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Red Sand, Blue Sky: Death in the Arenas of Rome» Forums » Reviews

Subject: Red Sand Blue Skies rss

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Shaun Austin
Australia
Townsville
Queensland
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Red Sand Blue Skies is one of those games you will keep coming back to. It is a very enjoyable recreation of Gladiator combat in the Roman Empire. Some research on the net seems to suggest that it is historically accurate (as much as anything that happened so long ago can be documented accurately), however it is still highly fun and playable.

What you need
All that you get is a rule book (or pdf if purchasing on-line), although there are a great number of Gladiator miniatures available from various sources. (There is also a fine range of paper miniatures and a paper stadium available for free from the net). The game could be played with counters on a normal table as well.

You will need at least 4 ten-sided dice, a measuring device, a deck of cards ,a pencil and photocopy of the character sheet for each player.

Setup
There is a little setup required as you create your character. A choice of nine different gladiator types and how your gladiator is trained can make for some interesting characters. Once you become more familiar with the game you can customise your Gladiator with different armor and weapons. Each Gladiator also has a dice pool which represents his stamina.

The arena itself is normally just a flat expanse (tabletop) however there is room to customise it for some of the “re-enactments” the Romans staged. (you can let your imagination run wild here!)

Gameplay
Combat takes place in turns. Each turn the active character may perform an action. There is a wide choice of attacks, tricks and moves to choose from. Each action will burn so many dice from the character’s dice pool. Choosing how many dice to use and when is part of the strategy of this game. Some interesting actions are using a net to entangle your opponent or throwing sand in their face.

Characters can be injured and this has a very realistic effect in the game. Try holding a shield with an arm that has been hacked about . When playing the campaign rules, injuries can cause severe problems for your troupe.

If you lose, death is not always certain. On the fringes of the Empire matches quite often end when one combatant tires to the point of collapse. In Rome things are a lot different, but you may usually appeal to the crowd for mercy.

The campaign game adds rules for advancement of your character/s and more detail to your battle results. Our group tends to only play the campaign game and will pick it up again months after we last played. A new campaign is only started when most characters are at maximum reputation.

The solo rules can be used in stand alone games or in the campaign game. Most soloists will want to play the campaign game. The solo tables used to control the non-player character/s are simple to use and not as numerous as you may expect.

Overall a very good game that is enjoyable with however many players you have!!
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Chris Talbot
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I'm curious about campaign play and solitaire play.

With solitaire play, are you basically playing both sides of a two-player game or is there some kind of scripting element for the game itself?

As for campaign play, how structured is it? Do you run a stable of gladiators or just one? Also, is there room for gladiator skill/ability advancement?

Chris
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Sam Pate
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With solitaire play the opposition is guided (eg will always advance towards opponent, will try to out-flank you under certain circumstances, etc), but the reaction system used will cause both your opponent and yourself to make involuntary actions preventing any "you swipe, I swipe - repeat 'til dead" fights.

As for campaign play, you can play as a solo gladiator (see the "rise of the Hippo" file in the download section for an excellent description of this) or you can run a school buying, selling, losing gladiators and working your school up from an empire outskirts operation to the coliseum.

All gladiators are based round a single reputation (or REP) score which dictates how good you are, so there are no specific skills for spear, dagger, shield, etc, but you have a primary fighting style at one skill/REP level, and can have a secondary fighting style at a usually lower REP level. The gladiators earn varying advancement points for each win, and when they reach a certain number they advance up a REP.

Each level of arena can only accommodate certain REP levels of gladiator, so you can start on the outskirts of the empire, but you'll soon literally be too good fight there so you move to a higher level of arena and therefore opponent, hopefully working your way to Rome. This gives a nice feeling of "career progression" rather than just abstract level progression on its own.

I hope this answers some of your questions.

Sam
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