As part of our "bucket list" program, last night Bob Sohn and I sat down for a game of "SCS" Raphia, from MMP's Special Ops #1. Despite the notion that this is a game in the Standard Combat Series, the resemblance to other games in that series is superficial. It is igo-ugo, hex-and-tiny-counter, and the units have surprisingly large movement values. The resemblance ends there.
It's like Rock, Paper, Scissors but with Elephants thrown in.
The game depicts a huge battle between Egyptian and Selecuid forces in the "Successors" era. The sides are similarly armed, with both armies featuring a big phalanx and lot and lots of elephants. Players have the option to set up their forces as they wish, which I think is a nice feature for an "ancients" game. It sometime seems to me that this was the commander’s most important role in those days.
The movement allowance for the Phalanx is lowest, and pretty much ensures that the scrum will take place in the middle of the map, as happened in our game. Phalanxes “lock” with each other, pretty much setting the focus for the rest of the game.
To start, Bob and I engaged in some pointless dueling on one flank. On the first turn, there was a lot of Elephant rampaging to not much effect. It soon became clear that the ONLY units that really matter in this game are the Phalanx – the victory condition is to move one in to your opponent’s “home tent”. So then we set down to the business of trying to set up our other units to take missile shots on each other’s Phalanx in an attempt to wear them down. It also became clear that the best use of the Elephants was to try to get them to Rampage into the enemy Phalanx (and hopefully not your own).
The game features an interesting grid showing how units interact with each other (hence the title of this session report). For instance, Formed Infantry will Melee with their counterparts, Force retreat of lights, but can only throw things at Phalanxes. We caught ourselves cheating a few times, as these infantry can throw missiles ONLY at the phalanx, and not at any other unit type, which is perhaps not a typical game mechanic.
The system seems to generate a lot of “retreats”, and we saw units moving back and forth from the edge and back into the action over and over. As the Selecuids, I had fewer Phalanxes but had many more Peltasts, which I set up in a second line to “pelt” the Egyption Phalanx. This seemed to be working out fine until a rampaging elephant took out nearly all of them. There was an overstack on the last retreat hex (the tent), and so all but two were forced off the map.
Ultimately, however, I managed to get the upper hand in missile fire. Bob actually managed to break free with a couple of Phalanx units, and headed straight for my tent. However, they were mowed down in a hail of fire. These same rock-chuckers returned to the line and helped affect a breakthrough of my own, for the win.
We had fun. The game seemed a bit sluggish a first, and the rule that all missile fires need to be declared before any are resolved seemed cumbersome. But after a while almost everyone was dead or gone and the game moved much quicker. We did have to make up a few rules to fill some holes in the rulebook, but it was not hard to agree on them. I do believe I would play again, but I’m sure Bob would not.
We finished up the night with a 3-game series of Harry’s Grand Slam Baseball, which is now “the” filler. Bob won that, 2 games to 1.