Tuesday, 26 July 2011

5mm Ancient Wargames Rules (NavWar/Heroics 'n Ros) overview

I remember seeing these rules advertised since the late 90's in Wargames Illustrated Heroics and Ros advertisements.  But I never got them.  In 2010 I acquired the 2nd edition via ebay.  These are the rules I'll be reviewing.  The 2nd edition also comes with siege and naval engagement rues, but I will only be doing an overview of the land battle rules, as they are the only rules I have played.
They are available at the Heroics and Ros website.  There is a boardgamegeek entry with not much information.

What you get (2nd edition)
An 60 page A5 booklet.  Land rules are 29 pages, Naval Engagements are 21 pages and Siege rules are 9 pages. All rules are copyright 1984 - Land rules by A Gittins, Naval rules by J Brown and I Dickie, and Siege rules by I Dickie and J Brown.

Rules are designed for 500bc to 500ad but could be extended with some modifications to the rules.  Dice used are both d6 and average dice, high rolls are good.  Melee and missile resolution use 1 average die, but most other rolls are either 2d6 or 2 average dice.  Distances are all inches.
Key mechanism
I will mention it here as it is core to the game.  It is the morale of battlegroups.  A battlegroup is a collection of units and a unit is a collection of bases.  Battlegroup morale lowers during the game based on the situation (such as unit loss) and morale checks are taken throughout the game to determine such things as:
  • what movement is permissible
  • whether the battlegroup retires
  • whether battlegroup units can charge or evade
  • post-melee a losing unit failing a morale check routs
Troop Definitions
Troops are either Mounted or Infantry.  This is further broken down into Light and Heavy.  There are a only a few more sub-types such as Heavy mounted is broken down into Shock Cavalry and Elephants, Light Cavalry is Skirmishers or chariots.     There is no "medium category".  Peltasts and equivalent are either light or heavy infantry and can change between the two during the game.  Pack Animals and Artillery are special cases of Light infantry.
Bases sizes are 15mm wide with varying depth (mounted is 15mm to 30mm, infantry is 6mm to 8mm).  A number of figures are based per unit - elephants and chariots 1, skirmishers are 2, shock cavalry 3 and heavy infantry 4.  The number of figures is important as it is used in adjudicating missile and melee results.
Bases are organised into units of the same morale and all heavy or all light.  Infantry are 4-12 bases and Cavalry 2-10, others 1-6.
Units are organised into one or more battlegroups (no limit on size).  Units must stay within 2" of another unit in the battlegroup or it is counted as separated for morale checks. Each battlegroup is commanded by a sub-general, although the C-in-C may choose to command a battlegroup personally. Sub-generals cost a lot of points (about 5 times a legionary or heavy cavalry base) which limit the number of battlegroups you may want to deploy.
Each base has a one or more weapons (pike, bow, spear, javelin, pila, lance, sling)  and an armour class (0-3 based on armour quantity and shields, except chariots and elephants that classed as Armour 3.  Lastly, heavy infantry may be trained (better at formation changes).
There is a point system for the troops.  There are no army lists but there are quite a few example troops (2 pages) given for a number of civilisations.
There is a simple terrain generation system which is players alternatively roll 2d6 per foot square of table, look up a table and place the terrain listed (2-6 is no terrain, 7 is player choice).  That's it.

Defending and outscouted armies are placed first, else simultaneous setup.

There are no guidelines on table size or what number of points is required for a reasonable game.  I cannot help out here as the game I played was a refight of a historical battle and used some modifications to bases and units for 15mm, not 5mm, on a 2'x2' table.  Movement rates are similar to those for other games (2" for heavy infantry, 4" for Heavy cavalry) so anything from 2'x2' upwards seems as though it would work.
Movement orders are given to battlegroups but units can decide to charge, evade etc.  C-in-C can change orders by moving to the battlegroup.  3 signals can be pre-arranged, to be understood by any or all battlegroups.

Movement Sequence
Games are played in turns, each player participates in each phase of the turn, mostly simultaneously, including movement.
  • Declare and test charges
  • move
  • shoot missiles
  • melee
  • test for routs and then rallying, retirement and pursuits.
As mentioned earlier morale of a battlegroup is key to the game.  There are four morale grades with a corresponding morale factor - Elite (10), Levy (5), other heavy troops (8), other light troops (7). The morale factor is added to all morale tests in the game, and is lowered during the game by such factors as:
  • routed
  • each lost melee round
  • contacted while evading
  • each other battlegroup with a broken morale
  • number of own battlegroup's units retiring, separated or routing

When morale factor is 0, the battlegroup cannot advance, if below zero, it will break off if in melee and retire.  If all of a battlegroup's units are evading, retiring or routing, the battlegroup is broken and basically routs or retires it's way off the field.

Morale tests are taken to charge, being charged, lost melee, to stop pursuing and at the end of a game turn for a few other situations (e.g. loss of a general).  I'll cover these in the appropriate section.

A unit can become disorganised by various means such as losing a melee after being charged by mounted, crossing difficult terrain or horses being near elephants or camels.  Disorganisation is not good in melee but otherwise has no other effect.  Disorganisation is removed when the thing that caused it is no longer in effect.
Movement is simultaneous.  There are movement distances for normal, charge and rout moves.  Examples are Heavy infantry is 2" normal, 3" charge, 4" rout; heavy cavalry 4" normal, 5" charge, 6" rout.  Charging is in a straight line.  Units can turn in place (changing formation) for a movement penalty, peltasts can changes from light to heavy infantry by doing nothing for a turn, and unit can also change frontage at a certain number of bases per turn.  Light infantry and cavalry can interpenetrate non-meleeing units.

Evading is interesting - units roll a 1d6 and consult a table that indicates the proportion of movement lost evading.  Evading includes an about face and is at charge speed but with variable loss of move (up to 3/4 for a bad roll), makes it interesting.  Being attacked in the rear is bad.

A unit wishing to charge into contact must pass a charge test which is 2d6 + morale factor and selecting form a list of 9 modifiers.  The score required to pass if different depending on the type of unit is charging (light troops, heavy infantry or heavy mounted) and the type of unit receiving the charge (light, heavy infantry or heavy mounted).  E.g. light troops charging heavy infantry require an 18, while heavy infantry charging heavy infantry require a 10.

If a unit passed the charge test, the receiver needs to take a threat test. This is the same as the charge test, with same modifiers and troop types, except the scores to pass are different. e.g. light troops receiving a charge from heavy infantry will pass on a 16, and heavy infantry receiving a charge from heavy infantry require a 10.  If a unit fails the threat test it must evade.

Light cavalry, elephants and chariots shoot all round, other 45 degrees. If a unit wants to fire missiles, it must subtract 1" from its move.  Chargers cannot shoot but a unit receiving a charge can fire at long range with anything but javelins.  Javelin range is 1", Foot Bows 6", mounted bows 4".  Short range is 1".  Heavy infantry can shoot with a 2nd, 3rd and 4th rank (if not disorganised).

Process is easy: 1 average die, -2 for light target, minus target protection, +3 at short range; multiply by figures firing.  If result is 3 times the target's units number of figures, reduce morale factor by 1.  Slow and steady and nothing dramatic from missile fire.

This section required a few readings to get the hang of it, but it all fell together eventually.
Troops fight to their front with engaged enemy. Bases are lined up with opposing bases.  It is unclear if a unit with only an enemy on the flank can roll in melee but the flanking unit gets a lot of bonuses so I assume the flanked unit can fight with one base.  Pikes can count a second base as fighting as well.  Overlapping bases don't fight but can wheel into contact next turn.  First determine who wins melee, and then the loser takes a morale check.

Process for melee: 1 average die per unit (not per base) + some factors (e.g. +2 mounted charging, +2 attacking in flank, -1 disorganised).  Multiply result by number of figures fighting (elephants multiply by 2).  The unit receiving more casualties than inflicted loses the melee, and must take a melee morale check.

Melee morale check (no dice): Add morale factor, minus a few factors (e.g. disorganised, attacked in flank, double or trebled casualty loss) and plus the push effect. Push effect is +1 for each of up to four ranks of heavy infantry behind the fighting unit.  So ranks of units is important. If the morale check is zero or less, the unit breaks.   However, unbroken mounted units may fall back from melee with infantry rather than break.
Pursuit: If enemy breaks, mounted will pursue, untrained may pursue or test not to, trained infantry can choose to pursue or not.

With initial morale factors for average units being 8, once in melee with equivalent troops they will only lose a point of melee a turn, or maybe two if unlucky.  But as soon as you start to lose more than win (either triple casualties, lose more rounds than opponent), it snowballs and you quickly break. So melee starts slow, and then quickly rushes to a conclusion.  It still often takes more than a couple of turns.   A mounted units that loses the first round is disorganised, and suffers both in melee casualty calculation (likely to lose melee) and also suffers in the melee morale check, so mounted Vs mounted combat goes quicker than infantry Vs infantry.
Rally and Pursuit and post-melee battlegroup morale
Any battlegroup that has lost its commander, or has a unit routed, takes a morale test for each of its units: 2 average dice plus morale factor, plus/minus a few factors.  For infantry, 10 or more is carry on, 4-9 is halt, below 4 is retire.  Results are slightly different for mounted.

A unit that is routing can take a similar morale test and will rally on a 10 or more.
A unit pursuing that wishes to stop rolls 1d6, adds morale factor and a few factors.  8 or more and will stop.

Example troops
Persian Immortals: Armour class 3, Heavy infantry, A trained, armour, shield, spear bow, 9 points
Greek Hoplite: AC3, HI, B/A trained, armour, shield, spear, 7 points.
Phalangite: AC3, HI, A/B trained, armour, pike, shield, 9 points
Companions: Heavy Cavalry, A, armour, kontos
Roman Legionary: AC3, HI, A trained, armour, pilum, shield, 9 points
Celt Warrior: AC2, HI,B, shield, spear, 5 points
Parthian Cataphract: AC3, A, full armour, barding, kontos, bow

Only played in once (write-up coming or elsewhere) and with 15mm figures and fudging bases and units.  So I haven't got a true appreciation of the game mechanics.  I thought the average die Vs normal would be off-putting but it wasn't.  Each of the morale tests - five - are different and had different modifiers so had look them up each time but did start to get easier as I went along.  Having to track morale factor per unit I found was a painful, and the morale factor is used for nearly every roll involving the unit in the game. Melee seemed to bog down as it is rolling a die, add some factors, work out casualties and compare, then do a morale check based on morale factor, current status and casualty comparison.  There is maths involved, not just simple additional and subtraction - you are always multiplying by figure count and comparing for ratios with numbers usually larger than 20. I did used to play WRG 6th long ago but this somehow seemed different, or maybe I'm too old for it, or maybe it is just with more familiarity it would feel fine.  It feels historical but the game is not quite as fast as I would like and has more tracking and maths per unit than I am used to.  It  was OK to play, but not really for me.  It is not the fast game on a 2'x2' game I am looking for.


  1. My copy says April 1984 with no mention of edition. Can you tell if your 2nd edition is later than April?


  2. My copy is 1989. It has a copyright of 1984 but it also has the following on the cover insert:

    First published 1984
    Second revised edition published 1989