Saturday, 25 March 2017

First game of Broken Legions

In my list of 6 x 6 games to get played this year is Broken Legions, published by Osprey Wargames. I put it in never having played it before, but looking forward to giving it a whirl. For those that don't know much about it, the game is a fantasy skirmish game set in the days of Ancient Rome, with small warbands of troops trying to recover precious relics and fight monsters. I have to admit, it was this setting that made me want to play more than anything. The author of the rules is Mark Latham, who has a pretty impressive resume in the wargaming world, having written one of my favourite rulesets, Legends of the Old West.

I set up a game based around scenario 1 in the rulebook, with Soldiers of the Eagle (Romans) vs Argonauts (Greeks).

The Argonauts on the table.
The battlefield and starting positions.
A sagitarius wounds the Heraclean hero.
The rest of the warbands move towards each other.
The Romans are outnumbered, but determined to protect their scouts who are busy discovering lost artifacts in the ruins.
The two forces close for hand to hand combat.
The Roman centurion takes out a mercenary hoplite and the Heraclean champion loses his last wound to a legionary's gladius strike. The Oracle tries casting a spell to weaken the enemy.
The Centurion removes another Argonaut while his Paretorian bodyguard chases off his opponent.
Sensing victory the Centurion and Praetorian charge forward , to be met by the Argonaut captain.
Three for three, the Roman centurion adds to his tally in the final turn. Meanwhile the Roman Frumentarius and Legionary scout have secured 14 VP in recovered artifacts, compared to the Argonaut total of 8 VP.
So, what is the verdict on this game?
Initially I was enjoying it - the initiative, movement and distance combat was very smooth. But then I got into melee. I should preface this by saying that I played solo and so every combat involved me working out the sums for both sides simultaneously. It might feel a bit smoother if playing an opponent so that you only have to think about your own totals. But I did find the whole thing quite clunky. Roll a d10, then add any combat modifiers, then the model's combat ability then any weapon attack bonuses. Both sides do this. The higher total has hit. At the same time roll another d10 which is the critical die. On a 10 you get an extra hit in, on a 1 you fumble and your opponent immediately attacks you back, rather than in the priority sequence which is a bit confusing. Then to wound, you roll a d10 and add any strength bonus from your model's physique along with any weapon strength bonus vs your opponent's armour rating plus a d10. In other words, to wound your opponent you roll three times and consult 4 different tables, some of them twice. And then you might not beat his armour, so the whole thing needs to be repeated again. I also found that the priority for models fighting was a bit convoluted when you got into your third round of hand to hand combat.
Did I find it counter-intuitive? No, not really, but I did find it painstaking, particularly playing both sides. Was there no way to have a single roll for melee, or to include some of these stats in the base profiles so there weren't so many tables to consult? As for the critical die, it did make a difference, but why roll an extra die? Why not just use the base d10 you roll anyway? I have to admit, by the last couple of turns I was looking at the dice and just going with my intuition as to which side was going to win, rather than doing the maths for both sides again.

I don't think these are a bad set of rules, and if you've got an opponent I could imagine the dice duels that go on in combat would be quite fun, but as a solo player I want to streamline them. The excitement you get in a face to face battle with an opponent is in the tension of these dice contests, but in a solo game that feeling arrives in meeting the victory conditions of the scenario, or moving into the next phase of a narrative campaign, without any need for granularity. As such, I look for smooth mechanics without multiple factors, like Lion Rampant, or the Lord of the Rings Strategy Battle Game or DBA.

I feel that I should play another game at some point, just to see if it can run any smoother with experience, but deep down I'm thinking that I will probably just write my warbands some stats for Lord of the Rings and go from there.