Attila Scourge of God
Played twice 1 Hun 1 Roman win
A welcome contribution from Philip Ashworth.
Attilla was one of the games I had been looking forward to for a seemingly years. It eventually arrived as the second game along with Perfidious Albion in Command 47.
The game was designed by the late Roger Sandell and playtested by the illustrious Tim Cockitt and the Manchester Board Wargamers.
The game simulates Attilla's campaign of 451 - 452 and on first sight looks quite pretty. The counters all have colour illustrations taken in the main from Osprey publications the pedant could point out that many of the illustrations are wrong: the Hun is a Parthian, the Roman Horse archer a Petcheneg and the Roman heavy infantryman is a 10th century Byzantine however I liked the overall impression and it makes a change from the Nato type symbols.
The map shows the provinces of the Empire and major town plus the assorted Barbarian homelands within the Empire who can be recruited by either side with odd exceptions.
The onus of the game is in the Hun who has to launch a raid across the Empire looting and devastating as he goes returning to Germania for reinforcements in the March 452 stage. The Hun has tricky victory conditions in killing various characters and looting cities. The Roman player to win has to kill Attilla and safeguard the main victory point cities. There are various other little touches with the Pope, St Genivive (sic), the wrath of God and North African vandals which add flavour to the game.
The basic game sequence is reminiscent of some of the earlier Command games with a diplomacy, movement and combat phases for each player followed by a mutual attrition phase.
The Hun player can move two areas if all Hun cavalry but only one if the force contains allies the siege train or the supply unit. When the Huns enter a province triggers the Roman response when the limitani mobilises. These are the local militia etc protecting the province. There is a limit to the number of limitanae so it is quite a good ploy for the Hun to trigger limitanae but not to attack them to reduce the number available later. Dead limitanae however return to the game. Once the limitanae have been raised troop in an unpillaged city can be besieged here the armies fight unit by unit assuming the Hun can breach the defences dependant on a die roll the presence of the Hun siege train aids the breaching of the walls.
Field combat occurs between armies although there are options for evasion. The combat system is similar to many other command games the armies line up face to face with the larger army having units in a second line to exploit breakthroughs.
Units hit by rolling less than or equal their combat factor. The unit which defeats it's opponent can move forward to flank other enemy units. The principal difference between this and other similar games is that units have factors for missile, charge and melee.
The Huns Cavalry can thus missile fire and charge but not melee while Heavy infantry only melee.
This simple method has some interest but battles can take some time. Armies can attempt break off but stand a chance of routing and taking further losses. Routing is more likely when units become flanked. Leaders can assist in reducing the die roll to hit for but stand a chance of being wounded or killed a chance I wouldn't risk as Attilla.
In the attrition phase units can lose steps for attrition losses. The Huns can avoid attrition by being close to the supply train or by devastating an area that phase. Roman units in an area which has an unpillaged city avoid attrition but not in an area which is devastated. Since the Huns can decide to devastate an area before the Roman does his attrition roll it can be useful for the Huns to devastate an area to cause the Romans to roll for attrition. (This was one rule we overlooked in our games.)
There are other rules including forced matches, plague and allies but I hope this over view gives you an idea of the game.
How does the game play? Well I am hardly an expert and I also seem to find the in playing the first game one is only just understanding the system. However I enjoyed it, the Huns have a number of options open to then but need to decide whether to move with the reduced speed of the siege train and allies or to use the speed of the Hun cavalry and make inroads into the Empire. In one game the Huns broke through into Spain and easily pillaged the open cities there. (The limitanae having already been raised.) Italy however is the key to the game and if Rome where to fall the Huns will gain control of all the neutral Barbarians and it will be the end of the Empire The Roman player as they are normally slower normally reacts to the Huns and has to try to force battle but safeguard the key cities.
In our games the first the Roman won easily in the second, the Hun player managed to keep Attilla alive (although most Hun units were dead) and to get enough Victory points with the help of the Vandal raiders and Attilla killing the Pope.
The game does seem very luck dependant especially the random events: the Holy relic which allows the Roman to cause Hun to re-roll dice seems to me to be too powerful also a good diplomatic roll at the key time can be crucial. However it does give a good flavour of the period and it is seems possible to follow the route of the original campaigns. However I feel that with Command games they have to follow a certain format and this is no exception. The game could be altered and solo rules could easily be devised.
All in all, we enjoyed the game and certainly would play it again. The fact that there is another game with the same issue is a bonus. It was worth the wait and to me justified my subscription while many other Command games lie unpunched. There are not many magazine games I would look forward to playing a third time.