Saturday, 18 December 2010

Another Go At Rules

This week, a return to pondering rules. I’m going to try to fix the issue there was with ‘a second stab at rules’.

Let us again take as our paradigm soldier the Persian infantryman, and give him a 3 in our system.

The Greek hoplite up against him, when 8 ranks deep, should win, so lets give him a 4.

In the centre at Marathon, the Greeks were thin; say 4 ranks deep so pick up a –1.

The Persians get a +1 for being ‘the best’ and another +1 for their initial shield wall.

Thus, in the centre, the Greeks are at 4-1, the Persians at 3 +1 +1 making 3 vs 5. However, the Greeks did charge into contact, so should get at least +1 for doing so, making 4 vs. 5 and, all other things being equal, a slow loss for the Greek centre.

On the wings, the Greeks would be 4 +1 against 3, making 5 vs. 3 and a quicker win for the Greeks.

Two issues arise here. The first is why do the Greeks only get +1 for charging?

Well, the more I’ve read the more doubtful I’ve become that a full-blooded charge could be carried out by a phalanx. This starts to get complex. Some authors would argue that a phalanx was much looser in 490 BC than we assume, but I’m not going there as I don’t see how a bunch of shield and spear armed heavy infantry are going to make progress in a loose formation. The point of a phalanx was that it was rather coherent. This is why police lines tend to hold against demonstrators, after all. So phalanxes cannot just rush at the enemy willy-nilly.

On the other hand, there has to be some bonus for getting to grips. In the case of Marathon, the Greeks would eventually have got disrupted by the Persian archery, so it was worth their while, once in range, closing. So I’ve made a perhaps rash assumption that the +1 for the Persian shields cancels out the impetus from charging / advancing into contact.

Comparing with the first stab at rules, the centre in that came out as 4 vs 4 in the first round, followed by 2 vs 3 for a slow Persian win in the second and subsequent rounds.

This week, we have 4 vs 5 in the first round and 3 vs 4 in the second and subsequent, again making a slow Persian win.

In the wings it should be a slightly faster Greek win.

So does this make any difference?

Well, the Persians still come out a little ahead when they are counted as the paradigm, but not as much as I initially thought. They get a slight advantage on the first round of combat, getting a 5 rather than a 4. This would get cancelled out if I gave the Greeks a +2 for charging, of course, so the two systems would then be equal.

However, there is a ‘but’.

Here, I’ve assumed that the outcomes would be based on the difference of the factors, and that alone. This is the normal route with Polemos rules, at least the ones I’ve written.

If a DBA style combat outcome were used, then the outcomes could be significantly different. As I’m sure most of you know, the DBA style outcome is defined by the ratio of the scored – less than half and less but more than half.

The Polemos system uses a difference of scores – 0, 1, 2, and so on.

In the ratio (DBA style) system, the higher the initial factor, the less likely an opponent is going to double the score. If both sides have a +1, and one rolls a 1, then to double, the opponent only needs to roll 3 or more. If both sides have +4, and one rolls a 1, then the opponent has to roll a 6 to double the score. I’ve not done the numbers and statistics on this, but it appears to me to be slightly non-linear.

The difference (Polemos) system is linear. No matter what the factor, the difference is the same. So a Greek vs. Persian match up at 2 vs. 3 is the same as 3 vs. 4.

So perhaps, while there may be a little bias depending on the paradigm troop type, it is much more limited in the difference system than in the ratio system.

Or, maybe, I’ve got my numbers wrong (again).


  1. That seems to work okay as long as it makes sense with the ranged fire rules for the Persians to do hold position and fire rather than counter-charge instead.

  2. Thanks.

    I do need to do a bit of thinking about the ranged combat rules, for this very reason.