Monday, 27 July 2015

Arenas (2)

Gateway without the stickers.
The first thing I noticed when my Playmobil arena arrived, was the size of it!
It really is a very large model and I would need a baseboard to mount it on which was eventually sourced by my #2 son from a piece of scrap wood that he kindly donated to the cause and he also chamferred  the edges.
Facade with the holes now covered.
There are eight pieces of identical walls, one main gateway and two 'seating' areas that make up the whole, all with their own quirks and problems (such as the various cavities left from the molding process).
The main entrance also had some slight damage to the gate , which was left as it didn't detract from the overall appearance.

I cut and shaped some thin pieces of plastic card to fit over the holes of the facade and added a couple more solely for decoration as can be seen in the photograph above.
Wall pieces showing the join and the recessed cavities.
 The eight walls that made up the bulk of the arena also had a couple of things that I didn't particularly like, namely the obvious join between them and yet another molding anomaly, the reverse cavity of external column.
I have seen these cavities and joints left as they are, but that wasn't a very satisfying solution to me.
There were three areas that needed looking at, the two mentioned above plus the top 'slot' that ran around all the walls
Section of wall with the cavities filled.
The recess of the column needed filling in, which I did with a dowel-type of stick, cut to length,  I think they're lolly-pop sticks! They dropped into the 'hole' a bit too well and were raised out a little with a matchstick inserted behind them. The top cavity, where the capital of the column would be on the outside was filled with filler (shock horror!) as was the 'slot'.
The assembled arena, sitting on its baseboard
 The join between sections would be covered with a coffee stirrer cut to length.
I'd already assembled the model, (coffee stirrers  and all) and undercoated it when other cavities came to light, which also needed filling. These were obviously as a result of the molding process too, but I also wanted to give some 'thickness' to some otherwise very thin walls.
On the photographs, luckily these areas can all been seen as white, being a combination of foamboard and filler. The back of the balcony above the gates is a prime example of the use of foamboard.

The clips than can be seen are holding the wall sections along with the coffee stirrers (for extra strength)whilst the glue sets and gave extra support whilst the model was moved around.
The photograph shows the end wall of the seating area with its cavity filled and filler where the wall sections meet on the outside. The tops of the walls were also given a thin coating of filler for both texture and to blend in with filler that was used on the sections where the walls met.
The Dias above the entrance also had another piece added to it to heighten it a little further.
 The photograph on the right shows the filler between the seating and main stand, but also shows the plastic pegs that hold the various model pieces together.
Unfortunately I didn't take that any more photographs whilst working on this, but I hope the few I did were helpful in relating what went into my version of this.
Next week I'll be showing how I  made the hex flooring for the model (foamboard).

Monday, 20 July 2015


The Barszo Ampitheatre - about $400! (audience extra)

For the first two hundred years or so Gladiator combats were not fought in arenas, but were rather more improvised events in a market place or other suitable open public area. The seating arrangements for the spectators were purpose built for each event until sometime in the early first century AD when the first purpose built ampitheatres were built.
Any playing area could therefore be suitable to play a Gladiator game on but of course everyone wants their own arena to fight and I'm no exception!

The commerical arenas available are fairly few and far between, but what few there are, are very good. The Barszo arena above is for 54mm gladiators (of which they make a mere two !) but can also be extended into a circus for chariot racing. However at a wopping $400+, plus postage costs, plus the extended waiting list makes this an implausable choice for many I suspect. The spectators too are rather expensive at about $20 for eleven of them which makes purchasing any significant number prohibitive too (at least for my slim means).
The Marx Arena
 The Marx Toys' arena is no longer in production I believe, but was re-released a few years ago and it can still be found occassionally on e-bay and similar sites.
I think the Marx figures are 60mm in height but the arena would be suitable for both 54mm figures and for the smaller scales of 25mms and 28mms.
There are many extras with the Marx arena, food vendors, spectators and chariots as well as some dubious looking gladiators!

Add caption

A very suitable arena for the smaller scale gladiators can be purchased from Steve Barber, but is another rather expensive purchase at about £160.
There are also all the extras that you could wish for too (all at an extra price too of course)
Full house !
There are few other alternative choices for commercial arenas, but instead of going down the 'model' route I opted to go down the 'toy' route for my arena and like many others I opted for a 'Playmobil'
This model is also not currently in production but is regularly available on ebay etc.
The price of course varies from around £20-£40 plus postage. It is a very large model and would fit 'comfortably' on a three foot square table, with just inches to spare!
I've seen a few other Playmobil arenas converted for play with both 54mm figures and their smaller 25-28mm brethren. With the smaller figures the arena looks vast and fits with 54mm figures perfectly for my purposes.
It does have its drawbacks though as it is a toy and has 'play features' that may need dealing with. If the 'stickers' have been applied to it then they'll need removing, which can be a pain (but remember White Spirit is your friend) and as it has gaps and strange cavities probably due to its moulding requirements.
The photograph on the right shows the model without the 'stickers' covering the moulding holes and there are a few other similar problems that have to be dealt with too.

I'll be showing what I've done with my version next time. 

Monday, 13 July 2015

The Real Gladiators

So, I've looked through various rules, books and the Internet for as much information as possible about the various types of gladiator, their fighting styles, armour, equipment, weapons and so on.
It didn't come as much of a surprise to me to find that there was so much information out there, but what was surprising was that there was so little of it definitive.
For example, there are many references to types of Gladiators mentioned in texts only briefly, that have no illustrations, or conversely there are illustrations of Gladiators that have no text references.
 I also discovered a lot of information that I'd never have considered had I not done a minimal amount of research. as an example, take the well known figure of the Retiarius (the guy with the net and trident), he was a late addition to the gladiator family, added sometime in the first century AD - about 300 years (give  or take) after the start of the gladiatorial combat.

Rule books seem to love all these different types (who doesn't like variety after all ?), but mostly what they come up with for their definitions of type or fighting styles etc. seems to me now merely conjecture. It is also apparent that different sources have their own ideas on the various Gladiators too- whilst one reference gives "Andabatae" (restricted sight gladiators or completely blind) as riding at each other another won't. There is also evidence that there were "Essedarii" or gladiators that fought from chariots and many rule-sets include them, but there is no definitive evidence to be found in any of my reading as to how they actually went about being used in the arena. Similarly one reference states that they were Celtic chariots used by the Gauls and can't remember the latter ever using chariots against the Romans, even with my limited knowledge of matters ancient.

There are of course Gladiators that we know a lot about, that provide continuation throughout all the games held in the arena - about eight in total, but there are a lot more that have no more than passing mentions.
Here's a list of those I've come across.

Andabatae (Sight Restricted Gladiators)
Arbelas(Fighter with an Arbelas - a type of rounded dagger)
Bestiarii (Beast Fighters)
Dimachaeri (Gladiators With Two Swords) 
Eques (Horseback Gladiators - fought on foot) 
Gallus ( A heavy Gladiators ) 
Essedari (War-Chariot Fighters) 
Gladiatrix (Female Gladiator)
Hook Fighter
Hoplomachi (Armoured Fighters) 
Laquerarii (Lasso Fighters) 
Murmillones, orMyrmidons etc.(Gladius and Shield Gladiators) 
Provocatores (Challengers Protected by a Breastplate) 
Retiarii (Net Fighters) 
Sagittarius (Mounted  (?) Bowman) 
Samnites: (Large Shields and Plumed Helmets) 
Secutores (Two Small Eye-Holes in Helmet) 
Scissores (Carvers - Short Swords) 
Thracian, or Thraex (Curved Sword - Sica) 
Velites (Spear Fighters)
Venatores (Wild animal Hunters)

It's also apparent that there is repeated confusion. The "fish man" (the Myrmidon) wasn't the obvious opponent for the "net-man" (the Retiarius) - that was the secutor by many accounts.
The term "Samnite" was probably dropped in favour of more recent opponents of the Romans (maybe the "Thracian" or "Thraex"), as the term "Samnite" isn't found later in the records. (Hardly surprising as the Gladiator games lasted for over 700 years!

As for my games, I will of course being using as many different types as possible (for variety) and
justifying them in my own mind.
As an example of this, I think The Contra-retarius is a generic name for many of the stranger "gladiators". So, taking the examples of the "Hook Fighter", "Scissors" and "Arbelas", rather than have these three different ones, I'll just use Contra-retarus to encompass all three.
Something I came across recently also made me think, the 'weapon' depicted as being used by the "Arbelas" closely resembles a saddlemaker's knife - just saying. I haven't actually come across any other reference that mentions this, but I found it interesting.

Next week I'll be posting about arenas and other things I've done recently; this will also be the first post I haven't pre-written since preparing the first six before April ! 

Monday, 6 July 2015

More on Rules

The "new" blank Log Sheet
The Avalon Hill Gladiator rules, as previously posted were my first port of call when looking for a suitable set of rules for Gladiator combats, however they were fairly dated and didn’t completely tick all the boxes I wanted for my Gladiator campaign game. One thing I didn’t have though was a blank log sheet to record the Gladiator’s, details on and so I resorted to look on BoardGameGeek to see if they had any downloadable files of said log sheet.

Much to my surprise there were still active fans of the game and the game had developed in the years since I’d last played it.
Whilst I knew of the existence of the animal rules from a copy of “The General” there had also been quite a few revisions of the rules by individuals, along with suggestions for new rules.
The two issues of “The General” that were relevant (Vol. 18 #4 & Vol.19 #4) are mentioned and both are available on line. 

The General Vol 18. No.4 (Nov-Dec 1981)

The first issue gives the author’s explanation of the game along with several of the more common Gladiator types that could be used in the game.
The second issue has an article explaining how to combine Avalon Hill’s other Roman game, “Circus Maximus” with “Gladiator” into one vast Campaign.
There are also files for rules that changed the game slightly (The Billings rules) and a large file of new rules entitled “Gladiator – Colosseum Edition, which included many new rules for Gladiator types, different combat types, solo play and a whole host more whilst their new campaign rules are extensive.

Comparing the various glut of new rules was going to be a long task, but I felt I now had all the necessary pieces to check all the boxes I’d set out to do, it was just a matter of picking and choosing which bits I would keep, which I’d drop and which I’d alter.
Here’s what I was considering

I now had two full campaigns plus my own ideas to combine together into a suitable format and I’d incorporate the best of the ideas (removing all references for chariots racing) for example.

I had a large set of extensive rule ideas to sort through and select the bits I wanted to implement (for example I ditched the idea of “Talents”, but retained the idea of “Prestige”. Most of the solo rules could be deleted as I intended to play against other players.

I would incorporate the specifics of the Gladiator types into my game and maybe add a few more that weren’t given or maybe were given just a brief mention- Effectively, I could drop Light, Medium and Heavy types for their historical counterparts, the Velite, Murmidon or Crupplearius, together with some suggested armour distributions.

Of course there were bits I’d re-write to the original form that I liked(back to only one major action per combat phase) but I'd also be keeping some new versions of the old rules (a maximum attack points increase for a specific attack.)

All of this would take a lot of time but with all the reading I had set myself, the numerous figures I had to buy, assemble and paint plus a playing arena to create I did know it was going to be a fairly long time before I was going to be anywhere near ready to play the game !.

I'd also like to take this opportunity to welcome those brave souls that have elected to become followers of this blog, something I'd really not anticipated and in other news this is thee penultimate post that I have prepared !