Wednesday, 16 May 2018

Review Gangs of Rome: Blood on the Aventine

Blood on the Aventine, Boxed Game

I had been hearing good things about the new Gangs of Rome rules for a while and took the opportunity to pick up a Blood on the Aventine boxed starter set at Salute. I clearly wasn't the only one as the game was selling faster than indulgences to politicians.


Box Reverse Showing Contents

Blood on the Aventine is a complete game in a box, in that there is everything one needs from miniatures to rules without needing an additional purchase. The rear of the box shows the contents.


Miniatures

Inside the box are six good quality gang fighters plus some rather nifty lasercut woodchip bases with a rather unique design feature. I have not yet painted my own set, so here are the photos from the rulebook.

The five 'civilians' on the group base are a 'Roman mob'. More about these later but, for now, I should say that these are not included and must be bought separately.

The Rules

As well as a scrumptious full colour rule book, one gets an exclusive Blood on the Aventine scenario complete with special model and terrain.


Talavus the Gaul

The special model in the set is Talavus, who is the caretaker of the half-built temple. He will attack any ganger who gets too close to his charge.

Sarissa Roman Temple

The exclusive half-constructed Roman Temple from Sarissa Precision is an absolute gem: a highly detailed kit as can be seen from the number of layers needed to make it.

Who're You Looking At, Sunshine?

Neighbourly Discussion Over The Garden Wall

I can't resist showing you some more of the photos in the rulebook: gorgeous or what?

Inside The Rules

The basic game mechanics are simple enough with figures being activated in turn until all have made their double action. However the rules have been carefully thought through with oodles of detail.

For example, page 16 solely discusses how to climb up a ladder or rope to get on a roof - without climbing and risking an agility test.
Awareness: concerns whether anyone on the roof already spots the climber and kicks the ladder away/cuts the rope.
Nasty Surprise: for anyone already on the roof who doesn't detect the climber.
Sabotage: the climber cuts the rope/kicks away the ladder after getting to the top to prevent anyone following him - PROVIDED the climber has an alternative way down.

Look, I can't go through all the detail in this short review but you can download the rules for free (and other goodies) and read them for yourself.

The Ganger, Livilla

Each ganger has a card detailing:-
Alignment: bonuses if all gangers come from the same 'hood
Favourite God: gives special 'blessing'.
Back Story: Livilla was found naked under a statue of Venus [could happen to anybody].
Fighter Special Abilities
Stats from top to bottom: Flesh (wounds & movement), Attack, Defence, Agility, Points Cost).

The base has two cut-outs for markers. One is the gang number so players can relate the gang model to a specific stats card. You need this as the system is flexible. The red marker shows the current wounds left, which is also the movement. This is a brilliantly simple idea to avoid clutter and confusion on the tabletop. You move the model and the markers go to. The markers slot out to be changed as the ganger takes wounds.

Manlius

Another ganger. he is number 3 in the 'greens' and has taken a few knocks. His wounds/move marker is down to 3: note the blood spatters.

Weapon/Object Cards

The model doesn't conform exactly to the card because one can provide a model with special weapons/objects. And these can be changed during the game. So a model can whip out a spear, throw it, and then revert back to a standard attack.

Player Aids

The game comes with a full set of aids that are well though up to smooth out and speed up play. The gladius is marked in 'gradus' - it's a ruler. Fortunately by some strange coincidence, one gradus = one inch so you can also use a more standard measure.

The 'stones' are put in a bag and drawn 'Bolt Action' style to give play order. The large diecut counters are Denarii and are used to mark which model has which special weapon or object.

Note the dice, marked in Roman numerals. I think this is a great touch to add atmosphere but they are basically D6s so can be easily substituted for people who prefer more standard fare.

Da Roman Mob

Multi-model bases are non-player controlled 'mobs' of civilians. They react to whatever gang actions they see in various ways governed by die rolls and add a fun level of unpredictably.

Streets Of Rome

Sarissa Precision have produced a whole new range of laser-cut buildings, ships and engines to support the game. Find them here. Do take a look as they are fabulous.

SO HOW DOES IT PLAY

The Villa Of Iohannes Agna

I set up a simple scenario with my regular opponent and playtester, the Saxon warrior called Shaun.

Iohannes Agna has built a posh villa in a small town just outside Rome on the Via Appia. His business methods, although lucrative, have made him enemies so the villa is walled and guarded by a gang under contract, the Samnian Sausage Eaters.

I hadn't finished my official models so we used some of my Roman skirmish models from my Foundry and Warlord collections. Shaun supplied the Roman town.

Gang Cards

These are the stats for my gangers. Note that the 'flesh' markers are on the cards as my old models are on standard bases. The turned over cards are the weapons etc.


Hey You In The Villa

The Sausage Eaters are lounging around the courtyard as usual when a challenge announces the arrival of the local Crossroads Brotherhood - who want to discuss certain market charges with Iohannes.

My gang move out to persuade the Brotherhood that the boss is otherwise engaged.

First Moves

The Brotherhood cluster around the entrance to the Villa courtyard. Samnian Aemillia (in the green dress) is an acrobat so she somersaults over the wall to catch the Brotherhood from behind as her colleagues block the gate.

Awkward

Aemellia produces a spear but hesitates to throw it which is a big error. Two of the brotherhood, well one brother and a sister, rush over and 'gang up' on her.

General Brawl

The Sausage Eaters try to come to Aemillia's aid but are stopped by the third Brother blocking the exit.

Sausage Eater Down

Aemillia suffers a nasty wound and goes down. The Brotherhood now gang up 3 to 2 on her friends as they force their way out into the alley (brawl combat rather than wound hits).

End Game

Another Eater bites the dust. My remaining ganger decided that maybe the boss is 'at home' after all and steps aside.

The Brotherhood swagger in without a backward look.

The game too about an hour to play - half of that was used looking up rules as it was our first game.

It was great fun and really allowed us to play out the narrative.

Highly recommended.

Gangs of Rome is super fun but if you buy Blood on the Aventine and don't like the game then the components alone are easily worth £35. Hell, the Sarissa model must be worth 25 knicker of anyone's dosh and you get seven great minis to caligula.

Now, I bet Iohannes has a few brawny lads inside the villa to look after his interests. I sense a sequel coming on......













6 comments:

  1. Nice review. It seems quite popular. If I had the terrain for it I would be tempted.

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  2. A thorough and excellent review...i'm tempted now!

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  3. Great review John, will be interesting to see if expansions fit seamlessly with each set

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    Replies
    1. The designers have left a lot of wiggle room

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