Friday, August 18, 2023

Late Roman AAR Reinforcements on The Table

Yes this makes too AARs in the space of a week and a half.  This week Curt's been hosting Phil H, a British gamer who's been based in the US for a few years and is now on his way back to Blighty.  Phil wanted to get as many games in as possible, so we've been taking turns to run games.  This Tuesday was my turn and I ran a To the Strongest game featuring my Late Romans vs Barbarian Conspiracy Armies.

I went for a favourite scenario from this well thumbed chestnut from the 1980s

I've played this one many times with many rules and in many eras from Hoplites to Desert Rats.

The Romans had a division isolated commanded by Phil on the ridge line which was rough ground, and I had the bulk of their forces coming from the town.  The Barbarians were led by Curt and Stacy and had a 4:3 overall advantage in points and needed to capture the ridge line.  

It can be a nail biter as the race to get to the ridge first heats up.  The activation system in TtS added to the tension as units (or divisions for that matter) might move one move or two or maybe not move at all.   Early on it looked like the Roman reinforcements had the jump on the Barbarians with a couple of good turns worth of activations.  Meanwhile Phils' defenders had some good rounds of missile fire, disordering Stacy's Irish hordes.  

Stacy's Irish advance on the ridge,

My reinforcements exit the town and hasten for the ridge.

My cavalry looks to be closing the gap fast enough to turn the tide.

However, as is often the case the tides of battle swing from one side's favour to the other and Curt and Stacy started to even out the activation luck.  Stacy did well to push on with all of his Irish to wear down the defenders and his Picts and  Curt 's Attacotti advanced swiftly to threaten the reinforements.
The Picts advance to counter the Roman cavalry.  This was the cavalry's furthest advance as they need to evade back several times.  Note the Pict archers which Stacy cleverly placed in his back rank to fire over the spearmint, and then forgot about.

Meanwhile there's a scrum on the hill.  Phil's auxiliaries had a couple of good turns helped by good saving scores.  But eventually, hits had to strike home.

Roman Cavalry vs Attaccati fanatics,  That's Phil in the background.

By this time the defenders on the hill were broken and the cavalry reinforcements were pulling back.

Around this time Phil and I had a turn of Epic activation fails (significantly right after Stacy left for the evening).  We managed to do enough to get us out of position and not enough to get ourselves re-positioned.

The foot units from the fort did make it up onto the ridge and managed to push bask a unit of Picts, but it was too little too late.   

TtS let us play a game with reasonable sized armies and a fair bit of manoeuvre and play it out to a conclusion in the space of a school night evening.  Plus it seems to give a reasonable result while being fun and fast to play.  I was worried that the random activation system might throw the balance of timing off, but in the end it worked well and added to the drama and tension.


  1. Really enjoying your coverage of To the Strongest, Peter, and I was intrigued by your thoughts on the activation system for the game. Personally, I'm a big fan of having a cunning plan and then seeing it go wrong because my troops won't do what I want them to do - as in real life. But I also understand people finding such rule mechanisms frustrating too. This sounded like an excellent game though, with the battle for the central hill looking brutal.

    1. Thanks Simon. The activations can be frustrating as heck at times and I mean that in the nicest possible way. The basic method is that you pull chits from a bag. It starts with 80, 8 each numbered 1-10. On a units first activation anything but a 1 is a success, but from then on you have to outscore your last chit. When a unit fails an activation, the whole division fails and you move on to the next division.

      We’ve had units on fire pull 3-4 successes in a row, and assaults fail due to a timely 1 (or 10 which is almost as bad). You’re left constantly wondering how far to push your luck.

  2. An old reliable chestnut indeed! (and very, VERRRY, pretty armies.)

    1. Cheers Ross, it’s given many good games over the years. I’m pleased with what I’ve put together for the project.

  3. Great looking game and use of a classic scenario. I am a big fan of TtS! myself.

  4. Another splendid looking game I haven't had a go with TtS for a while now but I like it's rapid play and the fact you get a result in a reasonable time, you just don't want to be long bow armed English with this rule set!
    Best Iain

    1. Cheers Iain. TTS gives a good game with lots of tension and drama. I find any army game win big or lose badly based on random activations.