Mortem et Gloriam is Si Halls new set of ancient rules. Its been in development for over a year now, and the Challenge was the last beta test tournament before go live in July. The Challenge was set as 2 days, with the first day with the release lists (Dominance of Greece and Roman – book 2 in old money) , the 2nd day being ‘open’ to test some of the newer test lists and test the rules to destruction with some really anachronistic match-ups.
The rules themselves have some familiar concepts and some new ones too. The command and control is via a shared deck of cards. A card will be of 1 of 5 colours indicative of a ‘quality’. The better cards being rarer as you might expect. The players share the same deck. Each turn cards are dealt to each command depending on the generals rating. These cards can be spent in a number of ways. They can spent to move, bolster troops, prompt charges etc. So the is definitely a hand management aspect of the game. Troops are moved by alternate activations so IGOUGO but only by spending cards. This is a neat mechanism as both players are engaged in each turn. There are mechanisms to allow delaying actions and there are good reasons to move first and pin enemy troops in place and going 2nd to react to what your opponent is doing. So this is more ‘euro game’y than what you would expect in a traditional wargame.
The armies are based in units but combat is done on a file by file bases. Each troop type generate a set of advantages going up and down a colour ladder similar to the cards – black,white,green,yellow ,red (from worst to best). There is a set of combat dice also in these colours. These dice have 4 options. Kill a base, Wound (1/2 a kill), Special & nothing (blank). The higher up the ladder the more likely you are to get a result. Specials are a neat idea as it allows some effect that some troops might have. The S results count in both close combat and shooting, so an S for archers would be a ‘slow down’. So in what happens is that you might declare a charge against bowmen, as a response they shoot if they score enough ‘S’s then you deduct a distance from your charge (and maybe not make it into combat). In combat Hoplite have a ‘Shove’ special rule, so if they get a ‘S’ in close combat then the adjacent file gets a boost as the spearmen push into the ranks of the enemy. Warband have a ‘Shatter’ special rule … you get the idea.
For my day 1 list I took Slave revolt. Si had asked for this competition to use larger size armies than normal to extent the runtime to allow other competitors to see the games in action. The Slave revolt was enormous, and I had to draft in some proxys!
Here is what the list looks like
Game 1 was against Sassasian, played by Bob
I’d played Bob the week before with this army so I had a good idea what to expect. The pre pattle phase consists of an attack/defend rolloff (using the coloured dice based on the quality of the general), whoever wins this gets to pick whether to attack or defend. The defender then picks the region. There is a map, and which is basically a matrix of terrain types, so closed flanks on one vertices and density of terrain on the other. The defender picks a start position on this map (which is dictates by his geographical region), then cards are dealt. The number of cards depends on your generals. 5 hands are then played. The winner of each hand gets to move the place on the map so you might wish to try to head towards the coast and get a secure flank. During this phase you may will to hold onto better cards if you don’t care about the terrain so much. Once the final position on the map is decided the terrain is generate (ie whether there is secure flank – coast , mountain etc), and the amount of pieces of additional terrain. Once the table terrain is set up you move onto the scouting phase. So cards are dealt based on generals and the number of horses you have in your army (you make have kept cards from the prior phase if you thought that scouting is more important than terrain). Each hand is shown – and an outscouting percentage is calculated. For these each card has a value – green 10, yellow 20, red 40. The delta between the two hands is the ouscouting amount and by how much (as an army percentage). So even if you attack you make get oustcouted and have to deploy first.
These are not good cards
The Sassanids chose to attack and while Spartacus being a legendary general had a lot of cards, they weren’t very good, but we did manage to hold onto a secure (mountainous flank). There was only one other piece of terrain as the Persians are wangled their way from a dense terrain situation to an open one.
The game itself was one of attrition. The slaves by and large are of a poor quality but you get big units and a lot of them. All units break on the same amount 50% , so you can try to play the numbers by your trying to keep rolling enough dice to kill your smaller opponent. The Sassanids had a robust centre of cataphracts and elephants, and this proved a hard nut to crack. As they all have shove and generally a better factor as long at they throw OK they prevented me from much of chance of killing much (in game terms if they ‘shove me’ my dice goes from white to black, and the chances of getting a result then is much reduced)
That said it was hard for the Persians to whittle down so many bases, and the slaves did have some success working the flanks
The result was a loss – albeit not an army break
Game 2 – Classical Indian played by Dave.
We made a couple of errors in this game on the interactions that really messed up this game. As such it made the Indian Elephants far more fragile than they should have been. Hopefully this will be clarified on the QRS
As a result of this the elephants were destroyed too quickly and ended up as a big Slave victory
The scoring mechanism is neat too, as you score for units that you destroy. So defensive play where players risk little will result in a smaller score.
Game 3 – Late Republican Romans played by Bren
Day 2 was the open period and I picked Libyan Egyptian as they have been languishing in a box for a long time since I stopped playing FoG:AM.
The Roman army was tiny, but they have a couple of special rules. These being Shield Cover, and Melee expert. The game open up well as the Chariots swept down one flank and destroyed the single unit of Roman cavalry. However, the army was mostly legionary types, and the end of the end went into shield cover (with a reduced movement capability). This negated a lot of the chariots shooting and where we did get some wounds Bren managed his hand to always rally these back up. The centre advanced on and while it got stretched when it got to the Egyptian foot it was rather like a hot knife through butter. I made a mistake with the Mesh Wesh, who are great ‘charging’ types, but my movement meant I couldn’t take advantage of that and in a protracted fight with Legionaries they are dog meat.
Big loss to the Romans
Game 4 – Lithuanian played by Paul.
I’ve not played any of the medieval stuff yet and this was an eye opener. Paul had a mostly mounted force with a centre of war wagons and bombards. His plan was to come forward and drop back luring me towards the shooting centre. In the rules its reasonably easy for mounted troops to go backwards as well as forwards. I rather fell into the trap and found that bombards against chariots its not great! The Egyptians gave a reasonable account of themselves with a heroic charge by the Mesh Wesh sweeping away some Slavic foot and looting the camp.
Looting the camp has a rather neat effect. Once destroyed each unit in the army has to take a test or lose a base – simulating the morale effect on seeing the baggage lost)
This did have some potential with some key units on the Lithuanian side only 1 base from breaking – Teutonic knights, I’m looking at you. However they passed those tests and the Libyans were consigned to utter defeat.
Hope that have given a flavour of these rules. I’ve been enjoying them. The main reason it they are quite different to what has come before. Sure, they have elements that feel more like a board game, but compared to its derivative peers that are currently doing the rounds, if feels more like a breath of fresh air.
They are out in July , and the site & forum are active and Si is keen to get all involved.
Looking forward to Britcon and first tournament!