Home Forums Ancients Polemos SPQR: The Battle of the Sambre Reply To: Polemos SPQR: The Battle of the Sambre

Guy Farrish

It was first edition (I think- 2005).


I was interested in the ‘Tempo’ idea but in use it seemed rather ‘tricksy’ as a piece of game play trying to deliver some idea of how to gain initiative. It seemed to bear little or no relation to military tempo and unsettling your opponent by coup d’oeil, decisive action and maintenance of aim. It was a little gambling sub routine which I always felt gave too much to a game part of wargame and detracted significantly from the ‘war’ part of it. I have similar concerns with ‘PIPS’ but they are at least less convoluted. I was part of a very large Kriegsspiel recreation of the Sadowa campaign in Manchester University back in the early 1980s which gave rise to a commercial tabletop game using cardboard units which used ‘Impulse’ points that cascaded down through the command levels which seemed slightly closer to command effect but was a bit unwieldy for the actual impact on the game.

Did anyone ever have enough Tempo points left to ‘steal tempo? 4 times the cost?

I always think command (or rather command dislocation) should be modelled in wargames and yet one of the best rule sets for getting the feel of what happens, in large scale battles at least, is one which ignores the modelling of it almost completely – Volley and Bayonet. There are morale rules but no attempt to impose command bonuses and penalties – players make the mistakes and decisions on their own quite effectively. It seems wrong but I can’t argue with the outcomes and feeling after a game that it worked without giving overly distorted effects.

Combat system


Cavalry Charge Threat – using range combat table. Then Close combat  – both with different sets of modifiers 19 plus a d6 plus/minus a separate terrain modifier from a different table. Messy.

Infantry – no close combat. I know why, but the whole point of the theory of trying to fire and advance and intimidate and then press home a charge seems to be incorporated in a firefight system, which misses the point that for one school at least this was a massive failure of doctrine and intent.

Army morale – appreciate a need to end a battle but again modifiers all over the place. I confess to ignoring it mostly.

I am probably making this sound a lot worse than it was. It is a collection of little things that irritated me at the time, which individually were trivial but just added up to something that didn’t let it work.  It may be the period to be honest. I find the history of the campaigns and battles intriguing but again it seems one of those where interest in the minutiae of the weapons and tactics can overwhelm the bigger picture. The fire methods – platoon, rolling fire ,volleys by line, by whatever are fascinating but I wonder they made any real difference compared to logistics and generals keeping an idea of what they were trying to do under their political constraints. I suppose if you are not careful it becomes a generic horse and musket game, but identifying the period factors that made a real difference seems to be the difficult thing (probably true of many periods/wars/campaigns in wargaming terms).