Friday 7 June 2013

Regaining some Impetus

Since the untimely demise of the Wargamers Free Company club nights, my games haven't been played in a club setting. This has worked out quite well for playing against Pete and Kieron (in fact I've roughly doubled the number of games I play, which I certainly didn't expect), but did mean that I missed out on playing some of the other former WFC members.

I finally managed to change both of those last night with a game of Impetus with JP at the South Yorkshire Dice Devils, a fairly new club that JP has played at a few times.

Impetus is a game that I've been "playing" for years, but I've never been able to play it regularly. Partly I think it became a bit of a victim of its own success for us - it covers everything from ancients to medieval to renaissance in a single set of rules, but that causes people to all get the armies they're most interested in, which cover a range of periods.

This means that I've never really internalised the rules as I have for Flames of War, for example, but I'm hoping we can change that now as both Pete and Kieron have acquired armies that work for the period of the 2nd Punic War, matching my Republican Romans. I took Pete through a demo game this week which led nicely to last night's live-fire exercise with JP's ancient Britons.

As there was only a 4'x4' table left at the club when we arrived, we both cut our armies down to 300 points. I was using the updated Punic War Romans list from Extra Impetus 4, and had everything in a single command, which I deployed first.

I made a mistake here - I didn't notice that only the area on my left was wide enough for JP to set up his traditional massive block of infantry, which pushed his cavalry and chariots to the other side. Once he deployed I saw my error - my anti-cavalry triarii were on the wrong side of the battlefield.

My plan was basically to sit and wait for the British to attack me, reasoning that their poor discipline might cause them to become disordered as they got close and allow me to attack them while they were out of formation. Since my triarii were in the wrong place, though, I tried to redeploy them to the other flank. Triarii have the highest discipline class in the game and can in theory move 6 times in a turn. However, both units failed every discipline test they had to make, and only succeeded in turning their flank to the enemy and becoming disordered.

I sent my skirmishers and light cavalry off to throw javelins at the oncoming chariots - there seemed to be little point in a shoot out between the skirmishers.

The triarii continued to flounder, preventing the legionaries behind them from moving up, and coming under lots of fire from the British skirmishers.

The light cavalry had much more success, wiping out an enemy cavalry unit that charged them in the flank and causing some damage with javelins. They were then able to retreat behind the lake when charged by the surviving British cavalry and kept shooting at them from there.

The medium cavalry turned to face the British chariots, who were all now disordered.

The surging British infantry scattered my skirmishers, and the beleagured triarii just had time to turn to face the enemy before they were charged.

On the flank, the Roman and British cavalry exchanged charges to no real effect, and the Roman light cavalry moved to intercept a breakaway unit from the British line. They had to evade some charges from them, but were able to tie up this unit for the rest of the battle.

Following some semblance of the original plan, the block of hastati and principes waited until the triarii eventually succumbed to their enemy's superior numbers before charging home. The Britons had taken some casualties to get this far, but were still able to swamp the Romans as they had more units.

However, with the new army list, the Romans can use large units (just like the Britons), and this eventually allowed the better quality troops to win out. The Romans were reliably scoring hits (even as they took hits themselves) and with some lucky rolling, eventually killed the British general, causing his command to rout, and take the smaller cavalry command with it! The Romans had won the day. Despite their general's attempts to use clever manuevers, it was simply the ability of the legions to dish out more punishment than their enemies that carried them through.

I still have more to learn with Impetus, but this was the first game where I really felt like I stood a chance with this army, thanks to the subtle changes in the new list. In future though, I need to remember to look at the ground better when I deploy, and if I must move units to the other flank, to do that behind my line instead of in front of it!

The Dice Devils seem to be a nice friendly club, if a bit heavily focused on GW-style games at the moment. I expect I'll be down there from time to time, but at the moment at least I'd like to keep up the home games as much as possible - those games seem to be better planned and just flow more easily than the pick up games I seem to get on a club night.


  1. Given that the triarii were the last line in a Roman army (a close run battle would be described as 'down to the triarii'), why don't you consider deploying them historically behind the legions? That way you can easily move them to the flank that you need them on and even if discipline is an issue, their ass won't be left hanging in the air.

    I've only played Impetus a few times but one of the things I like about it is that armies seem to function well if played historically.

    1. When I first started using this army I always did exactly that, but I hit on a few problems. First, because I had to fit in the deployment zone, deploying velites, hastati, principes and triarii in a column tended to put them quite close together, limiting my ability to manuever and forcing me into the classic "fight them in turn" tactic.

      Second, because units following close behind take casualties and become disordered when units in front are wiped out, I found that my triarii were normally battered already by the time they got into the fight.

      Also, that way gave me a narrower or more spread out line, so enemies could either move to surround me, or fight elements of my army in detail.

      Because of all that I changed to using something more like Scipio at the Great Plains - using the triarii on the flanks, with the intention of outflanking enemy infantry, but also as a way to bog down enemy flankers which tend to be cavalry.

      However, this new list bunches the hastati and principes into one big unit leaving more space behind, so there might be a way to make it work in the classic formation, although another problem with that in game terms is that triarii cost a lot of points so not using them until I've almost lost already could be a real waste - points management and always evenly matched opponents are the areas the real life generals didn't really deal with!

  2. I'm not saying leave them until last, more that if you sit behind, then you can immediately move them to the more threatened flank as you tried to do in this game, only with less distance to cover. In terms of space, if you advance the legion a touch before you redeploy, you should have enough room to maneuver the triarii.

    Having said that, as you pointed out, given the terrain you could probably have predicted where JP's cavalry would be. So it's really your own fault that you won...erm...

  3. With the new list, triarii become optional. So I might try only having half as many, but putting those behind the lines like you say. If I put the baggage off to one side I'd have room for that. The extra points would allow me more cavalry, which would be better at flanking anyway.

    What I really need is to play more games so I can try this stuff out, so you and Pete need to get armies ready!

  4. I just need some bases, then I'm good to go.