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My name is Gavin McClements. I am a wargamer and family man, living in Los Gatos, which is a suburb of San Jose, CA. Building terrain is one of my favorite aspects of the wargaming hobby - in fact, lately I've become more interested in making my battlefields "pop" than in actually playing.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Roman Gladiators and Gladiatorial Games

A few weeks ago I was at a friends, and during one of our breaks, I wandered over to peruse his vast game shelves. I have done this countless other times, but this time I found a game that struck very near and dear to me:

I played Gladiator by Avalon Hill so much as a teenager! Seeing it on the shelf brought up the inevitable, and based on Aron's recommendation, I began watching Spartacus on Netflix. And yes, by the end of Season 2, I was looking up gladiatorial games. Who, me?
https://boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/43179/roman-gladiators was a list that got me started. Browsing the list over and over, I liked what I read, but without playing a game, how can you really ever be sure?

I started to develop some titles that I was leaning towards. I wanted something that allowed for variety between fighter types (before Spartacus, I hadnt really paid attention to the differences between Murmillo and Thraex, for example), focused primarily on 1v1 combat with a campaign system/opportunity to advance, and wasn't cumbersome (ie a little bit of how Gladiator was).

http://theminiaturespage.com/boards/msg.mv?id=146231 was another thread that really got me directed towards two rulesets in particular. After reading these two threads over and over, I have settled on these:

Arena Games - Freeform gladiator design, but it seems like it allows differences based on your actual model used.
Morituri Te Salutant with their Downloads section

Munera Sine Missione
Dragonrune: Arena of Death which is MSM but a Fantasy variant.

Of course, the Grandaddy of them all appears to be Blood on the Sands, still in development. I'll keep an eye on it as it progresses.

With any learning comes research. This article got me going while I watched Spartacus, and I have:
 http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1846034728/ref=ox_sc_act_title_1?ie=UTF8&psc=1&smid=A2UNZ2TUS880YF and
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1841762997/ref=ox_sc_act_title_2?ie=UTF8&psc=1&smid=ATVPDKIKX0DER on their way.

As far as miniatures go, yea, there are a ton in 28mm.

http://www.wargamesfoundry.com/ancients/gladiators/ seem to get the best press. My only uneducated problem with these superb sculpts are that some seem to not be "real" by what I've read. Murmillo should have rectangular shields from what I can tell, and Hoplomachus should have spears, not just short swords. (the original link to the BGG list confirms my suspicions). Bah, whatever, I'll buy a ton :) and YES, they look the best of all that I have seen.
These two are from this excellent thread and are from Foundry: http://www.lead-adventure.de/index.php?topic=61911.0

Crusader has an excellent line as well, though the look to be 28mm. They are reputed to be the most historically accurate, though they tend to be a bit beefy and not refined enough for my taste. I'll likely get some, but for a game that focuses on ONE model at a time, well, 28mm is rumored to be the "One True Scale" for detail. I just dont see that here.

Old Glory also has some minis... they actually look pretty nice and dynamic!

Michael Stockin at TWW pointed me towards these beauties by Moonraker.

Steve Barber has a KILLER arena and decent gladiators in 25mm (none that I plan on getting).

Brigade Games has some historical poses. I especially like their Thraex and Hoplomachus.

Black Hat, maker of Morituri Te Salutant, have their line up here. I am not impressed but something usable may come from this line.

So, now that I've got all that out of the way, I'll post my winners for the different Gladiator types here, and this shall begin my shopping list. Alphabetical list, with desriptions from the wiki:

Dimachaerus - The dimachaerus (Greek διμάχαιρος, "bearing two knives") used a sword in each hand. [I'd like a minimum of 2]
The unpainted Dimachaerus in the top right is nice. This is Crusaders ANG006

Hoplomachus - The Hoplomachus (Greek "armed fighter") wore quilted, trouser-like leg wrappings, loincloth, a belt, a pair of long shin-guards or greaves, an arm guard (manica) on the sword-arm, and a brimmed helmet that could be adorned with a plume of feathers on top and a single feather on each side. He was equipped with a gladius and a very small, round shield. He also carried a spear, which the gladiator would have to cast before closing for hand-to-hand combat. [I'd like a minimum of 2]
Crusader's ANG004 - the painted models look fantastic here, so I have to assume the non-painted models will paint up just as nicely.
This is the Brigade Games hoplomachus - I'm making a wild assumption that the purchased item comes with a spear!
Gauls - see Thraex, who "were introduced as replacements for the Gauls after Gaul made peace with Rome."

Gladiatrix - A female gladiator of any type. Also had to fight lions and bears by themselves. [I'll get one or two, most likely just for looks!]

Laquearius - The laquearius was a kind of retiarius who tried to catch his adversaries with a lasso (laqueus) instead of a net. He was equipped also with a dagger for use once he snared his opponent. [1, for originality's sake]
See the Foundry entry under Retiarius.

Murmillo - The murmillo (plural murmillones) or myrmillo wore a helmet with a stylised fish on the crest (the mormylos or sea fish), as well as an arm guard (manica), a loincloth and belt, a gaiter on his right leg, thick wrappings covering the tops of his feet, and a very short greave with an indentation for the padding at the top of the feet. They are heavily armoured gladiators: the murmillo carried a gladius (64–81 cm long) and a tall, oblong shield in the legionary style. [I'd like a minimum of 3]
These are nice sculpts from Crusader, "ANG001"

Provacator - In the late Republican and early Imperial era, the armament of a provocator ("challenger") mirrored legionary armature. In the later Imperial period, their armament ceased to reflect its military origins, and changes in armament followed changes in arena fashion only. Provocatores have been shown wearing a loincloth, a belt, a long greave on the left leg, a manica on the lower right arm, and a visored helmet without brim or crest, but with a feather on each side. They were the only gladiators protected by a breastplate (cardiophylax) which is usually rectangular, later often crescent-shaped. They fought with a tall, rectangular shield and the gladius. [minimum of 1]
See the Dimachaerus entry, above, for the Crusader model.
This is Brigade Games' offering. Nicely detailed. 

Retiarius - The retiarius ("net fighter") developed in the early Augustan period. He carried a trident and a net. The retiarius wore a loincloth held in place by a wide belt and a larger arm guard (manica) extending to the shoulder and left side of the chest. He fought without the protection of a helmet. Occasionally a metal shoulder shield (galerus) was added to protect the neck and lower face. [Miminum of 2]
Foundry's "Prime Contenders - GLAD012" has both a nice Retiarius and a Laquearius - fortunately the Thracian/Thraex looks historical enough to use.
This is Crusader's ANG003. I really like the top dynamic pose.

Samnite - an older style, it seems: The Samnite was an early type of heavily armed fighter that disappeared in the early imperial period. A "Samnite" gladiator was armed with a long rectangular shield (scutum), a plumed helmet, a short sword, and probably a greave on his left leg.
Here, I like the far-right model with the blue shield. This is Foundry's "Saleh's Survivors - GLAD011"

Secutor - The secutor ("pursuer") developed to fight the retiarius. As a variant of the murmillo, he wore the same armour and weapons, including the tall rectangular shield and the gladius. The helmet of the secutor, however, covered the entire face with the exception of two small eye-holes in order to protect his face from the thin prongs of the trident of his opponent. The helmet was also round and smooth so that the retiarius net could not get a grip on it. [minimum of 2]
This is Foundry's "Copplestone's Conquerors - GLAD015" - see the model third from the right, with the purple-trimmed shield. 
Brigade Games' offering, which is a little creepy looking, but does the trick.

Thraex - The Thraex (plural Thraeces, "Thracians") wore the same protective armour as the hoplomachi with a broad rimmed helmet that enclosed the entire head, distinguished by a stylized griffin on the protome or front of the crest (the griffin was the companion of the avenging goddess Nemesis), a small round or square-shaped shield (parmula), and two thigh-length greaves. His weapon was the Thracian curved sword (sica or falx, c. 34 cm or 13 in long).
Here, I like the 3rd model from the left, with the green accent. Foundry's "Prime Contenders - GLAD012"
This is Foundry's "Copplestone's Conquerors - GLAD015" - see the far right model.
See also the Hoplomachus entry, above, for the Crusader options.

Other buys:
Old Glory's ZGW-02 "Medium Gladiators"

Final Buy Guide:
Foundry - GLAD011, GLAD012, GLAD015, GLAD023, GLAD025
Crusader - ANG001, ANG003, ANG004, ANG006
Old Glory - ZGW-02 "Medium Gladiators"
Brigade Games - BG-GLA001B "Provocator", BG-GLA001A "Secutor", BG-GLA001E "Hoplomachus"

Buying this way will cost a lot of money, with quite a few "left overs", but it will let me field what I want and use the others as needed.

EDIT: this guy has a fantastic Gladiator-inspired blog:


  1. Westwind productions also did some lovely figs in their "Gladiator Wars" range - I have a few of the blisters and they are great. I don't think they make them any more but if you can find them, grab them!

  2. Thanks for the mention Kealios 'Pegasus' also do a good range of 1/72nd scale Gladiators as well as the 54mms that I use.

  3. The westwind figures are now available from Old Glory although I have not seen any.