Monday, 25 April 2011

Gordian Knot rules overview

Gordian Knot is a set of Ancient wargame rules written by Richard D Watts, copyright 2004, and published by Agema.  It is available at Agema's website, which will not tell you much at all about the rules, other than how much: 7 pounds + shipping.
I haven't found anything else about them anywhere on the internet.

What you get
It is 30 A4 pages stapled together with a  thick paper colour cover.  No army lists - the author thinks you could put together anything for any army so provides a comprehensive point system. Categorising units is up to you.  What I do like is the last 7 pages are a quite descriptive, blow by blow writeup of a game, from unit selection, thru terrain and deployment to game end.  It contains good detail on how the rules work, and also provides some notes on why things the way they are.  There are no terrain rules, but there is a simple terrain selection system buried in the game replay.

Base sizes, dice and measurements
Units are all based, for 15mm to 28mm, as 4" wide by 2" deep. 6mm is 2"x1". Ranges are all in inches and the two options for 6mm and 15mm/28mm are always given.  Dice rolls are all single d6.  Table size is not given, but the replay is on 6'x'4' with 28mm, was a small game and only seemed to take up 2/3rd of the table, although there were a lot of cavalry archers on each side. 

Game sequence
Game sequence is a roll for initiative (no modifiers), winner moves, shoots, combat; then other player does the same.

Units are cavalry, infantry, chariots, elephants or artillery. 

Cavalry and infantry units are classed as trained, untrained, tribal or skirmish. Each class acts very differently.  The class of the unit affects movement rate, the modifiers in combat, target class for shooting, chance of pursuit, chance of evade and chance to rally.

Unit morale is good, average or poor.  A little bit of a modifier in combat, but mainly affects the chance to rally units.

Units may also have some special abilities such as good melee troops (add 1 in combat), good shooters (+1 to shoot), pike armed (affects various combat modifiers) and special training against elephants/chariots (can let these troops pass though unit rather than engage in combat).

Unit status
Unit status goes from good, to disorder (-1 combat modifier) to wavering (cannot advance into combat and not good in combat) to fleeing (running away) to rout.  A unit recovers from disorder by not doing anything for a turn while not in combat.  Units routed are lost.  Units fleeing may attempt to rally (based on morale) - pass and are wavering, fail and they rout - interesting.  Wavering units can go to disordered by doing nothing for a turn and passing a rally test.
These unit status's are a core component of the game.  A disordered unit suffers a -1 in combat, but also depending on the troop type, can be even worse e.g. ordered pikes are superior to any other infantry troop type, but if disorders are inferior to any other infantry troop type, and so suffer another -1 in combat.  Ordered pikes also are classed as having superior armour, so if disordered, they lose out on the +1 superior armour bonus.

Wavering troops cannot advance, and need to rally before they can do so.  A rally check is a 3+ for trained infantry, and a 6+ for a skirmisher. So wavering troops sometimes waver for a few turns.

Fleeing is worse.  A unit that loses combat flees, so combat is fairly decisive.  A fleeing unit that fails a rally check is destroyed. There is no other way to stop a unit fleeing except by passing a rally check.  A fleeing unit contacted by an enemy is destroyed.  A unit that flees is in a bad state. 

Fairly standard movement rates e.g. infantry 6", cavalry 10". There are a number of spefici rules on turning, oblique movement, stepping back etc that is specific to unit types e.g. trained infantry can go sideways without being disordered, but other units are disordered when doing so, except skirmishers, that cannot move sideways (this is probably the one with the most exceptions).  I found this actually the hardest part of the rules - who can do movement other that straight ahead and what type of movement and are they disordered or not.

Shooting is fairly standard -  look up range and type of weapon and roll greater than a number on a d6 to hit.  If you do, enemy goes down a status for each hit.  Charged units can fire.  There is a table with 4 groups of missile types and 10 different troops types. Cross referencing gives you a score on a d6 required to hit (and also the score for an unshielded target).

Units do not have to line up corner to corner when meleeing.  When a unit charges into combat, the enemy can evade.  There is an evade roll - if you fail, you are assumed to have failed combat and flee.  Skirmishers have a evade roll of 2+, others are worse.  Charging in the flank/rear causes enemy to flee (bit strange as a skirmisher could flank charge heavy infantry and the latter would flee.  The only really weird omission I have seen by just looking at the rules).

Combat is an opposed roll.  If you lose, you flee. If it is a tie, both are disordered is not already.  So combat is harsh!  But good troops have a good chances to rally.

Units don't have specific combat factors but there is a list of about 20 combat modifiers - better armour, better morale, if cavalry, elephants Vs cavalry, enemy disordered etc.  The two modifiers that stand out as different are +1 for superior cavalry and +1 for superior infantry.  There is a list of cavalry units/status in order of superiority so lancers moving into 1st turn combat are superior to spear armed trained that are superior to spear armed tribal etc.  Disordered/wavering troops are low down the list.  For infantry, Pike 2 deep are superior, followed by pike 1 deep, but pikes disordered/wavering are lowest in the superior list.  Most units also get +1 for each friendly unit on its flank.

A unit that caused an enemy to flee must pursue.  The only way to stop pursuit is to pass a pursuit rally check (not the same as a rally check). 

Each side has one of 20 missions that are all fairly different and determine deployment and victory conditions.  Examples are destroy half of enemy, occupy with half your units the other side of the table, start game with half troops deployed and move on one unit per turn. etc.  Each side knows what the other mission is.  An interesting variation of a straight battle.

The other difference from many other rules is visibility - units have a visibility of 24" (36" on hills).  Decoys can be placed instead of units further than this from the enemy. At deployment, you may place additional decoys (up to 1 per real unit). You may choose to place the real units at anytime (or reveal decoys), but are only forced to when they become visible.  All decoys move at 2d6" per turn - so random movement is the downside to decoys and it is impossible to maintain a battleline of decoys.

Each army has one general who, if killed, drastically reduces the number of units that can be moved.  Also, general have random characteristics that give them good/bad abilities (e.g. cannot move as far, there own visibility is enhanced/reduced).  Generals do not affect combat rolls, but do have a +1 to all rally rolls.

A good solid set of ancient rules.  They are not simple but neither overly complex. Each ruleset has a focus, and this one is on unit status - disorder, wavering and fleeing troops rule what a unit can do.  Combat is bloody - you lose, you flee.  I like that.

1 comment:

  1. La Bataille d'Aspern-Essling 1809 is now available from Marshal Enterprises.