Arcane Warfare Excel (AWE) is a massed combat game by Jerboa Games. It comes in a zipped file that contains a rule book (40 pages) an army list book (36 lists 222BC to 450AD) and a quick reference sheet (2 pages). The cost is quite inexpensive at $3. Upon completing the transaction, the zip file is e-mailed to your account within a few hours.
All of the basic unit types you might expect are represented in the game including cavalry, pike, spear, blade (edge), elephants, archers, throwers and more. Unit type match-ups can modify the kill number if that unit wins a combat.
Most unit types are further classified with a unit weight. These are light, medium or heavy. Unit weight determines the amount of combat dice rolled.
Units can be further modified with special traits such as berserk, elite, veteran, stubborn or raw. These classifications modify the outcome dice of a unit.
As you can see, there are a lot of options in the game to make many different types of units, thus making each army truly unique.
The game can be played with any sized figures from 6mm up to 28mm figures. This review will assume 15mm figures for simplicity. Each base has a frontage of 40mm with a depth of 20mm for infantry and 40mm for cavalry. Each base has 2-4 figures per base depending on the troop type and weight. You will need about 35 bases per army which amounts to about 100 figures per side. You will also need a 3′X4′ terrain board about six 6-sided dice (D6) and a metric ruler.
The ground scale is 25 paces per centimeter. Each base represents 250-750 men. Time is not fully defined bout the author states that the battle represents 6-18 hours of real time. Of course, it won’t actually take that long to play! A game should last about 2-2.5 hours for a standard game.
Turn Sequence Explained
1 die is rolled for each general on the board (usually 3 per army). This represents the order in which each general will activate and give orders.
During the Activation phase, players will activate generals in initiative order. This is a shared process. The general with the highest initiative goes first, followed by the next until all generals on both sides have been activated.
After the activation phase, perform melees for all units in melee contact.
In the end phase, determine if victory conditions are fulfilled or if the army morale of one army has dropped to zero.
AWE uses command points to activate other units or groups. There is a menu of options for using command points. A command point is required when activating a unit or group for movement and shooting. It usually takes 1 command point to perform an action but may take more depending on the situation. Commanders are activated based on an initiative roll. They may give commands to any unit so long as they have commands to do so.
Units or groups may be ordered to move. Units can freely move about. Turning costs a certain amount of movement for units. For example, units may right face for the cost of 100p and then move the remainder of their movement in any direction.
To move as a group, the units comprising the group in question must be a valid “Phalanx”. A phalanx is defined as a group of homogeneous units facing in the same direction and sharing a common edge. Phalanxes may be termed “Fighting Phalanxes” if they also are aligned on a common frontage. Phalanxes are restricted in movement. They may move straight forward or wheel. They may also drift sideways so long as the move 50p forward first.
General Combat Mechanics
Each unit is rated as light, medium or heavy. Each side rolls a number of dice based on the rating of their unit. Light gets 1 die, medium gets 2 dice and heavy gets 3 dice. These dice can be modified up or down based on the combat situation. More ranks and greater number of troops can add dice to your total. Compare the highest pare (attacker and defender) of dice. The highest die is the winner. If it is a tie, compare the next highest die until one or both sides run out of dice. If all dice are a tie, then the combat is a draw. In the event that one side has more dice than the other, the side with the lower number of dice loses and recoils with no loses.
For the actual combat outcome, compare the higher die to the lower die. The difference is the kill number for the winner. Roll a number of dice equal to the number of stands in contact with the enemy. Each die that is lower than or equal to the kill number causes a one-stand loss to the enemy. The enemy may strike back in melee with half of his remaining stands in contact. His kill number is always 1.
Individual units or phalanxes can shoot. Phalanxes may shoot 2 stands deep. The enemy does not get to strike back. There are dice modifiers for shooting depth and numbers of shooters.
Melees are accomplished by individual units or fighting phalanxes. Enemies may strike back. Loser recoils whether they take losses or not. There are dice modifiers for phalanx depth, numbers of stands and flanking.
There is no unit morale per se in AWE. However, there is something called a “flop test”. This happens if a unit cannot retreat after combat. In the event that a unit cannot retreat, a D6 is rolled. On a 1-4, the unit halts and is OK. On a 5+, the unit panics and is removed from the game.
Another form of morale is the army morale. This is 30% of your troops in stands (round up). If you lose at least 30% of your army, you lose the game. If both players lose 30% of their army in the same turn, then the army morale is boosted to 40%.
AWE is a quick system. There is a decent amount of detail, but not so much that you feel overwhelmed. This leaves the players to make more tactical decisions and less game decisions.
The game flows well and quickly. There is little downtime for players since game turns are interactive throughout. Combat is quick and leaves the players with a believable result. Groups of units are not static. You can break apart and assemble groups at a whim. This leaves you with the flexibility to perform such maneuvers as with the unknown Tribune and 20 maniples and Cynoscephalae.
Interaction between units seem to work well. Pikes, for instance, can fight with extra ranks so they will win melees more often. However, they tend to not get any outcome modifiers so they end up pushing back the enemy more than killing them. Edge troops, such as Roman legionares, get a bonus on outcomes against infantry so they will have a greater chance of a kill when they win a combat. Warbands get 50% more outcome dice when they win a combat but don’t get to fight back if they lose. As you can see, some attention was payed to unit match-ups.
On the downside, reserves are not so important. There is little in the way of line interchange other than skirmishers being able to pass through lines. The only way to feed reserves into a fight is to wait until the enemy opens a hole. It is impossible to replicate the Roman line relief drill that is so prominent during the Republican period. While the author represents Hastati, Princepes and Triari, it might have been better to represent them as ubiquitous Legionares and assume they represent the three heavy infantry types in an abstract fashion.
As a final thought, the rules are clearly written and I had only a couple of game related questions. The author was very helpful in getting them answered in a timely manner, usually the same day. He provides support for all of his ancient wargame products at his yahoo group.
Arcane Warfare Excel
Published by Jerboa Wargames
Purchase Link http://www.dnir.net/JerboaNet/AWr/AWE.htm
Yahoo Group http://games.groups.yahoo.com/group/ArcaneWarfare/join