Category Archives: Sword and Spear

Sword and Spear – Sassanids vs Romans

Played two games of this over the weekend.  This report is from the second game.  I heard about these recently and put down the 6 pounds for the rules.  The army lists are available online for free, so it’s not much of an investment.

I had played through a week or so ago solitaire to see how the mechanisms worked.  It’s pretty clean and very engaging.  A friend was in town over the weekend and wanted to try them out so we got out the two remaining large ancients armies I have – Late Romans and Sassanids – and gave them a try.

I got the two pics of the Romans up earlier, here are the Sassanids:


20140810_101517Well, it’s most of them anyway, from behind.  There are a couple of units of light foot archers to the left of the shot.

The heart of the game is the activation system.   For each unit you get a die that you drop into a bag, then you draw dice out to see who gets to go.  In our case there were 9 Sassanid units (Clibinarii are expensive) and 10 Late Roman units.  We used black dice for the Persians and white dice for the Romans.  You pull out 7 dice and the color you pull out the most of goes first.  So, for example, we might have pulled out 4 black dice and 3 white dice.  The Sassanids then roll and assign the dice to units, then the Romans roll and assign the dice to units, then you proceed with activations.

It’s a very interesting mechanism and leads to subtle and interesting interactions as the game develops.

In this our second game I’d reread the combat rules and realized why the Sassanids are so expensive – they are cavalry rated as “Impact.”  This means that it’s easier for them to charge and when the combats are resolved it’s much easier for them to hurt the target of their charge.  So I was ready to roll forward with the cav and charge in.

At this point the two battle lines are getting closer:


I’m trying to work some light horse around the left of the Roman line and I’m realizing my light archers aren’t going to hold up the auxilia that’s going to turn my flank so it needs to be quick!

From another angle:


You might be able to see on the hill some catafracts lined up against some auxilia and some clibinarii facing off his cataphracts.  At this point, it was the start of a new turn.  I won the draw pulling 4 dice and the Romans got three.  When I rolled my dice I had two “6”s and a “5” for activiations, so I put a “6” on the cataphracts, a “6” on the clibinarii, and a “5” on the clibinarii next to them facing the Roman Sagitarii.  Now, what does this mean?

In S&S every unit has a strength and discipline rating.  To activate a unit, you have to assign it a dice that at least is as high as the discipline rating.  To charge it typically has to be one higher than the discipline rating.  The Sassanids are mostly really good troops with a discipline rating of “3.”  (Also, I mentioned the Sassanids are “impact” troops – this means they can charge on an activation dice that is equal to their discipline).  If you assign a “6” you get a bonus – either extra distance to move, or shoot, or an additional dice in combat.  So, having a “6” meant that for each of those units, I would get an extra die during the combat resolution.

The Roman assigned dice as well, perhaps opposite mine, but in I went.

You activate from the lowest number die to the highest so the “5” went first.  In all likelihood the Persians should have won this combat.  Here’s how the combat works.  You roll a number of dice equal to your strength, your opponent does the same, and you compare the outcome of the 4 highest dice rolled.  In this case, the Persian cav had a strength of 3, and the sagitarii of 2.  In addition, the Persians get a die for impetus (the die added that activated them) and an additional die for being fresh cavalry, so the Persian were throwing 5 dice and the Romans only 2.  But if you don’t have 4 dice, you always get 2 fill in the empty slots (of the top 4) with “2”s.  The Persians did not roll all that well and the Sagitarii survived.

Next combat was clibinarii against Roman cataphracts.  With a “6” this combat got an extra bonus dice.  Well, the Persians rolled much better here.  And they rolled much better against the auxilia also.  Here is the outcome a little later:

20140810_105924Note that the auxilia and the cataphracts are gone and a reserve unit of Roman cav has taken their place, and that the Romans have shifted a legion over to confront the Persian cataphracts.  It was a bloody battle with the charge picking up both the Roman units in one go.  Impact mounted, yeah baby!

But those horse archers are still hanging on over there (what’s up with that?) and legions are tough, so the Romans held up the right wing of the Persian army pretty well and allowed the rest of their own attack to develop.


You can see the Roman auxilia pushing forward and those light foot archers aren’t going to slow them down very much.  So the Persians elect to push forward the elephants and some clibinarii to gang up on the legion and to fight the next Roman auxilia unit in line.


In retrospect it might have been better to just develop the attack on the open flank and wait for the rest of the Romans to come to me, but it wouldn’t take them long.

The battle ground on with the Romans getting on the Persian flank eventually



And the outcome of that is predictable


So at this point the clibinarii are advancing on the open Roman flank and rear but there isn’t that much of the Sassanid army left.  We had stuff to get on with so left it here.

It’s a great system.  The rules are pretty clean, it’s dead simple to remember how to resolve most things and a 1 page cheat cheat helps out with almost everything you might not remember.

I recommend it and hope to get in some more games.  It will be nice to be doing some big battle ancients again.


PS. What a pain in the ass WordPress is. I have no idea why the pics are so small. I’ve never had this issue in the past. Something else to figure out I guess.


Sword and Spear Game Report Coming Soon

Sword and Spear is a new set of rules for big battles ancients. I keep buying and reading various rules and not being motivated enough to give them a try. These captured my interest and now having played 3 games (1 solitaire just to see how they worked and 2 now against a live opponent) I think these have legs.

I only have two big battle ancients armies left now, Sassanids and Late Romans. So those are the opponents.

Here are some Late Romans:


Alright.  So WordPress has changed the UI again (I’m sure it’s better now, really, I am…) and I’m going to have to figure out how to do this more efficiently.  So for now, this is just a teaser about what is coming.  More when I have a little more time.