Friday, October 21, 2011

Pollice Verso

Lo and behold, finally a sign of life. All I can say to excuse myself by now would be the usual "life's gone crazy"-nonsense. I'll leave that to the Mountaineer's Log.

In between various commitments I try to do something purely enjoyable, at times even something pretty useless, at least in gaming terms. From last year's experiences, that's absolutely mandatory to keep my enthusiasm for all this 'serious hobby-work'. Therefore, recently, I squeezed into my painting scheme some gladiators. Gladiators are one of the many subjects I always had some interest in (like in all things vaguely Roman, I admit), but never really cared to start a gaming project with. Years ago I bought a boxed set from em4 Miniatures, which included some - actually quite neatly - prepainted models. With no effort involved, I used them in one single game of Red Sand, Blue Sky (RSBS) - and was deeply bored. That said, it wasn't the rules' fault, for historical gladiatorial combat - like most sports games - doesn't really lend itself to a gripping tabletop gameplay.


In the end, RSBS went to the bookshelf, only recently to be rediscovered. In fact, I have quite a few sets in my collection, which I flicked through on a lazy afternoon lately. RSBS got me hooked with two aspects: the ability to play it solo and its campaign system.  These days there's a serious lack of regular gaming buddies round here - and of focus for my part. Playing solo and playing campaigns might solve both issues.

From the Northern Wastes

On the one hand, like all Two Hour Wargames rules, RSBS works as some sort of reaction test system, which eases the use of "NPCs" controlled by the game itself. The campaign, on the other hand, is simple enough to begin with and possibly amend it later on: You start as the owner of a gladiatorial school (ludus) somewhere in the outer rim of the Roman Empire. By fighting in the arena your successful gladiators will gain reputation for themselves - and you, as their owner, as well. Your ultimate goal is to provide fighters for the great Imperial games in Rome. By now I'm pondering the idea of managing two or three competing ludi myself, because there's very little paperwork involved.

Carassius Auratus

For a start, I acquired some additional gladiators from Crusader Miniatures. This is an excellent range of great historical accuracy (apart from their nod to the "Gladiator" movie). That's even more important, since I wanted to stick to history as much as possible. Therefore, as a first step, I wanted to complement the prepainted models I already own (not pictured here, since I didn't paint them) to get the most common historical pairings. Gladiatorial combat was quite a stylised affair with surprisingly many rules in place. Besides the gritty part, it's rather comparable to Japanese sumo than to a brainless hack'n'slay. Spiritual notions like Good vs. Evil or the representation of different virtues like Agility vs. Steadfastness weren't at least as much as important as a good show in general. Of course, spilling blood was essential as well, but we don't know how lethal a gladiator's job actually was. After all, unlike those poor souls who were sentenced to die in the arena, gladiators were trained professionals, mostly well-fed and medically cared for. Some historians estimate they were supposed to fight only in two or three serious combats a year, since games were expensive and gladiators quite an investment of time and money.

A notorious braggart

Arguably the most famous type of gladiator is the retiarius (net-man). He's lightly equipped, the only gladiator wearing no helmet. Instead his face was protected by a large shoulder guard. Net and trident were his offensive weapons, symbolically associating him with the sea and/or Neptune. The retiarius' usual opponent was the secutor (follower), equipped with helmet, medium-sized shield, an armguard (often made of scales resembling fish) and a sword. Better suited to close combat, the secutor had to catch his opponent (hence the name) without getting entangled in the retiarius' net. Actually it must have been a well-balanced pairing, since the event of a retiarius being defeated by an already 'caught' secutor was noteworthy enough to be eternised in a mosaic.


A variation on the secutor might have been the scissor (cleaver). There is no reliable evidence for this type of gladiator, although he's included in most miniatures ranges, presumably for his scary appearance. The scissor has been reconstructed by Marcus Junkelmann as a heavily armoured secutor with his shield replaced by "Roman scissors", a blade resembling a mincing knife, used in both offensive and defensive (e.g. cutting the net). Perhaps just fancy stuff, but in my games he could be spared for the more cultivated regions of the inner Empire or used as some sort of 'boss monster'.

A notorious womaniser

That's all for today. These chaps now have to earn some nicknames. So, next up are some games, and then perhaps some replacements for the prepainted figs (or even just pimping them).

 Painted in September to October 2011. Miniatures by Crusader Miniatures.


Flags of War said...

Top work, they look great.

The Angry Lurker said...

Those are excellent especially the shield on the second one, used to own a lot of gladiators.

BigRedBat said...

Yes, also love that shield!


Brummie said...

Very nice paintjobs on all 3 figures. Shield looks great. But the last figure is my favorite looks very menacing

Tank Girl said...

I too love the last miniature - Very grim looking and means business.



Furt said...

Oh - these are nice and right up my alley. My favorite is the retiarius - nicely painted. Gladiator games with miniatures too often become static and boring. I am yet to find a set of rules that really impresses me.


Giles said...

Fantastic work, Sire G. I note the attention to detail, such as the mud on the clothes and the facial expressions. Most excellent!

Best wishes


Faust said...

Glad to have you back!

Dalauppror said...

Very nice looking gladiators. Me and my club mates are in a gladiator period to...much thanks to the Warhammer Historical Gladiator rules that was/are? on sale...realy nice looking rulebook but i´m not realy shure about the rules...they work fine in the team fights we have played.

Looking forward to see some more gladiators from you.

Best regards dalauppror

Foss1066 said...

Love Carassius! Not the kind of guy I want to cross swords with. Around here we are quite fond of Habet! Hoc Habet! rules from Flagship games.

Rokurota said...

Great work!
One question, where can find this background?


Sire Godefroy said...

Thanks to each and any of your comments. Should have reacted much earlier, but hadn't to say something useful. I still don't @Rokurota, for I cannot remember where I got the background image from. It's just printed out. Maybe try Coolminiornot, they hoard such things.


Rokurota said...

Thanks Godefroy , I try this...


EinarOlafson said...

Very inspiring!! Love the skin tone you have used for the African secutor!!


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