Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Ancients: Unit Types

Siege of Orleans.  Wikipedia.
In this post, I continue designing a simple Ancients wargame.  My next major design decision is in how to mathematicaly describe and represent different units of varying type and quantity.

General Principles

The smallest game-mechanical representation will be the unit, not the model. Units together will have hit points, attacks, skill and leadership defined collectively.  Individual models will not be counted or removed during play, only the frontage and dimensions of the unit will matter for purposes of play.  

Hail Caesar! handles units this way, and I'm shamelessly imitating them.  After years and years of WFB, I'm totally and completely sick of removing models from unit trays.

Each Unit will be described by combining the following factors:


Units can be of varying Size.  Let's call them Small, Medium, Large and Huge.  Small Units will be approximately 6" wide on the front.  If players are using 28mm models on a 1" base, this makes a frontage of 6 models.   Medium Units will be approximately 8" wide (around 8 models).  Large Units will be approximately 10" wide (around 10 models)  Huge Units will be approximately 12" wide (around 12 models).

Depth is less important than frontage:  Units should be at least 2 infantry or 1 cavalry models deep; 3 or 4 will look better on the table. 

Size will dictate the number of Attacks and Hit Points a unit possess.


Units will be defined by their Type.  The basic Types are Infantry and Cavalry, but there may be other Types, like Warmachine or Elephant (or Airplane or Flying Carpet or whatever.)

Type will dictate Movement rate, and may apply other special rules.  It will also help dictate who has the Advantage in melee.


Weight indicates the relative level of armor and equipment the Unit carries.  Weight can be Light, Medium or Heavy.  Weight will dictate the Save value of a Unit.  It will also help dictate who has the Advantage in melee.

I am more interested in defining a Unit's equipment by weight than by the specifics of armament, such as whether spears are superior to swords, or halberds to billhooks.  Weight is also relative to the period.  Hoplites, for example, are clearly Heavy in the Classic Period, but by the Hundred Years War, they might be only Medium compared to a Foot Knight.


Formation indicates the way the Unit fights and behaves on the battlefield, and the density and coordination of the unit.

Formed Units fight in close support of each other in discernible ranks and files.  This is the default Formation.

Warband Units fight in a loose mass, without the discipline or coordination of Formed Troops.

Skirmish Units fight in a dispersed fashion.

Formation helps determine how a Unit can move.  It will also help dictate who has the Advantage in melee.


Units have a Skill Rating, determining their level of training and experience: Poor, Regular, Veteran and Elite. Relative Skill determines the base to-Hit chance in melee.  Absolute Skill level determines the base to-Hit chance in shooting.


Leadership represents the ability of a unit to execute commands on the battlefield, and to maintain its cohesion in the face of disruption and casualties.  Leadership is rated as die roll, ranging from 2+ to 5+. 
Ugh. Shoulda worn armor. Wikipedia.

Next up, basic combat mechanics.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Ancients: Turn Sequence (again)

I've been thinking a bit more about the turn sequence for my Ancients game.

All wargame rules are a kind of illusion, suggesting as much as simulating the world the represent.  For this Ancients game, I want to suggest the tidal forces of massed infantry crashing across the field of battle, of simultaneous motion and action of each side, punctuated by sudden, decisive moments when cavalry charges or lines break.

As I indicated in my last post, I think there should be a certain predictability in the turn sequence and flow of the game.  Some games (like, say Malifaux or Bolt Action) randomize and alternate the turn order.  The result seems to me to isolate the different units from mutual support, since you can never entirely predict in which order units will move or shoot, or whether one unit will have an opportunity to act before another.  These systems reflect the unpredictability of skirmish combat and the fog of war.  But they also creates a battlefield in which tiny changes in luck propagate into massive, unpredictable results. 

Imagine a Bolt Action or Malifaux game in which you, as a player want to advance a line of three infantry  units for mutual support.  Whichever one moves first will be out on its own if the other player moves.  It could be charged in the flank before its companion units advance to cover it.  If the other player got to make several moves before you did, your advancing unit could be isolated and overwhelmed.  This doesn't seem like something that would happen in an actual ancient's battle, in which units near each other could presumably match pace fairly easily, and not allow each other to become isolated.

On the other hand, I'm also dissatisfied with the "Warhammer/FoW" I-Go/U-Go sequence in which a player's entire army moves through move, shoot, and melee phases.  The opposing player does not make many meaningful choices when it's not his turn, and mostly just rolls saves.  I think it's a little too predictable, and removes the illusion of simultanity.

So, I'm thinking the best compromise may be something like this:

1) Movement Phase:  Players A and B alternate moving groups of units.  Units that would naturally move together may be moved simultaneously.  So a line of infantry units and all its support units would move together, maintaining a coherent frontage.  The unpredictability would largely effect units operating separately: a cavalry unit working around the flank, a skirmish unit moving in the woods, those heavy huscarls waiting to countercharge, etc. 

Charges would be integrated into the Movement phase.  If a unit can reach its enemy, it is deemed to have charged.  There could be some out-of-sequence reactions, such as fleeing or counter-charging here.  Any such reaction would "use up" the unit's Movement for the turn.

2) Shooting Phase: Players A and B alternate shooting with their units.  There would be no massed fire from units near each other, preserving the illusion that both sides are raining arrows on each other at the same time.  Units which charged in the Movement phase remain valid targets for fire, even if they are in base contact with an enemy.  Certain units which fled may still shoot, if they are sneaky like that.

3) Melee Phase: Melees are resolved for units in base-to-base combat, with players A and B alternating in nominating a melee to resolve.

Different general abilities might modify the usual sequence: for example, an ability might allow a general to move two units before his opponent can react.

I toyed around with different sequences, for example with shooting before moving, but I think this traditional framework remains the most satisfying.