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SPQR (by GMT) - my favorite game

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  • SPQR (by GMT) - my favorite game

    I figured that I'd test the waters and see if there are any other fans of the Great Battles of History series.
    SPQR is really the best value of the series. There are individual battles throughout the system which count as some of the best, but since so many can be played with just SPQR, and because it has some of the best already, I put it as number one.


    The system recreates individual battles from the very ancient period all the way to 17th century Japan, using game rules that vary in compexity and in effect, but are not so different as to require entirely new systems. Except for the games set in Japan, you can move from one to another easily if you have a chart of which rules have changed. These are quite easy with some games: For instance, Roman era warfare allows for a better chance at rallying than Alexander's time.

    Command and control is, in most games, simplified by giving ratings to commanders that allow them to control a certain number of units or lines of units (if the formation and unit type is correct), with the lower rated leaders moving first. This means that it is better that the Romans have lower rated subordinate leaders, so they can get in motion faster and require less fancy maneuvering. The overall commander ratings are very important, as they affect his command and control range and the effectiveness with which he can trump the opposition (a game mechanic that keeps both sides vying to get the first hit).

    The most interesting part of the game is having a variety of unit types and using them to the best effect. Elephants can dominate all cavalry, but are relatively fragile after first contact, and this means that the battle can seesaw a bit before it is actually clear who will win in the end. Normally, victory is automatic when a certain percentage of the army is routed.

    I highly recommend the game to anyone with an interest in ancient history or anyone who likes tactical wargames that are of a manageable size. The majority of the battles in the system can be played in an evening.

  • #2
    I have it but haven't played it yet.

    What do you say to the complaint that it is too historically accurate and is designed to produce historical results every time a scenario is played?

    I don't mind this. In some ways I like it.


    • #3
      I would say that some scenarios are a lot more balanced than others. I've not played Cannae and don't really want to, simply because there are so many which are more fun. Free scenarios at The Equus series is a great way to get started. The Barbarian module is the best, in my opinion. It's Legion vs Legion (the Samnites are organized as legions, anyway) but the terrain is more interesting.

      The really interesting thing I want to try is a 'Great Captains' tournament scenario, described here:
      You could really play the game with any army composition and any commander you want on any map, but I think the 'Great Captains' rules make the most sense.

      More helpful links: - a breakdown of scenario victories for each side, giving a better idea of balance
      Also keep in mind that there are optional rules for many scenarios. Magnesia is a good one if you deploy correctly, and you can even use Hannibal vs Scipio. - a nice looking fan site. Some examples of play included.


      • #4
        Wow, sounds interesting!

        Is there some kind of main game with the core rules which is necessary to play all the others or does every pack include all the rules?

        Can you post some "in-game" photos?
        "Every man thinks meanly of himself for not having been a soldier" - Samuel Johnson

        "Kerls, wollt ihr denn ewig leben?"


        • #5
          The first photo is on turn 3 of Magnesia. I used the historical (possibly) deployment and commanders. The Seleucid center is depleted with all of its light infantry (LI) and Elephants (EL) destroyed, leaving only the Phalanx to make its stand. On the left wing, there was some success against the allied cavalry, but it will not be enough in this case, as the Seleucids have already lost too many because of the attacks on the right and center. Also the Roman cavalry reinforcements are hastily making their way across the army's rear to hold the enemy cavalry until the battle can be won in the center. Attacking the center is not recommended VS Romans.

          In the second photo, a big scrap has developed right outside the Roman Camp, with one legion having taken heavy losses but having held the attacking Phalanx in place. Also those Phalanxes are exposed to fire from the Roman Scorpiones at the corners of the camp (manned by the Velite Light Infantry). What you can't see is that further to the south, the Epirote cavalry lies in wait behind the trees to attack Romans who will move out of the south gate. The battle ended up with a less historical result (1st Beneventum): Pyrrus wins after heavy losses, so a Roman strategic victory.

          The number markers you see are Cohesion hits, which track how much staying power a unit has before it routs. 5 and below are low quality units or units not designed for sustained shock combat. 6-7 are average line rankings. 8s are excellent units. 9s only exist for a few units in the entire series: Caesar's 1st Cohort only of the Xth Legion at Alesia, Alexander's Horsemen and Shieldbearers of his Agema, and that's about it.
          Routing units can be rallied or easily destroyed, but are permanently lost if they move off the map.

          To answer your question: There is no series rulebook. The hardest part of the game to figure out is the shock combat procedure, and it's really not that hard once you go through the motions a couple of times. It really doesn't change between systems, except that some games have more units which have attack restrictions. The very ancient armies of Chariots of Fire are not made for massive shock action, and this is only a small part of the game, so it's more of a question of whether it will happen, not how much cohesion is lost prior to the actual combat (as with other games). The exception is the battle of Troy, but that battle is unique in many ways.
          If you learn SPQR, it is easy to move to other games in the system - just read the different command and control rules and you'll be good.

          One thing the system does have is a lot of chrome. Samurai duels are almost as important as firepower in their respective games. Most battles have at least a few special rules that depict battlefield positioning, secret weapons, spies, etc. This normally plays itself out as a DRM for missile combat or as a one time event. Beneventum, for instance, gives you the option of beginning with a forced march before sunrise. You can trade a few cohesion hits to get your Epirote forces closer to the Roman's walls before daylight is on your side. There's a lot of cool details like that, but the heart of the game is on the actual resolution of combat.
          Attached Files
          Last edited by Hypaspist; 22 Jan 13, 16:38.


          • #6
            One more photo:
            The dead and missing from the battle of Magnesia. Seleucid on the left, Roman on the right. The Romans lost about half a legion and more than a legion's worth of cavalry, but they are far less fragile. The Seleucids lost their heavy infantry in futile attacks, and much of their light infantry and a few elephant units as well. Their Phalanx was really the only thing that was untouched, but it would have been unable to win the battle on its own, and the Rout limit had already been reached.....and so Syria is opened to Roman expansion.

            Antiochus the Great should have payed Hannibal more heed, or let him take command even.
            Attached Files


            • #7
              Thank you for the extensive summary of this game! Do you know the Musket and Pike series from GMT? If yes, can you recommend it?
              "Every man thinks meanly of himself for not having been a soldier" - Samuel Johnson

              "Kerls, wollt ihr denn ewig leben?"


              • #8
                Yes I can! Musket & Pike is also one of my favorite systems. Command and control is actually much easier in that game in exchange for a much more complex combat resolution system and a seperate formations effects system. Again, it is easy to move from one battle to the next after you've got the system down.

                I would start with Nothing Gained but Glory or Gustavus Adolphus the Great, as they are the best value. I don't have Saints in Armor yet, and I'm waiting for the English Civil War game to be reprinted.

                With Musket & Pike, just expect more similarity in troop dispositions but a lot more rough terrain.

                I only wish that they would cover more of the events in Poland besides Gustavus' campaign there.