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Subject: Deluxe SPQR: From a Noob to Ancients Combat rss

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Introduction

Military history interests me. That’s not to say I’m a history buff like many on BGG, but I’d say that my interest/knowledge level is higher than that of the layman. That being said, when I look for a new wargame, I’m usually on the lookout for particular areas of history that I know little about or I look for specific battles/conflicts that I’d like to understand more thoroughly. This time around, my attention focused on the Deluxe Edition of SPQR that was released in 2008. I chose SPQR because of my total lack of Ancients warfare and history knowledge.

Deluxe SPQR is a tactical level wargame focusing on battles involving the Roman Republic during the Second Punic War (mostly). Individual hexes on the game maps are roughly equal to about 70 yards of space and each game turn simulates about 20 minutes of real time.


Components

The Deluxe edition of SPQR comes with:

-Game Box
-Five counter sheets
-Five double-sided game maps
-Rule Book
-Two scenario booklets (one for original SPQR and one from the deluxe scenario pack)
-Player Aides (Charts/Tables and Game Sequence reminder)
-10 Sided Die
-Small Baggies for chit storage

The box is...a box. It’s functional, attractive and serves its purpose well. It’s also large enough to contain alternative storage solutions for your game chits other than the baggies that come packaged with the game. If you do not use such storage methods, the box seems a little too large.

The individual counters (and there are LOADS of them) contain a wealth of information. At first, the combat units and leader chits appeared cluttered to me, but once you know what you’re looking for on each chit, it isn’t a problem. Compared to many other wargames out there, I’d even say that the artwork and chit design is done fairly well and helps support the game’s theme/subject perfectly.

The game maps are definitely the "prettiest" game component. Their colorful nature makes it easy to distinguish between terrain types without differing terrain looking garish next to each other. The maps are paper (as expected) but the paper is of a high quality and has a certain glossy feel to it. Regardless, many players will still wish to play with plexiglass over the maps.

My biggest game complaint lies with the rulebook, but at the same time I don’t have a solution to my complaint. The rulebook clocks in at 31 pages, which, while not the shortest wargame rulebook in history is definitely not the longest either. I liked that it contains illustrations, a glossary of game terms (which every wargame should have), and a wealth of examples to what it teaches, but at the same time I can’t help but feel as if it could be organized better. It’s not the worst rulebook I’ve ever read by any means, but something just feels off. Because of the fact that I can’t even place my finger on how to solve this "problem", I feel like I’m nitpicking. Perhaps others will agree though. To its credit though, the rulebook is possibly one of the funniest I’ve ever read.

The scenario booklets come with 14 total battles to reenact. These booklets provide a lengthy historical background for each individual conflict as well as special rules that make the battles unique (flaming pig table ftw). Well done.

The game comes with 5 total player aides: two of each type of charts/tables sheet and one game turn sequence sheet. They’re all easy to utilize although the placing of some of the charts lies in question. For example, why is the missile combat table not on the sheet with the other combat results? Not a huge problem, but an annoying one. Also, the quality of the paper that the tables are printed on is sub-par. They get handled so much that they really should be laminated or at least come pre-packaged with a glossy finish. Mine are already beginning to warp from sweaty hands.

Finally, the 10-sided die works well enough but players may wish to have at least two on the table because die-rolls occur very often.

*It should be noted that a few players’ copies of Deluxe SPQR have been opened only to be missing a component or two. My copy lacked a set of player aids and was unplayable until GMT sent them. However, GMT’s customer service is impeccable and they’re willing to send you whatever you’re missing free of charge.


Game Play

I will not go too in depth with the game’s rules as the explanation would take too long, but I will provide a basic overview.

SPQR uses the Great Battles of History (GBoH) system to simulate its combat.

Your path to victory in the majority of SPQR scenarios is to accumulate enough Rout Points to cause the enemy army to rout. Rout Points (RPs) are acquired by eliminating enemy combat units or through individual routed units moving off the game map.

Each game turn follows the following logic:

A. Leader Activation Phase - The player with the lowest initiative-rated leader who has not yet been activated, activates that leader.
B. Orders Phase - Activated Leaders either issue line commands to lines of eligible units (if they are so able) or issue individual orders to specific units.
1. Movement and Missile Fire Segment
2. Shock Combat Segment
C. Momentum Phase or Return to A. - Activated Leaders may attempt to gain momentum and thus be activated again. If this fails or if the player wishes to not do so, you return to step A.
D. Rout and Reload Phase - "Rallied" Units remove markers, routed units undergo rout movement, eligible missile units may reload, and all "finished" leaders flip back to their front sides (in addition to other markers being removed).
E. Withdrawal Phase - RP’s are totaled and if neither army withdraws the game moves to another turn.

The majority of the game comes down to how well you can utilize the benefits of your units with the terrain your army has at its disposal. Combat units contain a size rating, a movement allowance, a unit type and unit ID, and the all important "Troop Quality" rating. Troop Quality (TQ) is easily the most important rating a unit can have and the higher it is, the better. TQ always comes under check.

Damage to units is measured in Cohesion Hits. A unit can fight until it receives cohesion hits equal to or in excess of its TQ rating, at which point it routs. Routed units can be "rallied" by leaders and thus be able to fight again, but become "depleted" (representing casualties to that unit) and then suffer combat penalties.

Typically, units take cohesion hits from either missile combat (attacks from arrows, javelins, slingers, etc), shock combat (hand-to-hand fighting), or as a penalty for moving twice in the same orders phase, crossing rough terrain, etc. Units usually suffer the most hits from shock combat, and the damage can be amplified depending on who has attack superiority. Attack Superiority (or Defense Superiority) depends on what type of unit is attack another type or where the attack is coming from (front, flank, rear). Size also matters, as discrepancies between the sizes of units attacking/defending can shift your Combat Results to the right/left.

Before SPQR, I had never played a wargame from an era prior to WWII, and I thus went into the game as a total "noob" to Ancients combat. This clearly shines through when I play. But that’s what makes the game so interesting.

To get the most out of the SPQR experience, you have to know the strengths and weaknesses of each of your combat units and how they interact with other unit types. For example, Roman Velites are a Light Infantry (LI) unit and thus do not perform well in full frontal assaults, but put them up against War Elephants and their individual talents allow them to shine through. Knowing these strengths and weaknesses and putting them to the test on different terrain types and with different leaders is what makes this game so interesting and fun.

Player’s must also keep in mind that leader units can be "trumped", meaning that an opposing leader has the opportunity to activate during your activation stage in place of your leader if his die roll is in the right range. It is a sometimes risky maneuver but it can pay off quite well.


Conclusion

As a historical tool, SPQR is an incredibly interesting and thought provoking experience. It really transports you to a different era of warfare and the decisions you make in these ancient battles are really unique to the time period. I like the game for that reason alone. It’s as fun to use as a solitaire reference material as it is to use as a multiplayer wargame.

The game is also chock-full of historical chrome. The aforementioned "flaming pigs" table and the "elephant rampage" tables really make me giddy to see in action while never feeling out of place.

As a game however, some players will not be entirely satisfied with the SPQR experience. SPQR is long and process heavy and scenario set ups usually take a while. The rules are not overly complex (GMT rates the complexity a "6") but there are a seemingly endless amount of exceptions to many of them. These are problems found in many wargames, and the very label of them as "problems" depends entirely on your attachment to the game’s subject and your particular wargame tastes. I find personally that I enjoy SPQR as a game but that my experience becomes tedious and tepid if I play for too long. And that’s my only real grief with the game play: most scenarios take too long to complete for my taste.

The counter-density can also be a little too high, especially if you have lines of units engaged with one another. In a few cases I’ve had lines of opposing units locked with each unit stacking at least 4 chits high (as you have the unit, cohesion hits, missile/low/no markers, and engaged markers). It can become rather fiddly.

The game box states that the game can be played with 1-4 players, although I can’t see how it would be fun with any more than two. The downtime with two players is high enough.

All this said, SPQR is not a bad game by any means. I do enjoy it very much and I feel that my understanding of Roman Republic combat has improved immensely because of it. I can see how it has become one of GMT’s flagship titles, and I would say that if you’re at all interested in the game’s subject matter, pick up a copy ASAP.




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Mick Weitz
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Nice review Kevin! I believe this may be the first review for D. SPQR, which is suprising considering the quality and longevity of this title. I personally consider SPQR (and the other GBOH titles) more of an experience than a game. They are engrossing, thought provoking, informational platforms that can be extremely entertaining to those who are interested in ancient warfare.

I guess I really couldn't recommend any of the GBOH titles to anyone who didn't already have an interest in the period, but for those who do, there is really no substitute.

Keep an eye out for the next title in the series, Chariots of Fire, which is coming out early next year and covers Bronze Age warfare in the Near East. Thanks again for your insightful review!

Good Gaming~! Mick
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Gordon Adams
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Great review of a favourite of mine
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Ryan Powers
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Archilochus wrote:
Nice review Kevin! I believe this may be the first review for D. SPQR, which is suprising considering the quality and longevity of this title.


Someone recently mentioned the lack of reviews when asking a question about it. I was shocked there wasn't one, and have been meaning to get one written up. Glad someone beat me to it.
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Gordon Adams
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Ryan, ditto re: writing a review.

I had one ready about three months ago but it was awfully long and since I did not read many comments about this fantastic wg, I decided against submitting it.
Anyway, doubt if it would end up being accepted never read shake

Kind regards.
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Nick Bah Doo
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Excellent review. Hope to recieve my copy sooooon.
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Zé Mário
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Yes, finally, a review for this game.

A good one, too. Can't wait to try this one out.
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Richard Berg
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Thanx for the comments on SPQR . . .you are right that it is not for everybody, mostly because of its detail and focus. As with any game, it all depends on what you want when you play . . .

Thanx

RHB
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Nadav Abramovitz
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Thank you very much for the review!

I have been asked for a review of this game, and I'm glad to know there are people to answer my prayers

I'm currently bidding on a new box of the game on eBay, starting price 50$ (not including S&H), which makes me quite happy, as the game seems to sell on GMT's official site for twice that much.

Just one question: there are non-Punic-War battles in there as well it would seem, so which armies are featured in it besides Mid Republican Roman and Late Carthaginian?
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Tpek wrote:
there are non-Punic-War battles in there as well it would seem, so which armies are featured in it besides Mid Republican Roman and Late Carthaginian?
From the BGG entry...
Battles (and the modules they appeared in originally):
• Beneventum, Bagradas, Cannae, Zama, and Cynocephalae (SPQR)
• Baecula, Ilipa (Africanus)
• Trebbia, Metaurus (Consul for Rome)
• Magnesia (War Elephant)
• Heraclea, Asculum (Pyrrhic Victory)
• Muthul River, Cirta (Jugurtha)

So you would have Pyrrhic (Beneventum, Heraclea, Asculum) and later Seleucid (Magnesia) and later Macedonian (Cynocephalae) successor armies as well as the Numidian army (Jugurtha). Probably missed something in there but that is a quick answer for a start anyway.

No Ptolemaic successor army, it looks like they left out the huge Raphia scenario from War Elephant? Does that actually mean Raphia has disappeared from the system now (unless you have the original War Elephant) or is that a typo or am I missing something else here?

(you can get plenty of other successor goodies, including an earlier Ptolemaic-Seleucid battle I believe, in the Alexander Deluxe modules - the Diadochoi were an entertaining lot viewed from the comfort of a couple millenia)
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Nadav Abramovitz
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Thanks.

Should have realized that a Pyrrhic Victory scenario pack would be lead by Pyrrhus.

Just another quick question:
I saw on the VASSAL module that there are Judean counters there. I doubt they come with the basic game, so how do I acquire them and the scenarios they are in?
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Tpek wrote:
I saw on the VASSAL module that there are Judean counters there. I doubt they come with the basic game, so how do I acquire them and the scenarios they are in?
Check the BGG entry "more information" sections on SPQR original and deluxe, and Alex original and deluxe. Someone extremely nice left the pdf's for some of the C3i scenarios from those games. I did not see any of the Seleucid-Judean or Roman-Judean battles there in my quick glance but I am guessing there may be some.

One Judean counter that is a collector's item is one of the designers' (Mark Herman?) special leader counter that I think appeared as a bonus goodie in C3i with the other designers' (Richard Berg?) as a Seleucid leader?

Enjoy,
John
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Tpek wrote:
I saw on the VASSAL module that there are Judean counters there. I doubt they come with the basic game, so how do I acquire them and the scenarios they are in? :)
Just found it. "Hammer of God" in two parts from separate issues of GMT's C3i magazine, six battles of the Maccabean revolt 167 BC to 160 BC. Look at the original (not deluxe) edition SPQR entry on BGG and scroll down to the "more information" section. The pdf files for the scenarios are there.

If I have it right from the files...
part one:
Nahal El-Haramiah 166 BC Appolonias vs Judah
Beth Horon 165 BC Seron vs Judah
Emmaus 165 BC Ptolemy, Nicanor & Gorgias vs Judah
part two:
Beth Zur 164 BC Lysias vs Judah
Beth-Zechariah 162 BC Lysias vs Judah
Elasa 160 BC the death of Judah

Enjoy,
John
 
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Nadav Abramovitz
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Thank you very much again!
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Dan Owsen
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Nice review. Like many games, SPQR gets quicker to set up, easier to play, and more enjoyable the more you play it. It has great depth, the scenarios have good replay value and you get a ton of stuff in the box. Stick with it and it will become a favorite if you are interested at all in ancient warfare.
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Gordon Adams
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I was very happy that when I received my DeLux copy it came with the errata sheets .
Having played all the scenarios, I return to them and always find something fresh.
Yes, it is a bit on the expensive side (about £56 from some stores, well that is what I paid for it), but for me it is worth every penny. I simply love it.
I hope that a few expansions might be in the "making" , but I somehow doubt it
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Nadav Abramovitz
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Well, I just received my copy of Deluxe SPQR and am struggling with punching out all the counters and putting them in the tiny bags.

Also, it would see that with the game I got the counters for the Seleucid and Maccabeans!
(I haven't checked the scenario book if the scenarios are included as well, but this is of little consequence).

Now back to punching out! (may God/Jupiter/Zeus/Baal/Whomever have mercy on my soul )
 
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Roberto Amestoy
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Great Review.

I have been playing this game for a lot of years and enjoyed every time. It has a lot of Scenarios and they normally have a graet replayability ( it so correct?). I wondered by one thing: the velites counter are shown as LI but in one C3I magazine they were "downgraded " to SK. What are correct. Because as LI they are very useful for the Roman.


With best regards
 
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robertoamestoy wrote:

I wondered by one thing: the velites counter are shown as LI but in one C3I magazine they were "downgraded " to SK. What are correct. Because as LI they are very useful for the Roman.



Perhaps they were downgraded for a certain scenario? To the best of my knowledge, they're meant to be a LI unit.
 
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Łukasz 'farmer'
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Very good and helpfool review.
Thank you!

yours,
farm
 
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Brian Crawford
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I hope its appropriate for me to ask this question here. I am interested in ancients wargaming in particular the 1st and 2nd Punic Wars . I currently play this period with 15mm miniatures and enjoy the experience.

With that being said are there any on here who play miniatures as well as boardgames? And if so is there anything that the boardgame does better than miniatures? Does it capture the feeling better? More historically accurate? Well as accurate as you can get I guess : ).

I'm getting back into wargaming but am mainly a WWII board wargamer. Having done a bit of ancients miniatures gaming I was wondering if this is something I should pursue with cardboard counters?

Any insights woul be appreciated,

Brian
 
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Kev.
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thats a specific article let me go dig it up. Unless you are playing the scenario IN that magazine they dont down grade ALL LI's to SK's.
 
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Kev.
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Brian C wrote:
I hope its appropriate for me to ask this question here. I am interested in ancients wargaming in particular the 1st and 2nd Punic Wars . I currently play this period with 15mm miniatures and enjoy the experience.

With that being said are there any on here who play miniatures as well as boardgames? And if so is there anything that the boardgame does better than miniatures? Does it capture the feeling better? More historically accurate? Well as accurate as you can get I guess : ).

I'm getting back into wargaming but am mainly a WWII board wargamer. Having done a bit of ancients miniatures gaming I was wondering if this is something I should pursue with cardboard counters?

Any insights woul be appreciated,

Brian

Man miniatures - thats a hard core investment of time and effort not to mention money.
I think for me that this series brings life to the battles - less time, less cost, less space. The flavour is 100%, the counters and maps are gorgeous the rules represent very well the tactical choices, the units capabilities and the need for leadership.
Not having done miniatures for 20+ yrs I could not add any value as to what it does 'better'.
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Brian Crawford
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hipshot wrote:
Brian C wrote:
I hope its appropriate for me to ask this question here. I am interested in ancients wargaming in particular the 1st and 2nd Punic Wars . I currently play this period with 15mm miniatures and enjoy the experience.

With that being said are there any on here who play miniatures as well as boardgames? And if so is there anything that the boardgame does better than miniatures? Does it capture the feeling better? More historically accurate? Well as accurate as you can get I guess : ).

I'm getting back into wargaming but am mainly a WWII board wargamer. Having done a bit of ancients miniatures gaming I was wondering if this is something I should pursue with cardboard counters?

Any insights woul be appreciated,

Brian

Man miniatures - thats a hard core investment of time and effort not to mention money.
I think for me that this series brings life to the battles - less time, less cost, less space. The flavour is 100%, the counters and maps are gorgeous the rules represent very well the tactical choices, the units capabilities and the need for leadership.
Not having done miniatures for 20+ yrs I could not add any value as to what it does 'better'.


Thanks for the reply Kevin.

When I stopped wargaming I got into WW2 Micro armour in a big way, expanded to 10mm and 15 mm ancients. Your right it is a hard core investment but I have to say it looks amazing when you have the bases of figures all lined up. I am kind of leaning towards the direction that board wargaming simulates the same thing that miniatures wargaming does but in a different medium.

I guess I was interested in knowing what a board game can do compared to miniatures. Already having the miniatures is a big help so for me I would rather play a miniatures game for the asthetics.compared with counters and a flat map. I was kind of hoping there was a gem or something hidden in the board gaming experience. But many miniatures rulesets also try to capture the nuances of the army/period you are playing. Just trying to get others opinions as well.

Brian
 
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Kev.
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I think if I recall and it has likely changed since but there is less 'fiddlin' with a board game than miniatures. Some of the ancients videos I have seen spend a lot of time measuring, sorting lines of sight. I think where a board game can get deeper is the chrome per period, and that you can play many periods within a genre easily versus the work or general rules that may be created for a miniatures rule set.
Why not d.load the rules at gmt, take a read and push some counters around on VASSAL?

The Alexander module and the devils horsemen are pretty and give a good feel for the game mechanics.
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