Mary Russell

    17. Chaeronea (2 August 338 BCE)

    When I translate a given engagement into the peculiar language of Table Battles, a lot of my time is spent on things that a lot of players won't really notice. What die results a card can accept, whether or not it's limited to one die per turn, how cards are divided into wings and how often die results are duplicated within a wing and within an army, how the cards interact with one another: it's there, and it's what makes the thing work, but it doesn't necessarily call a lot of attention to itself. So I really dig it when the historical battle has something big and obvious and flashy I can glom onto. In this case, there are two - the elite Sacred Band of Thebes, and Philip's faked retreat. The timing of the retreat can be tricky, and if forced to do it too soon - in which case, it's more of a "retreat-retreat" than a fake one - it can make it easier for the Greeks to safeguard the Sacred Band and their right flank.

    18. The Granicus (May 334 BCE)

    "Le Passage du Granique", Charles Le Brun, 1665, oil on canvas.

    I often give light screening cavalry formations "doubles", and here, with a Persian army that was mostly comprised of light screening cavalry, I took that tendency to its logical conclusion, with five "doubles" cards all in one Wing. Originally that was it, and the Persian player could only place one pair of dice on one card per turn, which I thought reflected the utter lack of organized command-control very well. Later in development I made things a little easier for the Persian player by giving them the ability to place dice on two cards per turn, provided their Center was intact. That made it more competitive, and it gave more of a sense of direction to the battle.

    19. Issus (5 November 333 BCE)

    Detail of "The Battle of Alexander at Issus" (Alexanderschlacht), Albrecht Altdorfer, 1529, oil on panel. A very 1500s take on the battle with shining armor, plumed helmets, fluttering banners and charging lancers.

    If there's one thing that seems to trip up new players about this series, it's the need for force preservation. Most formations are quite brittle and will be on the verge of collapse after making one or two attacks. Prudent use of Alexander's reserve in this scenario is crucial to Macedonian success. The Persian player shouldn't be frustrated when their hits keep getting Absorbed, though; it is a finite resource after all, and worth two morale cubes if it Routs.

    20. Gaugamela (1 October 331 BCE)

    Detail of "Bataille d' Arbélès" (Gaugamela), Charles Le Brun, 1669, oil on canvas.

    In some ways a bigger version of Issus. I struggled at first with how to depict the numerical disparity between the two sides. Regardless of how many sticks I give each side, if Alexander has a bunch of cards, his army is going to feel "bigger" and on par with Darius's. But then I remembered that the scale of the series is inherently fungible, and I collapsed Alexander's phalanx from three cards in the other scenarios down to one. That seemed to do the trick. The Persian player will no doubt notice that his two back formations are lousy with sticks but utterly useless punching bags, and this was the case historically - his tens or supposedly hundreds of thousands of infantry didn't do much except run away when our boy broke the Persian flank.

    21. The Hydaspes (May 326 BCE)

    Detail of "Alexander and Porus", Charles Le Brun, 1673, oil on canvas.

    When I came up with the Table Battles system, the core idea was to create interesting games of linear, often static battles. So it was a real challenge to craft a scenario based on a battle that was decided by bold, surprising maneuvers, with cavalry racing around from one wing to the next, enemies appearing in the rear, all that good stuff. The danger with representing this sort of thing is that it makes the battle a bit more scripted, and I will say that Alexander's best chances for victory hinge on following the script by bringing in, and utilizing, Craterus and Coenus.

    22. Gabiene (316 BCE) & 23. Ipsus (301 BCE)

    One thing players should notice about the other five battles is that you generally have a small but elite Macedonian army fighting a more numerous enemy that's utterly outclassed. The way the game balances this is by giving Alexander only one morale cube, while the enemy has three or four. The onus is on the Alexander player to achieve a lopsided, decisive victory with minimal losses. This actually falls in line with how I approached Wars of the Roses, and is meant to be a corrective to the tendency of some of the base game's scenarios to become exhausted slugfests with bad play. With the last two scenarios in this set however, where you have practically identical armies fighting in practically identical ways, I went with a 2-2 split. This symmetrical split and force structure could pose the risk of the battle turning into "I rout one of yours, you rout one of mine, now I rout one of yours until neither side can do anything" like some of the base game battles. One way I tried to counteract that tendency was to make the battles smaller than the others, with fewer cards and sticks. In both scenarios, each side also has a formation they want to protect at all costs - the Camp in Gabiene and Antigonus in Ipsus - as their Routing will often be enough to upset the equilibrium.

    See Notes on Table Battles no. 1-8

    See Notes on Table Battles: Wars of the Roses no. 9-16

    1 comment

    • I really like how TB abstracts leadership and command plus other battlefield variables via the dice placement design options. I am a SimpleGBoH (GMT) player, but at this point I will buy anything TB related.

      I hope this Ancients expansion does well, there are some cool things to be done with the Romans (barbarians, Carthaginians and civil war, oh my) for future expansions!

      Steve Carey

    Leave a Comment