Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Heraclea replay with Gordian Knot

I am hoping to replay the battle of Heraclea using many rules.  I used 10 rules for replaying the battle of Callinicum, a mostly cavalry action. Gordian Knot is the first ruleset I am going to use for Heraclea. I did an overview of Gordian Knot.  The deployment and background to the Battle of Heraclea may be found here - Heraclea deployment.   As per previous replays, I will have a reasonable amount of detail on how the rules work early on, including occasionally calculating the die roll.  There is so little (i.e. none) information on Gordian Knot on the internet, this will give readers a basis on the rules and its mechanisms.

Changes for a 2'x2' board
The rules are geared for a 6'x4' table, playing with 4"x2" units and measurements in inches.  So, my cunning plan: divide all by 2.5, we get 4cmx2cm units, distances in centimetres and a game eminently playable on a 2'x2' board with units being a standard WRG element (although mounted will be a bit deeper but not that important in the rules).

Each unit for Heraclea conveniently breaks down into a unit in Gordian Knot.

4 Leves: Skirmisher infantry, javelin
4 Hastati/Principes: Trained Infantry, heavy infantry, pilum, good melee troops, shield
2 Triarii: Trained Infantry, heavy infantry, spear, good melee troops, good morale,shield
1 Light Infantry: Skirmisher Infantry, good melee troops, javelin, shield
2 Heavy Cavalry: Trained Cavalry, heavy cavalry, spear, good melee troops, shield
1 Light Cavalry: Skirmish cavalry, spear, javelin, shield
1 General, no special characteristics
1 Hypaspist: Trained infantry, heavy infantry, pike, good melee troops, good morale, shield
3 Pikemen: Trained infantry, heavy infantry, pike, good melee troops, shield
1 Hoplite:Trained infantry, heavy infantry, spear, good melee troops, shield
1 Light Infantry: Skirmisher Infantry, good melee troops, javelin, shield
1 Skirmisher:Skirmisher infantry, bow, shield
1 Slingers: skirmisher infantry, sling
1 Agema: Trained Cavalry, armoured cavalry, spear, good melee troops, good morale,shield
1 Light cavalry: Skirmish cavalry, spear, javelin, shield
1 elephant: Elephant.
1 General with the characteristic Popularity Inspirational (+1 to recovery/rally within 12)

Note: Light Infantry I have represented as Skirmish infantry but being good melee troops.  This gives them the same move flexibility as Skirmishers, similar evade capability and are just a bit better in melee than skirmishers.  All the other infantry troops types made no sense (untrained are slow and inflexible moves, and tribal is really for warband-type infantry)
I deployed as per my Heraclea deployment.  Pyrrhus is adjacent to the Agema; Publius Laevinus is behind the Triarii.

Deployment.  Romans to the bottom.

I did not replace some of the units with dummies as is possible in the rules.

Missions: The army mission for each side is Battle to Win which basically means be the only one left with units on the table.

Romans will go first to reward them for getting over the river, but then it will be as per the rules - roll for it at the start.

Lastly, markers for unit status:
one green bush behind a unit = disordered
two green bushes = wavering
one brown bush = fleeing

The Romans will try and destroy the centre.  The pilum has a 50% chance of disordering the enemy unit on contact, and this will mean the pikes will be fighting at -3 (-1 for disorder and -1 for Romans now being superior infantry to the pikes and -1 for being unshielded as pikes have been shot with pilum).  And the Leves may be able to get in a few disorders which will help.  On the Roman right, the forces are equal, and on the left the Cavalry is facing the Agema and the Elephants, so will delay engaging the flanks.

The Epirots will be focusing on the their right flank - it is where they can get a local superiority and hopefully carry this into the flanks of the Roman heavy infantry. 

Turn 1
Romans move the Leves up and move the Hastati/Principes to the flanks slightly and ahead (oblique movement is possible to Trained infantry without becoming disordered, most others are disordered).  Haven't moved the Triarii as they have to be far enough behind so that if a Hastati/Principes flees, they do not get caught up in it.
Epirots move up their flanks.  Archer unit shoots at a Leves (turn sequence is IGO-UGO and each player turn is move, shoot, combat). Leves are unshielded, need a 4+ - hit - Leves is disordered. Note: disordered is a -1 in combat (as if the Leves cares) and is removed by halting and not shooting or meleeing for a turn. But a disordered unit hit again wavers, which requires a rally roll.  A hit while wavering is a flee.  Slingers move up to within range (8) and achieve a hit on a different Leves unit.

Turn 2
Pyrrhus wins the initiative.
Continue to move up the right flank - Agema now in charge range of the Roman heavy cavalry.  Shooting misses.

Moved up the centre units.  Two Leves charge the Slingers, who gets a free shot as the defender and miss.  The two Leves fire - one hit and the Slingers are disordered.  Now to combat (skirmishers are immediately disordered when entering combat) and modifiers for both sides are same.  For multiple units attacking an enemy, you roll a die for each attacking unit, and use the highest die. The end result of the skirmish combat is a tie. All units are disordered in a tie, but this has no effect as they are disordered on entering combat!  Note, the Slingers could have evaded (on a 2+) but would have gone behind the pike line and had no impact on the battle - better to see if it can take some Leves with it!

Shot from the Romans side of the left flank and centre.  Disorder is marked by a green bush behind the unit.

Turn 3
Pyrrhus wins initiative again.

Agema charges the Roman Heavy Cavalry.  Agema is +1 cavalry, +1 superior armour, +1 good melee troops, +1 superior morale grade; Romans are +1 cavalry, +1 good melee troops, +1 flank support.  A difference of +1 for the Epirots.  The opposed dice roll sees the Romans lose and they flee. Combat is fast in Gordian Knot - you lose, you run.  Fleeing units can be rallied but then are wavering, rallying wavering troops makes them disordered, rallying disordered makes then ok.  So a flee is bad.
Note that melee is done later, but makes sense to report it here.

Light infantry move to the flank of the Leves to charge next turn.  A unit charged in the flank automatically flees.
Missile fire sees the disordered Leves waver (next level of disorder).
The slingers versus two Leves ends in a Leves fleeing.
The fleeing heavy cavalry fail their rally roll (a 4+ required) and so disintegrate.  The remaining heavy cavalry can charge the Agema in the flank (it is actually behind the flank line and cavalry can wheel once during a charge).  This would cause the Agema to automatically flee, which is good.  But the Agema have a good chance to rally, and the Elephants would charge the heavy cavalry in the flank and cause them to flee, leaving the Roman left flank wide open.  There are no movement restrictions in Gordian Knot about moving in front of enemy units.    Let's charge them in, an elephant on the flank is slower than heavy cavalry - maybe the battle will be over by then....

The Roman heavy cavalry charges the flank of the Agema while the Elephant waits it turn. 
Meanwhile, the fleeing Leves continue to flee - once they are further away than 12 from an enemy, they have a chance of recovery (1 in 6), at the moment they have none.  Skirmishers rally on a 6+, in this case this is modified by -1 for enemy in 12, +1 for friendly in 12, -1 for friendly routing within 12; effectively a 7+ o a 6 sided die.  By moving/fleeing more than 12 away, the 7+ is reduced to a 6+.
The one Leves that is not disordered, wavering or fleeing moves up to within Javelin range (2) of the Skirmisher bow and disorders them.
The Triarii turn and head for the Elephant (trained infantry can turn around for the cost of 1/2 move).  The rest of the army move forwards.
The battle so far - disorder is one green bush, wavering is two, fleeing is a brown bush.
Turn 4
Pyrrhus moves first again.

Try to rally Agema with a 3+ (4+, -1 enemy in 12, +1 good morale, +1 inspirational general within 12) - pass.  Agema is wavering and turns around to face the enemy if they pursue or charge.  Moved Pyrrhus to be with the Agema to give it a bonus to rally from wavering next turn.  Generals give no combat bonus, but do give a rally bonus if adjacent.
Elephant charges the Roman heavy cavalry, which flees.
The Slingers rally from pursuit (which means they do not have to pursue).  Units pursue fleeing or disintegrated units until they pass a successful pursuit rally, which is not the same as the rally roll used to recover from disorder, wavering or fleeing.  They then shoot at the heavy infantry (require a 5+) who shrug off the stones.
Skirmisher with bow misses the Leves.
Fleeing Heavy Cavalry disintegrates.  Needed a 5+, rolled a 4.  The Triarii are 12.3cm away.  If they were within 12, the Heavy Cavalry rally roll would have been a 4+ instead and it would have survived and be wavering.
One fleeing Leves disintegrates, the other passes the recovery roll and is wavering.
Triarii manoeuvre closer to the Elephant; hopefully this will possibly slow down the Agema as well.
The right 2 units of heavy infantry charge the Slingers who stand to fight, get a shot in and disorder a heavy infantry unit.  Slingers flee.
The left 2 units of heavy infantry move up behind the Leves (to be protected from the bow and also the Roman line is outnumbered 4 units to 5 units and so will echelon to delay flanking.  The right 2 units will go in, and the left ones will hold their position.

End of turn 4

Turn 5
Pyrrhus wins the initiative for the 4th time in a row.

Agema rallies, as does the Elephant - the Epirot right flank is back in business; and there is no Roman left flank opposing them - just the Triarii blocking a rear run on the main battle line.  Shooting sees the wavering Leves flee.
Elephant turns to face the Triarii (Elephants take all there movement allowance to turn) and Agema moves towards the battleline, and also out of the fleeing line of the Elephants, just in case they do so.

Post game note: The Agema and the Elephant should have halted for an entire turn to be able to rally from wavering or disorder.  They moved last turn so should not have recovered this turn.  I did this correctly later one, not sure why I missed it here - i did play the game over three weeks (time poor at the moment) so forgetting is understandable.

The general moves to the rightmost heavy infantry, who then charge the pikes (I want to see what happens!).  Pila throw - both hit! Pikes are disordered and also unshielded.
Romans: +1 flank support, +1 good melee troops, +1 superior infantry (disordered pikes are inferior to trained infantry), +1 enemy disordered, +1 enemy unshielded = +5
End Pike: +1 flank, +1 good melee troops, (note that undisordered pikes would normally get a +1 for superior armour) = +2
Other Pike: +2 flank, +1 good melee troops,  +1 enemy disordered = + 4
Epirots lose both combats and flee.  The Roman heavy infantry is disordered.
If the pikes were not disordered by pila, the modifiers would have been Romans +2, Pikes +4/+6. Likely a very different outcome.

The fleeing pikes

A Triarii will charge the Elephants to see how this works. The other Triarii moves to lend flank support (rules are not clear if flank support occurs if the flankers are not in front corner to corner contact, but I'll allow it.) (the other Triarii cannot charge as trained infantry can only straight charge.  Also note that infantry cannot charge facing cavalry/chariots, but can do elephants).
Triarii pila throw causes the Elephant to be disordered (considering a pila needs 5+ to hit, the only 3 pila throws so far have all struck home.  Wow.)
Triarii: +1 flank support, +1 good melee troops, +1 superior morale grade, +1 enemy are disordered, (elephants never count as unshielded so the +1 unshielded does not apply) = +4
Elephant: Would have got a +1 for being an elephant, except it does not count against undisordered trained infantry with spears...ah well, +1 superior armour = +1
Elephant flees (no surprise).  There is no movement rate for fleeing elephants given but I assume it is the same as the equivalent infantry move.

The triumphant Triarii

Turn 6
Romans win initiative, the first time since being given it on turn 1.

Winners of melee must pursue and can only be stopped, starting before the first pursuit, by a pursuit rally roll.  Triarii  fail this (needed a 3+) and must pursue the Elephants.  They use the bonus 2 of movement for infantry charging and hit the Elephants in the rear, who continue to flee. Note, using the bonus makes you disordered if not already, but the Triarii are.

Post game note: There is nothing in the body of the rules specifically about what happens if you contact a fleeing unit in the flank or rear.  Contacting a unit on flank or rear causes it to flee, so I assumed the enemy will continue to flee.  But after the game I re-read the game report that is at the back of the rules and there is one bit where a fleeing unit is contacted in the rear and it is destroyed.  This makes more sense.  So the Elephant would have been destroyed rather than fleeing.  I did this error a couple of times later.  It did not have any effect in that the unit contacted that fled again rather than destroyed was usually destroyed the next turn.
The heavy infantry will only pursue if they roll a 1.  They roll a 1.  The other heavy infantry does not pursue but decides to move forwards anyway in line with the other heavy infantry. They contact a fleeing slinger, who flees.
The left heavy infantry block move sideways slightly (trained infantry can do this and not be disordered).  They do this so they can cover all three opposing pike units if they charge.  Currently the Hoplite unit would not be contacted, and would be free to flank a heavy infantry. Units in contact do not have to line up in corner to corner. Well there is nothing in the rules that says they do, so I assume they don't.

The Heavy Infantry after moving sideways to charge all three enemy units

Shooting - The wavering bowman flees after taking another hit (from a Leves).

Elephant fails to rally and is destroyed (would have fled off the board this turn never to return, so it was worth trying for the '6' that was required to rally).
One of the fleeing pike units fails to rally, the other is successful.  As per elephants, they would have fled off the board if I did not attempt a rally.  The successful pike unit turns around.
The two fleeing skirmishers also fail to rally and are destroyed.
The Agema move towards the main battleline.  The Hoplite and two pike units move directly backwards 2.  Trained infantry can do this without being disordered.  This puts them 7 away from the facing Roman heavy infantry - with a move of 6, the will have to charge (and become disordered) if they want to do combat next turn.  It is a delaying tactic, that either forces the Roman's to charge and be at a disadvantage in combat, or wait another turn, which gives the Agema another turn to move up on the flank (the Agema is two moves away).

State if play at the end of turn 6
Turn 7
Romans win the initiative.
No successful rallies. Triarii stops pursuing the Elephant (needed to pass a pursue rally roll) turn and start moving towards the battleline. 

Tough choice (see above) on whether to charge into the pikes and fight disordered, or gamble that Initiative is won again, and the Agema hit the flank after the charge.  Romans charge in.  The other block of heavy infantry (on the right) charge in the wavering pikes. The general is moved to be adjacent to the leftmost charging heavy infantry.
The charging infantry melee (3 Epirot units against 2 Roman).  When a unit is in contact with two or more units, you work out the score for each contacted unit, and use the highest score.
Pila throws disorder the middle pike unit.

Left Roman unit rolls a 3, Facing Hoplite rolls a 1, as does the disordered pike (who is also counted as unshielded).  Roman modified score is a 5, Hoplites are a 5; Pikes, being disordered, will not be that high so don't bother to work it out. It is a draw.  Result is that all are disordered.
Right Roman unit rolls a 1, undisordered pike rolls a 2.  Roman modified score is 3 (flank support, good melee troops) , Pike is 6 (flank support, good melee troops, superior armour, superior infantry).  Romans flee (and the general goes with them).  The skirmishers behind the fleeing infantry also flee.
The battle line after the Roman unit flees
The other clash sees the Romans win and the pike flees off the board.
The Pikes that won pass a pursue rally check so they do not need to pursue.

The Agema can reach, by using a +4 move charge bonus, the fleeing Heavy Infantry unit.  This has a two fold effect - one is the Heavy Infantry unitwill flee towards the light infantry (I was trying to hem them in but as my note earlier, the Heavy Infantry unit should have simply been destroyed when contacted by the Agema) and secondly, the Heavy infantry in contact with the hoplite/pike, if fleeing, will be destroyed instead, as a fleeing unit must flee directly away from all known enemy.
Hoplite and Pike in combat with the Roman heavy infantry results in an Epirot win. The heavy infantry must flee, but is destroyed because the Agema is blocking the flee path.

The Agema on the left, the uncontested pike line and the fleeing Heavy Infantry unit

Turn 8
Epirot win the initiative.
A pike unit that saw no combat in the last Epirot turn has its disorder removed.  The other pike and Hoplite fail pursuit rally roll and move forwards.  Units will pursue a fleeing enemy, even if it is destroyed.  The only was to stop pursuit is to pass a pursuit rally roll.
Agema fail their pursuit rally roll and pursue the  Heavy Infantry unit, who are destroyed with no valid flee path.  The general passes the potential death roll for being adjacent to a destroyed unit.

General moves to Triarii. Other than fleeing units, no other units move so that disorder can be removed.

End of turn 8
Turn 9
Romans win initiative.

Remove disorder from all units that are disordered and move units towards the Epirot battleline.

Hoplite and pike still fail pursuit rally (and all they need is a 3+) and are now about 2 away from a Triarii.  Agema turn around ready to flank charge Triarii.  Move up the lonely pike away from the heavy infantry behind it.

The centre mess

Turn 10
Epirots win initiative.

Agema charges fleeing Heavy Infantry unit in the flank and they flee.  Yay, the Hoplite and Pike stop pursuing and the third lagging pike unit moves up to form a line.

Tried to rally fleeing Triarii and they fail and are destroyed (note they should have been destroyed a turn or so ago when contacted while fleeing). The General survives. The other Triarii charges the Hoplite in the flank and the Hoplite flees.  But now the Triarii can be hit in the flank by the Agema.

With nothing able to stop the Agema running into the flank of all the Roman units, I will concede as the Romans.

End of game

An interesting game. If I wasn't taking notes, and looking up unfamiliar parts of the rules, I would say it took about 1.5 hours to play.  So it did not meet the goal of playing under one hour.  But is was a good game.  As I said in my overview, the combat is quick and unit status is a focus of the game.  I liked it although keeping track of status and trying to remember if the unit can rally or not was a bit of a chore.  The different movement options for unit types was a little hard on my brain too.  But really, these are only minor quibbles.
The lack of army lists is a downside, but no different to other rules I have tried, and for historical battles it is not difficult to figure out what is what.  I would recommend giving them a go - they do produce a fun game.


  1. Hi Shaun,

    Great report. I think GN would be a great addition to anyones rules library.

    My one quibble is that units flee when they lose combat. It seemed to make combat more fluid than our ancient historians tell us. Would it not be better to have a quality of loss? Say each point lost by is one level of reduction. Or if you don't want to be so fiddly, maybe just say you must win by 2 or more or it is considered a tie.

    Great review and report.


  2. Jon,

    For fast play, I like that combat is decisive. But I agree that with 20 modifiers and only an opposed d6 roll, fleeing does seem harsh for the loser, especially as it is so hard to recover from a flee. I do like your idea of each point of difference takes your status down a level. As each unit in melee is automatically disordered after the first turn of melee, one pip difference would be a waver and two points difference would be a flee. Of course, this leads to your simplification that you could skip the waver result, and you only flee is lost by 2 or more...