Saturday, 7 May 2016

Gladiator Campaign

Last night at the Sutherland Shire Gamers, I played in a three way gladiator campaign with Steve and Martin using the free Munera Sine Missione rules. We tried a few experimental amendments to version 2.3 that are mentioned on Alan Saunders' Stronghold Rebuilt site, and other ideas to provide some narrative between campaign fights.

In brief, the way the campaign works is that each player has 6 gladiators, and fights with two of them every round, so that with three players, there are three fights each round (each player effectively fights the other). The fights are sort of conducted simultaneously, one turn is conducted by both players in fight 1, the one turn in fight 2, then one turn in fight 3, and then back to fight one. This continues until all fights are complete. It also means that all players will know what is happening in every fight, and does tend to keep everyone engaged.

A winning gladiator can gain a skill if they beat an opponent with equal or more skills (but not less). For each gladiator that wins, the player (their ludus) gains 1 prestige point. 2 prestige points are gained if a gladiator with more skills is defeated, and 1 prestige point is lost if a gladiator is beaten by one with less skills. This method seems to favour all gladiators skilling up at the same time, as there is a fair amount of downside risk with little reward to running your better gladiators against rookies.

Anyway, with printed cards for each gladiator, this is how the three side-by-side games looked;

In the first round, all three of us won a fight, so all got 1 prestige point, and we all had a gladiator that had acquired a skill. There were also two deaths, one was an outright mortal wound in the arena, the other by the crowd giving the thumbs down. In general, the crowd was quite miserable, and despite many attempts by gladiators working the crowd, the reaction received was lukewarm at best.

In the second round, Steve and Martin won a game each, the third between myself and Martin ended in a draw. As none of the gladiators selected in this round had any skills, Martin and Steve both now had 2 gladiators with 1 skill each, and also had 2 prestige points, whereas I was stuck on 1 prestige point. However, all gladiators survived.

Martin in particular had a tendency to use a Retiarius in the fights, managing to net his opponents in each game. In the below scene, Afra managed to entangle Tigris;

In the third round, Steve and myself had a skilled gladiator each facing a rookie gladiator put forward by Martin, the third fight was between two rookies. I gained 2 wins, so going to 3 prestige points, however, as my skilled gladiator beat someone of lower skills, he was not able to test for a new skill. Martin beat Steve's skilled gladiator, so he gained 2 prestige points, whereas Steve lost 1 prestige point. One of Steve's gladiators even suffered the dread double 2 result and lost the appeal to the crowd, who's demeanor never improved.

There were the usual highlights such as broken weapons, dropped shields and helmets and knockdowns. In one fight, both gladiators lost their weapons! Even the referees were used to effect as they bumbled around, getting in the way of an attacker and in one instance, standing on a dropped shield. However, the crowds were generally unmoved by the spectacle, rarely giving out any favour.

As it turned out, each fight took about 15 minutes to resolve, so one campaign round took around 45 minutes, so we only got the three rounds (12 fights in total) in for the evening. I thought we would get through it a little faster, but it might be too ambitious thinking that the campaign can complete in a normal evening.

Even though the fights are very dice luck dependent, I thought the campaign as a background did give some objectives to aim for and made it into an engaging multiplayer game.

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