Saturday, 28 November 2009

Aligning with the Rules

We met as usual for our game on Friday. It was unusual in that we had a guest, and also in that one of our rarer contributors put on a multi-player game, which was a nice change.

We were blessed with the right number of players turning up, and played a Greeks v Persians game using Armati 2. The twist in the scenario was that the Greeks were deployed in a cornfield that obscured all vision of them (our resident Bronze Age expert confirmed this was correct, - corn* was much taller in ancient times). This neutralised the Persian archery to some extent, and also their predominance in numbers as they couldn't be sure where the Greeks were.

The game played through in an interesting fashion, although we ran out of time unfortunately. As the particularly inept Persian leader I was saved by my skillful deployment of sixes when my opponent was rolling ones. In accordance with my heading for this blog, that's as much of a battle report as you'll get.

The inter & post game discussion got me to thinking. I haven't played Armati for a while, but it is about my favourite set of Ancient rules. It's what got me into ancient wargaming (along with Hat plastic soldiers). It's also the only set of rules I've ever played with in a tournament. I've always felt that it pretty much gives you the best historical feel and outcome of any set of rules except.....

I'm reminded of a remark in a Wargamers Newsletter by Don Featherstone. This was along the lines of some of the best games he'd ever played were where he didn't know the rules, but could concentrate on playing historically. I've always wanted that to be true but I just don't get it.

The problem is (and this is where we pick up on the "except" from above) two fold. Firstly, Aramti is a pretty simple set of rules, but even it has details you have to know to play effectively. Secondly every set of ancient rules contains the rule writers view on history, - things such as how manoeuvrable infantry are, the relative speed of troops moving to number of bow shots.

To take the first point. Every rule system has optimum tactics. This isn't gamesmanship, it just does. In Armati it is important exactly where troops are when you launch a flank attack or you simply won't get the benefit. If you don't realise that you can get a shock when you end up effectively in a frontal engagement with your cavalry (for example) when you thought you'd caught the hoplites in the flank.

Second point. If your view of history doesn't coincide with the game designer, you're toast. I'm reminded of a game set in 19th Century India I played in where the umpire/designer had a very different view to me on how good British Army Sikhs were in hand to hand combat (me, I rate them up there with Highlanders). So I kept using them as shock troops and couldn't work out why I was getting nowhere. Ho hum.

Which is a long way round to saying that I should have refreshed myself on the rules before he game instead of deploying my army into a traffic jam where all my units got in each other's way.

Doubly so if I take up President Steele's invitation to an SoA Championship game using them. I could be in for a thrashing.

* As in wheat type, not maize


  1. I confirme, corn was much taller in ancient time said my indian elder. But only in the americas ;). The greek variety of corn of the time was wheat.


  2. Sorry, about my previous almost arrogant comment. I hadn't seen the * note. Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa. My cynicism made a fool of me.

  3. Jean-Marc,

    No need to apologise. It's just good to know people I've never met or heard of are reading the blog, and (hopefully) deriving pleasure from it, if only for a fleeting moment.