Sunday, 6 January 2019

Ben who?

For this my first post of 2019 I will leave my Napoleonic comfort zone and recede slightly more in time. Few would not remember the epic chariot race from the 1959 film Ben Hur - a cinematic action-packed masterpiece which spawned its fair share of boardgames. One such game was Circus Minimus, a bloodthirsty game where winning a race is only secondary to the mayhem you have to weather getting to the finish line.

The original Circus Minimus Boardgame (internet pic)
Well, down at the clubhouse we are pretty much miniatures guys so we don't really enjoy ourselves unless we have a few minis to push around a table.  And the annual event at the beginning of every new year for the last few years is a blown up version of - you guessed it - Circus Minimus.  Not on a board but on an 18 foot table! So at the turn of each of the last few years the chariots and their valiant charioteers are dusted out of their boxes, the gaming mats are removed, and the table is transformed from verdant Napoleonic battlefield to sandy Roman Circus, complete with central obelisk and dipping dolphin lap counters.

The Roman Circus in all its glory, gleaming chariots lined up at the start
The man to beat was DaveFS, the reigning champion from past editions and so the favourite of the emperor and of the gods. It goes without saying that his war chariot and equestrian team were the prime targets of the usual pre-race skullduggery.  Result: four damage points to his chariot at the outset and a team of fresh horses promptly drugged. There was also some previous night 'entertainment' paid for by some players on others with the result that 'tired' drivers would get a -1 when cornering for lack of stamina and concentration!

The following photosequence gives an idea of the course of the race.  As per rules the finish should be three laps away but due to time constraints we had to drop this by 50% to one-and-a-half laps. The gods' favourite only made bronze this time despite his six allowed saving rolls and the gods now have their new golden boy - DaveG - who came in dead heat with MarioA.  However, since he occupied the inner lane and moved first he was assigned the laurel wreath to wear proudly for the next twelve calends.

As for myself, well what can I say? I had a dismal race due to a tactical mistake. After the first corner, my driver used his only whip to lash out at AngeloF with the result that the latter grabbed it straight out of his hands. Having  only a net as a second weapon but no extra whip in hand, I was forced to use just my reins with the result that my acceleration was limited to one speed factor per turn. Much like a diesel engine from the eighties! Needless to say I arrived a lousy third from last. I swear I'll stick to the net next year.....

All lined up glaring menacingly at each other
And they're off! My guy is in second, innermost lane, black horse team
Approaching the first corner
And with a screech of tyres....... No, hang on, that can't be right!
Zooming down the back straight. My fateful whip attack occurs now (the two chariots running side by side in joint fourth)
Second corner coming up
And around they go with a lot of wheel-banging. My guy is now a dismal last
Somehow everyone makes it round alive.......

........and the pack goes haring off after the leader down the main straight
Now nearing the last corner

The gods' favourite (front, centre) is now pushing hard despite his chariot's mounting damage

As he enters the final straight in the lead he prematurely savours his victory and waves smugly at the crowd
But wait,  his opponents are sneaking up behind.....
......and promptly pip him at the post! The gods have found a new protegé!
And finally - the participants


  1. One of the UK wargame shows ran a Circus Maximus for a few years and it was probably the most popular participation game that I can recall seeing at any show. The idea of using hexes at the end of the track for turning is clever.

    1. It’s easy to understand the popularity of this game. Simple yet effective mechanics and a lot of player participation and interaction. Great fun!

  2. The Gamers' Circus Minimus is a classic. Your set up is outstanding and looks like great fun.

    1. Thanks a lot Jonathan. Yes, it was quite a fun evening and everyone had a great time. CM is a great game.

  3. Nice set up and sounds like great fun! There is often a circus Maximus game at cons I go to but I never seem to be able to squeeze them in. ☹️

  4. Thanks Stew. These gory chariot games always draw the crowds. Now I wonder why that may be......? 😁