Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Poseidon's Warriors : Wargame Review

I hope you have a bucket under your table when you play these rules, to catch the blood and smashed ships.

The rules are basically. I-Go-You-Go, unit by unit. Combat is instantly resolved with no carry-overs to the next round. You can drink and play this game with no problems. The blurb's 'integrated turn system' with special powers is not apparent after a few trial games.

Record keeping is necessary to monitor damage but it is minimal and can be accomplished with markers.

Ships move in the order of 6 inches a turn. Turns are accomplished by pivoting on the spotup to 45 degrees for each inch advanced. Units can also 'turn-about' on the spot - even if they lie alongside each other? Backing is only allowed at a minimal rate. No other special manouvres are possible. This is a problem if one considers evasion to be an essential tactic - especially before the Roman era or with small ships. Ships could turn and run before an opponent but this is not possible here unless one trusts to the vagaries of the movement sequence to stay ahead of a pursuer. An attack always goes home - the attacker never baulks, the target never flees.

ROMAN 'SLOW' 5s WITH CORVUS COME UP AGAINST CARTHAGINIAN 'FAST' 5S
 
 THE MEASURING TRIANGLE ALLOWS TURNS AND MOVES TO BE DONE EASILY. THE 1 INCH SIDE IS TO ENSURE 1 INCH SPACE TO MAKE TURNS.

Each class of ship has a 'Slow' and 'Fast' variant but no 'standard'. Maybe this avoids some complication.

Command and Control is by keeping units of 3 to 5 ships together. A single larger ship can form a unit by itself. Mixed units are not allowed. Commanders with special abilities allow extra tactical possibilities.

Combat uses a d6 and some ship characteristics give +/- modifications.

THE ROMANS ARE UNABLE TO ATTACK THIS MOVE BUT THE CARTHAGINIANS CANNOT TURN AWAY WITHOUT EXPOSING THIER SIDES SO THEY MUST FIGHT

Artillery , fire pots and corvii are featured but no distant shooting by deck troops. The number of deck troops is reduced down to a few factors but is not related to ancient numbers. A trireme with 12 epibatai seems to get 1 factor and a Roman 5 with a century on board gets 2.

Playing a few trial games showed up the usual problem of this turn structure. If one side has more units it always gets the extra initiative of saving good units to move last. This type of movement also means a player watches as a unit gets smashed by the quick bloody combat then may try to send in a response unit to smash the victors. who, in turn get smashed and then another unit is sent in to smash the victors etc.

Head-on ramming by similar ships tends to sink most of each side. Avoid it. But it was a usual tactic in the later era and with heavier ships - just do it against lighter vessels and you will succeed.

THE ROMANS CHARGE TO CONTACT AND MAKE FRONTAL RAM ATTACKS
THE ROMANS DICE FOR EFFECT AND SINK 2 PUNICS AND DAMAGE THE OTHER

 A fleet must check morale when things are going badly and a simple modified dice roll can end things.

No table-top layouts are shown in the book and  no maps or diagrams of battles at all. This is probably an omission for a book aimed at gamers starting in this type of wargaming. Not even a photo of a game in progress.

No help is given with terrain. If this is a beginner's book then this is an omission, especially as the terrain is a bit specialised for this kind of wargame.

THE CARTHAGINIANS CAN MAKE A REPLY BECAUSE THE ATTACK IS FRONTAL AND THEY SINK TWO OF THE ROMANS - MUTUAL CARNAGE
 
 Osprey seem to always have editing failures like this. The editors do not know what they are editing. If one had read the book they could have noticed these omissions? Also, Guiseppe Rava is given credit for providing illustrations reproduced from other Osprey titles but two of Peter Dennis' illustrations entitle him to no such mention. An editor's job ? Also, there is a contents list but no index.

The best part of the rules, in my opinion, is that players are not left dangling, trying to think up a battle situation to fight-out. From a single battle to a generic scenario to a basic historical campaign players can find an excuse for a scrap that stops them turning to science fiction. All to the good. The basic historical background also aids gamers new to the period from going to far astray.

THE ROMANS DROP THEIR CORVUS AND TRY TO GRAPPLE - THEY ARE SUCCESSFUL
(MARKED BY CARD AT JUNCTION)
THE MARINES NOW FIGHT AND THE 2 DICE OF THE 'SLOW' 5 KNOCK-OUT THE ONLY PUNIC MARINE FACTOR ON THE 'FAST' 5. GOODNIGHT VIENNA.
 IN THIS LITTLE FIGHT 5 OF 6 SHIPS WERE LOST. 2000 MEN FOUND A WATERY GRAVE.

A few oddities include  the compulsory slowing of a ship equipped with a corvus - not necessary for a load equal to a small handful of deck troops, surely.In the Punic Wars scenarios we are not informed which ships have corvii. There are no rules for the tactic of deliberately beaching to avoid sinking by superior enemy and no rules, even elementary, to disembark troops or  fight on land. The fastest ship is a 'four' - ancient sources and research would suggest the trieres is the fastest possible ancient oared ship. An oddity is that a ship can sail across the wreck of another, even a 'polyreme' ? The Corinthian modification of reinforced bows is ascribed to the Syracusans.. There were three battles at Artemesium between the Greeks and Persians not one, and the battle at Arginusae has been widely written about but the account here lacks detail. 

I would recommend the rules for a conflagration at 1/1200 or even 1/3600 scale. 1/300 or larger games need more detail than these rules provide. I had battles with up to 56 1/1200 ships and could manage it. Several players could refight an ancient battle with many ships. The question mark hanging over the rules is whether they give a good representation of an ancient galley battle. ('Classical' galleys ?).  I do not think they do but they do make it possible to fight the melee-type battles between Romans and their enemies without getting too confused and get a result. More mobile type of tactics will not be possible. The historical campaign are an excellent feature. Players could extend this idea in several ways to make games interesting and connected.

I am currently setting up a harbour battle and will do a short report on that too.


A file to print and make the simple models I used for my battles with these rules is HERE. I normally use 1/3600 or N-Gauge or 1/400 models.

POST SCRIPT 10/2016

I played two games with tens of ships a side, including an Arginusae refight.

The results were easily predictable. With the kind of mechanisms in these rules only statistics count.
There are no rules to encourage or allow manoeuvre and so a sloging match is the best tactic. If one just sets ones ships side-by side then the progress of the engagement is easy to see. A second rank will ensure victory at that point.

The best aspect of these rules remains the campaign aspects. Jazz-up the rules to make the battles more interesting.

7 comments:

  1. The link to the file for the simple model ships doesn't seem to be working. Thanks for the review. I'll be adding your site to "favorites".

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  2. The card file link is broken. I will fix it later today.Thanks Patrick.

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  3. Thanks for the write up. As a beginner in ancient naval, I read the book and just took it at face value. What I get from your review is that PW is a good starting point but there is much more to ancient naval warfare than just ramming each other.

    Thanks also for the card models. I've ordered a bunch of in expensive card stock ship tiles to start with. I'll move on to models once I get a better grasp of the era.

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    Replies
    1. Glad it was of use Ian.I will be doing a startup guide soon for newly interested.Older posts on here..some without tags..have a lot of info. I think this genre of gaming lends itself to card/paper very well.

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  4. Hey Plasticviking.

    Couple of questions if I may...

    We played PW and thought that a chit draw system of activation would improve the game to avoid the usual igo-ugo problems you ascribe...thoughts?

    Also, what extras do you think they need to be a bit more historical in the way the game drives an outcome?

    Lastly, I'm looking to build fleets for the Greek navies of the Peloponnesian war. Can I ask please, would you be able to comment on my post on TMP please.

    http://theminiaturespage.com/boards/msg.mv?id=439474

    Love your blog.

    Thank you

    Happy Wanderer

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  5. I grouped the ships into units and gave each unit a card in an activation deck - You can then either activate each side alternately in a random sequence or mix the sides and activate all units interleaved so the IGO-UGO is really on a unit-by unit basis and can be Ugo Ugo Ugo Igo. I dont think PW can be saved for a more complex game, it is ok for a mass of ships, but if you want some detail it probably needs a lot of modifying.
    OR . give each unit a quality dice to roll for initiative. Lousy =D4, Athens on a good day = d10, for example. At the game turn start roll a dice for every unit and activate through them all on a sequence of best score to worst- tying units dice again until a sequence is arrived at. The key is also to make sure the rules give some clear advantage to moving first.

    Extras --read earlier posts here. Its a long story. I have rules in the pipeline for different scales. Each scale can different emphasis in terms of game mechanics. See Navarchus or Hotz for larger ships, Society of Ancients or PW for the smaller end. If you want deck troope represented then 1/600 with Irregular 2mm troops blobs is the smallest you can go, maybe.

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  6. Lots of good thoughts there - thanks.

    I agree you don't want to gum up PW too much but I think some tweaks, given the relative simplicity of the game, are possible whilst still retaining the essence of the original.

    Cheers

    HW

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