Sunday, July 26, 2009

Impetus - Introduction

Ancient wargaming with historical miniatures is a longstanding interest of mine, and I have been interested in trying out the Impetus rules for quite a while. I finally had a chance to do so on the night of July 25th under the tutelege of Jason and Mark.

I had a brief experience with WAB in the early part of this decade, but that scene basically fell apart. I don't really know why now, but certainly those who were inclined to historicals in my circle at the time gravitated towards small scale miniatures, mainly 6mm, and seemed IIRC to be more focused on rulesets that I didn't find particularly enticing. I liked WAB, and I like 28mm scale miniatures.

To go on then, Impetus has been making strides with my friends. They are playing at 6mm now, but the lion's share of them are going on to larger scales, and I think 15mm will become the standard for the next couple of years. I purchased the Impetus rulebook and Extra Impetus 1. I read both over a few times and I have done some list building, but this weekend past was my first kick at the cat.

I think the rules are elegant. I like the balance Lorenzo Sartori has found between resilience and decisiveness. Everything seems to work in a sensible manner in terms of, for just a few examples, how distance is traversed, how weaponry works, how different classes of troops and levels of generalship function and, most importantly, how psychology influences the course of battle. The peculiar rule mechanics he has created, whether of his Zone of Control, the Impetus bonus, or VBU, interact well together.

I am also quite attracted to element based wargaming now. I like the possibility of diorama. I like the fact that all the miniatures on an element base can be seen (I'm talking the larger scales here). I like the fact that I need fewer miniatures and the fact that I can truly use the full variety of available poses.

I also was impressed by the way the game I played appeared to be capable of being rationally compared to historical conditions. We played Romans versus Parthians. The battle became messy, indeed, it became chaotic, as the various combinations of interpenetrating, advancing, charging, fleeing, and waiting units intermixed on the tabletop. This is what it must have seemed like to the soldiers on the field of Carrhae, a total shambles. And then, there was the straying of units of my cataphracts from their course, so that charges became difficult when in the final approach to the enemy...historically, units of heavy cavalry and heavy infantry always found it difficult to maintain a straight line. Men always gravitate towards the cover provided by the shields of their fellows.

This is my force, cataphracts to the left and horse archers to the right. You can see foot skirmishers in front of the cataphracts. My general to the left was excellent quality, the one on my right wing was either average or poor.
This is after my first moves (each command moves separately). In this game the Romans, having superior command, and having Jason rolling superlative roll-off dice, were able to go first every turn of the game. I always went second and third (Jason's army had only one general in command). This picture shows that I moved twice with all troops on the left wing. Two of three units of both the Cataphracts and the foot Skirmishers were disordered after failing their command check upon their second move. On the right wing, I moved the unit of elite horse archers that was accompanied by my general three times and became disordered. Everything else moved twice. I passed evey other command check.
This and the next photograph show my elite cataphract unit with attached general rampaging through the Roman right flank. This was good fun and also helped clarify how the rules work so well and so simply in the context of a situation with all the potential for serious complication.
You can see in this picture that my elite Cataphracts had effectively thrown a wrench in the Roman right so significant as to engross the attentions of two units of auxiliary cavalry, one unit of auxiliary foot, two units of legionaries, and two units of foot skirmishers. In the end this didn't work out as well as could have been expected, but that's pretty true to life as well, isn't it?

I have decided to begin work immediately on a 400 point 15mm medieval French army, using mainly Corvus Belli miniatures, with some references from Mirliton. I intend to complete this by November, possibly December. It will hit the table this year.

1 comment:

JET (aka Jason) said...

Obviously my level of excitement is beyond measure. Can't wait until our first 15mm game.