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Sword & Spear

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CptKremmen26 Jul 2014 11:15 a.m. PST

I have been wargaming for many a decade now and one of my favourite periods has always been Ancients. Starting with the WRG rules, moving on through DBA, DBM, Armati and then Impetus which is a very good set of rules. Never quite finding the "Perfect" set.

Decided to try out the new Sword and Spear rules and am really very impressed, agree with Earthquake from Meeples and Miniatures these may be the Ancient rules we have been looking for.

I would describe them as having some aspects of Saga, Bolt Action and Impetus all melded into a unique and refreshing new set of rules.

Units are pretty much any size you like as long as they are consistent. I use Armati bases which are basically 4 DBA bases in a 2X2 square for most troop types, I believe the author often uses the same base sizes himself.

Average game is about 15 of these units per sde, though you can have more or less.

Troop types are fairly simple, heavy medium and light infantry, heavy and light cavalry plus a few specials like elephants, chariots, camels, artillery etc.

Units have a fixed "strength" e.g. all cav and medium foot are 3, heavy foot 4 etc. Similar to Command and colors ancients.

Discipline values are
3 for your A or B class troops
4 for your average C class troops
5 for your D and E class levy.

Discipline is important both for allocating actions and possibly taking casualties.

Units may also have special attributes such as Pike, Impact, Spear, Bow etc, most of the above are fairly self explanatory, but convey certain advantages in the game

To start the game you do the usual terrain set up deployment etc, seems to pinch the deployment ideas from Saga, both sides set up heavy infantry, then most other troops, then skirmishers and commanders.

Each unit contributes one dice to a pool, so with 15 units per side you would end up with 15 "black" dice and 15 "white" dice. Chuck them all in a pot and take out 7 randomly.

One side will have more than the other normally, this side is the active side, they then roll all the dice they just had taken out of the pot and then allocate these dice to units to do things.

Generally you must have equal to or above your discipline to do simple tasks such as shooting or moving forwards whilst you need at least one higher than your discipline for complex tasks such as charging, manoeuvering, moving and shooting etc.

As you can see an elite unit with discipline 3 has much more chance of getting a dice allocatted to them than a levy unti which needs a 5 to do anything and a 6 to do anything clever.

You may also have realised that "1"'s are useless and in many cases so are "2"'s which means that although you have a dice for each unit you are unlikely to activate more than about 2/3rds of your units per turn.

Anyway back to the plot, the active player allocates his dice to his units and then the non active player (who drew less dice out of the pot for this phase) rolls his dice and allocates his dice.

This bit is the heart of the game, deciding who to allocate your dice to and which dice to give them is absoloutely key, and is an excellent way of simulating the friction of combat without getting complicated. You will never be able to do everything you want to do and you have to watch out for what your opponent is doing.

If your unit does not have any dice allocatted to it it can do nothing, likewise if it has no dice allocatted to it but an enemy one does and fights it, the unit with an allocatted dice gets a number of bonus's

You really don't want to get into a situation where your opponents units all have dice allocatted and in charge reach and yours don't. IT could be nasty :)

Then you activate the units in numeric order, all the dice with 2 on go then the 3's then the 4's etc.

In a recent game i had a 4 on a crusader turcopole unit and a 5 on a knight unit. This allowed me to shoot with the turcopoles 1st and try and disrupt my enemy before the knight unit charged using it's dice.

Repeat until all 7 dice have done their thing.

Take another 7 dice out of the pot and do again. You never know who is going to get which dice or what numbers you are going to roll, so there is a high degree of randomness, but in a good way and it does reward the clever player who can work out what best to do with his dice.

Of course roll a ton of 1's and like most games you are in the doo do, but at least you aren't in trouble for rolling 1 dice, you have a lot of dice to roll so luck should average out.

COMBAT – when you actually get to fight you take that basic strength value for your unit, 3 for cav, 4 for heavy infantry etc and add some bonus's depending on whether your units are fresh, charging etc. Total number of dice you throw tends to be between about 2 and 6

If you have more than 4 dice then discard the lowest one when you roll them, if you have less than 4 dice, you put in "phantom" dice with a value of 2 to make up the numbers.

Compare in decending sequence the attackers and defenders dice.
If a pair of dice are qual then nothing happens, if one is higher then the loser takes a discipline test and takes a hit if he fails whilst if it is double the other then the loser takes an automatic hit.

I roll 6,5,2,1
You roll 6,6,1,1

1st pair is a draw
2nd pair you win
3rd pair i win and it is double
4th pair is a draw.

That's the heart of the game, shooting works the same as melee except generally less dice and of course if the target wins the dice roll off they don't inflict any losses on the attacker!

The author has some excellent deals. Basically the pdf is available for UK £6.00 GBP or you may buy a printed copy from LULU for about £14.00 GBP

If you buy the printed one you get the pdf free, if you buy the pdf like me and then like it so much you buy the LULU copy he will refund you the cost of the pdf. Can't say fairer than that.

Lots of army lists are available and they are all free.

Simple system for building armies means you could do your own favourite list converted from DBM, FOG, Impetus etc quite easily.

What are you waiting for, get out there and give them a try, they really are that good….


PzGeneral26 Jul 2014 11:42 a.m. PST

Thanks for the info Andy. I ordered a printed set from Lulu the other day….

warhorse26 Jul 2014 12:44 p.m. PST

On my way to order mine now. Quick question: if played on a "DBA" scale with 2'x2' board, but doubling distances for moving and shooting, not deployment though (so 1 DU = 1 base width) does the game still work well?

Cyrus the Great26 Jul 2014 1:18 p.m. PST

Save 20% on all Standard and Premium print books through July 28 with code HAMMOCK14.

davbenbak26 Jul 2014 1:31 p.m. PST

Thanks for the overview. Is there a blog or yahoo group that gives a turn by turn AAR? Sounds like a very interesting system but I would like to see it in action. Not much of an early adopted I'm afraid.

CptKremmen26 Jul 2014 2:14 p.m. PST

davbenbak – check out the forum, i think they will be able to help you better than me on a detailed AAR


Warhorse – All measuring is done by DU which equals half the width of your unit. For my 8cm units I rounded up and call a DU 2"

So using DBA elements as units, and just calling a DU an inch, then yes the game would play exactly the same on a 2X2 board as it would with the bigger units on a 4X4 board.

As the game is designed to be played with around 15 units and the small test games I have played have been 9-11 units, i think a DBA 12 unit army would be fine as a starter army and 2 X DBA armies would give you plenty to play a "Big" game or have some choice over which units you pick.

dooger27 Jul 2014 3:43 a.m. PST

Davbenbak – there is a further nice rule overview and step by step AAR here.

Along with the forum that Captkremmen pointed to this should give you a good insight and hopefully fill in the blanks for you and maybe persuade you to give them a try.

Zargon27 Jul 2014 5:43 a.m. PST

Looks very interesting will look into getting these.

warhorse28 Jul 2014 10:23 a.m. PST

Ordered, looked at, … and …. WOW! Thanks Mark for a great game. I am going to see if I can manage to mash it into a Dark Ages setting as well!

I suspect this game can be a serious competitor for the DBA scene…

CptKremmen28 Jul 2014 1:02 p.m. PST

There are army lists already on the website for Dark ages.

mashrewba28 Jul 2014 1:54 p.m. PST

Not to mention a set of Dark Age rules while we're about it.

warhorse28 Jul 2014 3:10 p.m. PST

Sorry, guys, I was meaning pre-Viking, post-Roman.

Zargon28 Jul 2014 3:51 p.m. PST

Just hope the rule lawyers won't ruin what looks like a really fun set of ancient rules. I'm going to get a set.
Cheers happy gaming all.

CptKremmen30 Jul 2014 2:31 a.m. PST

Have not seen any rules lawyers ruin it yet. Rules are fun and fairly straight forward, the skill is all in the allocation of dice and making best use of your units, not manipulating the minutae of the rules, because there isn't much minutae.

Post Roman and pre Viking – Sounds like Arthurian Britain, also known as the "Dark Ages", Britons, angles, saxons that kind of thing.

There are very similar lists already there, you could easily modify to meet your requirements.

Marshal Mark30 Jul 2014 2:52 a.m. PST

I'll be doing some early dark ages lists next week.

warhorse30 Jul 2014 7:51 a.m. PST

What exactly is a "rules lawyer". I have heard people described that way, often by those who have just lost to a player who took the time to understand what the rules say, and only what they say, and then played a strong game for the win.

I sense that's not what's meant here though, so I am wondering what a rules lawyer would do with a set like S&S to break it? Seems a pretty complete set.

My only concern is around army lists, and how flexible they are.

swammeyjoe Supporting Member of TMP30 Jul 2014 3:11 p.m. PST

@warhorse, a rules lawyer, IMHO, is somewhat like you describe. Someone who twists every ambiguity or odd point in the rules for a tactical advantage. Basically, playing the rules instead of the game. The kind of player who will dig into "subsection B, point 3.2" for a way to get any extra bonus. Often accompanied by arguing rules points in their favor and a general extremely competitive attitude.

warhorse31 Jul 2014 8:08 p.m. PST

I find a lot of players bring expectations from other systems, or from a history of gaming, into any new game, and assume they are all the same?

I would caution all such players that S&S is subtle, different, and you MUST abandon all your pre-conceptions at the door, or you will lose this game to those who read and understand the rules and processes carefully. They are quite different from what you've likely already tried!

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