Monday, 24 April 2023

To The Strongest: Byzantines vs Sassanids

This weekend we played an Ancients battle. Jean-Pierre hosted the game, using his excellent Byzantine and Sassanid armies. The ruleset we used was To The Strongest, which we never used before.

First things first, the pictures (some more can be seen here):

Bart, Jean-Pierre (umpire and host), David, Eddy. We rolled for sides. Bart and myself would command the Byzantines, Eddy and David the Sassanids. The setup of the battle was a straightforward encounter, both lines already set up when we arrived.

Eye-catching miniatures were the Elephants in the Sassanid army. Also known as Pachydermi ;-)

A view as seen from the Byzantine side. David and Eddy pondering their tactics (and taking photographs).

Another view as seen from the Byzantine army.

The battle starts. The Byzantine left flank (commanded by me) sends its cavalry forwards. The idea was to use an oblique line - we would try to hammer the enemy on the left, and draw out his infantry in the centre and our right, with perhaps a slight hope that the elephants would stampede.

The Byzantine cavalry is encountered by the Sassanid Cavalry on the same flank. This would spell the start of defeat for the Byzantines.

The game in full swing. The Byzantine right flank is almost decimated, and things look good for the Sassanids.

A top view - Byzantines at the bottom. Note the approaching Sassanid cavalry on the bottom left towards the Byzantine camp.

Another view of the same situation.

A close-up view as seen from the Byzantine camp.

Sassanid cavalry attacking the Byzantine camp. This would seal victory for the Sassanids.

Alas, the Pachydermi never entered battle. So we did enjoy a good stampede!

Anyway, some thoughts:

  • It had been a long time since I had played an Ancients game, not being a fan at all of the DBx style of games - although we have used Hail Ceasar for a number of games. This game was a pleasant surprise: an Ancients game without too much fiddling ...
  • ... however, to my taste, there were still a bit too much "bells and whistles" in the To The Strongest rules. But that has more to do with my obsession to strive for streamlined rules rather than the rules themselves. Ancients rules sometimes can devolve a bit too much into: "+1 for light cavalry when attacked by cataphracts except when in difficult ground during the Spring". Ok, I'm exaggerating a bit, but it felt like that a bit. YMMV.
  • The activation system works very well. I hadn't fully grasped the technicalities of the rules, but basically, you want to keep going with units as long as you can. On our left Byzantine flank, we were a bit hesitant during the first turn, and in hindsight, that probably did cost us the victory. The distinction between "easy" and "difficult" activations felt a bit weird though.
  • The gridded system works ok, but the idea of having 2 units in a single cell seemed a bit strange. Why not having one unit per cell and double cell density? But I need to study the rules again to make a final judgement.
Oh yeah, one final thing. Bart and me were defeated 12-0 in victory points. We tried to claim at least a minor moral victory (out of habit), but no, ... the game was a solid victory for David and Eddy commanding the Sassanids.


  1. For the record : the elephants DID enter the battle : they shot and killed the Hunnic cavalry to score the final victory point needed :)

    1. Me memory is apparantly a bit cloudy on how many hits we took ... ;-)

  2. A fine looking game, Commands and Colors Ancients may suit you better.

    1. We tried C&C Ancients in the past, but I don't remember much of it. Perhaps we should try it again :-)

    2. I can help with that Phil, having the basic box and the first 3 supplement boxes.
      The game looks great! So sorry I couldn't be there.

    3. To refresh Phil's memory : we played C&C at Bart's old place. But not with the normal board and pieces, but with Hexagon terrain and miniatures. Visual appeal is everything :)