Luke arrived nice and early and after we fluffed about a little getting reacquainted again after so long the first game got underway about 10:30. The match-up pitted Luke's pseudo-Sertorians against my own partisans of either Metellus Magnus or Pompeius Pius (whichever way you choose to look at it, my lot were an uneasy company!).
|The battlefield. Sertorians with the blue shields, Sulla's minions with the red.|
The first few turns gave little indication of the carnage that would follow. If my men advanced gingerly on the flanks, they did so gladly in the centre. Luke's meanwhile held back in the middle (one eager unit of Spanish lights excepted) and claimed the high ground elsewhere.
We had an early setback on the left, losing our light cavalry to missile fire, but this was offset by success on the right, where the enemy general was pulled from his horse and slain as his friends forsook him.
In the centre the Sertorians kept drawing us forward, and we were happy to be in this way drawn.
|Mixed fortunes on the flanks; feverish advance in the centre. What could go wrong?|
Our men on the left struck a decisive blow in seeing off the enemy's heavy cavalry. Unfortunately, we got ourselves into a badly-managed tangle in so doing, which left us unable to easily prosecute attacks against the remaining units of that enemy command. Several turns of turning (or not turning, depending on how early we failed our activations!) saw us make little progress and ate up valuable time.
On our right the men were somewhat reluctant to close with the enemy despite there being an opportune window for doing so. Questions may perhaps be asked.
But I am getting ahead of myself...
|The infantry lines before contact.|
|Shameful mucking about on our left...|
|Indecision on the right...|
|But eventually the lines meet!|
Nonetheless, we found ourselves around turn six with a glorious opportunity to press for victory. We had induced the enemy to advance out of his strong defensive position in the centre, giving us temporary local superiority there as a consequence (see picture above).
But at this juncture either Metellus Magnus or Pompieus Pius (whoever it was I refuse to admit that it had anything to do with me) managed to forget which units belonged to which command. For two crucial turns, half of our legionaries were not given attack orders at all!
Within a few short and abominably overseen turns we went from this:
|"We can just about taste it, lads!"|
|"Don't worry, the veterans might still do something..."|
And we'd been 'stewrendously dismogrificated', as it was reported in Rome.
|The whole sorry scene.|
And a Shameful Defeat was thereby visited upon us.
But what a game! There is so much to like about To the Strongest! that it's hard to know where to begin. Still, we'll give it a crack.
1) You get army lists. It seems like a long time since I've sat there with ten minutes before game start trying to figure out the best army mix, and I've missed doing it. After this game I actually wanted to work out the ideal armies for situation, opponent and points value.
I haven't been excited about that kind of thing for 20 years.
2)There is a sly mix of 'oh, fer f...'s sake' and 'YEESS' moments throughout the game. An atmosphere develops that's hard to describe. There's a sort of heightened quality to the action that is not exactly cartoonish, but comes close. You end up laughing when things go against you, yet on another level there's a tightening up and an awareness that to play this well you're going to have to put a bit of time and thought into it, and will need to keep your wits about you.
It is a lovely thing to get that 'this is a real game we've got here!' feeling, but when it comes with an 'and I enjoy it even when I'm losing' corollary, you're moving into rare territory.
3) Space is left for players to make their own mistakes.
4) There is room for satisfying application of tactics.
5) There is a plenty to think about when you're done.
Simon Miller has put together a great set of rules here, and they are only going to get better as they are further refined. They are really well done.
Edit: you can see Luke's report here.