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Hannibal: Rome vs. Carthage» Forums » Variants

Subject: Hannibal Redux rss

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Steve D.
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Hi,

I've played about 7 games of Hannibal. I like the game enormously, but I think that it has some flaws (even with the revised rules). I came up with a set of variant rules to address these flaws. The rules can be used altogether or adopted a la carte. I've grouped the rules by the problem that they were intended to address. I haven’t had much opportunity to test the rules, so I don’t know how heavily they affect play balance. Without further ado, here are my ideas:

These rules open up theatres of conflict. I wanted Carthage to have more options than a turn 1 trip over the Alps (though this should remain an appealing choice)

-The provinces of Liguria, Transalpine Gaul, and Massillia are politically significant (i.e. they add to province totals during the Victory Check). Control of these provinces also provide allies BCs for battles anywhere in Gaul. (On a related note, does anyone know whether control of Syracuse matters for battles in Sicilia and vice versa? I believe that it does, but the rules are unclear)

-The above variant requires new rules for subjugating tribes: A player who subjugates a tribe converts that tribe to their side. I mark this by putting a PC on the original hex marker. I like this rule in particular, as it finally gives players a reason to subjugate the neutral tribes in Transalpine Gaul and Liguria.

-The strait of Messina is passable without controlling Rhegium and Messina. To create an incentive to control these cities, I added this complication. If the player crossing the strait controls only 1 of the 2 cities, they roll for attrition with a -2 modifier (like a mountain pass). If the player controls neither city, they roll for attrition with no modifier (like an Alpine pass).

-Carthage can apply a -1 modifier to a naval roll if they roll for attrition with no modifier. If Carthage rolls a modified 2, they still take the attrition. The thematic rationale for this option is that Carthage is making a sudden/unseasonable crossing.
This variant, combined with a passable strait of Messina, makes a Carthaginian invasion of Sicily far more conceivable.

-No player can have more than 15 CU in any one region (i.e. Italy, Africa, Spain). The point of this rule is to force the Roman player to send out expeditions rather than camping in Italy. Rome can still recoup losses quickly, but they can’t block Hannibal with massive stacks. This rule seemed the most problematic in my play testing, but I haven’t written it off yet.


These rules address problems with the play of Strategy cards.

- A player can pass on their turn rather than play a SC if their opponent has more SCs. I don’t like it when someone plays 3 cards in a row after their opponent runs out. Also, this makes the rule below more useful.

- If your opponent plays a SC for points with an event that you could activate, you can discard a SC to have that event occur. Your opponent decides whether the event happens before or after they spend the operations points. I’m a big fan of Twilight Struggle, and I think this rule makes Hannibal more interesting. Also, it can balance the disadvantage of having your opponent draw a bunch of 3 pointers while you’re stuck with 1s and 2s.


These variants address what I see as flaws in the rules for interception, avoid battle, retreat, and pursuit.

-You cannot intercept an enemy army that is moving directly to attack you. For example, if Scipio is moving from Ariminum to Mutina and then to attack Hannibal in Boii, Hannibal cannot roll to intercept Scipio in Mutina. Scipio in this case has to declare that he is moving to Boii after he moves to Mutina. If Scipio were moving from Mutina to Verona, however, then Hannibal could intercept him in Mutina.
With the original rules, it’s almost always worth trying to intercept since you get the extra BC and the initiative. It seems perverse to me that an army clearly moving to attack would end up the defender.

-The above rule needs clarification regarding overruns. Imagine in the above example that there’s a lone Carthaginian CU in Mutina. If Scipio (with say 10 CU) stops in Mutina to overrun the CU, Hannibal can intercept. However, Scipio can instead continue to Boii without overrunning (i.e. leaving the single CU behind) without giving Hannibal the opportunity to intercept. Perhaps this is just an unnecessary complication, but I didn’t want to make interception completely worthless.

-Perhaps it’s just my/my opponents inexperience showing, but I’ve never found avoid battle to be a useful option. The lost BC far outweighs the usually small chance of escaping. My modification is that an attacked army may avoid battle to a friendly PC by sacrificing 1 CU. You cannot avoid battle to the space that the enemy came from. The enemy army can continue moving/attacking after the avoid battle. If the enemy attacks your army again, you can avoid battle again in the same way. I think that this rule has the added benefit of allowing a more protracted conflict in Italy.

This variant makes all the pursuit/avoid battle generals’ abilities useless, but they were never that good to begin with. Also, I recommend changing Fabius’ ability to read “Fabius may avoid battle without sacrificing CUs” (he still can’t leave Italy). I never understood what his original ability meant (does he roll on the retreat table if he uses it?), so I see this as a positive change.

-I really like the variant put forward in this forum that a defeated army can retreat to an enemy PC (free of enemy CUs) at the cost of 1 CU. Hannibal’s survival shouldn’t ride on every single battle, and the same goes with a Roman general in Spain or Africa. If you adopt this variant, I suggest dropping the rules about retreating to a larger group of CUs.


My last rule is intended to give Carthage the same flexibility in rearranging generals at the beginning of a round that Rome has.

-Before placing reinforcement CUs, a player may take a general off the map and then place him with any reinforcement CU (without disregarding Hanno’s or Fabius’ restrictions). You still can’t place reinforcement CUs with a general-less army (outside of Rome, New Carthage, and Carthage). This rule is inspired by one game where I intentionally killed off Mago so that I could place him in Spain the next round. Also, I don’t see how the historical event of Hannibal leaving Italy for Africa would make any sense in game turns without this variant.


Thank you for looking through my (lengthy!) list of ideas. I’d appreciate your feedback enormously. In particular, if you try any of these rules out be sure to post/message me about your experience!

 
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Russ Williams
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Some interesting ideas, although for me it's a case of "it ain't broke" so I don't feel a need to "fix" it.

A few specific comments:
smd999995 wrote:
-Carthage can apply a -1 modifier to a naval roll if they roll for attrition with no modifier. If Carthage rolls a modified 2, they still take the attrition. The thematic rationale for this option is that Carthage is making a sudden/unseasonable crossing.
This variant, combined with a passable strait of Messina, makes a Carthaginian invasion of Sicily far more conceivable.

I have the impression that it's very intentionally difficult by design for Carthage to do such naval invasions, unless they get appropriate events that help. The historical situation was asymmetrical, and you seem to be wanting it to be more symmetric/"fair"/etc in the game.

Quote:
-No player can have more than 15 CU in any one region (i.e. Italy, Africa, Spain). The point of this rule is to force the Roman player to send out expeditions rather than camping in Italy. Rome can still recoup losses quickly, but they can’t block Hannibal with massive stacks. This rule seemed the most problematic in my play testing, but I haven’t written it off yet.

Sounds problematic and arbitrary to me too, and against common sense. If Hannibal's running amok in Italy, it seems quite reasonable and historical that Rome might want to mass forces against him instead of having some obligation that they must send "excess" troops (over 15) to Africa or Spain.

Also it leads to a question of reinforcements: would Rome have to lose excess reinforcements (that would bring the total in Italy over 15) if they couldn't place some outside of Rome? That also seems problematic.

Quote:
-Perhaps it’s just my/my opponents inexperience showing, but I’ve never found avoid battle to be a useful option. The lost BC far outweighs the usually small chance of escaping.

The chance is not necessarily small; it depends on the general. I'm not much more experienced than you (10 plays), but we've found avoiding battle to be useful reasonably often. If you're outnumbered and going to lose the battle anyway, regardless of whether you lose a BC or not, it seems pretty reasonable to try avoiding the battle! Especially if the general avoiding it is irreplaceable (Hannibal, Scipio Africanus).
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Steve D.
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Thanks for your thoughts!

I've been playing mostly against people who are less experienced, so I probably haven't seen how the game should really be played.

I think you're definitely right about the 15 CU limit being arbitrary/undesirable. In my testing, it ended up leading to very ill advised invasions and unplaceable reinforcements (again though, the other player was inexperienced). Both this rule and the various avoid battle rules were directed at what I saw as a problem with how Hannibal's invasions of Italy tend to develop. At least in my experience, Hannibal either wipes the floor with the Romans, leading to a quick Carthaginian victory, or else he's completely held off by massive Roman hordes. I wanted to make the historical situation of a long, drawn out campaign a more reasonable possibility. In this situation, Rome could recover quickly from defeats, but they wouldn't be able to mass so many troops that Hannibal's position becomes untenable. As I understand the 2nd Punic war, Rome was fighting in Spain throughout Hannibal's time in Italy, so it does make some sense to encourage Rome to spread its efforts rather than concentrating everything in Italy.

Regarding all the above commentary, if your experience has been completely different, I'd love to hear about it.

Of all my rules, I think the ones most worth considering are those connected with the SC play. The ability to trigger events really did make the game more interesting, and if you use that rule you pretty much need the option of passing.

Also, making Gaul politically significant added something to the game in my opinion, though it might just be that the pointless neutral tribes always bothered me.

Regarding the -1 modifier if you roll for attrition, you're probably right that I'm just trying to make the game more symmetrical. My reasoning was that Carthage should have a way to spread out the risk of naval movement (i.e. taking a small loss to avoid the chance of complete destruction). Historically it doesn't make a huge amount of sense to encourage invading Sicily, but I thought it would make the game more interesting to make that option at least worth considering. In my experience, Sicily is something of a death trap for Carthage. It might be enough to open up the straight of Messana to fix this (if it indeed is something to be fixed)

I realize that most of these variant rules are fairly half baked. I don't get to play the game very often, though, so I thought posting them here would be a much faster way of separating the wheat from the chaff.

Thanks again for your thoughts.
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Peter White
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Some quick impressions...

I like variants that encourage greater Carthaginian effort in Sicily. IMO it is an entirely plausible "what if" scenario that a tenuous supply line could link Carthage to southern Italy via Sicily, in spite of Roman naval superiority.

I do not think there needs to be a limit on how many troops are in a region. It feels arbitrary, and creates weird corner cases and perverse incentives to boot.

I would suggest a subtler course for the purpose of only discouraging static superstacks: Impose attrition on any stack that winters with >10 CUs, at a rate of one-half its strength. Yes, reinforcements can trigger the attrition.

Huge armies were not a significant problem in the short term, but they tore up the countryside and risked disease when they stayed put. If you want to avoid the attrition, you have to partially break up your stack at the end of the year and gather it back together at the start of the campaign season next year.

I do not think it is worth changing the Avoid or Interception rules. At this level of abstraction, they work well enough. Yes, I do use Avoid, just not often.

I have no strong opinion about your SC variants except to say they would be a significant change to the pacing of the game. I cannot guess whether that would be better or worse overall. Playtest, playtest, playtest.

The end of year "powerplay" (you go first, I play Messenger Intercepted, I party at the end of the year) is an important threat for breaking up strong static positions, as no geometry can bulletproof.

As for retreat rules, you bring up an interesting topic. I am doubtful that it is really historical for the implied "supply line" of having nearby friendly PCs to be such a fussy factor with respect to whether defeated armies evaporate or not. Defeat is already its own penalty. Adding options, albeit at a price, seems reasonable enough to me.



 
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Andy Latto
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Quote:
-Carthage can apply a -1 modifier to a naval roll if they roll for attrition with no modifier. If Carthage rolls a modified 2, they still take the attrition. The thematic rationale for this option is that Carthage is making a sudden/unseasonable crossing.


If you add this rule, you should remove the rule that gives a -1 modifier to a general sailing alone or with a single CU. Otherwise, it becomes way too easy to invade Italy by first sailing Mago with the army, and then sailing Hannibal after him alone.



Quote:
- If your opponent plays a SC for points with an event that you could activate, you can discard a SC to have that event occur. Your opponent decides whether the event happens before or after they spend the operations points. I’m a big fan of Twilight Struggle, and I think this rule makes Hannibal more interesting. Also, it can balance the disadvantage of having your opponent draw a bunch of 3 pointers while you’re stuck with 1s and 2s.


This would mean that Hannibal could guarantee a late Syracuse, by playing the card for ops if he got it early. I think it's important to game balance that if Carthage draws Syracuse early, he has to decide between playing the event now, or playing it for ops now in the hope of getting the card again later. It's too easy for Carthage if they can be almost certain to get it later.

Quote:
With the original rules, it’s almost always worth trying to intercept since you get the extra BC and the initiative.


You're playing this wrong. An intercepting army gets the extra BC, but does not get the initiative. The player whose turn it is always gets the initiative in round one of the battle.

Quote:
Perhaps it’s just my/my opponents inexperience showing, but I’ve never found avoid battle to be a useful option.


The times that I have found this to be important are for a weakened Hannibal who wants to avoid getting killed, and for a Roman player with Fabius who wants to avoid battle, but just follow Hannibal around flipping the PC's back to the red side. It would be a shame to make a modification that meant that "Fabian tactics" were no longer a good strategy with Fabian!

Avoid battle can also be useful when Gisgo splits off from Hannibal to speed up flipping PC's. If Gisgo is attacked, Gisgo avoids while Hannibal interecpts, and the single PC is only destroyed 1 time in 6. And the lost BC is irrelevant, since Gisgo and 1 CU is going to lose anyway.

Quote:
Also, I recommend changing Fabius’ ability to read “Fabius may avoid battle without sacrificing CUs” (he still can’t leave Italy). I never understood what his original ability meant (does he roll on the retreat table if he uses it?), so I see this as a positive change.


The Fabius special ability is poorly worded. It should say that Fabius can avoid battle on a roll of 1-5.

Overall, while you have some interesting ideas, many of them help one side more than the other. One of the things I like about HRC is that while it is wildly asymmetrical, it is extremely well balanced. Your variant would take a lot of playtesting to make sure this balance is not disturbed.
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Steve D.
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Thanks for pointing out my mistake about interception. That seems much more balanced. I realize that the reason nobody in my games ever used avoid battle is because the choice they faced (in almost all cases) was between attempting to avoid battle and attempting to intercept. If interception gives you an extra card and the initiative, even a relatively inferior army would have a chance. Also, I appreciate the clarification about Fabius. I figured that's what it meant, but I wasn't sure.

I'm intrigued by your comment on the timing of the Syracuse card. Why wouldn't the Carthaginian play it as an event if they got it in the first round? It will still take an enormous effort on Rome's part to retake the city. Unless Carthage is on the brink of destruction, I don't see how the 3 points would be more valuable than the event. Most of my games have been short, so perhaps I don't have the proper perspective. If I drew the Syracuse card as Carthage I would play it regardless of the round, since I wouldn't expect to get it again. If long games are in fact the usual, I can see how my SC variant would mess up play balance, since it would almost ensure that the Syracuse card would happen fairly early. On the other hand, the Roman player can always discard the Syracuse card or play it as a last card. That way Carthage couldn't trigger the event.

I guess my main motivation behind my SC variant is to take out a lot of the randomness in the events. I've had plenty of games where Carthage never gets any of the best events. Perhaps I'm making Carthage too strong by allowing them to trigger these events, but I'd prefer that games be decided by the skill of card play/triggering rather than the luck of the draw. Of course, maybe I should just be playing chess :)
 
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Russ Williams
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smd999995 wrote:
Thanks for pointing out my mistake about interception. That seems much more balanced. I realize that the reason nobody in my games ever used avoid battle is because the choice they faced (in almost all cases) was between attempting to avoid battle and attempting to intercept. If interception gives you an extra card and the initiative, even a relatively inferior army would have a chance.

I'm still surprised - you seem to have had no battles where one side clearly was going to kick the other's ass if it was fought to completion. I played again a few days ago, and it turned out that Hannibal ended up very weak in Italy with just a few CUs after some fighting, and he got chased around and was continually avoiding battle and withdrawing from battle.

Quote:
I guess my main motivation behind my SC variant is to take out a lot of the randomness in the events. I've had plenty of games where Carthage never gets any of the best events. Perhaps I'm making Carthage too strong by allowing them to trigger these events, but I'd prefer that games be decided by the skill of card play/triggering rather than the luck of the draw. Of course, maybe I should just be playing chess

Indeed, it sounds like you're trying to make Hannibal into a different kind of game. Maybe Conquest would give you the ancient warfare experience with no randomness? I like games of no chance also, but at the same time I like wargames with randomness (and I don't perceive Hannibal as being marred by too much randomness). Different kinds of gaming experience.
 
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smd999995 wrote:

My last rule is intended to give Carthage the same flexibility in rearranging generals at the beginning of a round that Rome has.

-Before placing reinforcement CUs, a player may take a general off the map and then place him with any reinforcement CU (without disregarding Hanno’s or Fabius’ restrictions). You still can’t place reinforcement CUs with a general-less army (outside of Rome, New Carthage, and Carthage). This rule is inspired by one game where I intentionally killed off Mago so that I could place him in Spain the next round. Also, I don’t see how the historical event of Hannibal leaving Italy for Africa would make any sense in game turns without this variant.


Definitely might have to give this a try. A few times I've left Mago by himself, hoping he'd get knocked off. Heh, or once, I set sail with Mago by himself, hoping he would get ship-wrecked or arrive safely, only to get the one result I didn't want: Returned!

Similarly, sometimes Hasdrubal has dropped off reinforcements in Cisalpina, and a meat-grinder of a battle has really reduced the two separate armies to one stack of 12 CUs. At that point, Hasdrubal can go back to Spain. Burning a 2 card and a 3 card (and possibly another 3 card, if he gets Returned!) just to get him back to Spain seems a bit silly.

Maybe I'd disallow Hannibal being moved around, and have the general placement occur after the reinforcement phase. (Just like Rome's does.) Hannibal's destruction/location is significant, and I could see a Roman player feeling cheated if Hannibal vanished at the end of one turn.

My primary problem is that, the way the game is set up, you can actively wish for your general's destruction, and I'm not sure how the exact rules work, but it's easier to spend a "2" to march into an enemy general (is this allowed?) than a "3" to sail home.
 
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