Friday, December 24, 2010

Wars Ancient rules overview and battle report - Persians Vs Romans

I am ongoing quest for fast play ancient rules that play on a small table.  I am supposed to be refighting Zama with numerous rules, but got sidetracked by doing a battle report when Rally Round the King was released.  I have been sidetracked again.  I saw on a thread on TMP that the Irregular Miniatures are carrying a new ruleset - Wars Ancient.  There is a website for the game and also a boardgamegeek entry.  But that is it.  The rules are not cheap (22GDP), and shipping from the UK to Australia does nothing to help keep the cost down.  But they sounded interesting - and they are interesting.  Shiny new rules are a distraction.   So following is an overview of the rules and a battle report between Sassanid Persians and Eastern Romans (yes, I know I did that for Rally Round the King too - it was easier for me as I had the armies still out).  Battle report won't be as detailed as I normally do (might do when I use them for Zama) but enough to try and convey a feel for the rules.

Overview of the rules
This is not really a full review - more an overview of the rule mechanisms and some comments based on a playing.
Unit bases are mostly 6cm frontage by 3cm depth.
A unit is one base and called a DET (Detachment).
An army is initially 15 units split across 3 commands - a leader-general with 5 units and 2 generals each with 5 units.
An army also get six strategy cards - more on these later.  Strategy cards are an important part of the game - they provide terrain, additional unit capabilities and tactics that can be implemented during play.

Movement is in MU which is 40cm or 1.5 inches.
Table size is 40" by 32".
Moves are 2MU for infantry, 4MU for mounted.
Units can move straight ahead, wheel, about face and a few special moves such as swap places.
The terminology for units are similar to that in DBA - Psiloi, Auxilia, Blades, Light Horse etc but besides combat values being similar the only resemblance to DBA is the unit names.
Troop types are differentiated by having a Combat Value (CV), a Morale Value (MV) and some attributes (about 3 is average) from a list of 20 or so.
Attribute examples:
Fierce - +1 CV if attacking (warbands have this)
Charge - CV bonus (cavalry have this)
Formation - +1 CV for friendly unit in contact (heavy infantry get this)
Impetuous - units must follow up in rout (cavalry, warbands).
Short Range - short range missile fire.
All units have two "Morale Damage" points.  If a second morale damage point is received (i.e. they fail a morale check twice) they are destroyed.  However, a unit can only receive a limited amount of morale damage per turn (see later as this is important but need to describe the other concepts first).
Strategy cards (see later) are used to alternatively place any terrain.
Then players alternative deploying a camp.
Then players alternative deploying one command (general + 5 units) at a time.
There is an optional scouting rule where the scouting value of a side is determined and this can effect unit deployment.
There are simple weather rules.
Turn Sequence
1. missile fire - simultaneous
2. initiative - roll 1d10 and highest determines who goes first
3. players turn:
   a) First player activate a general and move/melee units in command range
   b) Other player activates a general and moves/melee units in command range
  c) Alternate until all generals activated.
4. count Victory Points.
Command and Control
A leader/general must spend a command point to activate a unit to move.  Unit must be in range.  Unit can be activated only once per turn.
Leader-generals have a command radius of 6MU and 4 command points.
Generals have a command radius of 4MU and 3 command points.
Leaders/Generals have unlimited movement.
Missile fire
Missile fire is simple.
Bow fire is 3MU - d6 roll, hit on a 5-6.
javelin fire is 1MU - d6 roll, hit on a 6.
In cover - only a 6 is a hit.
A missile unit that doesn't move may be placed into "opportunity fire", where it can fire during the player turn.  Missile units may fire at enemy units in contact and in firing arc.
See what a hit means under melee. 

Melee is where it gets interesting. Bases line up edge on edge (like DBA) for combat.  There is a shuffle when units engage to ensure this happens.
Combat values of opposing units are compared.  The unit that is active rolls 1 to 3 d6 depending on the comparison ratio - The higher the CV ratio, the more dice rolled.
Each pip of a d6 has a specific result ranging from attacker takes a hit (a '1') to defender takes a hit and retreats (a '6').   For multiple dice rolls, the attacker chooses the best result. So, the more rolls, the more chance of choosing a bad thing for the defender. Nice.
The base combat values for a unit can get modified by attributes and attached generals.

A hit is not really a hit - A hit is a morale check.  Every time a unit is hit, roll a 1d10 and compare against the morale value: if less, pass; nothing.  If more, take one morale damage.  Two morale damages and the unit is destroyed.  On a natural 10, the unit routs which is a an about face and a full rout move back towards your table edge.  Routing units can be rallied using a command point.  I like this.

Morale values also can get modified by attributes, and +1 for each unit in contact.

A unit cannot take more than one morale damage point in the melee phase or the missile phase.  Units hang around for a while.
Strategy Cards
Things come into their own with Strategy cards.  There are 32 of them.  Players get 6 each. Historical lists get about 4 defined and 2 random.  Strategy cards range from terrain, deployment options to tactics during the game.

Terrain is placed if a player plays the appropriate terrain strategy card.  It is placed anywhere.

Deployment options (and some of these can be played during the game) are such things like:
  • replace up to 2 Auxilia with Bowmen
  • the enemy leader is ill - reduce his command value by 1
  • Replace an Auxilia with a blade or spear unit.
  • Increase the morale value of a unit by 1. 
  • After all deployment, redeploy 2 units.
Strategies that can be played during the game are:
  • Fanatics - select a unit and morale is now 9.
  • Select an Auxilia - it is now a heavy infantry unit;
  • Select a unit to now have javelins.
  • Treason - and enemy unit is now on your side.
  • My favourite is select up to 2 Auxilia and change them to Bowmen.  I am not sure of the reasoning behind that one!
The strategies cards are not balanced but getting 6 of them each would reduce imbalances in their effects.  I don't think I would play with some of the cards - they just seem a bit weird.  But the cards add some uncertainty to the game and should make it quite interesting.
Army Lists
There are 10 army lists given but the game is designed for more build you own armies.
There are no points values for units.
Building armies consists of an Auxilia plus 4 random units and 10 selected units.  Note there are minimum and maximums for unit types.
That being said, I think the game will play quite well with historical armies.  My first replay was using a historical army list generated from other sources.
Determining the Winner
Victory points are awarded for inflicting morale damage, destroying enemy units, sacking an enemy camp and destroying enemy generals.  First side to reach 15 points wins.
The rules are clear and the layout is fine. The rules total 24 pages including army lists, optional rules and pictures of games in progress.  There are diagrams littered throughout the book to assist in describing some mechanisms.   The Strategy Cards and Army cards are in the book and need to be cut out.  I used a paper guillotine.

The only issue I really came across is that attributes and their effects are in one table on the back of the book.  The effects are very important and listed no where else.  Such things like Skirmishers reduce attacking infantry CV by 1 and Mounted destroying routing Psiloi and Bowmen. These effects are not referred to anywhere else in the rule book (not even an indication that unit attributes are varied and have a large effect on unit interactions) so when you get to the back page, the richness of the attributes for the units takes you by surprise.

I had only a couple of questions and clarifications I sent to the author which I will post once tidied up. 

My verdict on the rules after a battle are at the end of the post.  But in summary: not for everyone,  I liked them a lot, will play again and lends itself to tweaking (using the existing rule mechanisms) to get your version of history.

Back to the battle report....
There is no list for the Sassanid Persians and Later Eastern Romans.  Armies are 15 DETs each so I just used the first edition Armati lists as a basis (they are about 15 units each).  As I mentioned earlier, the rules lend themselves to historical tweaking - you could adjust combat and morale values to better differentiate troop types. But I will resist for this replay and stick to the standard troop types.

Sassanid Persian
2 Cataphracts
4 Cavalry (one has +1 CV +1 MV due to Weapon Maker Strategy Card)
2 Light Horse
2 Auxilia
4 Psiloi
1 Elephant
+1 additional Cavalry from playing a Strategy card.

Later Eastern Roman
1 Cataphract
3 Cavalry
2 Light Horse
3 Blades (+1 MV and Wall of Shields due to Legionaries strategy card)
3 Auxilia
3 Skirmishers

Strategy Cards

Cataphracts is a Strategy card.  There is only one, but I could not help but give the armies the cataphracts I think they deserved.  So I will reduce the number of Strategy cards by 2 for the Persians, and by 1 for the Romans.  Further, I will give 2 Missile Weapons to the Persians. And 2 Thrown Weapons and 1 Legionaries (I chose to only apply this to the Blades) to the Romans.
This leaves 2 random cards for the Persians:
  • Weapon Maker (used in deployment - one DET gains +1 to CV and MV)
  • Mercenaries  (deployment - add one Spear, Bowman or Cavalry last). 

And 2 random cards for the Romans:
  • Treason - play at start of a melee and enemy DET becomes yours.
  • Strategist  - either redeploy army at end of deployment or redeploy 3 DETs during play.
If you use 4cm width bases, that is 2/3rds of the recommended size, and then a MU needs to be reduced by 1/3rd which equal 1" and table size goes down to 22"x28" which is close to 24"x24".  Eminently playable.   And I only have units based on 4cm wide bases.  I don't have a 2x2 board except a (slightly bright) green 26"x26"mat I picked up from a hardware store.  I'll use that as my real 2'x2' board is being used for Zama refight.  I'll deploy 2" further in to account for the slightly wider board.

Normally alternate deployment, but will skip this as solo and can't outthink myself this late at night.

Deployment view from the Roman side

Romans setup cavalry on the left flank, legionaries in the centre with skirmishers and auxilia on the right with a light cavalry.  Leader is in the centre. 
Roman plan - break the left flank, maybe using some blades from the centre.  Hold or break the centre. Panic at the large force on the right flank so refuse it.

Persians setup General with cataphracts and heavy cavalry on their right flank, levies with some skirmishers in the centre and more heavy cavalry and the elephant on the left flank.
Persian plan - use the cavalry on the wings to beat the Romans.  Hold the Romans on their left flank with equivalent forces and hopefully break their right flank.  the centre is weak, but only has to hold - may not even need to engage.

Turn 1
A general advance by both sides.  Shuffled some Psiloi when I reread their atrribute of providing +1 to a DET on their flank.  Cavalry get +2 to their CV if they charge so initiative is important - The Persians only moved up the Cavalry within charge distance of the Roman left flank - the Cataphracts advanced but not to within charge reach.

Roman left flank

Turn 2
Romans win initiative and charge into 2 of the opposing cavalry and cause a rout.  The Persians retaliate and cause a damage point as well.  The cavalry on this flank is becoming a bit of a swirling mess.

Roman left flank and centre area

I'm using blood red glass beads for damage markers.  Seemed like a good idea at the time but blood red on bright green does clash.  I will go back to casualty rings next game.

Elsewhere, the Roman centre advanced and the Persian left flank continued its advance.

Roman right flank

Victory Points: Persian 1 Roman 1

Turn 3
Romans charge in on their left flank and cause 2 damage points. The Persians retaliate and cause a cataphract rout and some damage elsewhere.  The rest of the board is taken up with an advance on the Persian left flank to within 1MU of the Romans.  In hindsight, maybe the Romans should have really used the treason card on the Cataphract melee, but I have been saving it for the Roman right flank, where they could get overwhelmed.  The Romans also have the Strategist card, which I was going to use to redeploy some centre legionaries to the left flank, but a pursuit by a Persian cavalry has quashed that idea - The Strategist card only allows redeployment is no enemy are within 4MU and the pursurer is now within 4MU.

Roman side at the bottom of the picture, Persians at the top.

Victory Points: Persian 2 Roman 3

Turn 4
Missile fire - the Persians play the 2 missile weapons cards to give missile fire to 2 cavalry on their left flank.  Roll to hit - both miss.  
Romans win initiative for the 4th time (!).
The chaos on the flank with the cavalry on cavalry continues.  The centre legionaries split up to start the journey of being assistance to the other flanks.

Legionaries split

The Persians cavalry and elephant charge into the Auxilia.  The Romans play the Treason card and turn the Elephants.

The treasonous elephant

Otherwise, the charge was disappointing - only one damage out of three attacks.  And cavalry get +2 to their combat value when charging.

The Roman right flank after they turned the elephant

Victory Points: Persians 4 Romans 3

Turn 5
Persians finally win initiative.  In the cavalry swirl, a roman cavalry succumbs to the general and cataphract and another flanking cavalry.  The Persians activated quite a few melees and the dice were hot - scoring morale checks in almost all of them and inflicting some damage.  The flanked Light Horse on the far right of the Roman line was destroyed.   The Romans did not have much go there way but the Elephant (now Roman) assisted in causing damage to a neighbouring - former friendly - cavalry.

Overview with Romans at the bottom.

Victory Points: Persian 10 Roman 4

Turn 6
Persians win initiative for the first time.  The Roman camp is three moves away from the cavalry on the right flank.

The Roman camp is only an about face and two moves from the Persian cavalry to the left.

It is probably worth giving it a go as capturing the camp would give enough victory points to win the game.  So the cavalry move towards the camp. There was little movement this turn - more jockeying for position, a bit of flanking and an advance of the Roman centre.  No hits this turn - everyone survived any morale checks.

Turn 7
Still no hits from missile fire anywhere!
Things are slowing down as most units are in melee, or don't want to be so don't move!  The Persians are only one move from the camp.  The Romans finally managed to destroy the Persian cavalry flanked by the elephant.  And also finally destroyed the Persian cataphract facing the Roman cataphract and flanked by a legionary unit.

Overview - Romans to the bottom, Nadia the dice roller at the top.  Having the game in a drawer helps protect it for the weeks it takes to play.

Victory Points: Persians 10 Romans 8

Turn 8
The Persians win initiative and attack the camp, successfully scoring a hit which means it is captured.  The Romans lost a melee against some Persians cavalry: they rolled two 1's on the dice roll to hit, which means the attacker needs to do a morale check, which they failed.  They already had a melee damage and were destroyed.  Those snake-eyes rolls are bad - this was the second one for the attack (last time the attacker passed the morale check).
The Romans give up as there is no way they can exceed the Persians victory point score this turn, and most places they could try, there is just as much chance of worsening their victory point score!
Victory to the Persians.
Final victory points: Persians 17 Romans: 8

Final positions

Postscript to game
There were a few rules I did not play correctly.  When I started the game, I sent off a few (ok, about 14 and I do feel bad about asking so many at once) clarification questions.  They were not really omissions, just things that seemed unclear.  There was only about 3 things I think I had assumed incorrectly.  An example of one of these is that units that have missile fire capability can fire at enemy unit in contact with them to the front (it does imply this in the rules so my bad).  I will format the clarifications and post them here later.

I like the rules.  I was thinking they could be used for fast play, but they are aimed at the 2-2.5 hour game.  It should be obvious, as it is written in large letters on the front of the rule book: 2-3 hours.  But, again, I was thinking, maybe they could be cut down, as per some of the other rules I have tried.  Probably not - I may do some more thinking on it before using them for a Zama replay.  Anyway, the rules may seen to be simple, but they are not simplistic.  The command and control system is excellent, and the grind of melee is well represented.  Troops have both a combat value and morale value which works well in differentiating the units.  Lastly, a word on the cards - while they could be powerful, they are not within the mechanics of the game.  And they do add uncertainty to the battle.  The game can be used for straight pickup games with selected forces but would work quite well for historical games and historical scenarios.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Rally Round the King: Persians V Romans

So, Rally Round the King is out.  New and shiny next edition of Warrior Heroes, which means it also contains the original Warrior Kings, but updated.  And Warrior Kings is my favourite ancients ruleset after Armati.  But I've been playing it on a 2'x2' board, rather than the recommended 4'x3', and converting the inches to centimetres (and about 75% of the recommended units).  Units move slower in comparison to their width when using centimetres.  So I thought that I would take the plunge and play some games on the full size board.  I've always had a soft spot for Sassanid Persians versus Late Romans so I'll play 2-3 games with these forces

The board will not look that great - My small children are bound to get into it and so the good stuff won't go out.  And I haven't play ancients on anything bigger than 3'x2' for ten years and I don't have great 15mm scale gullies or rough ground.

What I did do is create an Excel spreadsheet that calculates the forces, war ratings, scouting value and any outscouting, and also the board terrain.  Took about two hours but now the pre-game stuff of selection and deploying it literally one button away (F9 - recalculate).  It doesn't do rivers and doesn't include flyers for scouting, but otherwise it is a winner!  And the only forces it works for currently is Sassanid Persians and Late Romans but it is easy to add new army lists.

Lastly, for the first few turns I do show the reactions tests, die rolls etc, to shows how the game works.  As the turns progress, I tone it down.


Sassanid Persia army list AA
6 Clibinarii – Dual, Shock; Mounted Melee, REP 5, AC 4
3 Cataphracts – Shock; Mounted Melee, REP 5, AC6
1 Chionite Cavalry; Mounted Skirmish, REP 4, AC 2
2 Elephants – Terror, UD; Foot Melee, REP 4, AC 2
3 Levies – UD; Foot Melee, REP 3, AC 2
3 Skirmishers; Foot Skirmish, REP 4, AC 2

Battle tactics B.  Actual tactic DE - double envelopment - 30% right, 40% centre, 30% left

Later Romans Army list LL

2 Equites – Shock; Mounted Melee, REP 4, AC 4
5 Legionaries – CW, Elite; Foot Melee, REP 3, AC 4
3 Auxiliaries – CW; Foot Melee, REP 3, AC 4
2 Auxiliary Archers; Foot Missile, REP 3, AC 4
3 Archers; Foot Skirmish, REP 4, AC 2
1 Slingers; Foot Skirmish, REP 4, AC 2

Battle tactics A. Actual tactic PC - penetrate centre - 20% right, 60% centre, 20% left.


Table generated:       
Clear    Clear    Gully
Clear    Clear    Hill
Impass Clear    Clear
Persians are the attacker and choose the right side to attack from.


View from the Roman centre.  My four year old getting ready to move the Persians.

Romans, from their left flank
Equites with leader
Centre body with skirmishers, legionaries in the middle and the Auxilia in the rear
Right body of archers at the edge of the gully

Persians from their right flank (left side in the picture)
Skirmish cavalry unit
Body with 2 heavy cavalry and a cataphract
Centre front body of skirmishers and elephants
Body of levies behind the elephant/skirmisher body
Body with 2 heavy cavalry and a cataphract and leader
Body with 3 heavy cavalry behind

Turn 1

In Rally Round the King, each sides alternates turns.  In each player turn, bodies are moved one at a time, always doing so from right to left.  This may help follow the moves in the replay.

Moved the single light cavalry to the far right flank.
Wheeled the heavy cavalry on left and moved to the left flank.
The heavy cavalry behind them moved up as well.

Moved the centre body full distance straight ahead.  It is the selected battle tactic after all.

Can't do much about the skirmish cavalry and gullies are more and more interesting when I think about them - no movement inhibitor but basically invisible inside - can only see 1 inch.  Or maybe it is one big gully so it is only the edge that is 1" but inside is clear.  Thinking further I believe it is the latter (and the latter is how gullies are described in Warrior Kings)... hmmm.  Will cross that bridge when I come to it.  Anyway, the archers should be ok where they are.  Might need to split the centre body as the Persian heavy cavalry could wheel to their flank.  However, bodies can only wheel 45; units can wheel 90.  Maybe not as big a threat after all.

 End of turn 1 from the Roman side.  The Persian skirmish cavalry is off to the left of this picture.

Note: I use a small green bush behind a body to indicate it is activated.  Easier to track that way.  Casualties are noted by flesh coloured rings on the figures on the stand.

Turn 2

Move the light cavalry further down the right flank.
Moved the centre-left heavy cavalry forward 6".
Moved the leftmost heavy cavalry up 1/2 and then wheeled to line up.
No new activations.

Hoping to take the Roman missile body from two directions and also worry the flank of the centre body.
Expecting the Roman Equites with the leader to move next turn (which is why the cavalry on the right has not moved).

Did not move the elephants (tempted) but let the Romans to to them.

Moved centre body up 3.  In hindsight maybe the Auxilia should have been a reserve body, rather than boosting reputation for the body.  We will see in melee in a few turns whether that was the correct deployment choice.

Moved the Equites 12" straight up to 3" away from the enemy cavalry.
Persian heavy cavalry needs to take enemy threat but only one heavy cavalry will actually react.  Passes both dice: non-charging dual armed fires. 1d6 rolled 1, nothing.
Roman takes a received fire test. Passes both dice: advance, which will be a charge.
Roman wanting to charge. Passes both dice: the one heavy cavalry that reacts is moved 1" away.
Persian takes received charge test.  Passes both dice: return fire. 1 hit.
Roman takes received fire test:  fails both dice: retires (5") with one hit (now has 2 in total).
1 move, 5 reactions, 2 hits and a result.  Oh the uncertainly!

 The centre, from the Persian side, at the end of turn 2.  The right shows the result of the cavalry reactions.
Turn 3

The skirmish cavalry did move somewhere but my 2 year old son has moved him off the table somewhere (hopefully in the same room).  I'll find him at the end of the turn and put him back. Note: It was not in the same room - in the lounge, 3 rooms and about 15 metres away.  At least he understood what I was looking for and remembered enough to show me where it was!

The heavy cavalry on the right can only charge forward (or remain stationary) as an enemy is in charge reach.  So it does - the enemy has 2 hits. Worth a go.
Wanting to charge - pass both dice.
Equites receives charge: passes both dice (lucky - modified rep is only 2) and counter-charges.(and now has the leader unit in contact so a bonus there).
Melee: same for both - 1d6 +1 shock +1 opposing mounted.  Both roll 6 which = 8.  One hit each.
Persians involved in melee test: pass 1 die;  retire + 1 hit.
Romans involved in melee test: pass 1 die; so retire + 1 hit (now have 4 hits).

Persians don't move the elephants -  wait for the Romans to move forwards.

Now, I've charged missile units in the past and it all ended badly.  And now the roman archers will get +1 to missile fire. A change from WK.  3 figure missile units in RRtK get +1 which they did not used to get in WK..  To hell with it - Persians in front of the archers (not the Heavy cavalry wth the leader) charge the archers.
Only the middle stand pass 2d6 and so charges.  The others pass 1d6 and as they are dual armed they halt. Different to WK where pass one die was just continue+1 hit.  I prefer the RRtK here to WK.  Nice change and much more in line with my view of historical battles.
The archers only have a rep of three so maybe what I am doing is not so bad.  Anyway, they pass both dice (modified rep of 4)!  I then noticed that if they had passed only 1 die they would have routed.  So it was definitely a good idea - they have a 5/9th chance of routing if charged.  Maybe not good now that they have passed.
Return fire 2d6 +1 mounted +1 3-figure missile.  Total 8, one hit.
Persian received fire test - passes 0 dice and retires with another hit.

OK, so much for plan A where the heavy cavalry charge and so let the leader heavy cavalry body move to flank the Roman centre body.  Bugger it - wheel the leader body ready for a charge to the archers next turn.

 The view from the roman archers with the retiring cavalry to its front.  Note the only roman archer units I have are 4 to a base (DBM Reg Bow) but I only count them as 3 figures for RRtK.


Moved the centre body up to very close to the elephants body.  Note: cannot charge as it is skirmisher Vs skirmisher.

Charged the heavy cavalry unit with leader on the left flank into the Persian heavy cavalry that retired. Passed wanting to charge.
Persians being charged: passed 0 dice and rout.
First rout of the game.  Equites roll for pursuit and do so. No longer activated.

 End of Roman turn 4 on from the Persian right flank - Elephants in the centre and the Roman Equites plus leader at the bottom right.

Turn 4

Moved the skirmisher cavalry behind the Equites (with 3 hits).  The Equites will have to move, or be fired on and probably rout.

I thought the Roman battle tactic was going to be their downfall - move the centre body forwards while the Persians were actually attacking on the flank.  But it has turned out not to be so simple (never is).  On the Persian right, The two Persian cavalry could about face and charge the Roman leader but it will test on rep 6, as will the cataphracts, and the cats are at AC6 compared to AC4.  It is worth giving it a go.  However, the alternative is to smash into one side of the centre roman body to cause some damage there.  But then that leaves the Roman Equites to hit the rear of the Levies. Choices.  So I will about face and go for the leader.

Persian heavy cavalry wanting to charge, pass 1 dice: keep charging.  However, the dual mounted unit does not charge and halts.
Romans roll receiving a charge, passed both dice and so are not counted as flanked.  This does mean they don't get to counter-charge so will not get the +1 for shock in melee.
I lined them up into contact.  This is something different from Warrior Kings where opposing units in melee did not have to line up corner to corner. This is one bit I preferred over RRtK, but only marginally, so content to play the RRtK way.

Persian d6 = 3 +1 shock +1 enemy mounted = 1 hit
Roman d6 = 6+1 enemy mounted +1 leader =1 hit (vs the AC6)
Involved in melee:
Persians passed 0 dice - routed
Romans pass both dice - fine.  No pursuit I assume as they are facing the wrong way.  In hindsight, there is nothing in the rules to say they should not pursue, so I believe I should have.
Leader passes wounded check.

So that didn't go the way the Persians wanted.

Skirmishers in front of the elephants fire and inflict 1 hit.
Roman skirmishers receive fire test: pass both - return fire - 2 hits (there were 2 firers)
Persian skirmishers receive fire test: snake eyes - pass both - return fire - 1 hit (other skirmisher)
Roman skirmishers receive fire test: pass both - return fire  - 1 hit
...this goes on for a little while longer with only one more hit on the persians who pass 1 dice and retire with one hit.
Can I now move the elephants? I am assuming yes.  If the skirmishers had not retired, then it would be no.  This was covered in a Q and A for Warrior Heroes (skirmishers in front and knights in the rear):

 Isn't firing mandatory at the start of the turn? Imagine a Body with knights units in the read and Skirmisher units in front.  As such shouldn't a player's turn open with the skirmishers shooting (whether he wants them to or not), and then blocking the knightly charge as they HAD to fire?
Not if the skirmishers and knights are in the same body. If not yes, the skirmishers are going to continue to fire until they can't, which is good tactics, then the knights can charge although perhaps not on the same turn. If at the end of the battle you still have skirmishers left over then you have not utilized them well. They are very cheap and should be used to inflict casualties to more expensive targets.
The only exception would be mounted skirmishers that should be able to retire away and not be caught in pursuit.

Why is this? As far as I can see missile troops shoot when they begin their turn within range (but not in contact) with an enemy. Why is this waived when they are in a body with the knights? I'm sure it's right in front of me in the rules, but I can't find it . . .
If the units are in the same body then you have the choice as to order of unit activation. So, move the knights first. It's a case of real world desires. I assume that one body is one command so the leader just directs the knights to charge and the skirmishers not to fire.

Elephants wanting to charge: pass both dice (rolled boxcars - thought they had failed but skirmisher and an elephant adjacent gave a +2 bonus to their rep of 4).
Two skirmishers (there are 3 stands that are in front of the elephants) with 1 hit pass one dice - fire and rout; the third skirmisher passes both dice - fire and retire.  2 hits inflicted on the elephants - one each.
Elephants received fire:  pass both dice and continue - straight into the legionaries.  But they need to roll for the charge: fail both dice.  Halt.  Thinking later: Should the Roman body have taken an enemy threat test for the elephants.  I am assuming not but can't pin my finger down on why not.  I think it is because the elephants were revealed, rather than moving closer.

The centre  from the Persian view

The two lone undamaged heavy cavalry are about faced (there was a third activation here and have reached the war rating.  It does matter!  Luckily I do not need to activate any other units.)

The heavy cavalry leader body charges the archers (all units in the body will contact the archers so all can charge): pass both dice.
Archers take the being charged test: pass 1 dice - rout.  I am assuming a preference order in the results for a reaction test. It may actually be in the rules but haven't looked closely enough.  First result is "foot charged by shock rout".  Later down the list is "foot missile halt and fire 1d6". I assume the latter is only if the foot missile was not charged by shock.
Heavy cavalry do not pursue.

 The empty Roman right once the Archers are routed (but full of Persian cavalry)

Its all about the centre body for the Romans.
If you look carefully at previous pictures you will see that the 3 Auxilia were staggered/offset to the 5 legionaries.  This is so they can add support to all 5 legionaries.  But in RRtK, corner to corner is sufficient to be in contact (it was in Warrior Kings too) and so it was unnecessary.  As it is solo, I graciously allowed the Roman player to align them corner to corner.

The skirmisher in front of the legionaries moves behind so the legionaries can charge.
The 3 central legionaries are in front of the two elephants.  They are on rep 3, +3 for 3 friends in contact but -1 for elephant/terror being close.  Pass both dice for charging.
Elephants pass 1 die for being charged.  As they are classed as foot, they halt.

3 legionaries d6 = 13 +3 combo-weapons +3 elite = 19 or 6 hits (elephants are AC2).
2 elephants d6 = 4 +2 elephants = 6 or 1 hit (legionaries are AC4).
Involved in melee test:
Legionaries pass both dice and pursue.
Elephants pass 0 dice (no surprise) and rout.

Now here it where it gets interesting.  I did read the new rules about elephants - when routing, they go on a rampage - but not carefully enough.  And maybe putting elephants close together is not a good idea..
Anyway, both will rampage; roll randomly to see which one rampages first.  It is the left one (from the Persian view).  It goes straight back.  Skirmisher directly behind routs.  The skirmisher behind that (the elephant is still going!) fires (and scores 1 hit) and routs.  The elephants passes 0 dice for receive fire and routs and is removed from the table.

The second elephant routs in a 45 degree angle back towards is own base edge and narrowly misses the Levy on the way.  It will be off the table next turn.

The Roman Equites with the leader (after removing casualties - see picture) about faces.  The legionaries can go for the levy, time to clean up the left flank.

Came home from work and found the 2 year old had very carefully piled casualty rings onto the Equites.  His dexterity is to be admired.

The Roman Equites with 3 hit points attempts to charge into the rear of the Persian cavalry directly to its front. passes one dice so continues.
The charged Persian cavalry passes one dice and so rout. The Equites pursue and bump into the Equites with the leader.

The Romans are a bit scattered at the moment.  Compare this to the Persians: 5 shock cavalry on the right flank with no damage and another one with 2 hits.  The Romans have a few scattered rep 3 units and a body consisting of rep 3 units.

 End of turn 4 from the Persian side.  Rampaging elephant bottom left.

Turn 5

Skirmish cavalry moves to behind Equites.

Skirmisher in front of the Levy fires at the legionaries - one hit. Legionaries pass both receive fire dice so advance, which is converted into a wanting to charge. Pass both dice so two legionaries charge (with two Auxilia in train).  Not hard to pass - a unit with 3 friends is testing at +3, so a REP 3 with no other negative modifiers will automatically pass two dice.  So a body with 2 units in front and 2 behind is actually quite formidable.
The skirmisher pass both dice so fires (1 hit) and retires with 1 hit.
Legionaries do not pursue.
Levy cannot move as the skirmishers passed through them.

Elephant routs off the board.

The next leftmost lone Cavalry unit wheels and then charges into the flank of the legionaries/Auxilia body, contacting an Auxilia.  Auxilia unit routs (passed only one die and was charged in flank).
Cavalry pursues, which is converted into a charge into rear of a legionaries, who also routs (box cars).
Cavalry pursues - straight into its own sides Levy and halts.

The lone Cavalry with 2 hits turns 180.

The other lone cavalry wheels not quite 90 degrees (it is a single unit and so can wheel up to 90 degrees, normally bodies are limited to 45 degree wheels) and charges a lone legionaries stand who stands to fight (passes two dice with rep 3!). One hit on the cavalry.
Post melee reactions:
Roman routs (always best to check foot first in cavalry vs foot as the cavalry result depends on what the foot does).
Persian cavalry retires with one hit.

The cavalry body with the leader wheel 45 and move another 4".

Reformed the centre body somewhat with the stragglers.
..but the centre 4 units will charge the levy who stand to receive.
Romans inflict 5 hits.  Levy 1.
Post melee reaction test:
Both levy and legionaries give ground (and take a hit) but don't move as both don't follow up.
Equites reform.

 End of turn 5 from the Persian side - note the amount of hits on the levy!

Turn 6

Regarding the Levy in melee.  Just realised the third Levy unit that did not fight last turn is actually part of the melee as it is in corner to corner contact.  But I had not included it - something to remember for future games.  I wont include it now - it would change the balance of the melee.

So...the melee.  Levy take 3 his and rout.
Romans take 1 hit, pass 1 die and do not pursue.

The remaining Levy about faces (successfully, as it is undisciplined and has a 50% chance of not being able to do this - a change from Warrior Kings was introducing the undisciplined characteristic.  Good idea.)
This allows the heavy cavalry in front of the Levy to charge into the Roman body, who are not flanked (a 1,2 on the receiving a charge!).
Melee - Romans take 1 hit and pass both dice (another 1,2).  Persians retire with 1 hit.
The other heavy cavalry units on the left flank all wheel and move in the direction of the roman centre.

All the units are unactivated.  There are 4 bodies and the war rating is only 3.  I choose not to activate a lone skirmisher.
The legionary/auxilia body about face and move up to next to another legionary unit.  This latter unit also about faces.  The Equites wheel and charge the skirmishers who retire with a hit.  The Equites do not pursue.

End of Turn 7 from the Persian side. The Roman body in the centre has about faced, and so the auxilia can take the brunt of the cavalry charges - they have no hits, unlike the legionaries behind them.

Turn 7

The board is very strange.  Where the Persians deployed, that is where the Romans are defending.  Where the Romans deployed, that is where the Persians are attacking from!

The body with the leader can only move 8" due to the cataphracts, so moves forward the minimum 1/2 move of 4".
There is a lone heavy cavalry with 2 hits that is in line with the auxilia, tries to charge but halts.
Skirmishers move up to behind the Roman foot body.
The Levy about face, move 3", are with 1" of the back of the Roman body so are drawn into melee. They charge, and the legionary unit routs due to being charged from the rear.  The Levy do not pursue.
The remaining heavy cavalry body (2 units), wanted to charge the skirmisher in front of the auxilia body but halt instead.

It is do or die time - the remaining units in the auxilia body are hemmed in on all sides.  So, go out in a blaze of glory and charge the cataphracts in front!  Surprisingly, 2 auxilia are on one cataphract - the other legionary is more than 1" from the cataphract, had moved its full 6" so isn't even drawn into melee.
Cataphract counter-charges.
The melee results in no damage, auxilia carry on so cataphracts retire with one hit.

Auxilia pursue. The cataphracts only retired 2", and one of the auxilia catches them, so they are routed.  Auxilia do not pursue. An auxilia routing a cataphract - very unlucky and rare - the dice just fell that way.

The other auxilia is charging another cataphract due to pursuing the first cataphract.  Passes the charge test, the cataphract counter-charges.
Melee results in one hit and the auxilia rout. Cataphracts do not pursue.

The Equites move up 4" and then wheel slightly so be directly in front (and about 5" away) from the Persian cavalry.

 End of turn 7 from the Persian side.  Remaining Roman units circled in red.

Turn 8


The Romans are ripe for the taking - most of there units have damage.  Just need to charge them!

The Persian heavy cavalry wants to charge the Equites - soften them up as I think the Cataphract may get to them this turn too.  But the heavy cavalry halts.
Cataphract with the leader charges the lone legionary unit.  The legionaries rout. Cataphracts pursue into the Equites with the leader.  The Equites with the leader routs (with 3 hits even the leader and one friend does not save it from passing no dice).

Leader lost check for all units occurs:
Equites and two remaining skirmishers carry on.
Legionary and auxilia routs.

With only two skirmishers and one Equites with 2 hits left on the table, I'm giving this game to the Persians.  They are not in a great way themselves, but have 3 melee units with no hits and 3 melee units with 1 or 2 hits.

 End of turn 8 from the Persian side.  Remaining Roman units circled in red.

Rally Round the King is a fun game.  This one was very tense and the outcome could have gone to either side.  I enjoyed playing the game.  It is a also good game to play solo due to the reaction tests.  You never know exactly what your units are going to do, and when they will just rout away.   It was also weird playing on a 4'x3' table after so long on smaller ones.  The high movement rates still get to me, but really are not a problem as generally you do not move that far, and the movement restrictions on wheels/about face means that it is hard to run rings around the enemy.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Standard Zama deployment for refights

This post describes the Zama troops and a standard deployment.  It will get referenced in future posts of Zama refights.

Background for Zama refights
So, after playing a cavalry heavy battle (Callinicum) it is onwards to trying out a classical battle.  I have relied heavily on the Society of Ancients Zama Battleday 2010 pack.  I won't repeat what is there.  However, trying to recreate it on a 2'x2' board has it own issues - mainly the multiple lines of infantry.   I have gone for separating the lines for a standard deployment. If the rules seem to work better with the lines touching (Armati would work well here) then I will have the lines touching.

This post outlines a standard deployment and troop classification that I will use as a template for the replay deployments.

The following diagram (using Dia) shows deployment - Blue for Carthaginians, Red for Romans.

 Standard deployment for the Zama refights
I am not sure how fast Zama will play out.  In Callinicum refights, it was generally 12 stands for the Persians and 13 stands for the Byzantines.  For Zama, I have 23 stands for the Romans and 19 for the Carthaginians.  It may not be as fast as I hope.  Some rules that have units made up of multiple stands (such as Irregular Miniature Ancients rules or Terry Gore's Ancient Warfare) will play faster and may actually be more suitable for refights like Zama rather than Callinicum.

Each stand is about 1000-4000 troops so the representation of lines is not really true.  In reality, I should maybe collapse the heavy infantry lines into single stands.  But then it would not be as much fun.  And this way I can see how rules play out with multiple lines/reserves, something not evident in Callinicum.
How to handle the manipular system?  I will use whatever the rules state.  Most do not have anything so that will make it easy!
Onto the the forces...

A general description of the troop types that will help with converting them into the various ruleset classifications.

1 Heavy Cavalry - Veteran, regular, trained, loose order, armoured (breastplate), shield, spear.
4 Light Cavalry - Veteran, irregular, trained, skirmishers, javelin, no armour shield
4 Velites - Veteran, regular, trained, skirmishers, javelin, no armour, shield
4 Hastati - Veteran, regular, trained, close order, heavy infantry, armoured, shield, pilum.
4 Principes - Veteran, regular, trained, close order, heavy infantry, armoured, shield, pilum.
2 Triarii - Elite, regular, trained, close order, heavy infantry, armoured, spear, shield.
4 Light Infantry - Poor, untrained, irregular, loose order, unarmoured, shield, javelin/various, uncontrolled.

The Numidian Light infantry should be uncontrolled: I think I will add a rule that these troops will not move and only charge or missile fire if enemy troops move into range.  This is based on the fact they played no part in the battle.  In Armati, making them uncontrolled would handle this.

1 Heavy Cavalry - Average, regular, trained, loose order, armoured (breastplate), shield, spear.
2 Light Cavalry - Average, irregular, trained, skirmishers, javelin, no armour shield
2 Elephants - Average, irregular, untrained, African.
2 Skirmishers - Average, irregular, untrained, skirmishers, javelin, no armour, shield
4 Light Infantry - Average, irregular, untrained, loose order, light infantry, warband, unarmoured, various weapons, shield.
4 Medium infantry - Average, regular, trained, close order, heavy infantry, light armour, spear, shield.
4 Heavy Infantry - Veteran, regular, trained, close order, heavy infantry, armoured, long spear, phalanx, shield.

Other bits
Command and control - Scipio should have better control of the army that Hannibal of his.  If the rules differentiate army command and control, I will give the Romans an edge.  The breakpoint of armies for some rules may need to be changed to a fight to the death, else the game is over before the two rear lines have a chance to meet.

The very last point is how to keep the cavalry out of the battle for so long - in 202BC, the Roman cavalry pursued the opposition for awhile before returning and hitting the rear of the Carthaginian Veterans - the first few lines had already been fought through.  I will have to see how each ruleset handles it and possible introduce a rule to force the cavalry to pursue to a base edge before about facing.  We shall see.

Finally, here is a picture with the troops set up as per the diagram.

 Zama deployment - Romans at the bottom.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Post Callinicum: Which ruleset is the best?

I believe I have had enough of Callinicum as a battle.  I managed to try out 10 different rulesets with this battle before wanting to try another battle. As a reminder, the goal was to look at rulesets that gave a good ancients game in under an hour on a 2'x2' table.  Some of the ones I used passed, some didn't.  The definition of best of course depends on the person.  These are my views but I have tried to throw in some objective points as well.

I am not a big solo wargamer.  I much prefer face to face.  But I love reading and figuring out rules.  I also love historical battles.  So this has been an interesting experience - I get to refight a historical battle, and I get to really discover how some of the rules I own work.  And solo seems ok for this. I am not sure I could ever solo play only for the sake of playing a game.  I think, and least for the near term, I will continue to need an ancillary aim - refights, rule discovery, writing my own rules etc. 

The 10 I tried were
  • Armati
  • Warrior Kings
  • Justified Ancients
  • Fantasy Rules!TCE
  • Irregular Miniatures Ancients Rules
  • Mighty Armies: Ancients
  • Basic Impetus
  • DBA
  • DBM100
  • Bill Bank's Ancients

I created a webpage with links to the various battle reports.

The rules to try first
The number one ruleset I would recommend for anyone to try is DBA.  Yes, I know I wrote I am not fond of DBA.  They fit the bill perfectly, which makes sense as they were designed to play a game in less than one hour on a 2'x'2' board.  The game has a large following, the rules (despite the issues some people have with Barkerese) are comprehensive and give a good and challenging game.   So, if you are looking for a quick small game ruleset, try DBA first.  I did try DBA with a Inferior superior modification to see if it made it better for me but it didn't really.  Stick to vanilla DBA.

Number one on my list
The rules I enjoyed the most and highly recommend is Warrior Kings. This is my ruleset of choice and am looking forward to playing lots more games with it. I did make one change to make it play on 2'x2' - I changed the distances from inches to centimetres.  It is about to be released imminently again as Rally Round the King.  Well, sort of re-release. [this next section has been updated based on feedback] Ownership of the rules was acquired by John P Kelly, who made the rules available on the Warrior Kings yahoo group and recently released the final version 2 of the rules (heavily updated from version 1).  Meanwhile, back at Two Hour Wargames, Warrior Heroes was the fantasy version of Warrior Kings, now also out of print.  Warrior Heroes, without the fantasy elements, was exactly Warrior Kings.  Rally Round the King is the re-release, and updated, version of Warrior Heroes.  Warrior Kings is fast, fun, matches my view of historical outcomes, and is also unpredictable enough it creates (for me) the friction of war and limited control over what your troops will do..  It is also the most suitable of all the rules I tried for solo play..  Love it.  If you are a control freak, don't play this ruleset - or actually any rules from Two Hour Wargames ;-)

The rest, all still good
The other rulesets were all fun to play.  The choice of which one to play is really down to personal choice.  There are good bits and bad bits to all of the rules.  Here they are in roughly the order of how I enjoyed them (best first).

Irregular Miniatures
Was the most fun after Warrior Kings.  Although it uses different die sizes (d6, d8, d10, d12) to represent troop grades, and I am not a fan of this, it was really fun.  It does have a point system but no army lists at all.  There are gaps in the rules, assumes some knowledge of ancients gaming but nevertheless, I would play this again and again.  I used system one (number of stands represents the unit size e.g. a 5 stand unit has 5 stands).  I think system 2 (units set size and track casualties, e.g. the 5 stand unit is made up of 1 stand that can take 5 hits) would have too many units to make the game last under one hour (only an assumption - maybe not).
Fantasy Rules!TCE
These were also surprising.  Although maybe not so much as the game is touted as being rooted in historical concepts with fantasy elements added. And it forms the basis for the historical Days of Knights  rules from the same company (Chipco Games).  I found it gave a great game.  There are no historical army lists as such, but in TCE these could be generated using the army creation system; just leave off the fantasy elements.  I would play these rules again too, but did prefer the Irregular Miniature rules.

Mighty Armies: Ancients
This was the fastest of all the games - combat always results in at least a stand being eliminated, and between groups of stands at least 1d6 stands being eliminated.  It seems to have very little support, few historical army lists and you should use the revised combat dice roll system from the forums (for combat use all front ranks values and all rear support values (rather than lead fighter values and rest support)).  But I got a lot of hits on the replay. There were tactical subtleties that came from playing that were not evident just reading the rules (most rules have this but I was pleasantly surprised by MAA).  Not a set to be underestimated to produce a fun and fast game.  I would play these again too.

DBM100 produced a fine game, and as expected, it like playing a full size DBM game but you are only looking after one command.  It does play differently to DBA (as expected).  If you like DBA, you are unlikely to like DBM (and there is commentary scattered over the web that supports this).  I thought DBM100 was fine and I am sure if you like DBMM, DBMM100 would be a great fast game too.  However, since finding Armati in 1998, DBM just doesn't do it for me anymore.  For DBM players who are familiar with and love DBM, I would say give DBM100 a go first (over other rules mentioned) if you are looking to scale down time and board size to less than 1 hour and 2'x2'.

Justified Ancients
Not well written or a great layout, no terrain system, no points, no army lists.  Just the core of a rules system with some nice mechanics.  And I think it is improved with some houserules put together by John Davis. I had high hopes but I didn't enjoy the games as much as I thought I would.  With a few tweaks I could get a really good game system out of it that matched my ideal.  It is designed for 2'x2' and under 1 hour, and achieves this.  The core rules are fine and I think the house rules are a good add on (probably mandatory).  It is worth trying them out - there is a decent game in there.  If you like well written rules with no ambiguity and nice pictures, these rules are not for you.  I would be willing to try again, and even more so with just a couple more house rules.

The ones that didn't work
The three rulesets that I found did not lend themselves to less than one hour or 2'x'2' play were:
  • Armati. This played too long on a 2'x'2' table, otherwise, still my favourite ruleset on a 3'x2' board using Intro rules.
  • Basic Impetus.  This gave a game in under an hour, but really needs a board size of 3'x2' or 4'x2'.
  • Bill Banks Ancients.  Better as a boardgame, it does need a little bit of work to translate to miniatures.
Rule mechanism comparisons
This was supposed be be a short section and got a bit long.  So documenting the various ruleset mechanisms is found in this post. Note this is more of a mechanics listing that a comparative study.

Using Google Analytics, the most popular refight viewed was Basic Impetus by far.  This was followed, in order of views, by Mighty Armies:Ancients, Warrior Kings, Justified Ancients, Irregular Miniatures Ancient Rules and Fantasy Rules.  The other refights have only been up a short while and also have less hits than the ones listed.
What next?
As Callinicum was a mostly cavalry battle, I want to retry some of the rules (and try out some ones I didn't get around to with Callinicum) on an infantry battle.  Callinicum was the battle selected for the Society of Ancients 2009 Battle Day.  The 2010 Battle Day selection was Zama.   A classical battle from the 2nd Punic War.  Infantry, Romans, Elephants, less missile-armed troops (every unit in Callinicum is missile armed) and bit of cavalry on the flanks.  A change from Callinicum and a chance to try out other parts of the selected rules.  Zama it is.  We will see how I go and how many rulesets I get though with Zama.  The ones I will use again are Warrior Kings (or likely Rally Round the King -it should be out days after this post), Irregular Miniatures and Mighty Armies Ancients.  I may use Justified Ancients with a couple of the changes I suggested. Haven't thought about which other ones to use but I have a dozen of so in my list that I didn't use with Callinicum.  See you all in North Africa.

Post-Callinicum rule mechanism comparisons

I originally had this in this blog post with the rules recommended for fast play ancients post-Callinicum refights. That post got too long and the stuff written here didn't fit in cleanly. I've pulled rule mechanism comparisons out and put it in its own post.

Rule Mechanism Comparisons
There is a fair degree of difference within the rules mechanisms. I will limit myself to some observations, but mostly about the games that worked and that I played - DBA, Warrior Kings, Irregular Miniatures Ancient Rules, FR! (Fantasy Rules!TCE), MAA (Mighty Armies: Ancients), JA (Justified Ancients) and DBM.  I could likely spend a long time and write lots.  I think it would be interesting but I don't have the time.  I may write it up a bit more if I play more battles with the different rules.  I ended up describing the different mechanisms rather than going further and doing an in-depth study on the how and why they are different.  But that is what I meant when I wrote I could make it longer and more interesting!

Command and Control
DBA and DBM100 both have a d6 roll that determines the number of groups/units that can be moved.  Groups/units far away from the general cost more die pips to move.  As combat and missile fire occurs, more groups can arise, thus limiting move options.  MAA also uses d6 in a similar way.

Warrior Kings limits the number of groups/units that can be activated.  This is fixed at the start of the game (2,3 or 4 in a normal game).  However, once activated, a unit/group must continue to move at least 1/2 its movement allowance each turn, no activation required.  It will do so until halted.  When halted (usually via a reaction to enemy actions), it needs to be activated again to move.  Also, units will react to opposing missile fire and moves and so may move/charge/retire etc even if not activated.  As stands take hits, they are less likely to do what you want (hits are a negative modifier to reaction tests).

DBA, DBM, MAA, FR! and Warrior Kings rules allow the forming and unforming of units to create on the fly groups.  There are benefits to groups - DBA, DBM100 and FR! have overlaps bonuses in combat and advantages to more than one stand firing, MAA groups are used to determine combat strength, WK gives bonuses in reaction tests for adjacent units.  In DBA and DBM100, groups have some movement limitations compared to one stand.

FR! has a morale clock for each side.  This indicates how many groups/units can move each turn.  The side that get more bad results in combat in each player turn has their morale clock reduced by one.  Units that have taken disorder have limitations on what they can do (e.g. cannot charge).  Game over when one sides morale clock reaches 0.

Irregular Miniatures Ancient Rules has orders given to units that are quite simple - speed: slow or fast; and charging: charge everything, hold (no charging) or lure (may countercharge and charges allowed in some circumstances). Units are made up of a certain number of stands.  Any unit can move.  There is no such thing as groups.

JA has no concept of groups, but each stand that wants to move, charge, rally or reform must roll a d6 to pass.  A straight move is easy to pass, a charge a bit harder and rallying harder.  Modifiers include distance from the general and training.

Turn sequence has an impact on command and control. DBA, DBM, FR! and Irregular Miniatures turn sequences are variations on IGO-UGO with defined sequence of events e.g. rally, move, fire, combat (not necessarily in that order).  Warrior Kings is an IGO-UGO, but each unit completes all its actions before doing the next unit.  The actions of one unit causes a reaction in opposing units that will force it to do an action - move, fire, retreat etc.  This may then cause reaction for the current player turn unit(s) and so it goes. There is lots of activity occurring by both sides each player turn.  JA as written seems to be a IGO-UGO similar to DBA etc (and the example of play in the rules bears this out), but in a comment to the replays by the designer, it seems it should be played with each unit doing all it actions, before moving onto the next one.  In my opinion, the latter suits the rule mechanisms for JA better.

As an example of how units are differentiated, let us look at how the Callinicum heavy cavalry, the Callinicum elite heavy cavalry and the light cavalry are represented in the different rules.  This will help show how elites are separated from regulars, how light cavalry is different from heavy cavalry and how missile units are classified.

Heavy Cavalry: Cv
Elite Heavy Cavalry: Cv
Light Cavalry: Lh
Although the cavalry is not differentiated, what this doesn't show is the difference in combat results between Cv and Lh.

Heavy Cavalry: Cv(S)
Elite Heavy Cavalry: Cv
Light Cavalry: Lh
This doesn't take into account the difference in combat results between Cv and Lh.

Warrior Kings
Heavy Cavalry: Mounted Melee, Combat value 4, Dual-Armed, Armor Class 4, 3 Figures
Elite Heavy Cavalry: Mounted Melee, CV5, Dual-Armed, AC4, 3 Figures
Light Cavalry: Mounted Skirmish, CV4, Dual-Armed, AC2, 2 Figures

Irregular Miniatures
Heavy Cavalry: Auxiliary, Irregular, B class (d10), 3 strips, half-armoured horse, body, arm and leg armour, shield, bow
Elite Heavy Cavalry: Auxiliary, Irregular, A class (d12), 3 strips, half-armoured horse, body, arm and leg armour, shield, bow
Light Cavalry: Skirmisher, Irregular, C class (d8), 1 strip, unarmoured horse, shield, javelin

Heavy Calvary: Heavy Cavalry with bow
Elite Heavy Cavalry: Heavy Cavalry with bow, elite
Light Cavalry: Light Cavalry with throwing weapons
As with DBA, this doesn't show some of the combat advantages between the units.
Heavy Cavalry:  Seasoned Heavy Cavalry, Speed:6, Fight:4, Support:3, Shooting I, Cavalry Charge
Elite Heavy Cavalry: Veteran Heavy Cavalry, Speed:6, Fight:5, Support:3, Shooting I, Cavalry Charge
Light Cavalry: Seasoned Light Cavalry, Speed:7, Fight:3, Support:2, Javelin
Heavy Cavalry:  Loose Order, Heavy, Horse, missile, trained
Elite Heavy Cavalry:  Loose Order, Heavy, Horse, missile, trained, High Morale
Light Cavalry: Skirmish, Light, Horse, javelin

Movement distances for all the rulesets are very similar.  Irregular Miniatures has the most different movement rates for different troops types and armour.  DBA allows a second move in very limited circumstances, DBM100 has extra march moves if a certain distance from the enemy.  Warrior Kings has troops reacting (by moving) to enemy fire, moving close etc.
For deviating from straight ahead, DBA and DBM100 allows a unit to move in any direction, groups are more limited.  The other rules have various restrictions on wheeling and about face.  Warrior Kings is the most restrictive. JA requires a successful order roll for moving other than straight ahead, that was harder to pass if wheeling, or rotating on the spot. Irregular Miniatures allows veering 10 degrees while moving and also differentiates between regulars and irregulars on the flexibility of wheels.

DBA and DBM have missile fire only for infantry bows, cavalry bows and javelins are part of melee.  Bows use opposed d6 rolls the same combat tables as melee (except the firer is not affected by the result).  Bowfire distance in DBA is the same as the movement distance for heavy infantry, in DBM it is twice the move distance of Heavy infantry.  There is a dedicated portion of the turn sequence for missile fire, after movement, which is mandatory and performed by both sides. Multiple bow units can gang-up on a target for a better combat bonus.

Bow units Warrior Kings has two ranges of any missile fire - dedicated archer units (infantry and some light chariots) and skirmishers and others unit armed with missile units.  Dedicated Archer units have a range equal to heavy infantry move, other missile fire is half that.  Missile fire uses 2d6 for dedicated archers, 1d6 for others.  Potential damage is calculated differently to combat, but damage is inflicted using the same system as for melee (against armour class).  Missile fire is mandatory and is done by halted units.  However, reactions to firing and being charged may also generate return fire, which may also generate return fire again.
Irregular Miniatures has a different system for missile fire, adding up various modifiers, no dice rolls, but uses the same damage system as per melee (potential casualties are a modifier to the roll against their die type to avoid) .  It has different ranges for 6 types of missile weapons.  Ranges for bows are three times heavy infantry movement distance. Missile fire is done simultaneously by both sides as defined in the turn sequence (after movement).  Charging (and charged units) missile fire is done in that phase. 
JA bowfire range is light infantry movement distance and javelins at half heavy infantry move distance.  Damage and resolution is a 1d6 and not the same as melee.  Missile fire, in reaction to a charge, occurs after the charge move.  Uncontacted missile fire occurs after all moves/charges, is optional, and only done by the phasing player.
In FR!, firing ranges for bows is equal to heavy cavalry distance, longbows are twice this distance.  Javelins are handled as a special event prior to combat via a die roll on a d10 for effect.  Firing occurs in a set part of the player phase (prior to moving) and is only the player's missile units firing.  It is not mandatory.  Firing system is 1d10 but not the same as melee.  More bows firing at the same target increase the chance of damage.  Crossbows/Longbows count as two bows for this purpose.
MAA firing distance is equal to light cavalry movement distance.  It uses a different system to melee.  A d6 is rolled and compared to target's combat value to see if damage occurs.  Javelins are treated as per FR! - as a special roll on a d6 pre-combat for potential damage.  Missile fire occurs after movement.
I haven't covered Artillery but rules for Artillery are in all the rules with ranges longer than bows.  The fire resolution all follows the same form as bowfire resolution.

In all rules, melee is mandatory for contacted units.

DBA and DBM use a similar melee resolution - stand versus stand and uses opposed d6 with some modifiers based on positioning and troop type.  A comparison is made to see if scores are equal, double or somewhere in between.  This is compared to the unit type and the type it is facing to give a result of recoil, destroyed or flee. Sounds simple but tactically rich. Units do no have damage markers - they are either in play or destroyed.

Warrior Kings melee resolution is by melee areas.  Simplifying, a melee area consists of  touching friendly stands that are in contact with touching enemy stands. A d6 is rolled for each stand and modifiers added. This is totalled, compared to the enemies armour class and damage allocated based on the armour class.  Each side undergoes a reaction test after melee.  This is based on a small set of unit characteristics (foot/mounted, flank attack etc) which may result in carrying on, retiring or rout.  Units take damage points that are negative modifiers to the reaction tests.  Damage points cannot be removed.

Irregular Miniatures has unit versus unit (where a unit is a number of stands from 1 to 8).  Units add up various points and modifiers to get to a total (no die roll added).  This is compared to the opposing units die type for damage calculation.  The side that loses the greater number of stands takes a panic check (that is either no effect or rout).  If pass, or same loss each, up to two more rounds of melee occur.  Modifiers are different for second and third rounds depending on unit type (e.g. regulars get a consistent modifier in all three rounds, irregulars only get a positive modifier in round one).  If after 3 rounds no unit routs, the attacking unit retreats slightly.  Units lose stands so there is no tracking of casualties (there is an alternative system where one unit = 1 stand and you track casualties, but I didn't play that).

JA is stand versus stand and uses opposing d3 with some modifiers based on positioning and troop type. Depending on the difference (+0 to +4 or more), there is a result of no effect, loser is disordered, loser is damaged and flees, loser is destroyed.  Each stand has two damage points.  It is destroyed when taking the second damage point.  Damage points cannot be removed.  A stand can also be disordered - this is a negative modifier to orders and combat, but can also be rallied off.
FR! is stand versus stand with opposing d10 with some modifiers based on positioning and troop type. A comparison is made to see if scores are equal, double or somewhere in between.  Damage is either disordered, double disordered or destroyed. A disordered unit that is disordered again is double disordered.  A double disordered unit that is disordered again is destroyed.  Disorder, and double disorder can be rallied off at the start of a player turn.
MAA has units that are 1 to 6 is size.  Two units in contact is melee.  Opposed d6 is rolled with modifiers for troops in the unit and position. A comparison is made to see if scores are equal, double or somewhere in between.   For single stand units Vs single stand units, the result will either be no effect (equal scores), driven back (less than double) or destroyed (double or more).  For multiple stand units, the result is either no effect (equal), lose one stand and driven back (less than double) or lose 1d6 units and driven back (double or more).  As per Irregular Miniatures, stands don't take damage; units lose stands as casualties.
Unit Morale
While DBA and DBM have no specific morale rules, it would be unfair to say morale isn't taken into account.  Morale of the units has been built into the system.  For instance, it can be argued that when a unit recoils, it is suffering a morale loss.  It also takes away moral support by not longer providing any overlapping support.  DBM goes further where the inferior/superior status is not only representative of combat strength, but also morale.

Warrior Kings has morale built into the 4 combat value levels (they are not really combat values but that is what they are labeled).  All reaction tests are taken against a unit's combat value.  The more 'damage' taken (and damage is a relative term here to as it is damage to the units willingness to battle), the less likely it will pass the test and hence have bad things happen such as retire or rout.

Irregular Miniatures units have one of 4 morale values, each represented by a die type (d6, d8, d10, d12).  Unit panic checks are take all the time  e.g. seeing someone rout, losing melee round, reaching half-strength.  Panic checks are taken using the die type with the only modifier being unit losses.  Units will either carry on, halt or rout.

JA does have disorder (only applicable to close-order units) and units can take damage but these are not really representing morale.  However, a unit can be poor which affects the ability to order the unit and also gets negative modifier in combat. A high morale unit can take 3 damage hits before being destroyed, compared to two for other troops.  So there is some morale representation visible in the rules.

FR! has a morale clock for each side that is based on who is taking more losses each turn. This covers army morale rather than unit morale - it is more a command and control function and when to determine when a side has given up. Units are disordered and disorder does limit some action..  Disorder can be rallied off.   This would be representative of unit morale.

MAA morale is built into the troop type - troops are raw, seasoned or veteran and this provides different combat strengths and hence greater staying power and resistance to missile fire (as missile hits are determined by target strength).  There is no other specific morale as it is built in to the troop type and hence affect that unit in melee and missile fire.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Callinicum refight with Bill Bank's Ancients

I've always been fascinated with Bill Banks Ancients board game - it is designed to fast play numerous ancient and medieval battles.  I haven't played it as much as I would like.  I have done various tweaks to it over the last 10 years for so - mostly command and control and movement restrictions.  It has been available for free for several years from Mike Nagel's original website, which is now downloadable from the  Ancients Battle Deluxe website.

The other good place to look for information on the game is at boardgamegeek.

There are variants, notably the recent Ancients Battle Deluxe (and stuff at its predecessor site that can be found there) and Hex Command Ancients. Both, IMHO, change the game too much - adding in command and control (similar to DBA, the system of CnC  I like the least), more rules, and change the way combat works. Both are very unlike the original - based on the idea, but gone a long way from it. Both do seem like good, and possibly great, games in their own right - they just don't seem to capture the simplicity flavour of the original.   I actually like the original CRT - it is simple but it generates lots of tactical options. I have tried options to create more granular outcomes (more odds columns, using the d12 variant) but keep coming back to the original CRT - it really does drive lots of tactics.  The only other changes I had considered with was adding more Armati like Command and Control and movement restrictions.

For for information of the Battle of Callinicum see my previous post.

If you are new to the rules, and have no idea what they are, Bill Bank's Ancients is a boardgame allowing you to replay 64 ancient battles.  It is a hex and counter game. Each side will have about 10-20 counters and the game will be over is under a hour.
Here are about 10 unit types with a printed strength, movement distance and missile capability (A which is good, B which is ok, or none). Each unit has two values (front and back sides) - full strength and disordered.  A unit that is disordered twice is destroyed.   The strength of a disordered unit varies with unit type e.g. a phalanx is strength 6 but disordered is 2; a heavy infantry unit is strength 4, but disordered 3, heavy cavalry is strength 4 and disordered 2, light units are strength 2 and disordered 2.  Disordering happens a lot so the differing reduction is strength is an important consideration. 
High level turn sequence is:
Player A moves
Player B missile fires
Player A performs combat
Player A rallies
Player B now goes  and follows the same activity order as player A
There are 6 turns in a game.
Movement points varies from 1 for Phalanx, 2 for most heavy infantry, 3 for light infantry, 5 for heavy cavalry and 6 for light cavalry.  Movement restrictions are few - 1 point to turn 60 degrees.  Can about face for 1 movement point too.
Missile fire is deadly - an A class unit (heavy foot archers and camps) can fire out to 3 hexes. Chances to hit reduce with range.  Infantry is harder to hit than Cavalry.  A hit results in disordering the target; if already disordered it is destroyed.  A range 1, cavalry is hit on a 1-4!  B class (light infantry) has less of a chance to hit and only goes out 2 hexes.
Combat is optional and is between single units.  However, and enemy unit can be attacked many times if there are multiple units that can attack.  However, each combat is resolved individually.  Combat is simply to work out the ratio of attacker versus defender and roll a die on the CRT.  The CRT has only 4 columns - 1-2, 1-1, 2-1, 3-1.
There are only 3 results - Melee (M), Attacker Disordered (AD), Defender Disordered(DD) .  For AD and DD the appropriate unit is disordered, if already disordered, it is destroyed.  Melee is a little different - each of the two units in combat are disordered if not already.  So if disordered, just stay disordered - you are not destroyed.   There is no 'no effect' result (although if disordered, a Melee result is effectively no effect). on a 1-1, a 1 is AD, 2-5 is M and 6 is DD so even 1-1 will disorder an enemy if not already. And possibly reduce his strength, so another adjacent unit can attack at 2-1 and hope for a DD result. 
Even though simple, the CRT does reward tactical play and does create a simple game.  There are a few modifiers to a units strength which either double or half it.  These are cumulative so a strength 4 unit doubled twice is 64 (4x4x4).  The main modifiers are leader in combat (a double), phalanx Vs cavalry (a double for the phalanx) and terrain effects.
Which brings us to leaders - leaders are conceptually represented.  A side will have 1 to 3 leaders.  Leaders are removed at the start of movement, and then placed at the end of movement wherever you wish.  They stay there until the player has their move again.  So the other player gets to missile fire and melee against leaders.  Leaders double in combat.  Leaders will also automatically undisorder any unit they are with in the player's rally phase.  There is no other rally available.  So leaders are important to a) create advantages in combat and b) ger rid of critical disorder.  They are killed if the unit they are with is disordered and you subsequently roll a 1.  So they are a bit fragile.  Using leaders is a critical tactical part of the game. 

Rule conversion from hexes
The game is hex based.  I will not be playing with hexes.  I simply converted movement points into basewidths, so a move of 2 is 80cm. Units can wheel as much as they want but the distance wheeled is taken off the movement allowance.  A unit can about face for 1MP (as in the rules)  Units do not have to line up corner to corner for melee, contact is sufficient.  In the game, even if a unit was contacted (in the adjacent hex) it could still missile fire rather than melee.  I used optional rules 5.1 Zones of control (cannot leave ZOC and then combat another unit) and 5.12 missile units (missile units can move and fire).

I gave all the cavalry B missile capability if not disordered. This is based on the Byzantine scenarios in the game. This may make the game very missile focused, we will see. Note from after the game: it did slightly, but not enough I would not change it if playing again.

I also resisted implementing any house rules. I was tempted to make the elite cavalry 6-5 rather than 4-5 but this is changing the game's basic units.  It also means the non-elite cavalry would combat at 1-2 odds, which is not great.  The elite could be represented by putting the leader with them (although leaders do move).  So, I left all the cavalry as 4-5.  The Skutatoi is a 3A2, the light infantry a 2B3 and all light cavalry 2-6.

9x 4B5 (B only if not disordered)
3x 2B6
2x leaders


3x 3A2
6x 4B5 (B only if not disordered)
1x 2B3
3x 2B6
2x leaders

Panic: 21 

Based panic on the scenarios where it seems to be add up all combat values and divide by 2.

As per other refights.  See here.

Deployment - Persians on the left

The extra unit behind a stand is a leader.

Turn 1

Advance the light cavalry and the central heavy cavalry, leave the right flank heavy cavalry in reserve.  Need to focus of this flank as it is the best chance to gain an advantage.

Advanced the Skutatoi and the heavy cavalry to their right in support.  This is where the Byzantines may be able to get an advantage.

Turn 2

Remembered that you don't have to move each stand in the group, so charged two heavy cavalry into the two heavy cavalry next the the Skutatoi and 2 Lakhmid light cavalry into 2 Ghassanid light cavalry. Made sure there were overlaps so the 2 stands could attack one stand.

Placed the leaders where these two combats would happen.

...and then I did the Byzantine missile fire.  Forgot how decisive it is. Against the Persian heavy cavalry with a leader, the first Byzantine heavy cavalry fire needs a 1-3! Hits and the heavy cavalry with the leader is disordered. Leader is ok.  Second heavy cavalry hits too.  Heavy cavalry is destroyed.  Leader rolls a 1 and is destroyed too.  There is no advance for the Byzantines as it is only missile fire.

On the other front, the two Ghassanids light cavalry can fire on the Lakhmids.  Also need a 1-3.  Both miss;  and thus the rolls balance themselves out.

In combat, the remaining heavy cavalry are both disordered (M on 1-1 column), a Ghassanid light cavalry is eliminated by firstly a M result on the 2-1 and then on a DD result.  The Lakhmid that caused the DD (not the one with the leader) should advance.

Found an issue with  the conversion from hexes to minis and not using front edge lineups - the light cavalry that should advance is also in front edge contact with another light cavalry.  In the hex game, a unit can have 3 units to its front (so can be attacked three times from the front) while in the minis game it will only be two. So far not to much of an issue.  But when a unit is destroyed, the unit that causes the elimination should advance.  In hexland, there other (up to) two units alongside do not block the advance. And neither do any opposing units neighbouring the destroyed unit.  But in minis, if you overlap, you are likely to have a enemy unit still in contact with you front if you destroy its neighbour.  So what to do about the advance?  Well, in this case I am going to advance the light cavalry with the leader.  This may work and seem ok for this combat, but I can imagine times it will not work.  Something to work on and keep unresolved for now.

The Persian left flank after advancing the light cavalry.

The CRT is very easy to remember, especially as I have been using this game for over 10 years.  Actually I believe the tables (melee and missile CRT) would be easier to remember than the DBA combat results.
In the rally phase, rallied the Lakhmid light cavalry with the general.

Byzantines do a general advance and a couple of flank of some cavalry.  The Isaurian infantry and a light cavalry gang up on a single Persian light cavalry.  Leaders are placed with the heavy cavalry in the middle.

 The clash of the heavy cavalry from the Byzantine side Disorder is represented by a green bush behind the unit.

Persians missile fire - any unit with missile fire capability can fire even if in contact.  Call it abstract or whatever but this is as per the boardgame - any missile fire can occur against opposing units.
There are a lot of opportunities for disorder - 6 B class at cavalry at range 1 will DD on a 1-3.  The Persians inflicted nothing.  The fortunes of war.

The trick for combat is to gang up on a unit - if you have two possible 1-1 attack, with the first one you are likely to both be disordered.  But the enemy unit will now be at 2-1 with the second attacker and will have a 2/3rds chance of a DD which will destroy the disordered unit.

Combat is optional so not to force units.

The Byzantine rolled a few ones and 2 which wasn't great but did manage to destroy two cavalry units.

Turn 3

The Persians moved units where possible to have a front facing unit, and a flank unit (that will be at 2-1).  The leader was placed with a cavalry unit in the centre, in case it was disordered during missile fire (of course, there is a chance the leader will die too).  The Persian cavalry facing the Skutatoi remained in place.  They are at range 3 of the Skutatoi which is a 1 in 6 chance of a hit.  If they moved up into contact, the Persians would suffer a DD on a 1-4.  Not good.

The clash in the centre again.  Things not looking good for the Persians.

Byzantine missile fire destroys a light cavalry (two DD results), the existing disordered cavalry in the centre, and the Skutatoi manage to disorder a unit.  The Persians are close to their panic score (currently 18) but luckily panic is determined at the start of a player turn.

Persians combat resulted in a destroyed heavy cavalry.

Losses are only a 6 for the panic check - much better than the Persians.  They are also in a much better position.
Wow!  forgot how much a unit can move.  A heavy cavalry has 5MP or 20 cm.  With unrestricted wheels.  Basically the Byzantines surround the Persian cavalry in the centre.  Leaders are placed with the heavy cavalry that could receive fire.

Persian missile fire scores two DD results on one of the heavy cavalry with the leader.  Leader saves both times, but now the leader is alone in front on the units.

In combat a Persian heavy cavalry is destroyed via two DD results.  A Lakhmid light cavalry is destroyed via a 2-1 attack in the rear and the Byzantines rolling a 6 (DE).

The centre again showing the Persians surrounded by Byzantine units.

Turn 4

Persians losses are 28 and so panic. All 4 (!) remaining are disordered if not already and move directly away from the enemy to the nearest map edge.  The light cavalry go off the map.  The heavy cavalry facing the Skutatoi are on the edge of the board.  The Byzantine leader on its own is safe as no unit can move and capture him.

I do not believe the Persians can recover enough to win any more victory points.  The Byzantines have 2 victory points so far - causing panic (1 victory point) and having 2x (and more) combat points on the map.  The Persians have 0 victory points.  I think playing for 2 more turns would not change the victory points.  We can call it a clear win for the Byzantines.

A fun game, even if subjectively unhistorical.  Units move so fast. It is easier to picture on cardboard.  Anyway, I had a good time with the rules.  I think the CRT is brilliant - it is well balanced and not heavily weighed to one side.  The way the leaders are implemented is great,  and the simple halving and doubling for combat is easy to do.  If I had to convert it to a minis game, I would put in some sort of command and control, and reduce the movement distances. Otherwise, leave everything the way it is.