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Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Review: Black Tree Design Gladiators

In the last few months I have got in several games of Spartacus Game of Blood and Treachery with some gaming buddies and my Dad.  For those of you not in the know, Spartacus is one of the hottest board games of 2012 and quickly becoming a house hold board game name.  The game comes with a ton of pieces and is very reasonably priced at $40.  Included in the game box is four semisoft plastic gladiator figures for use during the arena phase.

These figures look pretty good for what they are, plastic game pieces, but they are far from perfect.  For example, in my game box several of the weapons where warped and one of the figures was bent at the feet to the point that he looks like he is falling on his face.  Gale Force Nine and several owners of the game have examples of painting your gladiators, but I worry that over time the paint will chip or peal off the soft plastic pieces.  An alternative to painting and using the game pieces in the game box, is buying gladiator figures from one of the many miniatures manufacturers out there.

Black Tree Designs: Gladiators

One of the many companies out their making 28mm gladiators is Black Tree Designs.  While making Christmas purchases I stumbled across Black Tree's gladiators figures found in their Harlequin fantasy range.  The figures are $7.50 for a pack of three, but we picked them up during their holiday blow out sale, which meant the figures where about $1.25 each.  As far as 28mm figures goes that is a steal of a deal.

The miniatures came with the small round slotted bases and have very nice details and proportions.   They did require some limited clean up due to flashing, but it did not take very much time and the only tool needed was a hobby knife.  The figures come with and assortment of shields that have to be glued on separately.  Each figure has a nub on their shield hand, much like old GW figures, that the shield glues too.

Black Trees gladiator range is not huge, but extensive enough to give you a good variety of options.  We bought four packs, each figure being different, for a total of twelve figures.  I think Black Tree has around 30 different gladiator poses.  They have three packs and two packs, and too be honest, from the pictures, the figures in the two packs don't look that good, but the figures int he three packs look and are great.

One thing I think is important to point out is that these gladiators are in their fantasy range and not their historical range.  You might be asking why is this of note?  Well from my limited wikipedia and you tube knowledge of how the arena worked, figures in the Black Tree Range are not "historically accurate".  You are not going to find many of the tradition gladiator fighting styles and pairings, with the appropriate armaments in their range.  If you are looking for that I would suggest the Foundry range of Gladiators, which is both beautiful, and historically accurate, but pricy.  However if you can get past that or don't care these figures look great.  You may notice that some of the figures are clearly based on gladiators we all know and love from popular movies.

One thing I wanted to point out about Black Tree Designs is their touch of customer service and class.  We ordered these figures around Christmas and did not receive them until January 20th.  Which isn't a terribly long wait, but longer than one might expect.  Apparently Black Tree was overwhelmed with orders this holiday and it took them a while to get out the orders.  In our package of gladiators was a hand written note apologizing for the delay and thanking us for the purchase.  Even though the delay was not that big of a deal to me, I was pleasantly pleased with the classiness of gesture.  Black Tree Designs knows how to keep it classy and for that reason I will gladly give them my money in the future.

If you have painted your gladiators or use other manufactures figures for Spartacus or other gladiatorial games feel free to share with the community on the WWPD forums.

“Craig Baxter is the Director of the WWPD Northern Research center in Anchorage, AK. When he’s not contributing to he is busy blogging, painting, modeling and rolling dice. You can find more of his work and articles at”

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