Thursday, October 26, 2017

Ancient Hexes

At last! A game! A good game!
The Setup.
Ron had been planning another attempt to convert DBA3 to hexes but I countered with the Portable Ancient Wargame. The scenario was Hill Line Defence from Programmed Scenarios. I drew Gauls and Defend. Sigh.... I'd much rather have rolled "Defend with the Romans" or "Attack with the Gauls" but Omens are Omens.

I spread my 9 units out, hoping to have the speed to concentrate once I could identify the Roman's main thrust. Ron concentrated his 11 units in the centre, but initially threatening both my flanks with light troops. As he slowly closed he finally shifted his line of cohorts to his right and rapidly struck the hill on my left.

I was outnumbered in units and missile power but even more so in exhaustion points and was unable to make much use of my barbarian charge bonus while defending. My best hope seemed to be to try to slip past his flank to try to distract him while attacking some of his weaker units and to launch a preemptive charge to use my barbarian charge bonus to inflict losses and to gain retreat room for myself.

Alas, between being a little slow to commit and some unfortunate initiative flips my plan did not quite work and the main battle saw the Gauls in a fairly passive defensive mode on the edge of the hill while my flanking manouver had minor impact.

Mid-game. The Romans have pushed onto the hill and my diversionary flank attack has stalled but all is not yet lost. 
A unit of Roman cavalry managed to push through my line but despite driving it back against the table edge, I just could not get the final hit which would destroy it so it persisted in being a major obstacle to a controlled withdrawal.

Relentlessly the main line of Roman infantry pressed forward, pushing me off the left hand hill as I reached my exhaustion point of 12.  Technically, according to the scenario victory conditions, the game was a draw at this point but Ron had only lost 7 out of 15 exhaustion points  and without a time limit I had no doubt that he could surround and destroy me before I could exhaust him  and even if I did, his ballista and slingers  could eventually  finish the job so I conceded. 

The exhausted Gauls have been pushed off the largest hill and concede.
This was our first test of the published version of the Ancient Portable Wargame and provided just the sort game we were looking for with simple rules with no "gotcha" tactics. The dice had their effect at times but I can't blame my defeat on them!

We did come up with a few minor house rules.

The main one was to enhance the  rules for breaking contact. They say that a unit can not move adjacent to the front of another enemy unit but may move adjacent to the flank/rear of an enemy. We added that it may not attack that unit that turn if they do and banned a unit from moving away then circling around to finish the move in contact with the flank of the unit it had disengaged from.

We also decided to modify the shooting arc to a straight 120 degree arc on the hexfield. This was just to make it easier to trace the arc of fire, especially for the ballista.

Lastly we rules that if a General was attacked on his own, he could not fight back in close combat and did not stop units from moving on but was not automatically killed either.


  1. Inspiring stuff Ross, I can now see the strength of your previous comments that the larger scale on the 4" hex can look really good.

    I notice the hex grain runs side-to-side, but that the units face the flat sides. Would it be easier (certainly on the eye) for units to face the vertex (point) and then you would have a true 120 degree aspect for shooting / attacking straight ahead?

    1. Norm, the board had been laid out for a game with units facing the corners. At the last moment we switched rules but did not want to waste time resetting the table.

      After the game we briefly discussed the benefits of switching facing from side to corner with all that comes with it: straight battle lines vs zigzag advances, 2 frontal hexes with 4 flank/rear vs 3 of each and so on but made no decisions.

  2. They do give a good game indeed. Have you any thoughts to try the fantasy additions published in Miniature Wargames magazine a go?

    1. I read that such a thing had been published in MW but haven't ordered a copy and probably won't. My budget is tight enough that should I want a fantasy version, I'll probably do my own.

  3. Great to hear others' view of PW. I do think it gives a rather different type of game from DBM (though I am unfamiliar with any incarnation later than DBM1.2 I think).

    Your query in respect of facing vertices (but presumably MOVING through hexsides) is something that has crossed my mind as well. Though good for shooting, the thing becomes (potentially) problematic come close quarter fighting.

    The upsides are:
    - more easily defined, and more limited, arcs of fire
    - more easily identified front (2 hexes), flank (2 hexes) and rear (2 hexes).

    The (potential) downsides has to do with what happens when a unit is contacted by enemy. Presumably, we turn to face, but then a second enemy unit comes in upon (what was our) OTHER front hex. Is that still a frontal attack? I won't go into the other permutations.

    Bearing in mind it would serve me right for leaving a unit isolated enough to be stomped on this way, I would make these (very tentative) suggestions.
    1. Enemy moves element into contact.
    2. Own element turns to face IF IT CAN. This defines our primary opponent. The importance of this will be apparent with battle lines covering rows of connected hexes.
    3. If enemy can bring further elements into contact, he does so.
    4. For the purposes of this combat, the front and flank-front hexes count as 'front'; the flank-rear count as flank; only the rear hex counts as 'rear'.

    I have not play-tested this idea, and was rather inclined to let it go. But... what do you think?

    1. I've only played DBM once or twice, when it first came out but we used to play DBA 1 quite a bit. DBA3 is a bit twisted and overly complex in minor details, a bit like DBM but smaller. APW is much more straight forward.

      Did I query facing angles? I don't remmember doing so. Bob's APW calls for a compromise shooting arc to represent a 90 degree arc on a hex field. A wider field using the hex lines only added 2 hexes to the slingers and saved us from trying to figure out just what the ballista could hit at 10 hexes.

      That said we did briefly discuss the benefits of each facing after the game without a decision but leaning to keeping on as is but laying the board out with a different grain.

      PW calls for combat to be resolved when a unit is activated, there is no separate combat resolution phase. Neither is that provision for turning to face an attack from the flank nor a distinction between flank and rear.

      It actually worked quite well with units facing the side with 3 frontal and 3 flank/rear hexes. It was fairly easy to protect your flank and rear unless your line gets broken or outflanked.

    2. You are right to point out something I keep forgetting: the point at which combats happen. I find the move everything then fight everything habit extremely hard to break.

    3. I agree, not do bad with 20thC but it feels odd for a phalanx or battleline to not be able to advance in an orderly fashion maintaining its formation. Something for some other day.

  4. Nice looking system...and beautiful terrain!

  5. Excellent write up: thanks for sharing. I've got a copy of the Portable Wargame, but haven't done anything with it yet. I'll have to give it another look in the light of this report.

  6. Ross Mac,

    Somehow I missed reading your blog entry when it came out. (In my defence all I can say is that I have been rather busy doing non-wargaming things.)

    It is an excellent battle report, and if you would like a copy of the fantasy rules as featured in the latest issue of MW, I'll ask Arthur Harman to send you a copy of his original text.

    All the best,


    1. It's not that old Bob! It was published early Friday morning your time!

      Thanks for the offer but if I should decide to add some sort of fantasy elements to my 25mm medieval games for my own use, I'll want to tailor them to match my own setting and my own take on things. I'll have to add some of my own Medieval troop types anyway.

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  8. Just stumbled across this from Bob's page - a great report, and a great blog too!

    1. Thanks Colonel. If you're ever have time to waste there are 7 years of posts :)