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I'm a bit of a born-again wargamer! I played many of the Games Workshop games when I was in my teens and early twenties, but left the hobby behind when I went to University. Over the last few years I have gradually got back into it and am literally having a ball! I'll play pretty much anything now, ranging from ancient historical to the far future! I think that I get more out of the painting side of things than actually playing, but that might just be because I get more opportunity. Hence the title...this blog is all about the colour of war!!

Sunday, 3 April 2011

Morituri te salutant!



I've played a few games of Morituri te Salutant (MTS) and thought I'd post my thoughts on the game. For those of you unfamiliar with it, it is a set of rules that allow you to recreate gladiatorial games with miniatures. It uses a hex grid to play on and a plotting system where you plot you move secretly, but you have some options with your move should things change. I suppose it's not a million miles away from Check Your 6! (apart from just about every other aspect of the game!) which is a system I am a big fan of.

The Book
The rules can be purchased as a hardcopy or a PDF from Black Hat Miniatures and are really pretty cheap. I opted for the hardcopy as I couldn't be bothered printing them out and it wasn't much pricier. They production is certainly nowhere near the standards of many rulesets we've seen in the past couple of years, but that doesn't bother me. There's plenty of eye-candy on the internet and in magazines so I'd rather pay a few pounds for a simple rule set that works than a lavish, glossy book for a lot of cash that sits on the shelf for ever more! For example, the possible moves in the book are actually hand drawn, but who cares, as long as they are clear and unambiguous?

The Rules
Well...! A simpler set of rules it would be hard to find! There are only a very few pages on actual rules with the rest of the book taken up by various charts, campaign rules and gladiator stats. The game follows a very simple turn sequence where both players secretly decide on a move and then work out their initiative. This is a total of the gladiator's base initiative, an initiative value assigned to the chosen move and the result of a D6 roll. Each player then announces his total. In a two player game the highest placed player decides to go first or second. In a multiplayer game the gladiators go in initiative order, high to low. When it's a gladiator's turn to move they reveal the move and execute it; almost all moves are either moving hexes or attacking. Here's where the options come in! When it's your turn to execute your move you can convert the chosen one to another one from a limited set that is determined by the move you chose. The possible conversions all tend to make sense, so you can't convert a swing of your sword to a backpeddle, but you can change a thrust of a spear to a rush forward.

To the death...!

Attacks are carried out by cross-referencing the attack move against the move of the opponent and getting a 'to hit' difficulty and 'likely damage' probability. The 'to hit' range is Easy, Fair and Difficult, while the 'likely damage' range is Light, Moderate and Severe. You roll a D20 against another chart based on these values (and the protection rating of the target) and see whether you miss, stun, nick, cut, wound or kill the target. Stun results means the opponent has limited moves in the subsequent turn and all damaging hits also stun. Damaging hits all mount up, so getting nicked a third time gives you a cut, and so on.

Now, so far there has been mention of a few charts and I have to say that this would probably have put me off entirely from playing these rules. There is an awful lot of charts and they're kind of spread out, but thankfully Black Hat have posted a PDF set of move and wound cards on their site that incorporates all the information needed when plotting a move (these cards were put together by Frank Sultana who has his own blog called Adventures in Lead). This means that each attack only needs to read off two charts and this greatly speeds up play. If you were to invest in this set of rules then I'd strongly suggest acquiring these cards, especially as they are free!

The cards provided on the Black Hat site.

Gameplay
Every single game of this I have played has been a tense and exciting affair! Despite the simple mechanics the ebb and flow of each combat feels right as the gladiators circle each other and jostle for position before engaging. So far I have only managed to paint a Myrmillon and Hoplomachus (as seen on this blog) and the differences in each really show through. The Hoplomachus will try to keep the Myrmillon at bay while he jabs and thrusts with his spear, while the Myrmillon tries to close the gap and deliver a killing blow with his gladius. Falling down is a really bad thing to happen and you will be at a serious disadvantage, as is getting heavily wounded without damaging your opponent. If such a parity develops then it is hard to level the playing field as the effects of the wounds mount up. This is really a very satisfying game and I can only see that adding the campaign layer would make it that much more nerve-jangling!

Likes and dislikes
I definitely like this game. I've thoroughly enjoyed every bout and look forward to playing it more. It is quite a fast game and I wouldn't expect a bout to take more than 45 minutes. I think it feels right, is fun and is very simple to pick up.
I definitely don't like all the charts! As mentioned, if it weren't for the cards I doubt this game would ever see the light of my tabletop. I also think that the rules maybe need an extra house rule for fatigue. The main tactic of a lightly armoured gladiatior is to tire out a heavily armoured gladiator and try to get an opening they can exploit. Without wounding a gladiator this isn't possible with these rules, but I also think it wouldn't be hard to come up with something that would work. I intend to try out a few ideas and will post them here if any work.

So...to summarise, MTS is a fun, simple and quick to play gladiator game. I haven't tried any other gladiator games, so I can't compare them to MTS, but I can definitely recommend trying this out if you're looking for a gladiator game. It won't break the bank to get the rules (£6 for the PDF!) and you can easily print out a hex grid to try it before making a hex board.

The rules are available to purchase here:
Morituri Te Salutant rules

The cards are available for download here:
MTS cards and reference
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