A Legion of Ghosts - Act III September 26, 2018 20:26
“You saw Gallus die, did you?” Lucullus could put on airs no longer. Ever the petulant child, his impatience was obvious. Boredom was winning out against righteous anger.
“I did not, and no man who now lives did, but I found his body and I burned it. The particulars of his death were obvious but inconsequential. He died fighting, what matters it if by spear, arrow, or...?” Silanus stopped himself.
Repelling their attackers with ease, the Romans readily pushed the initial wave of mercenaries back through a shallow gully and beyond, toward the hilltop whence they came. Despite the ground they were gaining, Silanus noted that not all of the casualties beneath their boots were foreigners. Anxiety swelled in him as he turned to his ward and co-commander in the hopes of salvaging the moment. The lips of Codius, the damned cockerel, began to split in a grin as he leaned forward on his mount. There was little time to dwell on the danger they were in, Codius rode out into the faltering mercenaries. His blood was up. The boy’s horse was as detached as his rider, trampling men with abandon. Silanus followed as closely as he could, his gladius found an opportunistic pikemen hoping to end his young charge’s rampage. Inspired by Codius’s vainglory, the infantry charged with abandon. It was a rout. The enemy was lost, but so was any semblance of cohesion among the Roman line.
Codius rode down men who were fleeing and unarmed. He was riding fast, raging to bring down as many foes as possible before reaching the ridge in triumph. The neat block of infantry devolved into a makeshift wedge in the wake of Codius’s charge. Silanus called out to no one in particular, ordering them, pleading with them to turn toward the enemy’s center. Silanus attempted to pick his way through the press and close the gap with Codius, keeping an eye on his tall black plumage. It was no good; he disappeared over the step baptized in blood, surrounded by his new compatriots.
Romans cresting the hill halted. Silanus too froze when he saw what awaited them in the valley. Had he eaten breakfast he would have lost it. Several thousand Deccan heavy infantry absorbed their fleeing allies. Among their front there were no less than 15 war elephants. Arrows arced black above them, countless as summer flies. The instinct for self-preservation rapidly returned to those infantrymen with a vantage on the situation, a misshapen testudo rose like gooseflesh across the Roman infantry as they hastily tried to reform. Shrieks of outrage and pain replaced the roar of the charge as the rear ranks jostled to fill the gaps left by the fallen.
Codius’s horse fell into the surrounding troops, crushing three under its body as the young noble landed hard atop the cover of shields and limply slid down into the forward ranks of the formation. Silanus reached the tangle of man and horse just as the rest of their legion gathered itself to weather the rain of arrows.
The towering storm of missiles became softer and less coherent, more a farmer’s dream of a constant shower now and just enough to keep the Romans pinned under the cover of their shields. Thunder filled the air from below and ahead, now, as the great pachyderms of their foes shook the earth with their gait and trumpeted like legions unto themselves. Silanus had never read, or even dreamed of an ambush so perfectly fulfilled. The glory Gallus craved would be left for some other to raise, after today.
Silanus was relieved to see Codius still breathing. His bloodbath was at an end; he wouldn’t be slaying an elephant any larger than a kitten with his sword hand as it was, pinned to his thigh by a particularly sinister looking shaft. Silanus ordered the surrounding cohort to join him and escape to the shelter of the greater Roman line. The nearest legionnaires bound their shields to his own mare’s haunches and slung a shocked and limp Codius across her hind quarters.
He needed to get these men back to the relative safety of their fort. The unrelenting tattoo of arrows and the sucking mud would make it an exhausting and brutal trek. He looked towards the enemy as his newly formed retinue began to fall back. The remaining legionnaires were still focused on maintaining their testudo. Suddenly the patter of shaft and shield drew to a halt, followed by an ominous trumpet call. A series of loud cracks split the air as the first pair of elephants split their formation like a dry oak. The densely packed heavy infantry had no pike, no pila, no counter to the beasts.
Silanus abandoned the pretense of holding ground. His focus was survival, his, hopefully Codius’s, and as many of the men as he could manage. Bellowing to nay who could hear and obey, he ordered a full retreat. Before his drafted mount could even get up to speed, bodies began fill the air around him, flung by the great tusks that followed. The mare began to rear and strain, attempting to bolt but slowed by her infirmed load. Sickening thuds filled the chaos with a fresh tang of blood as Romans and elephants raced each other up the hill; easily mistaken for allies save for the number of soldiers being trampled. Silanus scanned the rest of the Roman line as he reached the crest of the nearest ridge, hoping for a rallying point and refuge, but finding only a refrain of what his men had experienced, rising to a crescendo. Time slowed as his mind worked and he watched the battle unfold ahead of itself, as if from a great distance. He wondered for a moment if he had not simply perished under the weight of grey flesh pursuing them already. His thoughts turned to Gallus, and time crashed back into him as he spotted his mount crossing perilously close to a reaping tusk at the front of a grey wall of carnage.
The left side of the line was routed, the center was in a fighting retreat, Gallus was nowhere to be found, their right flank would soon crumble without the support of the center. Silanus again ordered a retreat, though this time it was more of a whisper and a wish for those troops remaining on the other end of the field. Even if they could fell the elephants they’d still have to deal with the outnumbering infantry marching just behind them. The safety of the ringfort was their only chance at survival.
In desperation Silenus beseeched Jupiter for relief. Scorpion bolts began to fall, one found its mark above a charging eye the size of a goblet, directing the elephant’s final forward momentum into a furrow in the soft earth. The creature’s journey ended as it slid to a halt in the grass, its mahout and several Romans entombed in the mud of it’s passing bulk.
The border legion’s remnants crested the hill they began their morning on. There stood their Auxiliaries, wearing armor often ancient in design and well patinated, wielding long spears. They stood in loose formation, no obstacle to the retreating Romans who passed through them like shades. The Greeks were late, but a welcome sight nonetheless. Silenus nodded to their probably commander, an older warrior who stood atop a halted chariot. The incredulous looks the retreating Romans offered served only to erect the Greek’s posture.
A Legion of Ghosts II August 01, 2018 10:27
“The senate is aware that the requested infantry host did not arrive. What discerning judgment Gallus used in assaulting a great incursion with the support of a mere border legion and a few centuries of his own horse -- the man was a fool, either by his nature or lured by vainglory into a dire misreading of the situation. The curia finds no fault in your actions thus far, but clearly you had no chance of defeating the Persians on your own. Enough stalling! The shadows grow long as your tale drags on. We need intelligence so that we can form a deliberate response, unlike poor Gallus. What of the Persian host? While you honor yourself and inflate Gallus’s name, Aegyptus roils like a hive knocked from a bough with a bear on its scent!”
Lentulus paced in front of his men like a great ape rampant, baring his teeth and beating his chest. He called his veterans out by name, recalling their past glories. He named his centurions and sergeants, thanked them for doing their jobs, and reminded them that today the stakes of their wages would be another day above the ground. They had a casual fierceness about them, and where their edges were rough, Silanus began to notice a different outline. These men were long hardened, and their faults locked together like a clever puzzle when they were put to the purpose of war. Each rough edge faced outward, leaving nothing but smooth economy in their movements, and a jagged line facing the enemy that was utterly without fear. Silanus took heart in the troops he had feared would lack spine, and though the legate barked on he began to focus on the task at hand and recalling his own past experiences in battle. It was good to be able to focus.
Cavalry and command trotted through the muck before the gate with the resident legion behind them, Lentulus showing remarkable stamina with his continued orating as they formed to march. His bellowfilled more of the air as the ranks filed through the gate, until screaming with abandon, his face purpled and long strings of saliva sailed from his feral grin as the damp wooden gate closed behind them and the speech reached its riotous climax. The words were nearly incoherent now, but their meaning was clear. The infantry formations picked up momentum as they cleared the morass in the gateyard and entered the fresh mud of the open fields. Gallus split the cavalry to cover their flanks, sending men from his retainer to join both parties and ensure they followed doctrine. Their borrowed border legion was fierce, though Lentulus’s command was nothing like textbook. Gallus, Codius, and Silanus remained mounted behind the infantry with a small guard, ready to rally if part of their line faltered.
Gallus ordered the halt on a downhill slope of the naturally terraced hillside, hoping to keep them in range of the fort’s fixed scorpions. Eighty yards ahead of them was another depression in the land. When the sound of hoofbeats drew nearer he readied himself to meet the commander of this forward army. There would be no parley. Hundreds of Deccan mercenaries crested the hill, marching and riding at full speed. A central column of cavalry looked to break their line; the equites moved to intercept.
The Roman horsemen outnumbered their enemy. Still, they followed doctrine and drew the Deccan riders away from the field into a thick gorse with the wet earth still steaming. Gallus gave the hint of a smile to Silanus. Now the legion could fight the way they liked, man to man. As the skirmishers drew near a legionnaire cried out. The border legion’s heavy infantry began to slap their gladii and shields together, chanting. Silanus frowned at the legion of oddities; These men had clearly spent time on the northern borders as well. Lentulus had taken a position in the second rank, screaming with his tongue extended to his chin. He was shaking the shoulders of the men nearby. As the Deccans began to coalesce into respectably massed charge, Silanus gave the command to loose pila following a nod from the bemused Gallus.
Their position allowed all ranks to throw at once. There was no need to take aim; their adversaries were densely packed and sprinting over soggy ground. It was hard to judge the volley’s effectiveness by sight, with a blinding sun low behind the invading skirmishers, but Silanus was comforted to hear their battle cry turn sour in their throats as they suffered under the close volley. The rear ranks loosed their second volly of pila as the front prepared to earn their pay on the edge of a gladius.
More shields than men fell prey to the pila; but this again served the doctrine of letting the infantry do their work. The first mercenaries to make contact with the Romans had been stripped of their best protection and fell quickly as a result. Spears and curved swords now rebounded from the structure of the legionary formation line as the mightiest wave of a storm rebounds from a cliffside. The battle was progressing as most others Silanus had participated in. His concerns about the efficacy of these men faded as he watched them work like a mill in an October stream.
The growing morning humidity was starting an itch on the back of his neck, which he ignored as he wondered at the fact they hadn’t clearly seen a Persian detachment yet. Surprising they would spend their mercenaries without even including a turba of scouts to make sure the accounting was accurate. No matter, the left side of the enemy line appeared to be weakening; Codius asked for leave to join their soldiers and urge the breakthrough. Gallus granted it without looking at his nephew, instead he turned to Silanus and ordered him to keep the boy alive and to turn their line towards the center, encircling their foe. The last time Silanus saw Gallus he was limned in the golden glow of dawn, the din of battle urging his chest to fill and his chin to lift. A shame, in retrospect; an artist could have made something of that.
A Legion of Ghosts August 01, 2018 10:27
“Are the stories true?” The thick, sweet taste of political righteousness was clearly on his tongue, and even the consummate politician Lucullus’ eyes betrayed this to the room. His rival and co-consul would be disgraced in the official record of the senate, and on the final day of their term.
“I cannot speculate about what stories you may have heard. I can only speak to what I saw, consul.” Silanus paused, reflecting on how he was momentarily the de facto commander of the Republic’s eastern legions. Ghosts now, most of them, they owed him allegiance only through attrition. “The Persians marched from the east, a host so large it’s dust shrouded the rising sun. Gallus thought it best to meet the invading army in the field rather than enduring a siege. Our men were eager to bring glory to the Republic, but events conspired --”
“Speak plainly, son. Was it truly the eagerness of your men?” Lucullus interrupted. Tuning his rhetoric with an incredulous tone, he did not wait for a response. “Conscript fathers, we all know how my fellow consul had amassed a fortune in the east, but was sadly never afforded an opportunity for valor and glory befitting his name. Such a noble, old name, as he never tired of reminding us. While valor and glory are mighty motivators for the strongest of men, and pillars of our society and the legions which protect it, they must be earned where they are needed, and not simply where old men look for them. How many citizens died so the consulship of Gallus could be about more than his well-known graft? The senate must know the full details of this ill-fated expedition if we are to face this mighty Persian threat alongside a Greece nearly in revolt!”
A murmur came over the body, quickly hushed by an aged censor.
“I do not believe the Persians will be threatening anyone soon.” The gravity of the occasion was building upon Silanus. A Sisyphus near the top of his hill, he had hoped not to share too much, though it seemed every pebble of loyalty he spent to shield the name of his mentor became a new boulder that slipped from his grasp, crashing headlong into the legacy of Gallus. The final casualty of the battle he was here to report would likely be his good friend’s political career. His shoulders stiffened as he began a more detailed accounting.
The men in Gallus’s personal retainer were hoping to spend a few more nights in Thessaloniki before their return journey to Rome. Some had unfinished business; one had a bastard child to see to. Silanus and the old man were the only ones at all interested in the fact that they were standing at the Republic’s edge.
Silanus had been with Gallus longest, though he was younger than all save the consul’s petulant nephew. Codius had no discipline in his manner, no sense of when to speak or when remain silent. The boy’s tactlessness amused his uncle as it chafed the others, and Gallus often used the boy as a foil, a pry-bar to move negotiations along by getting him to blurt out what things that no canny man would disclose. During the feast celebrating the start of their campaign Silanus had made a promise to his beloved commander, he would shield the fool from harm.
So far it had been an easy promise to keep, outside of a pair of tavern brawls that turned nasty due to Codius’s loose jaw. All but one of their legions was recalled within a month of departure, owing to the fact that the Greeks easily repelled the barbarians they had been sent to dispatch, often in small enough bands that they were dispersed before the regular infantry were formed and ready for a response. Was there ever any real threat? Likely this whole endeavor was simply another machination by Lucullus to keep Gallus from the city and prevent the populace from recalling his great generosity. Politics always cost those with the least to spare.
A mere three weeks remained in his consulship when Fortune answered Gallus’s many prayers. Amid preparations for the legion’s return to Rome, Informants from far afield reported a Persian army marching west. The scouts of the 4th legion soon corroborated the approach of the first force that had even been worth mention during their tenure.
Only the equites had accompanied Gallus and his advisors as they rode to inspect and prepare the ground on which they expected to meet their foe. It was three days’ march east of the city, but starting and ending their march under the faint light of Venus and leaving the infantry ranks and baggage to catch up had allowed the eager cavalry wing to cover the ground in but one.
Three days had passed; still, there was no sign of their infantry. Spring storms had darkened the skies. Jupiter drove down sheets of rain with such fury that it was impossible to see the timber walls of the fort from the command building. Ally and quarry alike were all but invisible from mere paces, more so as they all hunched beneath their cloaks. Warm, grey mud sluiced away the fieldworks that had so recently been refreshed. Fortune’s smile was feeling more like a predator’s grin by the day.
Their outpost sat on a small hill overlooking the eastern road. Temporary structures made permanent had been expanded upon over the years. In the aftermath of past sieges a new exterior wall would be constructed around the old. Mementos from previous occupants littered mossy, rotten timbers that formed the centermost rings. The decay at the heart of the fort seemed to have infected its small garrison as well.
A skeletal legion manned the camp. Its men looked too long on their own, too long away from Rome. Loudly and often Codius mistook them for Greek shepherds. Perhaps he would stop making that joke when the native auxiliaries arrived -- perhaps. They had been assured over 1700 auxiliaries would join their host. Lentulus, the fort’s legate has insisted they were decent skirmishers. His ranks were thin as his hair, while the man himself was the opposite. He had the look of a well-fed but seldom groomed bull. The commander sucked his teeth when he spoke and yawned as if it was the only way he could get enough breath. It was rumored he kept a saltwater pond stocked with fish just outside the fort, but the meals served to Gallus and his commanders did not reflect this.
Nevertheless, Gallus was in high spirits, the like Silanus had not since they had marched from Rome. He was 62 years old, playing with grapes and joking with his retainers. Rejuvenated by the prospect of proper battle and the glory it might bring he prodded Lentulus, asking him to name his centurions for the third time. Again, how many archers did they have? And where were their Velites? This went on into the night. Silanus carried his drunken mentor back to the command tent with the help of his despicable heir. Leaving the tent he looked back, his consul was making an offering of a smile to Somnus.
Silanus was relieved at the sound he awoke to, or rather the lack of sound. The torrent had ceased. In its absence there was a silence that was nearly as oppressive. Laying in bed, gathering his wits and wiping the sand from his eyes he wondered aloud if there was anything to eat. The men outside his tent started to jog, then run, the bugles sounded. An attendant tripped through the threshold. Pausing for a moment to gasp for air, his eyes searching the room, he found the ornate leather breastplate and began to dress Silanus for his first battle in years.
Calmly calling for their equites to prepare their mounts, Gallus’s demeanor had changed. His face was stone. Silanus saluted him as the met at the foot of the central watchtower. Despite the storm, Dawn crept behind their foe on the horizon, her rosy fingers twining through their cookfires, so many there were. Yet there was a smaller host marching closer to the fort. Perhaps some 1500 light infantry and 300 horse. They might easily destroy this isolated band and return to the fort before the larger Persian force could join the battle and overwhelm the outnumbered Romans. Gallus gave the order; the morning meal would come only on the heels of a hard and bloody ride.
Adepticon Painting Competition January 19, 2017 22:04
Our first painting competition will take place at Adepticon 2017. We're excited to see what the community can do. If you're going to be at the con bring us an entry or just stop by to check out the competition.
Rules for Entry:
- Entrants must be registered attendees of Adepticon 2017
- All entries must be submitted in person by the person who painted the entry. Submissions will be accepted during Adepticon vendor hall hours from 10:00am Thursday until 12 noon on Saturday, March 25, 2017
- Entrants must pick up entries on Sunday, March 26 2017 before 3pm. Red Republic Games, LLC cannot be responsible for storage or shipping of entries not picked up on time.
- Entries may have been entered in prior competitions as long as the rights to photography and publication have not been exclusively granted to another party.
- Entries must contain Arena Rex models. Models or parts from other manufacturers may not be included. Sculpting and diorama bases may add to the overall presentation, remember that judging for this competition will focus exclusively on the painting of the miniature. Multiple miniatures may compose a single entry if that entry is a cohesive whole.
- Entrants may submit as many entries as they wish, but may only win one prize.
- Entrants are responsible for the transportation of entries to and from the competition. No storage space for transportation materials will be provided.
- Only one person may be listed and credited as the entrant on any joint effort entries. While painters may work on original sculpts or conversions by other artists, and more than one artist may contribute to an entry if desired, there will be no co-credit given or division or duplication of prizes.
- Entrants must remain available for judging, queries, and prize awards during the competition.
- Entrants agree to provide all entries, at their own risk, to Red Republic Games, LLC for the duration of the competition for the purpose of display, photography, and judging. Red Republic Games, LLC accepts no responsibility for damage to or loss of entries during the competition.
- Entrants agree to have their entries photographed, video recorded, or otherwise recorded by Adepticon and/or Red Republic Games, LLC, and such recordings shall be the property of Red Republic Games, LLC and Red Republic Games and shall be used in whatever manner Red Republic Games, LLC and Adepticon see fit without further reference or payment to the entrant.
- Entry into the competition constitutes consent to use your name and/or your photo on our web page, Facebook page, or elsewhere for promotion or other purposes.
Judges and Criteria:
- All entries will be reviewed by the judges with no names attached, only ID numbers.
- All entries will be judges as a single category.
- The judges, as a group, will determine finalists from the overall pool of entries through discussion.
- All entries may be photographed for use by Red Republic Games, LLC.
- Each judge will review the finalist entries individually and assign each a score on a scale of 1 to 10 separately on Technical execution and overall aesthetic.
- An average score will be recorded for each entry.
- Each judge will also select a personal overall favorite, adding one point to that model’s averaged score per Judge that selects it as a favorite.
- Scores will determine overall placement in the competition. In the event of a tie, the judge panel will determine final placing. If the judges determine that a final prize position is a tie, the total prize for both places will be divided equally among tied entries.
- The top 3 scoring entries shall receive cash prizes of $300, $200 and $100 respectively, guaranteed by Red Republic Games, LLC.
- Each entrant is only eligible for one prize position, i.e. it is not possible to win any combination of the first, second and third prizes, the next runner-up will be awarded instead.
Design Spotlight: Bjarrhvit November 05, 2015 18:10
Hi folks, and welcome back to the spotlight. Last time we covered the newest Zephyri gladiator, Hagal. This week we’ll begin discussing Bjarrhvit.
Bears are a powerful mythic symbol in both Native American and Norse cultures, and we knew we wanted to tap that power for a character sooner rather than later. The word “Berserk” often has its origin attributed to the practice of wearing bear-skins into battle, and the figure of the bear is incredibly richly described in the stories of many Native American tribes. The duality of the bear as a solitary, but protective figure, stolid and pragmatic, as well as powerful and often feminine was a great fit for someone we wanted to be a kind of anchor to ground the Zephyri and give them some ability to control the board.
The influence of both cultures lead us to the idea of a polar bear, specifically, hence the character’s name. The classic fair Nordic hair combining with the lightness of a polar bear’s pelt was great imagery. We wanted her to be close-in and decided to give her a short seax, and as a hunter with her domain in the arctic, we also gave her a second short blade evocative of an ulu or skinning knife.
There was already a lot going on here, and we knew the pose would be key to making a character that’s supposed to be relatively stoic into a dynamic figure that would fit with the motion of the rest of the Zephyri. Thankfully, Amber Blade Jones was up to the task. She provided us with some phenomenal pose sketches to work with.
She also did quite a lot of wonderful character design work that we were able to bring in to really define Bjarrhvit and enhance the final results. Stephane Nguyen van Gioi nailed the fluid, ready pose, and his killer attention to detail really emphasized all of the small choices that made this character shine for us. The braids and motion in the cape do a wonderful job of filling the space on a 40mm base, and the fantastic scraps of maille and trinkets really seal the character.
Bjarrhvit is also the next project we have going for Benjamin Williams, so you can look forward to a full-color rendition soon! As always, hope you enjoyed reading. Next time join us for the last installment on the design of the Zephyri (for now) and learn more about Frigge.
Design Spotlight: Hagal October 26, 2015 20:17
Hi folks, and welcome to another week’s spotlight. Last week we talked about Sven, and this week we’ll be chatting about our newest addition to the Zephyri: Hagal.
Hagal is a bit of a departure from our usual design process. Normally we (and the artists) are the only ones obsessing over every detail of the design. In this case we not only were focusing on the equipment and intended playstyle, but the original character, Aitch Parker.
Some of you may recall one of our very first promotions was a Facebook competition where we asked folks to show us their best Gladiator Face. It was a fantastic success, and it really got people in the spirit of the gladiator theme leading up to our Kickstarter campaign. Aitch was one of the eventual winners of that contest, for which the prize was an Arena Rex model fashioned in his likeness.
When we were considering a character that might fit best, part of the equation relied on his feedback. He even went so far as to send a fantastic character blurb, which we have since re-worked, but was right in line with our starting point as well. That feedback lined up really well with what we were already kind of thinking for his character, and I think we covered the bases pretty well on this front – the original list follows with notes:
- Blood Brother [the original working name for the Zephyri] or lone fighter – Check!
- Jupiter – Check! We were thinking the Zephyri could use another bruiser even at that time
- Axe and sword – Pretty iconic, and great for an offensive focus. Check!
- Cloth and Leather – Fit in with the aesthetic we were already looking at for the Zephyri. Check!
- No helmet – Got to show off that Gladiator Face, so check!
One thing we struggled with for a while was the name for this new entry in the world of Arena Rex. It struck me one day that the original had taken a single letter as his moniker and made it his own, so why not check out some runes? It was such a perfect fit that we couldn’t let it go, and Hagal’s concept was complete.
We turned to Bagus Hutomo for the wonderful art, and Stephane Nguyen van Gioi gave a us a great sculpt with some excellent detail (I always love his maille-work). Benjamin Williams always does an excellent job, but his tattoo freehand really completes the feel on this model.
Thanks again for joining us, and as always I hope you enjoyed reading. Next week we’ll continue our journey through the Zephyri with their original bruiser (and tongue-twister), Bjarrhvit!
Design Spotlight: Sven October 14, 2015 22:08
Hi folks, and welcome back to the spotlight. Last week we talked a bit about the Atlantean contribution to the Zephyri, and this week we will see the first design insights onto the other coast with Sven.
As Vargr was the first Atlantean to make it into Arena Rex, so Sven was the first of the Norse to enter the arena. Part of the idea of blending the two cultures was not only to provide a blend of visual themes and equipment, but to really find the intersection of sensibilities in how these people might have learned to work alongside each other with more prolonged (and somewhat anachronistic) exposure.
While the decorative motifs and equipment are one aspect of this blending, there is also a blending of philosophies that pervades the ludus. Sven was our answer to the simplicity present on the Norse side of the equation. Again we wanted a minimal design, and kept to basic breeches with a traditional leather belt.
A long straight sword with a hilt and pommel evocative of Viking metalwork was an easy choice. The stalking and hunting vibe we wanted him to evoke made sense with a spear, which we also kept very simple, and we left him with bare feet to emphasize the agility we imagined in the character. We did add a little asymmetry to give him more protection and a bit more of a fit within our lineup of gladiators, employing maille and metalwork on his left side to fit him in with the themes we had already begun with Vargr.
Yasmine did a great job of carrying this feel through into the artwork, and Olivier Nkweti’s sculpting does a fantastic job of evoking the quiet focus and careful motion at the heart of the character we imagined. Benjamin Williams, as always, adds another layer of life to the model with his paint work, and keeps true to the minimalist theme.
Thanks again for joining us in the spotlight, and as always, I hope you enjoyed reading. Next week we’ll spend some more time in the design spotlight with the Zephyri, though I can’t tell you who we’ll be looking at just yet!
Design Spotlight: Vargr October 08, 2015 09:01
Hi folks, and welcome back to the spotlight. Last week we looked at Leo, and this week we’ll be looking at the big bad wolf of the Zephyri: Vargr.
Vargr was the first Atlantean designed for the world of Arena Rex. As part of the Zephyri, we were less focused on the traditional gladiator feel and ornate arena design embellishments that go into many of the characters. Instead we went to the opposite extreme and made him as simple as possible in design terms while still keeping to the baseline of Arena Rex.
We knew we wanted to draw primarily from the Native Americans of the northeast for his design. With a history of warring tribes and fluid alliances that made for a complex culture overall, we felt that these were the people who had the most in common with the Scandinavians they’d interact with in our world. We wanted Vargr to come across as a lean and hungry hunter like his namesake, which tied into the minimal design.
His hair and face paint were some of the sleekest and simplest traditional styles we could find. He was stripped down for the arena, wearing only a loincloth and his armament to keep him minimally restricted. His armament was based on a sort of dimacherius feel with more personal weapons. We chose the traditional tomahawk, since it was something that both the Atlanteans and Norse of our world would recognize as a tool of war, and in place of the traditional manica used by a dimacherius we used tight sleeves of the fine maille that Norse craftsmen were praised for.
Sebastian Archer really impressed us with Aquila, but captured Vargr entirely. The motion of the sculpt is fantastic, and really makes the character feel like a threat that is constantly moving and dancing with his foes. The anatomy is fantastic on such a minimalist model, and we are always thrilled to have another chance to work with Sebastian.
As always, I hope you enjoyed reading, and thanks for joining us in the spotlight. Join us next week when we’ll go over some more Zephyri deisgn aesthetics – maybe even something new!
Development Spotlight: Leo October 01, 2015 09:07
Hi folks, and welcome back to the spotlight! This week we’ll be focusing on the ultimate iconic beast of the arena – Leo
Leo is one of our favorite Arena Rex models, and he almost never happened. With such a great line of gladiator models already underway, we knew that any beast would have to matchup to them. The non-magical beasts on the market often look a little plain compared to the heroes and villains they face off against. They don’t really have any gear or equipment to really embellish with detail, and the anatomy can be tricky for sculptors to really capture quite right, especially in a good dynamic pose.
Because of these concerns, we nearly avoided beasts altogether. We realized that one of the keys to getting a lion to really “pop” and fit with the rest of the characters of Arena Rex was making it a character in its own right. That focus on the beasts as individual specimens rather than generic placeholders felt right as soon as we stumbled upon it. It fit with the design aesthetic of the whole line -- after all, we weren’t making generic myrmillos or dimacherii (or even noxii, despite Nick’s deep desire for a field littered with them); we were making characters.
This realization allowed us to really open up on the design for both Leo and the rest of our beasts. Even the name “Leo” which we had been using from the start came to mean something new as the character really took root. No longer was he “a lion,” who didn’t really need a name, but instead he was “The Lion” – the character that redefined his very species. Historically beasts were underfed and goaded to make them fight, but what if we created a lion that was born to the arena, hunted handlers if he wasn’t fed enough, and needed no excuse to pick a fight? Leo was no longer just one of the many kings of the jungle, but the one undisputed king of the arena.
Even once we had turned this corner in our thinking of Leo, however, and even once we had the fantastic color art back from Yasmine Putri, we struggled with the decision to green-light Leo. Would people be interested in a lion when the game was really about gladiators? Would we see the same struggle in creating a lion that other companies had met with, and wind up with a model that looked generic despite our realizations? It was only once we got the model design sketches for Otho back from MIKH that we decided we could make a lion that would really be “Leo.” His artistry and care for detail made us confident that the end result would be a unique piece that we would be proud to have brought to life.
In the end, a concept that we were unsure would even work out became iconic for Arena Rex. The addition of Living Hazard rules was another great leap forward for both the game and our conception of beasts in the arena. Thanks again for joining us in the spotlight, and as always, I hope you enjoyed reading. Join us again next week for another spotlight piece!
Tactics Spotlight: Zephyri September 23, 2015 23:56
HI folks! Welcome back to the spotlight. This week we’ll be wrapping up the Tactics Spotlight series (for now) with the fourth Major Ludus of Arena Rex: Ludus Atlanticus – better known as the Zephyri.
While Ludus Magnus, Legio XIII, and the Morituri all have strong Roman roots, the Zephyri are something new in the world of Arena Rex. Owned and operated by a foreign magnate within the Gallo-Roman Empire, the Zephyri bring ferocity and novelty to the arena. Being the only school to boast fabled and exotic Atlantean gladiators draws a heavy crowd for the Zephyri, with purses to match. For the Norsemen in their ranks, the spoils of a light afternoon’s combat can match those of a whole season’s raiding for their forefathers.
Zephyri rely on mobility and aggression above all else. Typically light on Favor generating abilities and armor. Bjarrhvit, Frigge, Sven and Vargr can all Disengage to keep them safe from multiple attacks, while Sven and Vargr can Berserk to lay down serious hurt in a single activation. Frigge’s combination of Intervene and Retaliate make her an excellent home base for other Zephyri to dance around. Vargr’s Intercept makes him a constant threat. Bjarrhvit’s Trapper is great for locking down enemies with strong reaction abilities, especially with Swift Sven around to swoop in and clean them up.
Zephyri are great individuals to sprinkle into other lists, as many of their defining traits are carried on the models themselves. Their tactics really enhance their raiding feel when taken together, though. Brave keeps Zephyri nimble even on the defensive, allowing them to react even when fatigued or exhausted, for a price. Ambush allows for timely pushes or good damage to unarmored targets for a low cost, and Blood Brothers lets the Zephyri shift damage to the reserves, or shuffle it around a bit and potentially gain some (otherwise scant) favor. Our first Errata also applies to the Zephyri – the original printing of their Blood Brothers tactic did not include the final sentence restricting its use (we caught that one in playtesting, but sadly not in editing).
The Zephyri are also next on the block for a new release. While one of the original Kickstarter concepts has sadly yet to be realized due to artist delays, another early source of inspiration has made it through our design process and will be available soon.
As always, we hope you enjoyed reading, and thanks again for checking out the spotlight! Next week we’ll go back to the literal drawing board, and talk about the design process that lead to Leo, a distinct and iconic exemplar of the beasts in Arena Rex.
Tactics Spotlight: Morituri September 17, 2015 08:08
Hi folks, and welcome back to the spotlight! This week we'll be exploring the mysteries of the Royal Ludus of Antonian Aegyptus: The Morituri.
The Morituri are not only a gladiatorial school that serves the function of spectacle, but a religious institution that combines the oldest values of the munera as funeral rite with particularly Aegypyian views of divinity and the afterlife. Their gladiators must be trained to inflict the ideal types of wounds, and when necessary, how to die properly. They must be prepared and anointed before the honor of making their way to the sands, as the sand itself must be properly cleansed at both dawn and dusk. Beleiving these sacred funerary games not only honor the fallen, but have the power to breach the boundaries of the afterlife, the Morituri elevate and twist the munera far beyond the scope of its Roman roots.
Morituri models are all threats on the board. Mago is great at wearing down individuals and trapping skirmishers with Second Wind to keep him fresh in pursuit and Entangle to keep them isolated. If enemies are bunching up, Contempt will make them pay for it in the end. Ur-Kek is a fantastic roadblock, with Taunt on a 40mm base, great board control in his damage tree, and Consume Essence to keep him around a bit longer. Zahra is the ultimate in Morituri board control with Reach: 3 and Lash, especially when mounted and taking advantage of Sereqet's base size to empower her pushes and extend her reach even further. Thoth is not only an incredible support piece with Libra, Necrosis and Scythe, but he's no slouch in combat with a damage-heavy tree and solid stats. Tiet-Khebi makes for a fantastic skirmisher with her early re-position, Triumph as a bonus for knocking out weakened foes, and the ability to capitalize on a great roll either with raw damage or by using Asari to trigger another model's skull effect.
The most unique aspect to the Morituri play style is the prevalence of these effects marked with a skull, which trigger when the model's final vitality is marked off. Some are very powerful, such as Thoth's Scythe which triggers all other friendly gladiators' similar effects, or Tiet-Khebi's Innervate, which not only heals another friendly model, but restores a fatigue for them as well. Ur-Kek's Spite and Mago's Contempt are more straightforward, while Zahra's Terror is more situational. Even the Titan Sereqet gets in on the action with her Toxin ability, due to Zahra's constant attentions. These abilities are all tricky to maximize in real situations, but pay off big when you can make them count -- especially if you can line up a well-timed Scythe to let them loose all at once.
The Morituri rely heavily on clear turns, and their granted tactics and passive benefits reflect this. They can struggle to compete with Ludus Magnus, or even Legio XIII in terms of favor generation in combat. Their vitality tracks are average at best in terms of passive favor generation, and favor boxes are sparse in their damage trees. If you can keep a steady cadence of clear turns, however, Thoth's Libra ability and Offering can keep you ahead of any opponent; even better if you can add Contempt from a well-placed Mago. Will of Antony allows you to exhaust a model before a clear turn with minimal cost and exposure, or exhaust multiple models and be fresh at the end of your clear turn. This is great if you want to take advantage of an incredibly favor-rich situation for a combat advantage and push quickly toward another clear turn. Cleopatra's Gift gives you another tempting outlet to spend favor on, and lets you improve your tactical situation more directly instead of just improving your performance with favor spend in combat. It also makes cohort building vital if you want to take best advantage of it, as the gladiators you include change the abilities available for you to trigger. This can be great against opponents who focus on tactics over favor, where positioning and fatigue can matter more over the course of the game than an extra die here and there.
The Morituri are a very complex Ludus, and beginners may struggle to take best advantage of their abilities. They already have access to the tools needed for many situations, with more to come. Practice in unlocking their mysteries can lead to incredibly satisfying game play.
Thanks again for checking out the Spotlight, and as always I hope you enjoyed reading. Check back next week as we range even farther afield and across a whole different ocean. We'll wrap up the tactics spotlights for now with our fourth Major Ludus: the Zephyri
Tactics Spotlight: Legio XIII September 09, 2015 22:29
Hi folks, and welcome to a new tactics spotlight.
Last week we covered Ludus Magnus, the great school of the Roman Republic. This week you’ll learn a bit more about their counterparts to the north: the Roman Imperial Ludus Britannicus, also known as Legio XIII.
Without the Republic’s political need to divorce gladiatorial spectacle from the military, the Empire embraces the connections between bloodsport and pitched battle. Gladiators from schools across the empire are still called into military service in times of conflict, and retired gladiators often find themselves under Imperial retainer as specialty close combat trainers for promising recruits. Live steel training exercises between Imperial Legionnaires are not uncommon, which makes the arena like a second home for many of them.
Due to the adoption of many auxiliaries and a willingness to embrace their tactics, Imperial Legions are far less regimented and polished than their Republican counterparts. Even so, the empire’s citizenry takes soldiering to heart, and recruits from any region are trained to stand by each other as individuals and hold the line just the same. Further, the military sponsoring of Legio XIII means that while Imperial Legions may be more individualistic than the Republican conscript legions, the gladiators of Legio XIII are far more comfortable operating in lockstep and formation while effectively responding to threats in the arena.
Generally high armor and vitality stats allow Legio XIII to weather quite a beating and still swing back at their foes. While slightly slower on average than most other schools, their passive ability Echelon allows them to retire injured or exhausted combatants from the front lines and protect them, while at the same time moving fresh gladiators in to finish off weakened foes. Echelon alone gives Legio XIII a lot of board control when they form up; your opponents will struggle to reach your vulnerable models while you can reach theirs. Clever use of Maniple can really isolate opposing gladiators as well, surrounding them with Legio models and leaving them without any support.
In addition, Aemilia, Ban-luca and Aquila all have Coordinated Strike, meaning that small pushes into one of these models can make for big damage from extra successes. Urien is a great front-line pusher with Momentum, and it’s easy to take advantage of Hot-Blooded when you can use Echelon to keep him safe while he’s exhausted. Gaius Pallidus is a great second-rank gladiator, healing a bit of vitality here and there to keep your troops fresher than they ought to be. He also makes a tough last man standing, and must be finished off quickly since every turn becomes a clear turn. Sulla adds even more depth to Legio XIII’s toolbox with his Dictate ability and Exploit tactic, and Veteran allows the old man to hold his own even in a bad situation as long as his Favor holds out.
If Ludus Magnus is the shining gem of the arena, Legio XIII is the stone used for polishing. It doesn’t have to be flashy, and nobody expects it to be. All it has to do to be useful is wear others down, and ensure that in the end it isn’t the one that breaks. Join us next week as we uncover some of the mysteries of Antonian Aegyptus and the rites of the Morituri.
Tactics Spotlight: Ludus Magnus September 02, 2015 23:30
Hi folks, and welcome back to the spotlight.
Last week I promised you a look at a Major Ludus, and the world of Arena Rex has no Ludus more major than Ludus Magnus, the great school of the Roman Republic. Founded in Rome in the late 8th century AUC and transplanted into the Catonian Amphitheatre Complex in 808, Ludus Magnus is the only gladiatorial school with a charter to operate under the control of citizens within the Republic.
Visits from foreign Ludi are scheduled months and years in advance; the contracts for gladiators are specified by armament and style rather than by name to ensure the terms can be met for each event. Riders are often attached to the contracts naming star participants for huge bonuses, but the one thing no official of the Republic leaves uncertain is the date and size of an event.
The gladiators of Ludus Magnus are therefore trained to rely on their own ability to incite the crowds. Whether facing a foreign superstar or the dregs of a borderland dungeon, their performance reflects their patron’s investment just the same.
The gladiators in Ludus Magnus are by and large very individual characters. While some support other gladiators well (notably Viatrix, Iason, and Marcus Furius), each of these gladiators has been trained to stand on their own in the arena above all else. Ludus Magnus gladiators also tend to have stronger favor generation, as well as more abilities tied to the spending of favor than the other factions (on average). They are all great choices to mix in alongside another Ludus, and have the classic gladiator styling that so many fans of Arena Rex love.
While each of the Ludus Magnus characters is an individual capable in nearly any circumstance, they really shine when they work together to drive the crowds wild.
Next week we’ll continue the tactics spotlights with the other side of the denarius: a detailed look at Legio XIII’s distinctive martial style.
For now check out our newly released starter sets.
As always, thanks for reading, and see you next week!
Tactics Spotlight: Gorgons August 26, 2015 23:41
We’ve talked a lot about Medusa lately; we’ve given you some insight into the character design and the design of the rules for the individual model, but we haven’t yet touched on one of the most important things about her: her context as the capstone release to our first minor ludus (and don’t worry, next week we’ll start spreading the spotlight out a bit more).
One of the best things about designing the Medusa was getting to design her rules side by side with the other Gorgons. Euryale was the anchor for the design – as one of our Kickstarter models she came first and gave us the foundation to work with. With a name meaning ‘far-strider’ we knew she would be the queen of mobility. Stheno, ‘the forceful,’ was the most difficult to manage rules for. Making sure she was upholding her name and was still reasonably balanced was quite a trick, especially since Euryale was already capable of quite a bit of mayhem on her own. Medusa really gave us the flexibility to round out the set, and provide a little of structure and tactical depth for the trio.
Because we intended the set to be played with only three specific models, the tactics available to the Gorgons could be a bit wilder. Without having to balance the possibilities of things like an entire cohort with swift or room for future releases to fill different roles, the Gorgons can really take the gloves off when taken together as a minor ludus. All of the abilities that we thought were tons of fun but ruled out for balance reasons were suddenly back on the table as potential tactics, and it was a blast to design and test.
The first thing that sets the Gorgons apart in gameplay terms is that every model in the cohort is staged. This makes fatigue management and the clear turn particularly interesting mechanics for them – with fewer models in the cohort, every action and reaction really counts. If a Gorgon player is really pushing the envelope it’s possible to get to a clear turn very rapidly. This allows them not only to recover from exhaustion swiftly, but also gives them the ability to exploit their tactics with very little warning. Slither and Slayer are a solid one-two punch to dish out some hurt even during one of those rapid-fire clear turns, and Petrify can be used either to really punish that same target and go for a knockout, or to push the opponent closer to a clear turn in order to get some breathing room back for the Gorgons.
The downside, of course, is that having fewer activations can make it difficult to respond to a canny opponent. A Gorgon cohort that lets their opponent dictate the tempo of the game is in deep trouble. While each of the sisters is dangerous in her own way, once one of them goes down for the count the other two become much more manageable. Poise helps keep them from becoming as vulnerable while transitioning stages, but Gorgon players should still be wary of losing a stage at the wrong moment. Losing Cold-blooded or Taunt, or becoming Planted can each pose major challenges in the wrong situations.
Of course, one other side benefit of having fewer models in your cohort is being able to spend more time painting each of of these models.
As always, I hope you enjoyed the read. That wraps it up for the Gorgons for now (though of course we'll come back to Stheno and Euryale individually later on). Next time we'll be taking a break from the snakes and going a bit bigger with our first Tactics spotlight for a major Ludus. Until then!
Rules spotlight: Medusa August 21, 2015 08:38
Hi folks, welcome back to the second entry in our series of model spotlights. This week, we are still on the topic of Medusa, but from a different angle: her rules.
The first consideration for Medusa was to make her a thematic character and a solid choice for any list. Thematically, we wanted to really reflect that she was a mythic character. In myth, the blood of a Gorgon is a potent thing, with the blood from one side of the body said to cure any ailment up to death and from the other side a deadly poison. While we have a few characters that deal bonus damage, healing is rather rare, and in the cases where it does exist it tends to be a disruption of the natural order. Thus Ichor was born as a way to tie our Medusa to her mythic counterpart.
Taunt was a tricky decision for us. We wanted to give Medusa extra utility from her core Ichor ability, and a way to keep her sister Gorgons intact a little longer. Taunt could quickly become a way for a staged model to bog things down if it persisted in both stages, and even become a liability during the relatively vulnerable transition between stages. For these reasons we decided to stick with Taunt in her first stage only, and to give Medusa another new rule in her second stage: Mirror.
Those of you who read last week’s piece will know a bit about the importance of the name for the ability, but we thought it was a great way to give her a little more defensive punch in her second stage. It makes her less of a target right when opponents might be tempted to burn favor to finish her off as she’s transitioning. It also makes her efficient offensively against opponents who have a stockpile of favor, making her a strong finisher herself.
Lastly, Singular makes her a little more available to players who want a specific Ludus playstyle for their cohort. She is a sort of ‘Titan in spirit’ (alongside Stheno) with this rule. As unaligned gladiators with two stages it seemed too difficult to work these great centerpieces into a moderately sized cohort, but giving them all of the attendant Titan or Beast rules just to exempt them from Ludus benefit math didn’t feel right either, and they were really right where we wanted them as staged models (especially the Gorgons as a set). Singular gave us a nice way to give them some of the feel of Titans while keeping them thematic and balanced.
Thanks again for reading. I hope these articles enrich your time with Arena Rex, or at least give you a fun way to spend a break in your day. Next week, we’ll go into more detail on the Gorgons and how they come together as a minor Ludus.
Development Spotlight: Medusa August 13, 2015 22:48
Hi folks, Walker here with our first blog post that goes beyond the strict news and informational format we have been using so far. We’ve been working on a content schedule for a while now in order to give you guys a little more insight into our design thoughts and process, and I’m happy to present the first entry in our spotlight series: Medusa.
Some of you may have noticed that our Medusa (along with the other Gorgon sisters) doesn’t exactly follow the established model of what themes are usually explored for her in games, film, and literature. When we are designing a new character for Arena Rex we like to look at a couple of things before we even really get started and the first of them is “What is already out there?”
In the case of Medusa, the short answer is “quite a lot” and so we really wanted to take our time with this character and model and make it something special that adds a new wrinkle to the idea of who or what Medusa could be.
The primary concept that really drove development of our Medusa character was the idea of Medusa as anathema to Athena. According to Ovid (and others) Medusa was cursed by Athena. After her eventual decapitation her head was affixed to Athena’s shield. Our Medusa, after her fateful run-in with Athena, took the head of Athena’s favored bird, the owl, and fixed it to her shield as a taunt to the goddess. When we examined the idea of a Medusa that mirrored Athena, we knew we had a strong concept to run with (for Nick’s sake, I will avoid turning this into a 5 page essay on Medusa and mirrors).
The other idea that really struck me personally was the idea of using classical veiled statuary as a basis for our Medusa. Medusa is known in myth for her terrible visage, and her gaze capable of turning men to stone. Full veils are uncommon on miniatures because the face is a focal point for painters and can turn pieces into a real showcase.
A well done rendering of sheer fabric in miniature has always impressed me personally, and I thought that if we could find a way to pull off a very thin classically styled veil it would be a great opportunity for skilled painters to really show off. At the same time the crest and hairpiece would evoke a classical Greek helmet in resting position, and would give us the focal point needed to keep the miniature in balance.
Benoit took a really challenging concept and did a fantastic job of executing it. We knew that whoever we asked to sculpt this model would have their work cut out for them, and he came through with a piece that really reflects the concept we had for the character and brings it to life. As a side benefit, it means that our original hope to keep all of the Gorgons with the same sculptor bore out, and they really make a nice set beside each other.
Thanks for reading. I hope you’ve enjoyed hearing more about some of the ideas we focused on when developing Medusa as a character for Arena Rex. Keep an eye on this space for a bit more about Medusa and her sister Gorgons in the coming weeks, and a whole lot more about everything else after that!
Web Store Grand Opening! July 14, 2015 02:15
The grand opening releases to the general public all of the miniatures first unlocked through the Kickstarter campaign for Arena Rex: Gladiator Combat in a Mythic Age. These miniatures have previously only been available to campaign backers.
We launched our Kickstarter campaign to help fund the initial development of the game system and miniatures line on March 15, 2013, and have continued to develop the world and miniatures line while fulfilling the rewards of the Kickstarter campaign. New miniatures will continue to be released as the game grows in the coming months and years.
Many thanks to our backers on Kickstarter, their support helped bring this game to life.
Open for business. January 10, 2015 19:41
Our webstore is finally here. Though longtime followers of Arena Rex will notice that our entire catalog is not yet available. There are two reasons for this limited offering.
1. We want to test out the webstore we've setup before we offer too many products. This way we can tweak elements of the site if problems occur.
2. Some of our Kickstarter backers are still awaiting their pledges due to sculpting delays. These backers helped launch Arena Rex and we have a responsibility to get as many pledges out as we can before making the miniatures funded by Kickstarter widely available.
With that bit of explanation out of the way we now smash a miniature bottle of champagne across the bow of a tiny boat. Maybe we should smash a ship in a bottle instead? We are going to smash something.