Given Rob’s long time association with Warhammer Ancients, you will not be surprised to discover that players of those rules will find much in WaC that is familiar. This isn’t unusual – several of the current flock of wargaming rules use similar base mechanics, but have different levels of ‘chrome’ attached to them which differentiate them from each other.
However, I will give a brief overview of the basic mechanics – the game is designed with 28mm, singularly based models in mind, with multiple models grouped together to make up a unit. Rules are included for using multiple based figure elements, but these are only really mentioned in passing, to be honest. All dice used in the game are D6, and all measurements are Imperial (inches)
A typical model is given 5 basic attributes: Combat Ability, Shooting Ability, Killing Ability, Morale and Armour Value – plus there are further notes on formation, special rules and equipment and points value. Personalities of War (character models) have 3 additional attributes.
The game uses a variant of the I-Go-You-Go turn sequence (more of which later) and a turn follows a familiar path: Movement, Shooting, Melee Combat, Combat Resolution, and End Phase.
Movement, although relatively simple, does have some complexities and so no less than 3 chapters of the book are dedicated to this phase of the turn. These cover basic movement, charging and the effects of terrain.
Shooting and Combat also follow a familiar pattern: Roll to hit, armour Save, roll to kill, remove casualties and resolve combat results. Although a few details differ, these are similar enough to other rules so that they are easily learned. The End Phase of a turn (Rallying etc) also follows a familiar sequence.
Subsequent chapter of the book cover various different special rules for Unit Leaders and Characters (such as Generals, Standard Bearers etc), Weapons and Armour, Troop Formations and special units such as Skirmishers, Artillery, Chariots and Elephants.
All this is very similar to other published rules sets, so we need to identify what makes WaC different from its counterparts.
There are several rules and which make WaC stand out:
Although the turn sequence is I-G-Y-G, both players make a strategy roll each turn. The winner may chose whether to play first or second, but maintains Strategic Advantage throughout the entire turn. This means that, amongst other things, that player decides in which order various combats are fought. It also means that it is perfectly possible for a player to have two consecutive rounds of play before his opponent can move.
Melee combat is simultaneous, meaning that all units fight at the strength they have at the beginning of the combat.
All players have Strategy Intervention Points available to them throughout the game, which reflect the charisma and communications of the army and its commander. These can be used throughout the game to influence dice rolls – you can use them to aid in Morale-based tests (which can be anything from executing a difficult manoeuvre to not fleeing after losing a combat) or you can use them to influence the result of a Strategy Roll at the start of a turn. They can even be used to affect the objective or length of a battle. They are a limited, but very powerful, resource.
The book has an important chapter entitled ‘The Battle Begins’, which looks at how the game is set up before play even begins. It includes thing such as:
• 4 different ways of varying deployment zones (named after the 4 seasons). Terrain placement is not covered specifically, but you do have to place at least one Rally Point (denotes by a small camp, tent, statue etc) on a board edge. It is to this point where all fleeing troops will retreat, unless within a minimum distance of a board edge.
• 6 different Battle Objectives – Opponents may have different objectives to each other.
• 5 different deployments – armies can deploy in different ways. These include one side deploying first, or armies deploying a unit at a time.
• 3 different ways of determining game length.
None of these aspects of the game are particularly revolutionary, but it is nice to see them all used in a single place in a single set of rules.
It does the basics very well indeed. Whilst the table of contents is small but functional, there is a comprehensive index at the back of the book. The typeface, layout and page background make the book easy to read.
What really makes the book stand out is the quality of the pictures. With a single exception, every picture in the book is of wargaming models. Wherever an illustration of a rules example is required, a picture of an actual model situation is used, rather than a diagram. These pictures are overlaid with graphics to help explain what is happening (and even at times, include ‘ghosted’ units in complex movement and combat examples). The upshot of this is that players can immediately see how situations are resolved when compared to the wargames table without having to interpret diagrams. As a bonus, it makes the book into a sumptuous collection of wargames photos amid the narrative of the rules.
There is the odd issue with the approach the author has taken – the rules are explained in a narrative fashion, and despite bullet point summaries at the end of each chapter, those unfamiliar with the book may take a short while to identify how a particular rule works – not a major problem, but one that could prove troublesome in the heat of battle.
Also, some of the pictures appear a little strange on the page, as when two pictures appear on a single page, one tends to be surrounded by a thick black margin – which looks a bit off-putting.
These are admittedly minor quibbles in a publication which really is a near perfect addition to any rules collection.
Whilst the book does not contain army lists, these are available for free online. Indeed, the Scarab Miniatures forum has a huge selection of resources available. Not only are there army lists for various ages of history, there are rules supplements for gaming in different eras, right up to the wars of Napoleon. Here is a selection of what is available, all for free download:
As well as historical supplements, there are rules and army lists for moving WaC into the realms of Fantasy, including full magic rules. The game is still expanding: a supplement for playing with gods and monsters from ancient mythology is currently in the works.
Rather ironically, whilst I’m very impressed with several of the innovations and ideas that have been published in these rules, the mechanics themselves leave me a little cold. I can see it instantly appealing to a particular style of gamer as something that is familiar, accessible and opens a whole new door into the world of history – it simply isn’t my preferred style of gaming. Despite the fact that I wouldn’t potentially play the game myself, it is easy to spot that this set of rules is of the highest quality.
Disclosure: A review copy of this game was provided by the publisher