In spite of the name of my blog, the only ruleset appearing in my posts was Song of Blades and Heroes, from Ganesha Games. Although it is a good ruleset that gives ejoyable results while being easy to learn, dwelling at it all the time would deny the very idea behind this blog: To search for the unattainable goal through many a mysterious land and having lots of adventures (and fun) on the way.
But fear not! I know there are other rulesets. A few of them I have already either played or tried (or at least tried to try): Melee (with houserules) and Swordplay (updated version just released!), and others wait to be tried, like Savage Worlds Showdown, ItEN, Chain Reaction, or Flying Lead.
Because it's fascinating subject, and (more importantly) gladiator games don't require too much space, scenery nor miniatures. Unless you're into naumachiae, of course. So far, I have printed the rules for Mordheim Pit Fighter, modified Melee and read through Munera Sine Missione. I have also bought half a box of Chaos Marauders, which I intend to convert to Pit Fighters.
This time all the equipment remained at home - fortunately, I had my usual miniatures for SoBH, hex paper and tablet with the rules. We tried my gladiatorial variant on Melee (still in progress) first, and then the Pit Fighter second.
I like Melee. It was the first skirmish game that I didn't play solo and the rules are simple enough to be modified (the first modification being omitting the HTH combat). After some three- and two-player games in the dungeon (and experiments with leaving the hex grid) I set to write a variant for gladiatorial combat, which we playtested. Well, it failed.
We created four gladiators, bid for them, equipped them, and it was good. Mostly. But then, we chose one gladiator each and sent them into the arena - and it all turned into quick but quite tedious dicefest. I had tried to spice up the maneuver possibilites: a character could use shieldbash, shieldrush or bodyslam, or he could decide to focus his attack on less armoured parts of the enemy, but to no avail. As much as I liked Melee in group vs group mode, it was still too dull for a duell.
Still, I may try to add even some more variety, but I fear that either it won't help, or I'll use Munera instead and save the effort for something else, like painting some gladiators...
2. Pit FighterThe bad taste a single duell in Melee left made us try something else for the evening's final clash. From what I had read I liked the rules of Pit Figher quite a lot, and using Melee as a counterexample I lured my friend into a quick rules overview and -as his enthusiasm grew- a game.
Why I liked the Pit Fighter even after just reading the rules?
- The paralell between the Empire and Roman Empire: The pit fighters represent enemies that the men of the realm had to face.
- Pre-plotted movement with slightly different options for each type of gladiator
- Hit locations: There are five hit locations (Head, Body, Arms, Groins, Legs), and when you attack, both you and your opponent secretly choose one. If they are the same, the attack was blocked. If the attacked location is not adjacent to defended location, the attack was successfull. If the locations are adjacent, weapon skill contest follows.
- Different armour on different locations
- If you're hit, you can lose more than just hit points... Better executed attacks can scar, cripple you (loose a finger/eye/ear/arm/leg/precious parts), or even kill you by decapitating (crowd roars) or hacking in half.
- Easy and quite benevolent campaign system with fighters improving their stats and gaining skills, crowned by the fight of one against three. If the lone challenger can pull it off, he's won the campaign.
- In spite of all this, the rules are short, understandable and simple, and the game is quick.
The game was a huge success. Our fighters advanced to each other, lunged, maneuvred to get the best position, there was a swing and a miss, clash and separation... It really gave us the image of a gladiatorial bout, complete with a lucky blow leading to a decapitation in the end. Another great thing was that even with rules explanation, checking the rules, passing tablet with movement scroll and picking moves it took us about an hour. I look forward to playing it again!