|Rome at War III: Queen of the Celts|
Originally posted January 13 2014 in the now defunct Booze & Board Games blog and moved here for posterity.
Queen of the Celts is the third installment of Avalanche Press’ tactical war games set in the Roman Period aptly named Rome at War. This version focuses on the invasion and subjugation of Britain by the empire. What caught my attention with this rather small game was two things; 1st the price I paid for it on Ebay, a paltry $6.00 US, and second the tragic tale of Boudicca Queen of the Iceni tribe, which has long been of interest to me.
So last Sunday, amidst the chaos of a wailing snow storm and cruel flu bug I laid this title out and played my first game. Avalanche Press is notorious for two aspects of their play systems. The first one being the use of the “bucket of dice” combat resolution, which entails throwing a number of dice equal to the combat strength of the units involved then applying all sixes as hits. Initially I thought that this system would be more fun than the old CRT (combat results tables) of Avalon Hill war game legend. However after a few rounds of tossing handfuls of die the novelty faded along with the dim winter daylight out my window.
The second and really painful aspect of this AP game is the rule book. Having perused this sixteen page mess of cross references and special conditions every night for a week prior to actually laying out the pieces, I was still forced to reference the book almost continuously during play. It is not written well and is is no way linear in presentation. I had hoped that by getting the game set up some of the odd rules would make a bit more sense to me. No such luck in that department. I walked away from the table after 3.5 hours feeling like I had not done anything right, the best way to sum up the rules and book is to call it “counter intuitive”. For a game that is supposed to be 1.5 stars (easy) on the difficulty rating one would think the literature would be easier to read.
|Right Flank of Celts at start up.|
As most battles of the time were fought on open flat terrain, the maps have very little in the way of variation. For example: the battle of Medway scenario used a map that had a river running across the northern portion, and a few swamps in the southern corners. the river, was barely an obstacle for the Roman legions, in that to attack them while crossing offered no bonus to the Celts. Thus negating the advantages of river defenses. The swamps were never entered by either army so no use of terrain to advantage, which for me is anathema. The “Ground” and the choice of ground is extremely important in armed conflict. The Generals of the time understood this as well, and I find it difficult to believe that they were unable to thwart a river crossing where the enemy had no bridges or engineers to build them.
On the plus side the counters are really very pretty to look at and help one absorb the “theme” of the game. There are a few different types of units Leaders being the most important, followed by what are called “Long” units representing large formations of infantry i.e. Legions, and smaller “auxiliary” units that consist of archers, light infantry, chariots, and oddly enough, artillery. The mix of different forces made me smile as I thought the use of combined attacks using all the different types would be exciting and fun. Sadly the game didn’t play out that way.
|Romans crush the right.|
|Half the troops intermingle after being pushed back, command difficult to determine.|