Roman Seas ReviewFebruary 22, 2010
For those of you that don’t wargame skip this post. For those of you who follow in the footsteps of the likes of Genghis Khan and Winston Churchill you’re in for a treat. I’ve been wargaming for a few years now… ok pushing forty but whose counting. I’ve also played a wide range of periods and game types from ancient to miniatures to computer games, hell I was playing EPT before anyone even thought of D&D… I may have said too much. My personal favourite is table top gaming because you can’t beat the tactile nature of the environment and of course exceedingly bitter arguments over whether that distance is from the closest corner of the base meaning you get a +1 on the dice or from the centre meaning there no modifier. You either know what I’m talking about or you don’t. It’s lot like the Big Bang Theory, if you laugh too often you8’re a geek. I’ve worked with the incredibly painful Wargames Research Groups rules, which were good for their quick reference guide but not too much else, to the simply anal Squad Leader series which notable only for its love of lots of words and defining the difference in ranges of the pistols that one guy in 300 was carrying because hell that could change the outcome of the battle!. I’ve even written more than a few sets of rules myself, the first being the ancient skirmish rules I wrote in ten minutes at our wargames club at high school because everyone had brought their figures but forgotten the rule books. Last I heard they were still using them, evidence of simple bloody laziness if nothing else. But what I have learned from this is that “playability” is kind of the point of table top gaming really, the figures and scenery, not the complexity or the “accuracy” of the rules. So when I review Roman Seas I’m doing it with a lot of experience and a certain amount of disillusionment.
To achieve the balance between rules and pliability is exceedingly difficult but key to the long term success of any game and Roman Seas has achieved it exceedingly well. However I do have to take issue with the tagline. “Ancient Roman Naval Combat Rules 264BC – 400AD”. This “rule book” is in fact an entire game. With the book comes a CD that has all the files on it you need to print your own counters and game boards as well as your quick reference sheets. The quick reference sheets tables all have their relevant rule numbers listed so you can go back to them if you need to. But once you’re familiar with the rules you’ll probably only have the quick reference sheets on the table. It uses a hex system which regulates many of variables helping to reduce arguments (note: reduce, not stop. The arguments are a feature, not a bug). Even then the rules actually apply to miniatures as well as the board game version. Specifically Eric Hotz’s Roman Seas range of ships and buildings. In fact you can buy the Roman World collection and make pretty much anything from the ancient world you want. I’ve been using some of the fortifications for some time now in rebuilding a model of Roman Legion Fort. You can also rebuild Hadrian’s Wall and even a tented camp if you want to cut and fold the teeny tiny tents. I have four actual tents and a miniature camp ramparts dug so I’m good.
Flexibility is key to the usefulness of Eric’s rules as they cover a period from the rise of the Roman navy during the first Punic War, which started in 264BC to the peak of great fleets at Actium in 31BC and on to the decline of the Empire when the Romans were dealing with Saxon raiders in the fourth century AD. He gives you Roman, Carthaginian, the massive Antonian/Egyptian ships and the barbarian Ventii along Saxon wraships (which are begging to be converted to having dragons heads) augmented with a range of merchants. With each of these different enemies different tactics were employed and Eric details these within the rules and provides rules for things like flame weapons while telling you why they were very seldom used. Even the hapago, a catapult launched grapnel are there. What is central to Eric’s rules is the fact that his father was a Roman historian and these rules are accurate while providing the individual player with the opportunity to try different methods of their own. In short you can engage in a wide range of differing types of naval and river warfare using these rules. I would suggest that it’s an advantage to learn a bit about the tactics employed and assume you don’t it already.
When you use Eric’s models you’ll be able to create that engaging table top feel of gaming (please keep your coke cans OFF the battle area gentlemen) and you wont be paying through the nose for it. As I mentioned you can get the entire Roman world set for $100 from which you can build any naval force as well as any port, fort or city you feel like. You can print off as many models as you want with a variety of optional extras and they go together very easily. I just got myself the Barbarians vs Rome set because I’m working on a couple of river engagement scenarios and the set has eight ships classes on 25 sheets. With printing it works out to being about 50 cents for each model if i use all the extras. Somewhat more cost effective than buying and painting cast models.
Roman Seas, the rules and the models represent great value for money as well as being of exceptional quality.