Rally Round the King

From Two Hour Wargames comes Rally Round the King, their latest massed combat game for both fantasy and historical wargames.  This is an updated version of Warrior heroes and Warrior Kings.  The scale is not given.  Each army will require 10-20 stands of troops.  The scope is similar to that of DBA with 1 element equaling 1 unit.  In games I played 1 stand was around 1000 men.

The Book

Rally Round the King (RRtK) is 96 pages long.  Don’t be put off by the book length.  The actual battle rules are less than 20 pages.  Much of the book deals with such topics as setup, campaign, army lists and magic.  It can be bought either as a PDF or as a print book (which comes with a PDF as well)   from the authors website.  The book is mostly text with some helpful diagrams as well as the usual charts and tables.  The book has plenty of sample army lists and many are labeled with a historical equivalent army for historically minded players.  There is also a unit and army design system so you can make your own favorite army.  Finally, there is simple campaign system to play out battles in context of the “big picture” of a game world.

Setup

The setup rules are quite simple and straight forward.   In the setup sequence the players choose and build there armies.  You get a set amount of units and then you roll randomly for the rest.  Each army has a number of rolls based on half there army points.  This usually (but not always) is equal to the number of units in the base army.  Once the armies are “purchased”, both players determine the scouting values.  This value will come into play when the units of each army are actually deployed.  Then both players roll to see who is the attacker.

At this point, the defender will randomly place terrain.  The 3’X3′ battlefield is divided into 9 sectors 3X3.  The defender rolls 1 die per sector and consults the terrain placement table and places the appropriate terrain.  The attacker has the right to refuse the terrain placement.  He may do this 2 times and must live with the third placement should it come down to the third roll.  The defender chooses which table edge he will defend and the attacker will take the opposite edge.  Once this is determined, units are deployed.

The player who has the lower scouting value must place the first three units.  If this number is half that of the winner, he must place 6 at a time.  If this number is one third of the winner, he must place 9 at a time.  The player with the higher scouting total places 3 units at a time.  There is a 12″ “no man’s land” in the middle where nobody deploys.  You also may not deploy within 6″ of the side edge of the board or 3″ of the rear edge.

Units in RRtK are broadly divided into mounted and foot units.  They are further categorized as melee, skirmish, missile or dual armed.  Dual armed perform like melee troops but also have a short ranged missile attack.  There are certain abilities that can make troops even better.  Terror, for instance, can cause fear in nearby enemies making it more difficult for those units to pass reaction tests.  Other abilities such as pikes or combo-weapons can add 1 or more points to the melee die roll.  Each unit has 2 numeric values associated with it.  They are REP and AC.  REP is the over all quality of the unit.  It governs the units ability to stay on the battlefield.  The higher the REP (3-6), the better.  AC is a rating of the relative armor protection of a unit.  The higher the AC (2,4,6,8) the better the armor.

In the standard game, the objective is to drive the enemy from the field.  There are no artificial army morale rules in the game.  The battle is over when one army is completely eliminated or when one side decides to withdraw.

Leaders are an important part of the game.  A unit with a leader attached gains +2 to the rep of any unit they are attached to.  They also give +1 to the REP of any unit adjacent to the leader unit.  Finally, the leader has a war rating (2-4).  This is a measure of how many units or groups a leader may activate per turn.

Main Rules

RRtK does not have a detailed or structured turn sequence.  The attacker starts by nominating one of his units or groups to activate.  He must spend a war rating point to do this.  Once activated, that unit or group must keep moving at least at half speed until it is halted.  During the move, circumstances may cause the enemy to make a reaction test and then react to the attackers move.  This reaction could be for the defender to charge, shoot or run away.   The attacker’s group may then be forced to react to the enemy which might be to return fire, continue charging, halt or run away.  Once all actions and reactions for that unit/group has been completed the attacker activates his next unit or group and the process is repeated.  Once the attacker is done moving, the defender becomes the active player and activates units in the same manner.  Play shifts back and forth until someone wins the game.

Activation and Movement

Players spend war points to activate units.  Each player will usually have 2-4 war points per turn to activate with.  Once units and groups start moving, you don’t have to activate them until they halt.

Both units and groups must move straight ahead.  There are rules for turning.  Groups may wheel up to 45 degrees but this wheel must not exceed the speed of the slowest unit in the group.  Units may wheel up to 90 degrees.  It costs all movement for infantry to wheel and half movement for cavalry to wheel, after which they may continue moving straight ahead.

Groups are a collection of units that share a base edge in contact and are facing the same direction.  Groups may be assembled and broken up at a whim as the group or unit is activated.

Movement can sometimes be involuntary.  This may be the result of a reaction test where a unit will give ground, retire, or spontaneously charge.

A group may also be reformed if it has been jumbled as a result of a melee.  Basically the center of the group remains in position and others form up around that center unit.  This costs all movement.

Reactions

The heart of any Two Hour Wargames  game system is the reaction check.  RRtK is no different in this respect.  There are various reaction tests for being threatened by a melee unit, being shot at, being charged or for charging.  There is also a test for when the general gets killed.  To make a reaction test, two dice are rolled and each die result is compared to the units current REP value.  The results will be to pass both, pass one or pass none.  If you pass both, you will remain in good shape.  If you pass only one,  usually only some mildly bad stuff will happen to you.  If you pass none, affected units will tend to run away.  Note that when you make a reaction test, you roll only once for each unit or group.  Some units in a group will have different REP values so they may react differently from the rest of the group.  This can often have the undesired effect of the group fragmenting.  When a unit is forced to give ground or retire, it also loses another point of REP.   Also, different types of units will react differently.  Cavalry and frenzied infantry will charge even though they failed a reaction on one die.  Other will stand on the same result. 

Shooting

After a unit moves, it may shoot at an eligible enemy target.  This target may be a unit or a group.  1 or 2 dice are rolled for each shooting unit depending on type.  The die roll and modifiers are totaled.  If the total exceeds the targets AC, 1 hit is registered.  In the case of a group firing, total all dice and apply hits to the target unit within range.  If the target is a group, then the hits are divided among the units one at a time until all units are hit or all hits are accounted for.  For groups with multiple ACs, the lowest AC units are hit first.  For example, two skirmish units fire at a group with an AC 2 unit and an AC4 unit.  The die total is 7 so, starting with the AC 2 unit, a hit is scored as 7 is greater than 2.  That leaves 4 pips left.  This is compared to AC 4 which is not enough to score a hit on the second unit.  If the skirmishers fire again, the AC 4 unit becomes the first target.  Regardless of the amount rolled, a missile attack cannot score more than 1 hit per unit shooting.

Melee

Melee combat works in a similar fashion to shooting.  The only difference is that units must be in base contact.  The rules have groups and units line up exactly base to base and corner to corner.   This is sometimes not desirable if you have fewer units.  In melee, each unit rolls a die and adds modifiers for special abilities and battlefield situations.  Compare the result to the enemy AC.  If it is 1 point higher, a hit is scored.  For each multiple higher, another hit is scored.  So for instance a unit fighting an AC 2 enemy unit, could score multiple hits if the total of the melee die was 6 or more. Groups fight groups in the same fashion as groups of archers firing at enemy group targets.

Melee has to be initiated by a charge test.  Both sides passing the test will result in the melee.  It is possible for most units to route if they fail both dice on a receiving a charge test.  There is no melee benefit to a flank attack.  In stead, the unit being charged must pass the reaction test on both dice or route.  If they do pass, the melee is fought as normal.  The defending unit is assumed to have refused the flank.

End Game

As mentioned before, the game does not end until the enemy has been driven from the field or one player gives up.  Casualties in the game do not represent just actual loss of life but also the loss of the army’s will to fight.  There is a post game resolution phase that will determine what happened to the units that routed.  Some units will reform and return to the army pool and others will simply be lost.  This is important if you are playing the campaign system in RRtK but can be skipped if you are just having a battle with a friend.

Fantasy Elements

I am primarily concerned with the historical aspects of RRtK.  However, others will, undoubtedly be interested in the fantasy aspects of the game.  Suffice it to say, there are rules for wizards and heroes in RRtK.  Fantasy creatures can be created using the unit building rules so the limit is only what your imagination can come up with.  There is also a fantasy setting to run a campaign with the rules set.  I will not go into detail here but will mention that wizards do have plenty of spells to choose from to cast in game.  They include, attack defense and summoning spells.  I don’t think fantasy enthusiasts will be disappointed.

Under the Hood

I found the game mechanics of RRtK to be extremely easy to grasp and I found the game to be very enjoyable, especially as a solo game.  Part of the reason it is well suited for solo play is the reaction system.  When a reaction test is made, the troops make the move it says.  No questions asked.  So, when the units get stuck in, the local commanders take over and tend to ignore your commands.

One peculiarity I found was with the shooting system.  For the most part, each unit in the game gets 1D6 to attack with.  This seems to be true for all melee units and for skirmish units.  However, for other missile units, you get to roll two dice per unit and add either 1 or 2 to the die roll depending on how many figures are on the unit firing.  This can be quite powerful and most of the time will result in maximum damage to the target.  For instance, an AC2 unit will always be hit as you can’t roll less than 3 on2D6+1.  Similarly, an AC4 unit will be hit 5 in 6 times and with 2D6+1 and 35 in 36 times with 2D6+2.  With group shooting, it’s even  worse.  There are conditions for overkill as you cannot score more than 1 hit per unit.  This will tend to balance out the occasional miss.  I did not play the rules as written in this respect as I already knew the outcome.  For my Marathon game, I simply rolled 1 die per unit and added 1 for 3 figure units and 2 for 4 figure units.  The first couple of games were still disasters for the Greeks who had 4 REP and 4 AC.  While the Persians had only 2AC the front line were 4REP and were dual armed.  They stuck around too long and the Greeks just wore out.  I reduced all but 1 Persian unit to REP 3 and the game went much better.  I will say though, if the Greeks don’t pass the charge test with 2 dice, they will stand there and get shot at.  Give them a Mulligan and let them charge or they won’t win. :-)  Ultimately, I think the missile system should be toned down for historical battles.  I think a better representation should be D6-1 for skirmishers, D6 for 3 figure archers and D6+1 for 4 figure archers.  I have not tried the change yet but I suspect that will give a really good balance for most battles.

Another oddity was that some units would simply get in the way.  After prolonged combat, you will have units with low REP but are getting modifiers for being supported by friends to the flank and rear.  They are often useless as you can’t charge with them and they block other  friends.  You can voluntarily route them which tends to diminish your strength.  They would still be useful in a support roll.  In my re-fight of Zama, I used the reform action to reform groups by switching the front with the rear ranks.  Most ancient armies were capable of passing ranks in some capacity and not otherwise allowing a move after this maneuver is a good enough penalty for performing the reform action.  Of course, you also can’t be in melee contact to do this.

Scoring hits on multiple units in a group can be a little confusing at first.  If all of the ACs are the same then you can simply divide the hit total by 1+AC and drop fractions.  Example: I roll a 11 on 3 dice.  The units in the target group are all AC2 so I would divide by 3 for a total of 3 hits.  For different units you are simply deducting 1+AC ignoring any result that would be less than zero.  Lets change the example to 2 units with AC2 and 1 unit with AC4.  Now we rolled a 9.  So, the first unit is an AC2, so we deduct 3 with 6 left over.  The next unit is an AC2 so we deduct 3 more with 3 left over.  The last unit is AC4 so we would deduct 5.  That would bring the total down to -2 so that last hit does not count.

So how did the rules perform?  In Marathon, I got cute and tried to do deep Persian ranks.  I allowed the rear ranks to shoot but at -1.  This did not go well for the Greeks…at all.  I then made the formation more sensible with just 1 rank of archers behind 1 rank of sparabara still allowing the overhead shooting.  Still not great.  Then I used the same formation but did the line of shooting as per the rules.  Worked better.  The Greeks got in and even routed the Persian line.  At this point, there were 2 Persian cavalry, 1 light and 1 heavy, attacking the flanks.  I was going to call it a Greek victory but decided to see how the Greek army would hold up against a charge by Datis and his heavy cavalry.  The results were bad.  3 Greek units routed in succession from the flank attack and another after failing a melee test.  To make matters worse, the Persian light cavalry was picking away at the only fresh Greek hoplite unit.  ultimately, the Persians snatched victory from the jaws of defeat.

Zama went considerably better and gave a historical result.  The skirmishers did well to defeat 3 of the 4 elephants, first by driving them back and then routing them into the oncoming Punic lines.  The 4th managed to slip through and menace a hastati unit.  Scipio directed the fighting himself, ordering some Triari into the flank of the Elephant and destroying it.  At this point, the mercenaries started their attack, sometimes giving as good as they got.  A combination of the missile fire from the Roman side and the shock of the better Roman troops help drive the mercenary line off.  The Citizens were up next.  They did little damage against the better armed and armored Roman infantry.  On the flanks, Massinissa was almost killed as the Carthaginian Numidian allies really did some damage.  Massinissa decided to charge and fail the charge test.  As his cavalry were all skirmishers, the result caused them to quit the field (defected I suppose).  The Roman and Punic cavalry mixed it up on the other flank.  The battle went back and forth for 2 turns but the Roman cavalry prevailed with the help of some supporting velites.  It finally came down to the Carthaginian veterans supported by 1 slinger unit.  The slinger was driven off the field and Massinissa and company harassed the Carthaginian left.  The Roman line charged and a bitter melee ensued.  First, the Roman line started to buckle and a unit even routed.  It looked like Carthage might just pull this one out when they rolled a 6,6 for their post melee reaction test!  More units routed but some stood firm. Hannibal’s unit finally routed and the other two followed suit in reaction to seeing his unit leave the field.

Conclusion

Rally Round the King is a solid game.  This is another game which is more workman like and less high polish though there is some old school art from Andrea Sfiligoi of Ganesha Games.  The system is easy to play and requires only a moderate amount of figures.  The game is well suited for replaying ancient and medieval battles though some modification will be needed.  I will say that it did not do a very adequate job of Marathon as I could not adjust the rules to replicate the Persian formation (yet).   Other pitched battles will probably work just fine.  People who like there games on the simple side will like this game.  Those who are interested in solo games will love this game.

Rally Round the King from Two Hour Wargames by David Gray and Ed Teixeira

Support Site To get answers to all your game questions.  There is an extensive files section with plenty of THW support material. 

Troll Roller The statistical engine I use to calculate anything I can’t do by hand.



Shaun Travers has an excellent blog reviewing many ancient wargame titles including a refight of RRtK and a review of the predicessor Warrior Kings.

3 Responses to Rally Round the King

  1. Excellent review. And it helps that I agree with everything you say! And I get a mention.

    Marathon is actually a hard battle to recreate. it would be interesting to see the deployment for it. Maybe really high REP units on the flanks (6?) and lower in the centre (to cater for the thinning of the ranks). This rather than, or on top of, having a single line in the centre and double line at the flanks (which is what i would do but haven’t seen what you did) The high REP flanks then get the high reaction test bonuses for friends. It is interesting that the flank attacks worked as I’ve found against high REP and supported units, flanks attacks are pointless as the high REP units always pass. Happened to me in the RRtK Zama replay – very frustrating! The rout and reform at Marathon is at least covered by the retire function in RRtK.

    Anyway, sounds like you are having fun.

  2. Dale Hurtt says:

    Nice comprehensive review. Thanks for taking the time.

    Dale

  3. Iain Martin says:

    Are there rules for sieges, etc? Terrain bonuses?

    Great review.

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