Mortem et Gloriam is a new set of Ancients mass battle rules, written by Simon Hall, who was previously a co-author of the Field of Glory rules, which were published by Osprey Publishing.
The first thing of note about these rules is that they are not presented in a traditional bound rulebook, but rather in a box which contains all the rules in a 4-ring binder, along with a deck of custom cards and a pack of custom dice – pretty much all you need to play the game. You will need some form of measuring tool (measured in unit base widths) and some counters – custom sets of these are also available.
The game uses armies consist of Unit Groups, which are divided into Tactical Unit Groups (TuGs) and Skirmish Unit Groups (SuGs). A TuG comprises of 4, 6, 8 or 9 bases of troops, whilst a SuG comprises of 6, 8 or 9 bases of troops. The bases in question are the ‘standard’ sized bases that are used in Ancients rules such as WRG, DBM and FoG.
Deployment and set-up for the game includes a pre-game sequence, which takes about 5 minutes to play. The attacker and defender are decided. The Defender then chooses location on a grid, which defines the type of terrain in an area. 5 command cards are then played by each player – one at a time. This represents the armies trying to out scout the other. This pre-game uses the command cards. The winner of each ‘day’ can move the potential location of the battle. After 5 days (cards played) the location is then set and the board is laid out. Dependent upon who wins the scouting, the loser deploys part of his army first. This entire sequence represents the opposing generals attempting to bring their opponent to battle in terrain that is most advantageous to them. What will tend to happen is that better quality generals have more cards in their hand, and therefore have a choice of cards to play during the pre-game sequence, thus increasing their chances of winning and moving the battle towards ground that is more advantageous to his army.
Once deployment and set-up is complete, the game can begin. Each army has a number of generals allocated to it, and just before battle commences each player decides how many units each general commands. The general can only issue commands to those units directly under his command. Each general has a rating (Legendary, Talented, Competent or Mediocre), and this rating control how many cards he is allocated each turn (2, 3, 4 or 5)
These cards are then used to issue commands to units under the General’s command. Dependent upon unit training (Drilled, Formed, Tribal or Skirmishers) different orders require a different colour order card in order to perform. More complex orders require a ‘rarer’ colour order card. The colour of the cards range from Black, through White, Green and Yellow to Red. Most orders require White or Green cards to be played in order to be carried out, but more complex manoeuvres, or more poorly trained/disciplined troops require different coloured cards to be played. An order could only require a Green card if the unit in question are Roman Legionaries, but the same order, given to a Barbarian Warband, might require a Red card to be played. There are fewer Yellow and Red cards in the card deck, and so orders that require these colour cards are more difficult to achieve.
The turn sequence is also somewhat different to what Ancients players are used to. The vast majority of Ancients rules tend to use the sequence ‘Charge-move-shoot-melee’ whereas MeG amends this to ‘Charge-shoot-move-melee’, along with the fact that the game actually uses alternate unit activation during each part of the turn sequence. The change appears to be a minor one at first glance, but it now means that a player has to more carefully plan how to use his missile armed troops, as they will now need to be moved into range the turn before they can shoot, which can leave them open to being charged before they have released a volley – which also means that missile heavy armies, such as Parthians, can no longer dominate their opponents by moving and firing in the same turn.
Combat is also slightly different, especially in the fact that custom, coloured dice are used.
Combat is performed File vs File within a unit. Each player notes up list of combat bonuses (only positive numbers). Combat Bonus total is then compared. If equal, both players roll Green Dice. If unequal, lower player rolls white dice, higher player rolls different colour dice, dependent upon how much higher combat bonus total is than opponent
Dice symbol distribution:
|Dice Colour||Blank||‘S’||Hit (Cross sword & Arrow)||Kill (Skull)|
A kill removes a base. 2 Hits also remove a base. In addition, any result other than a blank, when used in shooting against a charging unit, also slows the target (replicating troops taking cover under the weight of fire), which is a rather nice way of responding to a charge, and could result in a charging unit not reaching its target.
Other ‘S’ results (‘S’ meaning ‘Special’) include ‘Shatter’ and ‘Shove’, which give bonuses to adjacent combat to reflect the effect of units being penetrated by charging troops, or being shoved back by a phalanx.
Morale is represented by removing of bases from a Unit. Remove half of the bases of a TuG, and the unit will break., whilst removing a third of bases of a SuG will cause that unit will break. In order to break the opponent’s army you have to remove half of the Tactical Unit Groups of an army, and the army will break and run – game is won immediately.
Note – skirmishers (SuGs) have no effect on army morale, only TuGs, so you can lose any number of SuGs without effecting the morale of the army. This reflects part of the nature of the skirmisher role – they are expected to run away / retreat at some point in the battle.
When compared to other Ancients rules of a similar style, such as DBM and FoG, players will tend to find that armies are slightly bigger, but they tend to get into combat much sooner (it would be usual to find skirmishers in some form of combat on turn two, with lines starting to clash on turns two or three). This is very deliberate, as part of the aim of the rules is that the game should be played in 2 – 2½ hours.
There is a lot of online support for the game at a dedicated website called The Wargames Zone. Campaigns and scenarios can be found here, and the army lists are also available online. These have free lifetime access for first 300 people who buy rules (the ‘Spartan’ box sets). After this, players get 12 months access to army lists having bought rules, with subsequent subscription required. Whilst some people may have issues with army lists only being available online, Simon has pointed out that one huge advantage is that points values of armies can be ‘tweaked’ should it be found that they are in need of adjustment, which could not be done if these lists were published in books. (Indeed, it’s another reason why the rules were published in a folder format).
The online resources also contains an army builder in a spreadsheet format – an invaluable tool.
All in all, Mortem Et Gloriam gives something of a fresh approach to gaming Ancients, combining several mechanics and ideas to give a much quicker and interactive style of game. It seems to be one of those ideal games that is easy to play, but difficult to master. In a genre that is packed with many different rules, Mortem et Gloriam seem to stand above many of those around them.
Simon Hall provided a copy of these rules for review purposes.