Saturday, September 13, 2014

Battle of Chaeronea 338BC using Ancient Battlelines Clash

This is game 18 in play testing my ancient rules by replaying historical battles.  The latest version of ‘Ancient Battlelines Clash’ is on its own blog page. I am play testing the rules by replaying all the Peter Sides scenarios from his Historical Battles books.  ABC is designed to finish in under an hour on a 2'x2' table.
Battle of Chaeronea
Philip II invades Greece that is defended by a Theban/Athenian allied army.  Philip II wins and finally gains control of Greece.
Here are some links of interest that I used to create the scenario:

Wikipedia article
Diodorus account at Ancient History Sourcebook
Junior General battle and rules
DBA scenario
Animated battlemap

I also used a number of books such as "Lost Battles" (Sabin) and "Warfare in the Classical World" (Warry).

Scenario changes
Halved troops due to my smaller sized table.  However, I did not halve the spear or pike units as the scenario units are for DBx that assumes in this case that the units will be rear supported, not the case with my rules.  I used a deployment close to Warry (two lines) rather than Side's staggered setup.  I did not include the hills and river, assuming they are on the edge of the table.  The smaller streams did not seem to affect the battle so did not include them.  I did keep the marsh.


The Greek allies (SB= Sacred Band, Gen = General)
6 Athenian hoplites, HI, phalanx, some protection, impetuous
3 Theban hoplites, HI, phalanx, some protection
1 Theban Sacred Band, HI, phalanx, some protection, high fortitude
3 Psiloi, LI, short missile
1 General (with Athenian hoplite)

Breakpoint: 10


6 Phalangites, HI, phalanx
1 Hypaspists/Agema, HI, phalanx, some protection, high fortitude
1 Peltasts, MI
2 Psiloi, LI, short missile
1 Heavy Cavalry, high fortitude, disciplined
1 Light Cavalry, LC, short missile
1 General, +1 command ability with Hypaspists

Breakpoint: 10

Note, in line with the rule changes (see below) Missile Protection +1 is now some protection, +2 is now high protection.  Similarly -1 fortitude is now low fortitude, +1 is now high fortitude. The names are easier for army lists rather than using numbers.  LI (Light Infantry) is relabeled MI (Medium Infantry) and SI (Skirmisher Infantry) relabeled to LI (Light infantry).  Only the labels have changed to be more consistent with cavalry and chariot labels, the rules for them are unchanged.   

Rules changes
It has been nearly a year since a historical game with these rules and I have been mulling over how to streamline them as I seem to have been adding a little bit here and there after my last major streamlining nearly 2 years ago.  The rules were getting more bloated and I do not like it.  I go into to much detail at this blog post. In summary:
  • I reduced the number of modifiers for all the tests to 3 or less modifiers, except combat still has 4.
  • I managed to combine the normal reaction to shooting, fired on, charged and proximity tests into one reaction table.  This made it a lot clearer.
  • I reduced some of the exceptions in the rules.
  • I changed the general to always be part of a unit during the game, rather than being able to detach and detach from units.  I also changed the army command ability to be not as powerful.

This is what playtesting is all about!


Deployment.  Note the only terrain feature on the table is the marsh on the Greek right flank.
The Game
Greeks move first.  Both sides advance their entire infantry line.

Fantastically painted (not by me - I bought these from Andy Bryant who is responsible for them) Macedonian phalangites
The Macedonian infantry move up and the opposing Athenian infantry charge (I gave the Athenian hoplites the impetuous ability - they must charge if an enemy unit is in range).  Everyone in melee is disordered but no other more serious damage.

Cavalry and skirmishers on the Macedonian right awaiting an opportunity. More amazing paint job from Andy Bryant.
The end Athenian hoplite unit does routs a skirmisher on the left flank and pursues.

Greek hoplite pursues a routed skirmisher.  The sticks on the bases on the units indicate disorder.
The Athenians manage to rout a Macedonian phalangite. The Macedonians return the favour; and then the Athenians get in another one. Two phalangites lost to one Athenian hoplite.

A gap!  But the Greek hoplite cannot pursue.
On the Greek right flank the Greeks charge the Macedonian Peltast that retreats and then routs. Alexander is worried that he will get boxed in and charges the Greek skirmishers that rout. Hopefully the Companions will be able to attack the hoplites in the flank before they turn about.  We shall see.

Activity on the Greek right.  The Companions attack through a gap.
The Theban hoplite battleline now charges and the Sacred Band forces a phalangite unit to retreat.  An already disordered Athenian hoplite is destroyed further down the line.  The Greek Alliance is still ahead as in less of its units are destroyed.

The Greek left is becoming depopulated duie to losses on both sides.
A Greek disaster!  The Athenian general rolls a 1 and is destroyed and routs.  In the rules, units in melee with equal combat values will only have bad things happen on a 1 (attacker depletes) or a 6 (defender depletes).  The two generals are in combat but the Hypaspists have a 1 greater combat value.  It was always going to be a waiting game until the Greek general routed (on a 5 or 6) or the Greeks could bring other units into the flank of the Hypaspists.  The  routing happened first.

The victorious Hypaspists (again painted by Andy Bryant).
The Greek army undergoes a morale check due to the general being lost.  This is a new bit to the rules - previously a lost general did not cause a morale check.  Every unit rolls a morale check test.  Most of the Greek units are already disordered (bad) and, due to poor die rolls, most of the units that were disordered rout (all 8 rolls were 3 or lower!).  Over half the Greek army gone so game over.

End game.  All Greek units are circled (i.e. not many).
Two generals going head to head is never going to end well.

More phalanx on phalanx battles but this time with the Companions.  I did like playing this game.  It showed that making the Athenians impetuous was a good idea.  It also highlighted the difference the Companions make -  without them, it would have just been a heavy infantry clash.  Even so, the Companions never did make the final difference in this replay as they did not have time to shine.  The Greek general routing was bad, but then I think he should have been with the Thebans (which I would do in a refight).  The rules have changed, but they were only minor to the overall way the game worked. The only difference for this game was the the general being destroyed causing the entire army to undertake a morale check.  Four more Alexander battles in the pipeline.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Ancient Battlelines Clash rules - September 2014 update

I have realised it was one year ago (September 2013) when I last played one of Peter Sides historical scenarios with Ancients Battlelines Clash.  And since then, all I have done is played 5 games in April to test out some non-player solo rules.  However, between September 2013 and April, I was mulling around in my head some minor additional changes to the rules and did play with some of these in April.  Since April I have, in the back of my mind, be thinking about the rules and how to simplify them.  I was adding too much!  They were supposed to be simple.  So in August, I wrote a one page quick reference sheet just about from memory form what the game should be.  All the rules should fit onto the page (the existing QRS was 2 pages).  I then went through the rules and aligned it with the QRS, and I think there was only a couple of cases I kept stuff that was in the rules that was not on the new QRS.  Most of the stuff in the rules did not see major change.  I did fudge the QRS around a little as I was going, and I did not really change significant rules - I simply removed some paragraphs/tables or simplified the existing ones. The designer notes are unchanged as the philosophy is the same.  All of this has consumed all of my (little) free time for the last 4 weeks but I feel better for it.  I believe the rules are better for it.

I ran some playtests that picked up some mistakes in the rules, and helped clarify some of the changes. Long live playtesting!

The new version of the rules are at the Ancient Battlelines Clash rules page.  The army lists have been updated to align to the new unit and ability labels.

I have done a historical replay with the rules - Battle of Charonea.

The bigger changes:
  • Most tables have a few modifiers removed
  • Generals are now permanently attached to a unit and trigger an army morale test if the unit is destroyed.
  • Light Infantry is now labelled Medium Infantry and Skirmisher Infantry is now Light Infantry.  No change to how they work, it is just to make the labeling consistent with chariots and cavalry classifications.
  • Archer ability gone, missile protection now an ability.

For those interested, here are all the rule changes.  While I don't expect anyone to read them, it does indicate how much I did.  Most of the dot points have the words "reduction", "Streamline", "removed", all good words.
  • Phalanx is an ability (not a unit type) and streamlined how it works.
  • Warband is an ability and streamlined how it works.
  • Removed heavy archers – they are just HI with bows and are now the same cost as HI.
  • Renamed SI as LI so all skirmishers start with “Light”; LI is not MI.
  • Removed the number of exceptions for armies with poor command ability
  • Generals are now permanently attached to a unit, lost general rules simplified and cause an army morale test for all units.and optional rules for detached generals provided (this alone freed up 1/2 a page of rules).
  • Army morale test was actually skewed to produce bad results.  This has been fixed and also aligns with the other tables as well, a bonus! 
  • Fortitude now expressed as high and low rather than +1/-1
  • Missile protection used to be a default unit characteristic either 0, +1, +2.  Now there is no default missile protection.  It has been replaced with two abilities – some protection and high protection.
  • Removed the Archer, bow and javelin ability – units either have short missile ability or long missile ability
  • Light cavalry and Light Infantry are affected similarly now for interpenetration and reactions, removing exceptions and simplified resolving interpenetration.
  • There were two reaction tables – proximity/charged and fired on, The reaction table is the same for both, rather than being separate. The reaction for units is consistent and easier to follow.  A pass result (the common result) on the reaction tables is the same for proximity/charged and fired on and is now separately referred to.  This also simplified other rules that would reference results inside reaction tables.
  • The fired-on test would only ever result in disorder for non-skirmishers.  Now on a really bad result, they are depleted (so if already disordered,they are destroyed).
  • Shooting now has 5 modifiers (down from 7).
  • Proximity/charged on has 3 modifiers (down from 4).
  • Pursuit roll now has 2 modifiers (down from 5).
  • Evade is now the same a retreat.
  • Pursuit and Charging are now similarly treated.
  • Found a gap in the rules that was not defined: pursuing units that re-enter proximity zones.
  • Combat has 5 modifiers with 1 exception (down from 9 with 3 modifiers with exceptions)
  • The command/move roll now has 3 modifiers for move/complex move/rally test only (was 5 for a test of move/rally/complex move/charge)
  • Army Command ability of +1/+2 gave subcommanders that were on the table and gave benefits to attached units. This required additional markers so did away with that concept, and it was very powerful.  Improved army command ability now increases an army's break point and reduces the negative distance modifier for commands.
  • Missile contest, when two units were engaging in firing, has been simplified by removing a -1 modifier for the first firer and replacing it with a tie result going to the first firer's advantage. That halved the missile contest rule length (that -1 created a lot of explanation of when it did and did not apply!)
  • Rearranged the sections a little so they are better grouped.
  • Extended two of the examples.
  • Added in more cross referencing.
All up I reduced the rules themselves by a page (out of about 15 pages of rules proper, 1 page is a lot!).  I also managed to get the rules onto a single reference sheet (was 2 columns over 2 pages, now 3 columns on one page).  It is more consistent and internally easier to follow.

I also toyed around with changing the disordered modifier from -2 to -1 for all tests (combat it is -1 and -2 everywhere else).  But I did some tests and it slows down the game immensely.  I also did a couple of tests with the general at +1 for all tests rather than +2 +2 is quite powerful) but it did not really make much of a difference.  The way the rules work, the general will only dominate 1 to 2 combats in the game, which is fair enough.