Friday, November 12, 2010

Post Callinicum: Which ruleset is the best?

I believe I have had enough of Callinicum as a battle.  I managed to try out 10 different rulesets with this battle before wanting to try another battle. As a reminder, the goal was to look at rulesets that gave a good ancients game in under an hour on a 2'x2' table.  Some of the ones I used passed, some didn't.  The definition of best of course depends on the person.  These are my views but I have tried to throw in some objective points as well.

I am not a big solo wargamer.  I much prefer face to face.  But I love reading and figuring out rules.  I also love historical battles.  So this has been an interesting experience - I get to refight a historical battle, and I get to really discover how some of the rules I own work.  And solo seems ok for this. I am not sure I could ever solo play only for the sake of playing a game.  I think, and least for the near term, I will continue to need an ancillary aim - refights, rule discovery, writing my own rules etc. 

The 10 I tried were
  • Armati
  • Warrior Kings
  • Justified Ancients
  • Fantasy Rules!TCE
  • Irregular Miniatures Ancients Rules
  • Mighty Armies: Ancients
  • Basic Impetus
  • DBA
  • DBM100
  • Bill Bank's Ancients

I created a webpage with links to the various battle reports.

The rules to try first
The number one ruleset I would recommend for anyone to try is DBA.  Yes, I know I wrote I am not fond of DBA.  They fit the bill perfectly, which makes sense as they were designed to play a game in less than one hour on a 2'x'2' board.  The game has a large following, the rules (despite the issues some people have with Barkerese) are comprehensive and give a good and challenging game.   So, if you are looking for a quick small game ruleset, try DBA first.  I did try DBA with a Inferior superior modification to see if it made it better for me but it didn't really.  Stick to vanilla DBA.

Number one on my list
The rules I enjoyed the most and highly recommend is Warrior Kings. This is my ruleset of choice and am looking forward to playing lots more games with it. I did make one change to make it play on 2'x2' - I changed the distances from inches to centimetres.  It is about to be released imminently again as Rally Round the King.  Well, sort of re-release. [this next section has been updated based on feedback] Ownership of the rules was acquired by John P Kelly, who made the rules available on the Warrior Kings yahoo group and recently released the final version 2 of the rules (heavily updated from version 1).  Meanwhile, back at Two Hour Wargames, Warrior Heroes was the fantasy version of Warrior Kings, now also out of print.  Warrior Heroes, without the fantasy elements, was exactly Warrior Kings.  Rally Round the King is the re-release, and updated, version of Warrior Heroes.  Warrior Kings is fast, fun, matches my view of historical outcomes, and is also unpredictable enough it creates (for me) the friction of war and limited control over what your troops will do..  It is also the most suitable of all the rules I tried for solo play..  Love it.  If you are a control freak, don't play this ruleset - or actually any rules from Two Hour Wargames ;-)

The rest, all still good
The other rulesets were all fun to play.  The choice of which one to play is really down to personal choice.  There are good bits and bad bits to all of the rules.  Here they are in roughly the order of how I enjoyed them (best first).

Irregular Miniatures
Was the most fun after Warrior Kings.  Although it uses different die sizes (d6, d8, d10, d12) to represent troop grades, and I am not a fan of this, it was really fun.  It does have a point system but no army lists at all.  There are gaps in the rules, assumes some knowledge of ancients gaming but nevertheless, I would play this again and again.  I used system one (number of stands represents the unit size e.g. a 5 stand unit has 5 stands).  I think system 2 (units set size and track casualties, e.g. the 5 stand unit is made up of 1 stand that can take 5 hits) would have too many units to make the game last under one hour (only an assumption - maybe not).
Fantasy Rules!TCE
These were also surprising.  Although maybe not so much as the game is touted as being rooted in historical concepts with fantasy elements added. And it forms the basis for the historical Days of Knights  rules from the same company (Chipco Games).  I found it gave a great game.  There are no historical army lists as such, but in TCE these could be generated using the army creation system; just leave off the fantasy elements.  I would play these rules again too, but did prefer the Irregular Miniature rules.

Mighty Armies: Ancients
This was the fastest of all the games - combat always results in at least a stand being eliminated, and between groups of stands at least 1d6 stands being eliminated.  It seems to have very little support, few historical army lists and you should use the revised combat dice roll system from the forums (for combat use all front ranks values and all rear support values (rather than lead fighter values and rest support)).  But I got a lot of hits on the replay. There were tactical subtleties that came from playing that were not evident just reading the rules (most rules have this but I was pleasantly surprised by MAA).  Not a set to be underestimated to produce a fun and fast game.  I would play these again too.

DBM100 produced a fine game, and as expected, it like playing a full size DBM game but you are only looking after one command.  It does play differently to DBA (as expected).  If you like DBA, you are unlikely to like DBM (and there is commentary scattered over the web that supports this).  I thought DBM100 was fine and I am sure if you like DBMM, DBMM100 would be a great fast game too.  However, since finding Armati in 1998, DBM just doesn't do it for me anymore.  For DBM players who are familiar with and love DBM, I would say give DBM100 a go first (over other rules mentioned) if you are looking to scale down time and board size to less than 1 hour and 2'x2'.

Justified Ancients
Not well written or a great layout, no terrain system, no points, no army lists.  Just the core of a rules system with some nice mechanics.  And I think it is improved with some houserules put together by John Davis. I had high hopes but I didn't enjoy the games as much as I thought I would.  With a few tweaks I could get a really good game system out of it that matched my ideal.  It is designed for 2'x2' and under 1 hour, and achieves this.  The core rules are fine and I think the house rules are a good add on (probably mandatory).  It is worth trying them out - there is a decent game in there.  If you like well written rules with no ambiguity and nice pictures, these rules are not for you.  I would be willing to try again, and even more so with just a couple more house rules.

The ones that didn't work
The three rulesets that I found did not lend themselves to less than one hour or 2'x'2' play were:
  • Armati. This played too long on a 2'x'2' table, otherwise, still my favourite ruleset on a 3'x2' board using Intro rules.
  • Basic Impetus.  This gave a game in under an hour, but really needs a board size of 3'x2' or 4'x2'.
  • Bill Banks Ancients.  Better as a boardgame, it does need a little bit of work to translate to miniatures.
Rule mechanism comparisons
This was supposed be be a short section and got a bit long.  So documenting the various ruleset mechanisms is found in this post. Note this is more of a mechanics listing that a comparative study.

Using Google Analytics, the most popular refight viewed was Basic Impetus by far.  This was followed, in order of views, by Mighty Armies:Ancients, Warrior Kings, Justified Ancients, Irregular Miniatures Ancient Rules and Fantasy Rules.  The other refights have only been up a short while and also have less hits than the ones listed.
What next?
As Callinicum was a mostly cavalry battle, I want to retry some of the rules (and try out some ones I didn't get around to with Callinicum) on an infantry battle.  Callinicum was the battle selected for the Society of Ancients 2009 Battle Day.  The 2010 Battle Day selection was Zama.   A classical battle from the 2nd Punic War.  Infantry, Romans, Elephants, less missile-armed troops (every unit in Callinicum is missile armed) and bit of cavalry on the flanks.  A change from Callinicum and a chance to try out other parts of the selected rules.  Zama it is.  We will see how I go and how many rulesets I get though with Zama.  The ones I will use again are Warrior Kings (or likely Rally Round the King -it should be out days after this post), Irregular Miniatures and Mighty Armies Ancients.  I may use Justified Ancients with a couple of the changes I suggested. Haven't thought about which other ones to use but I have a dozen of so in my list that I didn't use with Callinicum.  See you all in North Africa.

Post-Callinicum rule mechanism comparisons

I originally had this in this blog post with the rules recommended for fast play ancients post-Callinicum refights. That post got too long and the stuff written here didn't fit in cleanly. I've pulled rule mechanism comparisons out and put it in its own post.

Rule Mechanism Comparisons
There is a fair degree of difference within the rules mechanisms. I will limit myself to some observations, but mostly about the games that worked and that I played - DBA, Warrior Kings, Irregular Miniatures Ancient Rules, FR! (Fantasy Rules!TCE), MAA (Mighty Armies: Ancients), JA (Justified Ancients) and DBM.  I could likely spend a long time and write lots.  I think it would be interesting but I don't have the time.  I may write it up a bit more if I play more battles with the different rules.  I ended up describing the different mechanisms rather than going further and doing an in-depth study on the how and why they are different.  But that is what I meant when I wrote I could make it longer and more interesting!

Command and Control
DBA and DBM100 both have a d6 roll that determines the number of groups/units that can be moved.  Groups/units far away from the general cost more die pips to move.  As combat and missile fire occurs, more groups can arise, thus limiting move options.  MAA also uses d6 in a similar way.

Warrior Kings limits the number of groups/units that can be activated.  This is fixed at the start of the game (2,3 or 4 in a normal game).  However, once activated, a unit/group must continue to move at least 1/2 its movement allowance each turn, no activation required.  It will do so until halted.  When halted (usually via a reaction to enemy actions), it needs to be activated again to move.  Also, units will react to opposing missile fire and moves and so may move/charge/retire etc even if not activated.  As stands take hits, they are less likely to do what you want (hits are a negative modifier to reaction tests).

DBA, DBM, MAA, FR! and Warrior Kings rules allow the forming and unforming of units to create on the fly groups.  There are benefits to groups - DBA, DBM100 and FR! have overlaps bonuses in combat and advantages to more than one stand firing, MAA groups are used to determine combat strength, WK gives bonuses in reaction tests for adjacent units.  In DBA and DBM100, groups have some movement limitations compared to one stand.

FR! has a morale clock for each side.  This indicates how many groups/units can move each turn.  The side that get more bad results in combat in each player turn has their morale clock reduced by one.  Units that have taken disorder have limitations on what they can do (e.g. cannot charge).  Game over when one sides morale clock reaches 0.

Irregular Miniatures Ancient Rules has orders given to units that are quite simple - speed: slow or fast; and charging: charge everything, hold (no charging) or lure (may countercharge and charges allowed in some circumstances). Units are made up of a certain number of stands.  Any unit can move.  There is no such thing as groups.

JA has no concept of groups, but each stand that wants to move, charge, rally or reform must roll a d6 to pass.  A straight move is easy to pass, a charge a bit harder and rallying harder.  Modifiers include distance from the general and training.

Turn sequence has an impact on command and control. DBA, DBM, FR! and Irregular Miniatures turn sequences are variations on IGO-UGO with defined sequence of events e.g. rally, move, fire, combat (not necessarily in that order).  Warrior Kings is an IGO-UGO, but each unit completes all its actions before doing the next unit.  The actions of one unit causes a reaction in opposing units that will force it to do an action - move, fire, retreat etc.  This may then cause reaction for the current player turn unit(s) and so it goes. There is lots of activity occurring by both sides each player turn.  JA as written seems to be a IGO-UGO similar to DBA etc (and the example of play in the rules bears this out), but in a comment to the replays by the designer, it seems it should be played with each unit doing all it actions, before moving onto the next one.  In my opinion, the latter suits the rule mechanisms for JA better.

As an example of how units are differentiated, let us look at how the Callinicum heavy cavalry, the Callinicum elite heavy cavalry and the light cavalry are represented in the different rules.  This will help show how elites are separated from regulars, how light cavalry is different from heavy cavalry and how missile units are classified.

Heavy Cavalry: Cv
Elite Heavy Cavalry: Cv
Light Cavalry: Lh
Although the cavalry is not differentiated, what this doesn't show is the difference in combat results between Cv and Lh.

Heavy Cavalry: Cv(S)
Elite Heavy Cavalry: Cv
Light Cavalry: Lh
This doesn't take into account the difference in combat results between Cv and Lh.

Warrior Kings
Heavy Cavalry: Mounted Melee, Combat value 4, Dual-Armed, Armor Class 4, 3 Figures
Elite Heavy Cavalry: Mounted Melee, CV5, Dual-Armed, AC4, 3 Figures
Light Cavalry: Mounted Skirmish, CV4, Dual-Armed, AC2, 2 Figures

Irregular Miniatures
Heavy Cavalry: Auxiliary, Irregular, B class (d10), 3 strips, half-armoured horse, body, arm and leg armour, shield, bow
Elite Heavy Cavalry: Auxiliary, Irregular, A class (d12), 3 strips, half-armoured horse, body, arm and leg armour, shield, bow
Light Cavalry: Skirmisher, Irregular, C class (d8), 1 strip, unarmoured horse, shield, javelin

Heavy Calvary: Heavy Cavalry with bow
Elite Heavy Cavalry: Heavy Cavalry with bow, elite
Light Cavalry: Light Cavalry with throwing weapons
As with DBA, this doesn't show some of the combat advantages between the units.
Heavy Cavalry:  Seasoned Heavy Cavalry, Speed:6, Fight:4, Support:3, Shooting I, Cavalry Charge
Elite Heavy Cavalry: Veteran Heavy Cavalry, Speed:6, Fight:5, Support:3, Shooting I, Cavalry Charge
Light Cavalry: Seasoned Light Cavalry, Speed:7, Fight:3, Support:2, Javelin
Heavy Cavalry:  Loose Order, Heavy, Horse, missile, trained
Elite Heavy Cavalry:  Loose Order, Heavy, Horse, missile, trained, High Morale
Light Cavalry: Skirmish, Light, Horse, javelin

Movement distances for all the rulesets are very similar.  Irregular Miniatures has the most different movement rates for different troops types and armour.  DBA allows a second move in very limited circumstances, DBM100 has extra march moves if a certain distance from the enemy.  Warrior Kings has troops reacting (by moving) to enemy fire, moving close etc.
For deviating from straight ahead, DBA and DBM100 allows a unit to move in any direction, groups are more limited.  The other rules have various restrictions on wheeling and about face.  Warrior Kings is the most restrictive. JA requires a successful order roll for moving other than straight ahead, that was harder to pass if wheeling, or rotating on the spot. Irregular Miniatures allows veering 10 degrees while moving and also differentiates between regulars and irregulars on the flexibility of wheels.

DBA and DBM have missile fire only for infantry bows, cavalry bows and javelins are part of melee.  Bows use opposed d6 rolls the same combat tables as melee (except the firer is not affected by the result).  Bowfire distance in DBA is the same as the movement distance for heavy infantry, in DBM it is twice the move distance of Heavy infantry.  There is a dedicated portion of the turn sequence for missile fire, after movement, which is mandatory and performed by both sides. Multiple bow units can gang-up on a target for a better combat bonus.

Bow units Warrior Kings has two ranges of any missile fire - dedicated archer units (infantry and some light chariots) and skirmishers and others unit armed with missile units.  Dedicated Archer units have a range equal to heavy infantry move, other missile fire is half that.  Missile fire uses 2d6 for dedicated archers, 1d6 for others.  Potential damage is calculated differently to combat, but damage is inflicted using the same system as for melee (against armour class).  Missile fire is mandatory and is done by halted units.  However, reactions to firing and being charged may also generate return fire, which may also generate return fire again.
Irregular Miniatures has a different system for missile fire, adding up various modifiers, no dice rolls, but uses the same damage system as per melee (potential casualties are a modifier to the roll against their die type to avoid) .  It has different ranges for 6 types of missile weapons.  Ranges for bows are three times heavy infantry movement distance. Missile fire is done simultaneously by both sides as defined in the turn sequence (after movement).  Charging (and charged units) missile fire is done in that phase. 
JA bowfire range is light infantry movement distance and javelins at half heavy infantry move distance.  Damage and resolution is a 1d6 and not the same as melee.  Missile fire, in reaction to a charge, occurs after the charge move.  Uncontacted missile fire occurs after all moves/charges, is optional, and only done by the phasing player.
In FR!, firing ranges for bows is equal to heavy cavalry distance, longbows are twice this distance.  Javelins are handled as a special event prior to combat via a die roll on a d10 for effect.  Firing occurs in a set part of the player phase (prior to moving) and is only the player's missile units firing.  It is not mandatory.  Firing system is 1d10 but not the same as melee.  More bows firing at the same target increase the chance of damage.  Crossbows/Longbows count as two bows for this purpose.
MAA firing distance is equal to light cavalry movement distance.  It uses a different system to melee.  A d6 is rolled and compared to target's combat value to see if damage occurs.  Javelins are treated as per FR! - as a special roll on a d6 pre-combat for potential damage.  Missile fire occurs after movement.
I haven't covered Artillery but rules for Artillery are in all the rules with ranges longer than bows.  The fire resolution all follows the same form as bowfire resolution.

In all rules, melee is mandatory for contacted units.

DBA and DBM use a similar melee resolution - stand versus stand and uses opposed d6 with some modifiers based on positioning and troop type.  A comparison is made to see if scores are equal, double or somewhere in between.  This is compared to the unit type and the type it is facing to give a result of recoil, destroyed or flee. Sounds simple but tactically rich. Units do no have damage markers - they are either in play or destroyed.

Warrior Kings melee resolution is by melee areas.  Simplifying, a melee area consists of  touching friendly stands that are in contact with touching enemy stands. A d6 is rolled for each stand and modifiers added. This is totalled, compared to the enemies armour class and damage allocated based on the armour class.  Each side undergoes a reaction test after melee.  This is based on a small set of unit characteristics (foot/mounted, flank attack etc) which may result in carrying on, retiring or rout.  Units take damage points that are negative modifiers to the reaction tests.  Damage points cannot be removed.

Irregular Miniatures has unit versus unit (where a unit is a number of stands from 1 to 8).  Units add up various points and modifiers to get to a total (no die roll added).  This is compared to the opposing units die type for damage calculation.  The side that loses the greater number of stands takes a panic check (that is either no effect or rout).  If pass, or same loss each, up to two more rounds of melee occur.  Modifiers are different for second and third rounds depending on unit type (e.g. regulars get a consistent modifier in all three rounds, irregulars only get a positive modifier in round one).  If after 3 rounds no unit routs, the attacking unit retreats slightly.  Units lose stands so there is no tracking of casualties (there is an alternative system where one unit = 1 stand and you track casualties, but I didn't play that).

JA is stand versus stand and uses opposing d3 with some modifiers based on positioning and troop type. Depending on the difference (+0 to +4 or more), there is a result of no effect, loser is disordered, loser is damaged and flees, loser is destroyed.  Each stand has two damage points.  It is destroyed when taking the second damage point.  Damage points cannot be removed.  A stand can also be disordered - this is a negative modifier to orders and combat, but can also be rallied off.
FR! is stand versus stand with opposing d10 with some modifiers based on positioning and troop type. A comparison is made to see if scores are equal, double or somewhere in between.  Damage is either disordered, double disordered or destroyed. A disordered unit that is disordered again is double disordered.  A double disordered unit that is disordered again is destroyed.  Disorder, and double disorder can be rallied off at the start of a player turn.
MAA has units that are 1 to 6 is size.  Two units in contact is melee.  Opposed d6 is rolled with modifiers for troops in the unit and position. A comparison is made to see if scores are equal, double or somewhere in between.   For single stand units Vs single stand units, the result will either be no effect (equal scores), driven back (less than double) or destroyed (double or more).  For multiple stand units, the result is either no effect (equal), lose one stand and driven back (less than double) or lose 1d6 units and driven back (double or more).  As per Irregular Miniatures, stands don't take damage; units lose stands as casualties.
Unit Morale
While DBA and DBM have no specific morale rules, it would be unfair to say morale isn't taken into account.  Morale of the units has been built into the system.  For instance, it can be argued that when a unit recoils, it is suffering a morale loss.  It also takes away moral support by not longer providing any overlapping support.  DBM goes further where the inferior/superior status is not only representative of combat strength, but also morale.

Warrior Kings has morale built into the 4 combat value levels (they are not really combat values but that is what they are labeled).  All reaction tests are taken against a unit's combat value.  The more 'damage' taken (and damage is a relative term here to as it is damage to the units willingness to battle), the less likely it will pass the test and hence have bad things happen such as retire or rout.

Irregular Miniatures units have one of 4 morale values, each represented by a die type (d6, d8, d10, d12).  Unit panic checks are take all the time  e.g. seeing someone rout, losing melee round, reaching half-strength.  Panic checks are taken using the die type with the only modifier being unit losses.  Units will either carry on, halt or rout.

JA does have disorder (only applicable to close-order units) and units can take damage but these are not really representing morale.  However, a unit can be poor which affects the ability to order the unit and also gets negative modifier in combat. A high morale unit can take 3 damage hits before being destroyed, compared to two for other troops.  So there is some morale representation visible in the rules.

FR! has a morale clock for each side that is based on who is taking more losses each turn. This covers army morale rather than unit morale - it is more a command and control function and when to determine when a side has given up. Units are disordered and disorder does limit some action..  Disorder can be rallied off.   This would be representative of unit morale.

MAA morale is built into the troop type - troops are raw, seasoned or veteran and this provides different combat strengths and hence greater staying power and resistance to missile fire (as missile hits are determined by target strength).  There is no other specific morale as it is built in to the troop type and hence affect that unit in melee and missile fire.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Callinicum refight with Bill Bank's Ancients

I've always been fascinated with Bill Banks Ancients board game - it is designed to fast play numerous ancient and medieval battles.  I haven't played it as much as I would like.  I have done various tweaks to it over the last 10 years for so - mostly command and control and movement restrictions.  It has been available for free for several years from Mike Nagel's original website, which is now downloadable from the  Ancients Battle Deluxe website.

The other good place to look for information on the game is at boardgamegeek.

There are variants, notably the recent Ancients Battle Deluxe (and stuff at its predecessor site that can be found there) and Hex Command Ancients. Both, IMHO, change the game too much - adding in command and control (similar to DBA, the system of CnC  I like the least), more rules, and change the way combat works. Both are very unlike the original - based on the idea, but gone a long way from it. Both do seem like good, and possibly great, games in their own right - they just don't seem to capture the simplicity flavour of the original.   I actually like the original CRT - it is simple but it generates lots of tactical options. I have tried options to create more granular outcomes (more odds columns, using the d12 variant) but keep coming back to the original CRT - it really does drive lots of tactics.  The only other changes I had considered with was adding more Armati like Command and Control and movement restrictions.

For for information of the Battle of Callinicum see my previous post.

If you are new to the rules, and have no idea what they are, Bill Bank's Ancients is a boardgame allowing you to replay 64 ancient battles.  It is a hex and counter game. Each side will have about 10-20 counters and the game will be over is under a hour.
Here are about 10 unit types with a printed strength, movement distance and missile capability (A which is good, B which is ok, or none). Each unit has two values (front and back sides) - full strength and disordered.  A unit that is disordered twice is destroyed.   The strength of a disordered unit varies with unit type e.g. a phalanx is strength 6 but disordered is 2; a heavy infantry unit is strength 4, but disordered 3, heavy cavalry is strength 4 and disordered 2, light units are strength 2 and disordered 2.  Disordering happens a lot so the differing reduction is strength is an important consideration. 
High level turn sequence is:
Player A moves
Player B missile fires
Player A performs combat
Player A rallies
Player B now goes  and follows the same activity order as player A
There are 6 turns in a game.
Movement points varies from 1 for Phalanx, 2 for most heavy infantry, 3 for light infantry, 5 for heavy cavalry and 6 for light cavalry.  Movement restrictions are few - 1 point to turn 60 degrees.  Can about face for 1 movement point too.
Missile fire is deadly - an A class unit (heavy foot archers and camps) can fire out to 3 hexes. Chances to hit reduce with range.  Infantry is harder to hit than Cavalry.  A hit results in disordering the target; if already disordered it is destroyed.  A range 1, cavalry is hit on a 1-4!  B class (light infantry) has less of a chance to hit and only goes out 2 hexes.
Combat is optional and is between single units.  However, and enemy unit can be attacked many times if there are multiple units that can attack.  However, each combat is resolved individually.  Combat is simply to work out the ratio of attacker versus defender and roll a die on the CRT.  The CRT has only 4 columns - 1-2, 1-1, 2-1, 3-1.
There are only 3 results - Melee (M), Attacker Disordered (AD), Defender Disordered(DD) .  For AD and DD the appropriate unit is disordered, if already disordered, it is destroyed.  Melee is a little different - each of the two units in combat are disordered if not already.  So if disordered, just stay disordered - you are not destroyed.   There is no 'no effect' result (although if disordered, a Melee result is effectively no effect). on a 1-1, a 1 is AD, 2-5 is M and 6 is DD so even 1-1 will disorder an enemy if not already. And possibly reduce his strength, so another adjacent unit can attack at 2-1 and hope for a DD result. 
Even though simple, the CRT does reward tactical play and does create a simple game.  There are a few modifiers to a units strength which either double or half it.  These are cumulative so a strength 4 unit doubled twice is 64 (4x4x4).  The main modifiers are leader in combat (a double), phalanx Vs cavalry (a double for the phalanx) and terrain effects.
Which brings us to leaders - leaders are conceptually represented.  A side will have 1 to 3 leaders.  Leaders are removed at the start of movement, and then placed at the end of movement wherever you wish.  They stay there until the player has their move again.  So the other player gets to missile fire and melee against leaders.  Leaders double in combat.  Leaders will also automatically undisorder any unit they are with in the player's rally phase.  There is no other rally available.  So leaders are important to a) create advantages in combat and b) ger rid of critical disorder.  They are killed if the unit they are with is disordered and you subsequently roll a 1.  So they are a bit fragile.  Using leaders is a critical tactical part of the game. 

Rule conversion from hexes
The game is hex based.  I will not be playing with hexes.  I simply converted movement points into basewidths, so a move of 2 is 80cm. Units can wheel as much as they want but the distance wheeled is taken off the movement allowance.  A unit can about face for 1MP (as in the rules)  Units do not have to line up corner to corner for melee, contact is sufficient.  In the game, even if a unit was contacted (in the adjacent hex) it could still missile fire rather than melee.  I used optional rules 5.1 Zones of control (cannot leave ZOC and then combat another unit) and 5.12 missile units (missile units can move and fire).

I gave all the cavalry B missile capability if not disordered. This is based on the Byzantine scenarios in the game. This may make the game very missile focused, we will see. Note from after the game: it did slightly, but not enough I would not change it if playing again.

I also resisted implementing any house rules. I was tempted to make the elite cavalry 6-5 rather than 4-5 but this is changing the game's basic units.  It also means the non-elite cavalry would combat at 1-2 odds, which is not great.  The elite could be represented by putting the leader with them (although leaders do move).  So, I left all the cavalry as 4-5.  The Skutatoi is a 3A2, the light infantry a 2B3 and all light cavalry 2-6.

9x 4B5 (B only if not disordered)
3x 2B6
2x leaders


3x 3A2
6x 4B5 (B only if not disordered)
1x 2B3
3x 2B6
2x leaders

Panic: 21 

Based panic on the scenarios where it seems to be add up all combat values and divide by 2.

As per other refights.  See here.

Deployment - Persians on the left

The extra unit behind a stand is a leader.

Turn 1

Advance the light cavalry and the central heavy cavalry, leave the right flank heavy cavalry in reserve.  Need to focus of this flank as it is the best chance to gain an advantage.

Advanced the Skutatoi and the heavy cavalry to their right in support.  This is where the Byzantines may be able to get an advantage.

Turn 2

Remembered that you don't have to move each stand in the group, so charged two heavy cavalry into the two heavy cavalry next the the Skutatoi and 2 Lakhmid light cavalry into 2 Ghassanid light cavalry. Made sure there were overlaps so the 2 stands could attack one stand.

Placed the leaders where these two combats would happen.

...and then I did the Byzantine missile fire.  Forgot how decisive it is. Against the Persian heavy cavalry with a leader, the first Byzantine heavy cavalry fire needs a 1-3! Hits and the heavy cavalry with the leader is disordered. Leader is ok.  Second heavy cavalry hits too.  Heavy cavalry is destroyed.  Leader rolls a 1 and is destroyed too.  There is no advance for the Byzantines as it is only missile fire.

On the other front, the two Ghassanids light cavalry can fire on the Lakhmids.  Also need a 1-3.  Both miss;  and thus the rolls balance themselves out.

In combat, the remaining heavy cavalry are both disordered (M on 1-1 column), a Ghassanid light cavalry is eliminated by firstly a M result on the 2-1 and then on a DD result.  The Lakhmid that caused the DD (not the one with the leader) should advance.

Found an issue with  the conversion from hexes to minis and not using front edge lineups - the light cavalry that should advance is also in front edge contact with another light cavalry.  In the hex game, a unit can have 3 units to its front (so can be attacked three times from the front) while in the minis game it will only be two. So far not to much of an issue.  But when a unit is destroyed, the unit that causes the elimination should advance.  In hexland, there other (up to) two units alongside do not block the advance. And neither do any opposing units neighbouring the destroyed unit.  But in minis, if you overlap, you are likely to have a enemy unit still in contact with you front if you destroy its neighbour.  So what to do about the advance?  Well, in this case I am going to advance the light cavalry with the leader.  This may work and seem ok for this combat, but I can imagine times it will not work.  Something to work on and keep unresolved for now.

The Persian left flank after advancing the light cavalry.

The CRT is very easy to remember, especially as I have been using this game for over 10 years.  Actually I believe the tables (melee and missile CRT) would be easier to remember than the DBA combat results.
In the rally phase, rallied the Lakhmid light cavalry with the general.

Byzantines do a general advance and a couple of flank of some cavalry.  The Isaurian infantry and a light cavalry gang up on a single Persian light cavalry.  Leaders are placed with the heavy cavalry in the middle.

 The clash of the heavy cavalry from the Byzantine side Disorder is represented by a green bush behind the unit.

Persians missile fire - any unit with missile fire capability can fire even if in contact.  Call it abstract or whatever but this is as per the boardgame - any missile fire can occur against opposing units.
There are a lot of opportunities for disorder - 6 B class at cavalry at range 1 will DD on a 1-3.  The Persians inflicted nothing.  The fortunes of war.

The trick for combat is to gang up on a unit - if you have two possible 1-1 attack, with the first one you are likely to both be disordered.  But the enemy unit will now be at 2-1 with the second attacker and will have a 2/3rds chance of a DD which will destroy the disordered unit.

Combat is optional so not to force units.

The Byzantine rolled a few ones and 2 which wasn't great but did manage to destroy two cavalry units.

Turn 3

The Persians moved units where possible to have a front facing unit, and a flank unit (that will be at 2-1).  The leader was placed with a cavalry unit in the centre, in case it was disordered during missile fire (of course, there is a chance the leader will die too).  The Persian cavalry facing the Skutatoi remained in place.  They are at range 3 of the Skutatoi which is a 1 in 6 chance of a hit.  If they moved up into contact, the Persians would suffer a DD on a 1-4.  Not good.

The clash in the centre again.  Things not looking good for the Persians.

Byzantine missile fire destroys a light cavalry (two DD results), the existing disordered cavalry in the centre, and the Skutatoi manage to disorder a unit.  The Persians are close to their panic score (currently 18) but luckily panic is determined at the start of a player turn.

Persians combat resulted in a destroyed heavy cavalry.

Losses are only a 6 for the panic check - much better than the Persians.  They are also in a much better position.
Wow!  forgot how much a unit can move.  A heavy cavalry has 5MP or 20 cm.  With unrestricted wheels.  Basically the Byzantines surround the Persian cavalry in the centre.  Leaders are placed with the heavy cavalry that could receive fire.

Persian missile fire scores two DD results on one of the heavy cavalry with the leader.  Leader saves both times, but now the leader is alone in front on the units.

In combat a Persian heavy cavalry is destroyed via two DD results.  A Lakhmid light cavalry is destroyed via a 2-1 attack in the rear and the Byzantines rolling a 6 (DE).

The centre again showing the Persians surrounded by Byzantine units.

Turn 4

Persians losses are 28 and so panic. All 4 (!) remaining are disordered if not already and move directly away from the enemy to the nearest map edge.  The light cavalry go off the map.  The heavy cavalry facing the Skutatoi are on the edge of the board.  The Byzantine leader on its own is safe as no unit can move and capture him.

I do not believe the Persians can recover enough to win any more victory points.  The Byzantines have 2 victory points so far - causing panic (1 victory point) and having 2x (and more) combat points on the map.  The Persians have 0 victory points.  I think playing for 2 more turns would not change the victory points.  We can call it a clear win for the Byzantines.

A fun game, even if subjectively unhistorical.  Units move so fast. It is easier to picture on cardboard.  Anyway, I had a good time with the rules.  I think the CRT is brilliant - it is well balanced and not heavily weighed to one side.  The way the leaders are implemented is great,  and the simple halving and doubling for combat is easy to do.  If I had to convert it to a minis game, I would put in some sort of command and control, and reduce the movement distances. Otherwise, leave everything the way it is.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Callinicum refight with DBM

DBM was the leading ancient ruleset used in tournaments for about 15 years.  DBM has waned in the last few years as a) FOG has generally taken over around where I am as the main competition and club rules and b) the successor to DBM, DBMM, has been released.  I did play DBM back in the mid 90's for a few years, versions 1.1, 1.2, 2.0 and 2.1 and enjoyed them at the time, until I discovered Armati.

My dissatisfaction with the obvious DBx game for fast play, 2'x2' board, DBA, is the lack of grading of troop types. DBM obviously is the solution as it adds them in, as well as a whole bunch of additional rules.  But DBM is designed to be played on a 6'x4' table using around 350 points of troops.  DBM200 was a cut down version of DBM for 200 points for a faster and smaller game. I played a few games of this back in 1997 and it was as enjoyable as a full sized game.  DBM100 was another logical version, being designed for 100-150 point games on a 2'-3'x2' board.  Perfect for what I am looking for. DBM100 generals are slightly cheaper, no automatic PIP for the general and only 2 march moves max.

Note that I will be using DBM 2.1 for the replay.  I had stopped playing DBM by the time 3.0 came out, I don't have the DBM 3.0 rulebook, and there were some changes I am not familiar enough with (such as the change to how Superior works).  I probably could muddle through using a 3.1 reference sheet, but I'll stick with the rules I can easily look up.  For for information of the Battle of Callinicum see my previous post.


Based on book 2, army 69.

The Persians

From left to right
3 Nobles, Irr Cv(O) @7pts
1 Noble, Irr Cv(S) @9pts
1 General, Irr Cv(S) @12pts
1 Noble, Irr Cv(S) @9pts
3 Nobles, Irr Cv(O) @7pts

3 Lakhmid Allies, Irr LH(O) @5pts

Demoralised after 4 elements 

Based on book 3 army 4

The Byzantines

From left to right
3 Skutatoi, Reg Bd(I) @5pts
2 Kavallarioi, Reg Cv(O) @8pts
1 Boukellarioi, Reg Cv(S) @10pts
1 General, Reg Cv(S) @20pts
2 Kavallarioi, Reg Cv(O) @8pts
1 Isaurian, Irr Ax(O) @3pts
3 Ghassannids, Irr LH(I) @3pts

Demoralised after 5 elements  

Persians will have the first move

Turn 1

Moved up the Lakhmids, and also wheeled the Persian line and then moved it another (march) move.  Had to look up the rules to see if could move twice and yes, they can - all cavalry.

1 PIP. But the DBM100 rules have regular generals getting +1 to PIP roll, so 2 PIPS!  Moved the Skutatoi and cavalry line up to align with the Skutatoi

Turn 2

Moved up the Lakhmids up further but not enough to be flanked by the Isaurians. Split the Superior Nobles and moved them ahead of the main battle line.  Straightened up the remainder of the cavalry line.

View of the Byzantine right flank after the Persian move

Charged with the superior cavalry into opposing ordinary cavalry.  Moved up the other groups to prevent any flank attacks.
Lost a cavalry unit in the close combat.  The gamble did not pay off.

View of the Persian right flank

Turn 3

Charged in the superior cavalry and the Light Horse. One Byzantine light horse destroyed; otherwise, all Byzantine forces were recoiled.

Rolled a 1 for PIPS, again. Charged in the superior cavalry and also moved a single Skutatoi to protect the gap. Persians lost two cavalry units.  So the second gamble paid off!

The Persian right flank again, now missing two cavalry units

Turn 4

Superior cavalry charge in again.  A light horse moves in behind (not enough to rear contact the cavalry - could have reared the Auxilia) the Byzantine units to convert recoils into destruction.  Rereading the bit of the rules that were put in to limit the Buttocks of Death I have found a gem of Barkerese "Unless the recoilers are psiloi, this enemy is also destroyed if contacted on a rear corner only or a rear edge by the recoiling element's rear edge, or on a rear edge by its rear corner."  I had to read it a few times to figure out what it was saying!
Anyway, only one Byzantine cavalry destroyed.

With only a few PIPs, picked on the Persian end Cv(O) with a frontal and flank attack.  Also moved up a Skutatoi into combat with an overlapping unit so there would not be the -1 in support the the flanked combat unit.  It worked - outscored by 1 (it would have be a tie if I hadn't moved the Skutatoi up) and a Persian cavalry destroyed. But...the Skutatoi was destroyed too.  Not so good.  Especially not good as the Auxilia loses the combat with the Superior cavalry (it was a tie last combat), recoils into the Persian LH and is destroyed.  The Byzantines are demoralised and the game is over.  The Persians won.

The debacle that is the byzantine left flank

I enjoyed this more than the the DBA games.  Not sure why - probably because this was the third game with the DBx rules and so was becoming more familiar with it.  I preferred the Superior/Inferior of DBM over that in E-BBDBA, although it did change in DBM v3.  While the rear support and tactical factors are mostly different than in DBA, most of them didn't apply in this game.  If I was ever to play a fast play DBx again, I think it would be DBM100.  These three games have not really convinced me that DBx is for me though - they are not high on my list of fast play ancient rules.

Why not try DBMM100? I have seen draft rules of DBMM about 5 years ago and read a bit about it since released so my reasons are not based on an actual play.  In DBM, there was one thing that irritated me far more than anything else.  Just one thing, and it was a small thing in DBM - that the grading factor for Fast depended on whether it was an enemy bound or not.  I really disliked this - factors depending on whose bound it was.  As I didn't mind the rest of the rules, happy to put up with it, but really wanted to play it as not dependent (and was the only rule change to DBM I contemplated).  Lo and behold, DBMM introduces...more factors and lots of outcomes dependent on whose bound it is!  Can't do it.  Call me unreasonable - really irritating in DBM, can't see past it in DBMM.  At least there are lots of other rules out there for me to try, and DBM is still around.