Sunday, 26 June 2011

Heraclea replay with Wars Ancient

The second ruleset I am using to replay Heraclea is Wars Ancient.  I've already done an overview and a replay.  I have also posted clarifications from dialog with the author.  This report will be quite detailed so readers can determine how the game mechanics work.  I'll even include the odd dice rolls!  But as the game goes on, I'll tone it down.
Rules discussion
(skip this section if just interested in the replay - this is a long discussion on why I changed a couple of rules to make the game faster)
In my previous replay, I noted the game is perfectly suited to a 2 hour game on a 2'x2' table.  But I am looking for a game under one hour.

It takes 2 hours to play as it is hard to score a hit and you can only score one hit per melee phase and per missile phase;  for most units in melee, that is one hit max per turn.  One thing that would sped up my last game slightly is if I had played the missile rules correctly as missile units can still fire if they are in contact with the enemy (just like Bill Banks Ancients). For that battle, it would have likely shaved off 30 minutes due to the number of missile armed units.  For Heraclea, it will make little difference.
Why hard to hit? When you roll to hit,there are 3 pips on the d6 that will cause a the enemy to take a morale check.  If you combat value is equal, you roll 1d6, if greater, 2d6 and pick the best pip (and if double, 3d6). Assume equal combat values, 50% chance of a hit.  If rolling 2d6,then 75%.  If successful, you need to roll a morale check.  A lot of units are morale 5, which means they need to roll a 5 or less on a d10 to pass (and then not take damage).  Spears and blades are a 6.  Each adjacent unit gives you +1 to morale value, and I had quite a few in my last game.  So assume a morale value of 5 means a 60% chance of passing, and a morale value of 6 is a 70%.
Putting it together - a average melee has a 50% chance of a hit and then a 60% chance of a save - so a 20% chance overall of actually inflicting a hit.  While a good melee against a good enemy is 75% chance of a hit but a 70% chance of a save -  22.5% chance of damage.  Good melee and average melee - 75% hit and 50% save is still only 37.5% chance of a hit. And you only get to melee once per phase, unless you have other units on the flank, then that can attack to.
Flank attacks give -1 to combat value and -1 to morale value. but even then, 2d6 roll and a morale value of 5 gives only a 37.5% chance of inflicting damage.
And you have to inflict 2 damage points to destroy a unit.

With these low chances, you can see that with a 20% chance of a hit, it will take a least 2 turns (40% chance), about an average of 5 turns, but easily longer.

It is obviously designed this way to capture the struggle of melee, and does a good job of it - once they are in combat, they are in it for the long haul.

The system mechanics of Wars Ancient are sound and good - the command and control, melee and cards - I would love to play it but under one hour to fit what I am looking for.  The obvious choice is to allows many hits per phase.  This would help slightly but it is is rare to get a hit anyway!  So I came up with a few potential ways to speed it up:
  1. Instead of the average base morale value being 5, make it 3.
  2. Allow multiple hits per phase, except missile fire phase.
  3. Flank attacks are -2 to morale, not -1
  4. When you roll to hit, you roll 1 to 3 d6 and pick the best one.  A way to speed it up is the attacker can choose more than 1 die's results, possibly causing more than one morale check.
1 is not a dramatic change, except  units will take damage more often; neither is 2 as there are not that many multiple hit opportunities per phase; 3 rewards flanking, but may be a bit much combined with 2, as the flanker and the frontal attack both now have a chance to score a hit.  4 is dramatic, as it changes a core game mechanic.

Rules changes
To speed play, I will reduce morale values mostly by 2 and allow multiple hits per melee phase from enemy units only - the hit for unable to retreat/rout will not be applied if the unit was hit during the current melee phase. Hopefully this will bring it down to about an hour and still be a good game.

Normally each side has 15 units, but I will go with my setup which has 12 for Epirots, 15 for Romans.

Format: Unit: DET type, abilities, Combat Value/Morale value
4 Leves: Psiloi, Javelin, 2/2
4 Hastati/Principes: Blades, Legionaries (Wall of Shields ability and +1MV), 4/5
2 Triarii: Spears, Armor and +2MV, 5/6
1 Light Infantry: Auxilia, Javelin, 3/3
2 Heavy Cavalry: Cavalry, 4-6/3
1 Light Cavalry: Light Horse, 3/3
3 Generals
1 Hypaspist: Spears, Phalanx (attacked on front always great CV, +1MV), 3-MAX/5
3 Pikemen: Spears, Phalanx, 3-MAX/4
1 Hoplite: Spears, 3/4
1 Light Infantry:Auxilia, Javelin, 3/3
1 Skirmisher: Psiloi, Long range, 2/2
1 Slingers: Psiloi, Javelin, 2/2
1 Agema: Cavalry, Disciplined (as it gives +1MV), Armor (armor as it gives +1CV), 5-7/4
1 Light cavalry: Light Horse, 3/3
1 Elephant: Elephant, 5/2
3 Generals

Notes:  The extra description - Phalanx, Legionaries - are taken from the cards.  I have listed the abilities these cards give. I omitted the abilities inherent in the unit type (e.g. Cavalry are MOUNTED, CHARGE, IMPETUOUS, CAVALRY).  I have also added a few abilities here and there to reflect the unit. e.g. increased the morale value of the Triarii, added Javelin ability to some units.
Special note on Phalanx: PHALANX means the Epirot Pikes will always have a greater combat value (to their front) than any opponent.  This means they will be rolling 2d6 for hits, while their opponent will be rolling 1d6 with only retreat the best option - no hits possible. So the Legionaries will always lose front on with no chance of inflicting damage.  I will fudge this slightly and say PHALANX stay much the same, except enemy infantry that would normally have a greater CV than the Pikes (if they were only spears and not PHALANX) can roll 1d6 for hits (as though combat values were the same).  In Heraclea, this happens to only apply to the Legionaries.  So the Pikes will be rolling 2d6 (75% chance of a hit), Legionaries 1d6 (50% chance of a hit).  Fair enough.

Strategy Cards
I have not gone with giving each side strategy card.  As I am recreating a historical game I have already allocated out to the units what is effectively done by cards, and also the terrain is already decided.  Wars Ancient is a great ruleset for pickup games, but I believe its mechanisms are just as great for recreating historical battles.

Victory is normally 15VP with 15 DETs.  So I will make Victory for the Romans 12VP (the Epirots only have 12 DETs) and 15VP for the Epirots.

As per my standard Heraclea deployment.  I have spread out the three generals as they are needed to command the units. Pyrrhus with the Agema and Laevinus with the Heavy Infantry (Hastati/Principes).  There are no camps.

Here is a picture:


I will give the Romans turn 1 initiative to simulate their getting over the river and having the slight edge on Pyrrhus for deployment.

Turn 1
Laevinus spends 4 CP (command points) to army move the Leves and heavy infantry.  Army move is a group move where 2CP can be spent on a group to move the same.  DETs must be in contact, cannot enter melee but there is no limit to the number of DETs in a group.
Epirot centre general moves up the two skirmishers (the overall army commander is the leader and had 4 command points, others commanders are generals and only have 3.  The pike line is in range of the other general and so I''ll move them when activating that general).

Roman left general moves up heavy cavalry and also the general (general moves last in activation) moves to a more central position so is in range to be able to activate centre units as well.

Pyrrhus moves up the Agema and the Elephant and moves them together.  There are only three movement rates in Wars Ancient - Infantry move 2MU, cavalry, elephants etc move 4MU, Artillery move 1MU.  Simple.  Oblique forwards movement within 90 degrees, with no facing change, is allowed, which is how the elephant lined up with the Agema.  He also army moves the pike block.
The right Roman general moves the light infantry and light cavalry.  The left Epirot leader does the same (with the Epirot light infantry and cavalry).

End of turn 1

Turn 2
No missile fire.
Romans win the initiative.  This turn was just a moving up of all the troops straight ahead - no real manoeuvring.  The only highlight is that the Agema and Elephant are within 4", and therefore charge range, of the Roman Heavy cavalry.  The side winning initiative will have an advantage as a straight charge by cavalry gives them +2 to CV.

No melee.

End of Turn 2

Turn 3
Missile Fire (simultaneous)
I like the simplicity of missile fire resolution in Wars Ancient - Bows are range 3 and hit on a 5-6, Javelins are range 1 inch and hit on a 6.  Psiloi and troops in cover are hit on a 6 only.  Only one hit per missile phase.  No other modifiers etc.  That is basically it.  The subtleties come in other parts - units in melee can still shoot, and unmoving missile units can be given a command to fire at moving enemies unit.
The only missile hit was a Leves by the Epirot Psiloi bowmen. The Leves undertake a morale check and roll a 10 - they rout (turn 180 and move 3).
Epirot move first and Pyrrhus charges the Agema and elephant into the opposing cavalry. And also 3 units closest to him of the battleline (possibly an outline of a plan to split the battleline into two parts to better take on the Legionaries).

Agema is 7 (has +2 for charging and +1 for armour) Vs Cavalry of 4.  Rolls 2d6 and  gets "Defender Retreats" (they retreat 1MU).  Agema must pursue.
Elephant is 5 Vs 4.  rolls 2d6 and gets "defender hit".  Elephants force a -2 morale modifier to enemies.   Heavy Cavalry check of a 3 (remember I have reduced all values by 2), which is a modified 1.  They fail, no surprise, and take 1 point of morale damage and retreat 1MU.  Elephants must pursue.  Note I rolled an 8 - heavy cavalry would have failed morale check anyway.
Pyrrhus moves (leader moves last in activation) and attaches to the Agema (to give it +1 in melee, which will mean it has double the combat value of the opposing cavalry, and will roll 3d6 for hit chance).

Left Roman General activates and is not going to tempt fate by trying to melee with the Heavy Cavalry.  He is in range of the Triarii, and starts to more them towards the left side of the table. to protect the left flank.

Middle Epirot General moves up the remaining pike block (I am thinking that keeping the battleline together is actually a good thing).
Laevinus moves up the skirmishers slightly and also the battleline.

Otherwise,the other flank sees the Romans move up the Light Infantry.

End of Turn 3

VP count
Epirot: 2

Turn 4
Missile Fire
No hits

Romans win initiative.
Left general moves the Triarii and then moves to within 2MU of the cavalry in melee.  Why? Because a general can spend one unsaved command point to a unit in melee to increase CV or Morale by 1.  This will be handy to stop Pyrrhus getting 2:1 odds.
Pyrrhus attacks with attached Agema - it is 6 (4 cavalry +1 armour +1 leader - oops forgot that it not longer counts as charging so no +2 for charge) Vs 5 (4 cavalry +1 added to by roman general).  Still 2d6 though and Defender takes one hit, fails morale check and retreats 1MU.  Agema pursue.
Elephant attacks - 5 Vs 4. 2d6.  Defender takes 1 hit, fails morale check and is destroyed.  Elephant will pursue 1MU.

Pyrrhus moves away from the unit to help with the main battle line combat that is coming....

Right Roman general moves up the light infantry and light cavalry, and stops the Leves rout (takes 1 command point and the Leves about faces and can be activated next turn).

Right Epirot general activates the Psiloi bowman and retreats through the pikes. Psiloi can interpenetrate other units, but other units cannot interpenetrate Psiloi.    It then activates 2 pikemen and moves them into contact with a Leves unit.

The pikes charges the Leves.  Yellow shields are the Hypaspists, bow unit can be seen at the back.

Melee: Hypaspist is MAX CV, so rolls 2d6 for potential hits. Defender 1 hit but passes morale check.  No effect.

Laevinus moves a Hastati to behind to Leves in melee (for moral support) and also moves another Hastati up to melee the pike unit.  The two Leves on the left of the battleline are moves behind the battle line, and the two remaining Hastati are moved up, one contacting the Slinger.  Note: While writing this up I realised this is 6 command points, leaders only have 4.  My mistake - leader can do 4 commands within 6MU not 6 commands within 4MU.  I did this correctly everywhere else.  Must have been late.
The Romans battleline advances

Melee: Hastati Vs Pike.  1d6 only (see comment at the start of the post that gives the Hastati 1d6, rather than 1d6 but repulse best result).  Rolled a 4 but as Legionaries have Wall of Shields, this is no effect.
Melee: Hastati Vs Slinger.  5 (4 Blade +1 for flanker) Vs 2.  3d6.  Defender takes a hit and routs.  Hastati do not pursue.

Centre Epirot general stops the rout (1CP), and moves the 2 pikes and Hoplite units to melee with the Hastati.

 The other battleline meets
1st Pike Vs Legionaries: Pike has Max CV.  2d6. Defender takes 1 hit, fails morale check, 1 damage and retreats 1MU. Pike does not pursue.
2nd Pike Vs Legionaries: Pike has Max CV.  2d6.  Defender takes a hit and passes morale check.  No effect.
VP count
Epirot: 6
Roman: 1

An interesting turn.  And turn 5 will likely just be as fun.

Overview at end of turn 4. 
Turn 5
Missile fire

Only one firing unit has a target - a Leves in contact with the Hypaspists.  No effect. Missile armed units can fire if in melee.

Romans win initiative and Laevinus  moves a Leves behind some Hastati (Psiloi give +1 CV to DETs in contact), Moves a Psiloi towards the right flank (maybe can get an advantage there) and army moves the Triarii up.  They will likely not get anywhere useful in time.  Should have moved them from the start. Does not initiate any combats with the Pikes.

Pyrrhus activates Agema for melee, and adds a +1CV.  Turns the elephant, turns the Hoplites into the flank of a Hastati, and moves a pike up to contact the Hastati.  All for 4 activations within 6".  Pretty good.

Pyrrhus commanding the left flank
Agema is 6 Vs 4 or 3d6. Defender takes one hit and passes subsequent morale check.
Pike Vs Damaged Hastati is 2d6 (pikes have a greater CV). Defender takes one hit and fails morale check (note they would have passed without my house rule of -2 off all morale values).   Destroyed.  Pike do not pursue a destroyed unit (but do a routing or retreating one.
Pike Vs undamaged Hastati (the one with the Hoplites on the flank). Pikes have greater CV so roll 2d6.  Defender hit and fails morale check - 1 damage point and retreats.  Pikes pursue.  Note that if a unit is attacked by both a frontal unit and has a unit in the flank, only one unit attacks but there is a -1CV and -1MV for being flanked.

Left Roman general add one +1CV to cavalry and activates the cavalry to attack.   This is a 5 to 5 attack or 1d6.  Rolls a 1 - worst result possible, attacker takes a hit and fails morale check and is destroyed. Well, at least it free up the general to help focus on the centre battle.

Centre Epirot general turns skirmisher 180 and activates 2 pikemen for melee.

Hypaspists Vs Leves: 2d6, defender takes 1 hit, fails morale check and retreats though Hastati behind.  Hypaspists pursue into Hastati. 2d6, a hit, fails morale check.

Right Roman general activates the light cavalry and light infantry to missile fire if any unit moves into range.
Left Epirot general moves the bow skirmisher a bit to the left.

VP count
Epirot: 13
Roman: 1

Overview at end of turn 5

Turn 6
I think this turn will see Pyrrhus win - he only needs 2 more VPs.
Missile Fire
A few misses but the Epirot skirmisher with bow inflicts 1 damage point on the Roman light infantry.

Epirot wins initiative.  Activates Pyrrhus and charges elephant into a Triarii, moves two pikes into a Hastati and Psiloi, and rotates the Hoplites.

Pyrrhus charges the troops in (phone pic while camera recharging)

Elephants melee: Elephants CV5; Triarii are 5 +1 for neighbour (Spears get +1CV bonus for friendly spear on flanks) which is 6.  Oops.  Elephants are a less CV.  Rolled 1d6 for no effect.
Pikes with Hastati melee: Pikes are 2d6. no effect.
Pike and Psiloi melee: Pikes are 2d6. Defender retreats.

Well, it would have been nice if these type of results occurred a little earlier and so give the Romans a better chance.

Romans activate left general and activates the Triarii for melee and also add 1CV to it and moves the Triarii into the flank of the elephant.

Triarii melee.  Elephant at 4CV (flanked).  Triarii at 6.  2d6. Arrgghhh.  Defender retreats.  Elephant pursues.

Centre Epirot general activated and moves up pike into contact, activates Hypaspists for melee.

Pike melee results in Hastati taking a hit and is destroyed.
Hypaspists melee has no effect  - rolled two 4s, and a 4 is ignored by DETs with Wall of Shields ability, which the Hastati have.
I won't do anything with the remaining generals as Epirot has reached victory, and the Romans would be unable to get enough VP to even get close to equaling the score.

VP count
Epirot: 16
Roman: 1

End of game overview

Still a great game system.  On the modifications, the lower morale did allow for a few more damage points than would have occurred.  On the multiple hits per melee phase - this never was possible in this game.  It can happen when one general activates a DET for melee and there is a hit; later in the turn another general activates a different DET and charges into melee and so there is a possibility of another hit.  Never seemed to get the chance to do this for Heraclea.  But I think the game was faster than the previous game.  So, at least for Heraclea, it played in about an hour.  Unmodified, it may have been 10-15mins longer.  The Epirots did have the better luck in the game but the biggest issue in the game was the Romans did not wait for the Triarii to come up and help. I underestimated the power of the Pike DETs  It would be better for the Romans to hang back and let the fact they have more battleline DETs than the Epirots and flank them - either flank would work - either the Hoplites for the right flank with the light units are vulnerable. Flanked Pike DETs are victims.  Possibly aim for the Hoplite flank to help protect from the inevitable Agema and Elephant flankers (once they have dealt with the Roman cavalry).
Anyway, the game worked and I enjoyed it.  Will play again.


  1. Shaun,

    Nice battle report.Play Ancients using GMT Great Battles of History series boardgames but like reading other folks AAR's whether minis,boardgames,etc.
    Like your post on WW2 rules too.
    Looking forward to reading more wargaming stuff by you.

  2. Mark, thanks for the supporting comments. I have played a few ancient boardgames (I almost exclusively boardgamed in the 90's) but I never touched GBoH, probably on the basis that if I wanted to do ancients, I would dig out my figures and play them instead (which is what I am doing now, and don't do much boardgaming!).


  3. Nice report, Shaun! Always a good read.