Arena rex rulebook

Are you not entertained?

The rulebook is an unusual, small, and nearly square design, featuring a minimalist aesthetic. The book is printed in a heavy matte stock, much better than the typically magazine-weight material often seen for Kickstarted projects.

The first half of the book is a background section.

Arena Rex is a world inspired by the most exciting eras of antiquity. The myth, hearsay, and superstition that riddles accounts of these periods is pervasive, and key historical changes lead to a setting that is both familiar and incredible. The Roman Republic endures, as does the Gallo-Roman Empire. The kingdom of Aegyptus is a tributary of the Roman Republic and ruled directly by an Antonian king and Ptolemaic queen. The Atlantic is not the barrier it once was, and men from the twilight lands of the north and natives of the far west join in commerce and warfare. The year is 1253 AUC and this is not the world you know.

The second half of the book is rules.

From the off Arena Rex looks like a Standard I go, you go sort of game until you understand that there is no real end of turn phase.  There isn’t a point where you get to remove all the bad things going on, take a deep breath and start a new turn.  So that also means that the game has no turn limit system, it really is winner takes all.  Even though the game talks about turns its more in the fact that it’s your turn to do something.

To be able to deal with a game like this and it not become totally insane a simple mechanic is used, Fatigue.  When certain actions are carried out a model will become increasingly Fatigued and depending on what state they are can effect what they can do.  Fatigue has 3 levels Ready, Fatigued and Exhausted.  Doing a normal move action is fine, doing two will make you Fatigued, and three will make you Exhausted.  An attack will make you Fatigued or if you’re already Fatigued it will make you Exhausted.

At the start of your action you can remove 1 level of Fatigue from a model, unless they are Exhausted though.  That can only be removed in a clear round (Don’t worry I’ll explain later).  You can then activate a single model and do whatever actions it’s allowed, but it has to stop its actions when it reaches the Exhausted state.

One thing that’s also great is you can pre-measure at any time.  So it’s easy to work out if your plan will work before you try it out.

So what about this Clear Turn I mentioned.  When all your models start the turn Fatigued or Exhausted a clear turn is initiated.  This means that you’re going to do nothing, well sort of do nothing.  All models in your Cohort remove one level of Fatigue, if your Cohort has at least 75% of its models from a single Faction you will also have additional Benefits that can be used in a Clear Turn, these are described as Tactics and can allow models to trade wounds, do free attacks and all other manner of things to keep the crowd entertained.

The combat in Arena Rex can look a little complicated at first glance But is very instinctive once you’ve played through a round or two.  Combat starts very simple for each point in the Attack stat a model can roll 1d6, on a roll of 4+ it’s a hit.  The defender gets to roll 1d6 for each point in his defence to reduce the amount of successes.  The attacking model then uses the success to work down the damage tree.   

Once you go down a branch though you have to keep going, you can’t go back, once a model reaches the end of its tree it stops, no wrap around system like Guild Ball.  So I could either do a total of 10 Damage or if I went the other way I could do 6 damage, plus a re-position and a push.  Re-position/Pushes/Favour/Fatigue all generate 1 damage as well as the effect.  The defending model at the end of all this gets to take his armour value from the total damage received.  This really does make the game very brutal.  You might be thinking so what I can push people, yeah doesn’t sound that special does it?  Till you consider that pushing into a model can increase Fatigue, also the game has rules for dangerous terrain.  Oh did I just push your Gladiator into a fire pit?  Does that mean he goes from un-wounded to dead from my one push?  Sorry…

Arena Rex has a huge slew of ways to injure your Gladiators be it other Gladiators hacking at you or like mentioned above using terrain to cripple your opponent.  Arena Rex also have rules for bring in wild animals.  Want your opponents team to be eaten by Lions? in Arena Rex you can do that.  Gored by a Rhino?  Yeah you can do that.  Killed by Medusa?  that can happen as well.

But models don’t have to stand and just get hit, that would make it very boring and a little one sided.  They can counter attack, they could have moved, and they can assist other members of the Cohort as well.  The game brings huge depth and really gets you into that whirling melee of gladiatorial combat.

Favour

At the start of the game each Cohort has three Favour dice, these can be added into the game at various points but you can only add a maximum of two to a single action.  Say you really want an attack to hurt, you can add a couple of extra favour dice and the attack goes from six to eight.  What about trying to keep a model alive? extra defence required then use some of the favour dice.  One other handy thing about favour dice is that a four plus on a favour die also counts as two successes.

As a model takes wounds on its Vitality track it can gain favour for its Cohort, certain attacks or special abilities can also gain you Favour.  

Summary: Arena Rex is an innovative tabletop skirmish game. The experience has been built from the ground up to be tactically deep, yet streamlined and accessible. A low model count combined with easily digestible rules make Arena Rex easy to pick up and play. Alternating activations, opposed die rolls, and out-of-turn reactions keep you engaged throughout the game.  ​A dynamic round structure offers new gameplay and tactical opportunities unique to Arena Rex.

Overall Arena Rex is a very fun, fast and fluid game. It isn’t big enough to be your main game but is a great game to play if you have a ew hours spare.

4.5/5

Burning beard

Chief Editor / Author / Commission painter