Friday, August 27, 2010

Callinicum refight with Mighty Armies Ancients

Mighty Armies:Ancients (MAA) is the ancients version of the fantasy rules Mighty Armies.  MAA was released in 2008 by Rebel Minis where it can be purchased as a PDF.   Mighty Armies Ancients is pitched as a fun fast game that is not aiming for historically accurate but containing the historical element.  I think it succeeds admirably at this.

Reviews of Mighty Armies (not MAA) can be found at RPG.Net and in a The Miniatures Page post.

There is a forum which does not have a lot of MAA action but does contain some useful info on rule changes (more on this below). There is a Mighty Armies: Dark Ages in the pipeline.  

Mighty Armies Versus Mighty Armies: Ancients
Here is a quick summary of the differences between MA and MAA:
  • MA is played on 2'x'2' (standard is 40 point armies), MAA is 3'x2' (standard is 60 point armies).
  • MAA has a point system within the rules and a selection of army lists. MA has army lists that contain definitive units with an associated point cost (these are not in the rules but are supplied with the boxed armies or can be downloaded from the forum site).
  • MAA shooting phase is before combat, MA is after.  Possibly because of this, shooting range in MAA is 7" compared to the MA range of 5" (Long range in MAA is 9", in MA it is 8")
  • MA has MPs can be spent on magic while MAA has commands; but these commands are equivalent to the magic effects in MA.
  • MA difficult ground combat modifier is -2, MAA it is only -1.
  • In MA, the general has a rally ability which is not in MAA.
  • Some of the MAA special abilities have a different name to that in MA e.g. the MA Weak ability becomes MAA Slave ability.  Cavalry charge seems to be a new ability (+2 to charging rather than +1) in MAA that is not found in MA.
  • MA has only one victory condition. MAA includes another one - destroy enemy general and more AP worth of units.
For information on the Callinicum battle see here.

Firstly,  I thought for quite a while on whether to create second support lines for the units.  This would give them maximum combat values.  But then I realised that this would make the Persian heavy cavalry groups contain 6 elements and move slower.  So I hit on what I think is a much better solution which is NOT to have second support units except where this would make the group too fragile.  The obvious one to provide a rear support unit to is the light infantry.  So the Light infantry group will be two units deep.  I also think making the infantry a 6 unit groups will make it harder to move (costing 2 MPs) which is not a bad thing given the way the battle went.  Will have to make sure this doesn't make them too strong.  I did this by classifying them as Archers rather than Heavy Infantry - the front fighting value is one less, and support is only 1 not 3.  So the total fighting value of the Skutatoi group is 12.  The heavy cavalry facing them will be 12 (but will get a charge bonus).

Lastly, in MAA, groups can form and reform with no penalty (except in MPs).  I want to make the groups sort of stay together as historically.  As the first thing the Byzantines may likely do is make the three 2 unit groups into two 3 unit groups, I will have a rule just for this scenario that the groups cannot split and reform.  Groups can split as per normal in MAA, but to attach a unit into a different group that originally will cost 2MP.  For my replay, I am unlikely to do this anyway, just to see how the 2 unit groups go up against the 3 unit groups.  I didn't split groups which was good, as some tactics I hadn't thought of came through.

I play with the rules suggested on the forum that replace the combat total from primary fighter and adjacent support values, with Front rank fighting value + rear rank support value.
Note: I will not be using the Strike fear command.  I will be using only those commands that effect the friendly side, not the enemy.

I will deploy the units similar to the First Game with Armati.

6 Seasoned Heavy Cavalry, Speed:6, Fight:4, Support:3, Shooting I, Cavalry Charge
2 Veteran Heavy Cavalry, Speed:6, Fight:5, Support:3, Shooting I, Cavalry Charge
1 General - Cavalry, Speed:5, Fight:6, Support:3, General, Shooting I, Cavalry Charge
3 Seasoned Light Cavalry, Speed:7, Fight:3, Support:2, Javelin

6 Seasoned Archers, Speed:3, Fight:3, Support:1,Shooting I
4 Seasoned Heavy Cavalry, Speed:6, Fight:4, Support:3, Shooting I, Cavalry Charge
1 Veteran Heavy Cavalry, Speed:6, Fight:5, Support:3, Shooting I, Cavalry Charge
1 General - Cavalry, Speed:5, Fight:6, Support:3, General, Shooting I, Cavalry Charge
2 Seasoned Light Infantry, Speed:4, Fight:3, Support:2, Javelin, Mobile
3 Light Cavalry, Speed:7, Fight:3, Support:2, Javelin

Army points are Persian 60 and Byzantine 53.  Note in hindsight the Archers would have been better as Shooting II and then the Byzantine AP would be 59.


Just for comparison, I've included the total combat value of the unit by adding the front combat value and the support value of the rear unit.

Persian - from right flank to left
1 group of 3 seasoned Heavy Cavalry (combat value = 12)
1 group of 3 seasoned Heavy Cavalry (in reserve) (12)
1 group of 2 veteran Heavy Cavalry and 1 General (16)
1 group of 3 seasoned Light Cavalry (9)

Byzantine - from left flank to right
1 group of 6 seasoned Archers (12)
1 group of 2 seasoned Heavy Cavalry (8)
1 group of 1 veteran Heavy Cavalry and 1 General (11)
1 group of 2 seasoned Heavy Cavalry (8)
1 group of 2 seasoned Light Infantry (5)
1 group of 3 Light Cavalry (6)

Now if only I had a deployment picture to go with the above.  I thought I had taken one...but no.  Luckily, it would look very similar to all the other deployment pictures, the Fantasy Rules! being the closest.  Instead, it has given me an excuse to post a picture of Nadia, my 3 year old daughter, hepling me with the Persians in turn 1:

Nadia helping me in turn 1

Movement rates in MAA are faster than the other rulesets so I deployed as per MAA - no more than 6" from each side's rear edge.

The Persian side will move first.

Turn 1


Persian MP = 3

Wheeled the Lakhmid light cavalry slightly and then moved their full distance.
Wheeled the Elite heavy cavalry slightly and then moved their full distance.
Wheeled the reserve heavy cavalry and then moved their full distance.

The 3 elite heavy cavalry is within 7" of the byzantine heavy cavalry.  Needs a 6 on each roll.  Result is no effect.

 End of Persian turn 1 (My daughter insisted of having her hand in the shot!  This is the least obscured shot)


MP = 6

Due to the lower values of the units, the Byzantines need to get a local advantage which really means a unit on the flank.  However,  even that will not be enough as a flank gives the opponent a -1.  Not really enough when you have a difference of 4 or more.  Oops - just figured it out - a flank attack will only have one unit opposing it - not 3 (in this case) - as a flanked stand has no supporting stands.

And I've also realised if you move one unit into another so the stands from one are offset against the other, you can gain superiority if your stand has a greater score.  This may not make much sense in reading but the first move for the Byzantines is to move the elite heavy cavalry into contact with the Persian elite heavy cavalry with the Byzantine general contacting a Persian veteran heavy cavalry. Each only getting one support (with the same support value) and so the Byzantine will get not only the charging bonus but starts with a greater group score.  See the picture for what I mean:

Byzantines at the bottom hit the Persian unit offset and get a local advantage

Moved infantry up full distance (note this cost 2 MP).
Moved up the heavy cavalry between infantry and general to protect the gap.

Note: weird being able to wheel before and after movement - no other ruleset so far does it this way!

Wheeled the heavy cavalry next to the light infantry so it can shoot at the Persian light cavalry.
No other moves

The Skutatoi infantry fire on the Persian reserve heavy cavalry.  Need a 6 (on each of 3 shots). Got one and one stand is destroyed.
Byzantine Heavy Cavalry also fire at this group (2 shots).  Need a 6.  Got one as well and another stand is destroyed.
Heavy Cavalry on the other flank fire on the Persian light cavalry.  Need a 6 (with 2 shots). Got one and one stand is destroyed.

So shooting has accounted for 3 stands.  Deadly.  Also good rolling - 7 rolls and 3 sixes!

...and I forgot about commands! The Byzantines had 2 unused MPs.  Could have given two stands +1 shooting with the unused MPs.  I actually didn't roll any 5's so it would have made no difference.  Must remember commands.  Must remember commands.

Byzantines: 6 (general unit FV) + 3 (support) + 2 (cavalry charge) = 11 + d6 of 5 = 16
Persians: 5 (veteran heavy cavalry FV) + 3 (support) = 8 + d6 of 4 = 12.
Persians lose - one unit destroyed.  Rest driven back.

Persians are 4 units down already to 0 loss to the Byzantines.

 End of turn 1

Turn 2


MP = 5

Turned around the elite heavy cavalry that were driven back.
Charged the light cavalry into the opposing light cavalry.
Both are armed with javelins so need to declare their use.  Assume simultaneous.  Each stand needs a 6 to inflict a loss. Persians succeed in destroying the middle light cavalry, splitting the group.
Moved the heavy cavalry on the Persian right flank up to try and support the lone heavy cavalry in the middle of the board.
No other moves.  Will save the 2 MPs for commands - one for a shot and the other for the light cavalry combat.

Heavy Cavalry group and the single heavy cavalry unit on the right flank shoot at the byzantine heavy cavalry in the middle.  4 shots at the heavy cavalry.

Note: The elite heavy cavalry can't be destroyed by shooting (they are FV5 which cannot be affected by shooting I units) or I would shoot at them.

I will add one command to the 4th shot.  rolls are: 1,1,2,6.  one Byzantine heavy cavalry destroyed.

Persian: 3 (seasoned light cavalry) + 2 (support) +1 charging + 1 (command point) = 6 + d6 of 4 = 10
Byzantine: 2 (light cavalry) = 2 + d6 of 1 =3.  Unit destroyed.

Byzantines have now lost 3 units (Persians still at 4).

End of Persian turn 2 (looking from Byzantine side at the Byzantine right flank)



Can only straight line move into a charge so options to charge are limited.

The Elite heavy cavalry charge into the single Persian heavy cavalry.
On the right flank, wheeled the heavy cavalry to face the light cavalry for better shots.
The heavy cavalry in the middle is a goner and will bring the Persian losses to 5.  All the Byzantines need is to destroy at least 1 Persian unit by shooting and the Persians will have lost 6 units.  This is the breakpoint for the Persians and then the Byzantines win.

So 2 MPs used.  The rest will be spend as commands on shooting.

How to proportion the commands over the shots? I will make the first 4 shots have a command applied and so will be a 5+ (all the targets are FV3-4).

Won't go into detail of who targets who but results are : The Persian heavy cavalry group of three units on the Persian right flank is entirely gone.  The first four shots from the infantry and lone heavy cavalry were 6,1,6,5!

Byzantine: 4 (seasoned heavy cavalry) + 3 (support) +2 (cavalry charging) = 9 + d6 of 4 = 13
Persian: 4 (seasoned heavy cavalry) = 4 + d6 of 4 = 8.
Persian heavy cavalry destroyed.

Persians have lost 8, Byzantines 3.  Byzantines have broken at least 1/2 of the Persian units and therefore have won.

 End of turn 2 (and the game)

Two turns and the game is over!  That is what I call a fast game. Including setup, playing and taking notes took an hour.  I think the game itself lasted around 10 minutes.  I also think with average shooting results it would have gone to 3 or 4 turns.   All infantry I expect would take longer than 15 minutes but not much more.
It may be more suited, with the number of points, to a 3'x'2' board to have a bit more room to move but it played perfectly well on 2'x2' for this scenario.  I thought it would be a little 'gamey' in that the big veteran units with high FV would dominate but by careful manoeuvres.  That wasn't the case here - the lower FV units can hit on the flank or one edge of larger units to gain an advantage.  Not to sure about commands with unused MPs, especially for shooting.  Making a normal 6+ attack on a 5+ means you are actually doubling the chance of a hit.  That is quite significant.  I do think commands have a place to increase the fighting value of a unit to gain a local advantage.  I would play this again.  Any combat will result in a least one unit destroyed (ok, except for when the outcome scores are equal) - this certainly helps it be fast.  It does lend itself to tweaking - pikes I know are already one thing on the forum and are expected to be in the MA: dark ages.  I thought about changing the shooting distance for the cavalry but maybe next time I would make the Skutatoi Long Range (which means they fire out to 9" and also increase their AP and therefore the two side would have just about an equivalent score).   I would possibly restrict movement flexibility a little, but that is just me.  In summary, I liked it - it was fast, it was fun, it played fine on a 2'x2' and it even had a historical feel to it.


  1. Shaun, this sort of looks like a nifty cross between Fast Warrior and DBA. I agree that a 3x2 board would give more maneuver room, that is what we play FW on. Thanks for the write up. Dave Beatty

    1. It actually plays very little like DBA, except for the roll of PIPS to move units. Adding up base combat factors for one unit and adding a random factor is a bit like Warrior. Movement I think is a little closer to Warrior than DBA. Fast Warrior is on my list of maybe rulesets to try replays with. So I should be trying it out in a year or two at the rate I am going!