Thursday 11 October 2018

Men of Bronze - what do we know?

Back in September, I heard the first whispers about a new Osprey Wargames title coming out next year - Men of Bronze by Eric Farrington. My fancy was immediately tickled, and I set out to try and find out a bit more about the forthcoming game. It is already available for pre-order (and has been pre-ordered) through Amazon and between there, the author's blog, and a Men of Bronze thread over at the Lead Adventures forum, I've managed to piece together a (still fragmentary) picture of what to expect.

It seems Eric has written a set of rules focused on the age of the hoplite - lets say 7th - late 4th centuries BC. By focusing on the, relatively, narrow time frame, he has hopefully captured the nuances of hoplite warfare which never really feature in more generic ancient rule sets. Furthermore, Eric has noted that he's been inspired by Dan Mersey's stable of rules (including Dux Bellorum, a favourite of mine), so that can't be a bad thing.

From the Amazon description:
Men of Bronze is a wargame that allows you to play out Classical Greek hoplite battles on the tabletop. Players are Strategoi (generals) leading phalanxes of bronze-clad warriors in pursuit of fame, glory, and the honor of their city-states. To win such prizes, however, you must prove your mettle, display your valor, and bring the other Strategoi to their knees!
Designed to recreate small battles or larger skirmishes with 50-80 figures per side, each army will have its own unique mix of rules, advantages, backgrounds, and abilities. Strategoi must understand and appreciate the strengths and weaknesses of their forces in order to win glory on the battlefield. Of course, there's no telling what tricks a rival Strategos might have up their tunic sleeves.

Army sizes
Armies seem quite small. The smallest battle report from the playtesting on Eric blog seems to be three units of Greeks verse five units of Persians. More usual games seem to see five to eight units per side. This size of game looks similar to Dux Bellorum, which means you can afford to spend a bit of love painting details on all those hoplite shields!

Unit sizes
The game is scale and basing agnostic - it seems you can use whatever miniatures you've already got, or base new stuff in a way compatible with other rule systems. Eric's blog shows he is using 28mm singly based figures in small groups (10 figures to a phalanx), but when questioned he has confirmed that multi-figure bases will work fine. 

You just need to be able to mark the centre of the unit for measuring and line of sight purposes. He refers to this point as the 'leader', although he's noted that it need not strictly be a commander figure - those chaps, historically, usually stood to the right end of the line. You also need to have a way of marking whether hoplites are in or out of phalanx formation. This could be buy spreading out figures, separating multi-figure bases, or by using a counter.

Units should be roughly the same width, although even this seems flexible. When asked, Eric suggested that lighter troops should take up about the same area as a unit of hoplites.

Unit types
There doesn't appear to be much solid information around on this, but from what I gather, the following is a list of troop types available in the game. Where Eric has mentioned unit points on his blog, I have included these in parentheses.

  • Elite hoplites (12)
  • Drilled hoplites (10)
  • Militia hoplites (8)
  • Peltasts (4)
  • Psiloi with javelins (2)
  • Archers (4)
  • Slingers
  • Drilled foot (8)
  • Heavy cavalry
  • Light cavalry
  • Pike phalanx (10)

So there is quite a range of options there, all specific to the period. Eric has pointed out that: "I will say that I don't spill much ink on siege equipment or Persian chariots though. I considered them out of scope."

Army lists
Eric has mentioned the following poleis/states feature as separate army lists:
  • Athens
  • Spartans
  • Thebes
  • Other City-States (Corinth, Argos, Ionians, etc.) 
  • Macedonians (post-Philippic reforms of c.359-356 BC)
  • Persians
  • Hill Tribes
This looks like a great start, although I do wonder whether the fairly distinct forces of the Greek north  and west will feature with their own lists. If Athens is differentiated from the Ionians, you would hope that the cavalry-heavy Thessalians, of light-heavy (yes, I realise how that reads) Aitolians, Arkananians and their ilk would warrant some individual love. Again, Eric adds: "... it is easy to add/modify to fit the details you uncover in your research about a particular battle, City-State, or your own Imagi-Nation", so there is always that inbuilt flexibility to play with.

I, for one, plan on building a force of Classical Macedonians - i.e. before Philip II's reforms. These armies featured small bodies of elite heavy cavalry, a pile of peltasts, and whatever hoplites could be scraped together from subject and allied Greek poleis. I would imagine that something like this could be built using the Hill Tribes army list, but only time will tell.

**** Edit 24/10/18 - from author on the LAF forum ****

I was re-reading your blog and I realized that there was a key game component that you can find in the battle reports that you did not mention.

Arete Points. (Sorry, I do not know how to give it the right accent mark on forums and blogs) These are a resource that you get from your units that you can then spend to do various actions in the game. Some examples include, forming a phalanx formation, charging, bidding for initiative, interrupting the turn, re-rolls, evading, moving and shooting, etc. They are a limited resource that you have to use through out the game to get the most out of your units. This adds an element of decision making at all parts of the turn for both players as well as resource management. If you are familiar with Dux Bellorum it is an expanded concept of Leadership tokens.

Should you try to bid high to earn the initiative or save the Arete points for key movement through difficult terrain? Should you trigger a charge or keep the point for a re-roll in a key combat? This forces you to think about what you want to accomplish in a turn and bid and use points accordingly. This helps the game be a bit more "tactical" then just the thrusting of spears and the push of shields with a bunch of dice rolls.

**** We are pleased to return you to your regular viewing ****

For now, let's revel a bit in some wonderful Angus McBride illustrations lifted from the web - finishing with some Macedonians out hunting. ­čśĆ


  1. Looking forward to this and if multi based figures work then the Spartans are ready to go.

    Cheers, Ross

  2. Interesting find. There is also this in the same space, but I think it uses less figures.

    1. Yes, I saw that for the first time last month too. Not for me though I think - looks to be individual figure removal, and units of hoplites consisting of only three figures. :/

  3. Thanks for putting all of this together in one place. It appeared on my radar a few weeks ago and I've been getting figures ready in groups of ten (like on the author's blog) for the release next year.

  4. Thanks for posting this. I think you will be disappointed in my knowledge of the Greek North and Western fighting styles. :)

    However, the game was built to be flexible and allow you to build the forces you have at hand more than adhere to rigid army list rules. The lists are there to help people not that familiar with this period and allow them to build something and get playing.

    1. Sure, as long as there is an inbuilt flexibility, there is no problem. :)

  5. Cant wait have been painting like a fiend since I heard about the rules.Was hoping Osprey would tackle the Ancient period.Sounds like the ideal counter the skirmish themed Mortal Gods due out which wont be to everyones taste.

  6. I thought as the game is now out that this group may kick to life?
    Couldn’t find any other groups related to Men of Bronze.
    Can’t find anything from the author on the game nor any resources/ forums etc?
    Anybody got any links please. Even just a Quick Reference Sheet?

    1. I'm not associated with the rules at all other than looking forward to them. They will be officially released next week i think. I know there is a discussion on the Lead Adventures Forum that the author contributes to, and of course he has his own blog - Blood and Spectacles. I would look there.

  7. Hi!

    I want to create a simmilar project to your MoB force, but have not bought the rulebook yet. How big is the board for the unit frontage of about 4cm (ye Olde Warmaster standard)?

    Space is at premium in my case (what helps to make this awesome blog one of regular places to follow).

    1. Thanks! The rules use an arbitrary 'base width' for measurements, but that is the base width of an individual figure. It would better be defined as a 'unit'. For 60mm bases, we will either use 1cm or 1.5cm as a 'base width' as a start and see how things go...

      There are few references to how big the table needs to be. a minimum of 2 foot square, up to 6x4. For 40mm unit widths, I'd suggest 2x2 or 2x3 would be grand.