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"Tactical Concepts To Include In Ancients Wargaming" Topic

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Leftblank02 Apr 2022 6:41 a.m. PST

Here's my take on which tactical concepts should be included in Ancients wargaming rulesets to regard them as 'good' Ancients rulesets.

The Amsterdam Acid Test for Wargames, part IX: Realism vs Gaming.
What makes an ancients wargame a GOOD Ancients wargame?

I'm going to review and compare at least 5 Ancients wargames, I think I have a good topic list, but the question is, how can I as a 21st century wargamer judge the 'historical realism' of an Ancients ruleset?

I read Sabin ('Lost Battles') but was enlightened by the July/August 2021 issue of Slingshot, with an interview with Simon Hall and and essay about 'Game Mechanics and Realism' by Anthony Clipsom.

Clipsom: historical plausibility is the key

Clipsom, to start with, brings up interesting points. Wargamers have dusty discussions. Some say a game must be 'realistic' and 'realistic' means 'quantification'. The more tables and modifiers, the better. A unit or a tactic must be represented by exact numerical values. Others think of wargames as 'games', and emphasise elegant, clear mechanics. Simulation is impossible, so why bother?. A third axis, Clipsom writes, is playability, are the rules clear and easy to understand? Historical and 'gamey' rules can be badly written or hopelessly impractical, or slow.

(continued in my blog, here: )

wballard19 Apr 2022 3:36 p.m. PST

If there isn't a "berserk elephant" rule it ain't ancients. ;)

pfmodel19 Apr 2022 5:57 p.m. PST

Putting game systems to one side, a good method of determining if an ancients set of rules is historically feasible, is to create historical scenarios and ensure they result in a reasonably historical result. Once you have that you can branch out into the world of ad-hoc games.

The issues with this system is mis-matched periods may have unusual results.

I also feel if you don't have a berserk elephant rule, it isn't ancient enough!

Marcus Brutus20 Apr 2022 5:09 a.m. PST

How does one adjudicate what is "historically feasible"? Formulating this kind of test is exactly the problem at hand. On what basis does one include or exclude variations on historical results? One of my problems with Sabin's Lost Battles is that he works backwards from results to effects. This seems to me to beg the question as it generally creates a system that produces preordained results.

Erzherzog Johann21 Apr 2022 10:26 p.m. PST

I agree with pfmodel above although not on the berserk elephant rule. Most elephant-possessing generals didn't seem to factor this into their deployment,it doesn't get mentioned in accounts of Raphia etc, so I suspect it was the exception rather than the rule. It's also a more skirmish level issue IMO.A whole base of elephants doesn't all panic and run in the same direction at one moment in time. Several have probably been disabled or killed before the remainder (possibly) panic.

But as to the idea of testing for plausible, (if perhaps not identical to history) results is a good starting point.

So do pike phalanxes generally push back/beat legionaries (Pyrrhus' battles, Pydna, Cynocephalae etc) in good going? If they recoil them into bad going or are otherwise disrupted do they lose? Do small groups of skirmishers mainly provide annoyance rather than decisive effect? In other words, do the rules encourage players to deploy and use their troops in ways that made sense to ancient generals, while allowing flexibility for player decision making?

Personal logo BigRedBat Sponsoring Member of TMP22 Apr 2022 3:50 a.m. PST

,it doesn't get mentioned in accounts of Raphia etc,

It famously is mentioned at Raphia, the rout of the Ptolemaic elephants carried away the guard and the Lybians- nearly lost the battle for the Egyptians.

Elephants sometimes acted as a herd. At one of the Pyrrhic battles in Italy they all charged to the defence of a scared calf, and formed a circle around it, which must have made a mess of the deployment and anyone nearby! That would be a hard rule to write. :-)

Erzherzog Johann23 Apr 2022 10:39 p.m. PST

Indeed it would!

Sorry,I wasn't clear. I didn't mean the rout of elephants isn't mentioned. I meant the idea that elephants could conveniently decide to trample further into the enemy,thus breaking the unit that just destroyed them, or another enemy, or, equally, a friendly unit. *An* elephant might conceivably do that. I've seen a LoTR game where that happened, to great hilarity all round. But that this should be an essential ingredient of an ancients set is something I wouldn't agree with.

Personal logo BigRedBat Sponsoring Member of TMP24 Apr 2022 11:41 a.m. PST

I meant the idea that elephants could conveniently decide to trample further into the enemy,thus breaking the unit that just destroyed them, or another enemy, or, equally, a friendly unit. </Q>

Well I'd agree with that- but I'd still have a rule for it, assigning a greater change of them evading away from than towards the enemy.

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