David Dockter
United States
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Minnesota State Fair kicked into high gear this week (the largest state fair in the middle of major metro area: it's an institution here in god's country), which means school is about to start. Friday monster gaming at the 1st MN kicks into high gear during the fall. Alsen called on Thursday. We decided we needed some comfort food and we returned to a club fav: Berg's Ancient World series . I've posted at least a dozen Carthage: The First Punic War session reports. We had tried this title, The Rise of the Roman Republic (RotRR), once previously. Never managed to complete it or get the AAR posted (life intervened). So, I looked forward to giving this one another go.

We're BIG Carthage veterans

Earlier in the week, I was on another analysis lark; trying to sort wargames into two camps: competition or experience. Additionally, another dimension: game chaos or player control. Don't quite know who/what set me off, but off I went: Schools of Chaos, Competition, Control and Context/Content and A VERY ugly poll: Competition vs Experiential vs Complexity: Rate the games

...and a few weeks ago I was sorting my AARs: 1st MN/Sawatdee/Herr Dr Session Reports

So what's this got to do with RotRR? I utilized Berg's Carthage as a proxie for the placement of SPI on the top chart. And, it has all I want in a beast: lots of politics, great operational model, rich flavor and boatload of chaos (most of my AARs are regarding such wonderful beasts).

I've found that that combo (experience & chaos & a horde of chrome) is what most produces narrative for me. What surprised me (this is good) about RotRR is that it produced such a different narrative - and player experience - than it's sister Carthage game. Carthage has a wildly fluid WW2 on multiple fronts feel vs RotRR WW1 trench warfare. Both are great gaming experiences and NOTHING touches this Berg series for ancient op/strat warfare.

...what bacon is to the world of food, diplomacy tracks & political mechanics are to the world of operational/strategic wargames

Setting up

We quickly settled on the most complex/involved scenario (of course!): THE EAGLE HAS LANDED. It has the lead character in this particular game: Pyrrhus of Epirus. More on him later. It also has something I LOVE in operational/strategic wargames: a diplomacy/faction track.

Persian Gulf: Battle for the Middle East country/faction cards

The first time I encountered this wonderful game mechanic was playing Persian Gulf: Battle for the Middle East . The game begins with NATO and the WARSAW PACT waging a prewar (mobilization) fight over various factions and countries in the middle east using cards and a track: you are trying to pull these things to your side of the field. A real tug of war.

Days of Decision II country cards

The next time I encountered the mechanic was with Days of Dis ( Days of Decision II ). Harry Rowland had taken the mechanic and built it into one hell of an engine. A few years ago, I was doing a conversation with Harry on Guns, Dice, Butter , episode XVIII, and he indicated he had taken the idea for the Persian Gulf game.

Dip Track The Napoleonic Wars

When NAP WARs was published, there it was again...

War of the Ring (First Edition) diplomatic track

...and also appearing in WotR; just with a different spin that each side had to mobilize its respective minions.

Triumph of Chaos v2 Faction Control Table

...and I liked the idea so much that I "stole it" and built it into my design in 2005. And, Berg has it here in this 2003 design>

So what's so frickin great about diplomacy/faction tracks? Why are they the bacon (well, any decent political mechanic in wargame rivals the task of pork) of the op/strat wargame world? They put an equal game emphasis on the political dimension - were it should be (in addition to military and logistical).

The mechanics of moving the control marker on that track continues to evolve: ambassadors, cards, influence points, etc. It forces players (and MUCH more accurately models the considerations of historical strategists) to grapple with stacking the field so that victory is more assured - or suffering at the hands of political dynamics gone array. You'll discover the pleasure of that in RotRR.


Alliances: Start

"Rome" is not a unified monster yet at this stage of history (280BC). The fight in this scenario is over Italian provinces (primarily - Sicily can see some action, but, that's somewhat unlikely). THE EAGEL (Pyrrhus) is trying to wrestle a few of the provinces away from Rome.

That occurs in two ways:

1) Military control

2) Political control

Although military control "trumps" political control, the fight will often result with a military draw (or back & forth) in any given province. That's where political control kicks in. A player gains political control of a province by pulling it to their side of the alliance chart thru use of ambassadors. Of course, diplomatic faux pas' can result (check out some of the diplomatic disasters above).

...lots of Bergian chaos & variability...


THe INFAMOUS Ancient War series CRT with "X table" results

The usual Berg elements are here: LOTS of variability and chaos. I'm not going to go thru the mechanics (check my numerous Carthage session reports where I cover the mechanics in detail) suffice to say it's a chit activation game (each leader gets so many chits). You activate a leader, perform an action and then roll to see if he can continue. Very cool. HIGHLY unpredictable. This is the OPPOSITE of what we grew up on playing Risk: there we had boring perfect control of our forces (no friction...none) and we could move everyone without ANY friction or opponent reaction.

I posted the tribes chart above just to give you some idea of the variability in the game. If you want predictability in setup/OOBs, play chess or, sadly, most other wargames. This is BERG arrrh

280 BC: The Fun Begins

The Eagle

Pyrrhus's march in Italy

The narrow field of play: up and down the boot you go

280 BC...as in all pic's below, small cubes indicates which side controls a province...big cubes are armies - along with the miniatures...disks indicate VP city control

So we set up (ALWAYS DOWNLOAD THE LATEST RULES & PLAYAIDS! ALWAYS. And especially with this series). Pyrrhus starts on the heal and comes on like a banshee. He's the best leader in the game (a "B" rated...Rome has just a few ok leaders..."Cs"... and ton of dogs). That knucklehead almost can't be stopped. Rome needs to keep hurling themselves against THE EAGLE. Rome will lose MANY battles, but, that's how they roll in this game.

Also, the position is such that Capu appears to be THE DOOR that the Roman can't let Pyrrhus thru. It needs to be nailed shut.

Rabid Bob stops by

As we got started, Bob the Source (aka Rabid Bob - name from how he plays Empires in Arms ) and started with some jawboning. He had good story or two about Pyrrhus (note to self: I need to get a book or two regarding this king of Epirus).

As the action began, Pyrrhus took Venusia and then failed his continuation roll. Rome got lucky and received the next two activations: one force reinforced Capu and the other captured a city in the Samnium province. The forces of Epirus then had the bad break of pulling all their activation chits in a row (leaving Rome the last moves of the turn). Pyrrhus did some diplomacy and the silver tongue snagged Apulia. He also raised troops from a few compliant Italian provinces (22 inf, 3 cav in total). Finally, he tried to place Capu under siege but again failed a continuation roll. Rome then made their move...

280 BC attack

Lavinus (#201…ratings: 26D…2 activation chits, a 6 campaign rating (basically roll that or lower to do stuff) and a D battle rating (each leader rolls on a chart, cross referencing their battle rating with a die roll to determine their die roll mod rating for each battle, which is very cool – some days, your leader is at the top of his game, other days, he is hung over from Romulan ale) took his consular army and ran down the east coast road to engage a weak Epirus force. The idea was that a successful battle would earn veteran status for a few legions and we would pick off a small force before it reinforce THE EAGLE.

Lavinus outnumbered his opponent 3 to 1. I wouldn't let Frick (my fellow Roman player) touch the dice this early in the game. I selected a weapon and tossed it twice. First, I boooooofed my battle rating die roll and then bricked the actual combat roll: Rome suffered its first major defeat, suffering 20% causalities vs Epirus 10%. Frick remarked, "Glad you didn't let me touch the dice". Epirus commander Alsen laughed: "Bold move, Dr...a few more like that and this will be over quickly".

279 BC: The Line is Formed...the ROCK OF CAPU established

279 BC

Rome's election of new consuls went poorly: low rate potatoes were selected (damm the Roman Senate!). Compounding the pain, Rome only managed to raise one legion.

Pyrrhus got stuck with the first two activations. He conducted some successful diplomacy (Samnium political control) and raised more troops: 28 inf, 4 cav. Pyrrhus ended his move by reinforcing Capu: it now had 70! SPs besieging it. surprise

Then, we pulled a siege attrition chit. Siege rolls at Capu. Rome mucked up another roll. HORRIBLE attrition: Rome lost 32 of 41 SPs that were hiding in the city. Epirus was barely grazed: lost 5 SP of 70. On the next attrition roll, Rome lost 1 (8 SPs remained), while Epirus shed 7 SP (now had 58 besieging Capu). Last attrition roll pushed the Roman garrison to 7 SPs, while the besieging force fell to 53.

On his final activation of the turn, Pyrrhus tried treachery to take Capu. THe people of Capu saw thru the ruse and successfully resisted.

Rome ended the turn with another bold move: Clespina (15D) decided he try to also whack a smaller Eripus force. Again, Rome outnumbered the invaders 3 to 1. This time, Consul Frick was allowed to toss the dice. First, Frick muffed the battle roll and then pooped out a HORRIBLE combat roll: another MAJOR DEFEAT, suffering 15% losses vs 5%.

The only bright Roman spot was that a solid "trench" line had formed, anchored on THE ROCK OF CAPU.

278 BC: Third Turn and Third Roman Debacle

278 BC

Roman elections and manpower raise went MUCH better this turn: 2 legions raised and three relatively leaders were selected by the senate.

Operations began with another siege attrition die roll at Capu: Epirus had 9 more SPs die of starvation (now, only besieging force of 40SPs.

Pyrrhus responded with a significant manpower raise to offset the significant attrition losses at Capu: anothe 28 inf/4 cav joined the forces of evil. Pyrrhus then secured political control of Syracuse. Other forces of Epirus consolidated their position.

Rome again got lucky with the last few activation chits and again decided on a bold lunge. This time, Gurges (#212...25C) decided he would succeed where two previous had failed. This time, no Berg DRM {die roll modifier} factors were in Rome's favor. The NET modifier was MINUS FIVE; Rome could only ask that the dice gods grant some well deserved payback.

The battle die was toss..."7" MINUS FIVE...a glorious "2". Why glorious? Because due to the funky CRT (combat results table), that generates a "X" result. Ok, maybe Rome might win a battle. New die tossed...a frickin "2"...MINUS ONE... and Rome suffers 30% losses vs an insignificant 5% Three turns: three MAJOR DEfEATs for Rome. Ugly.

As an aside, Epirus commander Alsen later discovered that he was one thin province (control) from an AV (need SIX provinces). Lucky for Team Rome, Alsen was asleep at that the switch.

277 > 276 BC: Roman, somehow, survives

276 BC

...just another glorious First Minnesota Historical Wargame Society all day friday gaming session...

...and Anna and Aaron from Madison stopped by...Anna had packed a surprise bag...read story here: G.H.A.A.R (Gordo's Helpers A.A.R) AUG 29, 2015: Anna & Aaron Arrive

Early in 277BC, Epirus Commander Alsen dispatched Milon south to siege Rhegium. The high drama point in 277 was an attack by the forces from Epirus under Megacles. The Roman force attacked was about the same size (low 30s SPs). Epirus managed a NET DRM Combat roll of "+3", however, Alsen flubbed the roll: a draw, with both sides losing 20%.

276BC witnessed yet more siege attrition. At Capu, Rome would lose 6 SPs, while Epirus suffered 14 SPs. Farther south at Rhegium, Rome lost 9 vs 6 for Epirus. The random events table bit Epirus COmmander Alsen when it took the great diplomatic orator Cineas: may he rest in peace.

Rome dispatched yet another consular army to break the siege of Capu. This time, Rome managed another draw: 15% losses vs 10% causalities for Pyrrhus' force. The turn ended with THE EAGLES's third try at taking THE ROCK OF CAPU by treachery. Again it failed. With THE ROCK OF CAPU securely anchoring a line across the Italian peninsula, Pyrrhus began to vaguely hear the tick tock of time: only half the game remained. Looking at the Victory Conditions, its Epirus that has a time is working against:

Given the current province split against Epirus, when we resume, Epirus Commander Alsen will need to grab a lot more provinces to be in the winner's circle. So, the midpoint verdict: Rome had survived the early game.

Alliances: 276 BC end

Rome survived, under the able guidance of Consul Frick.

Wrap up...and THUNDERBOLT (2nd Punic War) and ENCHILADA in the works!

So, RotRR is a keeper: we're having a blast! A really different feel than Berg's 2nd in the series, Carthage. More fab politics (in the form of a political fight for the provinces) and more of a trench line grind than Carthage.

Of course, All this REALLY has us primed for THUNDERBOLT; Berg's next in the series on the Punic Wars. Recent posts by Mr.Berg indicates it is progressing nicely and a 2016 publish is... possible. Plus, we've heard rumors of ENCHILADA (the whole frickin series in one HUGE SPI Detergent like box).

We'll complete our game later this fall. Other monsters beckon. Next up...

This upcoming Friday, we hit the beaches...if you're in the 'hood, join us...10ish AM at The Source in St.Paul

For my other session reports: 1st MN/Sawatdee/Herr Dr Session Reports
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Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
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My favorite 18xx game for six players is two games of 1846 with three players each.
Re: Berg on a Stick: State Fair and Ancient World Series: 1st MN Tries Rise of the Roman Republic and yells "GIVE US THUNDERBOLT!": AUG 28, 2015
If bacon is cooked properly, it doesn't need a stick.
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Hilarious! Great AAR. You're a madman. I love it!

Mind the bacon grease getting on the dice...
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Jason Lindsay
United States
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Totally randomly Braxton...
A fantastic read Herr Dr., THANK YOU!
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