Sunday, 15 July 2018

To The Strongest - Saxons vs Romano-British

One of three games played at the club this weekend was using a new set of rules to the Devon Wargames Group, 'To the Strongest' (TTS) by Mr Simon Miller, which has now moved more recently to cover the English Civil War, 'For King And Parliament'.

This was first opportunity to have a go at playing these and I am always up for playing new sets of rules to better understand what they have to offer in terms of systems of play and the games they create.

As you can see from our table set up, the position of units, terrain and indeed working out movement is governed by a gridded board or mat in any format you choose, provided the squares are obvious to the players.

The two armies are set up as per the guidelines in the rules , with the extreme flank columns left clear of units and with the Romano Brits (above left) fielding small infantry units and plenty of cavalry with a camp (wagon model) in the rear. Likewise the Saxons are similarly arrayed but with larger deeper infantry formations and much less cavalry.

The difference in the opposing infantry meant only one large Saxon unit (three figures deep) could occupy a square but their size allowed them to absorb three disruptions or hits before being dispersed, whereas the Romano Brits (two figures deep) could put more than one unit in per square but could only sustain two hits per unit.

The armies were organised around three divisions each with generals for each division commanding a unit indicated by a rather large banner, whilst veteran units carried a smaller banner and bulk standard types having no banner.

Although dice are visible we were using them to mark the number of javelins available to our skirmish units as TTS uses a double deck of playing cards per side, with, in our game, the picture cards removed, to generate activation and combat scores with Aces low representing a one through to ten double deck.

The basic premise is that units are activated by the player announcing what he proposes to do and checking to see if that proposal is an easy or difficult manoeuvre. The difficulty rating sets the bar in terms of the score on the card turned required to allow the chosen unit to carry out its planned activation, subject to any other factors that might raise or lower the difficulty.

Thus a simple advance in open terrain by a fresh unit requires the player to turn any card higher than an Ace to proceed. That unit then may continue to a second activation but now not only having to assess the level of difficulty but to turn another card with a higher score than the first.

Thus if your first card turned is an 8 or 9, you get that pleasure buzz knowing you can complete your move but that heart-sink realisation that you are probably going to struggle to do another in that turn.

As with movement, combat is similarly governed by players turning of opposing cards to decide hits versus saves with scores required based on unit type its weapons or armour etc.

Thus where dice would normally be the chance factor resolution the game mechanism is to use card scores.

Similarly where tape measures and 45 degree angle assessments would normally govern movement and facings here the grid pattern removes all that calculation and measuring by allowing units to move forwards backwards diagonally and decide whether they are facing in a particular direction and their position one to another.

The beauty of this system is that very large battles with numerous units on the table and the potential for multiple movements and combat calculations are noticeably speeded up and as units become drawn into a combat and pulled forward by decisions to engage opposing units, the flanks begin to open up and, if as in this case, one army is particularly strong in cavalry, so do the rear areas.

Attacks on the rear or flanks of units are, as you would expect, particularly punishing and multiple such attacks from both flanks and rear, even more so.

Our game saw the two lines gradually come together and for some while hung in the balance as the two started to batter each others opposing infantry with hits.

This battering then poses the decision points in the game as to whether to rally off hits or take the chance of carrying on regardless in the attempt to inflict them instead.

Meanwhile the faster moving cavalry units can look to evade and break off to seek out the vulnerable areas in the opposing line already heavily engaged to their front.

As units are removed from the table, the effect is to remove points from the army morale score, recorded by the removal of a number of coins from a total indicating that particular forces morale.

Once all the coins are gone so is your army! I know because I was in that army and with Romano British cavalry in and around the Saxon flanks and at one stage attacking the camp things very quickly moved from 'that doesn't look good' to 'rally the Hearthguard, I think it's time to leave'.

What strikes me about TTS is that large games can be played to a conclusion and that multiple games are playable in one session, which is great for a club.

The rules will also work very well with large numbers of players given that the game sequence becomes very quickly picked up and turns of play start to happen very quickly once players have determined what and in what order they intend to do, again great for club games.

The other added attraction for getting into TTS is that everything needed to play, bar the painted armies, is available on Simon's web page including, gridded mats, army morale coin markers through to Simon's prepared irregular edged bases for your units (something I really like) not to mention free army lists.

I had a great afternoon getting yet another whipping from Jason playing a dark ages themed game. Fortuna is being particularly offish at the moment, probably time for a sacrifice!

Thanks to Jason for pulling our game together with his lovely figure collection and also to Nathan, Chris, Jack and Charlie for a very fun game.


  1. A great looking game and a very informative article, wargame blogging at its best.

  2. Terrific looking game. I keep hearing good things about these rules, I'm going to have to try this out.

  3. Looking very good! Enemy cavalry on a flank is never good. :-)

  4. Thanks for your comments chaps.

    Simon you are so right.