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"You Are Spartacus!" Prepping My Gladiator Arena Game

As a young teen in the early 1980s I somehow came across a copy of Avalon Hill's Gladiator (1981). I loved the gritty detail it lavished on combat, with loads of tables for determining things like hit location and collision impact results as well as finely detailed character sheets for tracking everything from specific pieces of armor to wound severity by body part. It was a wargamers' approach to simulating skirmish-level hand-to-hand combat in the sword-and-sandals era, and it had the kind of granularity that appealed to a detail-oriented boy who was excited to find a game that codified the type of fights that role-playing games dealt with in a much more abstract fashion. And it was a lot of fun to play, too, though, it required a commitment level that meant I had to master the rules and be ready to teach it to anybody I was ever going to hope to play.

In the end I never found another occasion to crack open that box for Gladiator after the mid-1980s, and despite my fond mem…