Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Battle of Uruk 2271 BC using Ancient Warrior Battles (001)

I have written some fast play ancient rules to replay historical battles on 2'x2' tables.  Here is the link to the rules: Ancient Warrior Battles rules.  I have played a few games with them already but need more testing.  Since 2000, I have always wanted to play all the Peter Sides scenarios from his Historical Battles books.  Marry the two together and we have a match! The link to a page for background and a list of the scenarios is here.

Observant readers will notice that the Battle of Uruk does not appear in the Peter Sides books.  I wanted to have a simple battle with Ancient Near East troops and I found this battle of Akkad Vs Sumer.  So I am going with this one before tackling Megiddo.  It is different to the other battles I will play as there is not a defined army composition or deployment map.  But I've always wanted to play a game in Ancient Mesopotamia.

Battle of Uruk aka Unification of Sumer
Sargon of Akkad defeats Lugal-zage-si of Umma leading a army collected from Sumerian provinces.  See the Battle of Uruk wikipedia article for some information.  More  information and a scenario can be found in the GMT Games Great Battles of History game Chariots of Fire (link to boardgamegeek entry).  I did not use the Chariots of Fire scenario for this game but the game still has good background information. Note that the date of the battle depends on the chronology used - I've gone with 2271BC from Wikipedia.

There is not much information on the Akkadian and Sumerian armies.  I have used guesses and composition from a number of different army lists (Milgamex, WRG Ancients, FOG, DBM, Ancient Warfare, Armati Warflute lists and Hail Caesar) and the WRG Armies of the Near East.  I have assumed that the onager carts are out of fashion for Akkad, but still used by Sumer.  Akkad army is also differentiated by more loose order archers and some household spearmen.

Army Type: Missile
Skilled general +1 (Sargon)
2 Household Spearmen -  Heavy Infantry, light armour, average fortitude, long spears
4 Spearmen - Heavy Infantry, light armour, low fortitude, long spears
4 Light Archers - Light Infantry, light armour, low fortitude, bow, archers
2 Javelineers - Skirmish Infantry, low fortitude, javelin
2 Skirmish archers - Skirmish Infantry, low fortitude, bow
Breakpoint: 8

Sumerian alliance
Army Type: Missile
Average general +0 (King Lugal-zage-si)
1 Onager cart - Light Chariot, light armour, low fortitude, javelins
6 Spearmen - Heavy Infantry, light armour, low fortitude, long spears
2 Light Archers - Light Infantry, light armour, low fortitude, bow, archers
2 Javelineers - Skirmish Infantry, low fortitude, javelin
4 Skirmish archers - Skirmish Infantry, low fortitude, bow
Breakpoint:  8

Note: Breakpoint is worked out as 50% of 2 points per heavy infantry and 1 point per light infantry (0 for skirmishers). An army breaks when reaching its breakpoint.

I will use the optional rule that you must deploy in a certain amount of groups.  Akkad can deploy in four groups of units, Sumer in three.  You can split groups after deployment, for a slight penalty to orders.

Terrain is a flat plain.

I rolled for random army deployment.  This is similar to the battle tactics in Rally Round the King.
Akkad will defend along the line and deploy at least 50% of the spearmen in a second line in the centre as a reserve.  This reserve did not play much of a part in the battle until too late.  Bad plan Sargon!

Akkadian deployment

Sumer will focus on their centre and right flank and use missiles to disorder the enemy before using the spearmen as a hammer.

Sumerian deployment

Akkad is the attacker (only advantage here is moving first).

Deployment, Sumer to the left.  Apologies for the shiny board - it glows in the flash but otherwise it very matt.  Ah well.

If you have sharp eyes you will not that a lot of the troops don't really look ancient Mesopotamian.  Some are, but the rest are Assyrian allies and a couple of Persian allies as well.  I got most of these as part of a larger lot of painted figures.  The onager battle cart is a light chariot.  I was not going to paint up special figures for this one-off battle. And the field is grass where should really be earth but I don't have any other surface to play on.

The Game
Akkadians cautiously advance with the left flank kept back in reserve. The Sumerian javelin-armed skirmishers advance with the other Sumerian bow-armed skirmishers and inflict 3 retreats (that covert into destruction) on the Akkadian skirmishers. This leaves the Akkadian leading spearmen a little exposed.

Sumerian javelineers (backed up by heavy spearmen) that routed opposing skirmshers
Low fortitude skirmishers really don't hang around long. 

The exposed Akkadian heavy spearmen after being stripped of their skirmishers

Sumerian troops continue to advance, except the chariot/onager cart keeps rolling a 1 for orders and does not move;  only a 1 will fail. The battlelines get a lot closer and finally the chariot moves.

Main battlelines get close (top centre right).  Akkadian reserve line is at bottom left.
 The Akkadian reserve line (on their right flank) finally moves up and forces the Sumerian skirmishers to evade.  As this reserve line was supposed to be in reserve, I did not move it until a few turns into the game. The Sumerians attempt to rally disorder from the evading skirmishers. Needs a 4+.  Both roll a 1. At least the Sumerians are getting the 1's out of the way early!

Akkadian reserve line (on right) has advanced and caused Sumerian skirmishers (at left) to evade.  Green maker indicates disorder.
Rather than advance the Sumerian spearmen battleline through their own skirmishers, the Sumerians will keep the skirmishers in front and try to inflict some disorder on the advancing skirmishers.  And possibly force some of the Akkadian spearmen to react by advancing and therefore breaking up their battleline.  The skirmishers fire.  The Akkadian spearmen all pass their test (so much for that idea!) and charge the skirmishers, who all fire again and retreat through the rear spearmen.  Retreat = destroyed for skirmish infantry interpenetrating close order infantry.  However, when firing again they did manage to disorder one average fortitude spearmen. The Akkadian spearmen pursue the retreating skirmishers and charge into the the Sumerian spearmen.

Battlelines meet.  Sumer to the bottom, Akkad to the top.  Sargon is top right, King Lugal-zage-si is at the bottom centre.

All the Sumerian spearmen stand to the charge and close combat ensues. Despite the better fortitude of the Akkadians, one routs, one retreats (forcing it to move 1/2 move or 4cm back) and one is pushed back.  The retreating spearmen is pursued for further combat. 

View post combat - note the Sumerian advance(due to pursuing) in the middle.

The pursued Akkadian spearmen unit is routed.  As is the attached Sargon.  Oops.  Well, I did design these rules to be fast!  Akkad has lost 6 breakpoints already (2 more until the army is broken), Sumer none.

State of play, Sumer to the left.  Note the breakthrough of the Sumerian troops in the centre, next to the disordered Sumerian skirmishers.
The chariot is in charge range, but fails its charge orders roll. The Akkadian archer facing the chariot fires and forces the chariot to retreat (archery is not great in this game but the chariots rolled a 1 for being fired on - the only score that would force a retreat).  In the centre, there is a lone Akkadian spearmen against the lone Sumerian spearmen and general.  An Akkadian roll of 1 and Sumerian roll of 6, even with a couple of modifiers for each side, guarantees the Akkadian spearmen are routed off the board.  Akkad has reached their breakpoint and have lost.

While an interesting and fun battle, I did not really get the sense I was replaying a historical battle.  It was a good run out for the rules, and cleared up some minor points.  The rules got a good run but it was a fairly familiar straight up battleline Vs battleline.  Compared to other historical battles I've done in the past, I did not get a feel for what the commanders were up against, nor why they did what they did.  But this is fair enough for the Battle of Uruk as it was a free form setup. The entire game took 5 or 6 turns and 1 hour including setup, writing it up as I went and taking the pictures. So maybe 30-40 minutes if I did not blog it.  This is the speed I am looking for, so good so far.  Onwards to some historical battles with the deployment taken out of my hands.


  1. Interesting. I'll be sure to look over your rules when I can download them on my home pc. Did you intend to have a link in this sentence: "See this page for background and a list of the scenarios." because there isn't one.

  2. I do have a draft page with about 150 scenarios listed and some blurb at the top. But I haven't reviewed it decently yet so have not posted it. So that sentence existed when i was going to post the page BEFORE the battle report. Oops. I'll review the scenario page and post it in the next few days and update the blog post. Thanks for catching that. Rules should be up in about a week.

  3. Shaun, after checking out the rules you sent me, I strongly suspect the main challenge for you is going to be getting good army lists. In my view, too many choices (armour, fortitude, CO/LO, veteran, abilities, etc...) can drift into DBMM territory, with incredible complexity for relatively little gain. I already am finding DBA 3.0 heading in this direction - a hell of a lot of work for what you end up with. I strongly believe you can streamline your classifications (perhaps getting rid of two or three) to get a stronger, more dynamic simple system.

    As an example of what I mean, I play HotT with my daughter using the following categories:

    HI: +4, MI,HC: +3, LI,LC: +2, with special characteristics for Kn, Wb and Sk. It actually is easier to remember (I don't believe at the scale of DBA that the difference between Bd and Sp ought to matter that much) to remember, and collapses many of DBA's special names merely to one of the above classes, with a +1 or -1 here and there.

    Personally, given your system, I'd have done away with armour class entirely, since you already have Heavy/Medium/Light, plus veteran, plus fortitude. I'd try to get rid of as many modifiers as possible. Your Macedonians could just be HI with slightly better frontal close combat, and slightly weaker in missile fire.

    Px (Mac.) +1 in CC vs front, +1 in missile fire test.


  4. My other rules I have stopped working on for now are an interpretation of Bill Banks Ancients but using miniatures. They use the exact same troop classes as AWB but the only characteristic is fortitude. I believe we have discussed these in the past. They also contain a few abilities such as Phalanx, Warband etc. There is also only one type of hit - two disorders and you are gone (no disorder/depletion). This is my simpler set. But I have found that for the replays I have been doing, I want more variety and hence complexity in AWB units and almost all the rules I have used have the similar level of definition for units as per AWB (the two that do not are DBA and HOTT). Note I don't have a medium unit category. The only category that really matters is Heavy (HI, HC, HCH, ELE) as that determines if you get a shock bonus. Veteran is rare and would only use for Theban Sacred Band and similar. I have tried to remove modifiers but to no avail. The game is build around two main concepts: Order( Close Order, Loose Order, Skirmish) and Armour/protection (Heavy, Medium, Light). Everything leads from those two characteristics. I could actually do away with unit types (HI, LI etc) as the order determines the unit type. But it is easier for me to think in terms of unit types (HI, LI etc). I see where you are coming from in trying to simplify the rules, but as they are built around order and armour, it would be hard to remove them. And fortitude is required as morale/elan etc played such an important part in battles. Those are actually the only three characteristics per unit, the rest is derived, including the unit type. You could remove the classification (Heavy/Medium/Light) and the unit type (HI, LI etc) but I would prefer not to. The rules currently give me what I am looking for to solo replay a lot of historical battles, so I am loath to change them much further as I am in a happy place right now!

    The army lists I am working on have usually 5-10 unit types with very little variation. Mostly based on Milgamex Tactical Army lists, but if you don't have that then look at Might of Arms or Rally Round the King to get an idea of the complexity of armies lists I am aiming for. While DBMM puts me off due to the my bound/your bound combat results, I do not mind the complexity of DBM.

  5. Yes, good point. I felt the same about DBMM - my bound - your bound is overdone in that game. The whole 80p = 1 BW thing is simply idiotic beyond belief, (is he writing for a military academy or trying to build a good wargame here?) and the results ARE acceptable, but I am convinced your ruleset scaled up to Big Battle size would give a better gaming experience than DBMM. Again, DBMM is a TON of overhead for relatively little gain. It appears Mr Barker is unacquainted with the Law of Diminishing Returns...

    Your game is very much an improvement on JA and also Ancients as well. Ancient Battles DeLuxe was not good in my view, due to replacing a very simple and elegant CRT with a convoluted and bizarre ratio system.

  6. Admittedly, I do want to try soon the rules on a 5'x3' table to see if they scale up. It is something on the list of things to do in the next 6 months or so. It is fairly easy for me to setup a table of this size for a few days and *generally* the children will not move too much around.

    Ancient Battles Deluxe to my mind is easier to think of as a completely different game to Bill Banks Ancients. It is not really Bill Banks Ancients anymore as it has many different mechanisms. Having played BBA, I prefer it. But I can well imagine that if I had never played lots of the Bill Banks version, I would think Ancient Battles Deluxe was great. There is very little i would add to BBA except some sort of command control - I did played a few times with you could move a number of groups equal to the number of leaders +1 (where group = units next to one another facing same direction) but have not really tested this out as the scenarios have very variable units and number of leaders. I also played a couple of games using Armati type divisions at setup and can only do number of splits equal to leaders started with. This worked better but may not work either across the varied scenarios.

  7. Going back a few comments, I have been thinking further on the combining of the multiple characteristics. This started a train of thought on the difference between these rules with Unit type, Order, Armour and Fortitude plus attributes such as phalanx Vs my Bill Banks Ancients, which has simply a unit type and fortitude plus similar attributes. Do the additional characteristics of order and armour add enough value? It is a really good question. Could order and armour just be rolled into fortitude or at least into a combat value based on unit type? To answer the question, I looked at what order and armour are used for in AWB - order is used as a combat modifier (could be incorporated into unit type combat value), interpenetration (this is actually important) and one or two action test results (could specify the actual unit type). I think order is still worth separating out, particularly for interpenetration. But if you know the unit type (HI, LI. HC, LC etc) you know the order, so really order is redundant as a unit characteristic. Armour: Heavy armour gives extra missile protection, but this could just be defined as a unit ability. Armour is also a combat modifier, but could add this to unit type but would lose the nuances of the medium armour definition, and may have to increase unit types (as HI with Light armour may have to become a Medium infantry category, or maybe just not differentiate armour values in unit type). Armour is about overall protection, not just armour. So armour could potentially be replaced by the missile protection ability, but then it is going from a unit characteristics to a unit ability, so not really going. Possibly could roll armour into fortitude, but fortitude is also a modifier on move and action tests and armour is not (except fired on test) so would lose that nuance. So in summary, I am really glad the question was asked as it did make me really think on am I over complicating the rules for little gain. After a few days of reflection I am still comfortable that, at least for me, I have not gone too far down the complexity path.

    1. Hi Shaun. I felt that many of the functions could be subsumed into unit class, etc. I feel your design has the potential to be what DBA could have been, until it descended into 'Tetris' on steroids.

      Consider the following:

      HI: (includes Legion, Phalanx, and Hoplites as special cases, with specific abilities (as yet to be decided upon)

      The heaviest of armoured foot. Due to their relative lack of mobility as compared to mounted or lighter-armoured foot, they would tend to fight in denser formations both for mutual protection as well as for the shock of impact. They would likely be professional, or wealthier, thus able to afford good armour, or have it provided by the state. They also would likely have the most impact on the battlefield, due both to their higher social standing leading to better nutrition, training, etc, or to their superior equipment giving them a psychological edge, being citizens of a certain wealthy Republic, or helot-owning full-time Philosopher Kings, etc... Or House Lannister Men-at-Arms

      MI: (includes Medium Legion, Medium Warriors, Formed Archers, and some foot that might reasonably be called "Auxilia" in the Classical sense of the word. Might be Rash (if MW) or have missiles (if FA)).

      Slightly less well-equipped or well-disciplined closer-order foot. Also might represent reduced or weakened HI, or even HI that have the ability to deploy more loosely to navigate rougher terrain, such as Marian Legions on Campaign in Britain or the Rhine region).

      LI: (includes Skirmishers, Light Warriors, Mobs and possibly some "Auxilia" class as well. Can have Bows, Slings or Javelins).

      These represent troops wearing next to no heavy protection and/or fighting in looser formations. If denser formations (such as Light Warrior or Mob) they may be impetuous.

      So you try to collapse the qualities down as much as possible. I still think quality is relevant, and is possibly the most important characteristic of all.

      Also I think a good idea would be to have leaders integral to the unit. They can still be lost distinctly from the unit, but I think having them move about the battlefield is suboptimal. I continue to read the rules - I like the "test" concept. Very innovative. I just think you need a few exceptions (like Phalanx and Spear, shooting, impetuous, etc). I like your move to contact rules, but I suggest you change them to state that a unit may only make contact with enemy as the result of a straight ahead move. Try it, it eliminates the need for TZ's.


  8. The TZs exist to stop a unit going across the front on an enemy. Zipping in front from one side to another. The TZ is not really there to do anything else.

    If I ever finish the Bill Banks Ancients to minis rules, I may take them and make them more like AWB. Those rules already reduce the qualities for the unit into the unit type, and has fortitude as the only other characteristic. That would be closer to a DBA alternative than AWB. AWB is not really designed to be a DBA alternative.