Skip to Content

The Pits: a board game about gladiators

4 replies [Last post]
gamesomuch's picture
Joined: 06/01/2022

Hello everyone,
I've designed a board game about gladiators and created this Instructable for it:

I would be grateful for any feedback. This is my first game and I want to design it to completion - that is, until it's as good as it can be with playtesting and tweaking - just for the experience and to be better equipped for bigger designs which I have in the works.

let-off studios
let-off studios's picture
Joined: 02/07/2011

Kudos to you for creating a game using a deck of cards as a main component...! These days I'm always curious to see how people make games from standard components that are reasonably easy for anyone to find already in their home. The use of both chess pieces and Monopoly components in your example is a fine one, considering that anything can stand in for either the player tokens and injury markers. It's excellent to see that you encourage players to find their own tokens instead of investing in one-off or expensive pieces when the core of the game is still there.

The tricky thing about dice is that - unlike the cards you use - there's no even distribution of die results. Someone could throw three 1's in a row, leading to drastically fewer Action Points and the feeling that they've been ripped-off by luck. I do like that you allow several dice to be thrown at the same time when someone has the better-quality weapons.

I've not played this yet myself, but I suspect that all the players will be clamoring for the Diamond cards (or perhaps Hearts), and scrambling around the arena seeking them out. No other suits are worth keeping, really.

I also think that, because of the sub-optimal quality of the rest of the suits, games would tend to be longer than the 30 minutes you cite in your rulesheet. You may want to consider an additional victory condition, such as a number of opponents hit or slain, or a limit to the number of times a player's team of gladiators can "tag out." Maybe each team has a certain number of fighters, and when their team is wiped out or has tagged-out, they lose and the other team/s gain some sort of advantage to gaining victory.

It also might be a -lot- more fun for a player who has the Diamond equipment to run around the arena, chasing after the rest of the fighters. That makes me think of gladiator arena fights, at least. Gladiators earned a victory through fighting, not by collecting equipment. Maybe the equipment system you have built here becomes a sub-system of the gladiator fighting game, so that those who "luck-out" with the better equipment have a better chance of surviving attacks or slaying their opponents.

Maybe the Jokers can stand-in for some sort of hazard? Like, uncovering a Joker releases a lion, or forces the gladiator to take an injury from a spike pit or other trap?

Best of success on your design...! I'm curious to see where you take this project. :)

PS: Your other instructables seem pretty great, too!

gamesomuch's picture
Joined: 06/01/2022
Good suggestions

Thanks for the analysis and suggestions. I think I will change the action points to be a set number - I'm thinking 8 - because as you say it's too great a (dis)advantage between a roll of 1 and 6 based entirely on luck.
I'm also thinking to have action point penalties based on what equipment each player has, in order to balance out the power of having diamond or heart cards. Perhaps if a player has any diamond card equipped then they are reduced by 4 action points, for hearts 3, spades 2 and clubs 1. These penalties wouldn't be cumulative - only the highest penalty would apply at any one time, so if a player had a diamond helmet and a spades right boot then only the diamond penalty of 4 would apply.
It might also be worth trying if the quality of weapons was the reverse (clubs 4, spades 3, hearts 2 and diamonds 1).
Though it's worth testing it with the heavy bias towards diamonds and hearts and see if anyone sneaks under the radar to collect all the clubs or spades. If there are 3 or 4 players in the game and 2 of them are at each other for the diamonds then it can create an opportunity for this to happen.
In the couple of play tests that I did with 4 players, each player collected a variety of suites in the initial hunt around the board, so that whoever wanted the diamonds would have to slay the other players who had a diamond card. So the fun for the over powered diamond clad player chasing and slaying the others was there.
I'll keep the victory condition as it is for now but will consider that if games drag on. It is intended as a short warm up game and yes the time is probably underestimated. Not having dice rolls for movement will save some time at least.
Yes the jokers could be used for that. Would just need a couple more spaces on the board. Perhaps if a player killed a lion then that's an automatic victory.

questccg's picture
Joined: 04/16/2011
I had some ideas when looking over your design.

These are just some ideas, feel free to use, adapt or ignore them. Okay here I go...

1. What if there is ONLY two (2) suits IN PLAY (that you can reveal) which are Clubs and Spades? WHY??? Because instead of "Red" being armor and such, it is instead WOUNDS! So if you get attacked and causes a wound in your LEFT HAND, you put a Heart or Diamond card in that position. A strike to the head could be a fatal wound (and the Gladiator dies).

2. What if those WOUNDS were SEMI-PERMANENT? Like a "2 Hearts" or "2 Diamond" means that the wound will last only 2 ROUNDS. And then that wound is healed. You could track with with wooden cubes. 1 Red Cube = 1 Round. So if you have a "3 Diamonds", it means the wound has 3 Red Cubes, each turn you remove ONE Red Cube until there are non and the wound is fully healed.

3. This changes the dynamic and I would make the game a DUEL (2-Players).

Okay that's one set of ideas.

The other ideas that I had, had to do with SCORING and winning. The first player to cause sufficient wounds to the opponent is the winner. You could have some kind of rules system:

A. Like if both legs or feet are wounded, that Gladiator is defeated.

B. If you have a piece of ARMOR protecting an area, that's a SAFE AREA. What I mean is that the opponent cannot be wounded in that area.

C. This sets up something SIMILAR to your own ideas: namely that IF a Player gets a full suit of ARMOR (Black Cards), he is victorious!

Just wanted to share some of my own thoughts about this neat little game that has IMHO some serious merit...


gamesomuch's picture
Joined: 06/01/2022
Interesting ideas

Thanks for the new ideas. I hadn't considered the possibility that players could heal wounds. It would add a lot more pieces (the cubes) and time managing the adding/subtracting of the cubes, but it could be interesting to try to avoid combat for a few rounds to heal. The players don't need to be human gladiators either; they could be trolls or some monster with regenerative ability. Actually I'm thinking to change the theme away from gladiators to being prisoners in an underground prison (namely The Pits). These prisoners are fighting for their chance at freedom. The non-humans would fit better into that theme. They could even have different perks like regeneration, natural armour or weapon, etc.

What if instead of one starting gate there were multiple 'cells' on the edge of the board where prisoners waited to be released into the arena? Then there would be a finite number of combatants. Last man/monster standing would also be a victory condition.

With regards to the number of players, currently it doesn't play well with only 2 players. Whichever one finds a weapon first has a major advantage, especially if it's a decent weapon. Also there's too much searching for equipment rather than hunting down another combatant that has the equipment you want - this hunting and plundering seems to be the main fun of the game. So what if each player controls 2 combatants? Would this theoretically lower the chances of one player gaining that major advantage by pure luck? (The 2 team mates would not be allowed to give each other equipment)

Ideally, if a 3rd player arrived they could join in the game at any time, and so too a 4th. I think it could be neat as a warm up game at the beginning of a games night which players can join as they arrive and not be at a huge disadvantage, apart from not knowing which cards are what on the arena. So if it could transition from 2x2 combatants to just 3 combatants and then 4.

Syndicate content

forum | by Dr. Radut