Mike’s Ramblings – “To the Strongest”

This may not be a battle report at heart , but I am going to ramble a little about my recent Ancients experience which contains a little battle report and something of a review of the Ancients Wargames Rules – “To the Strongest” found here.   A few weeks back, I was invited by Al to offer battle to his Romans with my Carthaginians.  I have been working on them for some time, and whilst I still had to borrow some some mercenaries in the form of some Thereophoroi and cavalry, I am getting quite close to being able to field an army.  I won’t lie, I was actually quite excited to field an army which was mostly mine.

Aren't they Glorious?

Here are my guys, a motley collection of Spanish, Africans, and Mercenaries.  The Infantry took the Centre whilst Cavalry was on both flanks.  The Elephants on the extreme right were very disappointing however. I can’t speak for my Roman adversary, but my plan for the battle was a classic Double Envelopment.  I was going to hold the Romans off in the centre using a large amount of skirmishers, whilst I brought Cavalry up on both flanks to outflank the Romans.  Problem is… I hadn’t played the Rules before… so I had no idea if it would work.  But if it was good enough for Hannibal, it’s good enough for me.

Thats a lot of red....

With the Roman Deployment of Infantry in the centre and cavalry on the flanks, I was afraid of an onslaught in the middle of victorious Roman infantry, before my cavalry could break his flanks.  A Quick view of the battle field, and a trip to the shop later.  We were ready to begin.

The “To the Strongest” rules flow very smoothly and were very easy to pick up.  No Measuring, and the way we played it a few dice rolls for combat but nowhere else.  The way the command works means that you can try your luck with chains of actions, leading to sweeping advances or bold breakthroughs… OR, Your Centre can falter, flounder, and really… do very little.  My so called “Senior” General was guilty of that, a lot.

Dammit Hasdrubal! Advance!

As you can see from the above picture, the Central Command, didn’t quite advance as much as or as completely as I would have liked, where as the Cavalry, who apparently had competent commanders advanced.  Most of the time it is fairly easy to activate once, and it gets increasingly more difficult when you try to chain them.

Saving time not moving gave me more time for shenanigans and skirmishing which allowed my Numidian Horsemen on my right flank to perform very well.  The Combat is simple enough to not take a lot of time, being mostly an attack roll, followed by a saving throw if a hit was scored, this done for both sides.  Most Units can take two hits, the first one disorders them and makes them worse in combat, the second hit routs them.  Deep units are harder to shift being able to take 3 hits rather than 2 before they croak, but we had none on the field for this game, alas.

This said, there is enough intricacies to give flavour to the period and choice to the player.   For example, Hoplites being able to attack right without difficulty but not being able attack left give flavour, and some units have one shot weapons like Pilums and lances which you have a choice as to when you can use them, so you can save them to a good combat.  One of the favourite bits of the game was some Spaniards out-piluming some Romans, disordering them before contact.

Generals and commands are very important in these rules, which I like.  Generals are able, once per turn, to redraw a card which fails if it is in the same square as the unit(s) as they are, which comes in handy, and ends up with the general moving around (if detached) to be where needed.   Generals come in a few types:

Attached – Generals in bodyguard units which cannot be left.  So they are somewhat limited in their mobility but nice for leading troops around. If his bodyguard dies, he attaches himself like a limpet to another unit within his command.

Heroic Generals – A Subset of Detached Generals,  these guys are bad-asses.  Able to exercise command and control “Re-rolls” But can re-roll command in combat instead if he wants too.  Like Attached Generals, they are attached to their Bodyguard and can’t leave them until they die

Detached Generals – These guys can move around and so have a greater ability to move around and be where you need them when you need them.

Senior General – The Head Honcho himself. Has a command of his own, but can give command benefits to anyone in his square.  He also lets any unit near him be “In command” not just units of his command, which is nice.

Brilliant Generals – Not had much experience with these guys, but I would expect them to be.  Due to being Brilliant they have an ability which lets them move to a place which needs a “re-roll” when its needed.

Generals are also fairly difficult to kill which is nice.  Speaking of Generals, time for a Generals eye view of the battlefield.

Sir! They seem to be supported by some form of Giant!

Anyway! My Ramblings continue,  The Game was very good, very close.  My Left flank crumpled, and the left centre followed as the Italian allies supporting the Romans broke through.  A desperate holding action of skirmishers and a lone cavalry unit managed to keep them from the camps whilst my right wing managed to break their cavalry and encircle their infantry.  It was a close run thing, but as the pockets of Romans started to become encircled it was only a matter of time.

The Game still ended a little quicker than I expected, mostly as the Victory medal system is nice and elegant.  Basically… Each Command has a number of Victory points depending on what is in it, when it loses half of these, it becomes demoralised which means it becomes a little useless, being unable to charge.  This is two for most units, one for a light unit, and three for a camp.  This is one of the reasons that camps are needed as they help bolster commands.  The other reason is they are storage places for reserve ammunition chits.   But yeah… you add up the number of victory points you have in your army, divide it by three, and thats how many victory medals you start the game with.  When you lose a unit, you give its worth to the opponent from your pool… and if you run out?  You lose.  So Camps are fairly important there.  Guarding them is important.

The Beginning of the end for the Roman left.

So overall…. I would recommend “To the Strongest” very highly.  The Combination of lack of measuring and elegant simplicity means that you can get quite a large game done fairly quickly, and yet it still offers lots of player choice and decisions rather than “Line them up, knock them down” of many Ancients sets I have played in the past.

I would say that “To the Strongest” and “Lost Battles” are my two favourite rulesets which I have played in a while.  I am sure my Carthaginians will end up taking to the field many times under both of these rules.  A Thought which greatly encourages me to paint more.

Anyway, enough rambling for me. Until next time!

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