Friday, 3 April 2015

An introduction to "To the Strongest!" - Part 2

Following on from the previous battle, next up was 1st-century Gauls versus Roamn, with me taking the Romans this time.  If I remember correctly, I had a single standard-size (i.e. two hit) raw legionary unit, six average legionary units, and four veteran units that were only half-sized - i.e. single-hit units.  There were a couple of allied cavalry units, some camp-guards (armed servants), and a single unit of archers.  The Gauls had three units of cavalry, and 8 blocks of infantry warriors, who counted as "deep" and thus had 3 hits each; there was probably a unit of youths hanging at the rear who played no effective pat in the clash.

The set-up is as on the right, with "my" lads on the left; Aaron supplied all the figures for this game, however.  Single trees are just for show, but squares with two trees counted as woods and therefore rough going, as did the stream on my right. I figured my right was the strongest of my three commands, although when it came to the crunch it didn't quite perform as well as expected...  Aaron had his two right horse units in a single small command, with the rest of the army evenly split between two large commands. All my generals were "detached" (like Lost Battles "commanders") while his were "attached" (like Lost Battles "leaders").

"To the Strongest!", in addition to generals, also has "heroes".  I was very sceptical about these when I first looked at the rules, but they are actually a really good feature. A "hero" costs one point, and allows a single missed attack roll to be rerolled. That's it. A really good way of distinguishing two units from one-another, without the big difference implied by making one of them raw or vetreran, is to give the better unit a hero, as it should given them a slight edge in the attack.  One of the biggest problems with Lost Battles is the massive difference in effectiveness between the three grades of troops, as opposed to the entirely accurate difference in effectiveness between the grades of troops: in Lost Battles you have three and only three levels, so the "army lists" are chock-full of dodges like grading two historically identical "units" differently in an attempt to "average out" their effectiveness away from what a single grading would amount too, which really undermines the whole "model". 

The fight was pretty much a straight-up affair, with the main lines marching forward, and getting on with it. Romans get a definite advantage over other foot with their "heavy throwing weapons" but it's not like as if they are carrying grenades like the equivalent feature in Basic Impetus (written by an Italian, note!), so it's a decent bit of chrome without being overbearing.  It didn't help them much against the Macedonians in the previous game, note!  Also not helping the Gallic cause in this game was Aaron's complete inability to ally any hits.  I probably rallied half a dozen hits over the course of the two games, maybe more, and I don't recall Aaron managing to rally a single hit.  Sometimes Fortune just isn't with you...  Rallying itself is one of those inetresting "decision points" that makes a good game - do you try and rally a hit, or do you try and hit the enemy with your unit's first - and quite possibly only - activation?  Sometimes it's an easy choice, but certainly not at other times.

In this game, I deployed a front line of two-hit legionary units, with the one-hit veterans in reserve. When the front unit took a hit and became disordered, I had a choice between trying an rallying it, or executing a line replacement, and bringing up my fresh veterans, and this worked quite well; it was certainly a flexibility the Gauls didn't have. To the right you can see how a veteran unit has passed through the larger average unit, with general, to take up the lead position - presumably because it still had its pila in hand (which you get to use a single time).  Talking of one-shot weapons, the only real book-keeping involves ammo.  Missile troops do have an amunition supply, so they need to carry around some small chits representing this.  On the other hand, it's handled quite well, so it didn't worry me too much.

The game was quite bloody, and although the Romans definitely had the upper hand, Aaron was in with a chance even at the end.  To the right is the remnants of Aaron's right wing, or the infantry component lestways; the horse having galloped off into the distance trying to take out my own cavalry, who put up some fantastically stubborn resistence.  As you can see, this Gallic unit has not only a legionary unit to their front, urged on by a general, but the unit next in line had broken, and they are about to be rolled up by the victorious unit there taking them in the flank.  As it happened, the Gallic force broke before this combat could be resolved.

I was really impressed by the rules - with the caveat that they are very much a work-in-practice.  Simon Miller is by all accounts a "standard gamer" who, like many of us, are questing for their Holy Grail of games, and, again, like many of us, has decided to write his own set because nothing he finds is good enough. But unlike many of us, he has actually succeeded in putting them into a shape suitable for wider desemination.  But boy, does he need an editor!

Some things are simply sloppy English.  Here's typical example in an passage suppsoed to illustrate play: "the Roman player decides that he must attempt to rally".  This is oxymoronic - either "must" or "decides" needs to be replaced with something else; in this case, presumably, "must" should be something like "would be wise to".  But in other places, there are plain-and-simple rules contradictions, like how under the "Senior generals" section it says, quite explicitly,  that a Senior general must have a "command" (and thus they are no different from other generals in this regard), but under the section "The order of battle", it equally explicitly says a Senior general need not have a command of their own!

Once the worst of these bugs are ironed out, I think "To the Strongest!" could become a very well-rounded system indeed.


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  2. That's six months' worth of posts in one day, Luke!

    1. Well, I guess, for once, quality is making up for quantity, then :-)

  3. Waagh! The senior generals is one I should have spotted, Luke; if there is time I'll fix it before the print run. I am sure that Aaron will testify that my written English is not 100%, although it has improved, somewhat, during the process of writing the rules. :-) Still I'm very glad you enjoyed the game. Best, Simon

  4. Bloody but nice! Great looking armies...

  5. Thanks Phil; the credit for the looks should go to Aaron though :-)