Sunday, August 25, 2013

build: arena rex: designing an arena, pt. 2 - the stands

While an arena floor is what you need to play the game, it just looks like an empty patch of sand without some stands to back up the illusion. As much as I researched reality for my arena floor, I researched fantasy just as much when trying to figure out my arena's stands. There are some beautiful reference pictures of other folk's miniature arenas out there, but no matter where I turned, I kept coming back to pics from the Starz series Spartacus.

Capua's Arena: primary entrance, exterior, host's box

My design aesthetic will borrow heavily from these design cues. However, recreating Capua's arena in in full would pose several challenges - transport, ease of play, and build-time being chief amongst them. For this reason, I plan to draw a bit of inspiration from Arden Fell's arena. I really like that the missing wall breaks the typical "god's eye view" most wargames give us and invites us to get down onto the sand with out gladiators. It helps give the feeling that we aren't commanding the gladiators so much as being them, and I dig it hardcore.

However, Arden built his as one solid piece. While I applaud that for arena's kept in one location, I plan on transporting my arena quite a bit. To combat the bulkiness problem, and to fit the arena in my tiny Yaris, I plan to break my arena into four pieces - arena floor, "backdrop" stands, and two sets of side stands.

Arena Composition: floor, backdrop stands, side stands

The arena floor is the arena floor as detailed in "designing an arena, pt. 1." The "backdrop" stands will be the largest single piece, encompassing the host's box, multiple tiers of seating, and the shades seen so prominently in Gladiator and Spartacus. The side stands are likely to only have one tier of seating, and one of the sides will feature the "Emperor's Gate" entrance. Where the "front" bit of seating would go, I'll leave open for the reasons stated above.

Arena in 3D: incomplete sketch

I've not yet decided whether the walls between the gladiators and the spectators will be part of the stands, or build directly into the arena floor. The upside of attaching them to the stands is that the floor becomes a flat piece for transport. The upside of having them attached to the floor is that they're always there and can create the cursory illusion of an arena when time or space doesn't permit the stands. Either way, the aesthetic of the arena walls will draw heavily from the Spartacus photos above, as will the Host's box.

Arena Walls

Host's Box: cribbed almost entirely from the show

Depending on how the build goes, I've got a couple ideas that could give the backdrop and side stands some utility beyond elaborate decoration. Unfortunately, those came to me just today and I don't yet have them mapped out or drawn up. I'll let them marinate until I'm ready to tackle them head-on.

For now, it's time to run through a few games of Arena Rex and paint up another game's figures from the backlog.


  1. Love what you are doing here with your arena and I'm looking forward to seeing this built. My own gladiator rules are going through play testing at the moment, but Arena Rex looks very interesting.


  2. Oddly enough, I spent over an hour today going through various forum posts and battle reports regarding Blood on the Sands. It looks a treat to play. I like that it puts you in the adrenaline-fueled skin of a single gladiator in 1-on-1 combat, with just enough crunch to write a narrative. It makes the action more visceral and real than other games I've looked at. Not to mention that Dr. Mathias is doing a bang-up job of making the character cards beautiful and evocative of the time period.

    I realize the arena I'm building is ridiculously huge for Blood on the Sands, but I think it'll work on occasion. I'm currently thinking I'd build a couple smaller arenas for routine play, and then use the big one to stage multiple simultaneous 1-on-1 skirmishes at events or tournaments (4-6 players). I anxiously await the day my friends and I can try it out.