Publisher: Firefly Games
Review Dated: 18th, June 2004
Reviewer’s Rating: 7/10 [ Good ]
Total Score: 7
Average Score: 7.00
Victory or Death. Choose. No Gamesmaster required.
Abducted by aliens, you are now an ultimate fighting machine doing battle in deadly futuristic arenas for the entertainment of your masters.
That’s enough quoting from the back of the book. I thought some selective highlights would grab your attention, they certainly grabbed mine. You are a CyborGladiator and you have been abducted, enhanced and made to fight by alien masters.
Mankind is one of four races which are being made to fight for alien overlords. Our abductees, the human gladiators, are the most technologically advanced and are good all-rounders. They’re most likely to be best with the big guns! The cat-like aliens are fast, nimble but more fragile, the insectoids are slow but robust and can see in the dark and the reptilian species are tough and strong. Okay, so that’s not exactly the widest most original range of aliens but it’s enough. CyborGladiators benefits hugely from its galactic setting; four aliens might not be all that much in a roleplaying game but its four times as many races you’d get in a Roman style gladiator game. Then there are the weight classes; light, medium, heavy and ultraheavy. The heavier classes have more points to spend on cybernetics. There’s no mounted class as such – it’s up to the gladiator’s player to decide whether points are spent in flying, armour, weapons or other gadgets.
Hmm. Is CyborGladiators really a roleplaying game? Not unless you make it one. By default CyborGladiators is a bite sized skirmish war game. If you know Firefly Games‘s work through their rather fun Monster Island game then you’ll be familiar with much of CyborGladiators’ core rules. If, like me, you enjoy Monster Island, you’re likely to enjoy CyborGladiators. The first thing which grabbed my attention in Monster Island was the card insert of cut-out monster paper miniatures. Rather sagely, Firefly repeats this trick here and with gladiators but I’m spoilt now and wish there were rather more figures. I’m reviewing CyborGladiators as if it was a roleplaying game though; there’s nothing to stop you running through scenarios with the gladiators, stopping only to role dice for combat and arena fights. In fact, as it happens, I’m currently playing in a rule light fantasy game where the mechanics only kick in for fantasy gladiator battles.
Of the 62 pages there are 11 for cybernetic parts. It looks rather pretty. Each part is presented is an odd-shaped card or computer window. Any one rather keen on the whole game could easily photocopy these pages, cut out the shapes and have either custom decks for gladiators or paste them to a sheet (and photocopy again) for a nicely graphical gladiator profile. Readers aren’t short of pages to photocopy (with permission, unlike my naughty suggestion) as there are character sheets, arena sheets and a tournament sheet.
The cybernetic selection could be more expansive but this is a slim book at a reasonable price. I think the mix of cybernetics to other rules is about right. I also think it would be easy and quite fun to design your own. There’s an added touch to the cybernetics which I quite like in that there are different manufactures whom compete to produce the best or most popular modifications. Given how popular the construction championships are in Formula One and other motor sports, I think this could well add some extra personality and spice to the game.
Once you done designing alien cyborg gladiators you can design an interesting arena for them to fight in (hence the arena sheet mentioned before). Since this is a Sci-Fi game you can have micro-gravity or floating arenas. If you have a floating arena and your gladiator doesn’t have cybernetic flight… then you’re in deadly trouble if you’re flung off the edge. Since there are decadent aliens making the gladiators flight for their pleasure the arenas can be peppered with features such as lava pools too – simply there to make the fight more interesting. An interesting fight for the alien overlords is an interesting fight for the players too. The scope in arenas ensures that it is a less than simple task to mini-max your gladiator. If you go overboard with cool flying powers then you may be in trouble if you don’t get to fight in arena which favours flight. As you may not be bothered with setting up the arena or simply want to represent the fickle whims of cruel aliens – there are random charts for rolling up arenas.
The Action! System, which CyborGladiators uses a version of, is a carefully thought out set of rules. It’s quick and easy but thorough enough when needs be. Gladiators have skills. Hits on a cybernetic arm are not so life threatening than a hit on a flesh arm.
There is some longevity in the game too. Gladiators are there to fight for their freedom and gather glory as they go. Glory’s a score. Fight for glory. This will carry the game some way but I think CyborGladiator’s works best as an one off venture – a bored Sunday night with gamer friends. I think it would work better as a one off tournament. I see it working well in Conventions. I quite like CyborGladiators. It doesn’t knock my socks off but it’s good fun.