Long time chum of Lard and well known “face about the hobby”, Dr Phil Hendry, has just published his Ancient rules, the impressively named AVGVSTVS to AVRELIAN and we on Lard Island are very proud to distribute these for him. Phil has put a lot of hard work into the rules, many gamers will have seen him running playtest games at shows such as Partizan over the past year or two, and now the rules are ready we thought we’d talk to the good Doctor to see what he could tell us.
Rich: Phil, Augustus to Aurelian is an interesting name, I presume it is indicative of the period that the rules cover?
Phil: That’s absolutely right, the rules cover the period between the time when Augustus seized power, right through the period of the Empire’s height, down through the crisis of the third century, and ending with the reign of Aurelian, and the beginning of the partial recovery from the crisis. The name was chosen because the rules cover, roughly, that period, but also because it’s alliterative – and I like alliteration! To be fair, you could probably use the rules for games set any time from Marius’ reforms of the army, up until the start of the Dominate – but Marius to Diocletian doesn’t have the same ‘ring’ to it!
Rich: So this is classic Imperial Romans, ideal with some of the very competitvely priced ranges that are now available. Tell me, what size games are A2A designed for?
Phil: A2A is designed for what we can probably best describe as “decent-sized battles”. Unlike many Lardy products, it isn’t a skirmish, or large skirmish, game. You can play with as few as three units a side, but games of that size aren’t often very interesting – largely because the game is concerned with issues of command and control, and there aren’t a lot of command and control issues if you’ve just got three units! It plays best with at least a dozen units, divided into at least three or four formations. Each of those formations is commanded by a magnus vir (Big Man), with a general in overall charge.
Rich: Are A2A aimed at any particular figure scale?
Phil: No, we’ve not aimed the rules at any particular figure scale. I play most of my games with 28mm figures, but the mechanisms have been tested with other scales too. Many of the early development games were played with cardboard counters, and that worked fine too. 6 mm figures work really well – units consisting of lots of tiny men give you a sweeping sense of a big battle!
Rich: I agree with you about the visual impact of the smaller scales, the Baccus 6mm stuff or Pendraken’s 10mm figures in large numbers would be a true spectacle!. Now, the question that everyone will be wanting me to ask is if you can outline the basic rule mechanisms within A2A. How does the game play?
Phil: Like most Lardy games, A2A’s round sequence is determined by turning up cards from a deck. Each of the magni viri (Big Men) is represented in the deck by a card. If and when that card is drawn, that character’s formation gets its turn. In addition there are Carpe Diem cards, which, when played, allow a magnus vir to take a turn ‘out of turn’. Carpe Diem cards also enable magni viri to exert their influence over events – by adding dice to Reaction Tests, increasing a unit’s movement, rallying units, etc. But there are never enough of them, so you have to husband your resources carefully, saving them up for critical moments!
The results of shooting and combat are determined using a number of ten-sided dice (D10s) – the number depending on the size of the units involved. The dice rolls are modified by a few factors, and the result looked up on a simple chart. Units which take more than a specific number of casualties (whether or not you remove casualties, or use markers, is up to you) become ‘Shaken’, meaning that they operate at reduced effectiveness. Commanders have a limited ability to rally Shaken troops, returning them, at least temporarily, to more or less full effectiveness.
Reaction Tests are taken in a number of circumstances – notably when a unit loses a combat or becomes Shaken. They may fight on, withdraw, flee, or even, in extreme circumstances, simply disperse, the whole unit being removed from the battlefield.
Rich: There has been a plethora of Ancients rule sets published recently, can you tell me what sets A2A apart from the rest?
Phil: A2A is different because of its overt emphasis on command and control, and because of the ‘fog of war’ introduced by having the round sequence controlled by the deck of cards. Other games don’t place so much emphasis on the influence of the ‘Big Men’ over the conduct of the battle, and tend to take a very ‘mechanistic’ approach to the round, with every unit able to take a turn every round – it can all become very predictable. Because of the ‘fog of war’ no two games of A2A will ever be the same. Even if you set up the exact same battle again, the chances are that it will turn out differently. Perhaps a formation will fail to act (did the courier carrying the orders get lost in the noise and dust of the battlefield?) in a second game when its actions proved decisive in the first.
Rich: Okay, so this is probably a very different experience than some of the more conservative and traditional Ancients rules out there. For the gamer starting out with A2A can you tell us what support is available? Where can people get answers to any questions they may have?
Phil: Well, first of all, there is a website, with a blog, on which comments are invited. You can find that here:
It’s a good place to dip into to see if the rules might be for you, but also it’s the ideal place to ask any questions you might have, where I can also post errata, and read my thoughts on the game. Maybe also the place to acquire new resources as I think of new ideas. For instance, at the moment, I’m thinking about the influence belief in the Gods, and in augurs and omens, have on the morale of troops in ancient armies. Once I design some rules to cover this aspect, they’ll probably be posted as a download from that site.
Rich: Sounds very interesting. There’s a fair bit of common ground here with what we’ve been working on with Dux Britanniarum.
Phil: In addition, for more general chat about the rules (and other Lardy rules too!) the TooFatLardies Yahoo Group is available:
I’m an active participant, and that may be the best place to get a quick answer to a question – or to engage in more detailed discussions than the ‘question and answer’ format of blog comments.
Rich: That sounds great. Phil, thanks for taking time to chat with us today. I know you’re looking to spell out your thoughts on the game in more detail with a set of Designer’s Notes, we’d love to be able to carry those here as well as on your own dedicated A2A site. When can we expect them.
Phil: It’s my plan to have them ready after the weekend, probably on Wednesday once the Jubilee celebrations are over.
Rich: Okay, thanks again. So AVGVSTVS to AVRELIAN can be had in two formats, a printable PDF version or a tablet-friendly interactive PDF both for £12 from www.toofatlardies.co.uk or you can get the bundle for £16 which contains both versions.
A stonking playtest on Lard Island last evening as we ran out one of the scenarios based around a Saxon raid to steal some British livestock from the festering swamp lands around Llon-i-Dunican. I’d have preferred some cows for this but haven’t found what I am looking for (Welsh Blacks) in 28mm yet, so sheep