A simple, somewhat senescent Merkit humbly submits his synopsis of Armati la Deuce or Armati 2d Edition to the non-cognoscenti.
Armati is a games system that attempts to simulate ancient warfare from Biblical times to just before the introduction of gunpowder weapons. There are a number of eras depicted in Armati ranging from Biblical, through Antiquity, Age of Empires, and Triumph of Cavalry to the Age of Chivalry.
The great advantage that Armati has over other rules sets is the clarity of the language used in writing the rules. The rules are easy to understand, replete with examples, and enjoy a large number of very useful diagrams. Moreover, redundancy is common. Frequently, the same critical concept is explained in every section of the rules that it impacts. No shuffling through annotated pages looking for obscure language here. One of the unintended consequences is that Armati is frequently played to a finish from taking the figures out of the box to putting them away in less than three hours and generally in around two hours.
The game is played between opposing armies whose comparative abilities are equalized by a points system that addresses initiative, organizational complexity, and troop types. A typical Armati army consists of 12-16 units in 6 to 9 separate maneuver blocks called divisions. Different types of terrain with differing characteristics are represented. Just as armies are purchased, players have free core terrain and may purchase extra terrain with their bonus points. So, a Gallic army has free woods in its core terrain and may purchase more at the cost of points that might otherwise be spent on troops. This presents an interesting series of choices and terrain-centered tactics to a player.
Each era has army lists that are intended to be representative of armies that existed during that period. Within the same book as the rules set, there are more than 150 armies with more planned for release on the web site. There are 34 pages of rules including introduction and 29 pages of army lists. Armies consist of core units which must be used and a variety of bonus or optional units that may be used within the limitations established by the agreed point size of the armies and the army lists itself. Within a particular period, the vast bulk of the armies are reasonably evenly matched with one or more very good armies. The game mechanics and the points system permit cross period play. Although cross period play is very common and Armati is an ideal rules set for tournament play due to play balance, ease of play, and clarity of language, a number of armies do not appear frequently in tournament play due to the tendency of players to select the best army in their area of interest.
Each army is assigned a starting initiative number. This number is used as a modifier to the die roll on the move-countermove determination and determines the ability of the army to form new maneuver divisions during combat.
In Armati, figures are organized into units. Figures include skirmish infantry, light infantry, light heavy infantry, heavy infantry, light cavalry, heavy cavalry, camels, elephants, scythed chariots, light chariots, medium chariots, and heavy chariots. Units of figures come in standard sizes that are dictated by the type of unit. For instance, all heavy infantry units are 16 figures in size and all light cavalry units are four figures in size. All figures are based upon the standard WRG basing system.
Units are differentiated by the fighting value which is different for front, flank and rear, and fighting under special circumstances such as pikes in woods or scythed chariots versus skirmish infantry; protection from missile fire, and movement rate. Movement rates and archery ranges are comparable to most other main stream rules sets. Very few units, other than mounted units, can wheel and move. Wheels are limited to two inches without penalty and greater wheels are permitted at a cost in combat effectiveness. So, some thought is needed regarding initial placement and facing of units. While redeployment is possible, you will be caught wrong-footed if your player has a better plan manifested in his set up.
Units are either key units or not. The loss of key units determines victory. When an army loses as many key units as its breakpoint, it loses the game. Breakpoint is roughly a function of adding two to the sum of bonus key units purchased divided by two rounding down - resulting in a breakpoint of anywhere from 4-7 in most armies. Some armies have higher breakpoints. A very, very few players play with armies with 3 breakpoints. Generally speaking, armies with very high breakpoints have lots of units and the individual units are not qualitatively as strong as the average. Again, an interesting tactical choice - quantity or quality.
Units are organized into separate divisions with no limitation on the upper size of a division. Heavy divisions are limited to heavy units. Light divisions are limited to light and skirmish units. Each army has a starting number of heavy and light divisions in its composition. An army may only have a number of divisions that are entitled to move equal to the starting number. An army may exceed its at start number of divisions through voluntary and involuntary splits. Any new divisions are permitted to move even though the split may result in a greater number of maneuver divisions than permitted at start. This is somewhat simplified but a more thorough explanation would require too much space. Each split reduces initiative by 2. Voluntary splits are not permitted once initiative is reduced to 1 or 2.
Set up is blind with each player setting up simultaneously behind a screen. Heavy infantry are limited to the central 50% of the table while other units can set up in about 84% of their side of the playing field.
There are fifteen turns. The movement sequence is move-countermove. Move sequence is determined by comparison of die rolls plus the initiative difference with the net high roll determining who moves first and who moves second. This lends itself to the deadly “double move” in which a player moves second in one turn and first in the next some times enabling a flank attack and often resulting in tactical advantage.
Move sequence is archery, evades (if any), determination of initiative, move, counter move, support charge, melee, break off movement, and after combat breakthrough movement.
Archery is resolved by firing at the closest unit with each side rolling one die six and the target adding its protection factor which varies from 1 to 3 with 1 being the normal protection. If the shooter outscores the net target die roll one casualty is inflicted. Heavy infantry can absorb 4 casualties, heavy cavalry 3 casualties, light troops 2 casualties, and skirmish troops 1 casualty. Once that number is reached, the unit is removed from play forever.
Melee is similar except that each player adds his fighting value to the die roll. As flank values are much lower than frontal value, a flank attack is generally successful although there is a low probability of the flanked unit winning. Flank attacks by heavy units are deadly as a flank attack breaks the unit if the flanking heavy unit outscores the defender. This results in a one turn kill instead of the normal 3-4 melee rounds before one unit or the other breaks.
In a similar manner, some troops have impetus. Heavy cavalry have impetus against infantry and light cavalry. Warbands have impetus against infantry. Elephants have impetus against heavy infantry. If a unit with impetus outscores a unit that does not have impetus in melee, the loser breaks - another one turn kill. Heavy infantry who are organized in depth partially escape the effects of impetus.
All in all, I find Armati (2d Edition) to be a good game that gives good results to players who use historical tactics. My set up schemes come straight out of George Dennis’ translations of Byzantine military manuals. They work in Armati. I think that this fact alone says something very positive about the rules. Historical tactics work. Moreover, the rules are clear and the learning curve is about ten games to being a reasonable player. If you are playing against good opposition 25 games makes you a viable challenger in any tournament. If you are looking for accuracy, clarity of rules, ease of play, and fun in a reasonable period of time, Armati is far and away the best rules set going. I should know having been a tournament player since who flung the chunk.