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Subject: Tactical Ancients rss

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Matt Thrower
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So, after reading some stuff on ancient warfare and playing some C&C:A, I became dissatisfied with the way it sidestepped the issue of tactical differences in ancient units. So a Roman Legion fought very differently from a Carthaginian phalanx, which was in turn a copy of the Macedonian phalanx which was quite distinct from the original Greek Hoplite phalanx. But in the game, they're all just "medium/heavy infantry".

That's probably fair enough at the scale of C&C:A (it it? I'm not enough of an expert to know). But it made me wonder whether there was any value in gaming the tactical differences between different classical civilizations. I mean, before reading, I honestly had no idea that there was a lot of tactical differentiation before the middle ages, at least in the sense of armies using different tactics fighting each other. But there clearly are.

So are there any games that do ancients on a tactical scale? And if not, why not - simply because the tactical differences between a Legion with its short swords and a phalanx with its pikes aren't sufficiently different to be worth simulating?



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Russ Williams
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Ancient Battles Deluxe might be worth checking out.
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Piero
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Quite frankly, I wouldn't play CC:A for its simulative value.

Lost Battles is the way to go.
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Helmut Hohberger
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Great Battles of History is worth checking out.
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Captain Nemo
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MattDP wrote:
So are there any games that do ancients on a tactical scale? And if not, why not - simply because the tactical differences between a Legion with its short swords and a phalanx with its pikes aren't sufficiently different to be worth simulating?


That is asking for quite a high level of detail if you want more than +/-1 to dice rolls. You might try the SOCIETY OF ANCIENTS and/or the Bath Wargames Club for games like DBA.
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Enrico Viglino
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russ wrote:
Ancient Battles Deluxe might be worth checking out.


You get some sense of differences in the units, but it's still very abstract.
It's what I'd call a chess-like game, in terms of thought (however that
effects you - not my cuppa).

The best I've seen for giving the full feel is GBoH, but even
that is not at the level of detail where you can actually see
the Roman formations (for example) in enough detail to understand
WHY they work. For that, I've only seen minis games do it (I haven't
played Lost Battles though - maybe it is at a small enough scale).
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Alex Rom
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If you find Command and colors too simple for your taste, you can try Legion.
It still can be bought from society of the ancients:
http://www.soa.org.uk/cartloom/games/
Components are almost ugly by current standards but in my opniion it is one of the best tactical ancients game. Not as simple as Command and colors or Ancient Battles Deluxe and in the same time not as complex as Great Battles of History. Just in the right spot for me.
There are usually about 20-40 units(counters) per side in a battle and in this game experience of the troops and command and control matter as well as the weapons.
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Kyle Seely
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calandale wrote:
russ wrote:
Ancient Battles Deluxe might be worth checking out.


The best I've seen for giving the full feel is GBoH, but even
that is not at the level of detail where you can actually see
the Roman formations (for example) in enough detail to understand
WHY they work. For that, I've only seen minis games do it (I haven't
played Lost Battles though - maybe it is at a small enough scale).


I wonder if it's by design that we don't see more detailed simulation at smaller scales. Basically, understanding and actual knowledge of exactly how Roman formations worked is scanty at best, with only a handful of contemporary sources to draw on, which sometimes conflict with each other, leaving scholars to make assumptions and extrapolations on how ancient combat actually worked on the battlefield. It almost demands a certain level of abstraction to avoid pure guesswork (which is already present as it is - fully acknowledged in some cases).
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Enrico Viglino
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Sluggonics wrote:
calandale wrote:
russ wrote:
Ancient Battles Deluxe might be worth checking out.


The best I've seen for giving the full feel is GBoH, but even
that is not at the level of detail where you can actually see
the Roman formations (for example) in enough detail to understand
WHY they work. For that, I've only seen minis games do it (I haven't
played Lost Battles though - maybe it is at a small enough scale).


I wonder if it's by design that we don't see more detailed simulation at smaller scales. Basically, understanding and actual knowledge of exactly how Roman formations worked is scanty at best, with only a handful of contemporary sources to draw on, which sometimes conflict with each other, leaving scholars to make assumptions and extrapolations on how ancient combat actually worked on the battlefield. It almost demands a certain level of abstraction to avoid pure guesswork (which is already present as it is - fully acknowledged in some cases).


True enough. If SPQR (as an example) did this, it would be as sketchy
as Chariots of Fire is. Still, I would like to see a game
tackle a plausible theory of this level of detail. Same with medieval
formations (the existence of such had once been entirely in dispute!).
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michael connor
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leksa wrote:
If you find Command and colors too simple for your taste, you can try Legion.
It still can be bought from society of the ancients:
http://www.soa.org.uk/cartloom/games/
Components are almost ugly by current standards but in my opniion it is one of the best tactical ancients game. Not as simple as Command and colors or Ancient Battles Deluxe and in the same time not as complex as Great Battles of History. Just in the right spot for me.
There are usually about 20-40 units(counters) per side in a battle and in this game experience of the troops and command and control matter as well as the weapons.


Ditto on that. A far more interesting and detailed game than his Lost Battles, IMO. For some strange reason, Ancients tactical battles are not as well covered as other pre-gunpowder periods such as Early Modern, and even the Medieval period. Ancients is well covered strategically with a rich array of game systems, but not tactically and I don't fully know why this is but I do have my suspicions!

C&C:A is just a toy for lite gamers and kids. and is not to be taken seriously as a realistic simulation of Ancient tactical combat. Battles of the Ancient World (Decision Games) and ABD are overly simplistic 'intoductory' games. GBOH is what you want, but even that has it's limitations. I'm coming to appreciate the older SPI's Prestags series(and it's earlier PHALANX and CENTURION prototypes) as being more realistic and accessable than all of the other Ancients of which I am aware. And more fun to boot!
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M St
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xmfcnrx wrote:

C&C:A is just a toy for lite gamers and kids. and is not to be taken seriously as a realistic simulation of Ancient tactical combat. Battles of the Ancient World (Decision Games) and ABD are overly simplistic 'intoductory' games. GBOH is what you want, but even that has it's limitations.

Actually, I would not consider C&C:A to be inferior to GBOH as a simulation. GBOH has vastly more unit detail, but some other very serious abstractions. Legion is pretty good.

Ultimately, miniature rules are the way to go if you want to look at ancients battles.
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Mike Windsor
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One concern I have with all of these systems is that you have far too much control over your forces than seems to be historically accurate. I don't know that anyone really wants to play a game where you have just a few counters per side (right, center, left, reserve, cavalry, elephants), but in many instances the leader's main contribution seems to have been how he lined up his forces and when to send in the cavalry and reserve (if he had even that much control). Some strategic games incorporate a tactical sub-game to resolve battles. The sub-games usually seem lame, but in case of ancients, they might be a perfect fit.
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Lucius Cornelius
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If hoplite battle´s your thing, there´s absolutely nothing better than the free download of Hoplomachia from The Perfect Captain.
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Russ Williams
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Question: I often see people say miniatures rules are the best way to play an ancients wargame.

Why is that?

1. Something inherent about the continuous movement of miniatures instead of discrete/grid-based movement of hex-and-counter?

or

2. It just so happens that in reality, the rules which best model the armies, tactics, etc, all happen to be miniatures rules, for reasons not particularly related to continuous vs discrete movement? (I.e. in principle there could be similarly good hex-and-counter ancients rules.)

or

3. Something else I'm not thinking of...
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Enrico Viglino
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russ wrote:
Question:

2. It just so happens that in reality, the rules which best model the armies, tactics, etc, all happen to be miniatures rules, for reasons not particularly related to continuous vs discrete movement? (I.e. in principle there could be similarly good hex-and-counter ancients rules.)


I'd say this. Minis systems have a very low cost to produce, so
they can explore the boundaries of tactical gaming more easily. You don't have
to raise the price of printing out maps and counters. PnP could probably
do the same, but that requires an additional effort for the players.
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Russ Williams
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calandale wrote:
russ wrote:
Question:

2. It just so happens that in reality, the rules which best model the armies, tactics, etc, all happen to be miniatures rules, for reasons not particularly related to continuous vs discrete movement? (I.e. in principle there could be similarly good hex-and-counter ancients rules.)


I'd say this. Minis systems have a very low cost to produce, so
they can explore the boundaries of tactical gaming more easily.

Oooh, that's a cool point I'd not thought of. Thanks!
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David
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If you are interested in ancient warfare, its history as well as a military simulation, Lost Battles is a must have game, it is brilliant. Not only do you get the game, it comes with an excellent book. This type of game represents the pinnacle of wargaming and military history for me.

Commands & Colors: Ancients is excellent also. But whereas Lost Battles is an abstracted military simulation, Commands & Colors: Ancients is an abstracted game.

De Bellis Antiquitatis is a terrific tabletop miniatures game that has a minimal investment, has a very historical feel to it and has a great deal of online resources.

I recommend all three heartily.
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Barry Kendall
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And DBA can be played without figures. The proper-sized bases, either hand-labeled or with a suitable illustration of the troop type and a type identifier applied, allow one to play with cardboard alone.

I suggest picture-frame matting material, which is nice and dense, thick enough to pick up, and comes in numerous colors and finishes.

If you choose to move into actual miniatures, these same art-matting bases will serve for mounting your figures.

DBA is 'way too much fun not to try just because you don't want to spend the money on buying, or time painting, miniatures.

Or use the same approach and try DBM for larger forces in your battle.
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Darren Webber
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I would suggest getting the Lost battles book. its pretty much the same game - and is the same game once you have visited the official yahoo group for the updates.

I would also suggest you get a copy of DBA - 2.2 is available, and 3.0 will be available soon (2.2+ is an unauthorised version that has been challenged as producing some strange match results - and I suggest you ignore it)

If you enjoy DBA (and I would suggest Big battle DBA to have a feel for larger battles ) then you may consider upgrading to DBMM - a very detailed set of rules that has many surprising interactions contained within an apparent simplicity. (you will have to learn how to parse an English sentence structure, as there are nuances that do not appear until you read some passages out loud. )

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Jim P.
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sullafelix wrote:
If hoplite battle´s your thing, there´s absolutely nothing better than the free download of Hoplomachia from The Perfect Captain.


That is an INCREDIBLE site, Sullafelix! Thanks for posting the link.
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Roger Hobden
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Hi.

I started getting interested in tactical ancients about two years ago.

I highly recommend that you consider becoming a member of the Society of Ancients.

The level of scholarship of the Journal Slingshot is quite impressive.

A fascinating aspect is to discover how little we really know about the tactics actually used by various armies during ancient times, including the Romans and the Greeks themselves !

There are ongoing debates about "the western way of war",and, in the last two issues of Slingshot, an excellent series of articles on " miniature wargames design" that anyone with even a minimal interest on the subject simply has to read !

More info here : http://www.soa.org.uk

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Yes, to getting Lost Battles in the cheap paperback version, no to DBA.
I don't quite get the unanimous recommendation for DBA in this context. The consensus everywhere else seems to be that this is primarily a tournament game that, yes, can give historical results (much like Ancients Deluxe), but not a simulation. A heavily abstracted game that is designed to be played in a short time with just a few units on each side.

Also, if you're planning to learn DBA, don't try it on your own, be sure to learn from a seasoned player - those rules appear to be simple and clear enough when you read them, that is until you've actually set up your "elements" and try to "group move" into contact for the first time... There will never be enough examples of play out there for this special case of spatial puzzle you've just maneouvered yourself into.

I'm sure DBA gives plenty to people who have access to a group of players that found a consensus in their rules exegesis, but I'm equally sure there are better alternatives out there. On a similar abtraction level I'd recommend "Impetus" - the "Basic" version is free.
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William Ames
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SPQR! You want SPQR!

I can't speak to Great Battles of Alexander, not having played it yet, but SPQR gives a great impression of the differences between the Roman, Macedonian, and Carthaginian tactical systems. Hopefully the upcoming Hoplite will do the same for pre-Phillip Greek warfare.

I haven't played Hoplomachia yet, but the rules look great, and I've been very impressed by the other work of The Perfect Captain group.
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michael connor
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Darren Webber wrote:
...I would also suggest you get a copy of DBA - 2.2 is available, and 3.0 will be available soon (2.2+ is an unauthorised version that has been challenged as producing some strange match results - and I suggest you ignore it)...


DBA also has an excellent and clever set of solitaire rules that a few have been working on and updating. Here is their Yahoo group:

http://uk.groups.yahoo.com/group/soloDBAdevelopment/?yguid=9...
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michael connor
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sullafelix wrote:
If hoplite battle´s your thing, there´s absolutely nothing better than the free download of Hoplomachia from The Perfect Captain.


It's very detailed, almost too detailed. For more approachable hoplite warfare, I'm waiting to see in a few months what Richard Berg comes up with when his HOPLITE makes the cut from GMT.

http://www.gmtgames.com/p-453-hoplite.aspx

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