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The Orkney Wargames Club meets

in Kirkwall on Thursday evenings.


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The Battle of Aliartos, 86 BC

The Roman World,  To the Strongest,  28mm

This week we were off to Greece, to try out a new set of Ancient rules. To the Strongest are certainly different. For starters players don’t use tape measures or dice. Instead the tabletop is divided into unobtrusive squares, and cards are drawn to decide activation and to resolve combat. Bill Gilchrist and I decided to give them a go, using two small armies drawn from my stash of Late Republican Romans and Mithraditic Pontic forces. Each side had nine units – four units of cavalry (two medium, two light), a unit of skirmishers, and four infantry units. For the Romans these were legionary cohorts, two of which were rated veteran. For the Pontic army two were large pike phalanxes, the other two were units of raw spearmen. We played the game on a 6×4 foot table, divided into 20cm (8 inch) squares, delineated by little stick-down yellow dots. You can sort of see them in the picture above. That gave us a grid of 54 squares – 9 x 6. Both armies deployed on the line of squares closest to their table edge, with Bill taking the Romans, and I the Mithraditic host.IMG_2108
The game began with a slow but methodical Roman advance. Bill’s two commands were almost equally split – two cohorts and two cavalry units apiece, but one had a unit of Balearic slingers attached. For my part I’d split my infantry and cavalry into two forces, and gave Mithradites himself command of the horse. He advanced across the table, with two blocks of cavalry, one following behind the other, and each consisting of a unit of Pontic lancers, and another of Scythian horse archers. This put them within range of the slingers, who promptly shot up the leading unit of Scythians, and they were removed from the table. They then disrupted my Pontic cavalry, and forced a “risk to general” test on my commander – Mithradites himself. He passed, then rallied his lancers, only for them to be shot up and disordered for a second time. That though, was the Roman high water mark. After that the gods seemed to desert Bill, and his alter ego Lucius Cornelius Sulla.
My pike phanlanxes and their raw supports lingered near my table edge, forcing the Romans to advance towards them. Surprisingly my small skirmish unit of Cappadocian archers disordered a Roman cohort with their archery, and the next turn they hit it again, wiping it out. Both times Bill pulled awful “to save” cards. Back over on the Pontic cavalry with Mithdadites rallied his horsemen again, and charged the pesky slingers, forcing them to evade off the table. The supporting unit of Numidian light horsemen beat a hasty retreat around the far side of a small wood. By now the infantry lines had sort of got into contact.  While some of the Roman cavalry moved up to support the Roman right, the rest – another unit of Numidians plus another unit of Gallic horse – threatened the right flank of my right-hand pike block. This forced it to turn to face the threat, and it spent the rest of the game there, facing off both the cavalry and a cohort of Roman legionaries. The pikemen were disordered about three times – and double disordered once – but they held on, largely thanks to the efforts of Mithdradites’ son Prince Arcathius, eho kept rallying them.
That was when things began to go badly wrong for the Romans. First, Mithradites rode around the small wood, and hit the Numidians in the rear. This wiped them out. At the same time the remaining unit of Gallic cavalry on the flank were threatened from the flank by the rest of the Pontic horse. You can see the situation in the picture down below. By that time another Roman cohort had gone west, having been chopped up by repeated attacks from the left-hand Pontic pike phalanx, and the supporting unit of raw Greek spearmen. SUlla was with these Romans, and when they were removed he was placed next to the next unit of his command – the Gallic horse. At that moment they were charged from both flank and rear, and went down in a welter of Pontic lances and javelins. Unfortunately for Bill he pulled an ace (a 1) for the “risk to general” test, followed by a “10” – a combination that meant Sulla Felix’s luck ran out.  He died under the hooves of the Pontic horse. At that stage we ended the game, as just over half of the Roman army had been wiped out, together with its senior general, and one of its two formations had passed its demoralisation level. So, that was a conclusive result, but was the game any good. Despite his drubbing Bill was enthusiastic – as was I. To the strongest is a well-thought out set of rules, with slick mechanics, where a lot of detail is hidden in the factors and abilities of the various units. Once you got your head around the no dice and no tape measures thing it worked very well -and very quickly for a first outing. We’ll certainly resurrect poor Lucius Cornelius, and give the rules another outing some time soon.IMG_2110




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