A little while back, me and Jonas met up at club for a test game of Sword & Spear, using my 6mm Greeks. Last time I played it it became apparent that the system isn’t really designed with too complex scenarios in mind, so this time we went for a more traditional approach: a straight up pitched battle.
Sword & Spear features a rather elaborate points system, which mainly I disregarded last time. But now I wanted to try how it worked, so I wrote two lists (points values are based on the Polkovnik army lists):
1 General @50p
1 Captain @30p
3 units of Spartan Hoplites @44p
1 large unit of Spartan Hoplites @54p
1 unit of Psiloi @9p
275 points in total
1 General @50p
1 Captain @30p
1 large unit of Elite Hoplites @54p
8 units of Poor Quality Hoplites @20p
3 units of Peltasts @9p
1 unit of Citizen Cavalry @18p
1 unit of Thessalian Cavalry @15p
276 points in total
We also reduced the number of terrain pieces on the table. Rather than getting caught up in complex maneuvers – something that my last game suffered a bit from – we wanted to test how the combat system worked in fights between two equally strong forces.
This meant that the table looked a bit naked and empty, but since this was a test game we didn’t mind (too much).
So here the two armies advance against each other (Spartans on the left, Athenians on the right). Skirmishers from both sides rush out towards the flank while the heavy infantry march straight ahead. For the sake of speed and playability, we used inches instead of centimeters – in 6mm, movement tend to be rather slow otherwise.
Because of their speed and ease of movement, the skirmishers make contact first. Some javelins are exchanged and a unit of Athenian Peltasts immediately bites the dust.
I was actually a bit surprised that Peltasts basically have the same stats and point value as Psiloi; while both are correctly classed as skirmishers, the Peltasts were often professional warriors and carried shields, while Psiloi generally had far less training and equipment (in Sparta’s case they were almost exclusively Helots, i.e. slaves). In future games I’ll probably do some houseruling to reflect this.
The Athenians form up into two huge blocks and start moving as a group – S&S has a rather neat system for this were action dice are used for all troops but only one die needs to be actively rolled and allocated.
Meanwhile the Spartans’ main force take up position next to the wheat field, while a Hoplite unit turns toward the right flank…
…but the Athenian Citizen Cavalry it is trying to engage makes a sharp turn, avoiding both the infantry and Psiloi and positioning themselves so as to make proper use of the road (a unit with its center on a road gains a bonus move).
And now the ultra light and super fast Thessalian Cavalry has sneaked round the back, through the village, and rapidly approaches from the left flank.
The scene is obviously set for a confrontation that is bound to get ugly. Both sides brace themselves for the impact…
…and then slam into each other with brutal force. The large unit of Spartans inevitably gets the upper hand, given their superior discipline and effectiveness (plus some handy sixes).
But the Athenians are more numerous – this is clearly a case of quality versus quantity.
Also, the Spartans are in trouble on the right flank, as a lone unit of Hoplites is caught in the open and flanked by Athenian Cavalry.
From here things go downhill pretty fast for the Spartans. They lose their only protection on their left, which opens up for an Athenian flank charge. And to make matters even worse the Thessalians now have the indecency to ram right into the unprotected Spartan rear. The boys in red are jammed between a rock and a hard place, and in the end even they are unable to withstand such a treatment.
When this large, costly unit breaks the Army Value is down to less than a third to its original number and all the other units are forced to make discipline tests. And that spells the end for the Spartans. Like so often throughout history, Quantity rubs Quality’s face in the dirt.
Overall we had fun, even though the whole “two equally strong lines of infantry clashing in a field” shenanigans is perhaps not the most exciting thing in the world. However, we did get a good feel for the system and its strengths and limitations.
I’d like to play some more games before I give a final verdict on Sword & Spear though – next time I’ll probably want to try out the rules for baggage camps, stratagems and multi-player games.
And of course, everything will be documented and posted here on Hook Island, so stay tuned for more ancients action!