One of my favorite movies of all time is “Ben Hur” and one of my favorite game is Avalon Hill’s Circus Maximus. I was also a big fan of HBO’s short-lived series “Rome.” (You can see where this is going…)
Over the years I’ve built several massive games, created especially for convention play, including setups for chariot racing and gladiator fights. Here’s a look:
The biggest of my insanely large miniatures projects, this complete hippodrome for chariot racing — designed to be used with 15mm figures and Avalon Hill’s classic Circus Maximus rules — measures over 8 feet long. While not quite historically accurate (the Spina is more “Ben Hur” than the original), it does include real gold dolphins for the turning posts and dirt from actual location in the Rome. It took over a decade to finish.
I’ve made a number of adjustments to the original game (you can download the rules for Streamlined Circus Maximus here), and if your driver gets killed during the race, you get to write your name in the board.
There are a LOT of names on the board.
Strangely enough, while I own a copy of both the Battleline and Avalon Hill version of Gladiator, I’ve never played either. Growing up, my brother and I were fascinated by another ’70s-era game, Gladiators by Fantasy Unlimited, and our copy of the rules — Xeroxed from a friend of a friend — were well worn. Its use of pre-planned moves and attacks was similar to the Yaquinto games of the same period, and often resulted in random and hilarious outcomes. In other words, perfect for a bunch of kids who just wanted to roll some dice. Building an arena proved problematic though, as miniatures were extremely hard to come by.
After Ridley Scott’s Academy-Award winning movie in 2000, however, gladiators games were everywhere. There were dozens of rule sets, and hundreds of figures. You could even buy miniature colosseums, and fill them with crowds of roman citizens. I finally jumped back in when my brother found a curious set of educational toys that included 7″ tall historically accurate fighters. Inspired by the astounding set piece in the first season of HBO’s Rome, and using Arena Games’ rules, I built another ridiculously large setup, the world’s “largest miniature game.”