Saturday, 4 December 2010

Rally Round the King: Persians V Romans

So, Rally Round the King is out.  New and shiny next edition of Warrior Heroes, which means it also contains the original Warrior Kings, but updated.  And Warrior Kings is my favourite ancients ruleset after Armati.  But I've been playing it on a 2'x2' board, rather than the recommended 4'x3', and converting the inches to centimetres (and about 75% of the recommended units).  Units move slower in comparison to their width when using centimetres.  So I thought that I would take the plunge and play some games on the full size board.  I've always had a soft spot for Sassanid Persians versus Late Romans so I'll play 2-3 games with these forces

The board will not look that great - My small children are bound to get into it and so the good stuff won't go out.  And I haven't play ancients on anything bigger than 3'x2' for ten years and I don't have great 15mm scale gullies or rough ground.

What I did do is create an Excel spreadsheet that calculates the forces, war ratings, scouting value and any outscouting, and also the board terrain.  Took about two hours but now the pre-game stuff of selection and deploying it literally one button away (F9 - recalculate).  It doesn't do rivers and doesn't include flyers for scouting, but otherwise it is a winner!  And the only forces it works for currently is Sassanid Persians and Late Romans but it is easy to add new army lists.

Lastly, for the first few turns I do show the reactions tests, die rolls etc, to shows how the game works.  As the turns progress, I tone it down.


Sassanid Persia army list AA
6 Clibinarii – Dual, Shock; Mounted Melee, REP 5, AC 4
3 Cataphracts – Shock; Mounted Melee, REP 5, AC6
1 Chionite Cavalry; Mounted Skirmish, REP 4, AC 2
2 Elephants – Terror, UD; Foot Melee, REP 4, AC 2
3 Levies – UD; Foot Melee, REP 3, AC 2
3 Skirmishers; Foot Skirmish, REP 4, AC 2

Battle tactics B.  Actual tactic DE - double envelopment - 30% right, 40% centre, 30% left

Later Romans Army list LL

2 Equites – Shock; Mounted Melee, REP 4, AC 4
5 Legionaries – CW, Elite; Foot Melee, REP 3, AC 4
3 Auxiliaries – CW; Foot Melee, REP 3, AC 4
2 Auxiliary Archers; Foot Missile, REP 3, AC 4
3 Archers; Foot Skirmish, REP 4, AC 2
1 Slingers; Foot Skirmish, REP 4, AC 2

Battle tactics A. Actual tactic PC - penetrate centre - 20% right, 60% centre, 20% left.


Table generated:       
Clear    Clear    Gully
Clear    Clear    Hill
Impass Clear    Clear
Persians are the attacker and choose the right side to attack from.


View from the Roman centre.  My four year old getting ready to move the Persians.

Romans, from their left flank
Equites with leader
Centre body with skirmishers, legionaries in the middle and the Auxilia in the rear
Right body of archers at the edge of the gully

Persians from their right flank (left side in the picture)
Skirmish cavalry unit
Body with 2 heavy cavalry and a cataphract
Centre front body of skirmishers and elephants
Body of levies behind the elephant/skirmisher body
Body with 2 heavy cavalry and a cataphract and leader
Body with 3 heavy cavalry behind

Turn 1

In Rally Round the King, each sides alternates turns.  In each player turn, bodies are moved one at a time, always doing so from right to left.  This may help follow the moves in the replay.

Moved the single light cavalry to the far right flank.
Wheeled the heavy cavalry on left and moved to the left flank.
The heavy cavalry behind them moved up as well.

Moved the centre body full distance straight ahead.  It is the selected battle tactic after all.

Can't do much about the skirmish cavalry and gullies are more and more interesting when I think about them - no movement inhibitor but basically invisible inside - can only see 1 inch.  Or maybe it is one big gully so it is only the edge that is 1" but inside is clear.  Thinking further I believe it is the latter (and the latter is how gullies are described in Warrior Kings)... hmmm.  Will cross that bridge when I come to it.  Anyway, the archers should be ok where they are.  Might need to split the centre body as the Persian heavy cavalry could wheel to their flank.  However, bodies can only wheel 45; units can wheel 90.  Maybe not as big a threat after all.

 End of turn 1 from the Roman side.  The Persian skirmish cavalry is off to the left of this picture.

Note: I use a small green bush behind a body to indicate it is activated.  Easier to track that way.  Casualties are noted by flesh coloured rings on the figures on the stand.

Turn 2

Move the light cavalry further down the right flank.
Moved the centre-left heavy cavalry forward 6".
Moved the leftmost heavy cavalry up 1/2 and then wheeled to line up.
No new activations.

Hoping to take the Roman missile body from two directions and also worry the flank of the centre body.
Expecting the Roman Equites with the leader to move next turn (which is why the cavalry on the right has not moved).

Did not move the elephants (tempted) but let the Romans to to them.

Moved centre body up 3.  In hindsight maybe the Auxilia should have been a reserve body, rather than boosting reputation for the body.  We will see in melee in a few turns whether that was the correct deployment choice.

Moved the Equites 12" straight up to 3" away from the enemy cavalry.
Persian heavy cavalry needs to take enemy threat but only one heavy cavalry will actually react.  Passes both dice: non-charging dual armed fires. 1d6 rolled 1, nothing.
Roman takes a received fire test. Passes both dice: advance, which will be a charge.
Roman wanting to charge. Passes both dice: the one heavy cavalry that reacts is moved 1" away.
Persian takes received charge test.  Passes both dice: return fire. 1 hit.
Roman takes received fire test:  fails both dice: retires (5") with one hit (now has 2 in total).
1 move, 5 reactions, 2 hits and a result.  Oh the uncertainly!

 The centre, from the Persian side, at the end of turn 2.  The right shows the result of the cavalry reactions.
Turn 3

The skirmish cavalry did move somewhere but my 2 year old son has moved him off the table somewhere (hopefully in the same room).  I'll find him at the end of the turn and put him back. Note: It was not in the same room - in the lounge, 3 rooms and about 15 metres away.  At least he understood what I was looking for and remembered enough to show me where it was!

The heavy cavalry on the right can only charge forward (or remain stationary) as an enemy is in charge reach.  So it does - the enemy has 2 hits. Worth a go.
Wanting to charge - pass both dice.
Equites receives charge: passes both dice (lucky - modified rep is only 2) and counter-charges.(and now has the leader unit in contact so a bonus there).
Melee: same for both - 1d6 +1 shock +1 opposing mounted.  Both roll 6 which = 8.  One hit each.
Persians involved in melee test: pass 1 die;  retire + 1 hit.
Romans involved in melee test: pass 1 die; so retire + 1 hit (now have 4 hits).

Persians don't move the elephants -  wait for the Romans to move forwards.

Now, I've charged missile units in the past and it all ended badly.  And now the roman archers will get +1 to missile fire. A change from WK.  3 figure missile units in RRtK get +1 which they did not used to get in WK..  To hell with it - Persians in front of the archers (not the Heavy cavalry wth the leader) charge the archers.
Only the middle stand pass 2d6 and so charges.  The others pass 1d6 and as they are dual armed they halt. Different to WK where pass one die was just continue+1 hit.  I prefer the RRtK here to WK.  Nice change and much more in line with my view of historical battles.
The archers only have a rep of three so maybe what I am doing is not so bad.  Anyway, they pass both dice (modified rep of 4)!  I then noticed that if they had passed only 1 die they would have routed.  So it was definitely a good idea - they have a 5/9th chance of routing if charged.  Maybe not good now that they have passed.
Return fire 2d6 +1 mounted +1 3-figure missile.  Total 8, one hit.
Persian received fire test - passes 0 dice and retires with another hit.

OK, so much for plan A where the heavy cavalry charge and so let the leader heavy cavalry body move to flank the Roman centre body.  Bugger it - wheel the leader body ready for a charge to the archers next turn.

 The view from the roman archers with the retiring cavalry to its front.  Note the only roman archer units I have are 4 to a base (DBM Reg Bow) but I only count them as 3 figures for RRtK.


Moved the centre body up to very close to the elephants body.  Note: cannot charge as it is skirmisher Vs skirmisher.

Charged the heavy cavalry unit with leader on the left flank into the Persian heavy cavalry that retired. Passed wanting to charge.
Persians being charged: passed 0 dice and rout.
First rout of the game.  Equites roll for pursuit and do so. No longer activated.

 End of Roman turn 4 on from the Persian right flank - Elephants in the centre and the Roman Equites plus leader at the bottom right.

Turn 4

Moved the skirmisher cavalry behind the Equites (with 3 hits).  The Equites will have to move, or be fired on and probably rout.

I thought the Roman battle tactic was going to be their downfall - move the centre body forwards while the Persians were actually attacking on the flank.  But it has turned out not to be so simple (never is).  On the Persian right, The two Persian cavalry could about face and charge the Roman leader but it will test on rep 6, as will the cataphracts, and the cats are at AC6 compared to AC4.  It is worth giving it a go.  However, the alternative is to smash into one side of the centre roman body to cause some damage there.  But then that leaves the Roman Equites to hit the rear of the Levies. Choices.  So I will about face and go for the leader.

Persian heavy cavalry wanting to charge, pass 1 dice: keep charging.  However, the dual mounted unit does not charge and halts.
Romans roll receiving a charge, passed both dice and so are not counted as flanked.  This does mean they don't get to counter-charge so will not get the +1 for shock in melee.
I lined them up into contact.  This is something different from Warrior Kings where opposing units in melee did not have to line up corner to corner. This is one bit I preferred over RRtK, but only marginally, so content to play the RRtK way.

Persian d6 = 3 +1 shock +1 enemy mounted = 1 hit
Roman d6 = 6+1 enemy mounted +1 leader =1 hit (vs the AC6)
Involved in melee:
Persians passed 0 dice - routed
Romans pass both dice - fine.  No pursuit I assume as they are facing the wrong way.  In hindsight, there is nothing in the rules to say they should not pursue, so I believe I should have.
Leader passes wounded check.

So that didn't go the way the Persians wanted.

Skirmishers in front of the elephants fire and inflict 1 hit.
Roman skirmishers receive fire test: pass both - return fire - 2 hits (there were 2 firers)
Persian skirmishers receive fire test: snake eyes - pass both - return fire - 1 hit (other skirmisher)
Roman skirmishers receive fire test: pass both - return fire  - 1 hit
...this goes on for a little while longer with only one more hit on the persians who pass 1 dice and retire with one hit.
Can I now move the elephants? I am assuming yes.  If the skirmishers had not retired, then it would be no.  This was covered in a Q and A for Warrior Heroes (skirmishers in front and knights in the rear):

 Isn't firing mandatory at the start of the turn? Imagine a Body with knights units in the read and Skirmisher units in front.  As such shouldn't a player's turn open with the skirmishers shooting (whether he wants them to or not), and then blocking the knightly charge as they HAD to fire?
Not if the skirmishers and knights are in the same body. If not yes, the skirmishers are going to continue to fire until they can't, which is good tactics, then the knights can charge although perhaps not on the same turn. If at the end of the battle you still have skirmishers left over then you have not utilized them well. They are very cheap and should be used to inflict casualties to more expensive targets.
The only exception would be mounted skirmishers that should be able to retire away and not be caught in pursuit.

Why is this? As far as I can see missile troops shoot when they begin their turn within range (but not in contact) with an enemy. Why is this waived when they are in a body with the knights? I'm sure it's right in front of me in the rules, but I can't find it . . .
If the units are in the same body then you have the choice as to order of unit activation. So, move the knights first. It's a case of real world desires. I assume that one body is one command so the leader just directs the knights to charge and the skirmishers not to fire.

Elephants wanting to charge: pass both dice (rolled boxcars - thought they had failed but skirmisher and an elephant adjacent gave a +2 bonus to their rep of 4).
Two skirmishers (there are 3 stands that are in front of the elephants) with 1 hit pass one dice - fire and rout; the third skirmisher passes both dice - fire and retire.  2 hits inflicted on the elephants - one each.
Elephants received fire:  pass both dice and continue - straight into the legionaries.  But they need to roll for the charge: fail both dice.  Halt.  Thinking later: Should the Roman body have taken an enemy threat test for the elephants.  I am assuming not but can't pin my finger down on why not.  I think it is because the elephants were revealed, rather than moving closer.

The centre  from the Persian view

The two lone undamaged heavy cavalry are about faced (there was a third activation here and have reached the war rating.  It does matter!  Luckily I do not need to activate any other units.)

The heavy cavalry leader body charges the archers (all units in the body will contact the archers so all can charge): pass both dice.
Archers take the being charged test: pass 1 dice - rout.  I am assuming a preference order in the results for a reaction test. It may actually be in the rules but haven't looked closely enough.  First result is "foot charged by shock rout".  Later down the list is "foot missile halt and fire 1d6". I assume the latter is only if the foot missile was not charged by shock.
Heavy cavalry do not pursue.

 The empty Roman right once the Archers are routed (but full of Persian cavalry)

Its all about the centre body for the Romans.
If you look carefully at previous pictures you will see that the 3 Auxilia were staggered/offset to the 5 legionaries.  This is so they can add support to all 5 legionaries.  But in RRtK, corner to corner is sufficient to be in contact (it was in Warrior Kings too) and so it was unnecessary.  As it is solo, I graciously allowed the Roman player to align them corner to corner.

The skirmisher in front of the legionaries moves behind so the legionaries can charge.
The 3 central legionaries are in front of the two elephants.  They are on rep 3, +3 for 3 friends in contact but -1 for elephant/terror being close.  Pass both dice for charging.
Elephants pass 1 die for being charged.  As they are classed as foot, they halt.

3 legionaries d6 = 13 +3 combo-weapons +3 elite = 19 or 6 hits (elephants are AC2).
2 elephants d6 = 4 +2 elephants = 6 or 1 hit (legionaries are AC4).
Involved in melee test:
Legionaries pass both dice and pursue.
Elephants pass 0 dice (no surprise) and rout.

Now here it where it gets interesting.  I did read the new rules about elephants - when routing, they go on a rampage - but not carefully enough.  And maybe putting elephants close together is not a good idea..
Anyway, both will rampage; roll randomly to see which one rampages first.  It is the left one (from the Persian view).  It goes straight back.  Skirmisher directly behind routs.  The skirmisher behind that (the elephant is still going!) fires (and scores 1 hit) and routs.  The elephants passes 0 dice for receive fire and routs and is removed from the table.

The second elephant routs in a 45 degree angle back towards is own base edge and narrowly misses the Levy on the way.  It will be off the table next turn.

The Roman Equites with the leader (after removing casualties - see picture) about faces.  The legionaries can go for the levy, time to clean up the left flank.

Came home from work and found the 2 year old had very carefully piled casualty rings onto the Equites.  His dexterity is to be admired.

The Roman Equites with 3 hit points attempts to charge into the rear of the Persian cavalry directly to its front. passes one dice so continues.
The charged Persian cavalry passes one dice and so rout. The Equites pursue and bump into the Equites with the leader.

The Romans are a bit scattered at the moment.  Compare this to the Persians: 5 shock cavalry on the right flank with no damage and another one with 2 hits.  The Romans have a few scattered rep 3 units and a body consisting of rep 3 units.

 End of turn 4 from the Persian side.  Rampaging elephant bottom left.

Turn 5

Skirmish cavalry moves to behind Equites.

Skirmisher in front of the Levy fires at the legionaries - one hit. Legionaries pass both receive fire dice so advance, which is converted into a wanting to charge. Pass both dice so two legionaries charge (with two Auxilia in train).  Not hard to pass - a unit with 3 friends is testing at +3, so a REP 3 with no other negative modifiers will automatically pass two dice.  So a body with 2 units in front and 2 behind is actually quite formidable.
The skirmisher pass both dice so fires (1 hit) and retires with 1 hit.
Legionaries do not pursue.
Levy cannot move as the skirmishers passed through them.

Elephant routs off the board.

The next leftmost lone Cavalry unit wheels and then charges into the flank of the legionaries/Auxilia body, contacting an Auxilia.  Auxilia unit routs (passed only one die and was charged in flank).
Cavalry pursues, which is converted into a charge into rear of a legionaries, who also routs (box cars).
Cavalry pursues - straight into its own sides Levy and halts.

The lone Cavalry with 2 hits turns 180.

The other lone cavalry wheels not quite 90 degrees (it is a single unit and so can wheel up to 90 degrees, normally bodies are limited to 45 degree wheels) and charges a lone legionaries stand who stands to fight (passes two dice with rep 3!). One hit on the cavalry.
Post melee reactions:
Roman routs (always best to check foot first in cavalry vs foot as the cavalry result depends on what the foot does).
Persian cavalry retires with one hit.

The cavalry body with the leader wheel 45 and move another 4".

Reformed the centre body somewhat with the stragglers.
..but the centre 4 units will charge the levy who stand to receive.
Romans inflict 5 hits.  Levy 1.
Post melee reaction test:
Both levy and legionaries give ground (and take a hit) but don't move as both don't follow up.
Equites reform.

 End of turn 5 from the Persian side - note the amount of hits on the levy!

Turn 6

Regarding the Levy in melee.  Just realised the third Levy unit that did not fight last turn is actually part of the melee as it is in corner to corner contact.  But I had not included it - something to remember for future games.  I wont include it now - it would change the balance of the melee.

So...the melee.  Levy take 3 his and rout.
Romans take 1 hit, pass 1 die and do not pursue.

The remaining Levy about faces (successfully, as it is undisciplined and has a 50% chance of not being able to do this - a change from Warrior Kings was introducing the undisciplined characteristic.  Good idea.)
This allows the heavy cavalry in front of the Levy to charge into the Roman body, who are not flanked (a 1,2 on the receiving a charge!).
Melee - Romans take 1 hit and pass both dice (another 1,2).  Persians retire with 1 hit.
The other heavy cavalry units on the left flank all wheel and move in the direction of the roman centre.

All the units are unactivated.  There are 4 bodies and the war rating is only 3.  I choose not to activate a lone skirmisher.
The legionary/auxilia body about face and move up to next to another legionary unit.  This latter unit also about faces.  The Equites wheel and charge the skirmishers who retire with a hit.  The Equites do not pursue.

End of Turn 7 from the Persian side. The Roman body in the centre has about faced, and so the auxilia can take the brunt of the cavalry charges - they have no hits, unlike the legionaries behind them.

Turn 7

The board is very strange.  Where the Persians deployed, that is where the Romans are defending.  Where the Romans deployed, that is where the Persians are attacking from!

The body with the leader can only move 8" due to the cataphracts, so moves forward the minimum 1/2 move of 4".
There is a lone heavy cavalry with 2 hits that is in line with the auxilia, tries to charge but halts.
Skirmishers move up to behind the Roman foot body.
The Levy about face, move 3", are with 1" of the back of the Roman body so are drawn into melee. They charge, and the legionary unit routs due to being charged from the rear.  The Levy do not pursue.
The remaining heavy cavalry body (2 units), wanted to charge the skirmisher in front of the auxilia body but halt instead.

It is do or die time - the remaining units in the auxilia body are hemmed in on all sides.  So, go out in a blaze of glory and charge the cataphracts in front!  Surprisingly, 2 auxilia are on one cataphract - the other legionary is more than 1" from the cataphract, had moved its full 6" so isn't even drawn into melee.
Cataphract counter-charges.
The melee results in no damage, auxilia carry on so cataphracts retire with one hit.

Auxilia pursue. The cataphracts only retired 2", and one of the auxilia catches them, so they are routed.  Auxilia do not pursue. An auxilia routing a cataphract - very unlucky and rare - the dice just fell that way.

The other auxilia is charging another cataphract due to pursuing the first cataphract.  Passes the charge test, the cataphract counter-charges.
Melee results in one hit and the auxilia rout. Cataphracts do not pursue.

The Equites move up 4" and then wheel slightly so be directly in front (and about 5" away) from the Persian cavalry.

 End of turn 7 from the Persian side.  Remaining Roman units circled in red.

Turn 8


The Romans are ripe for the taking - most of there units have damage.  Just need to charge them!

The Persian heavy cavalry wants to charge the Equites - soften them up as I think the Cataphract may get to them this turn too.  But the heavy cavalry halts.
Cataphract with the leader charges the lone legionary unit.  The legionaries rout. Cataphracts pursue into the Equites with the leader.  The Equites with the leader routs (with 3 hits even the leader and one friend does not save it from passing no dice).

Leader lost check for all units occurs:
Equites and two remaining skirmishers carry on.
Legionary and auxilia routs.

With only two skirmishers and one Equites with 2 hits left on the table, I'm giving this game to the Persians.  They are not in a great way themselves, but have 3 melee units with no hits and 3 melee units with 1 or 2 hits.

 End of turn 8 from the Persian side.  Remaining Roman units circled in red.

Rally Round the King is a fun game.  This one was very tense and the outcome could have gone to either side.  I enjoyed playing the game.  It is a also good game to play solo due to the reaction tests.  You never know exactly what your units are going to do, and when they will just rout away.   It was also weird playing on a 4'x3' table after so long on smaller ones.  The high movement rates still get to me, but really are not a problem as generally you do not move that far, and the movement restrictions on wheels/about face means that it is hard to run rings around the enemy.


  1. Is there a typo? Your legionnaires are REP 3, the same as the Persian levies?

  2. Later Romans are REP 3 in the army lists - I am assuming these are 4th century Romans. They are still elite trained and have combo-weapons. I wanted to play RRtK with straight army lists, rather than modifying them to what I think they should be, hence sticking with REP 3.

  3. Where did you get the plastic casualty rings?

  4. Plastic casualty rings are from a haberdashery/fabric shop. They are used in real life for particular types of curtains and I believe are actually called curtain rings. There were a few different colours but the beige looks like flesh and stands out for my friends and I. I have seen them around and sometimes they are expensive, sometimes cheap. The small packet I got (about 50 rings) was about $3 -that's roughly the same in US or AUS at the moment.