Friday, November 12, 2010

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.


  1. Shaun,

    A few points:

    If Justified Ancients does not make it clear whether it is a traditional IGO UGO by phase or by unit, then you are right to downrate the rules. That is pretty bad writing.

    For Warrior Kings you have your CVs reversed for Heavy Cavalry and Elite Heavy Cavalry. Also, I think a CV of 6 should never be used, except for fantasy and "legendary" elements. But that is just me. I am surprised you did not give them the Elite Training attribute, which would have simulated a CV of 6 for melee and/or missile fire. Finally, I don't think that the CV should be different between Cv(O) and LH(O). Their abilities are built into the tables and the fact that one is Mounted Melee and the other Mounted Skirmish. There quality should be the same, should it not?

    In DBA missile fire the shooter can be affected if the target also has missile weapons. Probably did not play a role in this game though...

    Very impressive write-up. Thanks for taking the time, and I look forward to the Zama project!

  2. Dale,

    You are a gem! Thanks for spotting the error. interesting about the CV's - it is a typo. In my refight, I made the HC CV4 and the elite HC CV5. The LH was CV4. So the HC(O) and LH(O) were the same combat value. But I noted somewhere else (I think it was the Irregular Miniatures replay) that looking at the actual Warrior Kings lists and also looking at WRG and Might of Arms (older rules), they put most Persian CV(O) at at grade of B (equiv to CV5) and elite cavalry a grade of A (equiv to CV6). I made a comment at the time this seemed strange and maybe I got the troop CVs for my Warrior Kings replay wrong. I lean towards your view - CV6 should be reserved for legendary units such as Theban Sacred Band. I believe 3 bands should be enough to cover 99% of ancient units.

    Note I see Elite training as something for better trained units in melee, such as Romans. The combat value in WK to me is better thought of as morale value, so increasing the CV of elite HC seems to represent there experience more. But thinking more, the elite HC at Callinicum was not only veteran, but the better equipped as well, so maybe ET was justified.

    Thanks again for the time taken to read and comment on the post.