Saturday, 20 October 2012

Heraclea replay with In Death Ground

I am replaying Heraclea with different ancient rulesets on a 2'x2' table looking for a fast play set (under one hour).   This is game 12.  I have been keen to play a game with In Death Ground since in came out in, I think, late 2010.  For a very detailed and excellent review, See John's In Death Ground review on his blog.  In Death Ground is written by Chis Peers and is obtainable from Northstar Military Figures.

This replay is a bit detailed to show how the rule mechanisms work, and if these are rules you may like.

A quick basing discussion - converting DBM bases to work with the rules
My 15mm armies are based WRG 7th/DBM style on 40mm wide bases.  In Death Ground is designed to work with inches and 28mm figures on 60mm wide bases. A heavy infantry unit will moved 2d6" and heavy cavalry 3d6".  This will not work for a 2'x2' table. There are a few options - create a 2/3rd ruler (as Armati does) or use 1" = 1.5cm or 2cm (I think using 1" = 1cm would be too slow). I am going with 1" = 1.5cm as the troops are starting quite close.  I am looking for a fast game after all!

The rules recommend units are 2-12 bases in in size. There are bonuses to having larger units as you can lose bases, and also a bonus for most heavy infantry to have a second rank.  I have opted for mostly small units (2-3 bases) except the main pike block and the Hastati/Principes are combined into a large 8 base unit.

Notes on terminology
In Death Ground is quite straightforward in the troop types: Light and Heavy Cavalry or Chariots, Elephants Skirmish and Warrior infantry.  Warrior infantry can be specialised into Swordsmen, Pikemen or Bowmen.
Troops are either unarmoured (the default), armoured or heavily armoured.
Morale troop type is either raw, ordinary (the default) or elite.

1 Leves unit: 4 bases Skirmishers with spears
1 Hastati/Principes unit: 8 bases Warrior Swordsmen
1 Triarii unit: 2 bases Elite Armoured Warriors
1 Light Infantry unit : 2 bases Elite Skirmishers
1 Heavy Cavalry unit : 3 bases Armoured Heavy Cavalry
1 Light Cavalry: 2 bases Light Cavalry
General: 1 base Armoured Heavy Cavalry

Romans are a Disciplined Army
1 Hypaspist unit : 2 bases Elite Warrior Pikemen
1 Phalangites: 6 bases Warrior Pikemen
1 Hoplite unit: 2 bases Armoured Warriors
1 Light Infantry unit : 2 bases Elite Skirmishers
1 Skirmisher unit : 2 bases Skirmishers with slings
1 Agema unit : 2 bases Elite Armoured Heavy Cavalry
1 Light cavalry unit: 2 bases Light Cavalry
1 elephant: 1 elephant
General: 1 base Armoured Heavy Cavalry with Outstanding General

Epirots are a Disciplined Army.

Note: Peltasts do not exist as a distinct troop type but as elite Skirmishers they have some melee opportunities that normal Skirmishers don't.

Deployment is based on my standard deployment for Heraclea, just some units are a wider and some are deeper:

Deployment - Romans to the right

It is a Pitched Battle but I will not be using any optional random strategems.

Romans are Side 1 (move one unit first in each turn).

Turn 1
No rallies or retirements.

While it is alternative unit movement, suffice to say that the Romans moved up the main Battleline and Leves and moved the Triarii towards the left flank.  The Leves with a roll of 13 (2d6+3) for distance (or 20.5cm) end up in front of the Epirot Skirmishers; good rolling by the Hastati/Principes see them right behind. The Epirots moved every unit forwards except the skirmishers on their left flank. The Elephants did not move very far.  In the rules, a unit can move in any direction up to its maximum move.  Note that units roll dice for movement distance.

Shooting is simultaneous and uses a d10 per base.
4 Leves at 2 Skirmishers with no modifiers results in 3 disorders and one base lost (a 10 is required to lose a base and any roll of 7+ is a disorder so good rolling)
2 Skirmishers at the Leves: one disorder.

No Close Combat

Epirot need to take a test for losing a base but pass (need a 4+ on a d6).

End of turn 1 with the dramatic advance of the Roman Legionaries

Turn 2
2d6 are rolled for Rallying for each unit and one disorder can be removed for each 5 or 6 rolled.  Epirot skirmishers roll lucky - a 5 and a 6 - and remove 2 disorders.  Leves remove their one disorder.

The moving one unit alternately is very interesting, especially as a no move of a unit counts as a move.  The Epirots have more units and so can force the Romans to move earlier.  I wanted to retire the lone Epirot base back through the pikes but the rules do not allow Skirmishers to interpenetrate most close order units.  Ah well. 
The Agema charged the Roman Heavy cavalry and the Triarii is now in a good place on the flank.  Otherwise not a lot of movement.

The pike unit is the priority target for two Leves while the Epirot skirmisher is the priority target for the other two Leves.

2 Leves fire on the pikes: -1 for Warrior target. 1 disorder
Epirot Skirmisher inflicts 1 disorder on Leves.
No other casualties.
I now realise I could have moved the Hoplite unit into contact with the Leves and stopped them shooting at the pikes. A lost opportunity.

The advancing Romans from the Epirot side. black rings are disorder markers.

Close Combat
Agema and Roman Heavy Cavalry.

Agema (with Pyrrhus at the rear) contacts the Roman Heavy Cavalry

Both roll a d10 for each pair of bases in combat. In this case there are two bases fighting each other, and the  one Roman in contact with the enemy but not fighting (the roman rightmost one) will give flank support bonus (a +1)
Agema: roll 7,7 +2 elite +2 General in 2" and outstanding, -2 armoured opponents = 9,9
Romans: roll 7,2 (a +1 for flank bonus for the second roll) -2  armoured opponents = 5,1
So Agema wins both.  From left to right for Romans - difference of 5 is 2 disorders; difference of 8 is 2 disorders and base lost.  Roman cavalry is now 4 disorders and only 2 bases.

Roman Heavy Cavalry roll a morale check for losing a base, require a 4+ on a d6 and pass.

End of turn 2 - Battlelines a stand-off and the heavy cavalry melee is to the bottom right.

Turn 3
Every unit with disorder clears themselves of disorder except the pike unit still has one, and the Roman Heavy Cavalry has 3.  3 disorders is not too bad - cannot advance. I am beginning to sense a bit of the game flow where you get disorder, but in rally are likely to remove one, and if lucky two.  So if you keep receiving disorders, you are gradually going to build them up if they are received faster than you can get rid of them.  7 disorders and you are gone.

Now there is an interesting rule that if a unit charges into contact with an enemy, no other enemy unit may charge into contact with that unit this turn.  to relate that to this game, the Leves could charge the Epirot Skirmishers and that would prevent the Hoplites or Hypaspists charging them.  But really, if the Epirots want to break up their line, good on them.

The moves in summary are Hoplites and Hypaspists charge the Leves,and the Elephant charges the Triarii.  Skirmishers choose to attempt to evade (need a 4+ on a d6) but fail.

Leves cannot shoot as they are in close combat but by looking at the rules the Epirot Skirmishers can shoot at the Leves for this turn only as bases not in contact with Hoplites or Hypaspists but to no effect.

Close Combat
Agema Vs Roman Heavy Cavalry:

The heavy cavalry melee before the combat round.  The Roman cavalry will lose another base in the upcoming combat.

Agema 2 bases roll 3,4 +2 elite +2 General in 2" and outstanding, -2 armoured opponents = 5,6
Romans: roll 2,8 -2  armoured opponents -3 for 3 disorders = -3,3
So Agema wins both.  From left to right for Romans - difference of 8 is 2 disorders and base lost, difference of 3 is 1 disorder.  Roman cavalry is now a total of 6 disorders and only 1 base.

Elephant Vs Triarii:

Elephant contact the Triarii

Elephant roll 7 +4 elephants +1 mounted Vs stationary Warriors = 12
Triarii rolls 7 +1 flank support +2 elite = 10
Difference of 2 is no effect.

Hoplites Vs Leves:

The Hoplites charged the Leves to help clear them away.

Hoplites rolls 9 +1 rear support =10
Leves (1 base in contact) rolls 9 -2 skirmishers -2 armoured opponents = 5
Leves lose by 5 which is 1 disorder

 Hypaspists Vs Leves:

Hypaspists also charged the Leves, on their other end, to clear them.  They did a better job

Hypaspists roll 7 +2 elite +1 rear support +1 rear support is pike +1 rear support is pike and moved into contact = 12
Leves roll a 1 -2 skirmishers = -1
Leves lose by greater than 10 which is one base lost and 3 disorders.

Roman heavy cavalry passes morale check for losing a base
Triarii pass morale check for first time encountering elephants
Leves fail morale check for losing a base - failing a morale check is 2 disorders.

End of turn 3 - battlelines still not met, but bottom right has the Elephant Vs Triarii and the Agema V the single Roman Cavalry base that is left.

Turn 4
Roman Heavy cavalry now down to 5 disorders
Leves down to 5 disorders.
Pike unit get rid of its lone disorders

Disorder moves
Compulsory moves for those with 4 or more disorders.
 5 disorders is a retire 1 full turn.  Romans retire off the table, never to return.  There are no pursuit rules in In Death Ground, so the Agema do not have to follow.
the Leves, also with 5 disorders, retire 1 full turn directly back.  This brings them into contact with the Hastati/Principes so they stop and receive an additional disorder.

Units can move in any direction so Epirot Skirmisher has a gap and moves out to the flank.  Leves do the same.

Heavy infantry eye each other now the skirmishers for each side has moved sideways out of the way.

Epirot Pikes charge the Hastati/Principes otherwise the Romans will charge and contact just the Hypaspists, and the Epirots will not be able to put any other unit into the fray this turn (as a charging unit cannot be charged by other units in the same turn).  Except the Pikes roll really low and not enough for contact, so they move far enough to form a line with the Hypaspists (units can choose to move up to the movement dice roll). 
Hastati/Principes roll enough on the movement dice and charge in.

Agema have 3d6 movement dice and roll 17 which is plenty to move to the flank of the Triarii (but not enough to move to the rear of the Hastati/Principes which would have been good). Note that reading the rules later, this move is not legal.  The reason I did not find the rule it is that is is not in the movement section, but buried in the middle of the close combat phase description.  It states that a unit cannot move to the flank or rear of an enemy unless it started behind the frontline of that enemy unit.   

Agema on the flank of the Triarii, who are still in melee with the Elephant.

Close Combat
Now the main battleline is a little complex but bases fight against what they are mostly in contact with so the Hypaspist base will fight a Hastati/Principes base, 3 pike bases will fight 3 Hastati/Principes bases and the Hoplites are only just contacted, so will provide a flank support for a pike base.

Hypaspists Vs Hastati/Principes:
Hypaspists rolls 9 +2 Elite +1 rear support +1 pike rear support = 13
Romans roll 6 +2 Swordsmen Vs stationary foot +1 rear support = 9
Romans get a disorder.
Note that the Romans possibly should have got a +1 in the first turn for being armed with pila.  But I missed this bit because rules for pila are not referred to or even mentioned in the rules, but at the very end of the army list for Punic War Romans, there is a special pila rule (+1 in first turn of close combat).  

Pikes Vs Hastati/Principes
Pikes roll 3,5,7 +1 rear support +1 pike rear support  and a single +1 for flank support = 6,7,9
Romans roll 10, 10, 2 +1 rear support= 11,11,3
Pikes lose by 5 and 4 and Romans lose by 6.  This works out to  Epirot get 2 disorders and Romans receive 1 disorder.

Triarii Vs Agema and Elephant:
The way this combat is worked out is the Triarii fight the unit to their front and get adverse combat modifiers for bases on their flank.
Triarii rolls 3 +2 elite +1 flank support -6 for having 2 mounted bases on flank = 0
Elephant rolls 4 +4 elephants +1 mounted Vs stationary Warriors = 9 (forgot to add in general bonus)
Triarii loses a base and receives 2 disorders.

Triarii passes check for losing a base.

End of turn 4 - battlelines in melee (no bases lost but some disorders each), Triarii has lost a base (bottom right).

Turn 5
Triarii rally off 1 disorder.
Leves fail to remove any of their 6 disorders.
Neither pike or Hastati unit removed any disorders (both at 2).  While most units roll 2 d6 for rallying, the Hastati get a bonus die for being more than 6 bases in size.

No shooting

Elephant moves to contact the Triarii as does the Agema.  No other moves.

Agema advance to continue to flank the Triarii

No shooting

Close Combat
Hypaspists Vs (one base of) Hastati/Principes:
Hypaspists rolls 6 +2 Elite +1 rear support +1 pike rear support = 10
Romans roll 4 +2 Swordsmen Vs stationary foot +1 rear support -2 for two disorders =5
Romans get a disorder.

Pikes Vs Hastati/Principes:
Pikes roll 9,7,6 +1 rear support +1 pike rear support  and a single +1 for flank support -2 disorders = 10,7,6
Romans roll 9, 9, 7 +2 Swordsmen Vs stationary foot +1 rear support -2 disorders = 10,10,8
This works out to Epirot getting 1 disorder.

The slow grind in the centre - three disorders each.

Triarii Vs Agema and Elephant:

Triarii rolls 7 +2 elite -6 for having 2 mounted bases on flank -1 for 1 disorder =2
Elephant rolls 8 +4 elephants +1 mounted Vs stationary Warriors +2 Outstanding general = 15
Triarii loses a base and so it destroyed.

End of turn 5 - note the missing Triarii at the bottom right.

Turn 6
Pikes rally off a disorder (now at 2)
Hastati/Principes rally off a disorder (now at 2)

Elephant and Agema move towards rear of Hastati (low rolls for movement so did not get far).

The Agema race to get into the rear of the Roman heavy infantry. 

No shooting

Close Combat
Hypaspists Vs (one base of) Hastati/Principes:
Hypaspists rolls 6 +2 Elite +1 rear support +1 pike rear support = 10
Romans roll 4 +2 Swordsmen Vs stationary foot +1 rear support -2 for two disorders =5
Romans get a disorder.

Pikes Vs Hastati/Principes:
Pikes roll 9,10,9 (the high rolling on both sides in this battle is amazing) +1 rear support +1 pike rear support  and a single +1 for flank support -2 disorders = 10,10,9
Romans roll 1,7,9 +2 Swordsmen Vs stationary foot +1 rear support -2 disorders = 2,7,9
This works out to Romans losing a base and another 3 disorders.

Tide turns against the Romans - they have 6 disorders and lost a base.

Note that Roman heavy infantry is currenty at 6 disorders - 7 and they are destroyed.
Roman Hastati/Principes roll a morale check for the lost base and fail.  They receive an additional 2 disorders, taking them to 8 and so are immediately destroyed.

The empty space where the Romans were after they routed.

I will now call the game for the Epirot as there is not real opposition left.

And now I notice that I have forgotten all game to add in the Roman general's bonus +1 for close combat for the Hastati/Principes.  This certainly would have helped a bit more.

End of the game.  Most of the units are Epirot.

Firstly, the game meets my criteria - it does play within one hour on a 2'x2' table.  Would I play it again if asked? Yes.  Would I choose to play it again?  Probably not.  The game was fun, it was interesting and I do like the mechanisms.  It was not great fun.  I did like the way that the large bodies on infantry took a while to resolve and the way the combat factors nuanced the interplay of the different ancient warriors.  I just did not love the rules.  I did make a few mistakes as some of the rules were not in the obvious spot, but nothing a few plays would not resolve.  Still, worthy of a replay if anyone asked me to play them again.  They certainly are a very useable set and my one play did not make anything stand out and make me go "Whoa". A lot of the result with the Epirot army having a crushing victory with almost no damage can be put down to dice rolls and also to some extent the troop types I used - if I played it again I would tone down Pyrrhus and make increase the number of Roman heavy cavalry from 3 to 4, make the Triarii 4 bases not 2...and remember the rule on pila and generals in close combat.  I think that would make a better balanced game.


  1. Nice report, Shaun. Rules look interesting. In combat it sounds as if you roll for each base in contact rather than for each unit, is that correct?

    Just out of interest, have you tried John (Acar's) own rules, Ancients D6? They certainly fit on a 2x2 board, and you might enjoy them.


  2. Aaron,

    Yes, you roll for each base in contact and most results are 0-3 disorders which apply to the entire unit.

    John's rules have been on my list for a long time; he did say a while ago to wait for V3 so I moved them further down the list, but V3 has been out now for a little while. In fact, my next two I had planned to use were Antiquity and AD6 (both actually designed for 2'x2'). But I have two obscure 30 year old rules that are intriguing me at the moment (Axes and Arrows, and Bronze, Iron and Blood) and I may do one or both of them next.

  3. So, Shaun, yet again, you have cost me more money to pick up one of the rules you've used and reviewed. I just received my copy this week.

    I may not be missing something in the disorder system. It seems like a unit breaks after 7+ disorders regardless of its size. (I see that units of 6+ stands get an extra rally dice, but that seems like the only benefit.) On the surface, it seems like a pair of 2-stand units would have a capacity of 14 disorder points (7 points each), while a unit of 4 stands that occupies the same space would only have 7.


  4. Kent,

    I would apologise to making you pick up rules but I have the same thing done to me - not by you but other people. So maybe it is a form of paying forwards!

    I do nt think you are missing something in the disorder system. My reading is the same as yours - one unit of 4 stands has 7 disorder capacity and two units of 2 stands would have a 14 disorder capacity. I can find no other advantage of large units other than the extra morale die.

    I believe the larger units are required due to the way the army lists are set up. The lists constrain the number of UNITS, not bases, of a particular troop type you may have. And it suggests only 4-10 units per side. With a suggested pitched battle being 450 points and a maximum of 10 units, you will not get the opportunity to field many small units.

  5. I wonder if the author has an orders of battle for historical scenarios?

    1. I have not seen any. It would be handy - especially as there are a lot of us that replay historical battles and not point based scenario games.