Sunday, August 5, 2018

Is three enough?

I know it's crazy, but I've just acquired my *third* copy of the old Al Margolis Legion ancients rules that were published by Fantasy Games Unlimited in 1976. In my defense, I thought I was only acquiring a second copy.

Legion was one of the first sets of ancients rules—really, of any miniature wargame rules—I ever played. I mentioned them in my previous post about Al Tilley. For a time, they were our go-to ancients rules. They have the advantage of not requiring enormous numbers of figures to build armies, so you can get gaming with minimal effort and build from there.

Units are either 8 or 6 figures. Legion uses the same base size as the WRG Ancients rules, so based minis would be interchangeable. Heavy and medium infantry are two 4-figure bases; light-heavy, light-medium, and most cavalry are two 3-figure bases; light infantry and light cavalry are three 2-figure bases.

Legion is old school. Not that that's a bad thing. Far from it. I like old school, but it's different from the norm of today. The rules use a D100 for combat and moral. (This is something Legion shares with the venerable Square Ancients we played at Al's—except at Al's we used his nifty random number generator.)

Missile fire is a pretty straight up percentage chance for inflicting a figure loss, though casualties on the shooter plus other modifiers can bring than number way down to a minimum shot of 5%. Shooting isn't a big killer, but with so few figures per unit, one figure lost can be significant and tell against a unit's combat ability and morale.

Melee combat is more involved, which is where the old-schoolness comes in. Like in WRG Ancients, the combat value of a weapon type depends on the type of armor/formation it fought. For example, a unit armed with pilum fighting SHC (super-heavy cavalry, like cataphracts) has just a 20% hit, whereas the same weapon against MI (medium infantry) has an 80% hit. Modifiers also come into play, so a unit may have a better or worse shot. Once the basic melee hits are resolved, there's a slightly more fiddly procedure to determine the overall victor of the melee round. I won't go into it, but it involves math, the kind of math that people like me never use except for wargaming. The result of all the mathifying is to get a victory quotient that runs from 1.0 (even up) to 5.0 (they're so screwed). Each quotient corresponds to a probability from 50% (for 1.0) to Automatic Elimination (for 5.0). The roll of D100 subtracted from the probability produces a result.

Things can go south quickly. The more figures you lose in a unit, the more you're likely to lose. Although I can recall a few games where battered units hung in after taking a lot of punishment.

Despite its hoary age and old school pedigree, Legion is still a very playable game.

The illustrations throughout the rules are by Roy G. Krenkel, a contemporary and sometime collaborator with Frank Frazetta. Krenkel did a lot of the illustration for Edgar Rice Burroughs books as well as some for Robert E. Howard and others. The Legion art is pretty much sketches. Krenkel's more formal art is more impressive, which isn't to say that the rules artwork is anything to sneeze at. There's a fluidity, energy, and dramatic composition that belies its apparent simplicity. Krenkel illustrated a few other FGU rules, notably Royal Armies of the Hyborean Age.

Now that I have *three* copies of the rules, what will I do with them? Good question. I've entertained making a project with them for the past several years when I had only two copies (or just the one). I have a lot of Peloponnesian War era Greeks. Mostly unpainted Wargames Foundry lead. I could easily do up some small Spartan and Athenian forces without having to shell out for any figures. I'm also eager to paint some Aventine Miniatures figures, just not a lot. Legion doesn't require many figures for a decent game, so some Pyrrhic War gaming is a possible project for 2019 or so. (I'm kinda full up on buying new minis right now, which I'll detail in upcoming posts.)


  1. As a relative newcomer and novice when it comes to rules, it was intriguing to read your review of this old school ruleset. I could join in on this project as I was thinking about picking up a box of Victrix Hoplites, but didn't want to acquire a huge force.

  2. Never heard of these rules , they look very O.S. Percentage dice were a thing in the early years had 1776 AWI which use % for combat.

  3. I have a copy of Legion and Royal Armies of the Hyborean Age.