Monday, 12 August 2013

Sumer-y report

So I have finished all of the Sumerain figures with the exception of one unit of chariots. This means I have enough for a Sumerain and Akkadian army under Neil Thomas' "Ancient and Medieval Wargames" rules, and a spare unit for a bit of variation.

So what better way to spend a Sunday morning than a quick solo run through to see how they shape up?  I laid out a basic terrain board with some hills, a bit of wooded area and a small river running across the middle of the board. This looks nice but was probably a mistake.

The set up looked like this:

The Sumerians are farthest from the camera, and have three units of battle wagons, flanked by Biblical infantry with light javelin armed infantry on the extreme flanks.The Akkadians have split their two units of battle wagons either side of a line of Biblical infantry and heavy archers. Flanks covered by light infantry, although they have a unit of slingers as well. BTW I'm only using two bases for battle wagon units instead of four to reduce the number of models I need and also the physical footprint on the table. Each counts as two bases and the loss of one of the "virtual" bases is marked by a black ring.

The battle wagons have a dice based variable move rule. Sometimes they don't move at all, sometimes they shoot off to engage the enemy at top speed with murderous intent. What this means is that each turn your pretty much have to move these first and get the rest of the army to conform. In addition the Biblical infantry get an enhanced saving roll if they don't move at all in the game.

The book says that the battle wagons/light chariots are the battle winning weapon for this army, and that everything else should act in support of them. The picture above shows the position after turn one. Most of the chariots have moved off, but at a variety of speeds. The light infantry near the camera is moving into the wood to hold the flank. At this point I started to have doubts about the implications of the random movement rules for the chariots. The infantry, likewise, is hugging the back line on both sides as there's an advantage to doing so because of the shield rule. This is a bit of an issue if both sides benefit in the same way, - and these are the only two armies that can fight one another as contemporaries.

By the end of turn two all the chariots were up on the river line pretty much. The Sumerians had made good progress in the woods. The Akkadian heavy archers started to move forward as there's no disadvantage to them to doing so, - although they can't move and shoot.

At the conclusion of the next turn the Sumerian chariots had crossed the river and were bearing down on the Akkadian infantry. At the far end a Sumerian chariot unit has contacted the Akkadian slingers following an uncontrolled charge. Any idea that you might skirmish with them, throwing javelins, had gone out the window. The second shock was that they only roll the same number of dice as the opposing light infantry after the initial round of combat, and in this situation the uncontrolled charge across the river evened up the first turn as well. Far from being a battle winning weapon the battle wagons were looking to be a liability.

The Akkadian chariots near the camera have got across the river and the light infantry is slugging it out with missiles in the wood. In the middle the skirmishing idea with the chariots likewise has mostly failed and they've made contact with Akkadian infantry. Then came the real surprise. The infantry are rolling three dice per base (ie 12 per combat round) and the chariots 2 in the first round (ie 8 dice) dropping to 1 subsequently. The infantry are also saving on 5,6, instead of the 6 that everyone else is looking for. The main advantage for the chariots is they're elite and the infantry are levy. Alas this advantage only counts once you've knocked off a base which is going to take three - four turns probably. By that time the chariots will have taken c15 hits. The random chariot movement rules also mean that it is awkward to disengage from the combat. At this point I had come to the conclusion that it was possible that the rules had not been playtested.

Up at the top of the board the Akkadian slingers were prevailing over the Sumerian chariots which are unable to disengage AT ALL as they can only withdraw at the same speed as the infantry can move. This was beginning to look seriously wrong. The Akkadian chariots weren't really moving at all.

By turn 5 or 6 one of the Sumerian chariot units in the middle had perished and following a morale test or two the slingers surprisingly evaporated. 

The Sumerian infantry stepped forward and caught the Akkadian chariots at this end of the table, whilst the other Sumerian chariots in the centre are destroyed. Looking at the photo I think that other chariot unit should be off as well, as it has three black rings and 5 white, but I've lost track of what is going on, as that should be the Akkadian chariots and they should only have minimal damage.

It looks like I've corrected the error on the far chariots, and the other Akkadian chariot unit has managed to extricate itself from the melee.

I think I'll stop the narrative there. The game slogged through another few turns and ended up as a 3 - 2 win to the Sumerians, brought about by them exiting an infantry unit from the board.

On the positive side I like the look of my armies. On the downside AMW really disappointed me. It's the first time that it has done so in any game across all of the periods it covers. I really do think that the rules have not been play tested. Everything in the armies is light armour, so chariots and heavy infantry take casualties as easily as light troops. Neil's statement that "(the chariots) should be at the forefront of any attack, with infantry assigned only to a support role" is a clear nonsense. Their offensive power is limited as they can't skirmish. They roll very few dice in combat and only have a 1 in 3 chance of disengaging when caught by heavy infantry and can't get away from light infantry at all. In summary, the rules and armies are a mess.

I need to do some surgery.


  1. Trebian,

    This was an interesting battle report for several reasons. Firstly, it was great to see your Sumerians on the tabletop and secondly to read your impressions of the rules. I had heard great things about them, but your critique puts those previous comments into perspective.

    Good luck with the 'surgery'!

    All the best,


    1. The rules are good. I use them a lot, but they work best for the Classical Roman/Greek period.

      There are a lot of army lists nad special rules in the book, and I suspect the author does not have all of the armies. Furthermore I also suspect he hasn't extensively play-tested some of the "chrome" rules that go with each army. The rules for the battle wagons require a roll of a d6, thus:

      1 - may not move
      2,3 - may move 12 cm (speed of light infantry)
      4,5 - move 20cm towards enemy
      6 - charge enemy at 24cm

      Trying to use this mechanism to simulate galloping up and throwing javelins then galloping away doesn't really work, funny tho' it all may be.


  2. Do you remember the article in Slingshot, several years ago, that used Peter Pig's "Bloody Barons" as a basis for the combat?
    The adaptation had several charts with different outcomes. I distinctly remember reference to a certain Zimri Lim.

    Troops look wonderful, I really like your color palette .


    1. I don't remember that article at all! Perhaps I'll have a look back through some back numbers and see what the author was trying to achieve.

      Glad you like the troops. I'm really pleased with the overall colour scheme, as I think i've said before!

  3. I'll save you some time; look forvIssue 244, 2006. Title article, "Do Ancients Stop At Qadesh?"
    See page 37, a fun read if only for the charts.


    1. Thanks. I've got that one.

      In fact, on checking that edition I find that my long lost SOA 2006 membership card is still inside it....

  4. HI Trebian,

    Thanks for your frank assessment of the AWM.

    You can find Mike's article here along with a good deal of other stuff I've put together. I've been quite on it but the info being available online is the primary goal of my blog.

    Kind regards

    Happy Wanderer

    1. Re-reading that last paragraph again I was clearly very annoyed at the time. Nearly a year on I'm in a much better place with my rules based on AMW as you'll see from more recent postings.

      AMW still works for the late Biblical and the Classical periods without a lot of issues. I've pushed my Assyrians round without too many howlers from the rule set, although that's not to say they won't be modified as I do more games.

      Thanks for the blog link. Some good stuff there, - although I'm not convinced at using Bloody Barons.

      Actually , that's unfair. I'm just generally not convinced by Bloody Barons, much as I like RFCM rules.

  5. ...too pick up on your point, the pre and post battle stuff are the inspired parts of the RFCM system IMOHO.

    As you can see I have happily used other rules sets and in fact am trialing yet another that shows good promise as a conversion from a current system.

    .....some rules fit different groups and game/timeslot availability so a mix of rules in the inventory is not a bad idea anyway!

    Thanks for the blow by blow on your posts - good stuff.


    Happy W

    1. I agree on the game set-up mechanism in PP rules. Often the most original bits. My main criticism now would be that they're getting a little bit too complicated or long winded for my tastes.

      Once I have done CoW I'll put up the final version of "To Ur...." so you can give them a go.