Sunday, 1 December 2013

Heraclea replay with Axe and Arrow and overview of the rules

I am replaying Heraclea with different ancient rulesets on a 2'x2' table looking for a fast play set (under one hour).   This is game 17. Axe and Arrow.  Never heard of it until it showed up on eBay in early 2013.  Being an avid rules collector but also a cheapskate, I bid low and got it.  It looked interesting as the combat system has an unusual mechanism of forcing casualties to be taking form the left flank/right falnk or centre of a unit.  Bases behind a destroyed unit assist to shore up gaps.  See the overview below for more details.  It did seem it was geared for a larger table but I have used rules before that were unit based and for larger tables.  Infantry units are set at 8 bases and cavalry at 4 base, so I should be able to fudge it to get some decent units on the table.
This replay is a bit detailed to show how the rule mechanisms work, and if these are rules you may like.

Rules Overview
Axe and Arrow by Brian Harris and published in 1977 by Little soldier games.  24 A5 pages with green thicker cover pages. 1 A3 reference chart that has all the missile, melee and morale tables on it (that are not in the rulebook).  Designed for 15mm figures on a table at least 4'x5', uses centimetres and a d10.

Bases are formed up into units.  There are no command and control rules, deployment, points or examples of what a historical base may be (it is up to you to figure out).  Bases are the normal troop types - light medium or heavy infantry or cavalry.  Each troop type also has a combat value, morale value and movement rate (varies from 10cm to 20cm; 30cm for cavalry charges).   Missile fire may result in a morale check, failure cause advances or retreats.  Occasionally a base will be removed.  Melee results in possibly one base being removed from each side - the results table states where form in the unit - left flank, right flank or centre.  If there is no unit directly behind in a rear rank to fill the gap, the unit routs.  Units that remain in contact perform another melee. There is a second combat phase where un-moved units may missile fire, and units in contact melee again twice.  There are no game end rules.

Bases are 30mm wide and are formed into units; 8 for infantry, 4 for mounted units.  Infantry and cavalry are classed as light, medium and heavy; chariots and elephants as light or heavy. Each unit has a command base.  Each unit has a morale value between 6 and 9, depending on the unit type (light infantry and cavalry is 6, heavy cavalry and infantry is 9). Notes in the back suggest you could increase or decrease morale by one to show elite or militia values.  Each unit has a combat value from 1 to 6 e.g. heavy infantry 3, heavy cavalry 5).

Sequence of play
  • initiative
  • formation changes
  • missile fire
  • movement
  • combat
  • second combat/missile/move
  • morale test
Roll 1d10 each; higher roll is Player A and goes first in all subsequent rounds of the turn.

Formation changes
Units that change formation cannot move. The command base does not move and the rest of the bases move into a different formation.
A valid formation is any formation so long  as all bases are touching and directly in line (to the flank or front to back).  There are a number of special formations, for example:
  • March (single file) for extra movement but penalised for missile attacks.
  • Phalanx (minimum of 3 deep and 2 wide) moves 10cm per turn but each base adds +1 to the combat value.
  • Skirmish (only light infantry, cavalry and chariots) spread out bases 1cm from each other.  May retreat from combat, worse in melee but hard to missile fire at.
  • Wedge (1 base in front, 3 bases behind, any other even further behind) - melees with all four bases.
  • Legion (3 or 4 bases wide with one other rank in the rear) - bases may move laterally to fill gaps from casualties.
Missile fire
Missile is 45 degrees to the front; chariots and elephants all round.  Units may fire over intervening units.  Long ranges are 5cm for javelins and pila, 15 for a mounted archer, 20 for a foot archer.   There is a short range which is quite a lot shorter.  The firing player rolls a 1d10 per unit and add adds some modifiers (e.g. +1 at long range, -1 per base under full strength, +3 Versus skirmishers, -3 Versus flank).  Results are:
  • Target must undertake a morale check
  • Target must make morale check and is now unshielded (this is the pila result)
  • Target must lose one base and take a morale check
The Missile Morale check table is different to the Melee Morale check table.  If you roll less than your current morale value, you are fine.  Roll equal and retreat 5cm; 1 and 2 above is uncontrolled advance while 3 or more is a rout.

Movement rates are quite generous, e.g. 15cm for Light infantry, 10cm for heavy infantry, 20cm for heavy cavalry.  Movement is reduced for rough terrain and increased for roads. Any unit that moves within 1cm of another unit must move into combat.  No move than 2 units can attack another unit and those two units must be of exactly the same troop type.

Skirmish units can interpenetrate other units.  any other unit may not voluntarily do so but if a morale results forces them to, the stationary unit is disorganised.

Cavalry and chariots have an longer charge move in a straight line only, mostly 30cm.  Units do not have to charge to get into combat (except Elephants and Chariots must do so), but a charge gives a bonus to melee.  A target unit cannot be subject to both charging units and advancing units in the one turn.  Failed charges (due to evades) see the charger disorganised. Charge melee are done immediately on contact  - it is just like one round of combat (see below) with the chargers getting +3 combat bonus.  Also, after combat resolution, the defender must make a morale check. Chargers may pursue retreating/routing units.

Movement is in straight line with up to 3cm to either side.  A unit may wheel and the wheeled movement is subtracted from the total move.

Elephants have special move and charge rules revolving around morale checks.

Each side adds up the combat values of the bases that are allowed to participate in melee (those in contact).  The attacker (or person whose turn it is) subtract the defender's total from their own (may be negative). Then the attacker rolls 1d10 and adds or subtracts a number of modifiers (e.g. +1 for shields, +1 for spears, +2 defender disorganised).  Cross reference the modified die roll against the final combat value on the combat table.  This is where it gets interesting.  The result says whether one base goes for the attacker, the defender, or one each - and from where in the unit - right flank edge, left flank or centre. The front base is removed from the relevant place in the unit and the base behind it moves up to fill the gap.  If there is no unit behind, the unit routs (2 moves to the rear and disorganised). Removed unit do not have to be in contact.  So multiple ranks are really really important.  This is the bit that got me wanting to play the game.

For large combat differences, one side will likely retreat, occasionally both. The victor may advance. If both still in contact, a second round of melee occurs exactly as per the above.  And the end of the second round it both units are in contact, a morale check is undertaken by both sides.  For the combat morale check, rolling under the morale value is fine, equal to morale value is an advance and rolling over your morale value is varying worsening retreat options. At this stage, cavalry may optional break off from combat.

The rules also cover if two units are in contact.  A maximum of two units can be in combat with one unit  and a unit of the same troop type may move to the rear of a meleeing unit to provide replacements, but will suffer the same morale effects as the meleeing unit.

A routing unit can check morale to see if it stops and is no longer considered disorganised.

Second combat
Units that have not moved and not in combat may conduct missile fire. Units that have not moved and are not in combat and do not conduct missile fire here may move up to 5cm, possibly into contact.  If they do move into contact, perform melee as above.  Units in contact at the start of the second combat round perform melee again!

A unit may therefore participate in 5 melees in one turn - charge, melee, still in contact melee, then  second combat phase and if still in contact melee, if still in contact after this melee again.

Bits you will not find
There are no rules for deployment, points or terrain setup. There are no examples of a unit type - so you only find out that spears make a difference by looking at the melee modifier table, they are not mentioned anywhere else.  There are no examples of play.

Other bits
There are also rules for war machines and elephant rampages.

End notes
The rules seem more of a framework than actual rules.  This is lucky as the author states this at the end of the book.  With no examples of any sort I had to read and re-read sections to try and determine how the rules were supposed to play.  And the fact some of the important rules were distributed into other sections. 

My changes
I made the light unit only half the unit sizes or the table would not be able to hold them all! There are no defined victory conditions so I will declare victory to the side that causes the other side to lose 50% of their units - 4 units for this game.

1 unit of 4 Leves: Light Infantry, javelin
1 unit of 8 Hastati/Principes: Heavy Infantry, pila, shield
1 unit of 8 Triarii: Heavy Infantry, spear, shield,+1 morale
1 unit of 4  Light Infantry: Medium Infantry, javelin, shield
2 units of 4 Heavy Cavalry: Medium Cavalry, spear, shield
1 unit of 2 Light Cavalry: Light cavalry, spear, shield
1 unit of 8 Hypaspist: Heavy infantry, pikes, shield, +1 morale
1 unit of 8 Pikes/Hoplites: Heavy infantry, pikes, shield
1 unit of 4 Light Infantry: Medium Infantry, javelin, shield
1 unit of 2 Skirmishers: Light Infantry, javelin
1 unit of 4 Heavy Cavalry: Heavy Cavalry, spear, shield, +1 morale
1 unit of 2 Light Cavalry: Light cavalry, spear, shield
1 unit of 4 elephants: elephant
Similar to other games following my standard deployment but with a lot more bases.

Deployment with a lot more stands than normal.

A word of formations that units will start the game in:
  • Light Cavalry and Light Infantry on both sides are in Skirmish order - this means they can retreat before combat.
  • The Legionaries are in Legion formation - they can move bases laterally to fill the gap.
  • Pikes and Hypaspists are in Phalanx formation - moves only 10cm; each base in melee adds +1 to the die; considered to be flanked when fired on.
Turn 1
Normally roll for initiative but, as for all other replays I will give it to the Romans on the first turn.

Formation changes


No charges (charges are done first)
Leves advance 15cm and behind them come the Legionaries.  The Triarii wheel (no restriction on wheel angles but only one wheel a move).
Light Infantry and Light cavalry advance a bit.

No charges, although the Agema charge rate is 30cm and would get very close to the Roman Heavy Cavalry.
Agema and Elephants advance about halfway down the flank.
Skirmishers advance slightly to within 5cm of the Leves.  This puts them in short range
Pikes and Hypaspists move to directly behind the Skirmishers. I read the rules and Skirmishers can retreat with no effect through other units, so no problems with being close behind..


Second Combat
Unmoved units may missile fire or move 5cm; units already in melee do another round of combat.
No moves, fires or continuing combat.

End of first turn with movements.
Turn 2
Romans have initiative (a d10 roll off).

Formation changes

Romans fire first and I hit the first snag.  The d10 roll is modified by +3 for firing as a skirmisher, and +3 for firing at a skirmisher.  As Javelins can only hit of a 5 or less, they will never hit with a +6 modifier. The Epirot return fire will not be much better as foot bows require a 7 so will actually hit on a 1.  I make an off-the-cuff decision to ignore these modifiers for skirmishers Vs skirmishers. It feels right and will ensure that skirmish Vs skirmish missile fire will be as deadly as non-skirmish Vs non-skirmish.

Leves fire at Epirot Skirmishers rolled a 7 +1 long range (1 to 5cm is long range for javelins) =8.  Miss.
Epirots return fire but they are at short range (bow short range is 0-5cm). Missed.


Roman charges:
One Roman Heavy Cavalry units charge into the Agema  Why?  Units get a bonus if THEY charge, while the receiver will not.   I did charge the Elephants with the other unit and started to resolve it until I saw the bit at the end of the Elephant section stating Cavalry cannot charge elephants.  It was not too late to put things right so I moved the other roman cavalry back.

The Agema (left) charged by the Roman heavy cavalry.

Roman chargers resolve combat now.

Heavy cavalry Vs Agema:
Heavy Cavalry: Each base has a combat value of 5, +3 charging +1 carrying shield = 9 per base
2 bases in contact = unit combat value of 18
Agema: Each base has a combat value of 5, +1 carrying shield = 6 per base
2 bases in contact = unit combat value of 12
Difference is +6.
Heavy cavalry roll a 4 that inflicts a C* result on the Agema translating into lose a base from the centre and the * is Agema retreats 5cm. Romans may followup and do so.  When charged, the defender must check morale regardless at the end of charging combat.  Agema pass. Their morale is normally 9 but I have made them elite, meaning the morale is 10, they will not fail morale except an equalling your morale on the melee table forces you to advance 5cm.  There will be another combat in the Combat phase.

Epirot Charges:
Elephant charges the other Roman Heavy Cavalry unit.

The other unit of Roman heavy cavalry charged by Elephants.

Elephant Vs Heavy Cavalry:
Elephant charging is handled a special way - firstly enemy takes a morale check with a +2 modifier. Roman morale is 8, rolled a 5+2=7. Low is good.   OK.  If passes, the Elephant pass through the unit and loses a base (if they had failed the morale check, cavalry would have lost 2 bases and routed).    The elephants are now out of control and randomly move each turn.

Roman moves:
Now I've read the rules more and no voluntary interpenetration - only skirmishers can retreat through other units without disorganising the other unit.  Ah well, the skirmisher battle is on!

Leves move into javelin short range of the Epirot skirmishers.
Legionaries move as fast as they can (10cm) behind them).
Triarii no longer have to help the left flank so advance.
Roman heavy cavalry (the elephants passed through) advance up the left flank also. They turn near the end of the move (units can turn anytime but only once)

Epirot moves:
None really available

Roman Heavy Cavalry Vs Agema:
Heavy Cavalry: Each base has a combat value of 5, +1 carrying shield = 6 per base
2 bases in contact = unit combat value of 12
Agema: Each base has a combat value of 5, +1 carrying shield = 6 per base
2 bases in contact = unit combat value of 12
Difference is +0
Heavy cavalry roll a 4 that inflicts a C*/C or both lose a centre base and Roman Heavy Cavalry retreat 5cm.  Agema advance.
A combat round consists of two melee calculations if the units are in contact after the first melee calculation.
Round two:
Heavy Cavalry: Each base has a combat value of 5, +1 carrying shield = 6 per base
2 bases in contact = unit combat value of 12
Agema: Each base has a combat value of 5, +1 carrying shield = 6 per base
2 bases in contact = unit combat value of 12
Difference is +0
Both lose a base from the centre.

What is left of the Agema/Roman cavalry battle.  The next combat sees them both rout.

Both sides now must take a morale check as still in combat. Both pass.

Second Combat
Epirot did not move so may missile fire again and score a morale check on the Leves; they pass it.

No other units move.

Close Combat round (up to 2 melees!) for units in contact.

Roman Heavy Cavalry Vs Agema with +0 combat difference. Both lose a centre base and both have no unit behind it to fill it in so both rout.  Both rout off the table.  And this is where I notice that buried in the Morale section of the rules is the rule that a units morale drops by one for every base lost.  This is important as the Agema, starting morale 10, would have check morale at 8 rather than 10 earlier (they still passed, it just would have been harder).

End of turn 2

Turn 3
Romans have initiative

Formation changes

Roman Leves at Epirot Skirmishers. Morale check that the Epirots pass.
Epirot at the Leves cause the Leves to lose a base an morale check that they fail by 5 that is a "rout 3 moves" result".  The lost base also caused them to rout as they are in one line and have no replacement.  As they are routing 3 moves and that will take them off the board, I will simply remove them.

Roman charges:
Only mounted units can charge so Roman cavalry charge the Epirot Skirmishers.  Skirmishers cannot retreat from a charge, only an advance (i.e. infantry).

Resolving melee:
One base each in contact: Cavalry is 5 +1 shielded +3 charge =9; Skirmisher is 1. Difference is +8.  Both lose a base, both retreat 5cm.  Skirmishers rout as have no second line base to replace the loss.  Skirmishers also need to take a morale check  That they lose by 3 (morale level is 6; rolled 8 +1 for one lost base = +3) and so rout for two moves.  Will remove them too as this will take them off the table.

The battleline face-off with the skirmishers cleared out of the way.

Epirot charges:

Roman moves:
Advance into contact with the Hypaspists, and a lone base on the pikes.  Note that if two units are in melee against one unit, they must be of the same type (in this case, both the pike unit and Hypaspists are heavy infantry).
Triarii wheel and advance.

Epirot moves:
Elephant charge in a random direction that happens to be forwards right and off the table.


Roman Legionaries Vs Hypaspists and Pikes

The battlelines clash.

Romans throw pila and have a +3 modifier as pikes count unshielded against missiles and also are 3 ranks deep (+1 per extra rank).  Result is pikes count as unshielded in combat (the only pila result). Note that I counted both Pike and Hypaspists as unshielded when it should have only been one unit -the Hypaspists. 
Romans: one base combat value is 3 +1 shields =4 with 4 bases is 16.
Epirot:  one base combat value is 3 +1 pikes and no modifier for shields =4 with 4 bases is 16.
Difference is 0.  both lose a centre base (for the Epirot, the unit with the most bases in combat loses the base, in this case the Hypaspists) and the Romans retreat.  Both Epirots advance (if they did not, they would not be in combat and the roman Heavy cavalry could then charge the pikes).

Second melee calculation.
Difference is +0,  result is both lose a centre base.
Locked in combat, both take a morale check (Hypaspists and Romans at -2 due to losing two bases).  Both pass.

Battlelines after one combat round - white rectangles are the bases removed during the combat

Second Combat
Legionaries Vs Pikes and Hypaspists:
Difference of +0; both lose a centre base and Epirot retreats; Romans can move over one base laterally to fill gap.  Hypaspists cannot and have no base behind them so rout.   Pikes retreat.  Romans do not pursue (the Cavalry can get them next turn!)

End of turn 3.

Turn 4
Romans have the initiative,  as they have had each turn this game.

Formation changes
Roman Legionaries reorganise into a unit with only three bases wide and 2 bases in the second rank. Legion formation bonus of laterally filling in bases is only available if 3 or 4 bases wide.


Roman Charge:
Roman Heavy Cavalry charge the Pikes.

Roman Cavalry combat value for one base is 5 +3 charging +1 shielded = 9 with 2 bases is 18.
Pikes are 3 +1 phalanx +1 shielded = 5 for 2 bases is 10.
Difference is +8. Result is lose a centre base each.
Pikes pass morale check.

No other moves.

Roman Cavalry combat value for one base is 5 +1 shielded = 6 with 2 bases is 12.
Pikes are 3 +1 phalanx +1 shielded = 5 for 2 bases is 10.
Difference is +2. result is lose a centre base each and Cavalry retreats.
Pikes advance.

The sorry lot that passes for a battleline of each side

Note that legionaries are not in the combat even though in contact as only one type of unit may be in combat with another unit.

2nd melee calculation:
Roman Cavalry combat value for one base is 5 +1 shielded = 6 with 2 bases is 12.
Pikes are 3 +1 shielded (no longer phalanx as not at least 2 deep; this should have applied earlier to Hypaspists too) = 4 for 2 bases is 8.
Difference is +4. Result is  Pikes lose a left flank base and Romans lose a right flank base (luckily the only second rank base is on the right flank).  No retreats so both do a morale check at -2 for lost bases. Epirot pass, Romans fail by 3 so rout 2 moves that will be off the table .

Second Combat
Pikes and Legionaries:
Romans throw pila and pikes are unsheilded.
Romans are combat value 3 +1 shielded = 4.  Only one base in contact.
Pikes are combat value 3.
Difference of +1; result is both lose a centre.  Pikes have no second rank so rout.

Epirot have lost 5 units and so I call the game for the Romans.

End of the game - not may of the Epirot left.

The rules are definitely more of a framework than a complete set of rules.  The removing bases from left, right or centre did not pan out as exciting or as different as I thought it may be.  Especially as the most common result is a centre loss.   I did not mind the rules overall and it has some interesting tactical subtleties (such as the difference between charge and advance).  I think there are better and clearer unit games with base removal for small games (Mighty Armies comes to mind).  I would play them again as they are okay and do produce an interesting game.  Especially now that I have read some sections of the rules at least ten times to figure out the meaning :-)

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