|Simple laminated cards created to drive the game|
|German warband division set up in woods bottom left using their "Forest Fiend" attributes.|
The various troop types in the rules and army lists come with special attributes that can differentiate the various armies. The table was set up to offer the Germans the best possible kind of terrain they would choose to fight in and so were able to choose one of four "Forest Fiend" attributes. Mr Steve the willy German commander chose "Mist and Rain" which presupposes the Germans have made full advantage of the poor visibility and conditions prevailing in the German wald to manoeuvre one of their warband divisions through the trees on to the Roman right flank after the Romans had set up
|The Roman Legionaries bottom right were too far away to support the auxiliaries to their right and had little impact in the game - well it was a test game and we won't do that again!|
In addition as "Forest Fiends" the Germans found moving through the thick German forest easier than the drilled Roman troops which only added to Roman problems.
For their part the Romans would try to take advantage of the "Triplex Acies" rule that enabled them to fight more extended and to support front rank units with rear rank units in combat, whilst making good use of their "Pila" rule where casualties inflicted would count towards the hand to hand total of casualties and thus impact on results in those combats, plus their "Gladius" rule giving them an extra die role in hand to hand combat in the second round of fighting.
|The "Meridiato" Cards of which there are two determine a reshuffle of the deck|
and start the hand to hand combat phase in the game
As you can see the orders of battle in AtoA are similar to "Hail Caesar" and designed around ideally divisions of four or more units, known as formations in the rules, each under a commander with a general commanding the army.
The level of these commanders determines what they can do, with army commanders able to change the orders of formations under their command and within command range, whilst formation commanders are concerned with the management of their individual units and trying to make sure they are in the right place at the right time to oversee and potentially aid combat whilst watching over units that are close to becoming shaken, or disordered.
The order that the opposing commanders get to do things, like moving and charging their respective units is determined by when their commander card appears from the deck. To help identify respective commanders I produced some little picture profiles of each commander that was placed by the respective models and you can see them on table.
|The German Commanders had their set up issues as well, as this powerful warband division was to far away from the Commander to have their orders changed from "Hold" for most of the game - remember "test game"|
Each individual commander has a command rating from 1 to 3, that determines how many cards with their face on gets put in the deck. This means the more cards the more likely that commanders card may appear first and the more likely they will get to do multiple tasks during a phase, bearing in mind that the units under their command can only do one type of action one in a phase.
The range of actions available to a formation commander are;
- add a d6" of movement to a unit that he is attached to, known as "Follow me lads".
- add a die to a reaction test.
- increase a units Combat Dice by one die for that round of combat if accompanying the unit.
- remove disorder marker
- remove a casualty once from an un-engaged stationary unit, usually done to prevent the unit from becoming shaken and thus forced to take a reaction test.
|The Legionaries with attached artillery and skirmishers had limited impact on the game|
As well as the commander cards, the players each were given "Carpe Diem" cards designed to allow the respective sides to attempt to interrupt the card play from the deck and take the initiative before the opposing player could react. These cards were held in hand, to begin with but once played went into the deck to be shuffled and would allow activation of a commander from the respective side when later drawn from the deck.
|The various commanders had differing numbers of cards in the deck |
with their portrait that allowed them to activate them and their "divisions"
To simulate the better command and control of the Romans vs the Germans they received seven
Carpe Diem cards to the Germans five, based on one card per formation, plus the Roman bonus.
|The main German attack moves in against the Roman Auxiliary division ahead, set up unprepared facing straight ahead|
The final cards in the deck consisted of two Meridiatio cards which with the first card drawn warn players that the phase is close to ending and with the second ends the phase of play by concluding the outcome of any hand to hand combats that have occurred in prior movement, allowing unactivated units to shoot and react. Once done the pack is reshuffled and a new phase of play begins.
|German light and Noble cavalry cover the open ground in the centre|
As indicated at the set up, the Germans took full advantage of the terrain which aided their initial placement and attack and did nothing to allow the Romans to make full use of their manoeuvring advantages.
The first attacks when they came caused the Romans to have to expend their advantage in Carpe Diem cards as the auxiliaries fought to keep the German division at bay.
|Tribesmen - fousands of em!|
With little option left but to fight, the plight of the auxiliaries gave us ample opportunity to try out the combat system as cohorts slammed into warband and the mayhem began.
The combat process is very straight forward with each troop type given a combat attack (CA) factor with the auxiliaries on a 3 and the warbands with their size of unit advantage on a 4. This basic factor is used to find the column on the Combat Attack chart and aligned with the row that corresponds with the enemy's armour. Thus the Germans with no armour gave the auxiliaries a basic chance to hit of 6 or less on a D10 whilst the Germans against the auxiliaries medium armour were hitting on a basic 5.
This hit number can be adjust up or down according to circumstances, for example flank or rear attacks, winning previous round of combat, first round if Romans had thrown pila, plus others. Each unit would then get to throw a set number of D10 determined by size of unit thus the warbands were generally throwing four dice to the auxiliaries three. Again the dice thrown could be adjusted with attached commanders able to add a die and Romans in second round of combat getting an extra die for their "Gladius" special rule.
The number of hits were then recorded with the micro dice and an eye kept on the total hits suffered, as once the unit's outlook number was equalled by the hits taken the unit was deemed Shaken, severely impacting its ability to fight and increasing its chances of breaking.
|The Roman Commander's card. His head was last seen atop a German spear, |
disappearing among the trees
|Roman Auxiliary infantry with Roman Ala cavalry top right|
The indication of how straight forward the combat was, was how quickly we started to roll through the stats to resolve it, not without a few mistakes along the way, but that's why you play test games.
|The first unit on Roman Auxiliary infantry charges in trying to hold up the impending German attack|
Shooting attacks were conducted similarly to combat with the added factor for range and shield etc.
The whole idea is to degrade the enemy with hits quicker than they you and thus break units and then complete formations to gain a victory.
Commanders and Carpe Diem cards become critical as the action intensifies, and the ability of commanders to influence the larger battle degrades as they get caught up trying to do multiple tasks at the same time.
|Lots of Germans closing in on the Roman right flank|
In our game the Roman forces were under growing pressure to win combats forced upon them that commanders were forced to add their extra combat die effect by attaching to units but then running the risk to themselves.
|The German centre moves in as the battle on the Roman right flank develops|
|More fighting and push-backs as the battle on the Roman right develops|
As our battle unfolded, it became more and more obvious that the Roman position was untenable and given our focus of throwing units into the fray to see how the rules worked, it was little surprise when with two Roman generals killed, the auxiliary division broke, leaving the Roman cavalry and legionaries to face a fast approaching horde of German warbands intent on sealing the deal.
|Meanwhile without new orders the German right flank holds its ground|
The accompanying pictures reveal the progress to this invertible defeat.
So what did the game demonstrate other than not to put your legionaries so far away from your auxiliaries and take extra care on a table covered in German forest? Quite a lot I think.
The game rolled along really well with lots of entertainment and drama generated especially in the combat. The game is not complicated and with plenty of scope for tailoring units and scenarios by adjusting the various stats and set up options.
I now know what markers are needed to make the game more attractive and easier for players to monitor the status of their commanders and units.
I know we made mistakes in the game and that some were spotted as we went along and others with reading and checking the rules after the game, but nothing major and only confirms my thinking that these are a straight forward set of rules to play with no major quirks revealed.
After just one play I have to say I really like them a lot and I want to play them more regularly and am now thinking about what I need to create in the way of stat cards for units and other table top markers that will be easy on the eye.
So lets see what Mr Steve thought?
|Casualties mount - the little red marker dice record the hits taken and will determine who has to take a Reaction/Break test|
|With the Roman right flank in disarray, German cavalry move up to take advantage|
|The Roman auxiliaries fight a losing battle as they try to stem the German attack|
|German and Roman cavalry clash (left) that saw the Roman commander killed whilst attached desperately trying to stop the rot, whilst a mixed unit of German light cavalry and skirmishers charge into the rear of an auxiliary column!!|
|With the Roman cavalry engaged in the centre with the German opposites the legionaries just in shot bottom move up to oppose the supporting warbands|
|The battle reaches a full crescendo as two Roman commanders go down in the fighting|
|The auxiliary division (top left) is broken and the legionary division beyond will be lucky to make it out of the debacle|