Sunday, 8 March 2015

Neil Thomas Ancient rules

This was a tryout for the Ancients rules from Neil Thomas's 'Introduction to Wargaming'. A somewhat cut down version from those in his Ancient and Medieval Wargaming book, but decent enough. I largely left them alone, although I lightly fiddled with the army lists to fit in with the One Hour Wargames scenario generator. These are somewhat more detailed than the One Hour rules,  and follow the familiar NT "four base units, remove a base after four hits" system.

I just used my 25mm DBx based armies for this, grouped into four base units and picked the 'Take the Hill' scenario from OHW as it vaguely resembled the Battle of Sambre. In retrospect this was probably a mistake, but hey ho. The armies were generated using the modded army generator. The Romans were a fairly typical Imperial army, four Legions, two Auxilia and two Cavalry . The Gauls had a couple of cavalry, some light infantry and five Warband including a Chiefs Bodyguard. The scenario starts with a couple of Roman units on a hill faced by the entire Gallic Army while the Romans pals ride to the rescue.

Caesers Legio X sit on the hill.

Gauls cross the river (it was fordable for this scenario).

Light infantry and Warband.

Roman reinforcements enter, cavalry in front.

Cavalry flow around the flanks while the Gauls decide a frontal assault is the way to go.

Some rather blurry Gauls head for the woods.

Gauls in the woods. These chaps seem to have forgotten their trousers.

Battle is joined on the hill and a bloodbath ensues. The hit markers are obvious, less obvious are the four missing bases of Gauls...

Gallic cavalry roll spectacularly awful dice.

The Auxilia take a bit of a pasting, as do the Gallic light infantry.

The Gallic cavalry come under atack.

Things aren't looking too good over here either.

The Gallic cavalry die fighting.
So once again, the future Emperor gets to write an exciting chapter in his memoirs. This was an OK game, although the poor old Gallic warbands seem to be massively overpowered by the Imperial Legionaries, not only do the Romans get twice as many combat dice, but also save on a 4+ while the Gauls save on a 6! Thus generating a relative combat effectiveness ratio of 4:1.... the situation is exacerbated by having armies of equal size, although I suppose I could just give the Gauls four times as many units. Even in woods (supposedly the Warbands most effective terrain) they only have a marginal advantage against the Romans (I reckon 18:15).

Anyway, Mr Thomas clearly has a slightly different view of the effectiveness of Warbands to us and there was a  good degree of muttering around the table. I suspect it will be easy enough to fix, and all that has happened is that there has been  some accidental double counting of factors (combining poor combat dice and much weaker armour). I reckon bumping the armour of later Gauls up one class and equalising the combat dice, at least while they are still fresh, will sort it out easily enough. Perhaps I can figure out some sort of dice magic to replicate the 'quick kill' concept in DBA.

That apart, it was a  fun game. Good and quick, looked nice and had a suitably nail biting attritive feel to the hand-hand combat. Like all ruler based rules, the wheeling/flank attack stuff felt clumsy and contrived and involved lots of fiddly measuring, and just like their 19th century counterparts, would no doubt benefit from being migrated to squares but I'm not sure I can be bothered at present.

We'll have another outing of these at some point when I've had a fiddle with them, probably with better balanced armies (like Punic Wars, or maybe Hoplites).


  1. Probably a good job that the Romans were tough. In the original scenario the hill defenders are outnumbered three to one for the first turn or so - you had them outnumbered four to one :)

  2. That is true, but frankly the legions were so overpowered that the original hill defenders would have been quite capable of wiping out the entire Gallic army on their own. The Gauls were losing entire bases faster than the Romans were taking individual hits. Even Blades in DBA aren't that good... Now arguably the Gauls could have concentrated more effectively against the hill in the game, but even so. Anyway, easy enough to fix I think.