One of my favorite movies of all time is “Ben Hur” and one of my favorite game is Avalon Hill’s Circus Maximus. I was also a big fan of HBO’s short-lived series “Rome,” so you can see where this is going…

Over the years I’ve built several massive games, created especially for convention play, including setups for chariot racing and gladiator fights. Here’s a look:

Circus Maximus

The biggest of my insanely large miniatures projects, this complete hippodrome for chariot racing — designed to be used with 15mm figures and Avalon Hill’s classic Circus Maximus rules — measures over 8 feet long. While not quite historically accurate (the Spina is more “Ben Hur” than the original), it does include real gold dolphins for the turning posts 
and dirt from the actual location in the Rome. It took over a decade to finish.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I’ve made a number of adjustments to the original game (you can download the rules for Streamlined Circus Maximus here), and if your driver gets killed during the 
race, you get to write your name in the board.

There are a LOT of names on the board.

The Colosseum

Strangely enough, while I own a copy of both the Battleline and Avalon Hill version of Gladiator, I’ve never played either. Growing up, my brother and I were fascinated by another ’70s-era game, Gladiators by Fantasy Unlimited, and our copy of the rules — Xeroxed from a friend of a friend — were well worn. Its use of pre-planned moves and attacks was similar to the Yaquinto games of the same period, and often resulted in random and hilarious outcomes. In other words, perfect for a bunch of kids who just wanted to roll some dice. Building an arena proved problematic though, as miniatures were extremely hard to come by. 

After Ridley Scott’s Academy-Award winning movie in 2000, however, gladiators games were everywhere. There were dozens of rule sets, and hundreds of figures. You could even buy miniature colosseums, and fill them with crowds of roman citizens. I finally jumped back in when my brother found a curious set of educational toys that included 7″ tall historically accurate fighters. Inspired by the astounding set piece in the first season of HBO’s Rome, and using Arena Games’ rules, I built another ridiculously large setup, the world’s “largest miniature game.”

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

5 thoughts on “Rome

    • Most of the chariots are from Viking Forge. It’s a small operation in Virginia that’s been selling them for the same price for the last 25 years.

      As for the hippodrome, it’s a mash up of an old Ben Hur playset, handmade stands and a custom-built spina. Oh, and wedding cake decorations.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s