Saturday, September 06, 2008

Camp Cromwell 05/09/08

Field of Glory Ancients

Renfrey's Roman's v. SteveJ's Carthaginians, Jim umpiring.
We used the sample armies in the rule book to do a test run of these rules.
On his left Steve mucked up his maneuvers and copped a couple of flank attacks to lose the flank. On his right he won a fair cavalry fight & after a long struggle the elephants beat triari. But the battle was decided in the centre where the Carthaginian skirmishers out-diced the velites then their larger foot units prevailed over the smaller, but better Roman units.

I'm still wary of making a judgment on these rules, having been mislead by first impressions of rules before (as Nick won't let me forget). The combat system is pretty good, but marred by the difficulty of picking out relevant factors from the tables. The rules suffer from unclear writing, lack of a one stop reference table for terminology & abbreviations, and poor arrangement (though an expanded index download helps). The book is full of instances where they tell you part of the rules for something in one place & the rest in another place with no cross reference. Eg: You'd expect to find victory conditions under Victory & Defeat on p 118, but there it only tells you that you have decisive victory if the enemy has attrition points >= the number of units - without saying what attrition points are nor referring you to where they are defined (they are in the Playing the Game section on p37).
The turn sequence seems unduly complex & the game is slowed down by multiple combat rounds each turn - there's an impact combat round for new charges, then a melee round so a combat has 2 rounds of combat using different combat factors in it's first turn - so in a pair of IGoUGo turns there are 4 sets of combat resolutions, plus 4 sets of firing calcs as both sides fire missiles in each turn. It's very inefficient.
To keep a game simple & focused a designer has to select the most important parameters to include in detail, while ignoring or simplifying others. I'm not sure that the selection is always to my taste & whether there are enough real tactical options - games I have seen have tended to degrade into dice fests - but that may well be newbie players not knowing how to play the game.
There is nothing particularly brilliant apparent except for the presentation - which is certainly excellent - but surely this is not the most important aspect of wargames rules. They do have some good ideas, but it's a pity that they are often poorly implemented. They have many similarities to the latest Camp Cromwell Rules (we've been plagiarizing the same sources). Fair comparison is difficult because of different levels of familiarity, but there's no doubt that the Camp Cromwell rules are vastly more efficient in playing time & mental effort.
It remains to be seen if the perceived problems will go away once we know the rules well enough to get on with the game without being hung up on rules searches. The benefits of knowing how to use a widely accepted set of commercial rules are obvious & these are probably better than the current alternative (Warhammer Ancients), so I think it's worth persevering with them.

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