Welcome Alexander vs. Persia playtesters. This is the first game I played vs. Jaime, from a couple of weeks back. It's a "vanilla" game: 2000 points, open map, Total Warfare, no special condition.
Set up and strategy:
I'll say first off that I was NOT happy in this match up, and feel as though Alexander's army is TERRIBLE, possibly the worst army there is, at fighting Persia. So many of my units were cavalry with boosts vs. other cavalry. The only problem is that there was no guarantee I'd face cavalry, but I WOULD be facing those damn armored elephants which can eat my best cavalry for breakfast.
Furthermore, I was terrified of Persia's ability to put a cloud of arrows into the air. In theory skirmishers are a good screen against arrows, but those highly-skilled Thracian Peltasts are so damn expensive that they felt too expensive to be simple meat shields. (My other option was to screen with cheaper archers, but then my guys are at a -1 move-and-shoot penalty as I advance, so once again I'm overpaying for what I want.) My Kingdom for some Caetrati!
This left me with...Foot Companions! their 3/1 defense and huge number of hit points make them extremely arrow resistant, and I hoped that at 9 dice (Note: we were unaware that it got fewer dice on the Charge turn.) + impact hit they could blow away whatever they were facing. I hoped that they'd crush his army on once side, while I delayed on the other side with 2 skirmishers and a cheap infantry. I also figured that, since Foot Companions are the most unusual unit in Alexander's army, taking 3 would generate interesting playtest data.
As to the positioning of my army. I expected archery and I expected him to use the "Satrap Army" option at least once. Since I would have more command actions, the longer I could delay combat the more command cards I would have relative to him. But I didn't want the "delay" to mean my army would get shot to pieces--limiting my speed would be suicidal. So I started the units in the back row, mostly facing backward, in order to get an extra turn or two when I was still out of archery range.
I did make one error in my set up. I had meant to have my allied phalanx (front right corner) facing sideways, which would have allowed it to get out of the way of the Foot Companions with a single move. But then forgot to do so at the time, resulting in me wasting a command action, as well as the phalanx being more forward, and the rightmost Foot Companions more backward, than they should have been. This proved somewhat costly, though I'm not positive it would've made a difference.
Suggestion #1. Make the Armored Elephants less of a threat somehow. If you want to hold to the historical theme of Alexander's elite cavalry cleaving a wedge through the Persian army, then it might help if the Armored Elephant unit were eliminated altogether. If you do keep the Armored Elephants as an option in Persia's army, it might help is to give the unit a slower speed (3.5" rather than 5"). After all, humans go slower in armor than not; it's not unreasonable that an elephant covered in armor with a tower on its back would be slower than a Carthaginian one which carried a single rider. The slower speed would at least give Alexander's cavalry a chance to avoid being Stomped Into the Dirt!
Suggestion #2: Give Alexander some cheap melee/javelin skirmishers. Perhaps reduce the Thracian Peltasts to 2 dice? Or maybe create another unit of skirmishers? He currently lacks anything suitable for the "skirmisher screen" role.
Suggestion #3: It should be explicit on the card that Foot Companions get fewer dice on the charge turn. You could shorten a lot of the other rules text by saying "Phalanx rules, except that..." It also might not hurt to say that Sarissas are long pikes--we had no idea what they were until going onto the internet after the game.
The Persian Army. Jaime use the "Satrap Army" ability once, in order to have 2175 points to my 2000, while getting 3 command actions. This gave him a powerful army across the board, which could fight well on both flanks.
Somewhat to my surprise, he did not load up on archery-based skirmishers. He did predictably avoid cavalry (apart from one unit of horse archers), and predictably took Armored Elephants. I was delighted to see the elephants placed how they were however: even at 5" move it would take them a long time to get to my army. indeed, apart from knocking around a couple of skirmishers, they never saw combat!
Suggestion #4: Downgrade "Satrap Army!" Trading a command action for 175 points is a no-brainer! Heck, since typically each army takes around 3 turns at which point battle is joined, as Persia you could always just buy 7 command cards, then have a 4 card advantage during those first critical couple turns of combat in which both sides try to break each other's line. I'm not saying that buying 7 command cards is optimal, just that even this rather mediocre use of army build points is still WAY better an option than most armies get. IMHO it should be downgraded to 125 points...and even there you might find it too much.
A hidden strength of Persia is that, with more army build points and such cheap units, Persia gets several points of de facto foresight. So it often has a choice of who gets to fight who. And the lack of army control doesn't matter much when you can put your army on Close and come at him with a solid line stretching across the entire board
The armies move forward. I'm actually feeling optimistic here. His first arrows (long range) were inaccurate, and my 3 twerps will be delaying over 1000 points of his units--ironically Jaime would have benefited from some cavalry in this circumstance.
Jaime (Persia) was able to angle his line back like this after the horizontal set up through a combination of speed limiting and location markers, and done in the initial set up. Thus illustrating that a good Persian player doesn't need to spend command actions to get his army into a good battle formation. With so few units, my formation was rather rigid.
Things start to go wrong here, despite me playing a card which allowed my while army to move faster ("Attack the Gap"). My units are so damn big that if I engage one enemy the one next to it will hit me in the flank. I want to get my left Foot Companions next to his Immortals, but my own Iphicratean Spearmen are in their way. So they stand there picking their nose. Meanwhile, the neighboring Foot Companions slam into the flank of a weak Persian unit. I'm hoping to one-shot them here, and should be able to win vs. a single weak unit on the flank, even though it'll be painful....
Question: If you use the "Attack the Gap" card to increase movement, but do not change any orders, do you have to spend the command action or not?
Suggestion #5: Perhaps they should be a way to "compress" the Foot Companions unit to make engagement easier? Every other two-card unit is able to be squashed in some way, typically by sliding part or all of the front card underneath the enemy unit. (The rules explicitly state that a Colossal unit may engage whenever a normal size unit may.) The Foot Companions are one exception to this. Perhaps it was designed to be so, but I'm starting to envision an enemy line where the card nearest the foot Companions is slightly behind its neighbors, and the Foot Companions won't be able to engage at all! (Except with a suicidal flank-engagement.) I say "perhaps" because maybe the whole point of these formations was their extreme clunkiness.
YIKE! In response to his unit being hit on the flank, Jaime played "Withdraw," which allowed his unit to rout and immediately rally, while taking a single point of damage. Then on his turn it rushed forward and pinched my Foot Companions. OUCH!
Meanwhile, my poor phalanx on the right gets positively savaged by 3 of his units shooting arrows--two "Blot Out the Sun" cards helped--goes into the red, and routs, leaving my right flank totally open.
At this point, I knew I was going to lose, and would have conceded a tournament game, but we played it out.
Suggestion #6: Downgrade, or ideally scrap, the "Withdraw" card. The situation above illustrates how ridiculously powerful this card can me. Not only is it an incredibly powerful card, but the mere threat that Persia might have it in his hand will often force an opponent to waste command actions to prevent his own units from final rushing, (at least if they will hit a side and present a flank to the enemy), less they get totally screwed in exchange for a single point of damage! I heard a rumor that the "Withdraw" should only be played when the Persian unit is engaged on the front (and not pinched). This would work. It's still a VERY powerful card, though, buying your weak unit an extra 2 turns of life (which is FAR more than any other blue card can do). My own preference would be to see this card scrapped altogether.
Alexander's army starts to collapse. On the left, my weak units are delaying, and will be ground down. The leftmost Foot Companions did eventually wipe the floor with his Immortals, and are seeking a new target, but there are too many enemy units, and they'll soon be pinched.
The Center Foot Companions went down fighting, taking one of his Kardakes with them, but losing to the other on his flank. (6 dice at 5/5 for 160 points...yike!)
On the right, my foot companions just wiped out some Sparabara, but they are about to be double-pinched, though the heavily-wounded phalanx will hit the horse archers' rear and take them down before succumbing to arrows.
Endgame: My last skirmisher is direct controlled to put one last damage onto the Mercenary Hoplites (who had been slugging it out with my Foot Companions and Spearmen.), which puts them into the yellow.
Victory to Persia.
In the Green: Armored Elephants (no damage--they barely saw combat.), and Mercenary Hoplites
In the yellow: Mercenary Hoplites, and Kardakes (who win "most valuable unit" for flanking and killing 2 Foot Companions!)
In the red: Sparabara
In the afterlife: Immortals, Kardakes, Sparabara, Scythian Mounted Archers
Total points: 1156, where 1200 is required for a 5-1 (8-1 in the 9-point system) split. Had my Thracians not done that last point of damage, it would've been 5-1.
Jaime and I are well matched as players. While we do sometimes have victories of this magnitude, they are rare. And yet here I felt like there was little to nothing I could do to win. As I said recently, I think Alexander's army abilities suck, particularly "Combined Arms" -- once units are engaged they seldom need to be directly controlled.
3 Foot Companions was too many, and they really have a hidden weakness of being very vulnerable to being pinched. My mistake. And yet, given Persia's elephants and archers, other builds felt equally vulnerable--look at what happened to my poor phalanx! And to have an army of, say, 6 mercenary phalanxes screened by Thracian skirmishers with some (Elephant-bait) cavalry on the wings would cost on the order of 2500 points. Much like the Romans, it feels like Alexander is being forced to fight with a fraction of a proper army, and painful compromises are being made.
I did put Alexander with the central Foot Companions as a morale booster. It worked OK, but was nothing special; I'd have probably been better off with regular command cards.
Anyway, it may be that I'm missing something here. But my first impression is that, unless the point of this release is to underline that Alexander the Great was a genius to win victories with his wretched army, and you, the player, are not. I think some upgrading (Alexander) and/or downgrading (Persia) is in order. I suspect the problem is that Persia is overpowered rather than the reverse.
Tonight Jaime and I will be playing Persia vs. Carthage, in order to see how other historicals fare.
(Possible) Suggestion #7. This one is pretty radical, and may be more than you want to do, but if they goal is to symbolize Alexander's army outmaneuvering Persia, what about reducing the speed of Persian infantry units to 2.5"? Slower units are more awkward, have a harder time supporting each other, force a more rigid line, etc. And at that point the Greeks just might be able to cut a wedge through the Persian army without being immediately pinched and crushed. Just a thought.
Last edited by Kevin; 05-19-2010 at 08:03 AM.
Another "vanilla" game: 2000 points, Total Warfare, Open Map, No Special Condition.
The following already-obsolete rules were used in this game:
- Persia still had the "Withdraw" card.
- The Satrap Army option did not yet require two Persian units to be deployed first.
Persian Army, (viewer's) left to right, unit closer to enemy listed first:
Takabara + Takabara; Sparabara + Royal Guard; Thanvabara + Kardakes; Thanvabara + Kardakes; Thanvabara + Kardakes; Takabara; Takabara + Armored Elephants
Persia used the "Satrap Army" ability once; this army was just under 2175 points.
Carthaginian Army, left to right, units closer to enemy listed first:
Hannibal's Elite + Balearic Slingers; Hannibal's Elite + Numidian Cavalry; Caetrati + Libyan Foot; Caetrati + Carthaginian Spearmen; Balearic Slingers + Numidian Cavalry; Caetrati.
Total 1934 of units and 6 foresight = 1994.
Remember that Persia had to deploy 7 units first. Most of the Central units were deployed before I had to put anything down.
As Carthage, I was terrified of the volume of arrows Persia could put into the air, so I took the most arrow-proof army possible. 2 Hannibal's Elite is 3/2 and has good hit points, Numidian Cavalry is practically arrow-proof, and other units are generously screened by skirmishers. The plan was, much as the above game, to crush him on one side, while holding the other side with as few units as possible, hoping they'd last long enough for my main force to pivot and attack. As you will see, things went even better than planned!
Normally I take Elephants when playing Carthage, but I left them at home this time: too vulnerable to arrows, plus they'd be crushed by the Persian Armored Elephant. Fear of Elephants and spears kept my regular (non-Numidian) cavalry away as well. (A similar complaint which I had with Alexander.)
In the above game I bitched about the high cost of Thracian skirmishers. It was joyous to get my hands on some Caetrati!
Jaime guessed that I'd buy a good amount of foresight, so he decided to take a large number of units, hoping to be the last to deploy, and also planning to envelop my army through the use of the cheap and fast Takabara.
The armies converge.
Jaime made a very...painful...move here. His Takabara forward left corner, rather than moving straight ahead, were ordered to cut across his army and intercept my Caetrati. This jumbled up his line on the left.
My Caetrati were sent full-speed ahead to rush the Thanvabara in front of them. The Caetrati in front of my spearmen have hit and routed a unit of Thanvabara (skirmisher archers), who ran to behind the Persian Line. They won't be able to shoot for a while, but will prove useful later on.
Things to note, left to right:
The Royal Guard remain stuck far back, after the "Takabara cut across the army" stunt.
Those same Takabara have pinched my Caetrati, but with only 3 dice on the attack and some good Carthaginian morale dice my Caetrati hold! Hannibals Elite is about to hit the Takabara in the flank, but Jaime will play the (Thank God now obsolete!) "Withdraw" card to pull them away safely.
Caetrati next to them are about to take advantage of a great opportunity: there's just enough of a gap to final rush those Thanvabara to their right (and a bit ahead)! This not only will help kill off those pesky archers, but will temporarily screw up his line as half his army will converge on my skirmishers. As a bonus, if they can rout the Thanvabara they'll probably survive!
Takabara and Elephants move forward against my weaker units...looks like a slaughter in the making...
An illustration of why I'm SO glad that "Withdraw" card is gone!!! The right Takabara escaped safely from being flanked. Fortunately for me, the other Takabara went into the yellow from Pila and sling bullets and routed. Had they not routed, my Hannibal's elite would've been pinched by a unit that, without that "Withdraw" card, would've been destroyed. As noted in the other report, the threat of a "Withdraw" card forces the opponent to face situations like this, or spend command actions holding his units back from what should be an easy kill!
Enough on that. Moving on...
Things to note, left to right...
Jaime had to waste a large number of command actions controlling his units, and as a result was short on command cards, and in some cases had to let routing units run in order to use the command action elsewhere, as he did with these Takabara...therefore allowing my Slingers to move into position to pinch the Royal Guard!
3 of my skirmishers have been knocked back behind my line, but they'll be valuable later. The final skirmisher was the Caetrati who dove into that gap to attack his rightmost Thanvabara. The Thanvabara held (They needed to roll an 8 or less!), and the Caetrati were Stomped Into the Dirt by Armored Elephants! The good news is that Jaime had to waste another command action preventing his Kardakes from hitting my Caetrati as well, and it also delayed the Elephants from reaching my main line.
I was in danger of having my Numidian Cavalry pinched by the two rightmost Takabara, but fortunately for me one of them routed from missile fire. Jaime's morale dice were terrible this game: he didn't draw the "Thousand Nations" card until the way end, and blew at least 2/3 of his rout checks.
Notice the hole in front of the Libyan Foot? The lack of 4 command actions really stung the Persians here: he wanted to hold some wounded (by pila) Kardakes back from charging into my Libyan Foot, but after some higher priority actions (such as rallying units) lacked the command actions to do so. So forward the Kardakes went and they got one-shotted.
Carthaginian Spearmen, holding on their location, are about to pivot to face the oncoming elephants.
Left to right:
My Slingers pinch the engaged Royal Guard, but once again Jaime plays "Withdraw" and they escape! Grr... But between the 2 automatic damage and some pila they're getting beat up.
Hannibal's Elite have engaged the Sparabara. Mismatch, anyone?
Carthaginian Spearman, on hold, have pivoted to face the oncoming elephants. This is going to HURT...at least I've been holding onto a "Mettle" card.
While Jaime has ralled one of the right Takabara, the other, which briefly hit my Numidians, is routed by a combination of Numidians and Sling Bullets. They run for it, and see no more combat.
The above two photos are from the same turn.
Top Photo: Pila from 2 Hannibals Elite units put the Royal Guard into the red, and they rout. The Takabara will hit my Numidian cavalry before being pinched and destroyed, though they'll get in a good shot and my Numidians will rout
Libyan Foot are about to be pinched by Kardakes and those wounded Thanvabara who routed from back in the very beginning of the game! Both the Libyans and the Kardakes will go into the yellow, and both will rout! I will then take direct control of Hannibals Elite and use a command card to ensure that those pesky Thanvabara are wiped out with a pila throw.
Bottom Photo: Carthaginian Spearmen are holding up remarkably well vs. the elephants, but are still taking 2 damage for every one they do. The one way to beat the Armored Elephants (If you don't have a T-Rex or something like that) is with a pinch. So my Carthaginians need to hold on...two "Taste of Victory" cards will give them auto-passes on their first two rout checks.
Wounded Caetrati are backing up the Spearmen in order to hold the Elephants in place one more turn, if need be.
Wounded Thanvabara are moving into position to shoot, but they'll be run over by my Numidian Cavalry.
The Royal Guard are wiped out by pila.
While it looks like the double-pinch, the Caetrati couldn't see enough of the Elephants at the beginning of the turn to final rush...sad! But a rear-pinch from the Numidians will put the Elepants into the yellow, at which point they failed 2 rout checks and went poof.
At this point, Jaime conceded. Persia had 3 units left, but they were all crappy and wounded (I think 2 were in the red, one in the yellow). I was on odds to kill them all with javelins/pila without taking any more damage.
Results and Conclusions:
In the green: Hannbal's Elite, Numidian Cavalry, Caetrati, 2 Balearic Slingers
In the yellow: Hannibal's Elite, Libyan Foot, Numidian Cavalry
In the red: Carthaginian Spearmen, Caetrati
In the afterlife: Caetrati
Total points: 1367.333, where 1200 is needed for a decisive (5-1) victory.
It was nice to see that it was possible to defeat an army more than 10% larger. But I think the conclusions from this game are more tactical than about the game itself:
- When using the "Satrap Army" option, it is critically important to keep your battle formation simple. With fewer command actions as it stands, you can't afford to waste more than a bare minimum actions on direct controlling units and order changes. Your units are relatively weak: if a strong opponent unit has a command card played on it and you don't have the command cards to respond, you're in trouble.
- A hidden (or not-so-hidden) weakness of the Persian army is their crummy morale. This not only results in units dying quickly, but the ones which rout and survive slurp up a couple more of your precious command actions to get back into the fight.
- I think the army-of-weenies strategy is generally going to fail, particularly if you don't have fast cavalry to get around the opponent's bent-back line. I wonder what would've happened had I been facing some Mercenary Hoplites.
- Just Say No to sending a unit across your own line and screwing up your formation.
- I think it's better to put an Armored Elephant in the front row than the back row. It's Persia's best unit, and needs to be in the fight as soon as possible!
Game issues to watch for:
The Takabara perfomed wretchedly in this game. With that 2/0 defense and only 3 green boxes, one turn of engaged combat, or a couple ranged attacks, would force a rout check which they're 50/50 to blow. And with only 3 dice on the charge turn they don't do much. In general, units under 150 points are pretty weak, but I couldn't help but wonder of these guys are too pathetic?
Possible Suggestion: Allow Takabara to use all 4 dice on the charge turn. Roman Triarii, armed with spears, get the spear bonuses but don't lose a die when charging. Like the Takabara, they have fewer dice (3) than regular Spearmen (6).
Last edited by Kevin; 05-21-2010 at 10:57 AM.
Special rule of this game: because I had publicly predicted an Alexander victory over Rome (given that Rome lacks fast heavies, masses or archers, and good spearmen), Jaime assembled 3 armies, then, per request, looked at my army (undeployed) before choosing which of the three to take against mine.
We played with the latest rules, though I ended up not using the Alexander army ability at all, going instead for command cards (though there may have been one or two times that I should have used the ability; I can't recall now if I decided that command cards were higher priority or if I just forgot).
The Roman army. Left to right:
front row: Velites, Velites, Cretan Archers, (gap), Velites.
middle row: Cretan Archers, Hastadi, Principes, Principes, Hastadi, Veteran Principes, Veteran Principes
back row: Triarii, (gap), Triarii
None of Jaime's armies had cavalry, as he figured Alexander's cavalry would eat them for breakfast.
Comment #1: A hidden strength of Alexander's army is that the bonuses it receives when fighting enemy cavalry will often result in an opponent leaving his cavalry at home, even when they would be useful. This is the analogous issue to Alexander being afraid to take cavalry at all when potentially facing elephants.
Alexander's army. 1996 points.
Overall justification of my choices: Having fought Rome many times, I know that Rome has a hard time making a wide line with only 2000 points, given their need for back up units and skirmishers. So I tried to do an "envelopment" strategy.
On the far left, a unit of Thracian Peltasts holds the flank, ready to pinch. I'd have rather had Prodromoi, but couldn't afford them.
On the left, putting a skirmisher in front of weak infantry was designed to stalemate him for a key number of turns. (In theory, turn x my skirmisher runs up to his unit. x+1 his infantry hits my skirmisher, which runs to behind my line, x+2 my infantry moves close to his unit, x+3 his unit engages mine. Even if my unit gets one shotted then on x+4 my skirmisher moves back up to in front of his unit, x+5 he knocks my skirmisher back again, x+6 is my turn, and finally on x+7 he gets to attack.
The one danger to this tactic is if the infantry routs, and pushes the skirmisher back with it. However, Iphicratean spearmen are excellently suited to this task, as between their relatively good morale and their single red box they're likely to hold fast, and just pop if they rout.
The Foot Companions could have been spaced out even more--my initial plan was to have 2 inches between them (not quite enough room for an attacker), and have them "tank" the bulk of his army. But after measuring out I found that my other units needed the space to deploy, so they ended up relatively close. Were I to play this battle again, I'd probably trade one Foot Companions in for Hypaspistes, freeing up 48 points to play with. But we were asked to test the Foot Companions, so there you have it.
Comment #2: As noted before, the unusual shape of Foot Companions means that their owner has to pre-determine where they will go, resulting in less flexibility during deployment. Had Jaime been studying where I was putting my pre-deployment markers on the map, he could have planned accordingly. (Which is sort of cheating, but it's an issue.) I'm not saying that this necessarily needs to be "fixed," but it makes them slightly less good than otherwise.
By deploying my main line a bit to the left of the right edge, I was able to get two fast-light cavalry on my right flank. I hoped to pinch whatever single unit they were likely to face and roll his line from the right.
My line is angled back so that my weak left will engage later, but becuse the Romans had more units, they put their weak units on the same side.
The armies converge!
My Allied Hoplites have orders of "Hold," with a location marker straight ahead on the far side of the map. This resulted in them being able to move at full speed toward the Roman Line while only requiring one command action to take direct control or change orders. It served a secondary purpose of delaying the engagement, as their primary job was to survive until the Foot Companions (facing light opposition) could turn to help.
Suggestion #1. Assuming the goal is to reflect the clunkiness of phalanxes once they get moving, change the Phalanx (and FC) rules to read that the units require 2 command actions to directly control or change orders unless the unit did not move in its previous turn. This way, if the unit is holding still it can still be ordered easily, but it will prevent players from using Hold with a location target to keep them nimble.
On the right, seeing the pinch coming, the Romans used "replacement" to have the Triarii switch places with Veteran Principes. They also nicely moved the Velites to where it would protect the flank.
On the left, I made a tactical error. I should have had both Thracian Peltasts twos company his left Velites--they'd have won, then I could have killed the archers and flanked the Hastadi at my leisure. But I was seduced by the pinch, so they pinched the Hastadi. The Hastadi ran, and survived with one hit point, but now my skirmisher was in bad position. Meanwhile, the other Thracians went one-on-one with Velites and lost, though the Velites went into the yellow.
In the center, Foot Companions have one-shotted some wretched Hastadi who were just outside of Triarii backup range. One shoting the Hastadi meant the opposing Principes will take their impact his when they engage.
On the right, the Velites on the flank have been knocked back. I direct controlled my other cavalry in order for it not to engage...though I made another tactical error here..keeping my cavalry too far back (See below.).
On the left, my Peltasts, pinched by his two skirmishers (one of them archers), fight magnificently. Attacking to their rear, I roll well, and kill the Velites outright! Sadly, they run away, surviving with one hit point. They will rally, but will sit out the rest of the battle.
Comment #3: Jaime felt that the Thracian Peltasts were a bit underpriced, and suggested 97. But their price depends a lot on whether they're fighting skirmishers, which they do well (though it's always very dicey when skirmishers fight each other, usually boiling down to who blows a rout check on that first engaged turn), or whether they're arrow-shields or pinchers. I could see their price going to 95, though 93 is also fine.
On the right, the Romans send Veteran Principes to help out on the flank. Meanwhile, due to my previous movement error, the Triarii move to engage my Saissophoroi, and doing so puts them just outside the front arc of the Prodromoi. So no pinch for me for a while--sad!
The left Foot Companions and Iphicratean Spearman ram his Cretan Archers, who fail their second rout check and go away.
The right Foot Companions have crushed the Principes in 2 turns--the Principes routed after going into the red.), and are positioned to final rush the Veteran Principes who are pounding on my Hoplites.
The Allied Hoplites go into the red, but hold (My morale this game was excellent.). The Prodromoi, unable to pinch, at least position themselves such that the Velites will run off the map if the Romans don't spend a command action to rally them.
2 turns later....
On the left, Principes very intelligent slide over to be out of range of my Foot Companion Juggernaut, instead going in front of my weak Iphicratean Spearmen, wounding them with pila. Meanwhile the one-hit-point Hastadi are finally rallied.
Hey, did you hear about the unit which survived Foot Companions pinching it?
That's because there is no such unit!
Sadly, my Allied Hoplites, who would have been able to pinch the Triarii the following round, finally run away...I even wasted a "We Few" card on them!
I can't recall if I forgot to put the new Alexander army ability (2 extra dice) on my Prodromoi, of if I had a more desperate need of command cards elsewhere, but this would've been the time to do it! Oh well.
On the left, my Iphicratean Spearmen are lavished with defensive cards, as I desperately try to keep them alive long enough....and they live! Foot Companions put Triarii into the yellow (mainly due to impact hits), and other spearman are rushing forward to assist. Being in the yellow, the Triarii are attacking with 0 dice.
On the right, Foot Companions move toward the wounded Triarii, who, with the help of the Veteran Principes finally kill off my Cavalry.
Immediately after my one unit of Iphicratean Spearmen falls, the other hits the Principes in the flank. They get pinched by archers, and mangled. But you all have one guess as to what's about to happen to the Principes...
Meanwhile, on the right, Romans go twos-company on my Foot Companions, the Triarii again getting 0 dice. I had a "Hold! Hold!" card in my hand. This would have been the ideal time to play it, as it would have helped vs. both the pila and the engaged attack, but I forgot to play it during the movement and command phase--my third error of the game (which ended up costing me 140 scenario points, as my FCs ended up just barely going into the red.) :-/
Suggestion #2: I STRONGLY recommend that the bonus from "Hold! Hold!" change from +1/+0 to +0/+1, for the following reasons:
- This card becomes very powerful when dealing with a twos company, as one card gives you the bonus vs. both attacks. The large Foot Companions are likely to face twos company situations. Boosting them from 3/1 to 3/2 is less powerful than a boost to 4/1. (If you need to see a mathy illustation of this, ask.) So the change will somewhat tone down how (overly) well the card works with Foot Companions.
- For the same reason, the card is excellent vs. units throwing Pila as they final rush. Pila typically have better force than accuracy (for example, Principes throw at (3)5/6). So boosting the defender's hardness again is less powerful than boosting their "dodge."
- This reason is less important, but frankly, the card is named "Hold! Hold!' not "Dodge! Dodge!" When I hear "Hold!" I picture men hunkering down under their shields, their shields and armor full of arrows, as they plod forward--that just feels more like toughness.
In short, by changing the bonus from +1/+0 to +0/+1, the "Hold! Hold!" card is toned down under the special circumstances where it is most powerful, but it is otherwise as good as it was. (For example, if your 2/2 hoplites are being attacked by some (5)5/5 unit, it doesn't matter which is boosted.)
On the left, Foot Companions crushed the Principes, while, no longer pinched, Iphicratean Spearmen made short work of his engaged archers despite the rear attack. Meanwhile, the other Foot Companions killed the Veteran Princeipes while the ralled Allied Hoplites pinched and erased the wounded Triarii.
The final Roman move was the Velites on the right--the same little pests who had delayed my pinch for so long, kamikaze'd into the Foot Companions' flank, wiping away their last yellow box. Well done!
In the Green: Foot Companions
In the Yellow: (nothing)
In the Red: Foot Companions, Allied Hoplites, Iphicratean Spearmen, Thracian Peltasts.
Total points: 757. Almost the exact center of the 4-2 VP range. (In the 9-point system it's a 6-3 split, and misses a 7-2 by 3 points.)
I predicted before the game that this would be an Alexander victory, and, despite me making 3 mistakes, Alexander still won a solid, if not overwhelming, victory. By deploying in such a wide line, Rome was forced to spread its forces thin, leaving it with a weak center, and leaving too few of its units backed up, resulting in a predictably larger number of units routing.
I stand by what I said before this game: there are 3 things which I, as the Alexander player, fear. One is 5"+ moving units which eat light cavalry for breakfast (Knights, Elephants, Ancients, etc.). Two is a cloud of arrows. Three is spears. Rome has none of these except for some mediocre spearmen, but Persia has them all.
Comment #3. I remain concerned that Alexander is uniquely poorly suited to fight Persia relative to other armies. If it gets balanced vs. Persia it will slaughter everyone else, and if it is balanced vs. everyone else Persia will crush it.
I think the Foot Companions are too powerful as they stand. A single unit tore through Hastadi, Principes, (flanked and wounded) Veteran Principes, Triarii, and more Veteran Principes, and (wounded) Velites, and would've ended in the yellow if I hadn't muffed the command card play. Yeah, yeah, they're vulnerable in flanked, but as, this battle illustrates, flanking a unit is easier said than done! By putting some solid Hoplites on one side and a skirmisher/infantry pair on the other, it gave my Foot Companions plenty of turns to work their magic. Especially because if the FCs have a red card to play and the opponent doesn't have a blue card they're absolutely devastating--with 9 dice Foot Companions are a more efficient converter of Command Cards into Damage than any other unit in the game, even the Celestial Guard!
Suggestion #3: Reduce Foot Companions to one impact hit. Game balance issues aside, I still find the thought of 3.5"-moving infantry doing 2 impact hits while knights do one and ogres and dragons do zero pretty hard to swallow.
Suggestion #4: New Foot Companions Rules (pt = playtest)
pt1 - If engaged multiple enemy units, Foot Companions are allowed to allocate their attack dice up among these units as they see fit, though each attack is modified according to the location of the engaged opponent. (For example, each unit on a flank gets 1 less die than allocated.)
pt2 - Foot companions may direct no more than 7 dice at any one target, or 6 dice if charging. Any available dice in excess of this amount must be directed at another engaged unit, or are wasted if there are none. This maximum number of dice is determined before command cards/army abilities are used (So for example, if going one-one-one with the Kings Guard, if the Kings guard plays "Parry", which is -1 die, the Foot Companions would get 6 dice.)
pt3 - If Foot Companions have more than 3.5" of card engaged with an opponent unit, rule pt2 is not in effect. (This situation can occur if Foot Companions are engaged frontally with other Foot Companions, or if they are flanking most colossal units.)
These changes will still make Foot Companions very powerful, and give them the ability to make them hang in there at good strength for a long time, but they'll be less of a juggernaut.
Suggestion #5: Reduce the penalty for units engaged with Foot Companions front to -1 die. Not only is 3 dice for a typical unit (which normally has 5 attack dice) pathetic, but it gets even worse once the unit goes into the yellow or red, as Jaime can testify. Not to mention those poor 3-die Triarii! This could always be balanced by giving the Foot Companions another green or yellow box.
Suggestion #6: Let the Iphicratean Spearmen attack with 4 dice on their charge turn.
Last edited by Kevin; 06-03-2010 at 06:49 PM.
The following rules were in effect I incorporated some of the rules changes which had consensus in the last couple of weeks, but generally didn't go with any where there didn't seem to be agreement (for example, what to do about Foot Companions attack dice). Also tested some rules which Zinos had green lighted me testing.
Army Ability "Inspiration" gets burned for 2 extra dice, eliminated the max # of hits language. (This worked well, IMHO)
Nikanor's Influence - allows rerolls of both the hit and damage dice, taking the better result. (This worked well, IMHO.)
Hold! Hold! - Gives +0/+1. Bonus does not "stack" with other defensive bonuses (but it still affects multiple friendly units).
Parmenion's Influence - Eliminate the "engaged" requirement. (This rule change was irrelevant in this game.)
Foot Companions reduced to 1 impact hit. (This rule change was irrelevant in this game.)
"Attack the Gap" was clarified, so that each unit would get orders changed to C, +1 to MC, both, or neither. (See below.)
Each Satrap Army option gives 2 points of Foresight to the opponent. (This worked well, IMHO)
Takabara have swords rather than spears (This rule change was irrelevant in this game.)
"Withdraw" eliminated, replaced by copies of the two "unique" Persian Command Cards. (This worked well, IMHO)
"Blot Out the Sun" - we meant to playtest this as limited to 4 archers, but I forgot to mention this to Jaime at the beginning of the game, and decided to let it slide rather than spend time sifting through emails, particularly because when he played it he had 5 archers, a couple of whom had pretty marginal shots (1s and 3s or something like that), so it didn't make much difference.
Note that units with spears got 1 less die when charging, even if they only had 3 or 4 dice.
Suggestion 1: Any unit with Spears and fewer than 5 dice should get its full dice on the charge turn. I've said this before. Roman Triarii (spears, 3 dice) don't lose dice when charging. As Corey had said, spearmen presumably get one more die than swordsmen because the second rank is helping out a bit, and the presumed reason why spearmen lose that die when charging is because their second rank isn't positioned to attack. But with fewer than 5 dice I'm envisioning a loose formation in which there's no second rank anyway, so everyone would be in the front on the charge turn.
This rule may slightly increase the point costs of some spear-armed units, which is fine.
We had similar strategies, and both predicted the other's strategy: Hold one one side and advance on the other. Jaime (Persia) went for the hill, as the higher ground bonus is helpful in both archery and regular combat. He took an arrow-heavy army--8 of his 10 units have bows. He left his other flank lightly defended with Kardaks (spearmen).
I figured I couldn't hope to take the hill: his elephants would eat my cavalry for breakfast, and my good infantry (Hypaspites and Foot Companions) get nerfed by terrain. So I planned to park a unit of Foot Companions near the base of the hill--they'd hopefully last a while, while surging forward on the left, with my two best cavalry on the far flank. I also tried out a unit of Hypaspites near the center, figuring they would help rip through opponents. The combination of Thracian Peltasts + Iphicratean Spearmen make a good "tank", and on the left can more-or-less keep up with the cavalry.
I also spend 30 points for "Permenion's Influence" Victory depended on my cavalry doing great things, so I needed them to last!
Because of the new "Satrap Army" rules, I was able to deploy the last unit, which meant that Persia had to put down its Elephants before seeing where my cavalry would be. IMHO this is how it should be.
Comment 1. This game underlines what I've been saying before about this match. When not doing a scenario with predetermined units, people will play to win, so they won't take units likely to lose. Alexander's light cavalry's bonuses vs. cavalry (which I questioned at length in an email last week) once again results in the opponent taking no cavalry...but once again taking those invincible Armored Elephants. As things currently stand, this will be the norm: Alexander's army will see more Elephants than horses.
The armies move forward.
On the left, I'm very disappointed that Jaime didn't have more stuff, as I'm racing toward a more-or less empty pocket. I sent the left Iphicrateans to bolster my far-right flank (They're currently behind the line), and should have done the same with the Peltasts. Interestingly, Jaime did the same thing: note the Sparabara on the far right corner moving toward the left side of his line.
In the center, Thavkabara were just hit by javelins from Peltasts, and routed.
On the right, my Foot Companions have hit their location target. They have taken 3 damage from ridiculously accurate long range fire.
On the left, I have to use a command action to pull back the Peltasts, who otherwise would've forced my cavalry to take a roundabout route. (Bad initial orders by me.) Thassalean Cavalry and Hypaspites are both slightly out of range of their opponents.
In the center, Peltasts have routed after being hit by arrows. Note that the Spearmen are on hold: I have plenty of force to win in this area, so there's no need to send them into battle and risk an unprotected flank.
On the right, Foot Companions take a couple more hits, while the Iphicratean Spearmen have moved into position. I keep them behind the peltasts, as their plan is to stay there and protect the flank rather than attempt to take the hill.
SURPRISE! "Attack the Gap" allows my units to speed up, and battle is joined! Both of his units hold (Sad...but after this turn Persian morale became utterly wretched. It didn't help that, despite drawing 25 command cards over the course of the game, Jaime never drew "A Thousand Nations."). But the Hypaspites will make quick work of the puny little Sparabara despite fighting uphill. Also, Persia totally muffed the dice on the Kardakes hitting my Thessalian Cavalry: they only did 1 damage, and that was negated by Parmenion's Influence.
Both engaged Persian units will fall next turn (The Persian turn): the Sparabara will be knocked down to 0 hit points by the Hypaspites, while the Kardakes will fail a rout check after going into the red.
I also used the "Attack the Gap" to bring my Companion Cavalry slightly close to the enemy, and to give a new order to my routed Peltasts in the center (not visible on this map).
Persia made a subtle, but critical error here: the unengaged Kardakes were just slightly too far away to support their neighbor. Had they been slightly closer together, my Thessalian cavalry would've been pinched on the following turn...or more likely I wouldn't have surged them forward. I'd still have been on odds to win this engagement, but probably would've emerged with one cavalry dead and the other wounded.
Comment 2: I ended up playing Permenion's Influence 3 times on my Thessalian Cavalry; it worked out very nicely, and I really like the "Influence" abiilty as an army feature. Kudos to the designers! As an aside, I think this is the best of the 3 "Influence" cards, as Alexander's army is short on defense. And the card works best on Thessalians, who already have decent defensive numbers.
On the left: With the one Kardakes destroyed, my cavalry pinched the other Kardakes, who fled right away and exploded in a gooey mess.
In the center: Iphicratean Spearmen are taking a pounding from arrows, but here come the Hypastpites to the rescue!
On the right: with the archers on the high ground, and their arrows still being being guided as if by Apollo himself, my Foot Companions are starting to evaporate. The one bit of good news is that Jaime was (with good reason!) hesitant to send his elephants charging into Holding Foot Companions, and he wasted a number of command actions direct controlling his units on the hill.
In general, one reason why a lot of combats seemed to go as well as they did for Alexander was that I had a major command card advantage. Not only did Satrap Army reduce Persia to 3 actions/turn, but Jaime often spent 1-2 of these changing orders/direct controlling units, while I did this to a much lesser extent. Over the course of the game I think I drew 40 cards to his 25...but close to half his cards were drawn in the endgame, while I was drawing 3-4 card/turn (Maybe 1 turn I drew 2 cards, but that was because I had to spend a command action to play "Attack the Gap."
Comment #3: When taking the Satrap army ability, it may not be a bad idea to spend about half of the extra points on command cards, so as to ensure command card parity in the critical early turns of engagement.
Persia hits back!
On the left, Sparabara charge into the flank of my Thessalian Cavalry. I play both Parmenion's Influence (for the 2nd time), and "Nikanor's Influence"...and still have to play "We Few" after muffing the initial rout check. (I think I rolled a 17.).
In the center, Iphicraten Spearmen continue to feel the pain.
On the right...my poor Foot Companions! Down to one hit point! (And they were lucky to survive at all!) Luckily, even at one hit point they could still put the hurt onto a charging elephant, so Jaime again kept his unit back.
Suggestion #2: I liked having "Nikanor's Influence" mean to roll twice and take the better result. It wasn't really burdensome at all to roll a couple of extra times, it's mathematically balanced, and IMHO it's a more interesting card. I suggest this change be made official, or at least that others playtest it.
Comment #4. Not that it's an issue, but "We Few" is a great card. While a reroll is weaker than some other factions cards (such as Lizardmen where you reroll at +1, or Rome where you auto-pass if backed up), the high morale of so many units makes rerolls relatively safe.
Persia's flank collapses!
The Sparabara are pinched by Companion Cavalry, fail their rout check, and explode in another gooey mess!
Peltats get a shot at the Thavkabara. They roll well, and I play "Cunning" to do 3 points of damage and wipe them out.
Hypaspites charge downhill into Sparabara. The Sparabara go into either the yellow or red (I forget), rout, and are annihilated.
Hypaspites and wounded Iphicratean spearmen are just under 5 and 6 inches respectively from the last Sparabara. (Cue music from "Jaws...")
On the right, my Peltasts move to in front of the Elephants, planning to keep them bottled up just a little longer. I'm perfectly happy to have that 449-point unit operate as half-strength Thavkabara for as long as possible!
SURPRISE! I play "Attack the Gap!" again, and my Hypaspites and Iphicraten Spearmen surge forward and pinch his final Sparabara. The Sparabara hold initially, taking down the wounded Iphicraten Spearmen, but rout from damage and explode in another gooey mess. Cavalry also benefit from the extra speed to get closer to the final Persians.
Foot Companions have succumbed to arrows, and go down, never having been engaged. I was hoping they'd last longer, but console myself that with those ungodly arrow dice anything would've been destroyed!
Now the battle is 7-on-3. But his 3 are tough, pristine, and on the high ground. So it could get ugly
Suggestion #3. Jaime strongly feels that Attack the Gap is too powerful. Not that the card should be removed entirely, but it should be toned down a bit. Here's what we came up with:
Attack the Gap! Spend one command action: up to 3 units may receive new orders of Close with a specific enemy unit as their target (but no other modifier), receive +1 MC, or both.
It still makes for a powerful card, but now a lot of the auxilliary benefits from the card go away. In other words, in addition to the forward surge to engage/pinch, you don't also get to move the rest of the army in closer, give new orders to rallied units for free, etc.
I added the enemy target as modifier to the card because IMHO it gives better flavor and feels more like what the card means. I envision the general yelling "Go get THEM! Move!" as opposed to "Go get SOMEONE! Move!" because, you know, it's "Attack the Gap," not just "Surge forward." (I would not allow location targets, because people will do funky things, such as putting the locations targets behind their units, to actually prevent their units from rushing forward. Which would make the card too powerful)
As a final note, anything which gives units extra speed is a very powerful ability/card, because the opponent has to plan his moves as if your units can surge forward at any time, even if you can't do so. So your opponent often has to waste points on direct controlling. Or the opponent forgets to do this and gets pinched like above.
Top (formerly the left flank). Companions Cavalry and Hypaspites have taken a few arrows, but are positioned to pinch the Immortals on my next move.
Middle: Peltasts are closing in on the Elephant, again trying to keep it occupied. A few lucky javelin hits wipe out half its green boxes over a couple of turns. Thessalian Cavalry is stuck behind my line.
Bottom: Iphicratean Spearmen rout from arrow fire. I choose not to play "We Few" on them, as they can be rallied, and I want that card in my hand as my Hypaspites and Companion Cavalry battle the Immortals.
The first Immortals was pinched and quickly detroyed. (Hypaspites charging on the front while Companion Cavalry, still in the green, plow into the flank of a unit with 2/1 defense...what do you expect? Oh, and this time I did use the Alexander Army ability to give my Companions Cavalry (attacking at 8/7!) 2 extra dice.) I then sent the Companion Cavalry to hit the other Immortals one-on-one, while the Hypaspites positioned themelves to back them up should they go down....and in an amazing bit of (bad Persian) luck, the first hit knocks the Immortals into the yellow and the Immortals blow 2 rout checks and vanish!
Meanwhile, the Elephants charged the Peltasts in front of them, forcing a second rout check when they failed. The other Peltasts engaged their flank--sacrificing themselves to prevent the Elephants from turning to face my incoming cavalry, and dying on his turn, leaving their flank open!
Sadly, my cavalry muffed their attack and failed to put the elephants into the yellow. But with my playing "Parmenion's Influence" for the third and final time they again stick around long enough to keep the Elephants from repositioning themselves as my other units move in for the kill...
Death of the Elephants.
Right after they kill my Thessalian Cavalry, The elephants got goosed by Iphicraten Spearmen and Companion Cavalry (again given 2 extra dice) and fled. They survived their second rout check and rallied, but are then charged by my same two units, who finish them off.
Victory to Alexander!
In the yellow: Hypaspites, Companion Cavalry, Iphicratean Spearmen
In the Afterlife: Foot Companions, Thessalian Cavalry, Iphicraten Spearmen, 3 Thracian Peltasts
Scenario points: 535.3. A decent, if not amazing, 4-2 VP split. (6-3 in the 9-point system.)
This game was rather unusual: His best unit, Armored Elephants, never managed to do any impact hits, while mine, Foot Companions," was never engaged at all!
A rather amusing (for me) side note is that for most of the game Jaime had two "Second Wave" cards in his hand, but his units would all go from green to SPLAT in a single turn, so he never got to play them until his badly wounded Elephants stood alone (and were still in the red after healing).
Although I won this match, I considered this an uphill fight, and maintain that Alexander is poorly suited to fight Persia. Note that in the game (a) Persian Morale was wretched and (b) Jaime admitted that he made a mistake by fighting for the center instead of sending more of his army onto the hill. His Thanvabara were totally wasted. On the other hand, apart from sending my leftmost Peltasts forward in the early game rather than behind the line (a small mistake which cost me a single command action to rectify), I really feel that I did as good as I could do in this scenario. So with the opponent making both strategic mistakes (not putting more on the hill) and tactical ones (wasting command actions putting Elephants on Hold, leaving units within "Attack the Gap" range of my guys...twice) AND the morale dice breaking my way big time...the best I can do is a middling 4-2 victory...less well than I did vs. Rome in the previous game.
The Companion Cavalry really shined in this game (They shared the kill of Kardakes, Sparabara, Immortals,and Armored Elephants, plus made a solo kill of other Immortals = over 1250 points of enemy units!)--pinching opponent and fighting vs. light opposition, but their defensive stats really suck, and I fear that they'll fold like a cheap tent if properly opposed. Heck, even a couple of Thanvabara will put the hurt on big time. I'd really like to see the Companion Cavalry get 2/2 defense, but lose the defense bonus vs. cavalry (which it will hardly ever be fighting, anyway). Ironically, as they stand they may be overpriced. Compare them to 380-point Centaurs, who are 2/2 on defense and get a javelin shot and 1 better force on the charge turn.
Suggestion #4: To make things like "swingy" eliminate the defensive bonus vs. cavalry. I suppose you could keep the offensive one, the "swingy" factor of one bonus is less than half that of two. I'd probably make the Companions 2/2 and keep the Thessalians 2/2 as well. And yes this would of course change their point costs.
Last edited by Kevin; 06-17-2010 at 08:28 PM.
Last Updated on 13 August 2010
Welcome Alexander vs. Persia playtesters. This is the first game I played vs. Jaime, from a couple of weeks back. It's a "vanilla" game: 2000 points, open map, Total Warfare, no special condition.