Legione Antiquitatas I - Why the rules are as they are, or design notes...
We started developing what has become known as Legions at the start of Covid in 2019 when it was no longer possible to play our weekly face to face game. Originally we were using Lotr type units and lists on Tabletop simulator until we had the mechanics locked down. This took about a year of development working on the principle that any 'extra' rules that were needed had to be stripped back to work within the existing framework. There were to be no extraneous single use rules. Cutting and pruning has continued ever since until now in December 2022 we feel that we have a set of rules which can be launched for beta testing on a wider circle of people, along with the army lists and all the other parts of the package.
The world of Legiones is the actual ancient world but an ancient world where the hard edges of history have been erased and mythology has sidled in alongside daily life. Thus in an Ancient Greek army not only can you field heroes and troops from the Iliad alongside classical hoplites and Alexandrian Companian cavalry in an army but it can also include a hydra, centaurs, Odysseus and an Oracle priest for magic use. Suffice to say a glance at the available lists will show we have played fast and loose with both history and geography.
There are two reasons for this, firstly the lists are designed to allow players with existing ancients armies to use lots of their existing units with no messing around rebasing. If you have an Ancient Greek army you probably only need to add in some of the fantastical creatures and you are done. Additionally the popularity of ASOIAF has provided almost complete proxy armies for, Northmen, Horselords and Medieval to name just 3.
Secondly we have no figure range to sell with these rules and many of the figures that we use are 3d prints. As more and more people enter the world of 3d printing they will be able to print both accurate miniatures but also lots of proxies. This is absolutely fine and these rules are not for ancients rivet counters! In early testing lacking an elephant for my African army my daughter made me an origami elephant which was fine.
The number of figures required for legiones is not great, all told most armies come in around 50 figures including all the mythical creatures. There is no need to rebase miniatures as Infantry troop units have 3+ figures, cavalry 2+ and everything else is single figure. This is possible because it is a hex based game. The board is 3 foot x 4 foot with 3" hexes and all measurement is by hex so you can pop your dbmm or art de la guerre minis comfortably in a hex.
The 'board' we use is actually a latex hex mat which was printed at a local banner/signmakers/printers for about £25. The file you need to do this is also supplied within the rules! As long as you have access to a 15 x 13 hex sheet such as in memoir 44 breakthrough or some commands and colors games you can still play. In fact we have used the terrain tiles provided in these games for many of our games.
The decision to use hexes was a no brainer for us. I played wargames with rules and angles for 30 years and it is just an inefficient and annoying way to do things. Just in range? Just out? Bending the tape measure for wheeling around a corner? Can you see through the ruins with true line of sight? Nope, not interested. With hexes everything is yes or no. There are many games that I would love to play such as Infinity or Malifaux but the endless measuring and death by milimeters just puts me off. So hexes it was and the use of the cheap battle mat has removed the obstacle to entry for those who dont already own one.
Interaction is also a key part to Legiones, units are activated to move and fight alternately so there is no watching your forces get removed while you passively watch. Decision points are involved in every activation and planning required across the whole turn as to what order you activate, what you can actually activate within your turn, what the role of magic will be this turn, how you will achieve the shared objective to gain VP, how you plan to gain VP by kills are secondary private objectives on your cards. All these as well as where to move and who to hit!
This interaction is achieved by the use of a 'command deck'. At the start of each turn you draw 10 cards from your deck of standard playing cards. These are your key resource. Each unit has one of three command ratings, 3, 5 or 7. Heroes are activated on a 3 or better, troops on a 5 and beasts on a 7. If you have a dreadful hand you can combine cards to get the required number to activate, eg a 3 and a 6 played together will activate that hydra! Once activated a unit has two actions taken in any order from a list including the obvious, move, fight and cast spell. It may move twice but only fight once. Although some units have Attributes which may allow a second attack or to move after fighting.
However the cards also have other uses. Red cards can be used to get rerolls on your attacks and spells whilst black cards can be used to reroll defence or to get an extra hex of movement. This means that your 10 cards have multiple uses and once they are gone you can do nothing so managing your resource is key.
Attack and defence is dice based with an attacker rolling a number of attack dice and defenders rolling defence dice. 4 to 6 is a hit on the attack or a block on defence. The attack and defence can both reroll using cards as described above or inherent attributes such as 'skilled' or 'brace'. At the end any attacks over the defence total are damage and once a unit loses its hit points it is removed and the attacker gains VP according to the value of the model killed.
There are 3 features which make combat quite subtle however. Firstly each natural 6 inflicts two hits rather than one and as this is not reciprocal gives an attacker an advantage and makes rerolls trying for a 6 a key feature. Secondly a defender who feels he is bound to be killed such as a unit of peasant infantry charged in the open by heavy knights can instead of defending choose to 'last gasp' defence whereby its defence rolls are instead attacks and it forgoes any attempt at defence. This can wear down the mighty and makes them think twice about who they attack. Thirdly throughout the rules is the concept o disadvantage. Units can be disadvantaged by terrain or when attacking evasive enemies. Or both! Disadvantage reduces the chance of success so only 5 and 6 are successes, and occasionally only a 6. This makes the use of terrain very important and using the correct troops with the ability to fight well in disadvantageous terrain is vital. I have tried charging knights against light troops in a woods and it did not go well...
Troops, especially infantry can look weak at first however there are three rules concepts which make them better than they appear. Firstly all basic infantry have the Advance attribute. This allows 3 adjacent same name unit eg hoplites to be activated on ONE card. They have to do the same actions and end adjacent but this means they may all take a move action and end up againts enemy units and then all take a fight action on one card. Efficient.
Secondly most infantry have the Support attribute which allows a unit next to a same name unit eg hoplites again, to reroll one die on attack or defence without using a card. This is a real boost in keeping a unit alive. Thirdly some infantry troop types have the Massed attribute which allows up to 6 adjacent same name units to activate on ONE card. As many of the objectives allocate VP on control of objectives the use of a single activation card to use two move actions on a unit of 6 supporting troops onto an objective is really strong.
Magic is integral and simple. If you choose to take a magician there are generally two types, a 3 dice and a 5 dice called magician 3 and magician 5 respectively. At the start of the game they will take 3 or 5 spell cards from the spells available and they can cast those alone. Most spells can be cast twice per turn using both of the magicians actions, though some have limits. Spells are cast in a similar way to combat with a magician 5 casting 5 dice for success. a single success will allow uncontested spells - for example heals on your own units - to succeed but spells cast on enemy units require the magician to achieve more successes than the enemy's defence roll successes using their Will power (WP) as dice. Generally spells succeed against beasts and lower quality troops but are risky against higher willpower units.
The game ends after 4 (occasionally 5) turns or immediately when one side hits 30 VP.
Legiones II will be a walk through of a battle between Norse and Amerindian armies with the Amerindians being at home.