So, yeah. I'm hooked.
Got in my first game of Basic Impetus last night against JJMicromegas of the THMGS last night. J was kind enough to supply the figs, and we played Polybian Romans (he) vs. Pyrrhic (me). He forgot to bring the elephant, however, to which I credit my rather convincing defeat.
As an aside, when I told the wife about forgetting the elephant, she laughed. Occasionally, one bumps into the non-gamer perspective on things.
Despite the fact that we spent a good chunk of the game either looking stuff up or figuring out all the stuff we'd already gotten wrong, I had a blast. There are a number of issues we need ot look up, and I'll need to read the rules again, but we will definitely be getting in more games. I think our little demo may also have piqued the interest of some other people who were there last night. I get the feeling there's a pool of potential ancients gamers out there waiting for the right ruleset to come along.
As for the game itself, it mostly involved me being ground down by romans. We kept terrain to a minimum for simplicity's sake, and started from here:
He's got a boatload of Romans flanked by skirmishers, with cavalry behind. I've got (bottom to top), my heavy cav, Itallian hoplites, pikes, Oscans, and then Tarantine and Itallian cavalry at the top, with skirmishers in front. In the basic game, the option for skirmishers and light cav to flee / evade frontal attack doesn't appear to exist, so our skirmish screens mostly moved up, and then took pot shots at opponents causing the occasional disruption.
I charged my heavy cavalry on the left into his skirmishers:
. . . and got absolutely no hits.
Believe it or not, this turned into a couple rounds of grind before his cavalry counter charged (we need to check if you can interpenetrate into melee).
On the right, my cavalry block charged. I'm not sure what I'm supposed to do with light cav in the Basic version of the game. My Tarantines don't have javelins like they do in the full version, and can't evade like in the full version. Mostly, they seem to just be crappy cavalry, with the predictable result that they were ground down by the romans, who then went after my Itallian cavalry in behind.
In any event, the real battle was in the centre.
Roman republican maniples are hard. In fact, anything with a VBU of 6 or more is just sick, as it makes it difficult to make damage stick unless you hit them with an enormous number of dice. Add in the potential effect of the pila (which in this game was inefective except when he needed it most), and you've got a solid combo. One on one, none of my infantry match up - damaging Romans is a matter of luck, which means I can't count on it over the long term.
The best charge I got off was a deep unit of pike, supported by Itallian hoplites, against a single Roman unit, and I had the charge. On defense, however, he throws three dice for his pila, and got enough hits to disrupt me, which imposes a -1, plus the loss of my Impetus bonus. That brought the fight down to (IIRC) 7 dice to his six. He got two hits, I got none, and with my lower starting VBU, my front pike unit degraded quickly. Once that happened, he was able to move up and start grinding down what was left.
I think some of the observers were impressed by the fact that things get destroyed in Impetus. There's a clash, grind, tipping point / destroyed feel to the combat dynamics that people said they hadn't encountered with ancient gaming before.
In the full version of the game, I can see how having plenty of skrimishers and light cav, or missile troops, could help disrupt the Roman line prior to engaging them, but I'm still working out how to do it with the basic rules.
Good game overall, though already I'm making a list of things we missed. The basic rule in BI seems to be that if something would cause disruption, and you're already disrupted, you can't do it (for eg. a wheel). Also, infantry charging cavalry don't get an Impetus bonus. Also, you can't interpenetrate a unit in melee. I'm sure there's other things as well.
One last comment. The figures were using were the old Ral Partha true 25mm. I can't remember the last time I saw figs at this scale, and I'm wondering why people ever moved away from them. They have the same sort of appeal as 15mm for me - big enough to reward detailed attention, but small enough that you get the feel of a big battle. Pose range was a little limited, but lovely little figs. Thanks again to J for bringing them, to the Dueling Grounds for use of the space, and to the THMGS for use of terrain.