The Gladius! Project

A Game of Gladiator Combat, Management and Toadying the Emperor

Copyright 1998 by Walter O'Hara

Greetings.  I have a secret fascination with Roman gladiators... the class of men (and sometimes women) who fought to death for pay in the heyday of the Roman Empire.  The paegentry, the lifestyle and the acts of certain gladiators are well documented-- but surprisingly little is written about the conduct of a gladiator fight.  What is known, however, is fascinating... and (I think) a fitting subject for a game.  We'll see.  The Gladius! project is still in development-- but so far this is what it is all about:

Gladius! is a multiplayer game of Gladiator fighting, Management and Political Survival set during the Roman Empire (sounds impressive.  What does it mean?)

Players take the part of Quaestors, sponsors of gladiator fights in the Coliseum.  Their goal is to increase their prestige factor to the point where the Praetorian Guard might consider them as possible contenders for the throne itself.  Fail in this, and you will be sent in exile to your villa on Capri.  One Quaestor plays the part of the Lanista (banker/Gladiator Auctioneer/bet holder).  There is a "virtual player," called the Emperor, who is run by a series of random rolls on tables.  The Emperor can have a significant impact on the life of a Quaestor-- he may capriciously exile him or reward him with a private villa at any given moment.

Quaestors start the game with a certain amount of money (the game currency, which is provided, is called sesterces).   They first conduct the Lanista Phase, where they will purchase via bidding and counter-bidding gladiators (a Lanista, by the way, was a cross between a fight arranger, a slave auctioneer, and a gladiator coach).  They will manage a team of gladiators called a string.  

Then the Bout is arranged-- Quaestors can risk one, some or none of their string in a bout.  If the Emperor demands it, they MUST risk certain gladiators.  This is a random action. 

Betting commences.  Players can bet on their OWN fighter, or a fighter run by another player-- but only if that fighter isn't in a bout with the betting player's gladiator-- rigged games aren't allowed.  Players risk whatever amount of sesterces the other players accept.  Sometimes the Emperor (who is a betting fool and he hates to lose) will insist on a bet with you; this is very risky but earns a rich reward, both in money, estates, and slaves, but also in toadying points. 

Combat is simple; just roll a fist full of dice and the sixes are hits.  There are several modifiers for factors such as armor, beast fighting, weapons, wounds, etc.

After combat is resolved, tally up your success on the Bread and Circuses Chart.  Was the crowd happy?  Then the Emperor is happy.  Was the crowd disappointed?  Then the Emp is pretty disappointed, too.  The Quaestor's marker slides up and down the B&C slide...

In short games, players compete to see how well they have toadied, er, how much Imperial favor they have won for themselves.   In longer games, they will maintain a single quaestor over a series of bouts, managing their strings of gladiators, buying new ones, retiring old ones, sabotaging the other players and (hopefully, always increasing in popularity with the Emperor and the People).

And a new game begins...

Playtest files:

I've included PDF files here for A series of charts that will eventually get put on two player aid cards that will come with the game.   These files require the Adobe Acrobat Reader, available for free.  You can also print them if you like. 

The Basic Combat Chart

Modifers and "To Hit" locations

Armor Coverage

That's all I have to upload now.. Things to come include:

Playtest Rules

Beast Fighting Chart

Play Money


Page Copyright 1998, by Walter O'Hara.  All Rights Reserved.