The review for this month will cover Might of Arms by Bob Bryant. Might of Arms (MOA) is a large scale wargame covering all periods of warfare from the Chariot age through the high Medieval period. The game is designed to play large battles with hundreds of figures in a few hours.
MOA is a 112 page rule book with a color cover and black and white text. The rules are well organized and feature many symbolic diagrams as well as examples to help explain the game concepts. There are rules for setup and army building as well as 150 army lists. The main rules cover about 40 pages. While this may seem a bit lengthy, the rules are well explained and the game is fairly easy to play.
Units in MOA are comprised of either three stands (cavalry and light troops) or 6 stands (formed foot). You can actually play with any number of stands per unit but 3/6 are recommended for the standard game. Each unit is rated for training from A-E with A being the best. Units take hits when attacked either by melee or shooting. When a unit takes a number of hits equal to its stands, a fatigue point is placed on the unit and the remainder number of hits recorded. So a 6 stand unit would trade in 6 hits for a fatigue point. Excess would be then carried over. Fatigue points are negative modifiers to the morale rolls of a unit. More fatigue results in a better chance of a unit failing a morale check. All units can take a certain number of hits before becoming worn. ‘A’ class units can take 4 fatigue while ‘E’ class start the game worn. Worn units generally take morale checks in melee first before any other unit. Keep this section in mind as you read through the description of the game.
MOA does feature formal rules for setting up a game for tournaments and pickup games. Both players determine army composition based on the army list they have chosen. Each army is then divided into commands, with one command per commander. Based on the composition, each army has a total number of scout points. Once the totals have been determined, they are compared and the player with the lower total must set out one of his commands first.
Terrain setup is more subjective and free form. The number of terrain pieces available is based on table size. Each side alternates placing terrain pieces and is allowed to place up to half the selections. Not all pieces need be placed. If one side passes, then he is done placing terrain. In this way, both sides have some control over how much terrain is on the battlefield.
MOA has a lengthy but logical turn sequence.
Side A Move
Side A Shoot Side B Morale
Side B Move
Side B Shoot Side A Morale
Side A Delayed Shooting Side B Morale
Charge Declarations and Executions
Morale Tests from Melee
Remove Routed Units
Recover from Shaken
Both sides roll for initiative. The higher roll is Side A and the lower roll is side B. Initiative is rolled for each turn.
Movement is interactive. Side A moves and shoots followed by Side B. The morale step is taken after shooting and the effects take place immediately. The delayed shooting is an interesting point. It does not provide an extra shot for Side A. It only allows those units that could not shoot during side As turn to shoot if they were able after Side B has moved.
Formed units may move straight ahead, make up to a 45 degree turn and move straight ahead or move obliquely. They may also make a facing change sacrificing all of their movement to be able to face in any direction. As well, this facing change may be combined with a formation change allowing the unit to forma deeper formation. Skirmish units have somewhat more freedom of movement. They may move as formed units. In addition they may make a skirmish move which allows them to move in any direction or make any facing change but only move at half speed.
Units armed with missile weapons may shoot after they move. To shoot, roll 1 die per stand in each unit and consult the chart to see what the target number is to hit the target type. For each die that is less than or equal to the target number, 1 hit is scored. Hit numbers are usually 2 or 3. Convert hits to fatigue points where applicable. After shooting is completed, the target unit must make a morale check to see if it becomes shaken.
Charge and Response
On unique facet of MOA is that movement and charge movement are separate steps. Charge movement is performed after all shooting and morale checks from shooting is done. This allows missile fire to occur as the charging enemy approached. Charge move rates are separate from regular move rates and are shorter, usually by half. A charging unit may declare a charge against any eligible target to the front of the charging unit. It may make a 45 degree turn before executing the charge. Charges may be canceled if the charging unit is itself the target of a charge that it could not charge or counter charge. To execute a charge, the charging unit must pass morale check. Failure means that unit does not charge.
Units that are targets of a charge must now respond. Responses are either stand, evade or counter charge. Each unit must first pass a morale check to respond. Failure could result in the unit becoming shaken or even routing.
Units in contact now melee each other. To melee, first consult the melee chart to determine the starting combat factor against the target unit. Then add appropriate modifiers to the combat factor. This usually is a charge bonus or a penalty for being shaken. Then roll 1 die and add the result to the combat factor. Cross index the number of stands in the fighting unit with the final combat total on the melee table. The final result is the number of hits scored. Convert hits to fatigue. Both sides melee using this procedure before determining the morale checks.
If a unit takes hits in melee and is in contact with an enemy, it must make a morale check. Morale checks are taken in a specific order. Worn units check first followed by non-worn units down to the lowest combat total. Morale results are immediate. If a unit started the morale step in contact with an enemy but is not in contact with an enemy at the end of the step because the enemy unit was routed, then the unit is not required to take a morale check. Possible melee morale results, like all other morale checks, are shaken or routed. routed units are removed from play. Some units, in melee rout immediatly. An example of this is infantry failing a morale test while in contact with cavalry. Shaken units also rout in melee if they fail a morale check.
During the break-off step, some units may break-off contact with slower units. Suffice it to say, the unit breaking off turns 180 degrees and makes at least a full charge move away from the enemy and up to 2 full charge moves if desired.
Units that did not move, melee or fail a morale check may recover from being shaken. Recovery is automatic so long as the recovering unit did not move in anyway or melee that turn.
Under the Hood
The first thing I noticed about the game was how easy it was to inflict any sort hit in the game. Usually, hits for shooting were low and did not have any immediate effect in terms of fatigue. Later in the game, shooting became more important when units have taken a few hits and were only 1 or 2 hits away from gaining a fatigue point and another morale modifier. This is fine. In fact, one thing you will notice is that there is no rallying back any lost damage. So this sort of gradual decline makes for a tense game.
Speaking of damage, you have to keep track of two types of hits per unit. The first is hits. The second is fatigue. There are two ways of doing this. First is to use small dice or markers placed next to the unit. Those that don’t like stuff on table will find this to be sub-optimal. The second way is to keep a roster. If you are like me and don’t mind marking units, you may still find two markers a bit fiddly. A way around this is to mark fatigue as normal. Any left over hits can be converted into a save of sorts to see if those hits also become fatigue. Since standard units are 3 or 6 stands, you can readily use 6 sided dice to accomplish this. Lets say a 6 stand unit takes 8 hits. That would be 1 fatigue point automatically. Since there are 2 hits left over, that would convert into a 2 in 6 chance of getting a second hit. The same logic applies to a 3 stand unit but each hit would be a 1/3 chance which converts to a 2 in 6 chance. So 2 hits left over would be a 2 in 3 chance or a 4 in 6 chance of causing an extra fatigue. If the roll is not made, the extra hits are discarded.
Shooting felt about right for effect though heavy infantry was surprisingly susceptible to shooting with a 3 or less to be hit. There is an optional rule on the MOA website that changes this to a 2. The split movement phase allows all shooting on both sides to take effect without fiddling around with opportunity fire rules which often can be gamed by crafty players.
Charging and charge responses were perfectly straight forward though there was a good bit of detailed if this kind of troop is charged by that kind of troop then they can… I would have liked to have seen charge and charge responses be more generalized. Much of the game feels like it has roots in the old WRG rules and I suspect that is why the surprisingly large amount of fiddliness with the movement rules.
Melee, again, is quite straight forward and this is where the author’s experience with WRG rules beams through. You look up a factor based on matchup. You add a modifier or three. You roll a die. You look up damage on a table. The system should be very familiar to most old school WRG players. Of course, instead of removing figures, you remove fatigue and carry over hits.
There is nothing statistically anomalous with the game. When you figure out the factor and roll the die, the highest roll you can get will yield a result of about 3-4 times that of the lowest result you can roll for that combat. This provides a pretty good amount of variation. If I roll a 1 in the same combat 2 turns in a row and my opponent rolls a 6 for the same combat 2 turns in a row, I will probably be in big trouble with that unit.
The battles I fought were a fictitious battle between Macedonia and Rome, Marathon and Zama. The Macedonian fight was a close run fight with Rome pulling out a victory in the last turns. Missile fire kept the Phalanx shot up and gave the edge to the Roman infantry. I figured Marathon was going to go to the Persians based on what I observed from reading the rules. I was wrong. For the most part, the Greek phalanx advanced on the Persian line. The right was stalled by the barrage of missiles but the left and center made contact. The archers and spara-bara troops held for a time against the hoplites. Then the right finally rallied and passed a charge test and hit home. This turned the tide for the Greeks. Finally there was Zama. The game performed well in this battle. While the replay did not completely go according to history (what replay ever does?) it had the feel of how the troops would have performed historically. One of the elephants even routed into the Carthaginian Numidian horse and tilted the balance in favor of Massenissa. The other flank saw the Carthaginian horse route the Roman counterpart. It was a dramatic turn that likely was the downfall of the Romans. The two veteran lines did meet in the middle and a melee ensued. Rome was beaten up just enough and the Carthaginians gained a narrow victory.
Might of Arms is a fine game. It has been around for a while now (since 1996) and still gets regular mention on The Miniatures Page. Despite some of the unnecessary detail in movement, the game is pretty straight forward and moves along at a good clip. As with all of my reviews, I played this one solo. It was a bit painful to do at times and is much better suited as a two player or even a club game. Those that have fond memories of the old WRG rules should check this game out. I’d definitely characterize it as a sort of a “WRG-Lite” game. Those that don’t like tracking casualties on the board or in a roster might not like this game. The current version, from what I gather is still available through the author’s website though I think his print run is finally dwindling. I believe he is working on MOA 2 to be published sometime in the near future.