Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Ager Sanguinis Punic Wars, How It Works, Part 2

The Ager Sanguinis turn sequence is not like that found in most sets of rules. It does not follow a set sequence of actions (such as U move, I move, U shoot, I shoot, etc.) and it has no set duration. This is because it is driven by initiative phases and the army sequence decks. To quote from the rules:

“Game turns consist of a variable number of initiative phases. The army die is used to determine the number of initiative pips in an initiative phase. Each player rolls his army die. The difference in the army die rolls is the number of initiative pips each player may use in his initiative phase. Both sides receive the same number of initiative pips during their portion the initiative. The player who rolls higher chooses to use all of his initiative pips first or second………………

…………..The side acting first turns sequence cards from his shuffled face down deck, one at a time, spending 1 initiative pip per card turned. As each card is turned the player can choose to act on the card showing or not, sometimes action is mandatory. When he has spent his initiative pips, or he runs out of sequence cards (in this latter event, the player going second may only use as many initiative pips as the first player used to finish his deck), the initiative transfers to the player going second. After the initiative is ended the process is repeated……………

………….. If the army die rolls are equal, or at the end of a complete initiative one player has exhausted his deck, the turn ends……..”


Both players roll off army die. Carthage, rolling D12, scores 10; Rome, rolling D10 scores 1. The difference is 9 so each player will get 9 initiative. Carthage makes Rome go first – a common gambit early on, but risky with such a large initiative.

Roman cards (there are no photos of what the Romans did because, frankly, they didn’t do much):

Command – no action.

Stubborn Army Morale – no action.

Group March – Left most infantry command.

The Romans must roll the officer stand motivation die, which in this case is D10, Vs D8 (always Vs a D8 for movement). They score 6 to 3. The command can move twice because it is more than the D8; the die roll is even so moves can be used to maneuver. The command’s velites occupy the woods wheelin one unit to face the open hill, and the rest of the command moves to the base of the hill.

Maneuver – no action.

Lull – a chance for the enemy to steal the initiative. Both sides roll off army die. Carthage scores 8, Rome scores 3. Carthage can turn one card and act upon it. Carthage turns Group Melee – no action.

Melee – no action.

Missilery – nothing in range or visible through the woods, no action.

Command – no action.

Melee – no action.

Rome’s initiative is over and the initiative passes to Carthage.

Carthaginian cards:

Maneuver – no action.

Missilery – no action.

Group Maneuver – no action.

Lull – both sides roll off army die. The scores are equal, Carthage holds the initiative.

March – A general advance:
Cavalry command on the left, motivation die D10 Vs D8. Score is 5 to 7. The score is less than the D8 so the cavalry can move once, which they do. The score is odd so no maneuvers are allowed.

Infantry command, motivation die D10 Vs D8. Score is 10 to 2. The command can move three times because it tripled the D8; the die roll is even so moves can be used to maneuver. The infantry move off echeloning back to their right.

Cavalry command on the right, motivation die D12 Vs D8. Score 9 to 4. The score is more so they can move twice, which they do.

Maneuvre – Wheels and formation change card.

Spanish cavalry wheels to face the velites in the wood. The velites shoot catching them in the flank before they turn (yes, you can shoot at any time, even as the reactive player provided the target is moving or shooting). They use their base combat die adjusted by the combat table Vs the defence die of the target (see note below). They roll D10 Vs D6, scoring 3 to 5 for no effect.

Note: Each unit has a base combat die for its class (war band, elite, etc.), usually a D6, D8 or D10. Each unit also has a defence die, usually a D6 or D8 for its class. The defence die never changes, but the combat die is adjusted by the modifiers in the combat table. Factors in the combat table are the usual kind of things – terrain advantage, initiating a new melee (charge), fierce in first round, etc. But here’s the thing, rather than adding to a die result the modifiers adjust the type of die up or down. A D6 adjusted by up 2 becomes a D10 (two types bigger). A D10 adjusted down 3 becomes a D4 (three types smaller). The lowest die is never less than a D4 regardless of the downs. D12 is the biggest die and any additional ups are added to the result except the maximum score possible is 12 – a D12+2 rolling 11+2 is 12.  Because of the dice range combat is always risky and tension building.

Melee – no action.

Melee – no action.

March – general advance:

Cavalry command left, motivation die D10 Vs D8 scores 3 to 2. The command can move twice which it does.

Infantry command, motivation die D10 Vs D8 scores 6 to 3. The command can move twice, but before it does two of its skirmisher units shoot at the velites in front of them. One unit misses, the other scores 8 to 5 which causes 1UI loss (3 pips positive difference) and because the velites defence die was odd it is also vexed (a disordered state); first blood to Carthage. Rome loses 1 morale point for losing a UI.

Note: In the picture above note the stone counter for 1 UI loss, the tuft counter for vexed, and the blank counter on the skirmishers for being ‘unloaded’.

The Spanish and Gallic infantry on the extreme left of the line advance to clear the velites in front of them. They shoot, but to no effect, then advisably evade. The Spanish and Gauls could keep moving, but as this would cause them to go vexed ‘chasing’ they choose to halt in good order on the ground vacated by the velites.

On the right of the line there is an exchange of javelins by both side's skirmishers, to no effect, before the Gauls move into the woods to clear out the unit of velites facing them. A melee card is not required to initiate a melee Vs skirmishers but this is not bad terrain for velites (skirmish order [shock] unit) and they have a terrain advantage for being up hill. Both sides roll off their adjusted combat die, in this case D12+2 for the Gauls Vs D12 for the velites. Disaster, the Gauls score 12 and the velites score 2 – the velites lose 3 UI and are routed. Rome loses 3 morale chips for the UI loss. Double disaster – this has exposed the flank of the other velites to an attack by the Spanish infantry who are now coming up the hill; the velites evade.

Cavalry command right, motivation die D12 Vs D8 scores 8 to 2. This is a very good roll as it is a triple move, and because the roll was even it allows cavalry and fierce units to melee contacted enemy units after contact. The melees are hard fought.

Carthage chooses to fight with its two small elephant units first, and as they are rolling D12+2 after adjustments who can blame them. The facing Roman cavalry is rolling D4 because horse is down 2 for facing elephants!

The first score is 7 – 3 and the cavalry loses 1UI, is pushed back 3”, and is vexed for losing on an odd roll – but these are stubborn Romans and by spending an extra morale point (2 in total) they negate the push back and any follow up modifiers.

Surprisingly the next Roman unit does even better (the same dice of course) and holds the elephants with a tied 4 result; both sides lose 1 UI and a morale point.

The Gallic cavalry on the extreme right of the line now fights its opponent rolling D12+1 (fierce in first round is awesome) Vs D10 and scores 6 – 4,  a UI loss each for a close fought melee and a Gallic follow up (there is no actual push back here, the follow up is for scoring higher) but the Romans negate it by spending an extra morale chip – stubborn again!

The next Gallic cavalry unit is fighting the Roman cavalry with the UI loss (basically following up the damage by the elephants). Adjusted combat die are D12+1 Vs D8, scores are 11 to 4 causing 2UI more and the Roman unit is routed. It cannot convert the rout into a push back (for being stubborn) because it now has zero UI and will be routed anyway.

Next up it is the veteran Spanish Vs Roman cavalry. Combat die are D12 Vs D10, score is 7 to 9 for Roman marginal win. Both sides lose 1UI Romans count as following up.

The Roman unit at the end of the line now gets peppered by Numidian javelins, but escapes with a vexed result only.

Note: Regardless of the number of units with which a unit is in contact, a single unit can only fight one melee on a single card.

Note: In the photos above I am using melee in progress “Follow Up” markers. The sword denotes direction, crossways is an ongoing melee with no follow up. Follow up gives an up 1 in the next round of melee, BTW.

The first initiative phase is completed. Both sides roll off army die for the next initiative.
As you can see, this game is not for the feint hearted. Things move quickly. I’m doing this solo, and although I know the rules, that lot took me less than 20 minutes – a lot of which was spent carrying dice and morale chip (poker chips) boxes from one end of the table around to the opposite side of the table (30 foot a trip) and taking notes / photos. It does not take much time to turn cards!

Part three of this piece will be a continuation, including some triplex acies action. I’ve already played out the rest of the turn, I just need time to type it up.

Sunday, 27 March 2011

Ager Sanguinis Punic Wars - How it works - Part 1

Ager Sanguinis Punic Wars is based around the mechanisms found in three previously published sets of rules. Piquet (sometimes referred to as Classic Piquet) by Bob Jones. Field of Battle (a Piquet derivative) by Brent Oman. Ager Sanguinis (a Field of Battle derivative for the Crusades) by me. Piquet and Field of Battle are published by Piquet Inc. Ager Sanguinis was published by Miniature Wargames. Ager Sanguinis Punic Wars will, hopefully, be published by Miniature Wargames.

Recently, I've had some email enquiries about how Ager Sanguinis Punic Wars works and how it is different from Ager Sanguinis (Crusades). Here, using a fictional clash between Hannibal and Rome, is a run down of what it is all about. I'm not going to reproduce the rules here, but I’ll try to give a good, fairly detailed, overview.

The set up
The composition of each army is selected and the units are sorted into command groups ('divisions'). Each command group has an officer stand. A note is taken of the total Unity Integrity value of each army. In this case 127 UI for the Romans, 128 UI for the Carthaginians.

Unit Integrity [UI]: Each unit and officer stand has an integrity value. Unit integrity is the all encompassing title given to the physical and morale strength of a unit. Unit integrity is lost, mainly in combat, until a unit reaches zero when it is routed. At minus 1 unit integrity a unit is destroyed. Unit integrity can be rallied back during the game.

Each army now rolls D12 to determine its army die. The army die represents the overall enthusiasm of the army and the ability of its commanders to do battle 'on the day'. The army die is in constant use during the game. For this game the Carthaginians will add 4 to the roll because the commander is Hannibal; the Romans will get no adjustment.
The Carthaginians roll 11 (7+4), The Romans roll 6. A table is consulted. The Carthaginian army die will be D12*. The Roman army die will be D10.

The army die determines the sequence deck that the army will use during play. This sequence deck sequences the actions of each army during a game turn. There are 12 types of cards in the sequence deck. Each sequence deck is 26 cards strong. The composition of cards varies according to the army die (D8, D10, D12, D12*) - the higher the army die the better the deck.

The card decks for each army is as follows. The Roman deck composition is numbered first, the Carthaginian second.

Army Morale: 3/3
Command: 4/4
Group Command: 0/0
Lull: 4/2
Manoeuvre: 2/2
Group Manoeuvre: 1/1
March: 3/4
Group March: 1/0
Melee: 4/3
Group Melee: 0/2
Missilery: 2/2
Tactical Advantage: 2/3

Group cards: A new addition to Ager Sanguinis, these only allow the card to be used for one command group, chosen each time the card is turned. Other cards apply to any and all command groups as standard.

The army die also adjusts the command motivation die roll for the officer stand of each command group and the C-in-C (D8, D10, D12). This is used for movement and rallies (mainly).

The sequence deck is not the only thing that gives character to the army. Each side divides the total Unit Integrity of its army by 12 and draws that number of cards from another deck called the Army Characterisation Deck. This gives the army a morale chip count and various other cards that replace cards in the sequence deck or are added to it. The Carthaginian draw of ten cards is on the left. The Roman draw of ten cards is on the right. The draw is kept secret from one's opponent!

Morale Chips: Morale chips are lost for each UI loss or voluntarily spent during the game. On reaching zero the army is in big trouble as it can no longer rally back lost UI and, more importantly, becomes vulnerable to army morale checks on army morale cards.

This set up process might seem complex, but it actually takes very little time. What is more, we now have armies that have fighting ability and command and control represented not only in the ability of the player, the strengths of his units and the luck of his dice throwing, because rather more is going on – the army itself has some ‘soul’.

Both armies are now ready to deploy.

On the Roman left the Romans have one command group of six cavalry units. The cavalry is all drilled, close order, stubborn armoured cavalry counting 3 unit integrity points per unit.

Facing them the Carthaginians have one command group of twelve units. These comprise three units of Spanish warband, close order, veteran cavalry; four units of Gallic warband, close order, elite cavalry; three units of Numidian warband, loose order, cavalry; two small units of fierce elephants. All cavalry counts 3 unit integrity points per unit, elephants count 2 unit integrity points per unit.

In the centre the Romans have three command groups each comprised of two triplex acies formations. Each triplex acies formation comprises a unit of velites, drilled, skimish order [S] infantry (3UI); a unit of hastati, drilled, close order, stubborn infantry (4UI); a unit of principes, drilled, close order, stubborn, armoured infantry (4UI); a small unit of triarii, drilled, close order, stubborn, veteran, amoured infantry (3UI).

Triplex acies: The infantry are deployed in serried lines to ease the deployment of miniature figurines during play. The spaces that should exist between the maniples of each line, in game terms, is a 'virtual' thing.

The Carthaginian centre is one large command group. It is comprised of four units of Libyan spearmen, drilled, close order, stubborn, veteran, armoured infantry (4UI each); four units of Spanish scutarii, warband, loose order, veteran infantry at 150% strength (4UI each); four units of Gallic, warband, loose order, fierce infantry at 200% strength (5UI each); four units of Libyan javelin men, warband, skirmish order [M] infantry (3UI each); two units of Balearic slingers, warband, skirmish order [M] infantry (3UI each).

On the Roman right the Romans have one command group of four units. Two units of cavalry and two units of velites (as per similar units detailed above).

The Carthaginians have one command group here. This comprises two units of Gallic cavalry and three units of Spanish cavalry (as per similar units detailed above).

Each command group officer stand is worth 1UI but counts double for army strength, the C-in-C's are 1UI but counts triple for army strength. The Romans have an army worth 127 UI. The Carthaginians have an army worth 128UI.

Part 2 of this post will feature a turn or two of the battle.

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Play-test - End game

Week three of the big game play-test saw the close of the battle. The game took about seven and a half hours to play. Not bad for two players fighting 1300 figures in 40 units or so a side. The game threw up one or two interesting problems and enough general combats to check out the dice modifiers in the tactical combat tables.

I'm now busy doing, what should be, the final editing. We will do a couple more play tests to double check everything, then it will be winging its way down the wire to Andrew at Miniature Wargames.

The Carthaginians temporarily withdraw their Spanish troops in the centre to reorganise and shift emphasis back onto the their right wing. The Roman infantry are proving a very tough nut to crack, their ability to bring reserves into the front line (triplex acies formation) and 'stubborn' status is too much even for Veteran Spanish scutarii.
Finally, the Roman left collapses and the Carthaginian cavalry begin to envelop. The Romans rush battered units to try and form a new line to rearward. But then a new problem for the Carthaginians - their Gallic troops begin waver and crack.
On the Carthaginian left the Romans are outflanked by Libyan spear men and withdraw in good order. The side of the field has been fairly inactive and will remain so.

The Carthaginians are forced to renew the attack in the centre, the Roman centre buckles, the enveloping cavalry arrive.

As the Gauls flee, the Roman centre finally collapses in some style. The Roman units are worn out and when two army morale cards are turned in quick succession the infantry commands fail and the result of the consequential unity integrity loss is rout or dispersal. The battle is effectively over. A decisive, if costly, Carthaginian victory.
The Romans chewed through 84 army morale chips. The Carthaginians started with 58, got as low as 7, and finished with 16.
I will be unable to do a game next week, but this will give me time to set up another big battle and possibly post a detailed preview of an Ager Sanguinis Punic Wars battle set up.

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Ager Sanguinis Punic Wars - update

Good news!

Following a conversation with Brent Oman of Piquet Inc. and Andrew Hubback of Miniature Wargames I have an announcement to make regarding Ager Sanguinis Punic Wars. The rules will now be published, in full, in colour, as an advertisement free centrefold pull out in Miniature Wargames (issue to be decided).

I would like to thank Brent for giving his permission to publish. Ager Sanguinis is largely based around classic Piquet & Field of Battle mechanics and his permission settles any copyright issues.

I would like to thank Andrew for committing to such a large, one off, and very 'usable', publication; Ager Sanguinis Punic Wars is a rule book not an article; it will take up considerable magazine space - a bumper issue, me thinks. Those who have the bumper issue with Ager Sanguinis Crusades in it will be familiar with the excellent job Andrew made of it (if you have a copy hold onto it, this edition has completely sold out).

Peter J. and I are still play-testing the finer points of ASPW. One of the hardest things to get right has been triplex acies formation but, we think we've completely cracked it now. Those familiar with the period will know what an essential aspect of Middle Republican Roman warfare this is. In fact, getting the Roman side of the game right has proved the most difficult thing to do full stop but, again, we think we are about there.

Here are some more shots of the current play-test game.

In the centre the battle continues to be hard fought. Here velites turn to cover the rear of the Roman line from marauding Numidians, and Roman cavalry on the left attempt to halt the press of Carthaginians with flank charges.

The Carthaginians were winning the infantry battle, they thought they have it in the bag and were about to turn the Roman infantry flank, when the Roman Stratagem card was turned - Hidden Ditch. This is a card from the army characterisation deck - a new addition to Ager Sanguinis - sneaky huh!

The characterisation deck adds lots of flavour to the standard (and expanded) sequence decks and sorts out army morale points. It features 'stratagems' including reinforcements, heroic speeches, hidden ditches, secret paths,etc. It also features replacement sequence cards, such as 'Aggressive, melee Up 1', wild cards, etc. These give an army some 'soul' and make a pick-up game feel like a scenario.

The Carthaginians decide to up the stakes by trying to outflank from their left (this side of the battle was quiet except for some desultory skirmishing) with Libyan phalanx marching in column through the woods to force the Roman cavalry away and open the door. Pressure was also brought in support of the main attack across the river - the Gauls stopped mooning from the woods, pulled up their baggy trousers, and charged!
We will continue this game next week.
I'll let you know when Ager Sanguinis Punic Wars is finished and when Miniature Wargames will publish.

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Ager Sanguinis Punic Wars - playtesting continues

This battle was set up to test virtually all of the mechanisms in Ager Sanguinis Punic Wars at once. Peter and I agreed to fight the battle in a friendly rather than competitive manner (though winning will count!) over two or three sessions so that everything is done 'correctly'. We think the rules are almost done, we are now fine tuning them, and the game has to stop from time to time so we can discuss outcomes.

As can be expected in a battle involving a river crossing the game had a cagey start. Skirmishing erupted along the entire battlefront. The Carthaginians got the better of it. Then the Carthaginians made their first move of consequence. The Gallic masses swept over the wooded hill (Carthaginian left centre) and though the Romans countered by sending in their own Gallic allies, again it was the Carthaginians who prevailed. Their Gauls swept down the forward slope and taunted the Romans from the trees.

In the centre it was the Romans who moved first. Sending their legionaries forward they were counter charged by veteran Iberian foot as they reached the far bank. The shock was too much for the Roman hastati and they recoiled back to their own side of the river with some heavy losses. Indeed, it was only the flexibility of the Roman triplex acies which stemmed a collapse - Roman principes being hastily rushed forward to defend their own river bank.

On the Carthaginian right, the Gallic, Iberian and Numidian cavalry moved to outflank the greatly outnumbered Roman cavalry (odds of 9:4).

On the Carthaginian left the cavalry wings of both sides advanced, but both were reticent to force the issue.