Friday, 12 June 2015

To the Strongest - A proper game.

This is the AAR of this week's Punic Wars battle fought using To the Strongest Rules by Simon Miller. This was the second time we have played using these rules and they ran the game like clockwork. They are definitely well thought out and well balanced. Most of all, they are elegantly simple.

I'm not going to do a blow by blow, card by card, AAR of this battle. Explaining how TtS is played has already been done elsewhere by more experienced players. This is a simple battle narrative with some general impressions of the rules. 

 The table was set with plenty of flank space, though this wasn't used. The battlefield represented an open plain with areas of rough, rocky ground. This counted as difficult terrain for movement but didn't count for cover to missilery. First games are generally best with little terrain.
 The Carthaginians formed up in a battle line with cavalry on the wings and infantry in the centre with few reserves.
 The Romans formed up their infantry in triplex acies with cavalry on the wings.
 The Carthaginians advanced their cavalry wings and their skirmish line. 

To the Strongest throws the odd spanner into the works and the central infantry command's turn ends before all of the skirmishers can be brought forward. 

This lack of 'total control' is a feature of TtS. Being Piquet players, we like this kind of thing.
 On the Roman left the Allied cavalry comes forward to melee with the advancing Carthaginian cavalry. This cavalry battle will go back and forth for the entire battle with cavalry charging, fighting, withdrawing to rally before charging in again. 

Note the 'barrel' counter next to the Roman commander - he has been lightly wounded in the first encounter.
 Meanwhile in the centre the Roman legions steadily, if cautiously, advance. Doing so allows them to maintain formation.

Steady progress, rather than possible extravagant advances, seem to be best in delivering massed units together.
 On the other wing it is the Carthaginians who press the action. The Carthaginian commander is wounded (barrel counter).
 The cavalry action on the Roman left  is fierce but inconclusive. The Roman commander is killed.
 On the Roman right, the Carthaginians get the better of it and begin to seriously threaten the flank of the Roman centre, but they lose their commander in the process.

The pennies, BTW, are ammunition - 'shots' - markers.
 The action on the Roman left has been going on like mad for ages. Not a single unit has been lost.
In the centre the infantry come to grips. Although the Carthaginian commander is wounded then killed, the Roman attack is wrecked by some very spirited fighting by the Carthaginian infantry. The Romans have brought their wooden training swords for the fight - they can't hit and can't save either and, being in small units (maniples are lost on a single fail to save) get slaughtered.

But, it is on the Roman right that the death blow falls. In the far distance of this shot you can see the Carthaginian cavalry has turned the Roman flank. The Romans lose their final victory medal. The Carthaginians still have three. 

Note the 'tuft' counter. We use these to mark disorder. 

Note the 'broken wheel' counter. This marks the presence of an unused minor 'hero'. Heroes allow a failed to hit card to be re-drawn; when the hero is used the counter is removed; presumably the hero goes down doing something heroic. In this case the 'hero' is a hairy Gaul (hairier than any man has a right to be?). Simon M. has a lot of very nice figures representing these, but a counter serves just as well in game play.
(Staged shot - Graham, the standard bearer's arm, pinned and glued, went back just fine; better, stronger than before).

This game, the second time around for the rules,  flowed much better and we made few if any rule mistakes. Also, tactical play was more evident and decisions were far more considered. As a consequence the game was very good fun. 

One noticeable occurrence was the save failure rate by certain unit types during the game. This was, I feel, 'flukey' and added a great deal of jeopardy to the game. 

The loss of leaders: Three leaders, all 'heroic', were lost during the game each having been slightly wounded before succumbing to second hits, they were saving on three plus (non heroic leaders save on two plus). 

Failure to save by the Roman infantry maniples did for the Romans: Not one managed to draw a six or five plus save card (most things were saving on sevens and eights) and they went down like flies. 

Another thing which we liked, was the back and forth nature of the cavalry fight on the Roman left. Although both sides managed to score hits and disorder the enemy, they were all able to rally before they could be finished off with a second hit. Sometimes they withdrew out of charge range to make it easier, and sometimes fresh cavalry were brought up to block charge lanes to protect them until they did. It had the feel of an inconclusive cavalry melee - it might have flamboyantly swirled and clashed about but, they all came home.

We really like these rules. I think they are going to be our go to set for the Punic Wars for the foreseeable future. Mention was even made of running another Punic Wars campaign - though I think having played one, lasting God knows how long last year, we will not be doing that for another year or two. We will certainly try them with other troops we have that fit into the scope of the rules. 

Lastly, mention should be made of Grahams elephants. In their first four activations the drew three aces and a ten. You never hear Graham swear but, I think he was coming pretty close. Those that know TtS will know that this is not good.


Simon Miller said...

It sounds like a great game James. My heart goes out to the Carthaginians for the dodgy elephants! Graham should have given them some wine before the battle. ;-)

Gonsalvo said...

Thanks for the report, James!

Gunny Highway said...

While I think TTS has many attributes, James, I think your rules still reflect the Romans better. Just my own observation,

Gunny Highway said...

While I really enjoy TTS! I still think your treatment of the Romans in your own rules are second to none.....

Carlo said...

Great report James. Desperate to revisit TtS now that Waterloo is done and dusted.