Wednesday, September 30, 2015

30 games in 30 days - the first 5 games

Attempting to play 30 ancient games in 30 days using my own small table fast play rules to test out a programmed opponent.  A few more details at this introductory post.

This may be a bit of a dry read - there are only few pictures of each game and a lot of the text is about playtesting lessons learnt.

I am on track - 5 games in 4 days so far.

Game 01 Early Republican Romans Vs Later Selucids (Day 1 - Saturday)
Just hit the button and this is was is generated. The bottom left is the table (the "nc" means treat as clear if this appears in the centre.  I notice there is a stream (the == ) that i did not see when setting up.
The bottom right is the deployment options with the Attacker (A) and Defender (D) deployment zone and the percentage of units in each grid square (%).  it also has the initial zone order (listed next in order of most aggressive to least) - Rush (R), Attack (A), Probe (P), Wait (W), Hold (H), Delay (D). Or  It also shows if the general in the zone is cautious (c) or rash (r).  Cautious generals are more likely to go to less risky orders, while rash generals will tend to increase to more aggressive orders. There is about a 1/12 chance per turn of a zone changing orders.

The deployment as randomised.


The Selucids win after quite a few long melees.
Lots of order changes even with the 1 in 12 chance there seems to be one every turn!

The lone Roman left at the end of the game..
Well, a small number of units and  +1 Command and Control means that the breakpoint for both is higher. Note, by game 3 I had worked out that the spreadsheet generator created a higher breakpoint for +1 and +2 command armies.  You can see the Romans only had one unit left. So have to nearly rout almost all the other side to win.  It was touch and go a lot in the game and it came down to who rolled the better dice in the end - it was a fairly well matched fight.

First one is that +1 and +2 command ability are a little too powerful so toned them down slightly.

Programmed Opponent: HOLD is a very restrictive order as even if you are a lot superior to the opposing side, you will get within 8cm and stop, even if it obvious that you should advance against a much superior enemy.  WAIT is mainly different to HOLD in that is you can must advance into superior  combat and secondly WAIT becomes ATTACK after a charge.  Non-missile, non impetuous units e.g. Battle infantry under HOLD on the flank will  just sit there looking at auxiliary infantry that can easily crush as the Triarii did in the game above.. So I have modified the non-missile HOLD slightly to force advances into superior combat.

Game 02 - Viking Scandinavian Vs Later Briton and Gaul (Day 2 Sunday)
Firstly, I have spelt Scandinavian wrong here. Secondly, the "Sk Inf" should be "Sk Cav", I reduced it to one unit as 2 Skirmish Infantry cost the same as 1 Skirmish Cavalry.

While I do have some Viking figures, they are not well pained and realise there is no Bondi Archers amongst them.  I used Bondi bases with only a shield or two on them to represent them.

I put the archers in groups with the other Viking infantry - they have the same Combat Value but will not advance into the enemy without being part of a group with non-missiles.


The cavalry managed to defeat the flank, although the Berserkers did take out a cavalry.

Cavslry flank at end
The Viking tactic of breaking through the centre worked, good dice rolling saw the Vikings smash through the middle, and their right flank was still strong too.

Viking right flnak at end - one opposing unit left (cetnre)
None - all working just fine for this game.

Game 03 - Mid Imperial Rome Vs Early Saxon (Day 2/3 Sunday, Monday)
Note that the Barbarians should be "Bat Inf" not "Aux Inf".  I had to look up the Artillery rules - have not used them before!  Treating it as light artillery as that is only one I have costed up in the spreadsheets).
Note both had defensive tactics and so the attacker (the Romans) had their orders modified to centre attack at deployment.
I was looking forward to getting out the well painted Early Imperial Romans I acquired a few years ago but have never played with them.  But I realised this is MID imperial, so got out my well played-with mid-imperial Romans :-(

Worked really well,the warbands dash against the line and some bounce, some don't and the superior Legionaries win out n the longer term  Cavalry have to win with shock as if caught up in melee are at a disadvantage, and other charging into an existing melee with them don't suffer shock.  Really bad against battle infantry.

Game end - mostly Saxons left.
Surprisingly no changes of orders at all in this game.

A closer shot of the centre with the two remaining Legionaries circling some Saxon warbands,
The general was killed in this game and an army morale taken.  Seemed to work well.  I forgot that the general is worth an extra 2 to the breakpoint of the army and so it should have stopped there but played until another Roman unit broke, giving victory to the Early Saxons.  Another game that could have gone either way.  The Saxons won on both flanks but the Romans were doing well in the centre (except for the Cavalry).  Did not support the general well enough I think but it was unlucky for the two generals to square off, and the cavalry is worse against the elite warband after the initial charge.  And maybe the Cavalry should have been on a flank.

This was along game - I think it was 35 minutes to play the game itself.  Mainly due to a lot of battle infantry meaning combat is resolved over more than 1-2 turns.

Wondering at this point why the army breakpoint  is so high for the +1 command army - it seemed high for the Romans in game 1 as well.  I did a quick calculation in my head and it did not seem right.  I went back to the spreadsheet and I add the command value to the breakpoint twice.  Oops.  So the breakpoint for the +1 armies has been 1 higher that it is supposed to be and thus requiring an extra heavy unit.  Fixed.

Game 04 - Sea Peoples Vs Hittites (Day 3 - Monday)
I generated this prior to fixing the spreadsheet so breakpoint due to the +1 command, so Sea People breakpoint is one less that listed here.

I wanted to deploy the Medium Chariots on the right flank but the tactics were centre attack rather than flank (or flank and centre),so moved them to the centre.  Not sure how well it would go - at least it will make it more interesting.   In hindsight the Chariots on the flank may have been better.

The battlelines clashed and after two rounds of combat there was no routs.  Very unusual.

Ancient battlelines clash

End game, Hittites lost.
The  Hittite General died.  A very unlucky 1 and being alone saw him go.  Despite this, most of the army fought on but the Hittites lost.  Another battle that could have gone either way.

A fine game with no lessons.

Game 05 -  Lydian Vs Asiatic Greece (Day 4 - Tuesday)
Again, I generated this prior to fixing the spreadsheet so breakpoint due to the +1 command, so Lydian breakpoint is one less that listed here.

Again, there is supposed to be a stream running down the middle (the == on the deployment map) but did not see it until writing this up. Doh!

All the Greek units are poor in melee than the Lydians (combat value one less).  This will make it hard for the Greeks.

Could not help but take a picture of these Hoplites I acquired about 5 years ago.  I really like them.

The Greeks lost, but not for want of trying.  Lone units get a -1 to combat that will negate the superior training. So they managed to take down a few Lydian units before reaching their own breakpoint.
Game end.
This game was very fast - about 3 turns all up.  Because of the reactions that can then spawn more reactions, there is a lot going on and so a fair amount of narrative is generated.  So I am enjoying all the games greatly.   I remember why I liked playing them.  The programmed opponent is holding up very well, better than I thought.  I must have spend quite a bit of time crafting them last year - I can't remember.

In this game there was a few one on two combats. In the current rules, the two dice are rolled and the results are applied to both on one side, and the worst on the other.  However, two slightly poorer units will always come of badly against one good one.   I have always had a little voice saying that this does not seem right and maybe a -1 modifier or something for the two on one.   A +/-1 modifier is a lot in this game.  And often the single unit is also a lone unit and it getting the -1 anyway.  It has never really been a problem but still the voices continue - surely extending a battleline (that I think is what is happening in reality) to ensure they are the same length would have an impact.  I spent a lot more time thinking and I am gong to test out that for two on one combats, treat the single unit as unsupported if not unsupported anyway.  So a -1 modifier but if already unsupported, the rules are unchanged.  It will only really affect combats between unequal battleline lengths and give a slight advantage to the longer battleline -which is a good thing,

Time to play
It takes less than a minute to open up the excel sheet, generate the army deployment and print to a pdf.  For some of the armies I am less familiar with (most dark ages one and I have had a few so far) I have needed to look up what the warriors look like (using my trusty Armies of the Dark Ages/Armies and Enemies of Imperial Rome/ancient Near East).  I then go the figure cabinet and get them.  This sometimes takes 30 minutes as I get distracted looking at the reference books and looking through my figures!  Deployment takes about 5 minutes.  The game is 20-30 minutes.  Packing the figures away is about 5 minutes. Writing up what happened up to 10 minutes.  I have also been tweaking the army lists along the way, another 10-30 minutes depending on how much research I need to do)  So I am spending at least an hour to an hour-and-a-half a game in total.  Hopefully this will get down to 40 minutes as I get more games in  and less fixes and lookups required.

The first few games had quite a few defensive orders and the is only a 1/6 chance of them.  Later games have had none so it is just the way the spreadsheet is randomising.
The first few had Command +1 and there is a 1/3 of a chance of a +1 or +2 command.  So while it seems like a lot, there should be 2 every 3 games (3 games has 6 armies and with a 1/3 chance is 2).  So not too bad actually.
I have also had to explain splitting groups a little better - with my rewrite into version 2.0 I pared down the description so much it does not explain specifically how to do it! Only required another sentence but how to do it is now actually explained.

Some very minor rule changes so far and mostly fixing army generation and army lists.  The programmed opponent seems to be working fine.  On track with 5 games in 5 days. Very happy with how it is going so far, looking forward to the next lot of games.

Final thought
I have also realised I can easily do a campaign - pick an army, randomly generate the opposing forces and deployment and use rules cribbed form other rulesets on what to do with units that rout between games.  Hmm.  Will have to think on when to this - for a while I have wanted to just pick one army and play with it for 5-10 games to get a feel for it under the rules.

Oh,and I will try and take some more pictures of during the game rather than the start and end.


  1. I really like these rules. Looking forward to the final version :)

    1. Thanks Alexsandar. I am hoping by the end of 30 games the rules will be fairly stable for armies from 3000BC to 1000AD and enough army lists for people to get anidea of troop types.

  2. Hi Ian
    the rules lock very good
    When you complete the prog. opponent I woulkd like to have it and play a few games


    1. Hello John,

      The version I started with is already in the the rules. But considering I am playtesting both the rules and the programmed opponent, definitely better to wait untii I am finished.

  3. Shaun,

    So, the gauntlet has been cast, challenging my wargaming manhood! ;)

    Just kidding of course, it's great seeing you get all these games in. I still don't understand Ancients combat, but I can't help but look at the Hoplites above and think, 'man, those look pretty cool.'

    Games down to 40 minutes, eh? Now that is a worthy objective! Campaigns galore! Man, I've got so much to do, and not enough time to do it!

    Keep up the good work brother, I'm looking forward to your next update.


  4. 40 minutes is the longest time it should play - most games are around 30 minutes, and can be 20 minutes on a good day.

    Not trying to impinge on you gaming demi-god status as I am not doing full AARs of each battle - more a summary of how the solo gaming engine went!

    1. Damn man, 20-30 minutes!? That's moving! I worry if I make it too short that there may not be enough decision-making going on, or enough time to overcome initial blunders. Any issues on that front?

      And no sweat regarding impingement, there's plenty of room at the top buddy ;)

      And doing less-detailed batreps has occurred to me, but 1) it seems like folks enjoy the detail in my reports, and 2) I find it's hard for me to sort of summarize or know when to take pictures if I'm taking less pictures.

      What I mean is, in order to properly summarize what happened for a batrep, I'd still have to do all the photo- and note-taking during the battle (so not saving any time there), I just wouldn't use it all when doing the batrep (which would save time, but then I'd have a hard time not using everything I took).

      Anyway, I hope you're not reading this because you're ripping through your next five games! ;)

      Take care man.


    2. No issues on the lack of decision front. Combat is quite fast. I have a lot of AARs on this blog using these rules and giving 30 minute games. Enough decision making and lots of action.

      The 30 games in 30 days is all about playtesting the programmed opponent and not really the games themselves. I could do AARs for each game but then I would have to take extra pictures, take notes and then write it up. At another hour per game (at least), the playtesting would never happen! I am not even summarising the action (I did do this in my last playtest with only 5 games).