I’m finding that game designs are pretty complex these days and I’m not sure why. Folks will complain that simple game mechanics are boring or unrealistic. I tell you that is nonsense. I’ve experimented with very simple game mechanics before and have found that they make the player try to win with actual tactics based on troop types rather than game the system. My latest incarnation is even more simple. As the title suggests, the dice mechanic is all about rolling 6s.
Here are the basics. It is an Ancients themed game. Each unit is made up of 4 stands of troops in a 2X2 pattern. Each unit rolls just 2 dice for combat. Dice are added and subtracted based on the tactical situation and difference in equipment. Missile fire is fairly weak in this game. But that is the way it was before the advent of the crossbow and longbow. For each 6 rolled, an enemy stand is removed. You get to add a die for flank or rear attack and you can get a first strike if you are fighting with pikes vs none or you are attacking the flank or rear. If you lose a melee combat, you roll a D6 and retreat that many inches. The die can be modified up or down based on troop grade or the presence of the army commander. If the die comes up 4 or more, the unit retreats with its back facing the enemy.
1D6 has a 16.67% chance of causing a hit.
2D6 has about a 30% chance of causing a hit.
3D6 has about a 42% chance of at least causing 1 hit. Note that there is a 7% chance of causing 2 hits.
4D6 has about a 50% chance of causing at least 1 hit. Note that there is a 13% of causing 2 hits.
5D6 has about a 58% chance of causing at least 1 hit. Note that there is a 19% chance of causing 2 hits.
You technically can score as many hits as you have dice but I am illustrating the significant chances only.
In my first fight, a single unit of Roman Lagionares fought head to head with a single Macedonian Phalangite unit. The Phalangites charged in. The Romans threw their pila but failed to remove a stand. The pikes get 2 dice +1 die for a full second rank and scored a hit on the Romans. Since that is a first strike, the Romans only retaliate with 1 die as there is no time for the second rank to step up. However, they manage a hit anyway with a 6 (this happened twice in my second game). So the melee is not lost. Turn two, the Roman unit now rolls 3 dice as they are continuing a melee. The Phalanx rolls 2 dice as they no longer have a second rank. The Romans score a hit and the Phalanx misses. The phalanx falls back 2″. The Romans must follow up a half move which keeps them in contact. Turn 3 the Romans roll 3 dice again as the melee is continuing. The phalanx rolls 2 dice. Romans score a hit and the phalanx misses again. The fight is over as the phalanx have now reached 75% casualties.
I tried this again with 3 heavy infantry, 1 cavalry and 1 skirmisher per side. I had much the same results. The cavalry stalemated and failed to score any hits. A Legionare fought a Thureophorpoi unit and rolled 3 dice from the start because of the difference in equipment while the Thureophoroi only rolled 2. Pila still applied but it did not cause any damage. The skirmishers sniped at each other though the Macedonians were armed with bows giving them a longer range. They managed to score one hit on the Legionares that went against the Thureoporoi but were whittled down by the Velites. The Romans won this battle as well but not without taking some significant casualties. None of their units broke but one Legionare unit took 2 hits and another took 1.
The point I am making here is that you can have a plausible battle without all of the fine grained detail of many of the rules sets out there today. Featherstone’s postcard sized game rules idea seems to hold up well. My next test will be with 8 units per side. After I’ve accounted for elephants and chariots, I’ll try a couple of games with armies based on DBA lists. 12 units per side.