Saturday, July 24, 2010

MEETING OF HOSTS JULY 25 REVISION

MEETING OF HOSTS

Rules for simple ancient wargames with toy soldiers by Ross Macfarlane.
inspired by Joe Morschauser and Don Featherstone
25 July 2010


INTRODUCTION AND DESIGN NOTES
 
This is a set of simple rules for playing wargames with toy soldiers depicting ancient warriors.  It is not a detailed, simulation of low level ancient tactics nor is it intended to be a clever vehicle for challenging competition style games.  It is, hopefully, a relaxed game where the gamer can focus on his over all plan, not minor tactical details while getting enough flavour to feel right at a high level.  For example, light infantry are mobile but fragile while heavy infantry are ponderous but robust.  Troop variations have been glossed over, this is not to say that I don’t understand that there is a difference between how a maniplur legion and a pike phalanx operated but at a high level, neither seems to have had an overwhelming advantage in a frontal encounter so rather than give them different but balanced capabilities, they are all just heavy infantry.  However, the manipular legion should be fielded as a large number of small units and the phalanx as a small number of large units.  The resulting clash should mirror the real thing reasonably well without further special rules, the more flexible legion can lose the occasional unit without losing the battle.  It can pull back battered units to recover them and can send  triarii marching around the flank. Once a phalanx unit is flanked and breaks, the huge hole will be irreparable.  However,  I believe in the Old School philosophy of adapting rules to suit the user and rather than being comprehensive, the rules are flexible and so players who like them but want more detail and troop differentiation are encouraged to add more complexity if that’s what they enjoy. 

In order to achieve the desired level of simplicity combined with a certain ‘toy soldier’ feel, several compromises were made and key concepts employed.  Some might refer to these as dodges but hopefully an explanation of a few key ones will help to excuse some apparent oddities.
 
  • “What you see ain’t what you get”.  The game is played as a series of alternate moves of constant duration.  Life doesn’t work like that. As a game mechanic it is useful and the gamer will have to work with it, however, when you move first and bear down on a unit only to see them  skip nimbly out of the way, keep in mind, that the movement on the table represents the intent of the generals crossed with capabilities on the unit commanders on the spot faced with the practical difficulties of carrying out that intent, if they even know it, over a variable period of time, much of which is wasted.  If all goes well, things will end up looking like you planned, if it goes south, well perhaps you weren’t clear or perhaps a clever enemy unit commander reacted faster than your man on the spot and took action which he was unable to encounter.  You are the general not a god.

  • A nice rectangular body of peltasts on the table, is probably sending out small subunits to hurl javelins then fall back but might close up if faced by cavalry.  A block of cavalrymen drops files and rides through a gap, then expands on the other side.  Don’t forget the units on the table are not solid, homogenous blocks, they are composed of unseen sub units them selves made of up of individuals.  They are also probably occupying too deep an area on the table.  When a unit maneuvers, things are going on below the level that we can see.  Don’t worry about the details, if you try to carry out a lot of fancy maneuvers you will probably get into trouble. 

  • It is well accepted these days that ancient armies rarely took very heavy casualties until they broke and ran and therefore it has become fashionable to not remove any figures but just track some form of unit effectiveness measure.  This allows practical and often very attractive multi-figure stands but I think  that actually laying down figures has a more visceral effect on a player, a reminder that there are dead and wounded men before his avatar on the field. I also think it has more of a toy soldier feel which I like.  So I remove or mark casualties.  That doesn’t mean they are all dead and wounded though, it is also the overall effect of fear and fatigue, in effect, its another way, simple though probably not scientifically accurate, of tracking that nebulous quality, a unit’s cohesion or effectiveness.  So when a unit gets a chance to rest and succeeds in recovering some of its casualties, I’m not actually thinking of hoplites with a dramatic bandages wrapped around their heads rejoining the ranks,  its just that the rest and the work of the leaders in exhorting their men is having an effect of raising the units effectiveness.   

It is customary to include points values in ancient rules to allow opposing armies to be  “balanced” , but I have never met a point system where all troops were equally worth their points so I am not going to bother. Most of my games are either, unbalanced raids, ambushes and advance guard scuffles or else based loosely on historical battles with scaled down forces. If you have trouble agreeing on reasonable forces then try having one player define the forces and let the other player choose sides.  

Last but not least, not every situation will be catered for so be prepared to improvise.  If something doesn’t look or feel right, you may want to over ride a rule temporarily.  If a situation arises and consensus can’t be reached,  opposing players should state their case and dice to see whose opinion will prevail.  Anyone who uses these rules is welcome, encouraged rather,  to send me comments, questions and criticisms but is also welcome to make changes and additions to suit themselves.  I will, however, pass on Joe Morschauser’s exhortation    to let your opponent know of any changes BEFORE a game starts.
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PREPARING FOR BATTLE

1)       ORGANIZATION: This game was designed to be played with individual toy soldiers but if you have multiple figures fixed to a base they can be used as long as you can mark casualties in someway (caps, wound markers etc). Movement trays holding a number of figures may also be used as a convenience.  Soldiers must be organized into units including a leader. A standard unit is 12 cavalry, skirmishers or light infantry or 24 other infantry but larger or smaller units may be used if desired.  (for example a late manipular legion might be fielded as 5 heavy infantry (hastate, princeps and triari) and 2 light infantry units (velites), while an opposing pike phalanx might take the field as 2x36 man units.  Miniatures should look like what they are meant to be but no account is taken of individual weapon variations and officers, standard bearers and musicians are treated the same as the majority of the unit.  All members of the unit must stay together and do the same thing.


2)       GENERALS.  Each  army is commanded by one General.  He may be assisted by subordinate  generals who command a portion of the army which is assigned to them at the start of the game. The over all commander may order or  join any unit but a subordinate can only do so to the units assigned to him.   

3)       UNIT TYPES: Troops are classified in several ways, the main one is by function, how the units are equipped and trained to fight.  This can be modified by their training, enthusiasm and discipline as well by minor differences in armour and weapons.  Troops must be slotted into one of the following categories. If the unit you wish to represent does not fit any of the categories, you must pick the closest or write your own amendments. The term infantry will apply to all figures fighting on foot, cavalry are all figures fighting from chariots, horseback or from camels, special troops include elephants, artillery and various oddities that may crop up.  Skirmishers, light infantry and light cavalry are all light troops.

a)       Skirmishers: Infantry who operate in a loose formation, using bows, slings and javelins to inflict damage from a distance and avoiding hand to hand combat.  In many armies these are not regular soldiers but are youths not ready for the battle line, camp followers or the like but in some cases they are the main fighting strength of mountain tribes or are well paid mercenaries etc.  
b)       Light Infantry: Lightly equipped infantry who are trained and equipped to fight hand to hand as well as using missiles.  Most often they are equipped with javelin, shield and sword or spear but less often they may be archers or a mix of archers and sword or spearmen. 
c)       Medium Infantry: Infantry relying on a combination of missile fire and hand to hand combat but not heavily armoured and are not typically trained to fight in tightly ordered ranks but more as individuals.  They will normally rely on shields for defence but may have some armour  Typical examples would include Persian spear and bow units and Celtic infantry with throwing spears and sword.  Most mixed spear and bow units will fall into this category to reflect their reliance on missile fire.
d)       Heavy Infantry: Infantry trained and equipped to fight hand to hand in close ranks.  Typically the front ranks at least are heavily armoured and carry large shields.  Most are armed with spears and pikes but Roman legionaires will fall into this category as well.
e)       Light Cavalry: Cavalry operating in a loose formation or a swarm of small parties, relying on bow or javelin fire to disrupt and avoiding hand to hand combat unless it is to their advantage.
f)        Medium Cavalry: Massed cavalry, camelry or chariots usually relying on javelins or bows to weaken the enemy but also trained and equipped to charge  if an opening appears.  Usually they will have some armour or carry shields.
g)       Heavy Cavalry: Armoured shock cavalry and heavy chariots whose main tactic is a charge to contact.  Cataphracts are a subset of heavy cavalry, heavily armoured men mounted on armoured horses.  In theory the armour gives them very good protection but makes them slow as does the clumsy formations sometimes adopted for them.  In practice their clumsiness in melee seems to have countered the additional protection and so I am going to lump them in with other heavy shock cavalry.
h)       Elephants: War elephants using a mixture of terror and  missile fire to disrupt the enemy as well as smashing enemy infantry in melee. Elephants  are particularly effective against cavalry but are prone to panic if they or their driver are wounded and are a risk to their own army if they do so.Each elephant is usually a separate unit.
i)         Artillery: is rare in the field but was occasionally lighter engines were used.  It is not very mobile but can wear down and disrupt the enemy at a distance.  Larger engines should be treated as immobile.

4)       UNIT QUALITY: The average unit is assumed to be composed of men who know how to handle their weapons and how to behave.  The level of training, experience and enthusiasm could vary widely but only 2 exceptions are  made in these rules:
a)       Elite: These are units of picked veteran troops who can be relied on to perform better than average.  They will often have more training or indoctrination (as with barbarian nobles)  but also have experience and mental and physical toughness that will allow them to show a higher standard of courage than other units and the experience to handle unexpected or unfavorable situations without panicking.  Having fancy clothes and political influence or an impetuous assault is not enough to qualify as elite.
b)       Levy: These are unreliable troops, they may be enthusiastic but untrained, or may be  disaffected or poorly led which will lead to a tendency to fall into disorder and robs troops of courage.
5)       HITS: Hits represent fatigue, fear and a general loss of combat ability in addition to actual wounds. Normally each hit causes a figure to be removed.  Artillery, chariots and elephants are removed when all of the human crew are hit.   

6)       SPECIAL UNIT RULES.  The rules only list very generic unit types based primarily on function and variations are assumed to equal out (for example extra armour decreases physically vulnerability but also increases fatigue).  Players are welcome to agree on  new unit types or special rules to add flavour and complexity for specific campaigns.  For example, Celtic medium infantry may be given +1 bonus in  melee until they lose or tie a round but they are not allowed to use the recovery rule.  Well drilled troops will often end up being classified as elite but if you want to portray a heavy infantry unit that you feels is well drilled but not superior in combat or morale then you could allow them to use the elite bonus on disorder tests when doing a maneuver but no where else.
7)       FORMATIONS:  Figures must stay with their units.  Heavy and medium troops should remain base to base, light troops should remain within an inch of each other. Rather than delve deeply into all the formations likely to have been used by all the nations of the ancient world, I leave it up to the player to deploy his troops as historically as pleases him and warn that an attempt to lead them through fancy maneuvers brings a risk of disorder and disaster.
8)       UNIT ASPECT.  The area directly to the front of a unit is its Front.  The area reaching from directly to the right of a unit, around behind it to its left is its flank or rear.  There is no special name for the area which is neither front nor flank or rear.
9)       TERRAIN: Terrain may affect movement and visibility.  Under movement, ratios are applied proportionally so that a unit of infantry might move half their move (3”) in the open then enter a section of broken ground and then move the second ½ of their move at ½ speed  (1.5”).  Some terrain will block line of sight but terrain like woods does not provide cover to units which are visible and in a position to shoot out. (An individual might hide behind a tree between shots but several ranks of archers can’t fire effectively from the middle of a wood )
a)       Broken terrain: This is all terrain which is passable to most troops but not ideal.  It includes  streams, rocky or steep slopes, open woods, cultivated fields, especially if bounded by hedges or walls and the like.  A linear obstacle will count as a minimum of 1” wide.  Terrain which is man high will block the line of sight.  Troops which are on the edge may be seen. Troops back from the edge are assumed to post sentries and thus be aware of what is happening but cannot shoot or be shot at or charged from outside.  If 2 units are in the same area of terrain they may see each other at 1” distance.  
b)       Difficult terrain: This is terrain which is impractical for most troops.  Steep, rocky slopes, forests, marshes and so forth.
c)       Rivers: Minor streams and difficult fords are classed as broken terrain.  Good fords are classed as clear terrain.  Most other rivers are impassible to bodies of troops except for fords and bridges. Specialist river crossing units may usually cross as a difficult obstacle.
d)       Villages, cities and forts: Villages are best represented by a base with a few small buildings and walls placed on it. The whole is treated as an area of broken ground that blocks line of sight.  Larger cities and forts or fortified camps will usually have an exterior wall.  Any buildings within a city wall will represent city blocks and be considered difficult. The inside of a fort would be broken instead.  The wall will provide hard  cover from shooting and in hand to hand combat and can only be attacked by infantry which we will assume have improvised some way to escalade or have been provided with ladders by a general with foresight. The game master may declare high city or fortress walls to be impassible without special equipment.  Gates can always be assaulted.  A city or fort will usually be criss-crossed by roads and contain open squares all of which will count as clear terrain.
e)       Roads: Although roads exist, they are of little concern for troop movements except to mark the best route to follow.  

PLAYING THE GAME

  1. SEQUENCE OF PLAY: Each turn consists of the following phases which are carried out in this order:
    1. Initiative: At the start of each turn, each commanding general rolls 1 die, If one side is higher, he has the initiative and  may choose to move first or second for that turn.  If it is a tie, repeat the previous turn’s sequence except that on the first turn of the game you must re-roll until someone wins.
    2. 1st Player move: The player going first may move any of his units one at a time, subject to the rules, making any tests required.
    3. 2nd Player move: The player going second may now move any of his units subject to the rules, making any tests required.
    4. Shooting: All units on both sides which are eligible to shoot may do so simultaneously. Any required tests are taken once all shooting has been done.
    5. Melee:  All units on both sides which are eligible, will fight in melee simultaneously. Once all the fighting is done, work out the results and make after combat retreats and tests.  If  two retreating units interfere with each other, players who moved first will decide which unit retreats first, otherwise all after melee retreats are treated as simultaneous.
    6. Pursuit:  Once all melees have been resolved, the player who moved first may conduct pursuits followed by the player who moved second.
    7. End of turn: Both sides do any end of turn activities such as casualty recovery or as called for by the scenario. Once this phase is over, start the next turn.

 
  1. MOVEMENT:  

a.       Orders: Units are assumed to normally move in accordance with orders from their general whether shouted at them or conveyed by signals or messengers or sometimes in accordance with a display of initiative by their unit commander. If the general is occupied or too far away, a unit may not move when it is desired.  If at the start of a turn, the general issuing the order was more than 12” away or is engaged in melee then roll 1 die when the unit attempts to move and consult the orders chart:
ORDERS CHART
4,5,6
Obey, the unit moves as ordered
1,2,3
Hold position.  no movement.
0
Fallback 1 move
Die Modifiers
+1
Unit is Elite
-1
Unit is Levy
-1
Enemy to flank or rear within 12”
-2
Unit has suffered 50% losses
b.       Move Distances: Units may move up to the maximum distance as shown below, they do not have to move the full amount but no individual in the unit may move farther than the full amount.
MOVEMENT CHART
UNIT
BASIC
BROKEN GROUND
VERY DIFFICULT GROUND
Skirmishers, Light Infantry
12”
No effect
½ speed
Medium and Heavy Infantry
6”
½ speed
Impassible
Light Cavalry
24”
1/3 speed
Impassible
Medium and Heavy Cavalry
18”
1/3  speed
Impassible
Generals
As type


Artillery, Wagons
6”
Impassible
Impassible





    1. Advance: Any unit may wheel up to 90 degrees and then advance straight forward in good order as long as no individual moves more then their full move including the distance moved during the wheel.
    2. Maneuver: Any unit may make any other movement such as moving to the flank, falling back while maintaining their facing, changing formation and so forth as long as no individual moves more than their full move but the unit must take a disorder test after moving.  If there was an enemy within 12” at any point during the turn then it must apply the modifier for enemy within 12” even if this isn’t true at the time of the test.
    3. Charges:
                                                               i.      A unit may only charge into contact with the enemy by making an advance. 
                                                              ii.      If any part of the charging unit begins or ends its move in front of the unit being charged then it is a frontal charge and once contact is made the attacker will align with the front of the charged unit as closely as possible.  This alignment is a free, extra move.
                                                            iii.      Skirmishers, artillery and baggage may not charge. 
                                                            iv.      A unit which has been charged this turn is pinned and may not move until the melee phase.
    1. Doubling: A heavy or medium infantry move may advance at double its normal rate but may not shoot or charge and must take a disorder test after moving.
    2. Moving through friends: Skirmishers may move through any friendly unit without penalty.  Any unit may move through skirmishers or artillery.  If other units move through each other then both must take a disorder test counting as a maneuver.
    3. Retreating.  A unit forced to retreat must attempt to move as far away as possible from all enemy, if unable to retreat without coming within 1” of enemy then it will surrender. Normally it will head for the nearest board edge as long as this does not take it nearer to enemy.  If it meets friends it will go through them forcing them to take a disorder test except that skirmishers do not force other troops to test.  If a retreating unit reaches the board edge it will halt but if it starts at the board edge then it will leave the table for good.
    4. Generals: Generals may move their full move in any direction and pass through any friendly unit or be passed through without penalty unless he has an escort of more than 1 figure in which case the normal rules apply.  If a general moves to join a unit this must be made obvious and be declared.  He may only move once per turn.
  
  1. SHOOTING : 
    1. Dice: Roll 1 die per 4 figures ignoring fractions.  Artillery, elephants and chariots roll 1 die each until destroyed but artillery may not fire if it moved this turn.  Count all figures of light units but only ½ of the figures in the first 3 ranks of medium units.  In mixed bow and spear units, both types of figure are included.  For example a unit of 12 spearmen and 12 archers arranged 3 deep will fire 3 dice. Regardless of modifiers, a natural 6 always hits, a natural 1 always misses. Shooting is simultaneous so that figures hit this turn are still included when counting how many dice to roll. Remove all hits once all shooting is finished.
    2. Targets: A unit must attempt to engage the closest enemy unit or, if 2 or more units are equally close, must split its fire and engage as many as possible of the closest units. A general may only be fired at if he is one of the closest targets.  If he has joined a unit and that unit is a target for 2 or more dice then 1 die may be shot at him. 
    3. Line of Fire:  Measure from the center of a unit’s front rank to the closest point of the target.  Some part of the target must be in front of the firing unit except that light cavalry may shoot in any direction.  There must be a clear line of fire not blocked by terrain or troops of either side.
    4.  
SHOOTING CHART
RANGE
WEAPON
24”
Artillery
12”
Bow or sling
6”
Javelin
HIT ON
IF TARGET IS
5,6
Heavy infantry, Heavy Cavalry, Elephants, Artillery.
4,5,6
Medium infantry or cavalry
3,4,5,6
Light troops

Modifiers
+1
Elite
-1
Levy
+1
Firing at enemy flank or rear
-1
Target is skirmishers or
 defending a fort or city wall

    1. A unit in contact with the enemy may not shoot or be shot at.  Melee  resolution includes shooting during a charge and over head firing during a prolonged melee.
    2. Disordered units count ½ the normal number of dice rounding down.
  1. MELEE:  Melee is resolved if opposing units are in contact during the melee phase.
    1. Evades. Cavalry which are in contact with infantry and any light troops in contact with any enemy may about face and retreat a full move instead of fighting.  They must take a disorder test after moving.
    2. Dice:
                                                               i.      Roll 1 die for every 4 infantry or 2 cavalry figures rounding down.  Elephants, chariots, artillery and baggage roll 1 die for each model. 
                                                              ii.      Count all of the figures in the front 3 ranks if fighting only to the front and not in broken or difficult terrain or assaulting a wall in which case only figures in contact are counted.
                                                            iii.      Disordered troops count ½ the normal number of dice as do any units except light infantry or skirmishers  in broken terrain.
                                                            iv.      Fighting is simultaneous so that hits inflicted by the enemy are not removed until after both sides have rolled their dice. 
    1. Generals:  A unit led  by a general adds 1 die. 1 enemy die may be rolled against him. If he is hit he is removed.  If the unit he is leading is defeated that turn, then he is captured for campaign purposes.

.
MELEE CHART
(regardless of modifiers a natural 6 always hits, a natural 1 always misses)
HIT ON
IF TARGET IS
5,6
Heavy Infantry, Heavy Cavalry, Elephants, Generals
4,5,6
Medium Infantry or Medium Cavalry
3,4,5,6
Other troops




Die Modifiers
+1
Unit is Elite
-1
Unit is levy, skirmishers, artillery  baggage, or is mounted on camels
+1
Fighting enemy flank or rear  or if pursuing or if light infantry fighting an elephant or heavy chariot
-1
Enemy is uphill or defending an obstacle such as a ditch or wall.
+1





    1. Melee Result. If a unit receives more hits than it inflicts then it will recoil 1” then must take a disorder test.
    2. Pursuit.  If a unit is not disordered and all of a unit’s melee opponents retreat or evade then it may advance a full move during the pursuit phase and may charge.  If it charges into contact then the target is pinned until the melee phase of the next turn.  A unit which pursues must take a disorder test after moving.

  1. DISORDER TEST:  When a disorder test is called for roll 1 die and check the modified result against the chart.  Test if:
    1. Disordered at the start of its move unless in melee.
    2. After a maneuver, double, evade or pursuit
    3. If friends other than skirmishers retreat through
    4. If cavalry moves to within  6” of an elephant or camel  or has one move to within 6” of them.  Check as soon as this happens.
    5. Lost 25% of current strength to shooting in 1 turn or was hit by artillery shooting


DISORDER CHART
4,5,6
Unit is in good order.
1,2,3
Unit halts in disorder. No move this turn.
0
Unit panics, immediately retreat a double move going through any friends met then remove the unit. Elephants which panic roll 1 die, on a 1,2 they veer 45 degrees left after turning about, on 5,6 they veer 45 degrees right.  They will roll dice as if in melee against any unit of either side that they meet. 
Die Modifiers
+1
Unit is Elite
-1
Unit is levy
+1
General has joined unit
-1
Enemy to flank or rear within 12”


-2
Lost 50% of original strength

  1. RECOVERY: Since hits represent not only physical wounds but also fatigue, fear and other factors which lead to a loss of cohesion.  Given a respite, a unit might be able to recover somewhat.  When a unit suffers hits, place them aside or mark them as temporary.  If a unit does not move or shoot, was not shot at and was not in melee this turn and is not disordered, then during the end of turn phase it may roll on the recovery chart.

RECOVERY CHART
4,5,6
½ of casualties are recovered rounding down
1,2,3
No casualties are recovered.
0
Al casualties are lost permanently
Die Modifiers
+1
Unit is Elite
-1
Unit is levy
+1
General has joined unit
-1
Enemy to flank or rear within 12”


-2
Lost 50% of original strength





  1. REPLACING GENERALS: If a general is wounded by shooting or in melee he is removed.  During the end of turn phase of the next turn roll 1 die.  On a 4,5,6 he is replaced, either he has recovered from a minor wound or stunning blow or someone else has taken charge. If he fails to return roll again during the next end of turn phase until he is replaced.  When he is replaced,   he will be placed with his bodyguard if he had one. If not then he may be placed with any unit of his army but your opponent has the right to insist that you spin the tale of how he came to be there.