By spilling some blood on the sand, of course! I wanted both to revisit Mordheim: Pit Fighter and to try something new - free gladiator rules Familia Gladiatoria, that may use cards for pre-plotted actions. I did not bother to take pictures this time, because the lighting was poor (and moreover, they would look exactly the same as any prevoius pictures of my Chaos-Marauders-made-into-Pit-Figthers standing in the hexes of the arena). Edit: But I did bother to use our camera at home, so this blog gets its first decent pictures.
I like Pit Fighter. Maybe because of the variety in figting styles and armour outfits, maybe because of the bluffing and guessing game, and maybe because you actually have to make some decisions in the game, and they matter.
How-ever... They are almost everything that matters - Weapon Skill (WS) opposed rolls are made with d20, so without a significant bonus to it (e.g. 10 pts) the contest is a matter of luck. Therefore, the most reasonable way to spend the 10 bonus points in character creation is to Initiative, because you want to hit first, Strength (moar damage!) or Wounds, to last a little longer. But even then its one wrong guess of yours, and your fighter is quite likely either crippled or dead. Or not, because of rolling a single die for damage (d6, d10, d12 or d20), plus sometimes another die (d10 or d20) for a mighty blow, may result in anything between a scratch and evisceration with the same probability. I decided to alter that a little:
- By rolling 3d6 in Strength and WS contests instead of d20 to make the difference between stats more significant (also redefining criticals as rolls of 3,4,17,18).
- By replacing the damage dice for d6, 2d6-2, 2d6 and 3d6 resp. and bonus dice for d6 and 2d6 to make the damage a little more consistent.
I also had to alter the modifiers to the stats, of course. And I made and printed the hit location and adrenaline rush cards, which were supposed made the game even more smooth. Did that work?
The first match was my Chaos vs Empire. I had spread the points across all the stats: (WS 33 S 31 T 32 I 32 W 12) and it appeared that Chaos had better Initiative than Empire. Which was good, because the fighters advanced (with the usual unsuccessfull attempts to outmaneuvre each other), the flail rang at Empire's helmet, stunning him a little. Empire decided for an unorthodox tactics and tried to bull-rush Chaos, but got bumped away and then lost the match (and a leg too).
In the second bout, another Empire-styled gladiator (WS 32 S 33 T 30 I 33 W 12) faced an Orc (WS 32 S 32 T 30 I 34 W 12). This time both gladiators ran at each other, but in the last moment, the Orc sidestepped and drew first blood by a good blow to Empire's head. Empire was a little disoriented (and scarred), but managed to jump back and avoid a terrible hack that would have split him in two. Then he sneaked past the Orc and quickly turned, his blow landing even before his opponent could strike - but it was too gentle. In exchange, Orc's axe severed Empire's finger and bit deeply into his arm....
Summary: So, did the house rules work? Yes. And no. Both bouts were brief and bloody, and in general the fighters managed to survive incredible two hits instead of one, but outguessing your opponent is still the best way to go. I'm leaving the house rules as they are and play some more (for more data and for the fun of it), which I look forward to.
Familia GladiatoriaFG is a free set of rules, and as such it comes with its drawbacks. Like, no support and rules with important things missing or unclear. Even then, there is a shortage of good man-to-man rules in the world, so why not try these? The main points of attraction were simultaneous action selection and possibility to create your own gladiator, along with a simple campaign rules. I read the rules, printed the cards, statted up my four trusted pit fighters and decided what cards each style got (as you can hardly thrust or parry with a flail and so on). There was time enough for one match only, so we each picked one gladiator (Chaos vs Orc), threw them into the pit and let the games begin.
In FG, each gladiator has three stats: Strength, Agility and Status. The former two serve as life points and the basis for action evaluation: Each action card played requires you to add higher of 2 d6 rolls to the stat used and to the bonus (or malus) for an action our opponent selected.
For example, if I choose "Feint" action and my opponent "Defend", I roll 2d6, add higher roll to my Agility and add 2 as a bonus for the opponent choosing defence. My opponent does similar math, and if I get higher sum than him, my feint worked and I may turn his gladiator one hexside.
The rules were less than clear on the point whether you choose 3 action cards and then select one of them in each phase or use them in a fixed, pre-planned sequence. Most of the match we played the first way, but it didn't feel very rewarding so we switched to sequence planning - and there was much joy and laughter, at least till the point when Orc collapsed, failed his mercy roll and Chaos had to slit his throat.
Summary: Interesting little game, although you have to fill in the gaps in rules. I plan to play it again, but in a smaller arena (to make pushing actually usefull) and with one more action: Side-step that allows to move sideways and adds a little more to the tactics.