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Gladiator: Quest for the Rudis» Forums » Reviews

Subject: Gladiator - Qest for the Rudis. Review rss

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oystein eker
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My first impression was that the unknown (to me) designer James Trunzo, is a Rome historian addict, that made a game of his passion.

Checking his CV, he designed Pro Tennis (Avalon Hill 1983), Gunman`s Law and Title Bout. - With heritage from Avalon Hill, Gladiator advanced design make sense. With a designer making a game of his passion, he would go for a simpler mechanism type I attack, you defend, You attack, I defend sequence with dice rolls.

No doubt James Trunzo passion and experience is single man vs single man fight design, and then done Rome historical research, to make this gladiator game historical correct.

You find a lot of historical stuff in the 30 page manual. Myth busting facts about thumbs up/down signal, "We salute you....)" ceremony speech. Facts about clothing, armor,weapons, death rate. And finally the name of the game: the Rudis. A small wooden sword awarded to the few, who got their freedom from slavery.

Components are good. Mounted board. Linen cards. Heavy stock counters. But still a kind of budget feel to the layout and artwork. Lucky, money is put into playability. A lot of money could have been saved by using dice, and not the 100 card arena deck. With the deck the game plays extremely fast.

There 4 types of gladiators in this game. From the heavy armed Secutor, to the light agile "fisherman" Retiarills gladiator with his net and trident weapon. Each gladiator comes with 4 different stats cards ranging from rookie to veteran.

Each gladiator have the usual stats, such as Stamina and Strength numbers. You should make a simple table in Word to print out, and use during the game. There are tracks for Stamina and HP on the board, but there are other numbers that may change too. At least have pen and paper ready.

Each gladiator has his own deck of cards for attack, and one deck for defend. This is the heart of game. The description of each action is important to lift the game from pure numbers to a cinematic experience.

There is a steep, but very short learning curve. It is hard to explain the flow when most of the sub rules are printed on the cards. A ton of wording explaining the game flow in a not so good fashion. A flow chart similar to Net Runner would work fine. But it is not that difficult. Now I can teach you the game face to face in literally seconds, by just start playing, after first round you will know the mechanism.

Dice rolling is substituted by flipping cards and check result. Similar to Up Front. No doubt ordinary dice rolling will slow the game, and distract the fluid storytelling flow in the game. A very good decision to use cards. - But remember to flip a new card for each new action.

Most important to note is that there is no save roll (I did this mistake when learning the game). If you fail, other player will automatically succeed.

To succeed, you need to "roll" equal or lower than your target number. Fail and the other player succeed automatically with no check.

A typical flow would be like this:
(New card flip abbreviated to -nc-)

Player A have control. (Control means you usually will play an attack card)
Check fail. Player B have control and selects an attack card, announcing attack type and aiming (low,middle,high)
Player A picks a defend card that is valid for type of attack and aim.

Now check who is active. Attacker or defender.
Card reads "attack"
check random number for success.

damage "roll"
where on the body hits. Subtract for armor.

New round. Player B still in control
Control check passed. Player B still in control and plays an attack card. Player A respond with valid defend card.

Check who is active.
Defender fail.

Attacker auto success.
Check for damage.
Where on body.

New round. Player B still in control.
Fail. Player A in control and plays an attack card. Player B respond with valid defend card


Now the all important storytelling flow. The actions runs fast, the story is fluid.

First time I tried it solitaire, I just used the least stamina consuming actions, and the fight was grinding down to a kill. A kind of meh experience.

Next fight I varied more. To gain stamina I rested while in control.
Bruca lowered his sword and shield catching his breath for a few seconds.

Next attack was a stamina consuming leap and thrust.
Next Bruca jumped up and attacking with sword. Ferox raised his shield. The sword skidded off the shield and hit his left shoulder, a light bleeding wound. A disappointing result for this all in attack

Low on stamina I now picked the "trip" attack (No stamina use).
Bruca finds an opportunity to kick Verox leg and hope he will fall, but Ferox leaps back. Bruca hesitates. Verox lifts his shield ready for an attack.

Now the game shines. Rest, gain some stamina for the stronger attacks. Save energy by defending with sword, and not the shield, then try something special with combined defend. A blocking shield, with a spin around and slash against the chest. And you are not allowed to use the same card twice in a row. If you fall, you attempt to raise, fail this, you will try to throw sand in his eyes, before next raise attempt.

Fast, quick and fluid storytelling game, with a lot of variations in both attack and defend.
No need to check rules or tables during play. Everything is in the card played.
No ordinary you attack, I defend sequence of play.
Great historical background in the manual, gives a lot of color to gameplay. A fight can end with mercy and live to fight next day.

Rulebook not well organized. Tables scattered around.
Missing Player Aid. Most common rules and tables should be copied here.
Artwork average. Except for the gladiator cards. They are nice.
Playing too much in row will probably end up with just checking numbers: ending up very dull.

Final thoughts:
No doubt more stuff will come. There are a lot of counters with animals that are not used. i am glad that the designer did not rush to get those rules out. Hope he takes time to make them correct. I have a flashback on the campaign rules. Old Avalon Hill feel to them. There are solo rules, but guess those tables will break the flow of the story. I am happy to play the standard solitaire as it is.

I give this game a closed fist with thumb hidden. If you do not know what this mean, check the myth busting fact about thumbs up.

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