Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Callinicum Warrior Kings forces

Having given Armati two replays, it is time to focus on my second favourite ancient rules - Warrior Kings.  Let's work through getting a suitable force list and deployment.
As a first cut, I will start with the same deployment for Armati  which is aligned with the SOA Battle Day 2009 pack for Callinicum.  Persians will move first.  Armies will be 25cm apart (same as the Armati setup).
I'll be using centimetres rather than inches due to the small board and one stand = one unit.  I've played 10 games recently and centimetres seem to work just fine.  I recommend this for any 2' deep boards.
War Rating
A side's war rating define the number of activations per turn and is determined at the start of a battle. By default Sassanid Persian war rating will be 2 a third of the time, and a 3 two-thirds of a time; Byzantines will be a 3 a third of the time and a 4 two-thirds of a time.  Why?  War ratings is determined by a die roll: a roll of 1 or less is a rating of 2, a roll of 2 to 5 is a rating of 3 and a roll of 6 or more is a rating of 4.  Sassanids get -1 to the roll and Byzantines +1.  A war rating of 3 is fairly standard for a 400 point army on a 4'x3' board.  I'm using a 2'x2' and likely less than 400 points - I think it will be closer to 250-300.  So an average war rating of 2 seems to be about right.  With the units setup the way they are, a War rating of 2 for each side will advantage the Persians as they start with less bodies and so can activate more stands.  This fits with the scenario description of the Byzantine's command and control being less than optimal. An alternative would be to create less units on the Byzantine side (maybe linking all the cavalry and linking the LI and the Ghassanids) and giving the Byzantines a war rating on 1.  I will use the former approach of war rating of 2 each.
6 Persian Line cavalry - Mounted Melee, Dual Armed, CV4, AC4, 3 figures
2 Elite Persian Cavalry - Mounted Melee, dual Armed, CV5, AC4, 3 figures
3 Lakhmid Light cavalry - Mounted Skirmish, CV4, AC2, 2 figures
Elite training gives +1 in combat while increasing the Combat Value (CV) increases the chances of passing reaction tests.  Much better to make the elite cavalry more resilient by increasing CV than +1 in combat.  If I increased the armor class of the elite Cavalry (which would reduce the number of hits), this would make them move at a slower rate to the rest of the line cavalry (move rate of 8 for AC6, move rate of  12  for AC4).  AC6 for all the cavalry is probably not justified as AC6 should be reserved for Heavy Cataphracts.
3 Skutatoi - Foot Melee, Dual armed, CV4, AC4, 4 figures
4 Line Cavalry - Mounted Melee, Dual Armed, CV4, AC4, 3 figures
2 Elite Line Cavalry - Mounted Melee, Dual Armed, CV5, AC4, 3 figures
1 Isaurian Light Infantry - Foot Melee, Dual armed, CV4, AC2, 3 figures
3 Ghassanid Light Cavalry - Mounted Skirmish, CV3, AC2, 2 figures
The discussion about how to best represent the Elite Persian heavy cavalry applies equally to the Byzantine Heavy Cavalry.  There are a number of ways to represent the Skutatoi.  They shouldn't be Missile units as this would make them too brittle.  They could be 2 Melee stand and 1 Missile stand but that does not seem how they operated.  They could be figures = 4 rather than 3 but I think they were not that brittle (they did make a last stand in the actual battle).  Lastly, they could be AC2 rather than 4 but I think infantry for this Byzantine period and with the amount of armour and how they performed gives justification for AC4.  The Isaurian light infantry need to be able to stand up to Melee units so I did not make them Skirmish.  They are Dual Armed to account for the javelins.  The Ghassanid Light Cavalry were the easiest to do - one less CV than the Lakhmids.  Of course, I could have gone the other way and make the Lakhmids CV5 and then the Ghassanids would be CV4.  The choices, the choices.  We shall see how my first cut of the forces goes in the forthcoming battle.
Rule changes
Besides using centimetres rather than inches, I am also ignoring the "desperate struggle' rule (if you roll a 6 in melee, your enemy gets -1 to the following reaction test).  Why?  It is finicky and the game has a fair amount of luck already.
One other rule I've used in our other games and will use here is that the rules state that a body rolls once for reaction test and all stands check against that roll.  One bad roll and the whole body has gone.  On a 2'x2' board, there are not that many bodies to go around.  So, for my house rule, a body rolls for the reaction test.  If you like the roll, that check each unit against it; if you do not like the roll, check the first unit (right to left, as per turn sequence) against the roll and then roll reaction dice and test for EACH other stand in the body, one at a time, right to left. At least that way one bad roll will not wipe out a body, you have a chance a few stands might survive as you roll for each stand.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Callinicum refight with Armati 2 take 2

As mentioned previously, I thought about an Armati re-fight with smaller forces.  So I've replayed it now.  Here is the force breakdown for each side:

Sassanian Persian CR: H:3; L:1; BP:4; Init:5
2 Sassanian Cavalry HC 5(1)0 +2 Lance/Bow
4 Sassanian Cavalry HC 4(1)0 +1 Lance/Bow
2 Lakhmid Cavalry LC 2(0)0 +1 Various

Byzantine CR: H:2; L:2; BP:4; Init:4
2 Skutatoi FT 5(1)1 +1 Spears/Bow
3 Heavy cavalry  HC 4(1)0 +1 Swords/Bow
1 Heavy cavalry HC 5(1)0 +1 Lance/Bow
1 Isaurian infantry  LI 4(1)2 +1 Javelin
2 Ghassanid cavalry LC 1(0)0 +1 Various

All are key but the Light Infantry.
Also, something I forgot to mention for both Armati replays is that no heavy cavalry is subject to obligatory charge.

Here is the set up - same as the last game but with smaller units.

 Set up - Persians on the left
Turn 1
Persians win initiative.  They move the Lakhmids light cavalry their full distance.  The FV5 heavy cavalry is wheels to the left and moved forward to support the Lakhmids.

The Byzantines moved up Ghassanid light cavalry to within javelin range of the Lakhmids.  The Isaurian light infantry is moved forwards the full distance.  The block of heavy cavalry is moved to within missile range of the Persian reserve cavalry (the only place the Byzantines may be able to gain an advantage of 3 cavalry stands vs 2).  The Skutatoi infantry is moved up their full distance.

End of turn 1

Turn 2

Missile fire was interesting - The Byzantines received 1 hit on each of the Ghassanid light cavalry, the Light infantry and one of the heavy cavalry; The Persians on one Lakhmid light cavalry, and 2 hits spread over the FV4 heavy cavalry.

Byzantines win the initiative and choose to move last.
The Persians move the Lakhmid light cavalry into contact with the Ghassanids.  Their only other move is to charge the FV5 heavy cavalry into the light infantry.

In non-intro scale, the Heavy Cavalry would receive a +1 against the Light Infantry as in that scale, Light Infantry have half the width of most other units. But in Intro this doesn't occur.  But two FV5 cavalry with impetus against one FV4 Light Infantry may not last long, even missing the +1 bonus for the cavalry.

The Byzantines move the Skutatoi heavy infantry up so if they want, they could charge (hah - as if they want to).  But it does pin the facing Persian Heavy Cavalry.
The Byzantines also move the unit of Heavy Cavalry directly forward the full distance.

For melee the Byzantines choose left to right. The Light Infantry inflicts a hit on one Heavy Cavalry stands and then is subsequently routed by combat with the next stand.  The Lakhmids rout both Ghassanid light cavalry stands for no damage to themselves.

End of turn 2

Note flesh rings used for hits, black rings for fatigue.

Turn 3
Missile fire results in a hit for each side for the line of heavy cavalry facing off in the centre.
Byzantines win initiative and choose to move first.  They move the heavy cavalry into contact and also move the infantry up further.
The Persians about face the Lakhmids, wheel and move full distance. The FV5 heavy cavalry about faces and is undressed (-1 in melee).  The General is moved to support one of the heavy cavalry.
Byzantines choose left to right for melee direction. One hit on each of the Persian HC and two hits in total in return.  The Persian general survives.

End of turn 3

Turn 4
Missile fire results in one hit from the Skutatoi heavy infantry onto the Persian heavy cavalry.

Persians win initiative and choose to move first.  The Lakhmids wheel 2 and contact the closest heavy
Byzantine heavy cavalry in the flank.  This will stop the Byzantine Heavy cavalry stand flanking the Persian heavy cavalry it is facing (which it would have been able to do and then the Persian heavy cavalry stand is fighting at 1 versus everyone).  The undressed FV5 heavy cavalry move their full distance towards the rear of the Byzantine Heavy cavalry but do not have the movement rate to make contact.

The Byzantines move the infantry to within 2 of the Persian Heavy Cavalry, again, in case they ever want to charge but they are good blockers.

Persians decide to melee from left to right.
The Persian Lakhmid light cavalry takes a hit (it was the LC 2 versus the HC 1).  The Persians lose one heavy cavalry and so does the Byzantines.  The Byzantines have reached their breakpoint.  Playing out the rest of the melee does not result in any more losses to either side.  The Persians win again.

End of turn 4 and the game

Something I forgot that I did mention after the first replay was making the Light Cavalry non-key as the Byzantines are almost certainly going to lose it, But making them key, maybe they should retreat a bit more and fight more defensively as to extend the turn when they are lost and give a possibility of the heavy cavalry in the middle making a difference.  Ah well.  Food for thought in future rules that make use key units.  I am leaning to the fact that for Armati they should be key and I should use them differently.

A view from the Persian side at the end of the game

It is a much faster game but does not feel much like Armati.  Oh, the melee tactics are still the same but the command and control, which is the essence of Armati, is missing.  As there are no divisions with more than 3 stands, much of the tactics and decisions on divisional manoeuvring, splits etc isn't there.  I think that I prefer the last game which captured the flavour of Armati more.  With the reduced units, there was too much flexibility on movement.  I also think that at the scale I am playing that Phil has the right idea - ignore fatigue as it is unlikely to make a difference with this type of game.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Warrior Kings Review

This review ended up being very very long.  Mostly because some core rule mechanisms are different to other ancient rules. But I found absolutely nothing on the internet and the one or two I found were reviews only based on reading the rules and not playing.  If anyone does know of another review, I am happy to include a link to it.  
I will soon be posting a replay using the rules which should highlight how they play.  The review below more a detailed discussion of the rules mechanisms.  Hopefully it is comprehensive enough to get a feel of if these rules are right for you or not.  As it is the first review I've ever written, if anyone has any helpful comments on the review that would be great.
Also, as this blog is about fast play rules, I will be posting (hopefully) post more reviews on those rulesets that don't have one and also be able to post some actual comparisons of how different rulesets handle various situations.

Brief background
Warrior Kings is a mass ancient combat system was released in 1998 by Ed Teixeira of Two Hour Wargames (THW).  It is long out of print but the pdf is available from the files section of the Warrior Kings yahoo group.  Warrior Kings led to a fantasy version - Warrior Heroes, also out of print. As THW have a few Warrior xxx titles, it should be clarified that other THW titles - Mayhem: Warrior Kings, Mayhem: Warrior Heroes and Warrior Heroes: Armies and Adventures are not mass combat games. Warrior Kings  core mechanism is the reaction test - familiar to anyone that has played any THW rules.

The pdf version is spread over a number of files and is formatted in two column print.  There are no diagrams or pictures.  This is definitely and 'old school' rules layout.  There are some callout boxes to explain why things are the way they are. There is also an FAQ which explain the reasoning behind the mechanisms in the game.

The first 12 pages are the rules. The remainder is taken up by solo rules (1 page), 28 army lists (6 pages), a campaign system including an example and a map (6 pages), FAQ (3 pages), an example of play (2 pages) and a reprint of all the charts in the rules (4 pages).

The game is designed to be played with 40mm wide bases with 15mm figures but will work just as well so long as both sides have the same base widths and distances are adjusted to match.  The suggestion in the rules are that if using 60mm width bases double distances.  The game is designed to be played on a 4 feet wide and 3 feet depth board.  The basic unit in the game can be made up of 1-4 stands, depending on players preference (and number of figures). However, and it is mentioned in the FAQ, that 1 base per unit seems to be what the rules were designed for. A player's army will have from around 11-20 units, depending on the army list, with the majority of army lists being in the 12-15 unit range.

Turn sequence overview
The game is played in a simple sequence after setup - one player activates their bodies of units one by one from their right to their left, then the other player does the same. This continues until the game ends. The games ends when either a player admits defeat or all units on one side are routed - there are no breakpoints or percentage of losses to work out.

A body is a number of units that are touching.  There is a limit to how many activations you are allowed.  An activated  body moves, possibly into contact. Any move into combat is a charge. Once moving, a body must continue to move unless halted (voluntary halts reduces the number of activations available that turn). The excitement in the game is that troops will react to enemy moves, and your troops may react to their reaction and so on. This reaction requires a reaction test to be performed and dictates the type of reaction. Firing is mandatory for non-moving troops in range of the enemy and firing may also be a reaction as a result of a reaction test.  The reaction test is the core of the game and drives the tactics used to win.  I'll expand on this first as everything else links to reaction tests.

Reaction Test
Bodies (note that bodies take reaction tests - not individual stands) take a reaction test for five events that may occur:
  • Receiving fire
  • Receiving a charge
  • Attempting to charge
  • Post melee
  • If a enemy unit started more than 4" away and ends within 4" but not in contact.
As you can see, the reaction test is required for nearly every activity occurring in the game - the main exceptions being initiating missile firing (which is mandatory if in range) and moving (so long as not moving within 4" of an enemy or charging). A reaction test is performed by taking the original combat value (between 3 and 6 with 4 being average) of a stand, adding and subtracting some modifiers and then rolling two d6.  The pips on each die is compared against the modified combat value. There are three possible outcomes:
  1. Passed both dice: If both dice are lower or equal to the modified combat value the stand has passed both dice.  Don't add the dice pips, compare each die to the modified combat value.
  2. Passed one dice: Only one die is lower or or equal to the modified combat value.
  3. Failed: Each die rolled is higher than the modified combat value.
For each of the 5 tests, there is a different result depending on whether a unit passes 2, 1 or 0 dice.  The type of unit (see later) will also affect the type of result. Passing 2 dice will give a good result, passing one die will give a not so good result and passing 0 dice will be a bad result.

An example:
A stand is attempting to charge.  It needs to undergo a reaction test.  Its modified combat value is a 4 and on rolling 2d6, the pips are 3 and 1.  The stand passes 2 dice.  The result of the reaction test is "charge continues".  if the pips were 5 and 2, the stand passes 1 dice.  The result is "charge continues but the charging stand receives one hit".  If the pips were 5 and 5, the stand passes 0 dice and the result is "do not to charge and retire to the rear".

You may have noticed I said bodies take reaction tests but my examples are for stands.  A single pair of dice is rolled for the reaction test for a body, but each stand undergoes the reaction test and each stand of the body may react differently depending on their modified combat value and the type of the stand.

The type of reaction varies on the test undertaken and the stand type but the main types of reaction are counter-charge, missile fire the enemy, rout, retreat, missile fire and retreat, do nothing or continue with the action (normally charging).  Units that retire or retreat also suffer a hit.

There are only a few modifiers for the reaction test.  The significant positive ones that are not based on the unit itself is +2 for an attached leader, +1 for being adjacent to the leader and +1 for each adjacent stand (up to 3).  Adjacent = touching. This makes the leader stands, and adjacent stands in that body, quite resilient.  It also encourages stands to clump into bodies and move together etc.  A good mechanism to not have each stand being independent.  Fantasy Rules! uses a similar mechanism, Armati has stands assigned to divisions at the start of the game, DBA has a command roll that limits the number of moves, but a single move can include a number of stands.  All different ways of tackling the issue. 

The main negative modifier to the reaction test is hits.  There is no limit to the number of hits a stand can accumulate but each hit is -1 to a reaction test.  A unit accumulates hits through melee, missile fire and some reaction test results.  You tend not to do much with stands with many hits as if they have to undertake a reaction test, they will probably fail both dice and rout.  This leads to goading enemy units with lots of hits into undertaking a reaction test so they will rout.

To show how this works, an example from a real game.  A missile stand starts it turn 5" away from a warband stand.  5" is within missile range but outside the 4" 'enemy threat' reaction test.
  • The missile unit fires at the warband and inflicts one hit.
  • The warband stand has to take a "received fire" reaction test.  It passes both dice and the reaction result is to charge.
  • So now it has to undergo a "attempting to charge" reaction test.  It passes only one dice.  The result is continue to charge and take another hit.  So the warband continues to charge. 
  • Before contacting the missile stand, the missile stand must take a "receiving a charge" reaction test.  It passes both dice and the reaction result is to stand in place and fire.  So it fires again at the warband and the warband takes another hit. 
  • The warband now has to take another received fire reaction test, which it passes with both dice so continues the charge.
  • Contact is now made. Melee occurs immediately and the Missile unit receives 2 hits and the Warband none.
  • Both stands must undergo a "post melee" reaction test.  The Warband passes one die and so must give ground (retreat 1" and take a hit).  The Missile stand passes one die and routs (Missile units are more brittle and so passing one die usually is worse than for heavy units).  The remaining Warband now has three hits and is in poor shape.
All this started from one missile fire from one stand!.   Although it may seem like a lot of steps there was a lot of action performed - two missile fires, one charge move, combat, post combat movement and the routing of one of the stands entirely.  This is what make Warrior Kings fast play - reaction test are quick to resolve and lots of things happen one after the other - very interactive too.

[Note: there is a sixth event reaction test taken when the leader is removed from play due to combat or missile fire but it doesn't happen often and only happens at most once a game.]

Unit Classification
Units are firstly split into three types based on battlefield purpose - Melee, Missile or Skirmish.
Missile and Skirmish unit have poorer reaction results than Melee units - where a Melee unit might retire on passing only one die, a missile/skirmish one die pass is likely to be a rout.  Missile/Skirmish units receive -1 for melee resolution and also -1 to any reaction test if in melee.  Missile units will use 2d6 when firing and all other units only use a 1d6.  Skirmish units can move in any direction while other units have movement restrictions.

Units are either mounted or foot.
Mounted units use different movement rates than foot units.  Also, for reaction tests, mounted and foot units are often treated differently.  For example, a foot unit that only passes one die for a 'post melee' reaction test routs if facing a mounted unit, a mounted unit in the same situation will retreat.  Any melee against mounted units always receive +1 (makes foot slightly better in combat versus mounted and makes mounted versus mounted faster).  Mounted melee units receive a +1 for the first turn in melee.  Elephants are counted as foot.  This is important for movement and also in reaction tests where elephants take a foot result rather than a mounted result.

Units have a combat value (based on historical morale and motivation) ranging from 3 (poor) to 6 (excellent) with 4 being average.
The base reaction test is tested against the combat value.

Units have an armor class of 2, 4 or 6.
The armor class is used to determine the number of hits a unit will take in melee.  The higher the armor class, the less hits a unit will receive.

Units have a number of figures from 1 to 4.
A heavy infantry unit will have 4 figures, heavy cavalry 3, Light infantry is 3, Skirmishers 2 and Elephants and chariots 1.  There are variations - Warbands will likely have 3 figures, Cataphracts will have 4 figures.  Number of figures is important as the side that is outnumbered in melee or being fired at will receive a -1 on the reaction test. 

Units may have some special characteristics.  One of the key potential special characteristics is dual-armed.  Dual-armed units are melee units that also have missile capability.  Dual-armed units will react differently to normal melee troops.  For example, in reaction to a charge, melee mounted will counter charge; dual-armed mounted will stand and fire.  Other examples of special characteristics are elite-trained to give +1 for melee and firing; barbarian frenzy that gives +1 for first round of melee; Pikes are +2 in melee and Combination-Weapons (for such things like roman pila) give +1 on the first round of melee.

Some unit examples:
New Kingdom Egyptian Chariots:  Mounted Missile, Elite,  CV 6, AC 2, figs 1
Republican Rome Hastati: Foot Melee, Elite, Combination Weapons, CV 4, AC 4, figs 4
Middle Imperial Rome Legionnaire: Foot Melee, Combination Weapons, Dual-armed, CV 5, AC 2, figs 4
Alexandrian Phalangite: Foot Melee, Pike, CV 4, AC 2 , figs  4
Successor Phalangite: Foot Melee, Pike, CV 4, AC 4 , figs  4
Peltasts: Foot Melee, Dual armed, CV 4, AC 2, figs 3
Companions:  Mounted Melee, CV 6, AC 4, figs 3
Sassanid Persian Clibinarii: Mounted Melee, Dual-armed CV 5, AC 4, figs 3

Sassanid Persian Cataphracts: Mounted Melee, CV 4, AC 6, figs 4 

Melee/Missile/Skirmish, mounted/foot and dual-armed are the classifications used to differentiate reactions for the reaction test. 

For example, for the reaction test taken if an enemy unit moves within 3 and a stand passes on both dice, these are the potential reactions for a melee unit:
  • Mounted that are not dual-armed will charge the enemy.
  • All dual armed stands will fire.
  • Stands with barbarian frenzy  will charge the enemy
  • all other stands will halt

The reaction for missile and skirmish units is:
  • All fire.

Command and Control
At the start of the game, each side will get a war rating of 2-4 with 3 being the average.  To this is added +1 for every sub-commander.  Subcommanders can only be acquired for each 20 stands, and only after 20 stands are acquired (in other words, an army needs to be at least 21 stands before acquiring a sub-commander).
The War rating determines how many activations can occur each turn.  A body is a one or more stands that are touching.  Each activation allows you to start moving or halt a body.  A body that moved last turn must continue moving at least 50% of its rate unless a activation 'point' is used to halt it.  So moving units do not require expenditure of a activation point.  Contact, pursuit, retreating, halting etc as part of a result of a reaction test also halts a unit and requires an activation point to start it off again. A very simple mechanism for command an control - a limited number of activation points and bodies that are moving do not require activation points to continue moving.

Movement rates are based on mounted/foot, armour class and number of figures.

Light cavalry (Mounted, AC2, 2 figs): 16
Heavy cavalry (Mounted, AC2 or 4, 3 figs): 12
Heavy Infantry (Foot, AC2 or 4, 4 figs): 6
Light Infantry (Foot, AC2, 3 figs): 8

There are some restrictions on movement such as:
  • bodies can only wheel 45 degrees maximum and foot can wheel or move. 
  • Foot units can about face for 50% of movement, Mounted take all their movement to about face.
Skirmishers can move in any direction.

When two bodies are in contact, melee takes place.  No conforming - a point of contact is all that is required.  Bodies are stands that touch - they do not have to be corner to corner either.  One d6 is rolled for each stand in contact with the enemy and modifiers added (see unit classification for example modifiers).  The d6 results are added together and then compared to the enemies armor class.

An AC2 stand will receive one hit for each 3 dice pips.
An AC4 stand will receive one hit for each 5 dice pips.
An AC6 stand will receive one hit for each 7 dice pips.

Hits are spread evenly where possible and there are rules for if a body has stands with different armor classes (simplifying - pick on the lowest AC first).

So, if the dice rolls for an attack added up to 12, a body with 2 AC4 units would receive one hit each (for each '5') and the remaining 2 pips are wasted.  As the average roll of a die is 3.5, and there are few negative modifiers, AC2 units accumulate hits very quickly!  Hits are negative modifiers to a reaction test.  There is a reaction test taken after melee with fairly brutal results if you don't pass both dice.  It is not often than melee carries over multiple turns unless you have high AC and high combat value troops.

Missile armed troops have a range of 6, all others (skirmish and dual-armed) 3.  Missile armed stands roll 2d6, other roll 1d6.  Damage is applied to the receiving unit as per melee.  Missile firing can only target a unit directly in front, there are no arcs of fire.  Skirmish Cavalry and chariots can also fire directly to the rear.  A unit receiving missile fire (whether hit or not) will undergo a reaction test - see the previous example of where this can go!

There are rules for Artillery for those so inclined.

The default army composition is 400 points for a 4'x3' board.  There are 200 defined points of stands, and then you randomly roll for the remaining stands, so no two armies will ever be the same.  There is a randomiser across an armies unit types and each army has a number of rolls (around 5) that, on average, will give you an extra 200 points worth of stands.  No stand can set up within 12" of each edge.  This does mean deployment is limited to 24" in the centre with wide flanks.  There is a fairly detailed system for terrain generation and deployment.

Campaign system
There is a campaign system that comes with the games that I have no played but does seem a very interesting and quick system for generating games.

Likes and dislikes
This is where I can throw in some personal opinions and observations. To put my bias into context, Armati is my number one favourite ancient ruleset to play and Warrior Kings is number 2.

The game is fast - all games I have played with 400 points have lasted less than one hour.

It is excellent for solo play due to the unpredictability of reactions.

It can be frustrating in a two player game due to the unpredictability of reactions. But that to me is the best part (compare to Armati or DBA where you can have high level goals and create tactical plans in advance, only have high level goals in Warrior Kings!)

It is very player interactive; because units react to one another, players are always rolling dice and doing things, regardless of whose actual turn it is.

I like the fact that units do not have to conform or align - this simplifies a lot of the rules.  I do realise that many people will also find this a dislike!

The components of the rules mesh together to form the whole.  Armati and DBA are immediate examples that come to mind where the classification, movement, melee, command and control rules are all related and interact to form a complete set.  They do not feel like you can replace one component without destroying the ruleset itself.  They overlap and depend on one another.  You could not drop in a melee system from another ruleset, it would not work.

While the rules are not long, there are tactical nuances that are not immediately apparent (this also touches on the meshing of the components).  An examples is the number of figures  while used for movement, you could just produce a chart with movement rates. But being outnumbered in melee (which is calculated using number of figures) is a -1 modifier to the subsequent reaction test.  -1 is a significant negative modifier.  So while a stock standard light infantry stand (figs = 3) versus a stock standard heavy infantry stand (figs = 4) may have the same chance of inflicting hits in melee (both would just roll a d6), the light infantry stand checks reaction at -1 and so is more likely to rout or at east retire and take another hit.

The missile and melee follow the same process - roll dice, apply some modifiers, check damage against armor class.  Many rules do this but, as an example, Justified ancients doesn't - there is a separate table to determine missile fire that is different to the melee results table (though it could be argued that there is a different reaction test result depending on whehe it is "received fire" or "involved in melee").

While I can play Armati after a few games without ever referring to the rulebook and back in the 90s I could even do this with DBM (bit more than a few games though and I could never memorise the nuances of Kn(X)), the one thing that is a bit harder to remember in Warrior Kings in the reaction tests results.  Everything else is fairly simple and some of reaction test results stick in the mind, but after 10 games I still need to have the reaction test tables next to me to refer to at times.    

When you play, there are situations that are not covered in the rules, there is a Warrior Heroes clarifications and answers that is directly applicable to Warrior Kings and fixes this gap.

One of my pet peeves about any game is consistency in die rolling - if rolling high on the die is a good thing in the game, then it should always be a good thing (e.g. if roll to hit has to be greater than a certain number in a game that means rolling high is good; if you have to roll to save your own unit from death in that game, then it should be rolling higher than a certain die roll rather than less; rolling for leader death would be a 1 rather than a 6 as low is bad in this game).  In Warrior King, rolling high is good for melee and missile fire - the higher the roll, the more potential damage you can do. However, for reaction tests, you want to roll less than a certain number.  This is because melee/missile modifiers are applied to the die roll; reaction test modifiers are applied to the combat value, and then you try and roll under the modified combat value.  The first time I played against a friend he spotted this immediately and found it most frustrating - aim to roll high for melee,and then immediately afterwards aim to roll row for the reaction test. I get that it is good the say higher characteristics are good - higher armor class is good and higher combat value is good.  But when playing, we have changed combat values so a old CV of 6 is now a CV 1, and old CV 5 is no CV2.  Reaction test modifiers are now applied to the dice and higher rolls pass.  But as I said at the start, it is only a pet peeve.

AC2 hits are applied for every 3 pips, AC4 for every 5 pips, AC6 for every 7 pips.  Why not call it armor class 3, 5, and 7 rather than 2,4 and 6?  Only a minor quibble as this is the only use of armor class (besides unit point calculation) but I would think AC3,5,7 would be easier to use.

There are only 28 army lists.  These can be found as the file MoreLists.pdf in the Warrior Heroes section of the THW Archive yahoo group.  There is also a spreadsheet in the Warrior Kings yahoo group files with some extra army lists (from memory about 10).  While this is sufficient for me to work with as I would just create ones I needed by looking over other rules, some people I know like lots and lots of army lists.

Last word
I would recommend obtaining the Warrior Heroes Questions and Answers from the THW Archive yahoo group as this has a lot of clarifications, including diagrams (Note: I have a file I downloaded in September 09 called Warrior Heroes Questions and Answers Jan 08.pdf that is 15 pages long and has a few diagrams while the file in the THW Archive is called Warrior Heroes Questions and Answers.pdf and has only 11 pages with no diagrams.  when I get time  will follow up this difference on the yahoo group).
Also, there is one rule change from Warrior Heroes that should be applied to Warrior Kings (and Ed confirmed on the THW Mailing list) is that for the 'Involved in Melee' reaction test, for Melee units that pass 2 dice, the first result should be "MOUNTED that did not cause enemy FOOT to Rout or Retire will themselves retire".  In Warrior Kings it was originally missing the "FOOT" so mounted units would retire from each other.  You could argue it was fine as it was.  Up to you.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Callicum refight with Armati 2

I'm going to keep this fairly Armati 2 heavy rather than a generic description.  This will allow a better comparison of the rules and how they play the scenario out.

Turn 1

Note: Armati turn sequence is:
  • Simultaneous missile fire
  • Roll for initiative - winner gets to choose which side moves first.
  • first player moves
  • second player moves
  • Melee. Initiative winner gets to choose the direction of melee (left to right or right to left).  Melee directions is important for a number of reasons - the moment a side's breakpoint is reached, the games ends; also with multiple stands possibly attacking one stands, which way the melee occurs can provide advantages or disadvantages.
  • Breakthrough movement - if routed an enemy can move 3.
  • Rally.

No missile fire as all out of range.

Armati has quite long ranges compared to other rules.  for example, Heavy infantry move 6, Light Infantry move 9, Light and Heavy Cavalry move 15.  Foot Bows have a range of 24, Mounted bows 18, Foot javelins 9 and light cavalry javelins 6.

Persian Heavy Cavalry FV5 ready for action in the centre.

Persians win initiative and choose to move first.  Lakhmids move up and the heavy cavalry on their left (FV5) wheels and moves to be within bow range of the enemy units.  This also allows the reserve cavalry to move to the front line as well (with a wheel at the start). The right flank heavy cavalry is moved up as well.
The Persian cavalry are all in range to be able to fire next turn (within 18).

The Byzantines move the Ghassanids into javelin range - they won't last in combat so may inflict some missile damage.  The Heavy cavalry next to the Light infantry is moved forwards so the light infantry can't be contacted.

Turn 2

Missile fire results are that the Persians inflicted 5 hits and the Byzantines inflicted 1 hit on a FV5 cavalry unit.
This is unlucky for the Byantines as both sides have roughly the same missile units firing and the Persians have only a few PROT +2 units.

The Byzantines win initiative and choose to move first.

Initiative is important as the winner get to choose which side moves first and also melee direction.  Initiative also determines how many divisional splits may be performed - each split reduces initiative by 2.  And Initiative cannot be voluntarily reduced below 0.  So an army with an initiative of 6 can perform 3 divisional splits.  Not going into detail but a division can only be split either in melee (stands not in contact can split from the division)  or by missile fire (when a stand is eliminated in the middle of a division and the division is split into two).

The Byzantines move their right flank heavy cavalry and the FV5 cavalry into combat with the persian FV5 cavalry.  Due to the way the divisions line up only 2 Byzantine stands are actually touching.  In hindsight this move should have been done in turn 1.  The remaining heavy cavalry is moved forwards in support (no contact though) and the general is moved to be with one of the FV4 cavalry stands in contact with a Persan FV5.

The Persians move of f the FV4 stands of the heavy cavalry into the Byzantine FV5 (no split but a slide forwards).  The Lakhmids charge into the Ghassinids.

For melee the Byzantine's chooses right to left.
The Ghassanids almost gone - 3 hits and combined with previous missile hits has two of the stands routed. The  Lakhmids took no hits.

The number of hits a stand can take is based on the unit type.  Heavy Infantry can take 4 hits, Heavy cavalry 3, Light Infantry and Light Cavalry 2.  A unit routs when it reaches its hit limit and is removed.

In the centre the Byzantine stand with the general took a hit but general survived.  For the other two stands in contact, the Persians took a hit.  There is a Persian FV5 heavy cavalry unit with 2 hits in the centre of the board - one more hit to this unit and there will be a gap that could be exploited.

 The centre as seen from the Persians.  Flesh coloured rings are hits, black rings are fatigue.

The Ghassanids don't breakthrough - the split may be needed elsewhere.

 End of turn 2

Turn 3

Missile fire phase was poor for the Byzantines.  For roughly equal firing from both sides the Byzantines inflicted 2 (one on a Heavy Cavalry that already had a hit) and the Persians inflicted 3.

Byzantines win initiative and choose to move second.
The Persians move some stands of the units in the middle up to contact other enemy units. Not as split (as I used to think it ages ago) as the stands are still in contact. Also one of the cavalry has impetus against an enemy unit as it no longer has impetus as it is in contact with another unit.

 As there is no one around to teach me the rules, and no one else interested in reading them, I've gleaned these things from reading the Armati mailing list.  It is the subtlety of these things in the rules that I actually like as it expands the tactical options without special rules.  It would be nice if these sort of things were included as examples in the rules though as they are not obvious from reading (or  playing solo).

 My 3 year old daughter helps out - she rolled all the dice for me and also placed all the hits and fatigue markers. The board is setup in a set of map drawers.

Impetus is a core Armati rule. Various units have impetus against other types of units.  A unit that has impetus and outscores the enemy on the first melee, routs the enemy unit rather than inflicting one hit. For instance, Warbands have impetus against heavy infantry and Heavy Cavalry has impetus against all other units.  So if a FV4 cavalry unit contacts a FV6 infantry unit and outscored it in the first turn of combat (1/6 of a chance), the infantry rout rather than receiving one hit. Impetus doesn't happen for subsequent combats so it becomes a straight FV4 vs FV6 combat.  A unit contacting an enemy unit that receives impetus against it cancels out impetus for both sides (so in a HC vs HC first contact there is no impetus).  But in this latter case if a new HC unit contacts the enemy unit n the following turn the friendly unit does receive impetus, as units in melee lose the impetus bonus.  So keeping units in reserve to charge in with impetus while they are pinned from a previous turn is a key tactic. There are special rules to allow heavy infantry to deny impetus and elephants and camels but I'm not going to detail them here.

Byzantines move up the last of the Byzantines Heavy cavalry (their left).  Also moved the infantry up to cover the flank of the Cavalry to their right.

Byzantines choose melee direction of left to right.
The first melee combat - heavy cavalry Vs heavy cavalry sees the Byzantines win and the Persian stand rout.
The Persians manage to rout the heavy cavalry with the general (and so the general is lot too) and the last Ghassanid light cavalry is routed.  The Byzantines are at 5 key units lost for only 1 Persian .  Maybe the light cavalry should not be key for his battle...or maybe increase the breakpoint of the Byzantines by one.

Armati armies contain a number of key units (usually all heavy units but also including lights for later centuries).  A side loses the the instant the army loses a number of key units equal to its breakpoint.

 End of turn 3

Turn 4

Missile fire:  Nothing except for one hit on one of the Skutatoi - the same stand that has received two hits already!  Talk about unlucky.

Persians win the initiative and choose to move second.

The Byzantine Light infantry moves up to contact the Persian Light Cavalry.  The Skutatoi infantry move up to protect flank of the heavy cavalry to their right.

The Persian Light Cavalry not in contact with the light infantry split, about face and move.  The other Light Cavalry should delay the Light  Infantry for at least 2 turns (the number of hits the light cavalry can take). The heavy cavalry not in contact moves directly forwards (hopefully to about face and contact a Byzantine unit on the flank/rear.  We will see.

A unit flanked by another heavy unit uses its flank value against ALL other units and routs if outscored.  For cavalry, the flank value is normally a 0 or a 1. Being able to flank a unit is a very good thing indeed.

The Persians choose left to right for melee direction.
The Light Infantry loses but the Light cavalry is now fatigued so not so good for remaining turns.
The Persians lose a heavy cavalry on their right flank, leaving a hole for the Byzantines to exploit (which they do in the breakthough phase).  As this is the third turn of combat for a lot of the stands in the middle, there is a bit of fatigue on the middle stands.  Byzantines still a 5 key lost, Persians now at 2.

When a unit has been in melee for the number of turns equal to its breakpoint vaue, it is fatigued.  All fatigued Heavy and Cavalry stands fight at -2, light units at -1.

 End of turn 4

Turn 5

Missile fire: Each Byzantine Skutatoi infantry stand inflict one hit on each of the opposing heavy cavalry stand. The Persians inflict only one in return.

Due to the split, the Persians are now at a -1 disadvantage for the initiative roll.  The Byzantines win the initiative and choose to move first.  They move a heavy cavalry (a split) straight ahead.

The Persians wheel the Light Cavalry 6 (and are undressed) and move into the flank of a heavy cavalry stands  The Persian lone Heavy Cavalry about faces (and is undressed).

Byzantines choose a melee direction of left to right.
Byzantines lose a Heavy Cavalry early on, reaching their army breakpoint and so lose.
Playing out the rest of the melee, the Byzantines lose one more(a Heavy Cavalry FV5) and the Persians 3 Heavy Cavalry.  The middle is looking remarkably bare.

The Light Infantry won its combat.
I believe the Persians are better placed to re-organise and roll up the three remaining units in  the middle.

End of turn 5 (if continued melee)


A fun and tense game.  It was played in two sessions and for one of those my 3 year old rolled all the dice but I would say the game lasted just over one hour (excluding note taking).  Adding up the points, the game was roughly core +60, so it was not going to play much faster, although the smaller number of control points would have helped.  Armati as it is doesn't give the < 1 hour game on a 2'x'2 board.  With mostly infantry, this game would have been slower. So the verdict is that Armati, while I think is a faster game than many other tournament type rules, doesn't meet my criteria.
I am tempted to play this again with less stands - the Persians being units of 2 cavalry each (8 stands in total) and the Byzantines having 2 stands on Skutatoi,  4 cavalry units, 1 light infantry and 2 light cavalry.  I would give each side a heavy control rating of 3 and reduce initiative by 2 to reduce the number of available splits . Hmm.  Without this reduction, Armati is not going to be as fast as I want it to be at this size.  But reductions to control ratings and initiative reduce the tactical complexity in the game.  Guess I can't have it all.


Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Callincum refight - deployment - with Armati 2

Did a refight using Armati 2 Intro rules. I do use some of the amendments proposed by the Armati yahoo group: +1 for rear firing and braced infantry denying impetus (the latter a lot more useful in Intro as you don't need to use 2 stands to deny impetus).  I use the original break-off rules.  The last change is that Armati Intro uses a ruler that is a 1/3 of the full scale game so 1" in the rules is really 1/3 of an inch.  I use centimetres instead of a 1/3 inch.  This is about a 20% increase for distance and wheels.  But makes the game easier.  I used to use special rulers but can't be bothered anymore.

Here is a photo of the board from the Persian side with the initial deployments  The line marking the start of the gentle hill is marked with black thread.

Callinicum deployment from Persian side

Persian units (right  to left flank):
Lakhmid Light cavalry
Heavy cavalry (FV5)
Heavy cavalry reserve (FV4)
Heavy cavalry (FV4)

Byzantine units (left to right as per the image above)
Ghassanid Light cavalry
Light infantry
Heavy cavalry (FV4)
Heavy cavalry (FV5)
Heavy cavalry (FV4)
Skutatoi Heavy infantry

I have a fair few armies and haven't painted anything in about 8 years.  The Sassanid Persians are Sassanid Persians, but the Byzantines will look like Late Romans.  Also, the Arab allies will look like Huns (for the Lakhmids) and Indians (for the Byzantines).  If I was more organised, I should have painted up the correct figures.  But my time is short and I would prefer the rules comparisons.  Maybe for the next scenario after Callinicum.  The painting quality of the figures varies and about half my figures were painted by someone else.

Straight after deployment, I realised that I may have been a little too generous in the divisions, so I reduced the Heavy Divisions allowance for the Persians to 3.  also in hindsight, I should have decreased the heavy division allowance of the Byzantines to 3 as well.  It is likely that the infantry would best have been served as an uncontrolled division.