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.


  1. Hi Shaun,

    A quick comment. In my pdf version of the latest version of the rules, page 24 looks really strange.

  2. Sorry, that should be page 4.

    1. Have no idea why the graphics doubled up over the text. I changed the way I created the pdf and they are no longer there. I have uploaded the new version. Thanks for pointing it out! i will have to look out for this in future.