Saturday, March 30, 2013

What is Arena Rex?

As I mentioned earlier, I decided to back Arena Rex on Kickstarter.  I'm a huge nut for anything related to Ancient Rome.  Add to it that Arena Rex is a gladiatorial skirmish game (so low model count), coupled with some of the best gladiator sculpts I have ever seen, and well, I'm SOLD!  There's still just under a month left to support project as of the time I'm writing this.  Just as I have done with Kingdom Death: Monster, my goal here is to show you exactly why I decided to make the jump into supporting this game, why I'm excited about, and perhaps get the game "on your radar" at the very least.  I should also point out, all of below is based off what I've read online.  The rules are in playtesting, so everything is subject to change.  For more official info on the game, head over to Arena

So, without further delay, I'll dive into what little bit I know...

In Arena Rex, you are a "Dominus" of your very own Ludus (gladiatorial school), and your only goal is to gain the favor of the people by shedding blood upon the sands.  While based on Ancient Rome, the game is still based in a fantasy/fictional realm.

Arena Rex is a skirmish game, representing a handful of gladiators spilling blood upon the sands.  It appears (based off the playmat that will be available) that game will be played on a 3x3 area.  Games are typically between 5-8 points per side, with gladiators on foot having a cost of 1 point, while mounted gladiators and/or wild/mythological animals costing 2-3 each.

There are 3 levels of fatigue to track in this game.  1st is "Ready", the gladiator is good to go.  2nd is "fatigued",  breathing heavy but still good.  Finally, there's "exhausted", your gladiator is huffing and puffing, and must catch his breath for a round.  Each action your gladiator performs raises his fatigue level by one, and each gladiator's fatigue goes down one level at the start of each turn. This system eliminates the "you move one guy, the opponent moves, you have pick a different guy and move him next" type of system commonly seen in gaming. It's as if one of your gladiators rushes out berserker-like while the rest of your ludus, is focusing on holding the line.

Combat in the game also features some interesting and unique mechanics.  For starters, when you attack, the attacker rolls X amount of d6's equal to his attack skill, while the defender rolls d6's equal to his defense skill.  Any of roll of a 4+ is considered a success.  For each successful attack (4+) the attacker rolls over the defender's successful defense rolls, equals a hit.  Nothing really new here, but just wait!  Each gladiator's card features a "damage tree" and here's where things get interesting!  Lets say the attacker scored 3 successful hits over the defender.  The attacker starts at the top of the damage tree, 1 of his 3 successes does damage equal to the number there. (4 in Noxius' case)  Then the attacker chooses a damage/effect box below the initial box, to the left or right. (lets say you choose the left path for 3 damage) Then follow the path you chose down 1 more space to use up the his final success.  (another 3 in this case)  Add up the damage totals and/or effects, and that is what gets dealt to the defender.  (in this example 4+3+3 = 10 damage dealt)

But that is not all that is interesting in the combat department!  You may have noticed on the life tracker at the bottom of each gladiator's stat card, certain boxes marked with laurels. Those represent the "favor of the crowd", and the more blood gets spilled, the more the crowd is entertained.  Each time one of your gladiators ticks one of the "favor" boxes, you get to add a "favor dice" to your favor pool.  Favor dice are a special, one-time-use-only die, which you may roll one or two of in addition to your regular attack/defense roll.  Any successes on the favor dice is doubled.  This mechanic helps to prevent one side getting completely steamrolled by the other, which is not truly fun for anyone.
"Favor Dice" represents the cheer of the crowd!
There's also several other special rules that correspond to each gladiator, which they have gone into a bit in their "KS Update" emails, as well as a few other abilities like counterattacks and such.  So needless to say, there's a lot more depth to combat within the game that I wont be going into.

Finally, There's currently 4 factions within the game.  You are free to mix gladiators from the different schools, but you gain a currently unspecified bonus, by sticking to a single faction. (or 3/4 of your list is from a specific faction, per the rules section of the website)  There are also animals, such as lions, that you can either field on your side, or just have stalking the arena as a random hazard.

What can I say, I'm impressed!  Their models are resin cast in 35mm scale.  They've done a great job of bringing their concept art to life, in excellent detail.  You can expect to see a lot of dynamic poses in Arena Rex.  Honestly, in my book, the models can give any of the larger companies a complete run for their money, and completely blows some of the smaller companies models out of the water!  Future miniature companies be prepared, the bar has been raised!

^ From concept art...
^ To miniature...

So that is Arena Rex in a nutshell.  Bloody gladiatorial combat, with excellent models, and some interesting and unique rules.  Right now, the "Ludus Magnus" seems to be my favorite, as they have the traditional gladiator vibe.  I've already planned the main colors for my Ludus to be blue, simply because it happens to be a favorite color of mine.  Maybe work a "W" tattoo onto them somewhere similar to what was done in the Spartacus tv series.

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