View Full Version : So if you were to build an ancients rule set...
10-29-2008, 08:39 AM
I was just thinking of the irony of this thread. We are like the generals planning to fight the battles of the last war. We have lots of ideas for how to fix DBA2.2 but all the changes will come from Phil's new ideas for DBMM.
I guess I'll have to get out my copy and try to figure out what's good there.
This quote from Bob in another thread made an excellent point. We spend so much time debating what Phil means and why he wrote his rules the way he did and how we would do our own little tweeks to his rules that we could literally write our own set of rules.
So with that thought in mind, if you were to build a set of ancient miniature rules:
What would be your basic assumptions for the game?
What historical sources would you use to try to understand how to simulate ancient warfare in a game?
What would your focus be in the eternal playability vs realism continuum?
Have you ever written a set of rules?
What was your experience with doing so?
There are about a million other questions to ask, but I'll turn this loose and let others start asking the questions.
10-29-2008, 09:09 AM
Interesting question, Tom.
Here a few answers that are not nearly systematic enough to be really useful.
*Ancient and medieval warfare in the Mediterrean region were of such different scales that it is difficult to represent them with the same rule set.
*Morale and momentum matter more than intricate weapon interactions.
*When a formation breaks, it breaks.
*Battle lines were more like Seven Years War formations - not a lot of detached formations rushing off.
*Generals had limited opportunities to shape the battle once it started.
*I go to the classical authors I can get in English translation.
Playability vs. Realism
*I favor playability in the sense that a game should be easy to bring in newbies and should be capable of being run as a large convention game. I've never enjoyed games where you spent a high proportion of time cross referencing charts and rules in order to play the game.
Written a set?
*Never one that got played. Most of what I've done is combine other sets. I have a set of rules for ancient small actions that is a combination of The Sword and the Flame and Pig Wars.
I'm interested to see what others say.
EDIT: After reading it, I agree with the main assumptions of John Meunier. Except with the ancients/medieval difference. I do not think it is that big a difference.
I think the basic DBA assumptions on troops being mixed by function rather than by exact equipment is a good one. In that sense I would use 3 types of troops for infantry and 3 for cavalry (in parenthesys the DBA troops covered)
- heavy infantry (Bd, Sp, Pk, some Wb)
- medium infantry (Ax, some Wb, Bw?)
- light infantry (Ps)
- shock cavalry (Kn, HCh, SCh, some Cv)
- cavalry (Cv, Cm)
- light cavalry (LCh, LH, 2Cm)
Grade troops as rabble, normal, elite status to differentiate between types. Legions, hoplites and alex pikemen would all be heavy infantry, for example, showing variations among them according to grade. I would probably consider elephants as a subtype of shock cavalry and SCh as well (SCh being inferior given their null real effect most of the time)
Terrain would affect heavy infantry and mounted. Skirmishers and light troops would not be affected.
The presence of mounted would be rather smaller than in DBA.
The total force composition would not be exactly equal for both forces, but would be roughly similar. I would probably use some more troops than in DBA, but not much more. 15-18 troops or so.
Probably simultaneous turns. Move1, move 2, fight 1 fight 2,...
Probably with a korale syustem like that of DBN or AK47, with troops receiving hits as well as recoils and dispersing when they reach a cetain limit.
From the top of my head
10-29-2008, 09:41 AM
Link to some thoughts from a rules/game designer:
10-29-2008, 11:48 AM
I have written a set of ancient naval rules and several sets of skirmish rules. The ancient naval rules were taken up by the Society of Ancients and are available from them.
I agree with John Meunier's excellent points. However, I would add a few random thoughts.
You want to work out who the people playing represent. Are they taking the role of the C-in-C e.g. of a Consular Republican Roman army? If so, they should not be asked to make decisons that a centurion would make.
What period(s) and geographical locations will the rules cover? It is relatively easy to write rules for one war but the longer the period and the wider the geographic area the harder it is to get the rules to give historically satisfying results. Also, the greater the number of army lists that you will need to produce. IMO the relatively small numbers of army lists in version 1 of Armati helped prevent it from being played by a wider audioence.
Are you going to have some types of troops graded as being better than others that had a similar battlefield role? If so, it means that your Spartan hoplites can be better than those of minor Greek cities but it makes your army lists more complicated and potentially more contentious. It also means that you will probably have to do a points system.
How many figures will be used to play the game? How long are you anticipating that games will last? Is it intended that there should be multiple players per side?
How will your rules mechanisms be different and superior to those of existing rule sets?
Who will you use to play-test? Of course, you will be happy to spend a lot of your time play-testing, but you will need other peoples' eyes and brains to find out whether text that seems clear to you conveys your intentions to other people.
10-29-2008, 12:07 PM
Is it intended that there should be multiple players per side?
Great point - among others. I've played or seen some really nice rules for one player per side that are just about worthless as multi-player games.
A game designed really well to put the player in the position of being an overall army commander are usually not so good at giving meaningful things for other players to do. Armati is an example here as well as Richard's point.
10-29-2008, 12:07 PM
Link to some thoughts from a rules/game designer:
Excellent points. Many games have tried this approach but did not achieve the level of interest they should have. In my opinion, this is the way to approach a rules system where the player is the commander. Thanks for the link.
10-29-2008, 10:06 PM
I have attempted to create a set of rules myself, but have not progressed very far.
I wanted to produce something similar to DBA, in that it could be played in about one hour and required a similar size of army.
I decided to have foot and mounted troops, with shock, close combat, missile and skirmish types within each.
10-30-2008, 06:03 PM
At this point in my life I would not try to make a set of rules. believe me I have tried but was never able to come up with anything better than all the rule sets that were avalable at the time( none of whick I cared for). Discovering dba cured me.
I really can't imagine a set of rules that I would enjoy more than the dba/bbdba/Hott/Humberside stuff that is currently avalable. humberside is lacking in that more modern armies really need to make a distiction in level of training and need detachable generals both of which are easy things to fix.
What we are currently missing is a 'dungeon crawl' set of rules with the simplicty of dba that does not require writen record keeping. Song of blades and heros is a step in this direction.
10-31-2008, 12:22 AM
If I were doing a horse and musket period variant I would probably use DBR (in condensed scale) as the starting point. You have a game that is simpler than DBM but that already contains inferior, ordinary, superior etc. In the DBR normal scale most infantry elements represent about 100 men. In the condensed scale most infantry elements represent arround 400 men. You can play a 100 point condensed scale DBR game on a 2' by 3' board.
11-03-2008, 09:59 AM
So let's focus on just one aspect of recreating a histoical simulation:
Command and Control
In DBA, a single six sided die roll modified by group moves and terrain penalties simulates, I think most would agree, quite admirably the feel of ancient battles and the command of forces by the CinC.
For me, I would like to see a game that could combine the command difficulties of the CinC and that of the wing and center commanders as is done in BBDBA.
The entire set up of commands and assigning of dice represents the planning and implementation of the CinC and then that commander is the CinC command leader.
The whole giving of commands take that woods, seize that hill, engage the center, envelop the right flank are all part of the make up of the forces and the amount of PIPs assigned to the command. Individual initiative of lower level commanders comes into play when more than average PIPs are rolled. Does a mid level commander try to achieve too much or does he stick to the plan?
If you were starting from scratch how would you recreate command and control for an ancient's rule set?
11-04-2008, 07:03 AM
Have to say that I am very happy with the pip system. I find it a lot less bother in play than, for instance, the Polemous system, which involves bidding for the initiative.
With the pip system I would either have a separate pip dice for each general or one command nominated as always having the highest pip dice and another command the lowest.
What I would consider would be to have each command start the game with very simple orders (for instance, "centre command advance to one third of the way to the centre of the board and hold against all attack"). Any group or element move that followed the original plan would be cheap in pips. Any move that did not conform to the original plan would be more expensive. This would need to be playtested to ensure that it works as intended and did not make gameplay unwieldy.
An alternative (if cluttering the table with written orders proves too big a pain) might be to make moves straight ahead or towards visible enemy cheaper than other moves. Again, playtest and be prepared to discard.
11-04-2008, 05:27 PM
I like the addition of DBM type grading factors for generals to enhance movement...
Superior +2 pips
Ordinary +1 pips
Inferior +0 pips
We also change the command radius of the generals so that a superior general has a 24" command radius, ordinary 18" and inferior 12 inches.
plus the dice sharing for regular generals and no dice sharing for irregular generals. We also don't allow generals to fight ... they only influence command and control not combat.
So, the usual DBA general is considered to be inferior, instead of average? Nothing wroong with it, but it surprises me somewhat :)
11-07-2008, 04:51 PM
I'm more of a tweaker. I re-worked an old WRG ruleset to better reflect how I thought chariots fought; and I reworked a simple medieval ruleset to bring in command and morale,, then extended it to integrate to a RPG campaign. On the whole Phil's breakthrough of treating elements in a more abstract way is the best. I guess that's why we argue around the fringes.
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