My gaming group in Northern VA finished playing a new system for minis, both Fantasy and Historical, that my friend Steve devised. He calls it Ares Exultant. We had played it before, but this version had some rules changes, and it was the first time we had used it with Fantasy Minis. This is a simple 6 page rules set, plus unit statistics for the particular forces. Since we were using my classic 25 mm Fantasy figures, I advised Steve to write up some statistics for units that rarely see the battlefield. When playing Fantasy Miniatures, we usually are using one of my homebrew games that simulate a battle from JRR Tolkien’s mythos. So we never get to some of the more oddball fantastic creatures that I’d like to see hit the gaming carpet. In the end, I was a little disappointed in that we used all Tolkien types, however, we all agreed Steve did an outstanding job of rating the units’ true to their capabilities in the Tolkien universe.
Steve came up with the opposing forces. I was surprised that some of the statistics of the forces on the “Good” side were pretty bad. However, we did have some awesome troopers on our side, notably the Elves who were excellent in quality, both their light and heavies. We had some heavy Dwarves as well, with that amazing armor they are known for.
The baddies also had some good stuff; the Uruks had lots of armor and good attack values. The Trolls were also fearsome, as you’d imagine, but they were lacking in morale. The Goblins were bad, but not that much worse than the “human volunteers” we had.
This system benefits heavily by a lack of look up tables for the most part. Unit statistics were marked in back of the figures using magnetic markers. This was really an outstanding method for keeping records of troops’ abilities, their casualties, and loss of order for heavy troops.
In Ares Exultant, the simulation is at the grand tactical level. Heavy and light troops both play an important part and have differing strengths and weaknesses. Casualties (and loss of “order”, a statistic for Heavy troops only that is akin to taking a temporary casualty in other game systems) are inflicted in battle and on retreats, but when retreating from the enemy the amount of casualties taken depends on the unit type that chased you away, and the retreating unit’s type. Light troops strike first, and can retreat without taking losses from heavies, but they cannot stand up to heavies. Heavies can get “order” back by resting for a turn. Cavalry is powerful, in that it can inflict heavy losses on retreating units and gets an extra move in certain situations.
The game is played in squares, representing an area of the battlefield. Units can be in reserve, or defending one of the “borders” of the square, or moving from the square to attack an adjacent square. This combat system is simple and FUN. Terrain bonuses can add pips to your defense or dice to your attacks. You need to be mindful of getting flanked, but can react to meet a threat if you have units in reserve. The rules are refreshingly elegant in my opinion; the only real criticism of the system as a whole I can see, is they allow for a great deal of freedom of movement and action on the field – much more so than a game like DBx. If you have a leader in that square, you can move from that square. Morale and command and control are extremely simple.
The forces of light won the initiative and so had to set up first (actually that is a disadvantage). We decided to put our best troops in the center and left flank. We were really trying to take the woods, where our outstanding elvish troops would be even tougher. We were also trying for the high ground square on our left flank. The evil ones set up hordes of wargs on their right, and Uruk Hai were set to battle for that hill we wanted. Their Trolls were in their center. Our crappy humans were on our right (the minis looked a lot tougher than these guys really were).
We were able to walk into the woods unopposed around turn 3. The baddies thought they would trick us with a spell to make our light elves run, but we were defending in place and that “converted” us into heavy infantry. Many an orc was sent to Valhalla trying to wrest that woods from me.
Steve on the other hand had his dwarves beat up pretty bad trying to take the hill on our left from the tenacious Uruks and their friends the goblins. It took several turns and eventually our second wave made up of our best troops, heavy elvish infantry were able to capture porkchop hill.
Although the evil ones held the high ground on their left, that was where our garbage troops were stationed, and they were happy to threaten that flank without ever attacking.
After playing for about 4 hours, it was clear that evil was doomed (I suppose that’s always the case). They lost 14 units, the forces of light’s 1 unit. The evil ones fought well, but they could not stand up to our best troops and I think they would have done better concentrating against our weaker flank. Looking forward to adding some new units into the fray next time, and maybe throwing in some siege rules or town squares.