Ancient Battles Deluxe
From Guts To Gunpowder
Deluxe Series #2
Ancient Battles from the time of ancient Egypt until warfare began using Gunpowder in the 14th Century is the subject of this interesting boardgame. I guess one item that needs to be clarified from the beginning is that this is not just a game. This is a boardgame system at which gamers will learn the system and will be able to play a multitude of Scenarios based around the system. At the present time there are XX games available as Expansions to the system which I will discuss later in the review. First, let’s take an in depth look at the Ancient Battles Deluxe System (ABD).
- The Physical Components and Scale
- The physical components of this game are typical of todays’ small to mid-size publisher. The gamer receives the following in a zip lock bag;
- One 12-page, illustrated, color rules book
- Two 11” x 17” full color game maps, ‘A’ and ‘B’
- 261 full-color, mounted, die-cut square and round game pieces
- Eight scenario listings / game setup sheets
- Two player aid sheets
- One page of Designers Notes
- Polybag packaging and component storage
The scale of the game varies depending on the battle that is being fought. However, each game turn is the equivalent to 45 minutes of time. The scale of each counter varies from dozens of men to hundreds of men, beasts and equipment. Combine this with the fact that no ground scale is provided for the map and you have an open ended game system that can create any battle through 30+ Centuries of history.
As mentioned, the rules are only 12 pages in length with 2 pages devoted to an Example of Combat and the last page covering Optional Rules. The rules are written in the cases format which means you have a major rule presented and then underneath that you can be given cases or subcases to further define or explain the rule. You really have 18 Main Sections of the rules and they are;
- Using the Rules
- Equipment Used
- Sequence of Play
- Army Panic Check
- Determine Initiative
- Panic Movement
- Ranged Combat
- Melee Combat
- End of Turn Activities
- Camps and War Wagons
- Victory Conditions
- Game Play Example
- Optional Rules
The game System
Now that we have looked a bit at what you receive in the package, the scale and what is contained in the rules, it is time to look at the Game System. The first thing to look at is the games Sequence of Play. Ancient Battles Deluxe has a nicely flowing sequence that will become second nature in a very short amount of time. The Sequence of Play is;
- Remove Leaders
- Army Panic Checks
- Receive Command Points
- Determine Initiative
- Place Leaders
- Melee Combat
- Turn End
When first reading the sequence, you may look at it a little strange because you see Remove Leaders and Place Leaders in the same sequence. The Leaders are the units that distribute “Command Points” and they are removed and freely placed once the Command Points for the turn are generated. Once they are generated, players can place their Leaders back on the map anywhere they desire. You can think of this as the leader running back and forth giving orders to his units.
Every Leader has a base number of Command Points on the counter that they can use. Depending on the leader being used, this can be a multiplier or an additive. To whatever Leader is used per the Scenario Setup, each player will roll a single 6 sided die and refer to a Command Table to see how may Command Points they will receive total this turn. So, whatever number they receive on the Command Point table from the die roll, the player will multiply or add the Leaders inherent Command Points to come up with a total number of Command Points that can be used on that turn.
After this, there is the Determine Initiative Phase. This is just a simple die roll of a 1d6 with the highest roll deciding if he will go first or second. However, this is where the first strategy comes into play as payers can bid command points to increase their chances of winning the initiative. This can go back and forth until both players pass. Whichever player wins the initiative now places their leaders back down on the map anywhere they desire so that they can control the units when doling out Command Points.
The next enjoyable strategy area of Ancient Battle Deluxe has players deciding to Move, Fire, Rally, Check Panic or perform Melee. Once you activate a unit, or formation of units that are adjacent to one another, you are starting to deploy your strategy. Should you have your units move, should they fire their ranged combat weapons, or maybe move in for hand-to-hand melee combat!
Movement is pretty much standard as you have a hex map and each unit exerts a Zone of Control. However, the Zones of Control in ABD only exist to the front of the unit in question. So if you happen to be maneuvering into the flank or rear of your enemy, you will receive a bonus as even this is taken into consideration in the game. When a unit has completed its movement action, the player must place a Yellow Action marker on the unit which signifies that it has moved.
Fire Combat or Ranged attacks in ABD can only be accomplished if the units that you have activated have arrows and a ranged value enclosed in a hex on their counters. The number above the hex value is the units Missile Defense Value.
These are your units with bows, javelins, slings and so forth. The ranged weapon type depends on the period being played. Once a ranged combat is declared, the defender first rolls a 1d6 and to that amount he will add his Missile Defense Value.
Now, the attacker will throw a number of dice that are equal to the number of arrows that are seen on the counter. In our example counter, we see there are two arrows, so the attacker will throw 2d6. The attacker will now take the highest roll of the two dice and that will become his attack die.
Players now compare the modified Missile Defense Value found above with the attackers high die roll, and if the Attacker Value is greater than (>) the Defense Value the defending unit becomes disordered by flipping the unit over to its disordered side. Now if the defending unit was already disordered and was forced to take another hit, that unit would be eliminated. One final step you need to perform is to place a red marker on top of the fired unit as this denotes that this particular unit already fired and may not participate in any Melee attacks.
The first action that players perform in a Melee is to remove all the Yellow Action Markers from the map. Once this is completed, starting with the player who has the Initiative this turn, players’ will alternate conducting Melee until all Melee combats have been completed. Once a Melee is performed, a Red Action Marker should be placed on top of the unit that just performed that combat so everyone will know that it has had its Combat Action this turn.
Now, let’s pause a second and think about the sequence. When we wanted to Move a unit into the Zone of Control of an enemy unit, we had to spend a Command Point. When he was moved we placed the Yellow Action Marker on him, but the whole idea is that we already spent the Command Point. Well for Melee, we do not spend any Command Points because they were already spent moving the units into melee position. So, in ABD, Melee Combat just happens to units that are adjacent to one another. The attacking player chooses one of his units that is directly in the Zone of Control or one of the rear or flank hexes of an enemy unit to attack.
At this point, if the defending unit is a Light Infantry Unit, or Cavalry Unit, it may be able to evade Melee Combat by Retreating before Melee. This Retreat is totally optional, in that the target unit does not have to Retreat before Melee that is the units owning players decision.
We are starting to get into the most complicated area of ABD, calculating the combat odds to determine and outcome. The first thing we need to do is find the Modified Base Strength of the attacking unit and the defending unit.
Before we perform any calculations, I want to talk about the Base Strength Multipliers. The Base Multipliers that are introduced into the game and are cumulative are;
A. +1 for Each +1 Leader stacked with the unit
B. +1 For the Unit Itself
C. +1 For Each Leader with a Combat Bonus of x1
D. +2 For Each Leader with a Combat Bonus of x2
E. +1 If the unit is Cavalry Effective
F. Finally, you also take into consideration the relationship of the defending units facing and the hex from which the attacking unit occupies. Below is an illustration of the Base Modifiers that an attacker will receive when attacking a defending unit from various hexes.
I will use the example below and detail a Melee Combat.
In this example, we will have the Blue Heavy Infantry attack the Red Phalanx. The Leaders are stacked on top of the units, however for visual representation they are shown here in separate hexes.
The first action we must perform is to find the Attacker and Defenders multiplier. Our Blue Heavy Infantry Attacking unit has a +2 for our x2 Leader and a +1 for the unit which will gives us a multiplier of x3. The Heavy Infantry unit has an Attack Value of 4. We roll a 1d6 (a 5 was rolled) and add this roll to the Attack Value This now gives us an Attack Value of 9 which is multiplied by 3 for a total Attacker Modified Base Strength of 27.
The defending Red Phalanx unit has a x1 Leader which will add a +1, a +1 Leader which adds another +1 and +1 for our Phalanx unit. The Phalanx unit has a Defensive Value of 6. We roll a 1d6 (a 2 was rolled) and add this roll to our Defensive Value. This now gives us a Defensive Value of 8 which is multiplied by our x3 multiplier for a total Defensive Strength of 24.
Since the Attackers total Attack Strength is greater than the Defenders Defense Strength, but less than twice as much, the attacking and defending units remain Engaged which means they will Melee again the following turn.
To each of these Base Strengths, we would add any Attacker and Defender Terrain additions or subtractions and depending on which hex the attacking unit was performing the attack may also add modifiers. In our example, there are no additional modifiers.
While Melee may sound complicated and confusing, once you play a few examples, you find that it flows logically and provides a fast moving game.
Expansions and Scenarios
One of the items that make this series of games so enjoyable is its open ended expansion. At the moment there are six expansions for the Ancient Battles Deluxe Series and they all require the Ancient Battles Deluxe Base Game. The current Expansions that are available are;
- Series 1 Elephants ($14.95)
- Series 2 Horsemen ($14.95)
- Series 3 Ordnanace ($14.95)
- Series 4 Art of War ($14.95)
- Series 5 Design Your Own ($20.95)
- Series 5.1 Way of the Samurai ($11.95)
An item that is exceptionally impressive is the number of Scenarios that are presented in the Base game and Expansions. Each of these Scenarios are challenging and all of them cover a wide range of history. The Scenarios are;
- Kadesh (Hittites vs Egyptians, 1288 BC)
- Leuctra (Thebes vs Sparta, 371 BC)
- Chaeronea (Macedonia vs Thebes, 338 BC)
- Granicus (Macedonia vs Persia, 334 BC)
- Legnano (Barbarosa vs Pope Alexander III, 1176 AD)
- Hattin (Crusaders vs Saladin, 1187 AD)
- Arsouf (Saladin vs Richard the Lionheart, 1191 AD)
- Bannockburn (Edward of England vs Robert the Bruce, 1314 AD)
Series 1 Elephants
- Second Mantinea (Epaminodas vs Agesilaus II, 362 BC)
- Gaugamela (Alexander vs Darius, 331 BC)
- Hydaspes (Alexander vs Porus, 326 BC)
- Heraclea (Pyrrhus vs Laevinus, 280 BC)
- Trebia (Longus vs Hannibal, 218 BC)
- Raphia (Antiocus III vs Ptolemy IV, 217 BC)
- Cannae (Hannibal vs Varro, 216 BC)
- Zama (Hannibal vs Africanus, 202 BC)
- Magnesia (Antiochus III vs Scipio, 190 BC)
- Vosges (Caesar vs Ariovistus, 58 BC)
- Carrhae (Surena vs Crassus, 53 BC)
- Philippi (Republicans vs Triumvir, 42 BC)
- Argentoratum (Chnodomar vs Julian, 357 AD)
- Clontarf (Mael Morda vs Brian Boru, 1014 AD)
- Durazzo (Guiscard vs Comnenus, 1081 AD)
- Bouvines (Phillip II vs Otto IV, 1214 AD)
Series 2 Horsemen
- Qarqar (Shalmanesar III vs Hadadezer, 853 BC)
- Thymbra (Croesus vs Cyrus, 547 BC)
- Marathon (Miltiades vs Datis, 490 BC)
- Platea (Mardonius vs Pausanius, 479 BC)
- Lake Trasimeno (Hannibal vs Flaminius, 217 BC)
- 2nd Cynoscephalae (Philip V vs Flamininus, 197 BC)
- Pharsalus (Julius Caesar vs Pompey, 48 BC)
- Cibalae (Licinius vs Constantine, 315 AD)
- Ad Decimum (Belisarius vs Gelimer, 533 AD)
- Volturnus (Butilinus vs Narses, 554 AD)
- Hastings (William vs Harold, 1066 AD)
- Manzikert (Romanos IV vs Alp Arslan, 1071 AD)
- Indus (Jelal Ad-Din vs Ghengis Khan, 1221 AD)
- Liegnica (Henry vs Kadan, 1241 AD)
- Falkirk (Edward I vs Wallace, 1298 AD)
- Sempach (Leopold III vs Arnold von Winkelreid, 1386 AD)
Series 3 Ordnance
- Megiddo (Thutmose III vs the King of Kadesh, 1457 BC)
- Issus (Alexander vs Darius, 333 BC)
- Pydna (Perseus vs Paulus, 168 BC)
- 2nd Adrianople (Valens vs Fritigern, 378 AD)
- Catalaunian Plains (Aetius vs Attila, 451 AD)
- Lechfeld (Bulcsu vs Otto I, 955 AD)
- Dorylaeum (Kilij Arslan vs Bohemond, 1097 AD)
- Kalka River (Jebe vs Mstislav, 1223 AD)
- Kutna Hora (Sigismund vs Jan Zizka, 1421 AD)
- Habry (Jan Zizka vs Pipa, 1422 AD)
- Malesov (Jan Zizka vs Borok, 1424 AD)
- Aussig (Prokop vs Boso, 1426 AD)
- Lipany (Prokop vs Borok, 1434 AD)
- 2nd Kossovo (Murad II vs John Hunyadi, 1448 AD)
- Formigny (Thomas Kyriell vs Comte de Clermont, 1450 AD)
- Cerignola (de Cordoba vs d’Armagnac, 1503 AD)
Series 4 Art of War
- Muye (Zhou vs Shang, 1027 BC)
- Che (Yen vs Cheng, 717 BC)
- Yen-Ling (Chin vs Ch’u, 575 BC)
- Sabis River (Boduognatus vs Julius Caesar, 57 BC)
- Idistaviso (Germanicus vs Arminius, 16 AD)
- Watling Street (Boudiccea vs Paulinus, 60 AD)
- Tours (Abdul Rahman vs Carles Martel, 732 AD)
- Ashdown (Alfred vs the Vikings, 871 AD)
- Harran (Soqman vs Baldwin II, 1104 AD)
- Montgisard (Baldwin IV vs Saladin, 1177 AD)
- La Forbie (Baibars vs Walter IV, 1244 AD)
- Crecy (Phillip VI vs Edward III, 1346 AD)
- Poitiers (John II vs the Black Prince, 1356 AD)
- Agincourt (Henry V vs Charles VI, 1415 AD)
- Varna (Vladyslav III vs Murad II, 1444 AD)
- Brunkeberg (Christian I vs Sten Sture, 1471 AD)
Series 5 and 5.1 Design Your Own and Way of the Samurai
- Fornham St. Genevieve
- 4th Kawanakajima
- The Anegawa
The Ancient Battles Deluxe System is a fast, fun, and enjoyable system that as the title says goes from Guts to Gunpowder. While the rules could be better written and they are I feel contradictory and confusing at times, the two page example at the end of the manual clears up much of that confusion. While it may appear to be bit expensive to acquire all of the games in the series, if you average the cost per scenario, you are paying less than $1.50 per scenario. Combine this with the rich history and the unique battles that the game presents, and you have a real value for your money. Overall, Ancient Battles Deluxe is an excellent open ended system that provides for extremely enjoyable games that can be played solitaire or against an opponent.