Introduction: The Pits: a Board Game About Gladiators

The Pits is a board game for 2-4 players about gladiators fighting for their freedom in the arena. Expect a game to last about 30 minutes. It uses common playing pieces and a printable board. Here are the required pieces:

  • A deck of playing cards, mini size preferred, or full size cut in half in order to fit on the character sheets
  • 4 dice of one colour (blue in this case), 3 of another colour (white)
  • 4 character sheet print outs (see below for pdf)
  • Arena board print out (see below for pdf)
  • 4 unique gladiator miniatures (chess pieces in this case)
  • 3 damage markers for each player (monopoly hotels in this case)

Victory goes to the player who acquires a full suite of armour of one type (E.G. all diamonds) and the weapon and shield of that same suite.

Step 1: Print the Board

Print the arena, trim it, then tape it together. Print the character sheets.

The arena has 52 empty spaces for the 52 cards in the deck. These cards represent the equipment that the gladiators will use in combat.

  • The Aces are weapons
  • The Kings are shields
  • The remaining cards from 2 to Queen are the various pieces of armour

The character sheets indicate where the cards are placed and what they represent. E.G. The 7 is the cuirass covering the chest and torso. The 2 is for the right boot.

The different suites indicate the quality of the armour and weapons, ranked from diamonds (best), hearts, spades then clubs.

Step 2: Arrange Cards and Pieces

Remove the Jokers from the deck of cards, then shuffle them as you place them on the spaces on the board. Each player starts with their piece at the portcullis/gate. In this example I've also put the same type of piece on each character sheet to show which belongs to whom.

Step 3: Roll and Take Action

On a player's turn, they roll one white die. The number rolled is the number of actions they have for that round. Actions are:

  • move (horizontally or vertically, not diagonally)
  • look at a card
  • equip or replace a card
  • attack another gladiator

Each costs 1 action point.

Let's look at movement and picking up cards to start with. The photos show the player with the king chess piece rolling a 5. The moves one-by-one are as follows:

  1. moves 1 space
  2. looks at a card
  3. equips the card in the appropriate spot
  4. moves 1 space
  5. looks at a card

Step 4: Swap Cards

As the game progresses inevitably a player will turn over a card on the board with the same number/rank as a card already equipped on their character sheet. The player may swap one for the other. Only one card can be equipped in each slot on the character sheet. The photos show the rook piece uncovering a 5 of spades which it swaps out for the 5 of clubs.

Step 5: Attacking

A gladiator which is equipped with a weapon (one of the Ace cards) may attack another gladiator that is adjacent (not including diagonal).

The attacker can roll 1,2 or 3 white dice to determine the body area to attack. A 1-die roll will aim for the bottom half while a 3-dice roll will aim for neck and head, but both have the chance of missing if the roll is less than 2 or greater than 12.

E.G.A) Three white dice are rolled - 5,2 and 3 - with a total of 10 which targets the opponent's right shoulder.

E.G.B) One white die is rolled for 2 which targets the opponent's right foot.

The blue dice are rolled to determine the strength of the attack. The number of blue dice rolled is determined by the quality of weapon:

  • Ace of Clubs: 1
  • Ace of Spades: 2
  • Ace of Hearts: 3
  • Ace of Diamonds: 4

The strength of the attack is the highest value on any one of the dice.

Let's look at the photos for an example. The King piece is attacking the Rook piece. The King is equipped with the Ace of Diamonds so rolls all 4 blue dice and chooses to roll 2 white dice. The white dice totals 4 so the attack aims at the Rook's left foot. The highest of the blue dice is 4, so that is the attack strength. The Rook's left foot is unarmoured so the attack penetrates (even a 1 would penetrate) and the left foot takes a hit which is marked with the red hotel piece (it's just what I had lying around). The Rook now has a movement penalty, but more on that later.

In the next round, the King pursues the Rook and attacks again, this time rolling a 10 on the white dice and a 5 on the blue dice, so attacking with strength 5 towards the Rook's right shoulder. That shoulder is protected with a pauldron of the suite of Hearts. Similar to weapon quality, armour thickness is determined by the suite:

  • Clubs: 2
  • Spades: 3
  • Hearts: 4
  • Diamonds: 5

The attack strength must exceed the armour thickness in order to penetrate. In this case it does, with the attack strength of 5 exceeding the Hearts armour thickness of 4, and therefore the Rook's right shoulder also takes a hit and also scores a red hotel mark. Now the Rook suffers a penalty to attacks it makes (more on that later).

The King ends up finishing the Rook off with an attack to the chest that penetrates the 7 of Clubs cuirass worn by the Rook. The King then moves onto the space that was occupied by the Rook, which does not require an action point to make.

Step 6: The Spoils of Victory

With the Rook defeated, it leaves all equipment in a stack on the space where it perished. The Rook piece is then placed back at the portcullis (in the form of a new gladiator from that same team) ready to start again on its next turn. Meanwhile the King is able to look through and equip cards from the pile left behind by the Rook, provided it has action points to do so, otherwise must wait for its next turn. It costs only 1 action to look through the entire stack of cards, however it takes 1 action to equip each piece of equipment. The remaining cards are put back on the stack on that space.

Step 7: Shields

Before any attack is made, a gladiator should position their shield (if they have one). The King cards are the shields and are rated similarly to weapons:

  • King of Clubs: 1
  • King of Spades: 2
  • King of Hearts: 3
  • King of Diamonds: 4

The gladiator may protect a number of body areas equal to the rating of the shield (E.G. a King of Diamonds has a shield rating of 4 and can therefore be placed over 4 adjacent body areas, like the chest, neck, right shoulder and hand).

If the attack targets a shielded area then it is defended, regardless of the strength of the attack.

Step 8: Injuries and Penalties

Hits to the head, neck or chest/torso result in death.

Hits to either the right shoulder or right arm/hand result in a reduction of 1 blue die rolled on attacks. If both shoulder and arm are hit then attacks are disabled altogether, and that gladiator should flee to the exit ASAP, to tag out for another gladiator.

Hits to either the left shoulder or left arm result in a reduction of 1 to shield coverage. If both shoulder and arm are hit then the shield is disabled altogether.

Hits to legs and feet result in reduced action points. The gladiator loses 1 action point for each of those areas hit.

If 4 separate body areas receive hits, death is the result.

If a body area has already been hit, then another hit has no effect.

An injured gladiator may tag out for a fresh gladiator by moving to the portcullis.

Step 9: Victory

Victory is achieved by the first gladiator to collect a full suite of armour and the weapon and shield of that same suite.

This game needs playtesting. Please let me know how it goes and any suggestions :)