A Roman board game I made up.

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A Roman board game I made up.

Postby Aldus Marius on Sun Aug 14, 2005 7:37 am

Salvete Omnes!!

I'd thought about posting this to the Ludi Societatis for the second leg of my 'virtual trip'; but, while it's definitely rules for a game, it doesn't quite make the definition of a 'contest' (unless a way is found for the Societas to play it in tournaments and such...). However, as part of the mandate for CollArt is 'entertainment', I wind up back here after all. Here ya go. >({|:-)


An original game by Aldus Marius Peregrinus

Welcome to Roman Checkers! This is a little game I invented almost by accident: I was just messing around with some Roman mini's on a geometrically-patterned lap-desk. As I experimented with different combinations of rules and moves, something emerged that began to make sense. I playtested with several of my friends and their kids, and while some tweaks were necessary, these sessions convinced me that I actually had a playable game! I began teaching it to visitors, child and adult. It is a simple game, but challenging and fun, and for all its minimalist charm it does a remarkable job of mirroring the tactics of a Roman Legion (or small detachment thereof) on a tightly-focussed mission.

The original game was played with 15mm (read: small ) mini's on a laminated paper board that was 7 squares across and 10 squares down. The squares were maybe a quarter-inch to a side. This was never an easy size to work with, though it had the advantage of portability! I have since begun work on boards with 1-inch and 2-inch squares, suitable for use with 25mm and 54mm mini's, respectively. (25mm's are the popular size for roleplaying games, about an inch high; 54mm's are twice that, and easier to paint.) Both boards will be of mosaic tile inside a wood frame.

Also, I know the name's kinda lame. If anyone has a suggestion for a better one, I'm all ears! (However, I have tried to avoid 'Latrunculi' or any similarly-historical name; those are different games, played differently, and I don't want anyone mistaking my game for an accurate reconstruction of anything a Roman might have actually played.)

The diagram below will show you the different pieces, how many of each you will need, and their placement on the board at the beginning of play:


The game simulates a raid by opposing squads of Praetorians on the Imperial palace. The objective is to get your men to the other side's 'throne room', while capturing as many of their squad's troops as you can.

The throne rooms are the center squares on each end. It will be noted that one of them is purple, and the other is gold. It will also be noted that each squad starts on either purple or gold squares. The squad on purple squares wants to get into the purple throne room. The troops on gold squares will try to capture the gold throne room. That brings us to our first two rules:

All movement is diagonal and forwards (except for the Standard-bearers, who we'll get to in a minute); and

Each side must stay on its own color squares.

Okay, so getting to the throne room shouldn't be a problem...except for all those other guys in the way! How do we capture 'em?? If we have to stay on our own color tiles, we can't nail 'em by landing on theirs; and if we can only move diagonally, we won't be able to jump them like in traditional checkers. Marius, what have you done???

Enter Rule Three:

A capture takes place when the enemy soldier is surrounded on three sides, as long as one of those sides is directly in front of him.

Now, this one requires a little explaining--not a doctoral thesis, mind you, just a little show-and-tell. "Surrounded on three sides" isn't the hard part; it's that "one has to be the front" clause. Look at it this way: If there's a man in front of you, you're stuck unless you can get around him. If there isn't, you're free to leave no matter how many soldiers are on your tail. The diagrams below should show clearly what is a surround and what is not:


This is maybe a good time to explain those Standard-bearers.

All other pieces have the exact same move: Diagonal and forwards. You can have eight Centurions, four Centurions and four Cornicens, or two each of Legionaries, Centurions, cavalry and camp dogs--they all move diagonally and forwards. What troop types you pick for the eight 'regular infantry' slots just depends on what you'd like to see on your board.

The Standard-bearers are another matter. They stand immediately outside the throne room as the game begins, and they carry a precious burden: the signa that house the spirits of their units. To lose one of these is to take a tremendous hit to one's honor, as well as endanger the spiritual existence of one's unit. A Standard-bearer must be able to take extraordinary measures in order to safeguard the Standard. And so it is here:

Standard-bearers, alone among all pieces, may move backwards and diagonally, always remaining on their own color squares.

This rule has some ramifications, from the obvious--signiferi backing out of capture situations--to the annoying--games that peter out into trios of Standard-bearers stalking each other all over the board. It is possible to nail a Standard-bearer, just difficult. (And if anyone can come up with a fix for the 'tailchase' syndrome, please shoot it on over this-a-way. If this game ever winds up in a box, your name'll be on it, I promise!)


-- 3 points for each man to reach the other side's throne room
-- 3 points for each captured Standard-bearer
-- 2 points for having the most pieces still on the board at the end of play
-- 1 point for each captured 'regular' soldier

A good opening is to move your front rank, all in the same direction, one at a time; this creates a very Legion-like 'sawtooth' effect, just full of gaps for the enemy to step into.

Most players prefer to leave their Standard-bearers guarding their throne rooms as long as possible, as they can mount a very effective defense.

You may want to create a 'POW camp' for captured enemy. If the game gets to a point where neither side has the manpower to realistically continue, the prisoners can be put back in play--although any captive Standard-bearers will be too demoralized to march in reverse!

It's a little 'different' at first, but try it...you might enjoy it!

In amicitia et fide,
Aldus Marius Peregrinus.
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