Ok, ok, the actual title of the rules from Two Hour Wargames is Warrior Heroes to Be King – but Amazons don’t have kings! At long last I’m trying out the game which is a new edition of one of my favorite games, Rally Round the King. And with RRtK being one of my most favorite games, Warrior Heroes to Be King has some awfully big shoes to fill.
For those who are unfamiliar with RRtK of WHtBK, these rules are for mass battles. Whereas an RPG might have five to twelve figures in an encounter and a skirmish game might have ten to fifty figures, a mass combat game involves forces of fifty figures to several hundred. These games focus on armies and units rather than individual warriors.
The first thing I have to address is the basing of figures. Both RRtK and WHtBK use the WRG/DBx basing conventions. Many ancients and fantasy rule sets use these conventions, it’s probably the closest thing to an industry standard. However, these base sizes are over forty years old. They were created when miniatures were actually 15mm and 25mm in size. Today’s 15mm figures are close to 18mm in size and 25mm gave way to heroic 28mm, which is closer to 32mm today. So, even from the very beginning, I used a different base size to fit my larger figures on. Also, having only three figures on a stand for a unit makes the unit look naked, and with some of the Amazons being nude, they look naked naked.
For my base size, I went with bases 3″ wide and 2″ deep. I just doubled the number of figures for each troop type. The exception being cavalry, a 3″ wide and 4″ deep base becomes quite heavy if you have a unit of six metal cavalry figures.
There are two things very true about special rules – first, they add flavor and interest to a game, and second, they slow a game down and add some complexity. For example, you could have a rule to model the drifting of a phalanx to the right as it moves forward. In hoplite heavy armies, you could have a rule than only Spartan units can wheel to the left and right, while other armies can only wheel to the left. You could have rules to model Roman legionnaires throwing their pila as they engage an enemy in melee. These kinds of special rules can help immerse the player into the details of a battle, but there’s no way such a game can be played in two hours of less. I once attended a convention where a huge table was set up to play the battle of Borodino in 15mm, the players spent two days playing that one game.
Now spending a weekend or an entire evening playing one game can be fun, when we have the time. To play a game in a shorter time period, you must abstract most of the minute details. All of this is just to get to the point that Warrior Heroes to Be King has fewer Special Rules than Rally Round the King. It is easier to list the special rules in WHtBK than to list the ones that did not make this edition.
There are special rules for Artillery, Frenzy, Elite Training, Firearms, and Terror Troops.
Your army must contain a leader fulfilling the role of Commander-in-Chief. This leader is not a standalone figure, but rather a figure in one of the units. You can place this leader in any unit you wish, but it is best to place the leader in a unit with a good chance of surviving the battle. This is because the Commander-in-Chief has a War Rating which determines how many bodies or groups of units can be activated per turn.
Since the Valkae Amazons are modeled on Classical Greek armies, I will place the Commander-in-Chief – the “Strategos” of ancient Greece, in the customary position of honor. In a Greek phalanx, the position of honor is in the rightmost unit. You see, the Greek phalanx was designed so that a soldier’s shield protected the person to his left, so the soldier would get as close as possible to the person on his right to get as much protection as possible. As a result, the phalanx tended to drift to the right as it moved forward. In hoplite warfare, being able to make contact with the enemy in front of you was important, drift too far to the right and many of your soldiers wouldn’t be able to contact the enemy and worse, the enemy would be able to wrap around your flank. So, the strongest leaders were placed on the far right of the line to keep the line from drifting.
My battle is between two Valkae city-states and their allies, the Asterian Alliance led by Asteria, and the Nycenaean League led by Nica. If you have followed this blog for a while, then you probably know Asteria is modeled after Athens and Nica after Sparta.
Bremusa of Quintas is the general, strategos, of the Asterian army with a War Rating of three..
Eumache of Nica is the general of the Nycenaean army and also has a War Rating of three.
The other type of Leader in both WHtBK and RRtK is the Captain. A Captain is a leader that adds a plus one to the War Rating of the Commander-in-Chief and also gives a bonus to the unit he or she is attached. The difference in the two rule sets is that in RRtK, you must have twenty units in your army before you can field your first Captain and can field an additional Captain every ten units after the first twenty. In Warrior Heroes to Be King, there is no requirement tied to the number of units in your army.
Building your army is very similar in the two rule sets. The chief difference being that Warrior Heroes to Be King does not have the point system which was present in RRtK.
There are 39 army lists in WHtBK. If you have an army which isn’t listed, you can easily use an existing army list to help create your own custom army. For example, I have a collection of warrior nymphs from Wargames Foundry, I can use the Elves Silver list to build my army by making a few adjustments. First, nymphs rarely wear armor, so I reduce the AC from AC4 to AC2 for all but the Guard. Second, nymphs don’t have a standing army, so I eliminate the Soldiers troop type. Third, I increase the number of required Forester units from one to two and the number of required Guard units from zero to one. Fourth, because the nymphs fight in a loose formation, I change the number of figures in a Guard unit from four to three. Finally, I make the Commander-in-Chief, the nymph queen, a caster. Admittedly, this isn’t a strong army, but it catches the flavor of an enclave of nymphs defending their sacred places from invaders.
For this game, I’ll just be using one army list, the Valkae, since the battle is Amazon versus Amazon. Each army has a required number of units as its base. This is usually five to seven units. In addition to the base number of units, each army gets three to six recruiting rolls. The Valkae list allows four recruiting rolls.
A recruiting roll can be used to add another unit to the army. For example, recruiting rolls are made using 2d6; I roll a six and a three for a total value of nine and consult the recruiting result column of the Valkae army list, I’ve just recruited a unit of Warriors. The recruiting roll can also be used to add Captains to your army, recruit Casters, recruit heroes, and/or hire mercenaries.
Neither army was able to recruit Casters or Heroes, and for the first battle, I decided not to use Captains. Each army has eleven units. Surprisingly, the two armies are nearly identical.
|#||Asterian Units||#||Nycenaean Units|
|1||Nobles – Elite||2||Nobles – Elite|
|5||Warriors – Frenzy||5||Warriors – Frenzy|
|1||Sword Maidens – Frenzy, Elite||1||Sword Maidens – Frenzy, Elite|
Though the dimensions of the tabletop have not changed, the method for placing terrain and deployment have. In Rally Round the King, either player may roll for the terrain in each section, but it is the defender who physically places the terrain on the tabletop. In RRtK, it is theoretically possible for each section of the tabletop to have a piece of terrain.
Warrior Heroes to Be King differs in that it is the defender who rolls for the terrain and its placement using the terrain box of her/his army list. The terrain box has a modifier plus the result of a 1/2d6 roll. For example, the terrain box for the Valkae army list has “1+1/2d6” as its entry. In my game, the Asterian Amazons are the defenders, so I rolled a result of 2 on a 1/2d6, I add 1 for a final result of 3 pieces of terrain. Regardless of army list, there will never be less than two sections with terrain and never more than four to six sections with terrain. There will always be at least three sections clear and open.
My Robot Wife, who is playing the attacking Nycenaean Amazons, chooses which table edge contains sections 7, 8, and 9. I then roll for each type of terrain and what section it will be in. Section 1 contains woods, section 2 contains a hill, and section 6 contains impassable terrain – I’ll use a small lake.
Battle Tactics and Deployment
Throughout various points of history and various cultures, we have applied ritual to warfare. When war is in the hands of the gods, what need is there for tactics? Such was war at the beginning of the Classical period – libations were poured, animals were sacrificed, and oracles consulted; then everyone just lined up and ran at one another.
However, since the myths and legends showed how capricious the gods could be, generals began to do things to give themselves an edge. Choosing favorable ground, assigning a small force to try to maneuver behind the enemy, and developing new technology such as cavalry that could melee on horseback without falling off, were among the many evolutions of Greek armies in the period. In fact, in the 18th century, the word “tactic” came to us through Latin from a Greek word “taktike” which means “to arrange”.
When playing solo, or against your Robot Wife, the non-player uses the Army Deployment and Tactics table to construct its initial groups of bodies and how they are deployed at the start of the game. As a human player, I can deploy in any formation I may choose, but as a challenge, I decided I would use the same table.
The attacker, the Nycenaean Amazons, will use the “Hammer and Anvil” tactic. She will have a strong center, a large left wing, a small right wing, and a small reserve. Normally, the Hammer and Anvil tactic will have a large right wing, but on her right side is a small lake, impassable terrain.
The defender (me), the Asterian Amazons, will use the “Penetrate Center” tactic. I will have a strong center, small equal sized wings, and a small reserve.
Turn 1 – The Advance
“We’ve had breakfast, the strategos (general), Bremusa of Quintas gave a rousing speech and poured the libation. A priestess performed the sphagia, the goat’s blood spurted in the right direction, the goddess is pleased. After singing the paean, the salphinx was blown signaling the advance.
We march to the pipes at a steady pace across the field with tension building.”
The attacker (my Robot Wife) activates first, moving units from right to left. (She has also chosen to use my favorite pink dice – surely a psychological ploy, she has a wicked Cyndee-like AI.)
Turn 2 – The Belos
The “belos” is the missile fire of a hoplite battle. As the hoplites advance, the skirmishers are doing their best to disrupt the advance with arrows, sling shot, and javelins. It began in turn one, I drew first blood, but the Nycenaean army appeared unfazed. My Robot Wife frowns when she discovers she doesn’t have enough movement to charge, but then smiles when she realizes that I also lack the movement to charge.
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Turn 3 – The Epidromos and Othismos
The Epidromos, the charge, it is the point where the hoplites clash with one another. In some accounts they ran into the opposing side, in others they marched briskly into contact. Whether or not there was a noticeable shock, this is where the carnage began.
Once the two bodies of hoplites crashed into one another, the Othismos or “shoving” phase of the battle began. The Othismos has been debated over several decades as to how the hoplites actually fought once they came into contact. Since a few sources use the “othismos” the Greek word for “shoving”, some scholars contend the battle was like a rugby scrimmage, hence the additional ranks were there to push those in front forward. Others contend the additional ranks were there to fill the gaps as men fell. However this phase was fought, it was chaotic, frightening and deadly.
At the end of the turn, the Asterians have lost 3 units of Warriors. The Nycenaeans have lost a unit of Sword Maidens, Nobles, Warriors, and Archers, including their general. (My Robot Wife is cursing my pink dice, she’s cute but deadly when she’s pissed off.)
Turn 4 – Katastrophe
The object of the battle is to create a “katastrophe” – the overthrowing or turning of the enemy. You can immediately see we get our English word “catastrophe” from this word. In this turn, both sides seek this goal, it is more difficult for the Nycenaeans since they have lost their general and two units of elite troops.
After the battle, the dead are stripped of their possessions. Some of the armor and weapons are fashioned into the shape of an Amazon Warrior and erected as a “tropaion” (trophy) to indicate the place where the enemy was routed. Libations are poured and sacrifices made as the trophy is dedicated. Prisoners will be held for ransom and at the end of the campaign season, those that are not ransomed will be sold into slavery.
A Nycenaean hearld, a special envoy, approaches and requests the bodies of the Nycenaean dead for burial.
In game terms, it is time to determine which of the routed units return to their respective armies. For Asteria, three of the four routed Warriors return. The Nycenaean army is shattered of eleven units only four return and they’ve lost their general.
Bremusa of Quintas delivers a harsh message to the Nycenaeans – instead of returning Eumache of Nica in honor with her shield and arms, she returns her body as naked as the day she was born, such is the contempt she holds for those who invade her homeland.
Warrior Heroes to Be King plays faster than RRtK and its combat system is far more brutal.
As to this particular game, the Nycenaean side had a couple of things that went against her. First, the impassable terrain really hampered her deployment with the tactics she was forced to use. The overloaded left flank really failed. In theory, the skirmishing Archers should have peeled away from the heavy infantry, instead, when they were disordered by fire from other Archers, they became a roadblock. This denied the Nycenaeans the leverage they badly needed from a flank attack on the Asterian general.
In a way it reminds me of a scene in the movie “Heaven and Earth” about the 4th battle of Kawanakijima when Takeda Shingen asked which formation Uesugi Kenshin used. When he was told Kenshin deployed in the “Winding Wheel” and Takeda’s own “Woodpecker” operation had failed, he remarked “We have lost the battle.”
I don’t think the Nycenaeans lost the battle before it began, but it certainly seems to not have been their day.
I hope you enjoyed this battle report as much as I enjoyed playing the game. As always, you comments and suggestions are appreciated. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to console a pouting Robot Wife.