Monday, October 11, 2021

Wargame Design: Wars of the Republic- Osprey Games


As many of you know, after writing Men of Bronze; Osprey commissioned me to write Wars of the Republic for the Osprey Wargaming Series.  That book is slated to be coming out in November and I hope you will pick up a copy.  If you liked Men of Bronze, I think you will like what you find in this book too.  However, there are also some pretty big differences.  

There are a couple of key elements to Men of Bronze that I HAD to keep when doing Wars of the Republic

  • Scale, Model, and Base Agnostic
  • Choices
  • Simple Mechanics
  • Big Battles with Small Armies

Scale, Model, and Base Agnostic
One thing that really drives me personally nuts in Ancient gaming that to play different games, you need to put your armies on different bases!  Aaarrrrgggghhhhh!  I barely have enough time to paint all the models much less re-base them to play different game systems.  I hate that so, so, so much!  It is hard to explain how much I hate it!  Therefore, when writing any game I try to make them scale, model, and base agnostic.  

There are several ways to achieve this, but I did it the following way: 

1. There is no defined ground scale.  Instead, I use a MU or Measurement Unit.  A measurement Unit can be anything you want it to be.  With my collection of 28mm models, I use 1 MU = 1 inch.  For your 28mm you can use 1 MU = 1 half-inch or you could say 1 MU = .13 Yards.  It really doesn't matter is structured in increments where it will not matter.

As a rule of thumb, I would use this calculation though:

MU= (Width of table/8=X)/6= 1 MU

2. It is a unit-vs-unit game.  Therefore, the way one individual model moves does not matter much, as the base activation and action of the game is Unit interaction.  Therefore, you can have the entire unit on a single base, or everyone on separate bases, or any combination in between.  

3. The game uses focal points to act as the "center" of a unit for shooting, moving, etc.  Therefore, as long as you know where that is, the rest of the unit maneuvers around that point.  Typically, it is a leader model, banner, or some other central element.  

In theory, you could have an army of 6mm models fight against an army of 54mm models if you really wanted to.  It would look a bit weird, but the mechanics of the game would not change at all.  

To me, the heart of any good wargame is to create meaningful choices.  A meaningful choice is one that will have positive and negative consequences for game play later on.  So, if you do X here, it will potentially limit you from doing Y there.  There are a couple of ways I built this into the rules: 

1. Commander's Gaze- This is a resource used to win initiative, rally, charge, activate special rules, change formations, and make key re-rolls.  It is a limited resource and represents the commander and his officer's trying to influence the flow of the battle.  This can be used anytime to trigger various events, but when you run out.... it can cripple your ability to respond.  

2. Supporting- Troops can help and support their fellows.  However, if the initial unit is destroyed, so are any supporting troops.  A careful commander needs to decide when to support a defense or an attack, or when to wait for a better opportunity.  Support could tip a melee in your favor, but if failed could tear the heart out of your army.  

3. Interrupts- There is an initial bid for initiative to determine who can activate first.  However, after that your opponent can use Commander's Gaze to interrupt your action and try to take away the initiative at any time.  This leads to a free flowing battle, where you must be aware of when the enemy may try to take advantage and steal the initiative away from you.  

4. 1 Action Activations- When you activate a unit it can only move, melee, or shoot.  Therefore, you have to choose what is the best action for that unit in the moment.  No unit can do it all.  

5. Formations- Your troops can assume different formations based on their unit type such as a Legion, Phalanx, Wedge, Rhombus, etc.  Each formation provides a benefit in defense, attack, or movement, but also a limitation.  What is the best formation for your troops and when do you use them?    

Choice was a critical component when creating Wars of the Republic.

Simple Mechanics
Wars of the Republic uses the same simple dice pool mechanics as  Men of Bronze.  It is a permissive ruleset, so there are rarely any negative modifiers.  Instead, optimal tactics drive additional dice in your dice pool.  Most action is opposed dice pools with target numbers of 4+ on d6.  The side with the most successes is the winner.  The amount of successes above your foe dictate the effectiveness of an action.  

All dice rolls use the same mechanics, so it is easy to recall the rules.  If a unit has a stat that says 2, you roll two d6 and look for a 4+ target number for success.  90% of the time, that is the rule.  There are some morale, complications, or other factors that may change a target number to 5+ instead but the dice rolling mechanics are the same.    

Big Battles, Small Armies
The abstract nature of Men of Bronze led to a surprising amount of pushback (to me) in the online community.  In Men of Bronze a phalanx was ten 28mm models.  Many people felt like this was way too small for a Phalanx size.  Of course it is if we look at real life phalanx size!  However, the unit on the board is only a representation of a Phalanx in model form.  Wars of the Republic does not shy away from these conventions at all.  

1. If you look at the maps in the history books about historical battles, you will see a group of boxes.  These boxes move around the map.  The units in Wars of the Republic are similar.  

This allows a unit-vs-unit BIG BATTLE with as few miniatures as you are willing to field and fit your aesthetics.  I like to use units of ten 28mm models for infantry, cavalry, and light troops.  The rules allow you to use 2mm, 6mm, 15mm, 54mm or beyond with no change.  They are just representational boxes moving about the board.  There is no model to man scale and the game does not use a strict ground or time scale either.   

2.  Ten man units of 28mm models allow me to showcase formations without using chits or markers.  This avoids cluttering up the board and visually showing the formation, but there is no reason you have to do it that way.  The game works just fine if you use a marker to denote a special formation as it does actually putting the models in that formation.  Alternatively, you could just shuffle multi-based units around as well.       

3. I can typically only paint about 100 to 150 28mm models in a year.  I also really wanted to use the Victrix line of figures because I liked the look.  Therefore, I wanted a game that I could paint both factions for and play in a single year if I wanted to.  Wars of the Republic allows me to get two new factions painted and playing a year.  That is a huge plus for me.

In addition, the game also added rules for operating armies in "Wings" which allows for even larger battles for those with the collection and table space for it!  This also opens up the game for easier multi-player capabilities as well.      

So, what is different? 
I reviewed the feedback about Men of Bronze and really took it to heart and made some adjustments.  

One of the biggest adjustments was the way supporting worked.  In Men of Bronze when a unit supported another they would move behind the unit they were supporting.  This made sense to me in the grand scheme of Hoplite warfare, as they were actually getting behind and helping push!  However, this aspect of the rules got the biggest "negative" from players.  Probably as it left big holes in their battle lines!  Therefore, I have gotten rid of this mechanic.  A supporting unit just needs to move within the Zone of Control of the unit they are supporting.  So you can do it from the side, back, etc.  This will help create a "front".

I also updated when Discipline checks were needed.  In Wars of the Republic units would need to take a Discipline check for every courage loss.  That way, a unit could start to waver and lose formation benefits after only taking 1 Courage loss!  This helped with some of the tactical choices of the game.  This was intended to be in the original Men of Bronze too, but due to my own error it did not make it in.  

A dedicated Melee Phase was also added to help resolve combat interactions.  This is a big difference to Men of Bronze as you resolve Melee as they happen.  This was to help clean up some of the "who is supporting what" questions and when a unit is or is not supporting.    

I also broadened the game to take into account the unique fighting styles of various cultures, kingdoms, and empires through out the period.  This includes Roman Legions, Greek Hoplites, Macedonian Phalanxes, Thracian Peltasts, Parthian Mounted Bowman, Elephants, Scythed Chariots, and more.  It was a lot of different fighting styles and a huge period of time to cover.  To do this I had to add a number of units, formations, and special rules to help capture the feel of Wars of the Republic period.  However, I think it gives a good sandbox of units, fighting styles, and armies you can field for the time frame.  You can even use the rules to fight non-Roman conflicts anywhere in the Mediterranean to the End of the Republic.      

One thing that is a big departure from Men of Bronze is that this book had no room for a Brief History.  The Historical Scenarios barely made the final cut.  That KILLED me!  However, it was more important that I added formations, units, mechanics, and army lists.  After all, this book covers a huge swath of history!  However, as my editors assured me, there are plenty of places to get the history for those who wanted it to craft their own scenarios and to learn the background of their forces.  After all, most of the people buying the book probably know more about the subject than me!   

So there you go.  The core mechanics of the game have a few tweaks here and there but the core of opposed dice rolls, using Commander's Gaze (Arete Points), focal points, etc. all are in this rule set as well.  Therefore, if you liked Men of Bronze you will probably enjoy this ruleset as well.  There are a few tweaks to address some points of concern in the original rules.  Plus, now they are expanded to include more historical units and fighting styles. 

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  1. Have you considered writting an article on adapting some of the changes you made to the game for Men of Bronze? It would be really appreciated.

    1. Hmmm, I will give that a shot. However, it won't be published until early next year.

  2. Hi, just got the book. I gave a quick look, but I didn't find how many models should a unit have.

    1. There is no "wrong" answer to this question. The system is designed to be scale and model agnostic. As long as both sides are organized the same way, you should be fine.

      I personally use 10 models of 28mm scale. However, I have also used 60mm x 60mm based units with 96 6mm models per base/unit. I have also had people use 40 model units at 28mm. In 15mm, I have used three 40mm x 40mm bases of 4 models each. They all worked fine in the game.

      You can use whatever looks good to you, fits your collection, and matches your table. Enjoy!

  3. Hi Eric. I've just received the book and hope to try the rules out at the my club soon using my old WAB armies. Is it possible to recommend a points size for an introductory game? Just wondering how many units we'll be able to handle as complete beginners. If you do make this suggestion in the book then apologies - I've only taken a brief look so far.

    1. Thanks for the purchase Paul! I know you will have fun with them!

      The recommendation in the book is on the page with the Sample Lines of Battle. IIRC, they were all built to 28 points. That should give you 4-8 units depending on the mix. A game that size lasts about an hour.

      Hope that helps!

    2. Thanks for the purchase Paul! I know you will have fun with them!

      The recommendation in the book is on the page with the Sample Lines of Battle. IIRC, they were all built to 28 points. That should give you 4-8 units depending on the mix. A game that size lasts about an hour.

      Hope that helps!

  4. Thanks Eric. I've put together Roman and Pyrrhic armies of forty points each; six and five units respectively. We are going to give the game a try at our club next week. Looking forward to it!

  5. Replies
    1. We had a really enjoyable game on Thursday evening. We both made mistakes, as is to be expected for a first tryout, but we will have learned valuable lessons from them. It turned into a Pyrrhic victory (not a 'Pyrrhic Victory') for me after my heavy cavalry defeated the light cavalry defending the Roman flank and were able to turn their attention to the legion. I'm afraid I have a few questions I'd like to ask you. Is this the best forum for that, or is there another public forum in which you would welcome questions about the rules?

    2. The best, public thread is currently on the Lead Adventure Forums, so that maybe a good place to add onto. It might even answer your questions too!

      By April I will compile all the questions and add them to a living FAQ on the blog.

    3. The best, public thread is currently on the Lead Adventure Forums, so that maybe a good place to add onto. It might even answer your questions too!

      By April I will compile all the questions and add them to a living FAQ on the blog.

  6. Hello! I own three boxes each of the HAT brand Punic Wars boxes (the 1/72 ones). I have limited table space, basically 3 feet by 3 feet. I do have plenty of terrain. Would this equipment work with wars of the Republic? Thanks!

  7. Welcome Steve,

    I am not Familiar with what is in the HaT boxes. However the game is scale and model agnostic. If you set the proper Measurement Unit distance it will work.

    1. many thanks. The HaT boxes just come with oodles of single based infantry, cavalry etc. They are somewhere between 15mm and 28mm in scale, closer to 28 I think. I recently discovered these sets; they have the advantage of already being assembled, just cut off sprue and paint. They do need bigger bases as the ones they come on are very small and sort of oval shaped - I am putting them on 20mm square bases. They are intended for dioramas, but are plenty sturdy for gaming.

      Thanks for your reply. I received the WotR book yesterday, and plan on giving it a thorough going over this weekend.

    2. Sounds like 20mm or 1/72 models in those HaT boxes. Those should work just fine!

      Let me know if you have any other questions. Thanks for the purchase!

  8. It's unclear what "(Width of table/8=X)/6= 1 MU" actually is. There shouldn't be two "=" in an equation like that. What is "X"? Is MU meant to be width/48?

    Also, I asked a couple of questions in the message board:
    - Do the Lines of Battle lists assume a particular point value for an army?
    - Is there any significant difference in combat between hoplite and pike phalanxes? The stats/traits are similar for the units.

    Also, is there anything about line relief for Triplex Acies? What benefit is there having the three lines, beyond support from the second line (which a phalanx can have as well)?

    1. Thanks David and WELCOME!

      Yeah, I am not a math guy by nature. It should probably be expressed differently. The idea is to divide the table width by 8 and then divide that by 6, and you should have a reasonable MU size. 48inches/8 is 6. Then 6 divided by 6 is 1 inch of MU.

      I also answered your other questions on the Messageboard, but here is a quick summary:

      1. No
      2. Yeah, they should have 1 courage less than the Pike units, but in all the drafts that got lost in translation.

      Now, the final question about the Triplex Acies..... there is a lot of personal decisions that went into how I want it represented, and suffice to say I did not want special rules to do it. I think I will have to write another post about that topic soon.

  9. Hi Eric, really enjoying these rules. Just a quick question, can units be given multiple commanders gaze tokens per phase? Just a little confused😊,many thanks