Rules for Conducting Miniature Warfare in the Age of Antiquity 2500 BC to 500 AD
Remember why you entered this sport in the first place? To enjoy it. Now, go and enjoy the game!
– Introduction and Design Philosophy, Melees Gloriosus, pg. I
The designer states that his goals in creating this ruleset were to make a comprehensive product that was suitable for beginners, yet had sufficient detail for veteran gamers. The system is intended to play rapidly, with minimal dice rolling and paperwork.
The game system is based on two principles:
- That "most protective armor was similar in its quality of protection" – hence, soldiers in this ruleset are simply armored or unarmored.
- That the primary factor about weaponry is "the way the weapon itself is wielded as part of a formation"
The game system comprises three distinct elements:
- the land game
- the naval game
- and the siege game
Of Soldiers and Armies
Melees Gloriosus recognizes the following troop types:
- light infantry
- heavy infantry
- light cavalry
- heavy cavalry
- chariots (2-, 3-, 4-horse, and scythed)
- battlewagons (Sumerian type)
These troop types are optional:
- camp followers
- armed peasant levies
- armed rabble
Individual troops are combined with others of their type to form units. Each unit receives a rating: raw, regular, veteran, or elite. A unit contains a maximum of 60 figures, including a mandatory command stand. (Irregular troops come in large units, while regular troops typically do not exceed 36 figures per unit.) The point cost of a unit is determined by the troop type value multiplied by the number of figures in the unit. Any number of units compose an army.
The number of commanders which an army has depends on the number of players per side, as there must be one figure to represent each player. One player is the commander-in-chief of each army, while the others are sub-commanders.
A thumbnail guide to several ancient armies is provided in an appendix, but no specific army lists are included. As the rules state, "Researching and organizing your army or armies can be one of the more enjoyable aspects of the hobby."
Sequence of Play
Each game turn is composed of the following steps:
- charge movement
- normal movement
- missile fire
- artillery fire
- other missile fire
- morale checks
- breakthrough movement (special advance by units victorious in melee)
Both players participate in each phase. For instance, at the start of the movement phase, players dice with the winner choosing whether to go first or force the other to go first. One player then moves his forces, followed by the other player moving his forces.
The optional rules insert a Command and Control phase at the start of each turn, with players spending command points to issue orders and control units. Uncontrolled units either stop, continue what they were doing, or do as the player desires, as determined by their rating and a dieroll.
Units may be in one of two possible formations – battleline and march-column. To change formation costs both movement points and time (rated in turns and half-turns). Similar costs apply to changing frontage (reducing or expanding the number of ranks), changing facing (rotating troops in place, so that the unit's front face is changed), and wheeling (actual rotation of the unit). Certain troops can use special maneuvers, such as side-stepping and incline movement.
Skirmishers are an exception to the normal formation and movement rules. Skirmishers act individually, may move as they feel, and pay no maneuver costs. Peltasts may change from skirmish to normal status.
Units in battleline formation have the option of performing a charge, but only if this is declared at the start of the movement phase. Charge movement is performed before all other movement. Certain units may use charge movement every other turn, as a form of increased movement, but most units can only declare a charge if they intend to make contact with the enemy.
Cavalry, skirmishers, and light infantry may attack using ranged weapons –
- foot spear
- mounted spear
- foot bow
- mounted bow
- composite bow
To make an attack, the unit must have a target within range (determined by weapon type) and in their arc of fire (determined by troop type). Movement also determines whether a unit can make a ranged attack, and if so, how many figures in which ranks may attack.
In order to attack, a unit must have loaded weapons. Most weapons take one turn to reload, with movement restrictions applying during the reloading. In addition, weapons can only be loaded while ammunition exists. For weapons such as spears, the number of weapons per figure is specified before play; for bow-armed infantry, they fire at a penalty after five attacks, and must resupply after ten attacks.
Under certain conditions – after being fired upon, or within charge range of an enemy unit – a ranged-weapon unit must attack its priority target. Otherwise, the unit may select any eligible target. Units may even divide their attacks among eligible enemies. To gain a bonus, a unit may "aim" for up to two turns prior to firing.
Missile combat in Melees Gloriosus is unique in that indirect fire over other units into a target is recognized… this was a historically accurate tactic in some armies… To disallow this is to eliminate a major aspect of ancient warfare, and thus not give an accurate portrayal of combat from the period.
– Introduction and Design Philosophy, Melees Gloriosus, pg. I
There are two forms of ranged combat – direct fire, in which the firing unit can trace a line of sight to the target; and indirect fire, when firing "over" some troops or certain terrain features to target other soldiers. Indirect fire is less effective than direct fire, and will also hit any friendly troops too close to the intended target.
Missile fire is resolved by rolling a six-sided die, applying modifiers (due to range, cover, movement, target's armor, firing angle, aiming, target depth, and the firing unit's rating and nationality), then cross-referencing this score to the number of figures firing to discover how many "hits" were scored. Different combat tables are used for direct and indirect fire.
In general, one hit equals one kill, and the casualty is marked (using a casualty cap or other marker) from the rear rank of the target unit. However, targets such as chariots, wagons, and elephants take multiple hits to kill, and some hits may be negated (due to hitting the structure) or applied elsewhere (such as hitting an elephant's crew rather than the elephant itself). Hits may cause an elephant to panic.
Example: A unit of 60 Celtic irregular bowmen fires on a unit of 36 Roman regular heavy infantry. Since the Celts moved at full speed this turn, only half of their front rank may fire - in this case, 10 archers.
To resolve the attack, the Celtic player rolls a die and gets a "5." This is modified by: -2 (firing unit moved), +2 (target at short range, 6" or less for an infantry bow), -2 (target armored), for a final result of 5 - 2 + 2 - 2 = 3. Cross-referencing this score versus the number of figures firing (10), the player discovers the Celts have inflicted 2 hits on the Romans. The Roman player must mark two figures in his rear rank.
Artillery attacks are similar to ordinary missile attacks, except that they are never required to attack, they usually take longer to reload, and they have a crew of between 1 and 6 figures (depending on weapon type). Each weapon is rated for its "worth" in terms of figures firing, and a different (smaller) set of modifiers apply to artillery fire resolution. Special rules apply to artillery firing at individuals, and against other artillery.
Melee combat is resolved in a strict order, depending upon the type of units fighting and the nature of their engagement. (For instance, all skirmisher vs skirmisher combats are resolved first, before next resolving all attacks striking the rear of an enemy unit.)
The number of ranks which may participate in the attack depends on the weapon type being used, with longer weapons (i.e., pikes) allowing certain units in the second or even the third rank to count.
To resolve combat, the number of figures is determined. A dice is rolled and modified due to the attacker's rating, formation, depth advantage (heavy infantry only), movement, troop type, target's armor, rating, and charge bonus (if any). A modifier also applies due to the attacker's troop type compared to the defender's troop type. The final score is compared on a chart against the number of figures fighting to determine hits inflicted.
If an attacker successfully engages an enemy in melee from the side or rear, the defender may not perform melee (that is, can't attack back), and the attacker receives a bonus during combat resolution. (Rear attacks provide a greater bonus.)
Fatique also counts in melee. Units incur a fatique penalty according to the number of turns spent in melee, which may be partially reduced by resting.
Special melee rules apply to cavalry, chariots, camels, elephants, light infantry in support of cavalry, multiple units in melee, and Roman heavy infantry.
Example: A unit of 34 Roman regular heavy infantry successfully charge the 60 Celtic irregular bowmen who fired on them previously. The melee is front-rank-to-front-rank, so it is resolved near the end of the melee phase.
The Romans have 20 men in their front rank, and no one in the other ranks counts for this melee. No ranking bonus applies (the Roman heavy infantry does not have more ranks than the Celts). These modifiers apply: +1 (veterans), +2 (heavy infantry vs. light infantry), +1 (heavy infantry charging), +2 (enemy unarmored), +1 (Roman manipular heavy infantry of the Republic), for a final modifier of +7. The Roman rolls a "2," which is modified to a 2 + 7 = 9. Comparing 20 men against a result of 9 equals 7 hits...7 dead Celts from the rear rank.
The Celt attack must also be resolved. They too have 20 men in the front rank. They receive these modifiers: -2 (light infantry vs. heavy infantry), -2 (enemy armored), for a final modifier of -4. They roll a "6," modified to a "2," which compared to 20 fighters gives a result of 4 hits...4 dead Romans from the rear rank.
During the Morale phase, certain units may be forced to take a morale check due to:
- casualties (taking 30% casualties, and once for every 10% reduction afterwards)
- seeing a commander killed
- seeing a friendly unit eliminated or routed
- being attacked in the flank or rear
- being "bumped" by a friendly retreating unit
Each unit has a Morale score based on its original rating, modified by the number of casualties taken. To succeed at the morale test, the player must roll equal to or less than the morale score on two dice. Modifiers apply due to presence of friendly units or commanders, nationality, being attacked in flank or rear, or seeing a commander killed or friendly unit eliminated or routed.
If the test is failed, the result depends on the unit's current morale score. The unit will retreat, may suffer a melee penalty, or might even be removed from play. The penalty applies until the unit succeeds at a morale check.
The rules suggest that players should determine victory conditions based on the scenario they are playing. As a substitute, defeat is incurred by the player who first loses half of his "main combat units." The definition of main combat units should be determined prior to play, but usually involves the heavy infantry units of an army.
The naval module of Melees Gloriosus is included in order not to ignore "a major aspect of warfare in the ancient world." The 17-page section includes rules, historical background, some suggestions for fleets in different periods, and a synopsis of strategy and tactics. The naval rules are designed to be "simple yet somewhat detailed."
Ships and Galleys
Melees Gloriosus recognizes the following classifications of ships:
- early galleys/river barges (before 900 B.C.)
- war galleys (from triremes to 11's)
- patrol, pursuit, and dispatch vessels
- rivercraft and harborcraft
Each ship class is assigned a point cost, allowing players to design balanced scenarios by using equal point totals. In addition, ships are given training and morale ratings for the officers, crew, and any marines onboard. A ship's hull strength (hit points) is determined by its class.
Players also determine the number of marines (soldiers) per ship. The maximum allowed is determined by the class of the vessel (up to 32 soldiers for a 10/11 class war galley). Class also limits the sizes of artillery that a ship may carry.
As per the land game, each player must designate one ship as his "personal" vessel.
Sequence of Play
The game is played in the following steps:
- ship movement
- troop movement
- Missile Fire
- artillery fire
- other missile fire
- Miscellaneous Actions (grapnels, boarding)
Movement and Ramming
Based on their class, ships have both a movement rating (in inches) and a rating for the number of 45° turns allowed per movement phase. In addition, the ships have different scores depending on if they are operating under oars, under sail, or under both oars and sails (certain ships only). Ships move faster when under sail, but must move every turn, and are not allowed to enter combat. The game uses a simplified system whereby ships with sails move at the same speed always, and there are no rules for wind conditions.
Head-on collisions between vessels are not allowed. Instead, a dieroll determines which direction the ships turn to avoid collision, and separate dierolls determine if either ship "shears off" the oars of the other.
If one ship's ram strikes another ship, a score is determined by comparing the two ship's classes, modified by the rating of the ramming vessel's crew. Three six-sided dice are then rolled and compared to the score, to see if a hit has occurred.
If a hit occurs, the dice are rolled again, modified by the rating of the crew, and compared to the angle of attack to determine how many hits are inflicted. A single ram can cause 1-3 damage points, while ships have between 3 and 8 hull strength points. A ship that receives hits equal to its hull strength will begin to sink, with surplus hits making it sink faster.
After damage is determined, one more roll (two dice) is made. The result is compared against the angle of attack and the crew rating to see if a "unique event" happens. If so, the dice are rolled again and the Unique Event table is consulted. The possible results are loss of the ram, or discovering that the ram is lodged in the target vessel.
Example: Let's say that a Trireme collides ram-first with a Quinquereme. To see if a ram occurs, the vessel classes are compared to arrive at a score. In this case, a Trireme vs. Quinquereme gives a score of "13+". The crew of the Trireme is Veteran, giving a bonus of +1.
The Trireme player now rolls three dice, adding +1 to the result, hoping to meet or beat the target of "13." He rolls a "15," modified to a "16," which succeeds.
Next, he determines the amount of damage caused. The ram came from the side of the target ship. Rolling three dice, he obtains a score of "16," modified to "17," which compared to the angle of attack results in the maximum possible damage (3 hits). However, the Quinquereme has 6 hull strength points, so it is in no danger of sinking unless rammed again.
Finally, the Trireme player must guard against Unique Events. He rolls two dice and gets a "7," which compared versus a Side ram and a Veteran crew, means nothing happens. (He needed to roll snake eyes - "2" - to have something bad happen.)
At the end of the Movement phase, troops may move. All ships are considered to have two "areas" – fore and aft. Troops can move one area per turn, but can only board another ship during the Miscellaneous Action phase.
Combat & Morale
Missile and melee combat are resolved using the same rules systems as in the land game.
Missile combat is identical to the main game, except that artillery has shorter ranges (due to being bow-type rather than torsion-type), and a new modifier table is used. Rules are added for the harpax (an artillery-fired grapnel used by the Romans), for flaming arrows and fire, and for targeting individual officers.
The Morale rules are the same as in the land game, except that Morale applies to ships rather than units, and a ship's Morale score begins to decline after only 20% of hits are lost (versus 30% in the land game). A different table of morale modifiers is used, and the results of a failed Morale check vary depending on whether the ship has been boarded or not.
The standard siege operations of the time such as circumvallations and bicircumvallations, i.e. (standard drawn out city sieges), are not considered in this rules set. Siege operations of this nature would require far too much record keeping, many turns of in-action, and would quite frankly be boring. For this reason these rules are limited to what we call battlefield sieges. A battlefield siege, is an operation that is already well underway with the majority of the equipment already at the site and ready to go.
– Siege Warfare, Melee Gloriosus, pg. 72
The Siege Warfare section of the Melees Gloriosus rules – 14 pages in length – is essentially a supplement to the land game. It uses an abbreviated Sequence of Play:
- Missile Fire
- artillery fire
- ordinary missile fire
- Action Moves
Compared to the land game, the Siege Warfare sequence of play leaves out charges and breakthrough movement, and adds the Action Moves phase for handling siege-related special tasks.
A Code of Uniformity is provided to define the allowed dimensions of towers, walls, and other structures. Rules are provided for towers, curtain walls, sally ports, and gateways, with strength ratings given for a variety of objects.
The following items of siege equipment are included within the rules:
- siege ladders
- galleries (mobile frames)
- mobile ramps
- ladder fenders
- drills and bores
- battering rams
- siege towers
- padding (to protect objects)
- lilies (circular pits with stakes)
- caltrops and iron spikes
- incendiary ammunition for artillery
- flaming arrows (archers) and flaming bolts (artillery)
The rules systems for movement, missile and melee combat, and morale are identical to the land game, although additions have been made. The movement rules now cover the movement of siege towers, and limit the rate of movement when indoors. Missile Combat additions have been made with respect to artillery firing against structures. The rules for Melee limit the types of weapons that can be used indoors. Additional modifiers have been added to the Morale system, a new Failed Morale table is supplied, and new rules apply to special circumstances (such as troops defending a breach).
The types of tasks allowed during the Action Phase include:
- setting up (and repelling) siege ladders
- dropping rocks
- dropping burning pitch
- using cranes to drop rocks
- pouring boiling oil
- pouring flaming oil
- pouring fenugreek (makes floors or stairs slippery)
- placing ramps over ditches or bogs
- tossing caltrops
- using battering rams (pendulum and roller types)
- using drills and bores (pendulum and roller types)
- snaring rams and drills
- setting fires
- breaking down doors