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HillervonGaertringen Sponsoring Member of TMP of Helion and Co Ltd writes:

The Three Ages of Rome has been out just over a month. The rules author, Philip Garton, writes about his thoughts on game play and his approach to writing the rules.

Three Ages of Rome

History is but one roll of the dice!

Three Ages of Rome


At the heart of this project is my interest in the military history of ancient Europe. The first problem was to identify a suitable timeframe as a setting for these rules. A look through lists of ancient battles showed that the growth, and decline, of Roman power was central to more than a thousand years of warfare around the Mediterranean Sea. So, my first problem was solved, Rome's history would shape the development of these rules. The earliest battles were fought to defend the city itself and extend its influence into neighboring territories. Once security was achieved, there followed many battles to expand Rome's territories. Slowly, new enemies arrived on the borders of the empire, and over the next few centuries, Rome's dominance in the west would be shattered. I decided that these Three Ages of Rome would form the setting for my rules.

For me, wargaming is a recreational activity that encompasses social interaction, personal research effort, and much time spent on its artistic aspects. The first two elements shaped my thinking. How could I create a rewarding gameplay opportunity, and retain a feel for the history? A swift review of many existing rulesets suggested two main categories. The larger of these is the competition focused category which includes most of the best-selling rulesets. The other group includes many games that are essentially focused on smaller forces and are, more often, played at the skirmish/tactical level. Designing Three Ages of Rome around a number of army level, historical scenarios gave the rules a clear sense of historical focus. The amount, and the type of, social interactions around the game must ultimately depend on the nature of the players.

Three Ages of Rome

Designer's Thoughts

I thought about what players would want from their experience of playing. In my local group, we had all been through the competition gaming phase. Now, we prefer more multi-player games that are easy to pick up while still offering historical outcomes. Notwithstanding our desire for sociability, wargamers can always be intensely competitive in finding ways to achieve victory.

Three Ages of Rome is intended to focus on historical refights, but the current state of knowledge of ancient battles is relatively poor. For example, the vast majority of accounts lack topographical data, and descriptions of the outcomes are normally biased by the politics of the writer. In any case, there is no point in creating something that just delivers the set of exact historical outcomes. Who would want to spend hours playing a game when who wins is already known? As wargamers, we are always intrigued by the question of "What if…". When a wargamer rolls a d6, he makes a small piece of history. If he replays that same roll, the chance of that history being exactly the same is just one in six. On reflection, perhaps we might all do well to consider the idea that history is, but one roll of the dice!

The six historical scenarios, two from each section of the rules provide a range of different challenges. Each includes a historical account of the battle, a suitable map, and realistic army lists for both sides. These give players a starting point for designing their own battles, based on their own specific interests.

In Three Ages of Rome, players take the role of commander-in-chief or one of his immediate subordinates. The decisions they make will cascade down through the army and affect the actions of units in the frontline. As generals, players' actions are focused on the management of the battle more than on the management of the troops. They must try to create the best situation for their troops but the final outcome would always be uncertain and a degree of luck will always help.

Experienced generals were more likely to be victorious, but things could always go wrong. For example, the last non-Christian emperor, Julian, was very experienced, and he personally led his troops in combat at the battle of Samara. Unfortunately for him, he was wounded and would die of his wounds later that day. His death was an important moment in history. Who knows what the world might have looked like if had he survived?

Over the course of a battle, an army's capacity to fight would gradually deteriorate and the commander's ability to keep it fighting was critical. Being able to withdraw worn units and insert fresh ones was not easy when lines of troops were fighting each other hand-to-hand. In Three Ages of Rome, one key piece of advice is – maintain a reserve. This may be used to seal the victory, or it may stave off a disastrous collapse. As you might expect, better players will be more able to affect events and shape the outcome of the battle. Some might even get to re-write the history!

Three Ages of Rome

Rule Mechanics

The core structure for Three Ages of Rome is derived from the well received In Deo Veritas rules. As with those rules, it is the subtlety of the interactions between the various parts that make the game more interesting for the players. As might be reasonably expected, the movement, combat and cohesion elements are similar to many sets of rules, and should not present any difficulty in getting straight into the game.

Winning the game? Many rulesets have a virtual cliff-edge where the loss of just one more unit ends the game instantly. Three Ages of Rome is different because it reflects the gradual decline in an army. Nothing is certain… the loss of another unit does not guarantee a collapse. It is possible for both sides to run out of steam in the same turn. In Three Ages of Rome, the final outcome is decided by assessing the state of both sides. If one side is still fairly intact and the other has collapsed, then victory is likely, but if both sides collapse, then neither may claim anything.

Three Ages of Rome

Some Notes on the Rules

  • The active player sequence is randomized by the use of individual cards for each command in a game. This means that you must plan your moves without knowing the precise sequence of the action
  • Reflecting recent military research, there is an emphasis on the importance of force cohesion
  • There is no figure removal, and bookkeeping is limited to keeping track of removed units
  • There are events that have a small chance (around 5%) of an impact on the battle. For example, if you have a curse on your enemies! You can present this to your opponent before he makes a dieroll that you want to affect. He does not make that roll and the result is an automatic failure
  • Six ready-play scenarios are included with maps, army lists, and side-specific objectives
  • 23 army lists provide an easy starting point for club-night games
  • Three Ages of Rome includes a terrain generator based on historical battles

Game Scales & Basing

Three Ages of Rome has an approximately ground scale of 1 cm = 15 meters, and is designed so that typical battles will fit on a normal 6' x 4' wargames table. This will give a battlefield with over a mile of frontage; big enough for the majority of battles in this period. The approximate scale time, including moves by both sides, is about 30 minutes. The army lists provided will support club-night battles of approximately 10,000 men per side, and should be playable in two to three hours.

The main unit scale is approximately 1,000 massed infantry, or 500 heavy cavalry, to a base. As the aim of Three Ages of Rome is the re-creation of bigger battles, setting the units at this level helps players get the feel of being in command of an army. All major units have an 80mm frontage, while smaller (or specialist) units have 40mm frontages. In common with many army-level rulesets, the ground scale used in Three Ages of Rome makes bases using historical formation depths unworkable. The base depths used reflect the type of troops and allow players to create visually attractive units.

The rules were designed for the smaller figure scales (6 to 15mm), so that armies look the part. If your preference is to play with 28mm figures, you will find that the appropriate base sizes are provided. The main impact of the larger scale is its effective reduction in the size of the battlefield. In whichever scale you choose, you should be able to create an army that you find visually attractive.


Now choose your scenario, build your army, and play Three Ages of Rome!

Roll Your Dice & Make History!

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