First, a Happy Canada Day from all of us here in Canada. Canada is officially 150 years old today (1st of July 2017) and that’s something to celebrate. As gamers and fans of history everywhere it’s interesting to look at such things and celebrate them. So raise a glass of your favorite drink to Canada and all those who have made it what it is today. Overall, as an immigrant to Canada I have to say I am happy and proud to be Canadian. You have respect what it has done both for it’s citizens and on the international stage over the years.
So, back to more usual content. Last week in the club Jahan ran his ‘to the strongest’ convention and intro game for us. It ended up with 6 players. It plays really well – he ran it twice at this years Hotlead and is a good intro to the game. He does not not use all the rules but simplifies the rules to make it even easier for him and the players. Lets be honest that’s typical when running the con game for lots of new players. With more of us playing now I suspect this won’t be needed as much in the future anyway. I have had these rules for a while and this has given me the kick to get into this game as well. This ‘starter’ game still gives a good intro to the game. So I thought I’d do a quick write up the game we played – as an intro to these rules and record of the fun. Note, as I mentioned I have been planning to play these myself and really am looking forward to the ECW version which the author is working on. My big collection of figs for that period cry out for a cool game to play in an eve.
All the toys were provided by Jahan. These were his 28mm Carthaginian and Roman’s and we fought a typical but fictional Punic war battle. I was controlling one flank of the Carthaginian’s – the Gauls. So I could let my berserker beard go wild so to speak. I had a two each of large units of infantry, medium cavalry and skirmishers under my command. Opposing them were some of those kill joy Empire building Romans. As this is Punic war period they are still in their ‘rebellious upstart’ period but really stretching their political and military power. Directly opposite my forces were 2 Roman legions (combined Hastati and Princepes) infantry units, 2 small ones (the Triarii) and then a single medium cavalry (Equites) and skirmisher unit (Velites). So a decent force of Romans.Of course this is all part of a larger battle. The Spanish were in the other wing of our army with the mercenary and Carthaginian spear in the center. The green tokens are missiles/shots available if you were wondering and we used red beads for hits on units. I believe all the missile troops in the game were using javelins in this game. Below you see a more focused picture of the starting forces on our side after the first turns moves. You can see the whole Carthaginian force surged forward – tactics what tactics… we just Charge!!!
The Romans moved in a more cautious and controlled manner. The mechanism of the game is simple in that you just pull normal cards from a double deck to see if you can do things vs. rolling a dice. To move you have a target number to get above. Units can move again if you get a card higher than the previous one to activate. Face cards count as 10’s and you can always go if you draw a 10. If you fail to activate a unit then your turn is over. So there is a prioritization and risk/reward on every activation. As an intro game we had generals allow a redraw on their or surrounding squares once per turn (which is more generous than the normal rules which is just their square) but it keeps the game going.
So you can see this means that if you pull an ace for moving troops your turn can be over quickly. That happened to me when closing on the Romans. You reshuffle after each turn so card counting really does not work and ensures a good randomness of the game.
Over the whole table the Carthaginians seemed to have the same plan and me – although we had not discussed it. We were moving towards the Romans at a fair speed…All the while the while Romans stayed mostly where they were. Some of this was by design/plan and other due to poor command card pulls.
You’ll notice the dots on the table. One interesting thing with these rules is you move and measure by squares. So no need of a tape measure etc. I actually like that and it certainly makes the game move faster than with tape measures. I don’t think it makes a huge difference for what you can do action wise but it takes things a lot easier to play.
On my side of the table the Gauls had got close to the Romans and started throwing javelins. Not very successfully it has to be said but heck… You hit by again drawing a card – usually an 8 or higher is needed to hit for missile shots or if a unit is disrupted (has any hits), or a 6+ if fresh combat troops. The the opposing unit draws a card to save. The number needed depends on the type of troops and the number of hits they can take changes as well.
It’s a simple system but works. There are factors which effect the target numbers and some extra commands such as rallying etc. but it’s all fairly easy to understand.
This closing and getting to grips was happening all across the table. The Spanish on the other flank still had a way to go because the Romans over there held back but the central units were getting close. One square in the center on our side, that facing a hill had failed to activate a couple of times – so were lagging behind all the others.
A couple of turns of skirmish firing – which had no effect on the Romans happened after that. The only damage was actually to my force in that one of my cavalry units took a hit from the Roman skirmishers. As I had 2 of those units I pulled them back and then tried to rally the hit off them. Lets just say it too a long time for the Gaulic horsemen to get themselves sorted, but they eventually did it.
Meanwhile, I charged forward with my other cavalry targeting the Roman horse. I also decided to take one of my big units with a general and charge into a Romans infantry unit. Likely the tactical move would have been to wait on the hill and use my superior numbers of javelin armed troops to weaken the Romans. But heck, whats the fun the that, especially in large multi-player game. I was playing the barbarians after all.
The other Roman legion stood on the top of a hill though and I did not fancy fighting them up hill, so my other big unit sat waiting for them to attack me… Of course that never happened so when I got commands I’d use my skirmishers to try to damage them – but never succeeded during the game. If I had I likely would have risked the charge in to try to kill the unit.
My large unit with the general vs. the Romans ended is a long drawn out fight. The 2 medium cavalry units could not hit and damage each other. This happened over multiple turns and we started joke about the poor card pulls being pulled on our side of the table. The battle of the rubber swords. The Roman cavalry kept retreating and I stupidly kept pushing up the attack, so the Romans drew one of my Cavalry units further and deeper into their side of the battle. That was till they had nowhere else to retreat too as they were on the base edge of the table.
So it seems my ‘odd and often poor’ luck in games with dice seems to map over well to cards! Of course Chris my opponent playing the Romans had the same level of luck. So it looked like the first one to get some hits which were not saved would likely break open our side of the battle.
Battle was joined across the table at this point with the Carthaginians taking the offense. Again that great battle plan of Charge… seemed to be in effect. At this point we were even a little ahead, but the force and power of the legions was holding strong.
The fight in the center of my units, my big unit with the general vs. Romans was even going a bit my way. Both units had a hit on them by this point, but with mine having 3 hits vs. the Roman 2 I thought I had a decent chance of winning there. Unfortunately, the Romans have ‘line swapping’ maneover which they did which makes them harder in combat. It allows them to rally off a ht but they failed to do that. It was becoming even clearer that the winner of this fight would be in a great position for ultimate victory on the flank. I was using my skirmishers to continue to harass the Romans where I could but continued to have little success with them.
One now obvious thing happened to my cavalry who had been drawn forward. They got flanked by the Romans. An good tactic by my opponent and I thought they were dead – especially as they could not hit back or save hits when attacked from the flank. That would make a bug difference on this flank if it happened.
Well after an attack from the unit facing them and three from the flanking unit they were sill not only there but at full strength! Yes with 4 attacks on my unit they still had not been damaged. I thought my luck was bad but Chris had taken that mantel for the bad rolls. We thought it funny and had a good laugh about it – but I realized my luck would not last and I needed to pull that unit back and soon… I had a horrible sinking feeling that such poor luck on my opponents side would not last,
I continued to use my forces to support the main unit fight where possible, but a second hit on the big Gaul unit with my general changed the odds the next turn. I realized that now I had to get lucky town this sustained fight. Maybe I could hold this flank and our side could win the game in other area’s of the battle. However, from what I was hearing although we had been ahead both sides had been taking casualties and it was about even odds now for the overall battle.
So taking the cautious approach for once in the game, I withdrew my large unit which was onto a hill. I tried to rally a hit off them vs. attacking and failed to do that. But this as least gave them a better fighting chance. I brought the various javelin armed troops to help in the support of the fight. Unfortunately this provided the opportunity for the Romans to move their undamaged legion to fight this unit. I think we did this a little wrong and I’m not sure they were allowed to do this in the rules but anyway, that’s what we did. That was a bad scenario for me and this would make for a bad match up for me.
That was the deathnell to my large unit as I expected as the next combat turn the new Roman unit destroyed the general and the big unit. The next turn my skirmishers did the second hit on the damaged Roman unit that these had been pounding. So in the end both of these big units were destroyed. That left me in a bad position though as my remaining unit was outflanked by the Romans. I decided to try one last throw of the die and this large unit charged forward targeting a small Roman one now on the hill infant of them. Even though it only had a single hit so I had a decent chance of killing it that did not happen as it saved all the hits. So although I had hoped to kill in the end that did not work.
The next turn the remaining Roman legion unit was setting up on the flank and my last large unit was already taking hits. The Roman Triarii unit on the hill continued to thwart my plans. The Roman medium cavalry also had finally got a couple of good hits and killed my cavalry! So after all that aggressive chasing and attacks in the end they feel to the Roman cavalry. Thus my flank was starting to collapse.
Overall though that did not matter as with my casualties. There had been a general collapse across the whole Carthaginian forces – the Spanish especially suffering at the hands of the Romans. So the game was over and we had lost.
It was a fun game, simple but with every decision & card making a difference. We had a great deal of fun and the game lasted close to 3 hours with 5 newbies. With the full rules I believe this will be a very tactical but still fun. I look forward to more games of this in the future.