Last night we had an evening of gladiators scheduled at the Gong Garage Gamers, although Ralph and Austin played a game of 'Flames of War' that I completely failed to document in any way.
However we initially abandoned gladiatorial combat in favour of that other arena favourite - chariot-racing. We used my newly acquired 'Charioteer!' rules from Two Hour Wargames. I played this at MOAB on Sunday, and enjoyed it a lot, and had managed a few games during the week, pitting a single chariot against three NPC ones. I was ready to unleash my knowledge on other people ...
Three of us played, but we added in a fourth NPC chariot. We all took different options - Caesar went for speed, Bryan opted for a strong charioteer and I went for a skillful one, The single NPC chariot was unspecialised.
Charioteer uses a neat system where you only track where the chariots are relative to each other, and where they are, as a group, on the track. There's a limited width to the track, and some chariots perform better on the straights whilst other perform better on the curves, so you have to time your overtaking carefully.
You can see the setup here - this is the positions of the chariots as they came out of the starting-gates. White (the NPC) was in the lead, Green (Bryan) was second, Blue (Caesar) was third and Red (me) was bringing up the rear. Despite having a fast chariot, Caesar opted to hold back at the start, as this allows you to build up the game's expendable bonus dice. Sometimes it's best to allow the front-runners some time to wear themselves out before making your move.
A little way around the track and the positions had changed - Bryan and Caesar had both challenged the lead chariot (Bryan suffering a good whipping in the process), and failed, which left me an opening on the inside to overtake them both and move into second position. In this picture you can see Caesar's Blue chariot about to make a passing attempt on Bryan.
He succeeded, and tried to use his speed to take on my Red chariot as well, but my driver skill was equal to the task of holding him off.
The positions stayed much the same for the rest of the first lap, and into the second, until something in the crowd startled Caesar's horse team. His chariot lost ground, and Bryan's collided with it. Both drivers fought for control ...
... and Bryan failed, his chariot flipping down the track as a battered wreck. His driver walked away uninjured - his great strength saved him there. The marker was courtesy of the 'Flames of War' game.
Now it was a three chariot race. I held onto my second place, carefully building up bonus dice. But at the start of the third lap Caesar challenged me, and kept doing so until he took second place for himself.
On the final straight I made a bold try to get past Caesar and the NPC, but couldn't manage it. On the last section Caesar threw everything he had into challenging the NPC chariot, and his speed was sufficient to pass it ...
... for the win!
'Charioteer!' delivered a great race, easy to play, but with a number of different strategies for the players to try. Bryan was unlucky that his charioteer's one advantage was whipped away from him early in the game, whilst I couldn't convert my skill into position when it counted - perhaps I should have gambled more and used it to force other players off the track. That has its disadvantages as well, however, as other players are sometimes your best shield against other other players ...
You'll note that the game-controlled NPC chariot actually held the lead for most of the race and came close to winning it.
We switched to gladiators after that; I adjudicated a game in which we taught Bryan the basics of 'Munera Sine Missione'. Bryan took a Thracian against Caesar's Murmillo.
It was a brisk fight - Bryan managed to inflict a few light wounds on Caesar, using his extra speed to dart in and attack, but a few good blows from the Murmillo saw the Thracian down and appealing to the crowd. The crowd were merciful.
I then played Caesar, as he pitted a Retiarius named Cupido against the awesome Hero.
The piece of paper was an emergency net, to show that Hero was entangled. However despite being in that state for about half of the game, Hero fended off Cupido's attempts to finish him and even cut his way out of the net. However Cupido finally managed to gain the upper hand, and forced Hero to yield. This time the crowd were not merciful. Possibly the fact that both gladiators spent a lot of the fight falling over their own feet and dropping their weapons didn't help.
Both games delivered sufficient entertainment for the evening, so we called it a day.