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"To The Strongest: How do they play?" Topic

To The Strongest!

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balticbattles23 Dec 2014 5:50 a.m. PST

We need a new set of Ancients rules like a hole in the head was my first thought when TTS was first mentioned. We'd been settled on Impetus for several years (in my case following a little DBA, WAB and Armati), and recently been investigating Hail Caesar and Sword and Spear. The drive for change was to get away from interminable decisions and faffing about and get a game that allowed several players a side to fight lots of troops and get a decision for a battle within 3 hours.

TTS are designed for speed and use new methods to deliver this. There are no dice involved, everything is done on a pack of 1 to 10 value cards. So what, you think, I've been able to roll D10 for years. You would be surprised how much faster it is to turn over a card from a pack than it is to find a dice (or the right number of), pick it up, roll it, wait for a number and read it off. Try it. And then try holding 20 D10 in your left hand.

The combat system uses fixed to hit values and variable saves. If like me you don't like saves, you can call them morale rolls, etc. The combat sequence is 4 cards played alternately (hit, save, hit back, save). (See notes above about speed of playing cards). The author claims you can get a combat done in 20 seconds. If you know the stats of the army you're playing well, I think it might be as fast as 5. Still looking for that last D6 you need for the to hit roll? The system is simple but not simplistic, with all the usual interactions of troop types catered for.

The activation system allows multiple actions provided you beat the card previously played on the unit. This is fast, gives uncertainty, and is very clear, the last result is still face up on the table, even if you do other units in between. Can you get lots of actions in a row? Yes, but our experience is that units trying to be too clever get annihilated very quickly. You need to play a card to do anything move, shoot, attack, rally which means while you can occasionally zip around the battlefield you usually can't do anything instantly when you get there. Forced marches, anyone?

Movement uses a grid. A square grid. The author says "I used to hate grids, until I realised I hated measuring even more". We made the grid invisible by marking it with tiny pebbles where the lines meet. No more measuring, pre-measuring, re-measuring or especially measuring wheels. The square grid is designed to get ancient armies facing each other in lines as they did historically. If you punch through the opposing line, you can turn onto the flank and roll the line up, if your opponent has no reserve to stop you. Or you can manoeuvre round his flank. Apart from this there is no messing about with units moving at just the right angle to do something clever. Or just the wrong angle to bump into each other and stuff your plan.

You might be thinking this sounds more like a boardgame than a tabletop wargame. I have to agree, it certainly sounds like it. But having played several games, it does feel like a wargame. As my opponent said, having taken my elephants in the flank(see note above about trying to be too clever), smashed a hole between the right wing and the centre and rolled up the pike block, you can really tell the story of the battle.

There are some downsides. The table spends most of the battle being littered with playing cards. My opponent suggests we should get cards made with pictures of ancient warriors and numbers 1 to 10. Or you can use wooden chits instead of cards (which I suspect would be slower). My preferred solution is mini playing cards. I suppose you could also get cards with a green background to blend in.

We think the game is great for a club night, and would also be a successful set of tournament rules keep your eyes open for our first tournament in February. I also plan to use it to introduce teenagers to wargaming. If you are wedded to traditional wargaming, with free movement across the table and rolling dice, this is not the game for you. If you're open to new ideas and the evolution of games to provide a slick experience of commanding ancient armies, you might just enjoy To the Strongest.

Personal logo BigRedBat Sponsoring Member of TMP23 Dec 2014 8:31 a.m. PST

Thanks Highland Bevan!

I think you have explained how the rules work, very well.

Re boardgame vs. wargame, yes it does has a lot of both. I'm much more a wargamer than a boardgamer, though, by habit and I prefer to play games on a table heavily loaded with lead. When we were playing Command and Colors, a few years back, we usually preferred to play with minis.

Re playing cards, yes at times the table can look like the aftermath of a bad night on the rake's progress. However there is a brief window of calm at the end of each turn when there are no cards on the table, which is when I like to take photos. On the upside, the nice thing about cards is that they are quick and exciting to play; it's a fast game.

Finally on cards, I have had some MDF chits made up for use with the game and will start to sell these in late January. They can be pulled from a drawstring bag, and are visually less intrusive than playing cards. They will also be useful when playing with smaller scale minis on a small grid, where playing cards can get in the way.

Anyhow if you want to read a bit more about them, there is some material here:


And the rules and the army lists I've written so far can be found here:


Best, Simon

Personal logo Dale Hurtt Supporting Member of TMP23 Dec 2014 10:42 a.m. PST

I bought two sets of playing card tiles some time ago for TSATF and another game which used playing cards for unit activations. They work fine and are much smaller (1" square or thereabouts).

What is often overlooked when one talks about cards versus dice is the math involved. Dice are picked up and rolled again, so the probability of any result is not affected by previous rolls. Not so with cards that are played and left on the table. As the author suggested two packs for each side that means there are only 8 1's, 8 2's, etc. until the cards are picked up and reused. Have you found that to be an issue in the games, i.e. you see that "all the good cards have already been played", so the chance of success is rapidly diminishing?

Don't get me wrong; I do not see it as a "problem" only another challenge. I just wonder if it ever came up in a game where a player said something like "the odds of drawing another high card is just too poor given all of the other ones already in play, so I will pass."

Personal logo BigRedBat Sponsoring Member of TMP23 Dec 2014 11:46 a.m. PST

Hi Dale,

It's not an issue; usually only 20-30 cards are played in a turn, out of the 80 available. Also, some cards that are good for activations early in a turn (nice low ones, but not aces) are bad for combat and saves, so it's not like one wants only high cards or low cards. One needs both at different times.

If a (highly unlikely) situation arose where a player had managed to play 60 or 70 cards, and was good enough at card counting to know what was left in the deck, I think his troops (and I) would deservedly hail him Imperator! :-)

Best, Simon

Pedrobear26 Dec 2014 7:00 p.m. PST

Came across these chits which might be useful:


Personal logo BigRedBat Sponsoring Member of TMP27 Dec 2014 3:32 a.m. PST

Hi Pedrobear,

Yes I've been talking with Warbases. They are going to make up some chits specifically for use with the rules. I should have them in my shop in the second half of January.

Best, Simon

balticbattles27 Dec 2014 9:06 a.m. PST

We use 2 packs of cards per player (our last battle was 270 points vs 100-160 recommended in the army lists) and have never used more than helf of the 80 cards.

For activating units there is no penalty for failing (other than ending the commands go) so you keep going until you fail anyway. As one card just has to be higher than another it doesn't matter if certain cards have all gone.

For combat you are looking for high cards, so i can imagine if all the high ones have gone you might be wary of attacking. But this has never actually happened to us. Also good luck with counting the cards while playing handfuls every minute – it's not like Bridge or Poker (which I also enjoy)!

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