Monday, February 21, 2011

Warmaster Ancients Report

So last Sunday (not yesterday), I had the pleasure of playing Warmaster Ancients for the first time. In fact, it was the first time I've played Warmaster in any capacity outside of a demo game at my local Games Workshop way back in 2000 or 2001 when the game came out.

This battle was between myself playing Imperial Romans and my friend playing Britons. We decided to build our forces around 1,000pts because after that we just start doubling up on some choices we've already made. For instance, in my 1,000pt army I have four Legionaries, three auxiliaries, three archers, one scorpion, two heavy cavalry, one legate, and one commander with portents. If we were playing 2,000pts, I would just probably double everything I have. 1,500pts would probably be fun to play, as I'd add some more cavalry and some skirmishers (just to see what I could do with them), but 1,000 seemed to give us everything we wanted without becoming redundant.

We decided also to forgo the 10mm scale that Warmaster is usually played with, mostly because 10mm models aren't readily available to our local games shop (just because of the distributors they deal with), but 15mm was in abundance. Both my opponent and I built our armies using Corvus Belli's 15mm ancients range. We, of course, had to decide on a coherent basing scheme, for while we both had to use Warmaster's 40mmX20mm bases, we didn't want to have one person stick two models on a stand and another four. For regular infantry we decided on three to a stand, skirmishers two, and cavalry two (except for command stands which are 3). God help us if we come across skirmishing cavalry. We might have to put one horsey on a 40x20mm base.

Sorry for the blur. Cellphone pic.

This was also the first time I've ever played a historical wargame, so it was neat that it was done so with a ruleset that comes from a games company and designer that I'm comfortable with (Games Workshop and Rick Priestly). Rick Priestly's rules always emphasize ease of play and fun over any sort of accuracy or detail. So to a guy whose historical knowledge tends to fuzz-out any further back than 1900, I'm appreciative of the fact that I'm not bombarded by detail pertaining to the correct size of pilum and how this works in miniature.

Alright, so now that I've got the setup underway, how did the game go? Fantastically! Of course, like any ancient conflict, this was fueled by ample beer at the table, and keeping with our casual nature, we decided to play until one army loses half its units, causing it to break. Once that was decided, we set up our figures one unit at a time 90cm away from each other and rolled to see who went first.

Right off the bat, you have to make choices in Warmaster: which units to activate first is a common decision in wargames, but Warmaster throws an additional curve ball at you by forcing you to decide which commander to command those units with first. I immediately worried that I didn't have enough commanders to effectively command. After all, once my legate was finished ordering things, I'd only have a commander left! This also forced me to keep my forces together, which isn't a bad thing, but limited my mobility somewhat. Thankfully, the Roman command is well regarded, and so command 8 and command 9 are easy to roll under on 2d6. My troops moved rather well, and once we hit the enemy I saw that the Roman's success was not limited just to command.

Romans have a rule called Legion which gives the stands at the forefront a support bonus, in addition to the stands behind them (but only on the first round of combat). Combined with my 5+ armor save, I was starting combats pretty well off. Of course, my opponent not having as high a command as myself didn't help matters in his favor, as his troops had a hard time maneuvering into position.

While the Romans are pretty bad-ass, they lack numbers (I made the joke that they're the Space Marines of Ancients gaming, which I'm sure would cause the bearded legions of historical gamers to spasm). My opponent had me outnumbered almost two-to-one, but with commands of 6 or 7, there were stands that literally didn't move the entire game.

All-in-all it was a great game, and a great system. Being the fantasy fanatic that I am, I'm already looking at Warmaster Fantasy, or the Battle of Five Armies (both of which use the same ruleset), but I'm in no position to start any more projects just yet. However, this experience has awakened a desire to play more historical conflicts, so long as the rulesets remain as accessible. I'm already planning on getting my Flames of War Americans done up before autumn this year, but Rick Priestly's latest offerings (Black Powder, and the forthcoming Hail Caesar from Warlord Games) also have me dreaming of recreating past conflicts instead of making up new ones. I'd totally replicate my Imperial Roman Warmaster Ancients army in 28mm with Hail Caesar, or do a Napoleonic Prussian force, or even a Union American Civil War army using Black Powder. Again, these are dreams, and I'm not ready to make them a reality. Unfortunately 2011 looks already to be booked.

So, before signing off, I should say what my opponent and I concluded about our Warmaster Ancients experience. #1: I need to finish painting my goddamn army; #2: We need to give the rulebook another read; #3: Maybe one less beer each next time; #4: I need to finish painting my goddamn army; #5: What a great system!


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