Thursday, September 13, 2012

Heraclea replay with Battlestandard Ancient Rules

I am in the process of replaying Heraclea with different rules on a 2'x2' table.  This is about number nine.  Battlestandard Ancient Rules (BAR) has intrigued me for several years after stumbling over the reference  sheets on the internet.

As per most of my replays with Heraclea, this post is quite descriptive on how it was played.  I want to show how the mechanics of the rules work for a game and so will even include dice rolls were relevant.  Hopefully this will give an idea of whether the game is suits the type of rules you like or not. I may have gone overboard - there are a lot of checks and dice rolling in the game.

Battlestandard Ancient Rules did seem like a set of rules I would be interested in.  I obtained a copy from from eBay in early 2011.  They were not what I expected but still interesting enough to give them a go.  They are in the same camp as WAB or War and Conquest or Clash of Empires.  They are billed as being faster than WAB so they fit one of my criteria of being fast. I have never played WAB so I will not be able to compare against that ruleset.  The are lots of rules for everything and design notes are included in the text. I have read most of them but skimmed the bits that I would not be using in replaying Heraclea (e.g. Massed Bowfire rules as there are no units at Heraclea that can do Massed Bowfire). They do have a section on how to use 15mm figures rather than 28mm - use centimetres rather than inches.

A short review can be found at Mainly28s BAR review.  There is a yahoo group with no traffic for many years (except spam) and a boardgamegeek entry.  This is the link to the Battlestandard Miniatures page with a link to army list and QRG download: link here. Note the rules are out of print and are not obtainable via Battlestandard Miniatures.

Figures Vs Stands
BAR is unit based with figure removal from casualties. It does have a section on how best to use elements and casualty markers.  This section is aimed at people like me, that have DBM-type 15mm bases.  It is guidelines on what do but I had to re-read it a few times to see what they were getting at.  Basically it is using elements rather than figures and using casualty markers!


BCR = Basic Combat Rating (melee to hit value)
BBR = Basic Ballistic Rating (missile to hit value)
CAR = Combat Armour Rating (armour value or save value)

Leves: 1 unit of 4 stands.  LOI, BCR 3, BBR 6, CAR 0/0, no armor, hand weapons, javelins, undrilled, approach and shoot rule applies, militia morale.
Hastati/Principes: 1 unit of 8 stands.  COI, BCR 6, BBR 5, CAR 6/6, Pilum, Gladius, Medium Armour, Large Shield, regular morale (rear stands are veteran morale), drilled.
Triarii: 1 unit of 2 stands. COI, BCR 7, BBR 0, CAR 8/8, LTS, Gladius, Medium Armour, Large Shield, veteran morale, trained, veteran warrior.
Light Infantry: 1 unit of 4 stands. ROI, BCR 4, BBR 5, CAR 5/3, hand weapons, javelins, super light armour, Shield, militia morale, undrilled.
Heavy Cavalry: 1 unit of 6 stands.  ROC, BCR 4, BBR 5, CAR 5/4, Throwing spear, hand weapons, light armour, shield, regular morale, trained.
Light Cavalry: 1 unit of 4 stands. LOC, BCR 4, BBR 5, CAR 2/2, hand weapons, javelins, shield, militia morale, undrilled.
Commander is Unit command rating 5/4, Leader rating 4.

I combined the Hastati and Principes and there are a lot of bonuses for a 2nd rank - originally I had one single rank unit of each. I thought about 2 units with two ranks, but there are significant bonus for extra figures overlapping on the flank sides. As it is my first game, I am only guessing.
Hypaspist: 1 unit of 3 Stands (12 figs): COI, BCR 6, BBR 2, CAR 7/6, Drilled, Veteran Warriors, Light Armour, Shield, Pike.
Pikemen: 1 unit of 6 stands (24 figs).  COI, BCR 5, BBR 2, CAR 6/5, Drilled, Light Armour, Shield, Pike, Regular morale
Hoplites: 1 unit of 2 stands (8 figs).  COI, BCR 5, BBR 2, CAR 6/5, Drilled, Light Armour, Shield, Long Thrusting Spear, Regular morale 
Light Infantry: 1 unit of 4 stands (12 figs).  ROI, BCR 4, BBR 5, CAR 5/3, hand weapons, javelins, super light armour, Shield, militia morale, undrilled.
Skirmisher and Slingers: 1 unit of 3 stands (6 figs). LOI, BCR 3, BBR 6, CAR 0/0, no armour, hand weapons, slings, undrilled, militia morale.
Agema:  1 unit of 4 stands (12 figs). ROC, BCR 6, BBR 4, CAR 8/7, Drilled, Elite Warriors, Heavy Armor, Shield, throwing spear, Hand Weapons, Heavy Shock Cavalry.
Light Cavalry:  1 unit of 4 stands.  LOC, BCR 4, BBR 5, CAR 2/2, hand weapons, javelins, shield, militia morale, undrilled.
Elephant: 1 Elephant stand (2 figures + 2 crew): heavy armour, elephant BCR, crew BCR/BBR = 5/5. morale = 6 and cannot be modified.
Pyrrhus is a Senior General - UCR 7/3 LCR 3
Breakpoint is 5

It took me about 2 hours to do these lists.  There were similar lists in the rules but nothing exact so had to calculate everything from scratch, and I am completely unfamiliar with the rules. The biggest issue is the calculation of BCR, BBR and CAR as armament, morale, training, armor and a couple of other factors add to BCR and/or BBR and/or CAR, meaning there is a few additions and about 5 tables to look up for every unit type.  

Crowded.  But based on my standard deployment, just units are a bit wider and deeper. Have a look:

Deployment - Romans on the right.

Romans will have initiative in the first turn as per my scenario notes.

A note on turn sequence:
  • Place charge markers (you get some dummy charge markers too)
  • Roll for initiative: player winning gets to chose who goes first in each subsequent phase for the rest of the game turn
  • Reveal charge markers and one player perform all their charges, then the other player.  There are counter charge rules.
  • Move: move units that did not charge/counter charge.  One side moves all units, then the other.
  • Shooting: One player shoots with all units that did not shoot during the charges, then the other player.
  • Close Combat: resolve simultaneously, there is a chance of breakthough, routs etc and morale checks for each side that are done in this phase.
  • Extended movement:  roll to remove disorder and may do some march moves.
Low rolls are always good.  It is all d10 based.  As there is a lot of rolling, sometimes I have not worked out the target number, just rolled and it low moved on.  But occasionally I do the working out (mostly combat morale) so you can see they type of modifiers.

Turn 1
No one anywhere near being in charge reach so skipped that step.  Romans have the initiative and choose to move everything up, except the Triarii that wheel to the left flank. Epirot move everything up.

End of turn 1 - not much happened except moving closer to each other.

The two lines of skirmishers are in range.  Romans with initiative fire first. the 8 Leves are BBR 6  -1 target moved; 1/2 effect as at long range (javelins have range 8, slings range 18);  1/2 effect shooting at skirmishers = 1.  roll 8 d10 for no hits.  Epirot 6 skirmishers return fire (also BB6).  Nothing.

Turn 2
Epirot charge orders on Agema and Elephant.  Romans none.
Note: there is some gamesmanship in placing charge orders and you place hidden real and dummy charge orders before finding out who has initiative.  This game is very much a line them up and go game and really the Roman Cavalry want the Agema to charge them as then Triarii have less distance to go and the Agema is further from their own battleline.

Epirots win initiative and send the Agema in.  Agema must pass a simple morale check.  A simple morale is like a morale check, except the only result for failure is the action is not performed.   Agema are elite with a morale of 8. Rolled d10 = 6  +1 commander attached = 7.  Passed.  Roman cavalry must take a morale check to see if they can respond or just flee.  They rolled a 2 and that is low so would easily pass.   Roman cavalry must now choose a response and try and counter charge (charging will give them a +1 in combat).  A counter charge requires a simple morale check.  Regular morale is a 6 so their roll of 5 is a pass. I realised later that the Roman Cavalry have throwing spears so could have instead stood and shot, possibly inflicting a few casualties.  Not knowing the game too well, I thought counter charge may be the better option.  I don't know.
The Elephant charges in but rolls a 10 for the simple morale check and so stays put.

Agema charge into the Roman Cavalry.  Elephant is left behind (failed the pre-charge morale check).

The rest of the skirmishers and battlelines for both sides move further forward.

Skirmishers shoot at each other.  Both moved again but neither is now at long range so to hit roll target is a 2. Epirot skirmishers inflict no hits.  Leves inflict 2 hits and the Epirot Skirmishers have no save rating, so 2 figures removed. I now do a morale check for the Epirots as they have lost 25% one turn of shooting.  Note I realised this after the following combat phase but have put it here for completeness.  The 25% is based on the unit's figures at the start of the current turn, not at the start of the game.  
Morale check: Militia base of 5. No modifiers applicable.  Rolled a 10 so failed by 5 which is fall back a lot and lose 3 figures.  As that would leave one I will take them all off.  But note this disorders the pike unit that the one figure would have interpenetrated.  Rather than wait until the end of the turn, I will attempt to remove disorder now - a morale check is called for.  Rolled a 3 which is low so will give them a pass and remove disorder.  Note that on later reading buried in the description of Loose Order troops a morale check failure automatically routs them.  It is not in the Morale section.  So they would have all gone, and no interpenetration.

There is a 16 step process for combat! There were only a few I could skip completely as not applicable.

Figures to fight:  Throwing spears allows two ranks and both have 6 figures in contact so 12 eligible figures.
BCR:  Romans is 4; Agema is 6
Modifiers: both get +1 for charging, Agema get a +2 for shock cavalry (Roman BCR now 5; Agema = 9).  There are about 20 modifiers for combat.
Roll one die per figure:  Roman inflicts 6 hits; Agema inflicts 12
Roll CAR to save: Roman CAR is 5 and saves 7 hits; Agema CAR is 8 and saves all the hits.
Remove 5 Roman figures and no Agema figures.
Combat Victory modifier (CVT): Note that this is a total of casualties inflicted, rank bonus (if 50% or more of 2nd and 3rd rank still exists) and how many figures (in more than one rank) you have on the flank in support.  This latter is called enfilade and is a maximum of 3 per flank.  Roman = 0 + rank bonus of 0 + enfilade of +3 = 3.  Agema =  5 +1 (rank bonus) +  no enfilade = 6.
Who won combat: larger CVT - Agema.
Loser morale check with CVT difference added: Romans base morale is 6 (trained)  -2 lost combat 2:1 -3 CVT difference = 1.  Rolled 8 so lost.  There are about 26 modifiers for morale.
Morale results: Failed morale check by 7 so fall back one charge move + base movement (14 in this case).  Now classes as routing and lose 3 figures.
Pursuit: could pursue but could not reach as only get a 1d10 for move.  So the Agema halt in place but are disordered as they did not followup and re-contact.

And that is one round of combat! As I am completely unfamiliar with the rules, this was hell for only one combat. I will continue with the game but faster as I am not enjoying it so much.I can see the appeal but not for me! 

Triarii need to take a morale check as they are within 12 of the routing Roman Cavalry.  They rolled a 2 and that is very low so will be fine.

The Roman left flank after melee - Agema to the left, routing cavalry to the right and the Triarii to the top right.

Oops, nearly forgot - move the Triarii an extra move in extended movement phase (last phase of the turn). If not too close to an enemy, a unit can perform another move in the extended movement phase.

Turn 3
Epirot charge orders on Pike block and Hypaspists.  Romans charge order on Hastati/Principes.  By reading the descriptive bits of text, I am gleaning some bits of rules.  I stumbled by chance on a sentence where a single line of skirmishers does not impede line of sight for a charging unit and a unit can target a unit beyond that skirmish screen.  So both the Romans and the Epirots can ignore the Skirmishers and charge straight at one another.

Battlelines close - Epirot skirmisher screen has been scraped away.

Romans get initiative and Hastati/Principes charge straight at the Epirot pikes.  Simple morale check required, a 4 is a pass.  Rules say skirmishers do not impede movement so will move straight through them. 

Pikes roll morale check for being charged. Roll an 8 which is fail by 2 and fall back one move, lose a figure become disordered. Hypaspists roll an 8 too which is fail by 1 with same result.

Distance was 10 between the Romans and the Pikes but now 15.  Heavy infantry charge move is 5+1d10.   Romans roll a 5 so move 10 which is not enough.  Romans disordered for failing to make contact.

In other moves.. Triarii moves forwards; Elephant and Agema also move up closer to Triarii.  hoplites do a formation change to turn 180 degrees to face roman heavy infantry flank.
Roman heavy cavalry rout off the board.

Lastly, roll a simple morale check each for the disordered Hypaspists, Pikemen and Hastati/Principes.  Only the Hypaspists pass.  A disorder is -1 in combat, and if you fail a real morale check, results are (much) worse if disordered.

A view of the games from the Roman side.

Turn 4
Charge orders for Agema, Pikes, Hypaspists, Hoplites, Hastati/Principes.  Anyone with an enemy in charge reach!
Rome get initiative and wants to charge pikes.  Passes the required simple morale check.  The targets - Pikes and Hypaspists, pass the required morale check.  Want to countercharge and both passed the required simple morale check to do so.

Woo-Hoo! The big clash of the heavy infantry (green markers are disorder)

Hoplites want to charge into flank of Hastati/Principes but fail the simple morale check to do so.
The hoplites that wanted to charge into the Roman flank but failed their morale check.

Agema charge the Triarii who roll morale check for being charged.  Base morale of 7 -3 for being charged by shock cavalry =4. Rolled a 10 (oops) so failed by 6.  This translates into losing 3 figures, routing, abut facing and routing 6cm.  The Agema charge roll see them moving 14.  2cm more on the roll and they would have caught the Triarii, which would be bad.  Shock cavalry is very good.  That -3 morale modifier for being charged by shock cavalry is bad.

Agema pursuing the retreating Triarii but fail to catch them

Pilum is done here, but casualties scored against the enemy count in the following melee.  Pila are thrown in charge/countercharge etc.
Pilum is BBR 5 -1 target moved = 4 and two ranks (32) can throw - 8 figures firing on Hypaspists, 24 on Pikes.
8 hits on Pikes - CAR of 5 Vs ballistic saves 3. 5 hits on Pikes.  That is a few in the second rank gone.
3 hits on Hypaspists - CAR of 6 Vs Ballistic  saves 2.  1 hit on Hypaspists.

Close Combat
Pikes are a first strike weapon.  First strike means you get to inflict casualties before the other side. Casualties are removed from the enemy first instead of at the same time; also if you remove the entire first rank with first strike, that is really bad.  Pilum are also first strike and would normally cancel out other first strike weapons, but pikes are a special case and are ALWAYS first strike.
Pikes are BCR 5 +1 charging -1 disordered = 5 for 18 figures (up to 2 ranks when disordered) = 10 hits. Hastati CAR is 6 and saved all of them! (good rolling).
Hypaspists are BCR 6 +1 charging - 7 for 10 figures = 7 hits, Hastati save 3, so 4 hits.
Hastati fight back with gladius:
BCR of 6 - 1 disordered =5  with 24 figures Vs pikemen = 17 hits.  Dice on fire for the Romans Heavies! Pikes CAR of 6 saves 7.  10 hits get through.
BCR of 6 - 1 disordered = 5  with 4 figures Vs hypaspists = 4 hits! Hypaspists CAR of 7 saves 3.  1 hit gets through.

Pikes receive total casualties of (pilum and gladius) = 15.
Hypaspists casualties = 2
Hastati/Principes casualties = 4.

Pike CVT (casualties caused, rank bonus of 0 and enfilade bonus) = 0
Hypaspists CVT = 4+1 =5
Hastati/Principes CVT = 15.

This may be bad for the the Epirot.

The centre melee after casualties but before morale tests.  Note how little of the pikes are left.

Morale roll for Pike is at -15 -1 disordered -2 lost combat by 2:1 -1 unit losses of 50% = -19. rolled a 7-19 =-12 which is an 8+ difference and unit routed immediately and removed from game.
Hypaspists are at -10.  roll a 2-10=-8. Compared to morale of 7, they are also routed off the table.

Romans take a simple morale check for winning and pass.

I was a little surprised at this, but note that all the hits the Pike nflicted were saved, when it would have been likely they would have inflicted 4-5 hits, and the Hastati rolled very well for hits and the Pikes poorly for saves.  It may also be that I should have added the Hypaspists and Pike CVT together (rules are a little unclear on multiple combats), but the result would have been the same with the good and poor rolling that took place.  Well, they do say the rules are faster than WAB.  Definitely gives a result.  I also forgot to add the bonus for the Roman Commander being attached the unit.  Made no difference in the end.

Hoplites need to take a morale check for seeing friends rout.  Base morale of 6 -1 routing unit in 12 =5. rolled a 9 so lost by 4 which is fall back, lose 2 figures, become disordered.
Light Infantry also are within 12 and lose by 1 which is fallback becoming disordered and lose a figure.

End game.  Agema and Triarii at bottom right, Roman heavy infantry and Leves in the centre.

I will end the game here and call it a draw - the Romans have most of the Hastati/Principes left and the Epirot have the Hoplites on their flank (unlikely to do any damage now disordered and only 6 figures) and the Agema, which may do a lot of damage. The Roman right flank is also a chance for the Roman as the Epirot light infantry is a little beaten up.  I do not have the energy to keep playing with the rules, although I get how they work a lot better now.

This must be the first set of rules I did not enjoy very much as all.  All of the other I either quite loved, quite liked or thought were OK.  I would play any of the rules I have played before again.  But BAR has beat me.  I think it was partly the way the rules are explained - lengthy is not bad in itself, but the rules are difficult to extract easily from the text.  I found I was always reading paragraphs and paragraphs of rules to find the bit I wanted answered.  And I had to do this a lot. e.g. to understand how Pilum works you need to read the weapons section - damage and ranks, the movement section (on throwing during a charge), shooting (on how to actually shoot with them) and combat (on how to throw during combat).  None of these rules reference one another except the weapon section which says to look up the special rules on Pilum (but doesn't say where - happens to be in the movement section as it is not in the contents).  There were summaries for each section that did help and a decent table of contents and generally the rules are very comprehensive and well laid out.  Just the amount of text and lack of cross-referencing makes it harder to find a rule if not familiar with the game.  I think if I played another few games it would all come together but it is a very steep learning curve.  Having to create my own army lists did not help either.  I can see that there is a good, clean, fast figure-based game in the rules, but it would require a few more games to play to find it.  When found, I think it would give a good game in the minds of some people. But it is not my thing, each to their own, blah blah blah. Ah well, plenty of other rules to try.


  1. Good report and honest rules appraisal. I also find that the way the rules are set out makes a huge difference in terms of the amount of time I'm prepared to invest in learning them and the number of repeat auditions they're likely to get.

    Must say that you're an admirably patient man. Don't know how you find the motivation to learn an entirely new set of rules for each of these Heraclea (and Calliniculum before?) games you play. Much respect!


  2. I do like to read rules, and think that someone spent the time to write them and publish them to be used, I bought them and so feel I should either sell them on or give them a go. Not a strong feeling, more of an excuse!

    I actually find it harder to keep going with the same battle (burn-out with Callinicum after 10 rulesets). I think I have about 3 more rulesets in me for Heraclea. I could play the same battle over again a few times with the SAME rules to try out different tactics; but with a new ruleset each turn, I tend to play out similar tactics due to unfamiliarity with the rules.