I was looking for a game to fight ancient battles. Mostly because I wanted to create couple of nice little 6mm ancient armies. I had tried in the past several different games to fight ancient battles, such as DBM and DBA, both that were unsatisfactory and frankly quite boring in their geometric fiddling and paper-scissor-rock system. Additionally, DBM appeared to take forever. That said, I do understand why competition oriented gamers like DBx – it was probably best (or least worst) set of rules when originally published.
So, it was good start to lay down some basic requirements that I was seeking.
- Game needed to be short. Preferably well under 3 hours, once rules are clear.
- Deterioration of armies or units should not be presented as linear gradual affair, but they should show how units, however strong to begin with, once starting to break apart, deteriorate quickly.
- Should show special aspects of Romans, Gauls and other troops of interest with sufficient details to recreate historical battles.
- Rules needed to be well written, understandable and intuitive enough to eliminate constant references to rulebook.
- There should not be geometric fiddling – got that enough for a lifetime in DBM.
- Basing should be some kind of standard, but should leave sufficient room to make nice show of troops in quantity, since I was targeting 6mm.
- And, since I am not into competitive, or tournament play, I tend to dislike rules that are written for that purpose (and associated loopholes- patching iteration cycles that ruin any game quickly).
It was a long search, and eventually I did end up with Basic Impetus. Why?
With all the will in the world, I could not say that Basic Impetus rulebook is excessively long, or that any vital information is missing from it. There are some rules that are bit more hard to find than one would wish for, but examples are borderline nonexistent. However, that is more than made up by fantastic introductionary videos in Youtube, under ‘Basic Impetvs, “How to Play series”‘ and Impetus forum where author responds to questions. Rulebook is available freely from Dadi & Piombo, along with pretty good number of ready army lists. So, value for the money is pretty good there.
Basic Impetus is quite fast paced. Since there are 8 to 10 units per side (or per player in Basic Multi-Impetus), there are no excess amount of troops to control.
In Basic Impetus both (all) players roll 2d6 to figure out who goes first. High roller has to act first with all troops and then loser. If general is alive, he adds +2 to the die roll. Then players execute moves, fire and handle melees. Now, while it sounds simple enough, there are number of subtle rules that make game interesting and options varied. Couple of the key concepts highlighted.
Unit can become disordered by doing things that are complicated. While disorder affects ability to fight, it also affects ability to perform maneuvers. In fact, disordered unit is often in serious trouble, if poorly aligned. Luckily though, disorder is temporary, and by staying still for one activation, unit can remove it.
Each unit has value that essentially tells how impetuous it is. Higher the number, better the bonus if unit is still fresh when charging enemy unit. Impetus bonus is given to any unit that moves in contact with opponent, however, only units that have impetus bonus of at least one can move to contact. Units with 0 cannot.
Some units, such as Gallic warbands can come in large units, that means that two units are joined permanently together. This is excellent mechanic to keep your impetuous troops fresh just before the contact. In fact, more than once, have these warbands decided the outcome of entire battle, routing legion after legion.
Nothing tells more about eloquence of the rules than how Roman Pila is handled. Roman legionnaires have short shafted javelin, called pilum. It was used to disorder enemy charge, or enemy lines prior legions charge. In practice it was very close range weapon (heavy javelin if you like) with great effect. Anyone knowing Roman history can attest the versatility and importance of the weapon. In the game it works as first strike weapon, one enemy charges legionnaires, they can throw the pila and cause disorder, or even hits to the enemy before contact is resolved.
One of the things I like most in Impetus is the way that combat is handled (also a thing many people do not like). Yes, it involves lot of d6 at times, and there are no charts. In combat, every unit receives as many d6, as the VBU +-modifiers. Each disorder reduces value by one, each permanent loss reduces by one. Each 6, or double 5’s rolled cause one hit to enemy. However, it is not simple as just reducing the hits from the opponent, but fantastically beautiful system is used to represent ever increasing collapse of unit fitting ability. Each hit that is caused, will reduce current VBU by one. Then you roll d6, and if you roll less or equal to the number, your unit only receives disorder (or one hit if already disordered). If however, d6 ends up being more than the number, you will receive the difference amount of hits.
Loser is the unit that takes more actual hits and has to pull back for half of 1d6U rounded up. Winning side has an option to pursue, unless impetuous when it is mandatory. And then the best part – if pursuer catches the fleeing enemy, there will be another melee and so forth, until pursuer can no longer reach the fleeing unit, or one has been destroyed.
This means that more hits unit has, less effective it becomes, but also that once unit starts taking hits, it will collapse in very rapid rate. Brilliantly simple and excellent combat mechanic. Luckily, it also means that impetuous units are very hard to control, and they may find themselves completely spent in a middle of enemy army after a good bit of fight.
In fact, I like Basic Impetus so much that I am going to get full Impetvs and some extras. if not for full games, but at least to support splendid effort.