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Author Topic: Blood on the Sands **NEW** Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears...  (Read 195768 times)

Offline Furt

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Okay, here we go, three matches and how they played out:

Great report Muzfish4- really appreciate you going to the effort.

I'll post observations/suggestions tomorrow.

Looking forward to your thoughts.
“A prisoner of war is a man who tries to kill you and fails, and then asks you not to kill him.”

http://adventuresinlead.blogspot.com/


Offline Dr Mathias

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Okay, here we go, three matches and how they played out:

Neat report, and super cool Anubis statues :)
a mixture of quick parts, sarcastic humour, reserve, and caprice.
Dr. Mathias's Miniature Extravaganza

Offline Muzfish4

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Thanks for the kind words. The Anubi statues are from Dark Fable. I purchased them with Wargods and Pulp gaming in mind but they seem to do the trick here as well. Just goes to show, as I often remind the Little Fish, the only miniatures purchase you regret is the one you don’t make.

Anyway, here are some general thoughts with ideas for one larger refinement and one new addition.

Playsheets:

  • The playsheets are very well designed and quite intuitive.
  • The fatigue track can go up and down over the course of a game and we use a marker rather than a pen/pencil to keep track of fatigue.
  • To save leafing through the rules, it would be useful to have the gladiator special attacks – or at least a precis of them - printed on their playsheet – perhaps in the token box?

Traits 

Most traits work pretty well and make the combatants individuals and add a lot of tactical flavour and decision making to the game with no significant increase in complexity.
Menacing is probably the least advantageous trait in that it is used once and even if it actually delivers a result it’s pretty small beer compared to other traits that deliver a bonus of some sort on an ongoing basis.

I haven’t played with Driven yet but it also looks to be a one trick pony (albeit a better one than Menacing).

Class traits all work well though I see the Retiarius as being more agile than defensive and might suggest he have the ability to convert one die into a manoeuvre die. Then again, the Secutor is a Chaser so perhaps if the traits were reversed the Chaser would never catch his prey.

Action dice

As suggested previously, when a roll is heavy with one thing but gives no other options the two-for-one (i.e. swap a double for a single die) works well.  We have refined this a little and are of the view that a two-for-one should only be allowed for normal attacks and manoeuvrer dice. We toyed with the idea that three identical dice could be swapped for a special attack but this never came up. May be worth considering?

Fight stuff

Rather than have the attacker spend dice at the beginning to modify their roll we allowed both fighters to spend dice as they liked only stopping when both fighters elected not to spend any more.

Bleed tokens – We’re pretty sure they cannot be removed and will stay with the gladiator for the remainder of the bout – is that correct?

Defence Modifiers – do prone gladiators get the defensive benefit from their shield?

Snake eyes – if a gladiator attacks and rolling snake eyes they have bungled and no attack is delivered does the opponent have to fall back from this non-attack?

Same scores – if attack rolls are equal after modification is the defence successful? We though so but not sure if this is spelled out in the rules.

Common special attacks

I really like the idea that every special attack comes at some sort of cost (another die/fatigue/penalty to hit/wound/whatever) or that a five can be used as a 'normal’attack at the player’s caprice.

Some special attacks are a bit too good without any penalty/associated cost such as driven (should have a penalty – fatigue) and heavy strike (again, needs some sort of cost associated with it).  The feint is also surprisingly effective as it nullifies the banked defensive dice of the defender with no penalty for the attacker. Again, suggest this has a penalty attached, maybe a defensive die?). The aimed attack is also useful (but should not apply to the impartial hit location table – can special attacks be made by a prone gladiator?) but might benefit from the -1 damage modifier. None of us tried disarm but it does look interesting – to confirm do the spear/trident modifiers apply here?

Class specific special attacks

 :) Hoplomachus - works well. To confirm, can the flank attack (which should move the fighter in the direction of their lead arm - not always right arm to accommodate lefties) be performed with either the spear or pugio or is it spear only?

 :) Murmillo/Provacotor – again, works well. With the suggestion above about ’two-for-one’ with action dice could the target of a step inside (also moving to the side of the fighter's leaad arm) elect to lose two dice (including and especially banked defensive dice) or a manoeuvre die to avoid dropping their hafted weapon? Give the mobility required to execute this attack perhaps it could cost the attacker a manoeuvre die?

 :D Thracian – again, flank attack should be in the direction of the lead arm.

 :o Retiarius – These guys are far and away the hardest guys to accommodate in gladiator rules because they’re just so different from every other class of fighter (except that weirdo with the lasso but no-one talks to him). At present the cast net special attack is a bit lacking, I feel as even a good cast can be escaped from pretty quickly and once the net is on the arena floor it’s very difficult to retrieve. As such - and this is my big idea, so please bear with me - a successful cast which gives an ‘entangled’ outcome also gives an entanglement token (1, 2 or 3 depending on the number of action die forfeited) to the victim in the net. As long as the victim is entangled they subtract that number from both their attack and defence rolls.

Thus, if I cast a net at my opponent and get a modified ‘4’ not only do they forfeit two action dice they become ‘entangled 2’ and, as at this point, incur a -2 penalty on all future attack and defence rolls. If next turn they roll one laurel which they use to reclaim a forfeited die then their status goes to ‘entangled 1’. The thinking behind this is rather than just lose some dice the gladiator also has difficulty fighting while caught up in a net and this is the time for the Retiarius to press home an attack – if they’re good enough. I hope this sounds okay. I don’t think this will add to bookkeeping/complexity but it will give the Retiarius that little extra boost to encourage them to really make that cast net count.
 
Okay there are my suggestions for v1.0 of the rules. I hope they’re reasonably clear and very happy to go into further detail/explain what I mean if that would help.

I’ll leave it there for now and cogitate further upon my potential new mechanism suggestion.

Offline Furt

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    Thanks so much for taking the time to share your thoughts Muzfish4.  :)

To save leafing through the rules, it would be useful to have the gladiator special attacks – or at least a precis of them - printed on their playsheet – perhaps in the token box?[/li][/list]

Yeah I have found that myself and made a quick QRS of special attacks for when I've been demoing. I don't think I can get it on the play sheet unfortunately - although that will get a minor redesign soon.

Menacing is probably the least advantageous trait in that it is used once and even if it actually delivers a result it’s pretty small beer compared to other traits that deliver a bonus of some sort on an ongoing basis.

It's been improved from +1 to +2 but as you say it is used only at the beginning. I agree it is not as powerful as some traits but I wasn't looking for the traits to be all balanced. In the first BotS rules you could roll a totally negative trait but have realised that was a little harsh, fun yes, but harsh.

Class traits all work well though I see the Retiarius as being more agile than defensive and might suggest he have the ability to convert one die into a manoeuvre die. Then again, the Secutor is a Chaser so perhaps if the traits were reversed the Chaser would never catch his prey.

Yes the Secutor has to chase the Retiarius so that is the reasoning behind the class traits. The Retiarius has other tricks he can try to keep his distance, namely a Retreat (new to v1.1) and the Extended Lunge.

As suggested previously, when a roll is heavy with one thing but gives no other options the two-for-one (i.e. swap a double for a single die) works well.  We have refined this a little and are of the view that a two-for-one should only be allowed for normal attacks and manoeuvrer dice. We toyed with the idea that three identical dice could be swapped for a special attack but this never came up. May be worth considering?

I'm pretty adverse to implementing a general swapping of dice for another die mechanic. It kinda breaks the whole point rolling the action dice.
I’ve play tested with two different groups now and haven’t encountered that issue. After I showed them a few tricks the play testers were managing their dice pools really effectively figuring out the best combination to achieve the most each turn. There was certainly no passed turns where they were unable to do anything. Yes they would miss an attack opportunity here and there but I see that as a nuance of the game. There is no doubt that a very poor roll could result in a player having to pass that turn (especially if they have reduced action dice) but it should be a pretty rare thing.

If you are running out of Maneuver Dice my first question would be are you converting LAURELs or fervour points into Maneuvers when you need them and also did you take advantage of the Rush Attack (the common Special Attack) that allows you  to close before attacking? This combination generates moves pretty well. A common mistake new players make is to think Laurel or fervour points = attack bonus, end of story. They are far from only that.

Also the fact that you have questioned down grading a Special Attack to a normal Attack seems like an odd request as generally you want all the Special Attacks you can get your hands on.

Rather than have the attacker spend dice at the beginning to modify their roll we allowed both fighters to spend dice as they liked only stopping when both fighters elected not to spend any more.

I can understand why you might want to do that. Again though it seems like you are committing all Laurel Dice to attack bonus dice. I make attackers commit first before rolling to emphasise the possible loss of those Laurel Dice with little gain. I think this is an important choice, rather than just tacking them onto the end of an attack roll. In saying that though it would not be a game breaker to allow that option.

Bleed tokens – We’re pretty sure they cannot be removed and will stay with the gladiator for the remainder of the bout – is that correct?
No there is no way to stop a bleeding wound during the match.

Defence Modifiers – do prone gladiators get the defensive benefit from their shield?

Yes they do.

Snake eyes – if a gladiator attacks and rolling snake eyes they have bungled and no attack is delivered does the opponent have to fall back from this non-attack?

No as the attack never eventuates. but I have put a line in the rules to make that clearer.

Same scores – if attack rolls are equal after modification is the defence successful? We though so but not sure if this is spelled out in the rules.

May be a 1.0v thing as it is definitely in the new version, but yes you are correct, attack must be greater than the defence roll.

Some special attacks are a bit too good without any penalty/associated cost such as driven (should have a penalty – fatigue) and heavy strike (again, needs some sort of cost associated with it).  The feint is also surprisingly effective as it nullifies the banked defensive dice of the defender with no penalty for the attacker. Again, suggest this has a penalty attached, maybe a defensive die?). The aimed attack is also useful (but should not apply to the impartial hit location table – can special attacks be made by a prone gladiator?) but might benefit from the -1 damage modifier. None of us tried disarm but it does look interesting – to confirm do the spear/trident modifiers apply here?

I'm against making all special attacks cost more but this is something that only extensive play testing can prove. The class special attacks all have a cost attached and tend to be a little more powerful in my opinion. The Rush Attack, as mentioned above, is essential in closing with an opponent and hence the attached cost of a fatigue point.


:) Hoplomachus - works well. To confirm, can the flank attack (which should move the fighter in the direction of their lead arm - not always right arm to accommodate lefties) be performed with either the spear or pugio or is it spear only?

Not sure why you would want to do it with the pugio? Pugios are back up weapons which are drawn only if the spear or trident is lost. But to answer your question, what ever the weapon in the lead hand is, which under normal circumstances is the spear. In the report above you also said that the retiarius lost both his trident and his pugio. How exactly did that come about?

:) Murmillo/Provacotor – again, works well. With the suggestion above about ’two-for-one’ with action dice could the target of a step inside (also moving to the side of the fighter's leaad arm) elect to lose two dice (including and especially banked defensive dice) or a manoeuvre die to avoid dropping their hafted weapon? Give the mobility required to execute this attack perhaps it could cost the attacker a manoeuvre die?

I think you might be correct that this special attack is a little too good but will still require playtesting. Also this can now be countered by a DEFENCE Dice, not manoeuvre,  to better suit both the Retiarius and Hoplomachus.

:o Retiarius – These guys are far and away the hardest guys to accommodate in gladiator rules because they’re just so different from every other class of fighter (except that weirdo with the lasso but no-one talks to him). At present the cast net special attack is a bit lacking, I feel as even a good cast can be escaped from pretty quickly and once the net is on the arena floor it’s very difficult to retrieve. As such - and this is my big idea, so please bear with me - a successful cast which gives an ‘entangled’ outcome also gives an entanglement token (1, 2 or 3 depending on the number of action die forfeited) to the victim in the net. As long as the victim is entangled they subtract that number from both their attack and defence rolls.

Firstly I think the net was a pretty ineffective weapon and unlikely to end a fight with the opponent neatly bundled up. I used net tokens the first time around with BotS and have done as much as I could to reduce the large volume of counters used in that version. It worked pretty much as you have mentioned - a negative penalty per net token. I'd be adverse to readopt it but again but more playtesting may prove me wrong.

Thus, if I cast a net at my opponent and get a modified ‘4’ not only do they forfeit two action dice they become ‘entangled 2’ and, as at this point, incur a -2 penalty on all future attack and defence rolls. If next turn they roll one laurel which they use to reclaim a forfeited die then their status goes to ‘entangled 1’. The thinking behind this is rather than just lose some dice the gladiator also has difficulty fighting while caught up in a net and this is the time for the Retiarius to press home an attack – if they’re good enough. I hope this sounds okay. I don’t think this will add to bookkeeping/complexity but it will give the Retiarius that little extra boost to encourage them to really make that cast net count.

Personally I think the loss of dice is a huge penalty in itself and not so trivial. Less dice, less actions - it's a pretty big penalty. Plus the entangle gladiator must spend Laurels to regain the forfeited dice (which come out spent) which is a double whammy that turn. This is when the retiarius needs to make his big move.

Thank you so much again for all the effort you put into this feedback Muzfish4. It is exactly the type of information I need and I will take it all onboard. I'm looking forward to hearing about your thoughts on 1.1v.

Going forward my only critique would be to please try and play the rules as written rather than house ruling during play testing. That is much more helpful to me at the moment.  :)

« Last Edit: April 06, 2022, 06:36:40 AM by Furt »

Offline Muzfish4

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Hey, Furt. I'm glad this is helpful.  Your responses are very much accepted in the spirit in which my  suggestions were given :)

I have printed out v1.1 and will give that a run this weekend.

Rather than reply to your replies I'll just add a few little bits below.

 :) The idea of 'negative' traits is weirdly attractive. Maybe if fighters had two positive and one negative ...

 :) I really like the Retreat defence die ability. Pretty much nails it then and there.

 :) The Hoplomachus attacking with the pugio was a bit of 'what if' thinking thinking that if a Hoplomachus was disarmed and was using their reserve weapon could they still use the flank attack.

 :) Reading your response really encourages me to re-think my approach to dice management.


My next playthroughs will be with the rules-as-written (i.e. no houseruling it) and I'll let you know how that goes.

I'll hold onto my other big idea for now and concentrate and getting you the most useful playtesting feedback I can.

As ever, really enjoying it and very glad to help out with observations and suggestions to try to contribute to what is already a terrific set of rules.




Offline Rabbitz

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Really looking forward to giving this a go. 

Excellent write ups so far.   

Once I get out of iso I’ll try to get some games in too.
Integrity is non negotiable

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Offline Furt

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As ever, really enjoying it and very glad to help out with observations and suggestions to try to contribute to what is already a terrific set of rules.

Thanks Muzfish4 I really appreciate that.

Really looking forward to giving this a go. 

Excellent write ups so far.   

Once I get out of iso I’ll try to get some games in too.

That would be great Rabbitz.

Offline Furt

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I uploaded a video to YouTube today with the intentions of doing a few to explain the mechanics of Blood in the Sands. I've never done anything like this before so it's pretty rough. If you want a laugh listening to someone who can barely speak English trying to say some Latin words - please be my guest.  lol

This one is just an introduction but a step towards doing a play through of the new rules.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7WP9KJc9wK8

Offline Furt

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Ive added a second video with a turn example that demonstrates the flow of the game.

https://youtu.be/8TfS3uozjZ8

Offline Muzfish4

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Excellent stuff - I am referring potential playtesters to these videos so they have an idea of what it's all about before they start.

Offline Furt

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Excellent stuff - I am referring potential playtesters to these videos so they have an idea of what it's all about before they start.

Thanks Muzfish - they are a little long winded, but serve the purpose.

Offline craigjonwoodfield

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Muzfish and I played another game on the weekend. It wasn't very inspiring I am afraid - Retarius vs Secutor, with both combatants eventually dropping from exhaustion after an hour of play. I'm going to jump in early with my comments, which boils down to this - it's a little too hard to wound, and good attack rolls just aren't rewarded. You can roll exceptionally high on your attack, your opponent can roll exceptionally badly, and you will still probably strike an armoured location and bounce, unless you pull off another exceptional roll or even two.

Kind of takes the fun out it. Just about everything else about the game works very well.

Offline Muzfish4

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Thanks, Craig. I was just doing my write up now. They follow below:

I managed a couple more one-off games over the Easter weekend. Both used the rules-as-written (i.e. no mods of house rules) and played well but ended in exhaustion for one or both combatants. A precis of the games with comments/suggestions from my opponents is below:

Game one: Thracian vs Murmilla

My opponent here is a bit different to the usual miniatures gamer demographic that he is (primarily) a eurogamer who tends to favour heavier games and, as such, is quiet focused on mechanics and the ‘engine building’ aspect of games. Just for something different we played with female miniatures from Shadowforge.

The game commenced with character creation and, as it happened, the characteristics of both fighters cancelled each other out. My Murmilla was left handed (+1 Attack) and, of course, a real Brute (+1 to wound) while the Parmularia was Resilient (-1 to be wounded) and Agile (+1 defence), so standard combat was, in effect, straight roll-offs. Other characteristics were my being Driven and having the one-off Fervour die and my opponent having the standard Best Defence to convert one action die into an Attack die. After that we rolled the scenario type on the Munus Event table and it was one with obstacles so out came the Anubi statues again.


Above: Fighters face off

Anyway, the match proceeded with plenty of back and forth and attempted attacks of all sorts but no wounds were inflicted. The fighters went across the sands until exhaustion began to take its toll. Plenty of hits went in but were blocked by armour and no blood at all was draw over the course of the match.

Finally the Thracian had a couple of bad turns not rolling a Respite or Laurel die and I managed to inflict a hit causing a fatigue to bump them over up the fatigue track and over the line to being all tuckered out. For my part my Fervour die was hoarded to use as a Respite and I was able to run down my opponent’s fatigue while managing mine. The Thracian collapsed with exhaustion but no wounds. The crowd, unimpressed with this blood-free display, wasted no time in calling Iugula! And that was that.


Above: No sympathy for those who don't draw blood

Observations from my opponent:

1.   The basic game works well and the dice management mechanic is ‘sound’.
2.   The game went for about 75 minutes which is a bit too much for him.
3.   It seemed hard to get wounds on gladiators. He suggested that when an attack roll exceeded a defence roll by a substantial margin it could give a bonus to wound or in determining the area affected.
4.   He found his Best Defence ability to be of marginal use in that there is always a good chance of getting an attack or two in each dice pool.
5.   He was not inclined to allocate Laurel dice to get a +1 attack bonus before rolling as if the roll was low it was seen as a waste when the Laurel could be used for either Respite (as it became a real concern as the game progressed) or a Special Attack which comes with some form of bonus anyway.
6.   The eurogamer in him had him asking if he had six special attacks available and his opponent began the turn next to him could he throw sand six times and if it was successful would he win as his opponent would be bereft of action dice? I read this as a possibility, a possibility that only a cad would take, but it seems to be, on paper, possible. Perhaps have sand throwing limited to once a turn and that it cannot remove a fighter’s final action die?
7.   All that said, he enjoyed it and was very open to playing again.

Game Two: Secutor vs Retiarius

My second match was against an arena veteran (and experienced rules writer); we had both played BotS before but were careful to go over the changes to ensure we played with the rules-as-written.  Snake Eyes determined the Munus Event was Sine Missione so all thought of appeal to the crowd or editor were banished at the onset.

As it happened, it was a matchup between citizens (fitting well with the Sine Missione theme) my chaser was a starving veteran while the net-and-trident man has an Equestrian slumming it on the sands.  Interesting.  My chap had a lot going on with his die pool in that he was Vigorous (change one action die to Respite) and was also Indefatigable so could return two temporally forfeited dice to his pool of one Laurel die. He also had the standard Chaser skill and could convert one action die to Manoeuvre die. From memory, my opponent was mad, bad and dangerous to know with a couple of abilities giving him  +2 wounding  bonuses (Strong and Son of Pluto from memory) to go with his class ability of being Mobile (change action die to Defence die).

So, out we trooped onto the sands with the confident expectation one of us would be dining in Hades’ Halls this evening. With all that on our minds we didn’t really intimidate the other at all and the match commenced.


Above: The fighters face off - Using a Steve Barber 25mm mini really makes the Crusader Retiarius look like the tough proposition he was

Very early on the Retiarius decided to use his net and his cast was good wrapping up my guy and causing the loss of two action dice. He followed this up with a long-range lunge and up-close heavy strike, both of which were kept out and my fighter elected not to recoil by spending a Defence die, made an ineffectual attack, pushing back the trident man and then stepped back himself. Next turn he managed to roll a laurel in his pool and got the initiative shrugging off the net with his Indefatigable ability and dropping onto the arena floor. 


Above: The Secutor quickly escapes from the net

From here the two fighters fenced their way around the arena. The lighter gladiator trying the edge closer to his net and seemed to have a great chance to regain it as he edged around the Chasers right.  When he tripped while lunging and went down. Alas, my guy didn’t have the legs to get to him and couldn’t close before he was on his feet again.


Above: The Retiarius trips and goes down but recovers before his opponent can capitalise

As the match progressed, much of my attention was taken up by managing fatigue – Vigorous was super useful here) and trying a variety of attacks and gambits to get through my opponent’s defences. In reply, the Retiarius abandoned thoughts of getting his net back and played to his strengthen eschewing the Lunge and instead closing for the Heavy Strike at every opportunity with the intention of using his natural wound bonuses and the +2 wound modifier from the special attack to punch through my armour. It worked as he inflicted a deep wound to the head and the claret was gushing. I managed to strike back with a slow kill to his unarmoured rear arm so we were both losing fatigue at a rapid rate, despite our best efforts.  One turn I was bereft of threes (and laurels)  had the initiative and seeing my opponent roll five(1) respite die and a defence dice made one attack inflicting a fatigue, pushed him back and then followed up standing next to him and ending my turn meaning that on his turn there was literally nothing he could do. This turned his manageable fatigue situation into a dire one.


Above: The dice are cruel - with this roll the Retiarius cannot manage his fatigue

That turn we both dropped to being ‘fatigued’ and the tempo upped as our life blood stained the arena as we traded increasingly frantic bows trying to keep in the fight despite our blood tokens. Another heavy strike on me put a huge gash on my left leg meaning I was losing three fatigue a turn and rather than riposte I incurred a disfavour token to focus on respite. We were both still in the fight until we reached the stage where our respective dice pools allowed neither of us to recover enough fatigue and collapse was imminent. Final blows delivered with ebbing strength did not decide the match as both fighters slumped to the sands and, against all odds, a Stans Missus was declared (even though this is not allowed under the Ending the Match rules).

Observations from my Opponent:

1.   The game took about 60 minutes, probably a bit too long for a one-on-one fight.
2.   The game played well and the Retreat with no disfavour ability for the Retiarius is very good.
3.   It was a bit too easy to recover from being prone in that with an initiative win he was very quickly back on his feet – should there be an initiative penalty for prone fighters?
4.   Again, using a valuable Laurel die to modify an attack roll before it is made was not seen as optimal. Conversely, using a banked Defence die prior to the defend roll seemed to work well.
5.   To simulate extra effort to wound, could a Laurel die be used to add +1 to a wound roll?
6.   The Aimed Attack is good against the Retiarius but seemed to be of minimal use against anyone with decent padding. Perhaps a +2 modifier would make it more attractive?
7.   When an opponent who has not used all their action dice is tangled in a net, who decides which action die are (temporarily) forfeit?

My own views of the game from these two playtests

1.   The game plays really well and is very close to being right-to-go.
2.   The game remains enjoyable and challenging, even after six or eight plays suggesting there is a very good degree of replayabilty in the rules.
3.   The campaign system looks sound but I am yet to try it out.
4.   I think a 20-30 minute average game time is about right for each bout so there is some scope to tweak things that it is just that little bit more likely to wound one’s opponent.
5.   I tend to agree with most of the comments above, especially about allocating laurel die to attacks prior to making the attack role.
6.   Each game had boxcars and snake eyes rolled but didn’t decide the match. I like the idea that one bad roll won’t decide the outcome of the match.
7.   You’re doing a great job in developing Blood on the Sands – this has the genuine potential to become to premier one-on-one gladiator set of rules!

So, there we are, another couple of playtests completed and feedback/suggestions/comments provided. I hope these commentaries and observations are useful. Please let me know if you need any other information or if my suggestions/comments are unclear.
« Last Edit: April 19, 2022, 08:09:22 AM by Muzfish4 »

Offline Furt

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Another great report Muzfish - thanks for going to the effort. it is much appreciated mate.  :)

I have gone to reply to this post twice already but real life keeps getting in the way.

The observations both you and opponents have made are very sound and have been taken on board. Many of them have already been addressed in the next draft document, which I hope to release soon

Again thanks - your feedback is a huge help to me.

Offline Muzfish4

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Okay, more gladiatorial action in the form of playtesting BotS, this time with an opponent who had played a previous version. After explaining the changes to the rules we started from the beginning and it was a match in which the editor of the games had a bad egg that morning and didn’t want a Secutor in sight. My opponent preferred the Hoplomachus so I chose the Thracian, both classes which have had some significant revisions. The Hoplomachus who, amongst other things, no longer has a -1 for damage with his lunge would face my Thracian whose new class trait lets him hit on draw. Interesting revisions. Another change of note is that a disparity of 3 or more between a successful attack roll and the defence roll adds +2 damage.


Above: facing off at the start. No-one is intimidated

The fight started well for the spearman who decided not to jab away at a distance and instead leant heavily into the attack getting his one special attack (now a fighter may make one special attack per turn only) as a heavy strike which ate up some of my defence dice with a shield parry and a ‘general dodge’ followed up by a couple of normal inflicting a flesh wound on turn one. He was a bit disappointed by this hoping for more, but after previous quite bloodless games this was quite the change, even more so the next round as he rammed his spear through my helmet for another wound and a bleed token.


Above: Playsheet with stand-in tokens

Things looked grim for the Thracian but the fight back was on as my guy got good use of his dice pool to weather the barrage of close-in assaults, manage my fatigue and riposte with a deep wound to the Hoplomachus’ lead leg as the wickedly sharp sica sliced through his ocrea aided by a +2 from a roll of 11 that exceeded my opponent’s modified defence by five.

One bleed token each got the crowd going and the Thracian milked it for all it was worth and by landing a telling blow and doing a victory dance about it he accrued a couple of Favour Tokens in the one turn. With his gander up he again turned on the magic with a hook around (rolling three and picking the best two and hitting on ties makes the Thracian a very dangerous foe) and pushed the Hoplomachus into the danger zone as he became fatigued and followed up with a slow kill on his opponent’s lead arm, dropping the spear to the reducing his dice pool to four with two bleed tokens to manage.


Above: The Thracian starts to dictate the pace of the bout

My guy then added injury to injury and with a location roll of snake eyes hitting him in the unprotected ‘vitals’ for a flesh wound. Next shot was an aimed attack (now +/-2 to the location roll) hoping to takes his voice if not his life but the raw 9 became an 11 plunging the sica into the Hoplomachus’ equally unarmoured torso for another wound and used the last manoeuvre die to step back. This rendered the savaged fighter unable to attack or recover and he was set to bleed out at the end of his turn. Rather than acquire another disfavour token (the first came from dropping his spear) he raised a finger seeking missio.

The fickle crowd had forgotten his early success and after their somewhat harsh verdict the unfortunate Hoplomachus was escorted on his journey to the underworld by Hermes Psychopompus.


Above: No sympathy for the loser here - you on't want to put your fate in the hands of the crowd!

There we go. The game played very well and the improvements made in this draft pretty much nail it. The game is there and all the various tweaks and improvements work very nicely together.

I played another game today with a Secutor taking on a Retiarius and again the lighter fighter had the initial running of it but the judicious use of defence dice to get the benefit of the +3 scutum parry (even when facing a low attack roll – I never back my rolling and using this really saved my bacon a couple of times as my execrable defence rolls were bolstered by the big shield just enough to avoid several dangerous blows). Once the initial storm (including a net cast) was weathered my guy kept pushing, managed his fatigue and got on top as he landed a slow kill onto the netman’s lead leg. After that it was just a matter of time. Another good game that worked really well.

My observations:

•   The tweaks really work. It is very engaging to manage the dice pool and the new +2 to would from a disparity of 3 or more really makes for some challenging decisions.

•   The parry mechanism is a winner. Defence dice and how you use them really matter.

•   The Munus events work well and add a bit of flavour without detracting or distracting from the main game.

•   The new class traits look to be genuine improvements and add a fair bit of differentiation between the fighters. The Thracian becomes a really dangerous package and the Retiarius is enhanced with the option of swapping out an action die for either mobility or defence depending on the circumstances of the match.

•   The removal of unspent action dice is good. Though most turns all dice were spent one way or another so there wasn’t any feeling of having a ‘dud hand’ with which one couldn’t do anything.

•   The option to spend a laurel die to improve an attack after the roll is excellent. Really makes those dice valuable and with the +2 to damage mentioned above for disparities of 3 or more it makes these decisions very interesting. (Can a fervour token be used in the same manner?)

•   Critical parries are a nice addition. It happened once but the fighter kept their feet – just.

•   Changing the aimed attack to +2/-2 really makes it an option worthy of serious consideration – especially when facing an already-wounded opponent. This adds an interesting tactical dimension to the decision making.

•   A lot (but not all) special attacks have had their ‘costs’ removed, this works as the one-per-turn restriction really makes a player thing about how they want to use this opportunity.

Suggestions:

•   An A4 sheet combining the Tessera Gladiatoria and ‘normal’ playsheet might be useful – especially if the class trait is printed in the Tessera Gladiatoria. It may give a bit more room to store the tokens as well.

•   Current rules-as-written allow a +1 to be added to an attack for every attack die spent – is this ‘normal’ attack only or can a ‘special’ attack die also be used this way?

•   We understood that an item could only be used for its parry bonus once per attack. That is, if I had a scutum and two defence dice I would use one for the +3 parry and the other for the +1 general defence – is this right?

•   We weren’t sure about the number of starting parry tokens – did I miss where they are on the class descriptions?

•   As the game is nearly done, it might be beneficial to include some extended play examples in and appendix to assist new players.

•   This might be me, but the ‘once a game’ abilities such as Son of nemesis tend to be forgotten in the excitement. Would they perhaps be a useful token for a player to have on their sheet so as not to forget them and remove the token when used?

Next step will be to try to run a short campaign and see how we go from there.

That’s all from me for now.

TLDR; rule revisions work really well. This game is close to being done.

 

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