Monday, 2 October 2017

Battle of Heraclea 280BC using new When Warriors Collide rules

This was going to be a battle with my very recent grid-based rules. But it has reverted to game 31 in playtesting my ancient rules by replaying historical battles using my own  ‘Ancient Battlelines Clash’ (its own blog page), designed for 30 minutes games on a 2’x2’ table. I am play testing the rules by replaying all the Peter Sides scenarios from his Historical Battles books.

With another pivot to the rules though.

I started replaying the rules with a set of my own rules called Ancient Warrior Battles.  In 2013, after a few years of use, I streamlined and renamed them Ancient Battlelines Clash.  Recently, I nearly replaced them with a different grid based set I wrote but could not go on with grids, so I updated them with concepts from the gridded game rules.  I did consider calling them version 2 but have changed the named as the rules are different enough that they deserve a new name -
When Warriors Collide.  I have not setup a page for them yet, but a link to the version of the rules used for this battle is here on Google Drive. Only tested with one battle so far, but did play 12 battles with gridded version.

Background to why the new rules
I recently player the campaign boardgame Imperator and created a set of rules derived from ABC to resolve the tactical battles on an 8x8 grid.  It uses the same units as described in Imperator but most of the mechanisms are from ABC, particularly reactions and the programmed opponent but the melee and fire dice rolls are different - no longer add and subtract with a single die, but based on ratios and uses 1 to 3 dice. I also did away with some of the dice rolls and made some reactions deterministic.  It easily scaled to a 12x12 grid and if overlaid on a 2’x2’ would give 2” squares that fit my 15mm figure bases (40mm) quite well.  It should play faster as it has less dice rolling and easier movement.  I am all for faster games but I am still not quite sure if I am a grid person  ...and I am not, or not yet for my own rules using 15mm ancient battles on a 2x2 table..  I set up the game, put some small markers to shows where some of the squares where and then just could not do it.  So I spent a few days rewriting them to work without squares.  But I did keep one grid mechanism - a base can only ever be facing in one of four directions that align with the board edges.  I am hoping this will make movement easier. 

Heraclea is actually one of the next battles on the list of the Peter Sides scenarios to play.  If is also the battle I replayed using 12 different rulesets during 2012-2016, but never with my own rules.  So what better battle to try out my new When Warriors Collide rules for the first time!

Battle of Heraclea
Pyrrhus comes to Italy to assist the Greek cities their against the Roman aggressors.  For more detail on the battle and the units see this blog post I did prior to my replays: Heraclea deployment and background.



Pyrrhus units
1 Agema, HC,vt (Veteran), ch (will mandatory charge against most heavy units)
1 Elephant, EL,ps (x2 Vs mounted)
1 Hoplites, PH, mp (extra missile protection)
3 Phalangites, PH
1 Hydaspists, PH, vt
1 Peltasts, MM
1 Light cavalry, LC, vt
2 Skirmishers, SI
1 Leader with the Agema

Breakpoint: 9


The Romans
2 Cavalry, HC
4 Leves, SI
4 Hastati/Principes, HI, lr (line relief)
2 Triarii, HI, vt
1 Light Infantry, MM
1 Light cavalry, LC
1 Leader with one of the legions

Breakpoint: 9


Pyrrhus on the left, Romans on the right.  Heavy infantry have two bases but this is just for visual effect.
Note that the heavy infantry and phalanxes units are represented in depth with two bases for one unit.  This is just for visual effect.  Someone mentioned it a few years ago and I use it when I remember! I did find that having two bases to move was harder to do (only a little but I am lazy), so while it looked great, I may only keep using two bases for heavy infantry intermittently in future.

The Game
Normally I rush out with Pyrrhus, the Agema and the elephants on the right flank.  This time I will advance with the centre and use the flanks in support until they may be required.

(turn 1)
both sides advance at a pace to keep in line with the centre battleline.  Except the Roman heavy cavalry that stay out of charge range of the Agema.

Turn 1 advance

Centre Pyrrhic battleline advances and skirmishers fire, a  Leves gone and all the Pyrrhic ones.

Centre battlelines just prior to clearing of the Skirmishers.
The Pike block that was fired at advances on the Leves, routs the Leves, attacks the Legions behind it but is disordered (1 in 6 chance).

A Phalangite unit advances after being fired at by a Leves.
The Romans retaliate and destroy the phalangites and advance.

(turn 2)
Pyrrhus and the elephants move into charge range of the opposing Roman cavalry

Now, here is the a change from my old rules - the army is split into three deployment groups.  Only one move action can occur per deployment group.  The entire centre battleline is one delpoyment group but has been split into two. Only one section can move - do I advance the hoplites or the main battleline? Advance the battline - clear the skirmishers but nothing else.

The state of the battleline.  One Phalangite lost.

The Triarii turn to protect the Roman left flank

(turn 3)
Pyrrhus and the Elephants charge the roman heavy cavalry. One is destroyed, the other is disordered..

The Agema and the elephants destroy a Roman cavalry unit. 
Advance the phalangites and Hypaspists.  Both Roman legions charged are disordered.

Battlelines clash - grey spears are disordered markers.

Move the other Triarii unit to left flank as the left Roman flank it is more likely to succumb.

(turn 4)
Pyrrhus destroys opposing Roman cavalry and does not pursue.  Elephant turns.

Roman cavalry on flank gone and elephant turns to attack the Triarii.
Roman right centre collapses.  Only one more unit away from breaking.

The Roman right flank has collapsed, but the veteran Triarii should hold it for awhile. 
Triarii turn to shore up the battleline

(turn 5)
Elephant crashes into the flank of a Triarii but it is still counted as a frontal attack as the elephant is not behind the front edge of the Triarii.  After doing this, I realise the Elephant cannot attack at good odds (it will be at less than 1:1), so does not attack, but at least they are held in place.

Elephant contacts the Triarii.
Hydaspists disorder an opposing legion.

(turn 6 and last turn)
Triarii attack the elephant and both are disordered

Pyrrhus crashes into the the rear of the Triarii. Odds of 3:1 but gets nothing but a disorder each.

The Agema attacking the rear of the Triarii 
Hydaspists disorder an opposing legion.

Games only last 6 turns  (this is new to these rules) and would have ended in a Pyrrhic win as they had destroyed more units, but in the last combat roll of the game, a disordered legion is unlucky and rolls a 1 Vs an opposing phalanx and routs. This causes the Romans to lose immediately as they have reached their army breakpoint.

Roman legion attacks an opposing phalangite unit but loses and routes.
The game ends with a victory to Pyrrhus!

End game situation.
I like the combat mechanism of rolling dice and looking at numbers rather than adding/subtracting die modifiers.  I could get used to this!  I do not mind the new command limitations of only being able to move one group of units in each of the three deployment groups - this makes the game faster than rolling to perform an action with each unit.  I will have to play it a few more times just to make sure it all hangs together, especially with more of the unit types., So far, I think these new rules are faster and easier but give just as many decisions and are just as much fun solo.  


  1. Shaun, enjoyed reading about your design thoughts and evolving rules - limiting unit orientation to just 4 easily regulated directions is a neat idea to a non-grid game. I will be interesting to see how that plays out over time.

    1. I am surprised I had not come across facing limitations like this for ancient gaming before - it probably exists somewhere. It does remove a lot of fiddly movement rules and is unlikely to take away from any tactics (maybe!). A thought I had an hour ago is that people could optionally play with any facing but then would have to figure out their own interpretations for zone of control, retreats, routs, interpenetration and flanking! I am going to keep playing with the four facings limit unless (until?) I find it just doesn't work.

  2. I like grid based games very much so I am happy to see you developing this game, Shaun. I do hope you continue with it to full development.

    I think an "Armati Lite" approach to command is a simple and effective one. Can you reform a group once it is broken up? That was actually a nice feature of Armati despite the insane number of exceptions in those rules. ;)

    I happen to have an 8X8 grid that is quite accessible. I'll try and give your beta rules a go soon...assuming I can get the time.


    1. Hello John,

      You can reform a group once it has broken up - I will add that to the rules!

      This game was played using the 8x8 rules I wrote and modifying them to play on a non-gridded table. But most of the rules are unchanged, so it is likely to be fine to play on a grid.

      And yes, i am going to continue to develop them as these are the evolution of my ABC rules i have been using for the last few years So I hope to be playing more historical battles with them.

  3. A nice looking game with impressive units, no doubts!

  4. How does one wheel a group in the 90deg facing system? I really like the concept, but it seems impractical for a group of more than two to wheel?

    1. Well spotted! When I played this game, there was no need to wheel more than 2 units. After this game, I looked at the rules closer with an aim to write hem up better.
      I realised that wheeling more than 2 units was not possible! I decided that I will stick to 8x8 grids for these rules, and have writren the best bits of these rules in a revision of Ancients Battlelines Clash. Wheeling is not in 90 degree amounts anymore and can wheel smaller amounts. I found that only using 90 degrees ws solving a problem I did not actually have with ABC. I have just played Heraclea with these rules (will post the AAR in the next few days) and prefer them and so will continue with revising Ancient Battlelines Clash, and leave When Warriors Collide for 8x8 gridded games.

  5. I like the gridded game concept (like Lost Battles, but with far better design execution!). That said, would you not consider a larger grid, say 13x9? I think of the size of most folks' armies, and 8x8 seems like it would cramp?

    1. I originally designed the rules to play on a 8x8 grid as that is what I could use on a A4 page with 6mm figure strips (about 25mm wide). They work fine on 12x12 as well, which would be good for 60cmx60cm boards with 5cm grids and 4cm width units. But I rewrote the rules to work on a 60cmx60cm table without grids into what was played here which is sort of like a 15x15 grid on a 60cmx60cm board. But the wheeling of more than two units is something I do not have a solution for. On 8x8, and even mostly of a 12x12 it is not really a problem. It does get to be an issue at 15x15 as there are more units on the table and there are likely times you may want to whee 3 (or more) units).

  6. What about having 8 facing instead of four? N, NW, W, etc... You wheel no further than your allowance? So of you are too long a group, you need more time to complete it.

  7. Possibly. I did want to stay away from gong from 4 to 8 facings as I feel I am getting close to free wheeling. I am thinking more on it and wondering how often it would be the case that wheeling more than 2 heavy infantry units would be required - how often did it happen historically? Maybe it is a good limitation in that a heavy infantry battleline cannot wheel altogether, and only one side of it (2 units) could wheel. The 2 unit wheel limitation is only for heavy infantry as for faster units more units in a line could wheel.

  8. Interesting. That is a valid viewpoint I think. Very large sweeping wheeling maneuvers seemed to have been difficult to accomplish in the age before widespread writing and telescope use. Light troops and mounted would thus have a significant advantage in maneuverability as well as speed. I think you may be onto something!