New City of course! Or shall I try an attack against the Lower City? Is Herod’s Palace a good place to start an invasion of the upper city? All people who have been playing the Romans in Siege of Jerusalem will recognize these thoughts and many threads on BGG (like the Levy Capacity Combinations (1) thread) deal with this challenge (or problem).
The figures mess with my head when I start thinking like “Ok, Lower City (LC) is 16 more reserves then New City (NC), but 5% more levy capacity will offset those, or don’t they? Or, the Romans start with the strongest force they will ever have, while the one of the Judeans will only grow.. so shouldn’t I attack the Temple in Assault phase I? To organize these thoughts in my head I decided to take a mathematical approach to this issue. If you don’t like a game being broken down by maths, stop reading and try all approaches on the game board instead of in a spreadsheet.
To do the math, I created a spreadsheet that lets you fill in the various attack possibities, containing the following assumptions (or simplifications):
- I calculated with a fixed amount of Judean casualties, being 50%, 65% and 80%. I think most games will and somewhere between those percentages. These percentages are applied to each Assault Phase (AP), without distinction.
- I don’t make a distinction between the unit types (Militia, Regulars, Zealots, leaders and artillery). Also, I don’t take the loss of garrison areas into account. They are all part of the big manpower pool of the Judeans and treated equally with respect to losses.
I made up 7 scenario’s with the most likely ‘routes’ through Jerusalem, some of them are also mentioned on the forum of BGG.
Scenario 1: historical
This is the historical way Jerusalem was conquered: first the New City, then the Tyropean City. After that the temple fell after a long fight. Finally the Upper and Lower cities were overrun. This is the scenario that most players follow, mostly dictated by the natural approaches to the city areas.
Scenario 2: Upper city before the Temple
This is essentially the same as scenario 1, but instead of attacking the Temple in AP3, the Upper city is attacked first (along with Herod’s Palace). In AP4 the Temple is attacked.
Scenario 3: Temple last
What if the you take the idea of scenario 2 a step further and wait until AP5 before attacking the Temple? Since the Temple is worth 30% and the value for AP4 is 70%, this means you will need to conquer every other city area in AP1-4.
Scenario 4: Temple first
This scenario is the opposite of scenario 3. What if you take advantage of the Judean weakness and Roman strength in AP1 and attack the Temple immediately?
Scenario 5: Lower City attack
What if you start AP1 with a surprise attack on the Lower City? It can be done according to the frequent visitors of BGG. But where do you go next? Upper City, City of David? And when do you attack the Temple?
Scenario 6: Lower City attack and Temple last
This last question of scenario 5 is a valid one: the only good approach to the Temple seems to be from the northwest and (north)east. Access from Upper and Lower cities is very limited. So you’ll have to conquer the Temple last, after all other areas have been taken.
Scenario 7: New City and Lower City attack
This is a split attack, securing the northern approaches to the Temple as well as taking on the big city area of the Lower City at once. This has also been covered on BGG (“Double the fun”).
To summarize, this is how the attacks unfold:
With every scenario I tried to most logical approach, but as you can see there some real challenges. General rules I used were:
- TQ can only be attacked from the northwest and northeast (or east). Exception is scenario 5.
- AF can only be conquered when both NC and TC are held. Scenario 6 is a clear exception to this, but I couldn’t make it better than this.
Using these figures I made some graphs for each of the casualty percentages. Unsurprisingly the graphs are more or less the same in the way the lines per scenario relate to each other, although the absolute amounts are of course different. Therefore I’ll only show the 65% casualty graph.
The figures on the Y-axis is the total number of Judean units the Romans face during each Assault Phase. Note that the yellow line (scenario 5) follows the scenario 6 line up to AP3 (not visible in graph) and scenario 2 only deviates from scenario 1 after AP4. Keep in mind that the Roman strength will generally diminish from AP to AP, therefore a Judean line mirroring that development would be best. While AP5 is generally good in almost every scenario, AP4 isn’t. Especially scenario 3 and 6 are really bad, granting the Judean more than 40 to 60 units more than in other scenarios. Both scenarios have the TQ in the last AP, which apparently is a bad thing.. However, scenario 7 has this as well, with the number of units in AP5 being the absolute lowest and AP4 being reasonable as well. In the first three AP’s however the number of units is the highest of all scenarios. Also, the division of legions to the NC and LC is perhaps asking for trouble, especially when the start losing their strength. Scenario 5 seems better than scenario 6, starting high but instead of increasing even more (like scenario 6) dropping down after AP3. However, in this scenario the Temple has to be attacked from the south – something I doubt whether that is possible.
That leaves us with three scenarios of which scenario 4 ‘temple first’ seems to be the best, which is quite logical, because no reserves are activated and the levy percentage drops to 70% after AP1. Main question however is whether it’s possible to do. You’d need 2 mines against the eastern outer temple wall, take 4 rams, 1 AF (or 2?) against the walls and start rubbling everything very quickly. The slope will take 2-3 turns to move up after which the breaches will be filled with many Judeans.. 160 units in such small cramped area is really very tough. The area would probably only have room for two legions, with one in reserve and another one doing.. nothing (not wanting to trigger reserves). Titus should take all artillery and archers of all four legions, ensuring a constant bombardment on the defenders. The slope will make it difficult to get a clear shot at the defenders in the breaches and in the Temple court. After getting into the Temple court, the inner walls needs to be rammed as well. With 2-3 rams per area this is possible, but the attack on the Temple proper will probably come at night, giving the Judeans dangerous counterattack possibilities and robbing the Romans of fire support to clear the Temple hexes.. So is it possible? Against an experienced Judean player probably not.
Besides this analysis you can also look at the total number of units you’ll have to face as a Roman (the total of all units in 5 AP’s). The graph below shows this, for 50%, 65% and 80% casualties per AP.
The outcome is more or less the same as the one described above.. Scenario 4 is by far the best but probably impossible. That leaves scenario 1 as the best. The biggest bottleneck for the Roman is the Temple, so perhaps instead of looking at the total number of units overall, it’s better to look how many units you’ll have to face in the Temple. 200 units in the NC are easier than when they are holed up in the Temple Quarter after all.
The graph below shows the number of units in the AP when the Temple is attacked. With the exception of the Antonia Fortress, in each scenario the Temple is also the only target per AP, so all units listed in the graph will show up in that area.
This figure seems to be the opposite of the previous one. The most difficult ones (3, 6 and 7) are the ‘easiest’ ones with respect to the TQ attack. Scenario 4 is in the middle, while 2 and 5 are the best when casualty rates are high. Surprisingly, and probably the reason why no-one seems to be able to win as Roman, the historical scenario 1 is the most difficult with respect of taking the Temple itself.
So where to attack? It seems the developers had the historical scenario in mind when creating this wonderful game. But it is not easy.. or we all miss something with respect to tactics and how to handle the Roman war machine…
Any comments or additions anyone?