Thursday, 14 June 2012

Heraclea replay with Hordes of the Things (HOTT)

I am in the process of replaying Heraclea with different rules on a 2'x2' table.  This is about number eight.  HOTT is not even on my list.  I have used DBA for some previous replays - Callinicum and Zama - and IMO they are OK but nothing great.  I did acquire a copy of HOTT a few years ago as I had read that some people use it for ancients.  But besides reading it and thinking they were similar to DBA, they have sat on the shelf.  But, with DBA 3.0 drafts out, and again reading on some forum about someone using HOTT for ancients, I dug out the rules again.  They are quite different to DBA, especially the combat outcomes.  I actually prefer the combat outcomes in HOTT.  Never fond of Psiloi rear support (which I note is gone in the current draft of DBA 3) and the various quick kills, HOTT is refreshing.  So I thought I would just do a quick game of Heraclea with HOTT to see if HOTT is for me, or at least better IMO, than DBA.  I added in some light troop types and also restricted non-light element movement to only group movement, so it is not strictly HOTT.

I usually have links to rules reviews etc but for HOTT (and DBA), go no further than THE place to go for all your DBA and HOTT needs.  There is also an active yahoo group.

Rule changes - mostly adding light troop types
HOTT has no light horse (Raiders are the combined DBA equivalent Cavalry/Light horse) or Peltasts (no DBA Auxilia exact equivalent in HOTT) or Psiloi.  It also has no Pike (HOTT Spear represents DBA Pike and Spear). Rather than transpose the DBA troop definitions over, I will create three new troop types that are variations on HOTT troop types.

Treat the same as Warband, except: no unit quick killed by Warband is quick killed by Peltasts; Peltasts do not get a +1 for Peltast in rear support; Peltasts do not pursue after combat.

Light Cavalry
Move as per Riders. Combat factor +2. Combat outcome for less than, but more than half is "Destroyed if in bad going, otherwise flee 600p" - a combination of Rider with fleeing as benefits my perception of their skirmish role.
Move as per Sneaker, Combat factor +2.  No -1 for off-road or bad going.  Combat outcome for less than, but more than half is "Flee 600p". Very like sneakers, but an enemy cannot disregard a poor outcome versus a sneaker.

For the purposes of Heraclea, the AP value of each of these three units is 1. 

Other changes
  • Riders move 400p in good going.
  • Warband and Shooters are swapped on the movement table.  This seems to be a common change.
  • All elements and groups use group movement only, except this can include all about facing or a single element may rotate in place.  Light Horse, Skirmishers and Peltasts can still use single element movement. 
  • Rear support elements are fixed for the game i.e. the rear element cannot move of its own accord.
Note: I am content for pikes and spears to be the same, at least for Heraclea.
Another note: Tempted as I was to add in some factors such as inferior/superior to reflect the Hypaspists or Triarii, I resisted.

With all these changes, maybe I should say I am playing HOTT-ish.

Troop Definitions

Leves: 4 Skirmishers
Hastati/Principes: 4 Blade
Triarii: 4 Spear (2 in rear support), includes general in front rank
Light Infantry: 1 Peltast
Heavy Cavalry: 2 Riders
Light Cavalry: 1 Light Cavalry
Total AP: 26
Hypaspist: 2 Spear (1 in rear support)
Pikemen: 6 Spear (3 in rear support)
Hoplites: 1 Spear
Light Infantry: 1 Light Infantry
Skirmisher: 1 Skirmisher
Slingers: 1 Skirmisher
Agema: 1 Knight, including general.
Light cavalry: 1 Light Infantry
Elephant: 1 Behemoth
Total AP:28

See deployment description and here is a photo:

Deployment - Epirot to the left, Romans to the right.

The Game
Most of my Heraclea game reports are very detailed to assist in showing how a particular ruleset works.  HOTT is similar to DBA in it mechanisms and there is a lot of detail around the internet on  how DBA works.  This report will not be so detailed, but I will highlight some of the critical parts that I think warrant it.  It still will be reported turn by turn but just the good bits.

Turn 1-3
Low PIPs see not much happen - Romans get to moves forwards, Triarii turn to protect the left flank.  I do like  that there are only four cases for extra PIPs.  It does seem strange going back to movement rates that are the slowest, besides Justified Ancients, in the rulesets I have used so far.
End of turn 3 - Romans on the right

Turn 4
Leves contact the Epirot Skirmishers. One Leves flee, one Epirot Skirmisher flees.  The Epirots retaliate by moving up all the pikes and Hoplites into contact with the Leves.  The three Leves contacted are all doubled and destroyed (I treat Skirmishers as "Others" for less than half outcomes i.e. destroyed, in DBA the Psiloi would flee on this result).  Pyrrhus, the Agema and the Elephant are slowly moving down the flank to get to the Roman Heavy Cavalry. I am not enjoying Pyrrhus being so far away from the rest of the army.  The pike group is still within range for it to cost only one PIP to move, but everything else is 2 PIPs. Units further than 1200p (12") from the general cost +1 per PIP to move.

Battlelines are close - a lone Epirot skirmisher is in the centre.

Turn 5
Romans advance and rout a Epirot skirmisher. Pyrrhus, Agema and Elephant finally contact Roman Heavy Cavalry.

Agema and Elephant contact the Roman Cavalry

My 5 year old taking a break from Lego to roll some dice.

Agema and Pyrrhus recoil (a 1-5 die roll) and the Elephants force a recoil.

The Agema, Elephant and Cavalry situation after melee.

The battlelines should meet next turn, they are very close now.

So close, next tun will be the clash.

Turn 6
Elephant destroys the opposing Roman Heavy Cavalry (a 6-1 die roll).  Agema and Heavy Cavalry locked in melee (tied).  Pike line moves into melee with Hastati.  Pikes are at combat value 5 as they are a spear unit with one spear in support (Nice and easy, no caveats for the support except not applicable in bad going.  I much prefer this).  Hastati are at 5.  The first roll was for the Hastati-Pike combat with the Hoplite as flank support:

The last picture with the left most Hastati in it.

My 3-year old son rolled a 6-1 in Epirot favour.

My 3 year old rolled the 6 and the 1 that eliminated the Hastati.  Blue = Epirot, red = Roman (Society of Ancients dice)

Hastati gone.  Was not expecting that.  This could be bad for the rest of the line...but just some recoils on both sides.

Battleline at end of turn 6.

Turn 7
One PIP for Romans. The Triarii was going to move into the flank of the Elephant until I remembered that in DBA/HOTT, elements turn to face on a flank/rear attack if not already contacted on the front.  Unlike all the other rules I have been playing recently.  Damn.  That tactic is not going to work. A Triarii element instead goes into the Agema flank, but Agema still outscores on the combat (with the Roman Heavy Cavalry).
Pikes went in and were recoiled.

Turn 8One PIP for Romans.  Nothing happened.
A pike element moves to the flank of a Hastati and it is destroyed in the subsequent combat.

Pike block has flanked a Hastati in centre that is not in the picture as is was destroyed

Elephant turns to hit the Roman Heavy Cavalry in the flank and it is outscored (due to combat with the Agema to the front) and is destroyed. It was worthwhile, even if the Elephant is likely to be routed by the Triarii next turn -  Romans have lost 11AP, and 13AP is half the total, so only 2AP to go. Epirot is on 1AP lost at the moment.

Elephant flanks Roman Heavy cavalry and destroys them.  Elephant is destroyed by Triarii next turn.
Turn 9-12
Triarii surround elephant and see is destroyed.  Otherwise, lots of positioning and recoils.  The Triarii face-off the Agema:

Triarii and Agema.  The general figures are markers for the units with the general.
But in the Epirot phase of turn 12, this:

A Principes protecting the flank of the line.

became this:

Epirot move up for a +5 to +3 attack.

And a 6-1 roll guaranteed the Principes was destroyed.  Agema recoiled.  The Romans have lost half their AP and have lost.

Overview at game end - Agema and Triarii bottom left.

It was OK.  I do prefer HOTT to DBA. DBA 3.0 may change my mind.  Their were a few tactical mistakes I made - I could have shifted some of the Principes in the second line up a lot earlier to lengthen the Hastati line and get overlaps.  This would have made a big difference to the battleline outcome.  I did not mind the restricted moves but it did slow the game down.  Ah well.  If I played again, I think I would go back to vanilla HOTT moves.  Had a good time but still do not love HOTT or DBA. Admire them and like them, but not love.  Plenty of other rules out there for me!


  1. Hi Shaun, and I love the reports. Gives great insight into how the games play.

    One thing to note about you version of HotT; At 1 AP, Peltasts are a steral of a deal, so as long as you have a good grasp of the actual armies, in case someone was a poor sport, they could stack their army with Peltasts!

    Also, I think in HotT, you'd need an exception for skirmishers and LC to have them have a chance at surviving. I'd recommend a "flee" result if doubled (except vs mounted perhaps) unless in bad going. Otherwise recoil.

    Shooters would hammer them at +4 vs +2 (or possibly 0 if three were firing).

    I believe that HotT works well for medieval battles, though, but not as well as DBA for ancients. I still find DBA jarring, but I do find myself warming a bit to perhaps BBDBA v3.0 It removes a lot of the micro-managing of DBA 2.2, and also fixes cheesy geometric ploys as well.

  2. Thanks for the comments. When I created Peltasts and Skirmishers, I did not want to port stuff over from DBA but create them in the context of HOTT. I do not know enough about HOTT to gain an appreciation of points cost, which is why I arbitrarily gave them 1AP for this battle. I like my skirmishers to disappear really fast - I like to think they protected the heavier troops, and then just retired from the main battle. Which is why I chose destroyed rather than flee (a more DBA-type result). For shooting, they would just protect the heavier troops once from a shot, then the heavier troops would be exposed. But if I play HOTT again with light troops, I will keep your comments in mind; it has given me something to ponder.

    I find DBA OK, HOTT a bit better but I am warming to DBA3.0 based on what I have seen so far.

  3. For flavor (and making no difference in tabletop gameplay, only campaigns), just have the skirmishers flee off the battlefield instead of getting destroyed.

  4. You mean flee like lurkers so? I considered doing this but then I would have to remember that the skirmishers are fleeing, as as it could be days, or even a week or two, before I move again, I would have to put a marker on the table to remind me they are fleeing. But if you just mean they flee and are removed, that is more actually what I would consider the result. I have not considered the campaign aspect to any of the rules I have modified for the games I have played, but you make a good point I will need to take into account for any rules changes to the rules I am using for replays. Ta.

  5. Right, flee off the board, so you can just pick them up as soon as you roll the dice. They're still off the table, but the new description of what happened jibes better with your idea that they get in one shot and then get out.

  6. You know, I am of the opinion that in general skirmishers were used in two main ways (1) as a screen to run interference against an advancing body of heavier troops, and (2) as a kind of commando force operating in bad going, and also scouting and raiding the enemy's flanks, and, more often, as a rapid reaction kind of insurgency/counterinsurgency force. At least this is what I get from the Peloponnesian War, Xenophon, etc.

    To this end, I like the Lu function in HotT, but feel, as Shaun points out, that the harassment of enemy prior to lines clashing is missing. In DBA, Psiloi MUST head for the bush - they play little direct role in slowing down an enemy advance, unless you buy the "extreme geometry" of that system as representing something militarily significant. Sort of trade geometry for actual harassment, and if your game is THAT abstract, why one earth have a continuous, free-form movement system. Come to think of it, that game DOES impose a rigid grid eventually.

    I propose you allow Lurkers to take the field either as an ambush force (as written in HotT) or as part of the main line, and flee off the battlefield, allowing redeployment as per Lurkers, but arriving instead on your home edge perhaps? The decision must be made at start, sort of like dismounting in DBA.