Circenses (Roman Republic)

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A quadriga.

Cvm permissv aedilivm cvrvlivm.

Welcome to Circenses, the official chariot-racing game of the Roman Republic! During public festivals, wealthy citizens have the opportunity to sponsor chariots to race in the ludi circenses (circus games). The victors of these games earn fame for their sponsors, glory for their faction, and, hopefully, the champion's purse!

Any member of one of the Republic's four official racing teams (Factio Albata, Factio Prasina, Factio Russata, and Factio Veneta) is eligible to sponsor a chariot. To do so, they must purchase a charioteer and a team of horses from the curule aediles. These athletes and their steeds become the permanent property of their sponsor, and can be entered into any races for as long as they survive the bloody circuit of the Circus Livius.


The first thing a racing chariot needs is a charioteer (auriga or agitator) to drive it! Every charioteer's skills are rated by four Attributes: Speed (his ability to push his horses), Control (his ability to handle his chariot), Attack (his skill at injuring opposing chariots), and Hardiness (his capacity for enduring injuries). A new charioteer begins with one (1) rank in all four Attributes, plus an additional two (2) ranks which are assigned to any Attributes by his patron. The assignment of these additional two ranks is permanent once made. The patron should also give the new charioteer a snappy cognomen, so that the roaring throng can cheer his name in the Circus!

Example Charioteer

Gaius Julius, a long-standing member of the Factio Veneta, decides that he wants to share in this year's races. He pays the curule aediles the going rate for a charioteer, and assigns his charioteer's bonus Attribute ranks: one to Speed, and the other to Hardiness. Gaius wants to make sure his man is swift, but can take a hit too. Finally, Gaius dubs his new charioteer Velox, the Latin word for “speedy,” hoping that his charioteer lives up to the name! On paper, Gaius' charioteer looks something like this:

VELOX (Factio Veneta)

  • Speed: 2
  • Control: 1
  • Attack: 1
  • Hardiness:2


A charioteer isn't going to get very far on his own two feet, though, and so his sponsor must supply him with horses. These are also purchased from the curule aediles for their going rate in denarii. The number of horses allowed a charioteer depends on the kind of race being hosted: a biga race requires two (2) horses, while a quadriga race requires four (4). Each horse on the charioteer's team adds a bonus to his Attributes, depending on the horse's breed. Don't forget to name these fine steeds as well!

Horse Breed Attribute Bonus
Asturian Filly +1 Speed
Thessalian Stallion +1 Control
Scythian Gelding +1 Attack
Venetian Mare +2 Hardiness

Example Horse Team

Gaius, eyeing the famous quadriga races, now needs to provide some horses for his charioteer. Still concerned with speed above all else, he purchases two Asturian fillies, a Thessalian stallion to help calm the other horses, and finally, a feisty Scythian gelding to handle any aggressive drivers on the track. Gaius names the two fillies Helen and Clytemnestra, the stallion Dux (Latin for “leader”), and finally, the gelding Tykos (Greek for “hammer”). All together, Gaius' chariot now looks something like this:

VELOX (Factio Veneta)

  • Speed: 4 (+1 Helen, +1 Clytemnestra)
  • Control: 2 (+1 Dux)
  • Attack: 2 (+1 Tykos)
  • Hardiness: 2

Gaius is now ready to head to the racetrack and put his chariot to the test!

The Race

A race can accommodate up to two chariots from each Factio, for a maximum of eight chariots. All races take place in the Circus Livius: a long, Roman racetrack divided into four (4) lanes (inside, second, third, and outside), and eight (8) legs. Within each leg are eight positions for chariots, four in the front rank, and four in the rear.

Circus diagram.jpg

Six of these legs (I, II, III, V, VI, and VII) are straight stretches of track, while the remaining two (IV, and VIII) are turns. The race begins at leg I and proceeds around the track for a number of laps decided by the sponsoring magistrates (usually five [5], or seven [7]), and the chariot that crosses the finish line first on the last lap is the winner of the race.

During the race, your charioteer's progress will be determined by a number of checks related to his Attributes. When this is called for, the presiding magistrate will roll a number of six-sided dice equal to your charioteer's relevant Attribute. The number of evens which result from this roll is the result which will be compared against others. For example, when making a Speed check, a charioteer with a Speed Attribute of 3 will have three dice rolled, producing anywhere from zero to three successes, depending on his luck.

Each race proceeds as follows:

The Pompa Circensis

Before the race actually begins, the magistrates and chariots enter the Circus in a solemn procession called the pompa circensis (circus parade). During the pompa, the presiding magistrate will announce the details of the race, including the type of race, the number of laps, the prizes, a public oath to run the races fairly and impartially, and any other particulars, such as the deadlines for actions, etc. The sponsors and Factio leaders also have the opportunity to announce their chariots and show off to the adoring crowds. The pompa ends when the presiding magistrate signals the start of the race by dropping his mappa (signal-cloth).

The Starting Line

To determine the initial arrangement of the chariots as they rush out of the carceres (starting gates), each sponsor privately sends the presiding magistrate a list, in order of preference, of the eight possible positions in leg I. All charioteers then make Speed checks. The charioteer with the highest speed check is placed in his first choice of position, the next highest in his (unless it is already taken, in which case, his second choice), and so on, until all chariots have been placed. Tied Attribute checks (in this, and all other cases) are broken by Attribute (i.e., the charioteer with the higher relevant Attribute score wins), or else randomly if their relevant Attributes are also equal. Now that the charioteers have taken to the track, they race!


To move to the next leg of the race, each sponsor must decide which of six possible actions he wants his charioteer to take. Each action is linked to a specific Attribute, and produces a different result:

Action Attribute Successful Result
Overtake Speed Move ahead one rank in the same lane.
Pass Speed Move ahead one rank and into an neighbouring lane (i.e., diagonal move).
Fall Back Control Move back one rank in the same lane.
Steady Control Remain in the same position.
Harry Attack Damage a neighbouring charioteer (on one's left or right).
Sideswipe Attack Move into a neighbouring lane.

Once all sponsors have privately informed the presiding magistrate of their actions, all charioteers make their relevant Attribute checks. Actions are resolved from the highest result to the lowest, with the higher results trumping any lower ones which would otherwise alter their outcome. A sponsor who fails to submit an action to the presiding magistrate in time is considered to have chosen the Steady action.

If the successful charioteer's action was to move into a new position (i.e., Overtake, Pass, Fall Back, or Sideswipe), he does so, and displaces the position's original occupant into his former position. If he chose to hold Steady, he remains in his place.

If the successful charioteer chose to Harry one of his neighbouring opponents, he deals that charioteer one (1) point of damage. A charioteer can take a number of points of damage equal to his Hardiness, at which point he is permanently killed, and the chariot is out of the race. In place of his charioteer taking damage, however, a sponsor may instead choose to direct the damage to one of the chariot's horses, hobbling it. For each point of damage hobbled in this way, the bonus the horse provides to its charioteer is reduced by one (1). A horse may be hobbled for a number of points of damage equal to the bonus it provides before it too is permanently killed. If all of a chariot's horses are killed, it is out of the race.


Each subsequent stretch of track proceeds as above, with sponsors directing the actions of their charioteers, jockeying for position within each leg, until the chariots arrive at one of the two turns on the track (legs IV and VIII). Here, in addition to their usual actions, the charioteers must also focus on the dangerous task of rounding the track's metae (turning-posts). The closer a chariot keeps to the inside lane, the greater his chance of outpacing his opponents, but also, the greater his chance of colliding with the deadly spina (median strip).

When the chariots enter the turn, each charioteer makes a Control check in addition to their action. The charioteer with the highest result gains a number of Advantage dice depending on the lane he is in. Any charioteers who roll zero successes on their Control check, however, take a number of damage points, also dependent on the lane they are in:

Lane Advantage Dice Damage Points
Inside 3 3
Second 2 2
Third 1 1
Outside 0 0

Advantage dice last for the next three legs, and each can be spent by the charioteer's sponsor to add one additional die to any Attribute check. Once they are spent in this way, the Advantage dice are consumed and gone, unless replaced by another successful turn. Any Advantage dice not spent before the next turn (i.e., within three legs of earning them) are lost.

As with Harrying, any points of damage incurred from a failed turn can be hobbled instead.

The Finish Line

The chariots continue lapping the track as described above, taking actions during stretches, and navigating turns. After the second turn (or eighth leg) of the final lap, however, the chariots must rush to the finish line if they hope to win the race. A final Speed check, but this time between only those chariots occupying the front rank of the leg, determines the chariot to cross the finish line first.

Maintaining Your Chariots

After the races, your charioteers and horses have the opportunity to learn from their experience in the Circus and hone their skills. At the end of a race, if you have any surviving charioteers or horses, you may choose one of the following options to improve your chariot team, by informing the curule aediles:

  1. Increase one (1) Attribute of your surviving charioteer by one (1) point;
  2. Increase the bonus provided by one of your surviving horses by one (1) point (two [2] points if the horse is a Venetian Mare);
  3. Give your surviving charioteer or one of your surviving horses a Specialty, which provides two bonus dice for one particular kind of action (e.g., a horse with a Sideswipe Specialty would give the charioteer an additional +2 Attack whenever he performs the Sideswipe action). Each Specialty may only be chosen once per charioteer.

Any injured charioteers or hobbled horses heal all their damage at the end of the ludi during which they were injured or hobbled.

See also