Review: Clash of Empires

Rating: 4 stars

Clash of Empires is a set of Ancients rules produced by Great Escape Games, who are previously known for producing the World War 2 rules Rules of Engagement.

As with many sets of Ancients rules, these are aimed to cover a wide period: from the massed chariot battles of Ancient Egypt right through to the Medieval battles of armoured knights and the advent of gunpowder.

The rules are laid out in what has come to be a fairly standard format, and they take you step-by-step through every aspect of the game, right from organising your units, basic movement and manoeuvring, then through the full sequence of play, and finishing with explanations of advanced rules, how a typical game is set up, some example army lists and an appendix.

As soon as you start looking through the book, those gamers who are familiar with a rule set such as Warhammer Ancient Battles will find much that is familiar. Whilst the rules do allow for units with multiple figures on a single base, it is aimed at having each figure individually represented and based, and the illustrated examples of game play (although not the photographs of miniatures) reflect this.

Units are represented in the rules by a unit profile. This profile determines how many figures the unit is represented by on the table (for example, a unit of Roman Legionaries is made up of between 10 and 30 models) and also gives details of the units stats. These stats are:

Movement Rate – How far the figure can move (in centimetres)
Shooting Skill – Indicates the dice roll needed for ranged attack (i.e. 4+)
Attack Dice – The number of dice each model rolls in hand-to-hand combat
Hand-to-Hand skill – The unit’s skill at hand-to-hand combat
Armour – The armour saving value of the model (i.e. 5+)
Kill – The dice roll required to kill the enemy model should they fail their armour roll.
Number of hits – Number of wounds a model can sustain before being removed as a casualty
Discipli – A number used to perform complex manoeuvres on the battlefield
Morale – A number representing the fighting spirit of the unit
Points – The points value of each model in a unit
Weapons – A list of what weapons the unit is armed with
Armour – A note of the units armour type
Special Rules – a note of any special rules that applies to the unit
Upgrades – A note of any upgrades that are available to the unit, and their points cost.

A game is played over a number of turns, and the play sequence is I-Go-U-Go, so each player plays out his full turn before his opponent.

Each turn is broken down into five phases

1. Orders Phase

In this phase, charges are declared, along with any charge responses. Tactical withdrawals can be performed, broken troops can be rallied, morale checks are taken for charging or fleeing troops and reserves (if available) are checked to see if they arrive.

2. Movement Phase

The inactive player moves any evading or fleeing troops, and then shoots at charging units.

The active player then moves charging units, and then the inactive player moves any intercepting troops.

Finally, the active play moves any remaining troops, followed by his Generals and Commanders.

Movement is broken down into simple, advanced and complex manoeuvres.

Simple manoeuvres include wheeling, oblique moves, expansion or contraction of ranks or columns, and turning by 90 or 180 degrees. These can be carried out by any troops.

Advanced manoeuvres include wheel or oblique moves whilst marching, backwards movement, pivoting and a sharp turn, whilst complex manoeuvres include reforming and forming square.

Advanced and complex manoeuvres can only be performed by trained troops and require a discipline check in order to perform them successfully.

3. Shooting Phase

Active player declares targets, checks Line-of-sight and range (you are not allowed to pre-measure range). You then apply and ‘to hit’ modifiers, roll to hit, roll an armour save, roll to kill, remove any casualties and then check morale.

4. Hand to Hand Phase

In this phase, firstly you determine strike order (depending upon the hand-to-hand skill of the units in melee), roll to hit, check armour, roll to kill, remove casualties and finally perform combat resolution.

5. Combat Outcome Phase

Depending upon the result of the combat resolution, the following checks are made:

Firstly, morale of units that lost the combat is checked, defeated units are moved, any pursuit movement then takes place, followed by any fighting withdrawals. Finally units may adjust formation.

The rules go through each phase in a methodical fashion, and each step is explained in detail, with the use of diagrams and tables where necessary.

Once the game sequence is explained, there is a further section on Morale checks, how to make them and what there effects are.

The next part of the book covers advanced rules, and gives extra rules for different weapons and armour, followed by special rules for various units such as skirmishers, chariots, elephants and artillery.

Finally, there is a list of special rules that can be applied to units in order to give them more period flavour – these include such rules as Legion, phalanx and shield wall.

After a section of rules about how generals and commanders work in the game, the rules then go on to cover how to set-up a tabletop battle.

These include generating and placing terrain for the battle, scenario special rules, calculating victory points and determining the result of the battle.

There are then 4 example scenarios: Pitched Battle, Escalating Engagement, Meeting Engagement and River Crossing.

Next, there is a section on army lists. In this book, only a limited number of army lists are produced – these cover the wars of Imperial Rome, and include Early Imperial Rome, Ancient Germans, Ancient British, Caledonian, Dacian and then a list of Allies.

Each army is split into several sections: Command, Core, Support, Skirmish and Allies, with each section having a minimum and maximum number of units available.

As with other similar games, you select your units dependent upon the cost of the army and the cost of each individual unit (which can be tailored, depending upon how many models you have in the unit).

Finally, there is an 11 page rules summary, and an appendix which gives a large list of figure manufacturers.

Overall, the basic flow of the rules will be familiar to anyone who has previously played and of the ‘Warhammer’ stable of rules. The play sequence is I-G-Y-G, units tend to be comprised of groups of individuals (rather than elements), movement and manoeuvre is pretty strictly controlled. Battles are ‘buckets of dice’ affairs, with a standard Roll-to-hit, Armour Save, Roll-to-wound format, and D6 are used throughout the game.

However, there are several variations of play, but these are all methodically explained.

In short, the rules should give a familiar feel to large number of gamers, but with GEG’s only particular spin on how they think the period should be represented.

The book itself is very well laid out. Colour is especially well used in the book. It is very well illustrated with lots of photographs of models from various periods and manufacturers. The illustrations of play (from a top-down perspective) are clear and attractive. Tables are large, clear and really stand out from the text, and do not appear at all cluttered or complicated.

Not only that, but the pages are colour coded. Each section of the rules has a different colour edge: Pink for orders, green for movement, red for hand-to-hand combat, blue for morale etc. This, coupled with a table of contents and a detailed 6-page index, means that the book is very easy to navigate around and specific rules are easy to find.

In addition to the rulebook, the Clash of Empires website gives a host of extra army lists from the Chariot Era, Classical Period, Later Roman era, Dark Ages, and Medieval periods. In addition the first supplement The Rise and Fall of Persia has recently been released, which is a 128 page hardback sourcebook covering the battles of the Persian Empire in detail.

CoE is a very solid set of rules. They are well laid out, easy to read and understand, very well illustrated and seems to cover most situations very well. They certainly seem to be aimed at the area of the hobby where any thoughts of battlefield ‘friction’ are kept to a minimum, and so do fall short for my own particular preference in gaming.

However, this is only personal taste and overall they give a good game, and would be an excellent set of rules to pick up if you were a Warhammer Fantasy Battle of Warhammer 40,000 player looking to get into one of the most popular areas of historical wargaming.

Disclosure: A review copy of this game was provided by the publisher

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