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""Best" rules for similar armies?" Topic

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926 hits since 8 May 2018
©1994-2019 Bill Armintrout
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Olivero08 May 2018 10:50 a.m. PST

If you had to pick an "ancients" rules system (not some rather periodic specific ones), which would that be?

Like if you wanted to play hoplite vs. hoplite battles AND roman civil wars AND battles between Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms (prefarably without welsh allies).

By "best" I mean (for the sake of this post)a rules system that will reward the better General who makes better decisions, not the one with better dice.

Would more complex/old-school types like WRG/Warrior be the top choice, or something new like Mortem et Gloriam, or something different like Strategos, well I don't know…

Marcus Brutus08 May 2018 11:06 a.m. PST

The thing is that dice and the randomness of events that usually follow represent the precariousness of battle. This seems most realistic to me, especially when one is playing as the commanding general. There are so many contingencies that make victory or defeat possible that I think luck is an important element in history. That is why Caesar mentioned that he'd chose a lucky general over a skillful one (Napoleon said the same thing.)

Interestingly, the series Rome really captures that religious instinct of the time and proper attitude towards the gods. Good fortune is essential for victory.

If you want a game based strictly on skill then play chess but if you want an accurate table top miniatures game then dice and randomness is an essential ingredient. I would argue that a game like Warrior probably gives players too much certainty.

wrgmr108 May 2018 11:27 a.m. PST

Armati 2 gives us great games with hoplite, or Roman civil war armies.

mghFond08 May 2018 11:41 a.m. PST

To the Strongest, no dice but cards so still an element of randomness which I too believe is necessary to the game. I've never been a fan of chess.

arsbelli08 May 2018 12:29 p.m. PST

Swordpoint strikes a nice balance between tactical planning and execution on the one hand, and reacting to dice-generated 'fog of war' on the other. In either case, the rules definitely reward "the better General who makes better decisions," including those for opposing armies of similar composition.

As to issues of complexity/detail vs. simplicity/abstraction, 'old school' vs. 'new school,' or cards vs. dice vs. no randomness at all, these are matters of personal wargaming taste and preference. Having said that, I do think that the ability to handle unexpected occurrences on the battlefield is an important skill for a successful general to possess, and I would expect a good Ancients ruleset to test that ability in one way or another.

Ney Ney08 May 2018 1:38 p.m. PST

Not what the OP wanted to hear, but I find the period specific rules are usually best suited to like armies as they cope better with civil wars, other factors, etc. I'm mostly thinking dark ages/medieval games here – Comitatus, Dux Bellorum, Day of Battle, Flower of Chivalry etc.

I don't know similar rules for hoplites or Rome civil wars – any suggestions?

Olivero08 May 2018 1:50 p.m. PST

Marcus Brutus, you should have participated in that discussion: link

To make myself clear(er) (if someone cares): I do not criticize dice (or any randomizer) as such, but rather think that in ancients games with similar armies luck tends to play a stronger role compared to those games with substantially different armies. I just read this statement regarding a game of ADLG with nearly identical armies by a very prolific player "… as a luck-fest seemed inevitable so why not get it over with sooner rather than later…". Of course this statement is taken out of context and such, but hopefully it makes my line of thought understandable.

To the others: Thanks for your suggestions. Swordpoint came to my mind just as I saw the new campaign supplement "Charlemagne". Most of Charlemagne's campaigns were aimed at peoples waging war in a similar fashion (at least when described in common wargamers terms), so the rules should be able to handle warfare by similar armies in a fun way. Is there a more in-depth description of that supplement availabe anywhere, by the way?

Bandolier Supporting Member of TMP08 May 2018 5:55 p.m. PST

Mortem et Gloriam has gained ascendency in my group as the main general ancients rules.
Once I got my head around the cards and dice it has proven to be a fun and challenging game.
It does reward good generalship and players with a good sense of timing for using their cards.

advocate08 May 2018 11:42 p.m. PST

My choices are 'To the Strongest' and 'Sword & Spear'.
Both give good games. Both have some randomness in activation but with plenty of decision making as a result. The first uses a grid, the second doesn't. Played successful games from Biblical to late Medieval.

Dexter Ward09 May 2018 6:06 a.m. PST

Field of Glory is good if you like more detailed rules
To the Strongest is excellent if you like fast playing rules

Kenntak09 May 2018 6:54 a.m. PST

Another vote for To the Strongest! Very exciting to play with tough tactical decisions to make, and enough randomness to keep things interesting and somewhat unpredictable.

ancientsgamer09 May 2018 7:14 a.m. PST

If you want realistic restrictions on command, then Mortem Et Gloriam is best.

If you like to do what you want, Might of Arms.

If you want simpler, Impetus, full system.

More abstract, DBA or Command and Colours.

steamingdave4709 May 2018 10:38 a.m. PST

I would also suggest Sword and Spear. Even similar armies may be deployed in different ways. The activation system in Sword and Spear means that "generals" can proritise some units over others or the random selection and random rolls may limit their options for activation.

Marcus Brutus09 May 2018 11:06 a.m. PST

I am curious Olivero by what you mean by "better decisions?" What would that look like in two warband armies meeting each other? Or two shieldwall armies or two feudal knight armies.

One of the things I most appreciate about Impetus is that without imposing on the player strong command and control limits (like Armati does) the rules make deployment decisions extremely important. Impetus moves at such a fast pace that it is extremely difficult to redeploy the army (as it should be.) The Cohestion Tests are brutal which requires careful deployment of reserves. Nonetheless, if you are rolling poorly in the game it is highly probably you will lose. Even with the best plans.

Personal logo BigRedBat Sponsoring Member of TMP09 May 2018 2:07 p.m. PST

Even when the two armies are largely of similarly-equipped troops- hoplites, for example- there can be a good deal of game play. Look at Leuctra, for example. The depth of the formations can make a difference, the numbers and quality of the soldiers, the leadership of the commanders, the command structure of the armies, which side starts with the initiative. As MB says deployment is very important and this can be a function of either generalship, scouting or luck.

There are lots of decisions to make; these decisions are likely to determine which player will be the victorious Epaminondas and which the unfortunate Cleombrotos. Some good cards or dice will, of course, help. :-)


Olivero09 May 2018 3:29 p.m. PST

Marcus Brutus

I am curious Olivero by what you mean by "better decisions?" What would that look like in two warband armies meeting each other? Or two shieldwall armies or two feudal knight armies.

I don't know, that's why I asked. Deployment could be considered such. I read about a rules system that only allows troops to move directly forward, exept for situations where flank attacks are possible. Or like has been mentioned, certain decisions regarding command and control. The often quoted Dark Age Infantry Slog went that way.

BigRedBat lists some more, but I think not every rules system give such opportunities to players equally. Again, that's why I asked about your favorite rules system when focussing on that aspect. Sorry if I am too "abstract" or unclear. And thank's everybody so far.

catavar09 May 2018 4:53 p.m. PST

I've played many games of steppe army vs same, and late Roman vs late Roman using DBM. Similar troops can have different grades (Inferior to Superior).

I believe DBMM goes further and allows generals different grades such as Inert and Brilliant.

platypus01au09 May 2018 8:14 p.m. PST

I believe where DBMM can make these games very interesting is the use of Stratagems. Ambushes, flank marches, swapping deployment, hidden obstacles, etc, etc. Certainly more interesting than simply smashing the two sides together in the middle. DBMM has a good toolset of things to make these civil war battles not boring in the least.

That said, a very good player once told me that when he realised that a game was not going his way, or that it was obvious the other guy had an advantage, he would try and turn the game into a "game of dice". That way the outcome might go your way, and usually sorely vexed the more controlling player opposite. Win-win.


martin goddard Sponsoring Member of TMP11 May 2018 11:00 a.m. PST

Peter Pig "Conquerors and Kings", Categorises troops into generic types so that the generals decisions are more important than "weapon matching". It has been popular since 1999. It uses a square grid system for movement and shooting restriction.

Personal logo miniMo Supporting Member of TMP12 May 2018 11:28 a.m. PST

I find DBA, and Big Battle especially, more often goes to generalship rather than to just the dice.

madaxeman13 May 2018 11:13 a.m. PST

I just read this statement regarding a game of ADLG with nearly identical armies by a very prolific player "… as a luck-fest seemed inevitable so why not get it over with sooner rather than later…". Of course this statement is taken out of context and such, but hopefully it makes my line of thought understandable.

I suspect thats my report ( and I also suspect you have indeed misread it and drawn the wrong conclusion!

My opponent in that game was actually a better "general" than me at the high level strategy part of the game, which you coudl say is the "real world" general type stuff because of this is exactly why he sought to initiate a bit of a dice fest.

Panos my opponent recognised instantly that I was much more experienced at playing the rules system than he was, and with near-identical armies there was therefore a real chance that my better "gamey" skills would prove decisive.

More specifically, the longer the game went on the more my better knowledge of how to do intricate the close-quarters manoeuvring to gain combat advantages (which anyone who plays DBx-type games will recognise) would start to tell.

So, at a strategic level my opponent sought to fight the battle in a way which would minimize the areas where I had a tactical advantage, because he recognised that the longer we fiddled about before getting stuck in, the more chance I had to craft an advantage.

If we both had similar experience of the game mechanics it would have been a very different and much more tactical battle, as neither of us would have wanted to initiate a dice fest, we'd have sought to craft an advantage somehow rather than go into combat trusting to luck alone.

Olivero13 May 2018 11:05 p.m. PST

Hi madaxeman, thanks for clearing that up. As you mentioned your thoughts about an inevitable luck-fest right at the start of your report and that this luck-fest actually was a deliberate plan your opponent came up with much later in your post battle analysis I read too much into that comment.

DukeWacoan Supporting Member of TMP Fezian16 May 2018 12:30 p.m. PST

I converted GMT's Simple Great Battles of History boardgame rules for miniatures. Simple conversion, basically exchanging inches for hexes. Worked great. The system runs from Kadesh to Byzantine era.

We used it for Raphia all MillenniumCon

See here

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