Men of Bronze: Ancient Greek Hoplite Battles by Eric Farrington is the latest addition to the Osprey Wargames series. On the blog today, Eric talks about his design process. This blog was first posted on his personal blog, which can be found here.
The process to create this book started a long time ago. My initial forays into game design revolved around creating a set of rules to recreate Greek Hoplite battles on the table. Those rules from over two decades ago bear no resemblance to the rules in this book. However, the flame was kept alive through the years. Finally, these rules came about a few years ago.
The game had these design goals in mind as I worked on the rules.
1) Keep players engaged in all points of the game
2) Force decision making
3) Keep it quick and simple
4) Scale and base agnostic
5) Capture the feel of Greek Warfare as I understand it
Keep Players Engaged
The game uses a resource management system called Arete Points that players can use to bid for initiative, re-roll dice, activate special rules, or try to steal initiative. Therefore, a savvy commander needs to know when to hold his Arete points and when to use them to his advantage. Frequently, this is when your opponent is acting as the system allows for interrupts of the turn sequence to use these points.
Force Decision Making
During the game, you will need to make many choices to determine the best way to use your troops. When a unit activates, their actions are limited. You as the commander must choose what is best. Should they reposition, shoot a barrage of arrows, charge into combat, support their fellow citizens, use an Arete Point?
Units supporting each other is another key component. Can the Phalanx push through their foes alone, or do they need to be supported by the Peltasts? Does it make sense to support the archers being charged, or to leave them to their fate? Units in support can boost the combat abilities of their fellows, but if the main unit is destroyed.... so is the supporting units. Is it worth it?
Keep it Quick and Simple
The combat resolution system is easy. No complex math or cross-referencing. The mechanics are the same through out the rules so if you know how to resolve a combat, you can resolve shooting and other actions as well. The mechanics use an opposed dice pool looking for a target number, with the more successes the better.
Army creation uses broad troop types to keep army creation and management streamlined and simple. Troops types are abstracted with only a handful of stats and abilities to remember.
Scale and Base Agnostic
I hate re-basing to play games. Therefore, I designed this game to be model, scale ,and base agnostic. I use it with 28mm single based figures, but it can also be played with 6mm multi-based, 15mm single based, 54mm multi-based, or anything in between. You only need to be able to tell if a unit is in Open Formation or a Phalanx, and the center/leader of the unit.
All measurements are in base widths that can be of any mutually agreeable distance or table size can be used.
Capture the Feel of Greek Warfare
As such, the emphasis is on Phalanx on Phalanx combat. Missile weapons are de-prioritized and the push of the spear and shield is critical. The Phalanx as a formation has strengths but also weaknesses that a clever commander must use and exploit.
The rules have army lists for:
- Greek City-States
- Hill tribes
The system and troops types are loose enough that you can create any historical force from the Classical Greek periods of the Persian-Greek Wars to the Battle of Chaeronea