After my game with Keith earlier in the week, I decided to dig out my wooden blocks and have some trial games of To the Strongest, just to see how they compared to other ancient rules I play, namely 'Dux Bellorum' and 'Sword & Spear'. So after some very basic line up and advance to contact games, just to get a hang of the main mechanics, it was time to have a 'proper' game, with figures and some scenery.
To keep things simple and at a manageable size, I used an old 2' x 2' board, marked out with 2" squares and then put down some basic terrain features to break the board up a bit. In terms of forces involved, I went with my Late Romans/early Saxons and early Vikings, both of which were pretty 'vanilla', again to keep things simple.
I decided that the Vikings would be the attackers, mainly because I happened to sit down on that side of the table and it also made sense 'historically'. Again no notes were made, but the game was fast and furious, so hopefully the following annotated 'photos will help you follow the action.
|The view from the Viking baseline. Both sides broadly deployed in a linear fashion, with skirmishers on the flanks.|
|The Saxon camp on the left with the 'Agnos Dei' and the cross and some light cavalry on the flank.|
|"If God is with us, who can stand against us?" or at least that was the hope of the Saxons.|
|The Danes had brought along their bacon and seer.|
|The Danes got off to a good start, with their skirmishers advancing smartly to take control of the wood and rough ground, whilst the centre moved forward a tad further than planned, as the supporting troops failed to follow up.|
|The Saxons in reply pushed forward in a pretty solid line, but had failed to deploy a reserve.|
|The view from the Saxon right flank.|
|The Danish left flank could be outflanked by the Saxon cavalry. Hopefully the archers in the rough ground would be able to slow them down.|
|The Danish line not exactly in line.|
|The Danes were able to realign their troops into a better formation, whilst the archers drew first blood as well as destroying a unit of Saxon light cavalry. On the Danish left flank, a Shieldwall unit had broken through the Saxon lines and pushed through the wood to threaten to turn their flank.|
|The threat from the Saxon flank has diminished somewhat.|
|The Danish right flank.|
|The sheep are getting nervous as the Danes have pushed past the Saxon right flank.|
|The Saxons are really taking a battering as the card gods are not with them today.|
|The Saxon light cavalry charged the skirmishing archers in the rough ground, which proved to be a big mistake. Lesson learnt.|
|The Danish right flank still holds firm.|
|Saxon units threatened by lots of Danes. Not a good position to be in methinks.|
|The 'Gotterdammerung' moment. The Saxons are losing units left, right and centre.|
|There is little opposition left on the Danish left flank and in the centre.|
|The Danish right flank pushed forward as well.|
|Time for the sheep to exit the table as quickly as possible, as the Saxon position has become untenable.|
|The Saxon losses. The Danes had none.|
Well that was certainly fast and furious and over much more quickly than I was expecting. So from my few games so far, I thought I'd jot down some thoughts:
- The rulebook is incredibly well laid out. It is very easy to find things you want to refer to with minimal effort. If only all rules were like this. The ring binding makes it easy to leave the book open at the page you want, but I've found most of the time it is on the QRS page at the back, which I really should print out.
- The rules so far have been incredibly easy to pick up. Using the grid system for movement and the cards to resolve activation, shooting and melee mean that you can understand the basics, very, very quickly.
- There is lots more detail contained in the rules, which I'm slowly adding to as my games progress. Danes versus Saxons is a good way to start, as you don't have too many fancy units to deal with. Next up I want to try adding in say chariots, elephants and heavy cavalry and it will be interesting to see how the game feels then.
- To do the above, I really need to create a proper army list for each force, with their break points etc calculated. I also want to use the Strategems and maybe one of the scenarios, other than a simple line up and advance to contact. But I don't want to run before I can walk.
- Shooting so far hasn't proved to be too effective. As these rules cover up to the Middle Ages, I'm not sure how they would work replaying Agincourt or Crecy. Not that I want to, but it's a good benchmark to see how they handle massed longbows.
- Using playing cards rather than die seemed strange at first, but it certainly makes the game go along at a fair old lick. So far I reckon you could get a couple of games in an evening no trouble at all.
- I wasn't sure about how I'd feel with a grid based game, but based on my games so far, I'm a convert. It won't stop my playing 'Dux Bellorum' etc, but the ease and speed of game play as a result makes these probably 'my go' to rules for Ancients games.
- Having played my games on a 2' x 2' table with a 2" grid, I plan to enlarge the table to a 3' x 2' and to use 3" grids. This will allow me to field chariots, elephants etc that currently would struggle to fit nicely in the 2" boxes. I still plan to base my foot on 40mm x 20mm bases, as then I can use them across other rulesets with ease.
- Having enjoyed my games so far, I'm really looking forward to the release of 'For King & Parliament', the ECW variant of the game that is due out early next year. I'm tempted to go back to 2mm for these rules, but will wait and see. I'm not sure whether Keith would talk to me again if i did!
So far I'm very happy with these rules. They are also supported by a forum as well as loads of free army lists on the 'To the Strongest' home page along with updates to the existing rules. Once I've finished enough units for some games of 'The Pikemen's Lament', then I think it will be time to revisit my Ancients armies and get on with some painting.