before Satyrus would find his own rhythm and land his own first blow?

We join our heroes part way through a bout. Lycus, a murmillo, is the blue player in this game, his opponent Satyrus, a thraex, is the red player. At the start of the turn, the two gladiators are standing in adjacent zones so may not directly attack each other. The Favour of the Crowd lies two points in Lycus’ (blue) favour. Satyrus has already suffered one wound.

At the end of the previous turn, Lycus had used, or dispensed with, all his cards. Satyrus had decided to retain one card, FORTUNA’S FAVOUR, but had used the rest. At the start of this turn, both players draw new cards to bring their hands up to five cards each (i.e. Lycus draws five, Satyrus draws four + the retained card).

NEW TURN – Phase 1
As the slower gladiator, Lycus is compelled to reveal his phase one actions first. He plays a STEP+STRIKE combo, lunging forward into the same zone as Satyrus. In return, Satyrus plays STEP+STEP, electing to remain in the same zone, but dodge the incoming lunge.

Both players roll 1d6. Lycus rolls a 5 and adds his attack attribute of 3, giving an attack total of eight (3+5). Satyrus rolls a 2 and adds his speed attribute of 4 (-1 for his wound), giving a total of five (2+4-1). The difference between the totals is 3 which under normal circumstances should cause another flesh wound to Satyrus.

Lycus grins as his blade plunges forward, but at the last minute, Fortuna smiles upon Satyrus. He plays the FORTUNA’S FAVOUR card, allowing him to swap die results. Now Lycus has an attack total of five (2+3), against Satyrus’ dodge total of eight (5+4-1). Satyrus escapes being wounded, but only thanks to the goddess, and she can be a fickle deity.

Phase 2
As the faster man, it is now Satyrus’ turn to show his cards first. He plays a simple STRIKE, jabbing his curved sword towards Lycus. In return, Lycus plays GUARD, swinging up his shield in a block.

Both players roll 1d6. Satyrus rolls a 4 and adds his attack attribute of 3 for a total of seven. Lycus rolls a 3 and adds it to his defence attribute of 4 for a total of seven. The scores are equal, so Satyrus’ attack fails.

Lycus chooses to discard his remaining STEP card, but retains the GLORY. Satyrus retains his STEP. Both players now draw new cards (four each) to bring their hands back up to five cards for the next turn. Attacks were made but, as neither player spilt blood or played GLORY cards, the Favour of the crowd remains unchanged, two points in Lycus’ favour.

NEW TURN – Phase 1
Lycus, as the slower gladiator again reveals his cards first. He plays GLORY+GLORY, lashing out with his right leg to kick Satyrus off balance. Lycus’ well executed use of GLORY cards draw the crowd even further in his favour, up to the maximum of three points. Satyrus responds with a single GLORY, attempting to lacerate Lycus’ flesh as he kicks out. This response (another crowd-pleasing flourish of a GLORY card), pulls the Favour of the Crowd back one point towards a neutral position (i.e. still two points in Lycus’ favour).

Both gladiators are now attacking – each rolls 1d6 and adds modifiers. If either end up with a total higher than their opponent, there will be consequences for the defeated foe.

Lycus rolls a magnificent 6 and adds his attack attribute of 3, plus an additional +1 for the special ‘Kick’ attack. His total is therefore 10 (6+3+1). Satyrus rolls poorly, only scoring a 2. However, the thraex’s ‘Lacerate’ ability allows him to add his attack attribute (3) plus an additional +3 to his roll for a total of 8 (2+3+3).

The difference between the totals is now two with Lycus the victor. A difference of two is enough for Satyrus to be Knocked Down, but not enough to cause a Flesh Wound. However, Lycus now plays the ROAR OF THE CROWD card, using the cheering of the mob to lend more power to his attack – in this case he adds +2 to bring his total up to 12.

Having ‘spent’ the crowd’s enthusiasm, Crowd Favour now drops back to a neutral position. However, the difference in the gladiator’s totals is now 4 (12-8), enough for Lycus to inflict a Deep Wound (causing a further two wounds to Satyrus). In addition, a successful kick from a murmillo pushes the defeated foe into an adjacent zone and knocks them down. A Knocked Down gladiator is ‘compromised’ and suffers -2 to all of their attributes until they stand up again. Having caused more blood to be spilt, the Favour of the Crowd moves one point once more into the blue area.

Phase 2
Now, Satyrus is no longer the faster gladiator. His speed attribute of 4 is modified to -1 (4-3 for the three wounds suffered, -2 for being compromised). Therefore Lycus, as the faster gladiator (speed attribute of 2), again shows his cards first. The murmillo plays STEP+STRIKE, moving into the adjacent zone and lunging at the fallen thraex. Feeling very much in the ascendancy, he also chooses this moment to take advantage of his foe’s existing wounds. This is an action that can only be done once for each wound and forces a -1 modifier per wound on the opponent’s roll.

It is all Satyrus can do to play a STEP card in an attempt to stand up. Both roll 1d6.

Lycus rolls a 4 and adds his attack attribute for a total of 7 (4+3). Satyrus rolls a 5 but suffers -3 for having his existing wounds exploited and a further -1 for being attacked whilst standing up. The thraex’s total is therefore 1 (5-3-1). He has lost to an attack by a massive 6, more than enough to end the bout with a telling blow.

Lycus lunged forward at the prone thraex. As his foe struggled to rise, Lycus kicked his wounded arm from under him and punched his blade straight into the flesh below the right shoulder. The gladius pulled away from Lycus’ slippery grip as Satyrus slumped back towards the sand. Although Satyrus was still alive, the bout was well and truly over. Sweat stung Lycus’ eyes and salted his lips. Pulling back his massive iron helmet, the gladiator looked triumphantly at the cheering mob and, then with more apprehension, at the game’s sponsor. It was his descision whether Satyrus would die this day, or whether he had fought well enough to be nursed back to health for another bout.


Up in the sponsor’s box, a togate man in his middle years, soft about the waist, balding head covered by a curious wig of crimson curls, stood up and surveyed the crowd. Happy that his decision would not cause a riot he raised his arm up high for all to see, and stuck out his thumb…

Thursday, 1 December 2016

Hey! Watch where you put that Tusk!

I had my first game using Wessex Games' mammoth hunting rules Tusk this week, or rather, the wee lad played his first ever wargame this week - he played Tusk with me attempting to guide the game.

The game has great potential, and was (almost) easy enough for an (almost) six year old to follow without too much trouble. However... I'm not convinced that the layout of the pdf version of the rules (from Wargame Vault) does the game any favours. There are certainly a few areas that could be written more clearly - the whole fire section for instance. I'm not sure we 'did' fire properly in our game and ended up with quite a conflagration in one corner of the board for a while.

I'm honestly not sure whether a single page QRS would solve the few issues, or if it is best just to play house rules/understandings. Having a little bit of experience crafting rules now, it was a struggle to stop my mind racing off thinking about how I might do things differently...

Regardless, we both had great fun and he tells me he wants to play it again. The fact that he lost two of his five hunters to the angry mammoth didn't seem to bother him, and he did eventually kill the beastie, which made him happy. Mammoth kebabs for a month for the remaining hunters!

Incidentally, this is how I am doing my scorched earth markers - well, how I am starting them anyway. The bases are 25mm squares with rounded edges. The sand will be blackened eventually with some dry grass around the edges. I'm using cotton wool smoke to mark live fires and taking it away when the fires go out.

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Are you not entertained!?

Well that happened sooner than expected! What a wonderful surprise, to come home after a head-melter of a day's work to find a wee package waiting for me from DriveThru Cards.  Upon opening it, I was delighted to see my proof deck of cards for Blood, Sweat and Cheers. Above you can see the whole pack laid out excitedly - if amateurishly - on the table.

In the centre is the six-card arena so that players can get stuck straight into the game without having to call in the set designers from Ridley Scot's Gladiator. Below that are two cards abstracting the mood or favour of the crowd into a linear tracking system. To either side are reference cards so players do not have to refer to the two-page rule sheet once a bout has commenced. The rainbow selection at the top right of the photo are the gladiator cards, each outlining attributes and two special actions unique to each gladiator type. To the right is the play deck of 40 cards (showing three example cards) which are dealt to the players to represent the options available to their gladiator each turn. All up, a total of 60 cards.

Above you can see gladiator models placed in the two adjacent starting zones ready to begin a bout. On the left are a murmillo and thraex in 28mm, while on the right are a retiarius and a secutor in 15mm. Gladiators usually move one zone at a time and need to be in the same zone as an opponent to perform most attack types. 

We still have a couple of things to sort out with DriveThru cards, but Blood, Sweat and Cheers looks set to be published by Ganesha Games very early in the new year.

Saturday, 19 November 2016

Horizon Wars - a near run thing.

We played a massive 30 presence game of Horizon Wars this week. Technically it was one 30P vs two allied 15P forces. I need to stress that, because my 30P of European Empire troops lost. Barely. I blame the extra free CHQ unit they had. No other reason. None at all. :)


It was a really fun, three turn game actually, very closely fought. We had three objective markers with blind victory points, one worth I, one worth II and one worth IV points. My heavy infantry battle group was very aggressive and held all three objective for much of the game. They took a real mauling for their trouble too. Some late enemy parra-drops managed to size control of one objective at literally the last minute, and it turned out to be the one worth IV points. So... defeat from the jaws of victory once more!