Saturday 29 November 2014

You wait years for one Leones Iuniores to come along, and then two arrive at once!

Whilst I was finishing the rules, my very own Spanish ulcer started playing up very badly, and I've not painted any ancients for a month.

Now, however, I'm slowly recovering and am going to base some lovely figures I bought off Shaun Watson earlier this year.  First, though, I want to repaint most of the helmets in steel, and weather the shields, so I have mounted them on temporary bases to facilitate this.

Shaun's unit are the Leones Iuniores.  But, I hear you say, surely BigRedBat already owns a unit of Leones Iuniores? (below)

Shaun's are so much better painted than the above unit that I painted myself, however, I just couldn't resist them.  I'll have two, and probably sell mine later on.  Or just maybe, there is another unit with a similar shield in the Notitia... I do recall some similar shield designs.  I shall have to take a look at Luke Ueda Sarson's excellent Notitia resource.

To celebrate their unpacking I have loaded a free, illustrated Late Roman Army List for my To the Strongest! rules into my shop.  It can be downloaded from here.  

Friday 28 November 2014

To the Strongest is released!

Over the last few days I have written about the mechanics of the rules; today I'll talk briefly about what's contained within them.

The rules come in the form of a 68 page PDF, illustrated with many photographs of beautifully painted figures (including many by leading painters) and of games, small and large. Diagrams They can be printed off or run from a tablet, such as an Ipad. When run on a tablet, the many hyper-links enable players to navigate swiftly to the appropriate section of the rules.  

I've just launched the rules in my new eShop, the BigRedBatShop, as the modest price of £9.99! They can be found here, where you can also download a number of free army lists:

Next week I will get some army lists out, and hopefully have time to play a game, myself!

Thursday 27 November 2014

To the Strongest D-1

The To the Stongest! rules cover a period of two thousand or so years of history, and thus require a generous number of types of unit to represent the various combinations of warriors and weapons encountered.  There are consequently twenty nine different unit types, which expand to thirty eight when variants are included.  Moreover, units can also be small, standard-sized or deep and veteran or raw, which gives a huge amount of wiggle room when it comes to modelling historical units.

Units have a save factor representing their armour, shields and drill.  This is expressed as 6+, 7+ or 8+, representing the card they need to play to save against a hit.  Some units have bonuses to their saves in certain situations; units with long spears, for example, gain a save bonus when charged by cavalry.  It is also possible to add additional gear; crossbowmen can have pavises, for example, and longbowmen optional falchions and mallets.

Some troops have unusual qualities; cataphracts, for example, save on a very low 6+ representing their very heavy armour, but may become disordered when charging or moving too fast.  Scythed chariots play a bonus to hit card when they charge two boxes.  And whatever you do, don't play an Ace when activating a cannon to shoot...

The most common missile weapons are the javelin and bow, although all of the usual suspects are present.  Unusually ammunition supply plays a part in the rules.  I wanted to created a model where skirmishers play a significant role at the beginning of a battle but decline in importance as it progresses.  Ammunition supply is also very important when modelling armies with a high proportion of shooters, such as Henry V's longbowmen.  Units typically have between two and four ammunition chits, and there is a small additional reserve in the baggage train. 

I have included points values for all the troop types, partly because they can be very helpful when building a couple of evenly-matched armies for an evening's play and partly for those people who want to play competitively.

Tomorrow I'll make a final post about the rules in general, and where to buy them from.

Wednesday 26 November 2014

To the Strongest! D-2

I mentioned yesterday that I'd describe in outline how shooting and combat are tackled in the rules.

Firstly, the rules are quite decisive.  Most units only have two hits, and skirmishers, in particular, are only ever a single failed save away from destruction!  In fact it is not uncommon to see units of skirmishers perish inside the first thirty seconds of game play.  Formed units, however, have two or sometimes three hits and can attempt to rally if they are disordered by enemy action.

Shooting is very straightforward; units play a card to activate to shoot and a second card to hit.  If they hit, then the defender must play a card to save, usually requiring a 6, 7 or 8 depending upon its type. Veteran units save on a number one lower than the average.  

The sequence of a melee is as follows.  Once players are familiar with the rules, each melee is usually resolved inside ten seconds, amidst a flurry of playing cards. 
  1. Charge – the active player plays a card to activate a unit to charge.
  2. Evade – some defenders may be able to evade.  If the evade is successful and the box is now vacant, the attacking unit must advance in, and the melee is concluded.
  3. Attacker hits – if the charge was successful, the attacking player plays a to-hit card on his baseline, requiring either a 6+ or 8+ to inflict a hit, depending upon its type.
  4. Defender saves – if hit, the defending player must play a saving card on his baseline.  This card may sometimes be modified by terrain or other factors.  If the defending unit fails this save then it will be disordered or even lost, depending on its type.  If it is lost, and the box is now vacant, the attacking unit must move in, and the melee is concluded.
  5. Defender strikes back – if the defending unit has survived, and did not try to evade, then the defending player now attempts to strike back.  He does this by playing a to-hit card on his baseline, requiring a 6+ to 8+ to inflict a hit, depending upon its type and whether or not it is disordered.
  6. Attacker saves – If hit, the attacking player must play a modified saving card on his baseline.
There are also tactical factors that can effect saves; cover, for instance, or infantry standing to receive an uphill charge.

Tomorrow I will write about some of the different types of units encountered in the rules.

In other news, mates Scrivs and Mog played a very pretty Roman vs. Carthaginian game yesterday, and here are some links to their respective blogs:

Tuesday 25 November 2014

To the Strongest D-3

In To the Strongest!, players use an innovative (and entertaining) mechanism  system to activate units, which can each potentially move or fight multiple times during the same turn.

In most rules a turn consists of a number of phases: perhaps a march phase; approach move phase; shooting phase; charge phase; melee phase and reaction test phase.  In To the Strongest, however, there is only a single phase during which all these activities take place, on a unit by unit basis.

Each player will have TtS! activation deck of 80 playing cards (the number cards from 2 packs of playing cards).  This will consist of eight of every card from Ace to 10.

To activate any unit for the first time, a player must play single card is on it. Anything except an ace will permit the unit to either move, shoot, charge or rally. After successfully activating the unit, the player may go on to activate another unit in the same command, also on a two-pip or greater card. Alternatively, he or she could choose to return to attempt to re-activate the first unit for a second time. For this latter to succeed, however, he must play a card higher in value than any previous card played on the unit. 

Once any activation attempt fails, then activations for that entire command (typically of 4-6 units) cease.  However, the player may then go on to activate other commands in his army.

A To the Strongest! player must therefore master the art of deciding which moves, out of all the potential unit moves, are the most valuable to him.  He must prioritise his activations so that these critical moves take place before a low value card is played and the command's turn ends.  

Tomorrow I'll describe how shooting and combat is resolved.

Monday 24 November 2014

To the Strongest! D-4

Thapsus 46BC at Partizan in 2013 using To the Strongest!  Photo by Henry Hyde
To the Strongest! is the set of rules for tabletop wargaming that I'll be launching this Friday. I have developed the rules for gaming both for use here in the BigRedBatCave, and for running huge wargames at shows. They are designed to be simple enough for novices to the ancient and medieval periods to easily pick up, whilst, at the same time, providing seasoned gamers with a challenging battle that can be comfortably concluded in an evening (with a glass of beer or wine to hand).

The rules were originally written to address my passion for re-fighting the battles of Greece and Rome. However, following requests from play testers, I have extended them to cover everything between the Biblical and the Later Medieval eras. They have been tested for both small games with two players and 15mm miniatures on a 4' by 3' table, to large games with ten players and 3000 28mm miniatures on an 18' by 5' table.     

To ensure that games would run as fast as I wanted them to, I decided that I would need to cut out both measurement and dice rolling.

To eliminate measurement, I decided to use a square grid. From my Zama game back in 2010, I had learned to appreciate the speed that the hex grid in Command and Colors Ancients brings to a game. A square grid, however, is quick to mark out and has the benefits of making it abundantly clear where a unit's flanks and rear lie. The grid itself is very subtle; I just mark the corners of the squares with a tiny black dot. The use of a grid also enables figures which have been based for use with a variety of different rule systems, to be used together on the same battlefield.

To eliminate dice rolling, I decided to use playing cards. Once the face cards are discarded from a deck of playing cards, it effectively becomes a sort of large, squashed D10. It turns to be faster to play a card than to pick up and roll a dice, and a card never "cocks" like a D10 does. The cards are used to determine which units can move, to resolve shooting, and, well, for everything. Card play also turns out to be quite exciting, too!

Tomorrow I'll write about the activation system, which is the innovative "engine" of the rules.

Play-testing To the Strongest! on a 4' by 3' table with improvised English and French 100 Years War armies

Saturday 22 November 2014

They don't like it up 'em!

...before I get back to plugging my new ancients rules, have a look at these!

This week I received a copy of "Sands of the Sudan", a set of Colonial rules written by Carl Pagano, but based on the old Peter Gilder Sudan rules, for gaming the conflict against the Mahdi and his successors.

What I really like about these rules is that they retain all of the flavour of Peter Gilder's originals, including the look of them; they incorporate same big battalions of Imperial troops, in many cases from the same ranges of miniatures as Peter's were recruited.  This is very nostalgic for those of us that can remember the pictures of his stunning Sudan Games from the Wargames Holiday magazine.

There is nothing old-fashioned about the rulebook, however.  It is very modern, with striking photographs of Carlo's collection and excellent production standards including a cracking deck of random event cards. The rules are clearly written and appear simple to learn and use.

I am now very sorely tempted to start another period... I must try to resist...  Rather than reading me blathering on about them, I commend you to follow this linky to Carlo's Blog where they are more fully described and from whence you can go forth and purchase them!

Friday 21 November 2014

To the Strongest! D-7

This blog has been uncharacteristically quiet of late, because I have been working overtime putting the finishing touches to my "To the Strongest" Ancient and Medieval wargames rules. 

These are the rules I have developed both for my own use here at home, and for putting on huge battles with friends at shows. They are fast moving, relatively simple and, most unusually, do not use any dice at all!

These will be published one week today, as a 68-page highly-illustrated PDF, priced at a modest £9.99.  I'll write more about them (including where to purchase them from) over the course of this week!

Thursday 6 November 2014

Poulet Marengo a la Legatus

Last night I cooked Legatus' recipe in Wargames Bloggers Quarterly Issue 2, skipping the crayfish and croutons, but adding brandy and anchovies.  The traditional eggs worked surprisingly well.  I must say it was absolutely delicious, especially as it was washed down with half a bottle of Gavi di Gavi (currently 25% off at Waitrose, fill your cellar!).

I've not posted any ancients recently because I've been working hard on my rules, daytime, and painting Napoleonics at night, of which more anon.

Wednesday 5 November 2014

Wargames Bloggers Quarterly Issue 2 available for download!

I'm very pleased to announce that the second edition of Wargames Bloggers Quarterly is now ready for download, from this link here

For those who didn't see Issue 1, the Wargame Bloggers Quarterly (WBQ) is a FREE community driven electronic magazine (PDF e-Zine) composed of the best wargames and miniature painting content from the collective blogosphere.

I've not had time to contribute to this edition, on account of the fact I am in the final stages of editing my rules, but I have been able to quickly look through it and it is quite spiffing!  I currently have a bottle of Gavi di Gavi chilling in the fridge ready for Legatus' Poulet Marengo recipe...