This afternoon I ran a playtest of Furt's new gladiator game Blood on the Sands with my sixth formers who were reduce in number to three because of university visits. We've just come to the end of the module on Roman Entertainment, and they'd helped out on our maths/classics morning for the year 8 students from one of our local feeder schools; they deserved some entertainment themselves!
Casting more recent gender stereotypes to one side, the three girls proved to be rather bloodthirsty and keen to fight, maim and kill for the amusement of the editor (i.e. me).
Our pairing was between an Hispanic thraex called Lorenzo and an African murmillo by the name of Ubuntu. Slightly hardier than your average gladiator (both began with Stamina 4), these two were otherwise unremarkable and as good for worm food as any other.
|We used the mat and figures from the em4 Ludus gladiatorus prepainted set, ignoring the columns|
Despite his more cumbersome shield, Ubuntu siezed the initiative and charged straight towards his foe, intent on finishing things quickly. Lorenzo waited for the charge then picked his moment and dived towards the murmillo bringing his sica swinging down to clang harmlessly off the large scutum carried by the African.
|mano a mano, so close they can smell each other's breath...|
Having seen the speed of the nimble thraex, Ubuntu was more determined than ever to see him off before the weight of his shield tired him out. Gathering himself behind the screen of his shield, the African burst forward like a bolt from a ballista, driving the point of his gladius with every ounce of his strength towards the heart of the Spaniard for a killing blow. The crowd gasped as it seemed certain that the murmillo must be victorious..... but at the last moment Lorenzo once more twirled around his leaden-footed foe and viciously raked his blade down the unarmoured right leg of Ubuntu, cutting to the bone and leaving a bright spray of blood across the arena sand. The crowd roared with such ferocity and delight that the editor feared it was an uprising and had the trumpets blown for the amphitheatre to be cleared (okay, so the bell went for the end of the lesson).
Once order had been restored, there was little doubt in anyone's mind who had been the victor: Lorenzo of Hispania, thraex!
|Lorenzo, barely touched by his opponent's blade and not even out of breath...|
|Ubuntu, exhausted, bleeding and his right leg disabled and nearly useless|
Having only played through a couple of full turns I don't think I can yet offer any deep and meaningful comments on the game, other than it is a whole lot of fun! I want to get a game in with me playing, rather than umpiring. It was a satisfyingly narrative way of representing man-to-man combat, "crunchy" without ever becoming so over-detailed or focused upon following the mechanics that the flow of the game was lost.... even with a pair of (slow!) first-time-gamers in the arena.
If you're not part of the playtest but you like the idea of gaming gladiatorial combat, you've got a treat coming when this is released. First impressions? Brilliant!