Wargaming has been getting a bit more busy and often times at the club we are finding ourselves with to many players! It is tough to accommodate everyone who shows up into a scenario designed for 4-5 players max and often you find several of these players doing nothing but waiting for their move or their troops to come on board. This also leads to many uncompleted games as time runs out do to the expanded game, distracting talking by non players, and degradation of the quality of the overloaded game. I have been looking for a simple game that could be used as a “filler” game for these times. Gladiatorial combat fits the bill nicely!
I have purchased 4-5 different Gladiator rules sets over the last 3 years, an arena, and all of Foundry’s Gladiators! This year I finally got around to painting some and playing a game! I have just tried “Morturi te Salutant” or “MTS” rules from Gladiator games that are now owned by Blackhat miniatures. The game is great! Takes about 30 mins to figure it out and start playing but after a first game of 1.3 hours we were doing a turn a minute. Most games will not last the 24 turns ours did! 12-15 looks about right. Our first game had lots of rule book checking but we pretty much found answers to everything. Bottom line is Steve and I played a complete game (me just squeaking out a victory after getting very bloody myself!) in just over an hour with me having studied the rules before hand and him never seeing them before the game. We had a good time, our first moves took about 5-10 minutes a piece to complete and at the end we were flying at 1-2 minute turns! Once we get the rules and moves down I plan to use a “Chess timer” to make play more exciting and this will also help to influence the crowds / emperors decision for a thumbs up or thumbs down plea!
The rules are not overly complex but do have a “depth” to them lacking in other simpler sets. Gladiator combat while being simple on one hand (mostly one on one combat in a terrain less space) is very complex on the other (to men trying to out think and out maneuver each other) and the author Bill Lucas has captured this very nicely. Play has you trying to figure out what your opponent is going to do and select a move to counter it if defending, or if you are attacking, a move to get around his defense. The move you pick is linked to an initiative number based on the moves difficulty.
This number, your gladiators type’s base initiative number, and a die roll decides who goes first. The real gem of the rules is the “move conversion” system, this allows you to convert your planned move into a “limited” number of counter moves. By having a counter move you eliminate silly results like two gladiators both turning and running away from each other, or both raising their shields to defend.
The few results charts are easy and help eliminate any paperwork. Results, damage, and wounds are treated in a more generic way than most rules. I like that because like the author states, Gladiators were defeated by being worn down and hacked away at bit by bit more often then the sudden disabling strike, although that strike can also happen in MTS. He just does not do the “bad gash to right leg” Gladiator “one less hex move per turn” or “severe cut to left arm” “no shield use” type of results that often ad a level of complexity not needed. Instead the damage is generic, Nick, Cut, Wound, and the results from number of those you receive ads up resulting in initiative loss, hit point loss and a degradation of your ability to cause damage coupled with a lessening ability of defending yourself equaling an easier chance for others to get a hit on you! Very elegant and one can easily imagine the damage from the blows. I also found myself connecting in my minds eye the moves of the gladiators from turn to turn and found that they made complete sense and flowed naturally. It made me think the author must have had some training in fencing! The rules also have a very nice campaign system and will allow animal fights, mass combats, and mounted gladiators!
Like I said I have limited experience with the rules so far and I will add to this report as we gain more by playing. The rules do have some faults although minor for me. Version 2.0 had no index, version 3.0 does but it’s more a page heading type and if you wanted to look at a particular like falling down you might not find it. Something’s could be better organized and more examples of combat “with pictures” would be icing on the cake! There are Character sheets for all the different classes and they are good but could use a little more work to make them excellent. I have been playing wargames for over 20 years and seen a lot of good and bad rule sets. I would give this one a very solid 8.2 on my scale!
The rules are available on Black hat Miniatures website as both a printed version or a PDF download.
Gladiators Painted so far!